Category Archives: Lenten study

Saturday in the Fifth Week of Lent

Gathering or Scattering?

The Prophet Ezekiel foretold of a time when God would gather his people together in one everlasting kingdom:

Thus says the Lord God: I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone, and will gather them from every quarter, and bring them to their own land. I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all. Never again shall they be two nations, and never again shall they be divided into two kingdoms. They shall never again defile themselves with their idols and their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions. I will save them from all the apostasies into which they have fallen, and will cleanse them. Then they shall be my people, and I will be their God.   (Ezekiel 37:21–23)

God is the One who gathers his people together. He is the One who preserves them as a nation.  How is it that those who claim to represent God fear that his actions will divide the nation when it is their actions that divide a nation? This was the case concerning the chief priests and the Pharisees in the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry:

So the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the council, and said, “What are we to do? This man is performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.”   (John 11:47-48)

This type of thinking demonstrates how Satan works. Divide and conquer. Are we, as Christians, aiding and abetting him? Who is sewing division among us and why?

In Jesus’s day the chief priests and the Pharisees acted out of fear. Their fear, however, was based on a false narrative: God will bring division among his own people. Fear, itself, brings division. That is why Satan sews fear. Our fear leads us to condemn others and falsely accuse them of the problems which we ourselves cause.

Fear stems from unbelief. Faith in a loving God dispels fear. Perfect love casts out fear.

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Friday in the Fifth Week of Lent

The Works of the Father

The miracles that Jesus did on the earth testified that he came from God the Father. The Jewish leaders could not deny the works, although they attempted to do so in the beginning without success. However, these obvious works, miracles, and hearings, which only God could do, did not stop them from rejecting Jesus:

The Jews took up stones again to stone Jesus. Jesus replied, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God.” Jesus answered, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If those to whom the word of God came were called ‘gods’ —and the scripture cannot be annulled— can you say that the one whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world is blaspheming because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”   (John 10:31–38)

Why is so much effort made to deny the obvious signs of God? We can look to Jeremiah for a clue:

I have become a laughingstock all the day;
every one mocks me.
For whenever I speak, I cry out,
I shout, “Violence and destruction!”
For the word of the Lord has become for me
a reproach and derision all day long.
If I say, “I will not mention him,
or speak any more in his name,”
there is in my heart as it were a burning fire
shut up in my bones,
and I am weary with holding it in,
and I cannot.   (Jeremiah 20:7–9)

People deny God because they do not want to be mocked. The world we live in is all about mocking God. That is what Satan does and that is what he intimidates us to do. But mocking God has consequences:

Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit.   (Galatians 6:7-8)

Do we love the praise of men more that the praise of God. If so, there is ultimately a high price to pay. But if we are true disciples of Jesus, then his presence and Spirit more than compensates for the persecution in this world, and in the end, life eternal in his glorious kingdom.

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Thursday in the Fifth Week of Lent

Before Abraham Was, I Am

What made Abraham great? Better to ask: Who made Abraham great? Abraham had great faith, but he had faith in a great God!

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.” Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations.   (Genesis 17:1–5)

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day claimed Abraham as their father. They asked Jesus:

Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you claim to be?”   (John 8:53)

Jesus answered:

Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad.” Then the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.”   (John 8:56–58)

When Jesus used the name “I Am” he made it clear that he was Abrahams father and not the other way around. I Am” or, in Hebrew, “Yahweh” was God’s sacred name. Jesus was Emmanuel, God with us in the flesh. If the leaders had the faith of Abraham they would have recognized who Jesus was.

We stand on the shoulders of Abraham and all of God’s faithful servant who have gone before us. But especially in this day we are called to give a testimony of who Jesus is. Do we claim to be children of Abraham? If so, who do we say Jesus is?

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