DEUTERONOMY 9:1-10:22 | LUKE 8:4-21 | PSALM 69:19-36 | PROVERBS 12:2-3
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6 Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the LORD your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people.
These are Moses’ words to the children of Israel as they prepare to enter the “promised land”.
Moses is quick to make this point and to make it well. Let it not be said that it was because of any righteousness of the people that they had earned such a great reward. No, it was not. On the contrary, they were receiving this despite their “stiff-neckedness!”
God’s plan and purpose isn’t always what one views it to be. How self-absorbed are we to think that God’s every action is a direct result of this or that concerning us. We might not even figure in the grand scheme of things, but may show up in some obscure detail because that is how the Almighty’s plans sometimes fall into place. Let us therefore be cautious in attributing our circumstances to our own imaginings!
In the case of the children of Israel’s possession of these new lands, Moses tells the people that God is dispossessing the natives of the land because of their unrighteousness—which has worked out to the benefit of the children of Israel.
So, take that and remember it lest you begin to think too much of your own goodness!
Moses is indeed in a reflective mood, and begins to recount the many times over the last forty years that the people had turned away from God, and had rebelled in various ways. Were it not for Moses’ intervention, he tells them, they would surely have been destroyed a long time ago. And now that they have come so far and have all that history behind them, it is time indeed to reflect on the past, but it is time also to look forward to the future.
And for this, Moses exhorts the people to love the Lord above all else. On this note, he says this: 14 To the LORD your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it. 15 Yet the LORD set his affection on your forefathers and loved them, and he chose you, their descendants, above all the nations, as it is today. 16 Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. 17 For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. 18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. 19 And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt. 20 Fear the LORD your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name. 21 He is your praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes. 22 Your forefathers who went down into Egypt were seventy in all, and now the LORD your God has made you as numerous as the stars in the sky.
Turning next to our reading in the Book of Luke, we see Jesus speaking to the people in parables, i.e., in stories that have a deeper meaning. There is one about a sower and his seeds. If there is any ambiguity concerning what the seed might be or what the outcome of the planting is to mean, Jesus explains it in no uncertain terms.
He says: 11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. 12 Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. 14 The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. 15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.
So great was Jesus’ desire for the Word of God to be planted well and to reap fruit, that when asked about who might be his true relatives, blood relatives, if you will, Jesus simply says: “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.”
I don’t think it gets any clearer than that, do you?
Our Psalm for the day is a continuation of Psalm 69, one that David must have written during a difficult period of his life. It is clear that David doesn’t pull his punches when in pain, perhaps both physical and emotional. In his anguish and grief, he heaps curses upon his enemies and entreats God to fight his battles on his behalf.
And yet, he is quick to acknowledge God’s mercies and is clear in his own understanding of what will truly please God. It is not the sacrifices of oxen and bulls, he says; it is, rather, an offering of praise and thanksgiving that is life-giving. In David’s words:
30 I will praise God’s name in song
and glorify him with thanksgiving.
31 This will please the LORD more than an ox,
more than a bull with its horns and hoofs.
32 The poor will see and be glad—
you who seek God, may your hearts live!
33 The LORD hears the needy
and does not despise his captive people.
May it be that like David we might find perspective in our daily tribulations, and turn to the one who “hears the needy and does not despise his captive people”.
Finally, a verse from the Book of Proverbs, in which Solomon, wise king of Israel, offers this food for thought:
2 Good people obtain favor from the LORD,
but he condemns those who devise wicked schemes.
3 No one can be established through wickedness,
but the righteous cannot be uprooted.
May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word. Amen.