“… And they longed to hear what you hear, but they didn’t hear it.”

Journeys Through the Word

“… And they longed to hear what you hear, but they didn’t hear it.”

Verse(s) considered:

Matthew 13:10-17

(10)  His disciples came and asked Him, “Why do You use parables when You talk to the people?”

(11)  He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others are not.

(12)  To those who listen to My teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them.

(13)  That is why I use these parables, For they look, but they don’t really see. They hear, but they don’t really listen or understand.

(14)  This fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah that says, ‘When you hear what I say, you will not understand. When you see what I do, you will not comprehend.

(15)  For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes—so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to Me and let Me heal them.’

(16)  “But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear.

(17)  I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but they didn’t see it. And they longed to hear what you hear, but they didn’t hear it.

Thoughts along the road:

Jesus takes a moment here to point out to his disciples that they are privy to knowledge and understanding that most will not ever get. He speaks in story form (parables) to try to get the information out to the most people in the most easily accessed form. Those who take the time to listen will learn and benefit greatly from it. Those who don’t invest the time, not only get nothing, those things that they think they understand…will find out that they really don’t know what they think they know.

God foretold this through the prophet Isaiah. People not really listening to Jesus words thinking they understand but don’t As a result their hearts are hardened, their ears unable to hear ending up lost and confused.

Sound at all familiar?

Where to go from here:

I think that the saddest part of this story to me is those who go to hear Jesus but have their minds already made up. They go through the motions, but never really open themselves up to him or his message. We see that so often these days when truth and wisdom is offered in love but it is soundly rejected and ridiculed because it doesn’t look like the lies people have already believe.

Partisan politics have so polarized our population that people spend a lot of time tossing half-truths and complete lies around as though they were pearls of great wisdom. Our ability to think logically has been bogged down in a sea of lies, half-truths, and innuendos. Conversations are reduced to shouting a sea of lies, half-truths, and innuendos in the form of bumper sticker sayings that bear little or no relationship to the truth. Because we have turned our hearts, minds, and ears away from Jesus truth, that small measure of understanding we thought we had has been taken away from us.

The devil is the father of lies and he must be having a grand old time right now, because people have stopped any real thinking in order to lob their own bumper sticker bombs designed to destroy those who think differently from them and pound them into submission. We have turned our backs on Jesus to spend time trying to destroy those that we perceive to be different from us.

This is doubly sad because those who want to hear the truth are often hindered in that effort by those participating in the perpetuation of the massacre of truth.

Stop and take the time to really listen today. To your friends, your supposed enemies, but most of all listen to Jesus.

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“But Esau’s wives made life miserable for Isaac and Rebekah.”

Journeys Through the Word

“But Esau’s wives made life miserable for Isaac and Rebekah.”

Verse(s) considered:

Genesis 26:26-35

(26)  One day King Abimelech came from Gerar with his adviser, Ahuzzath, and also Phicol, his army commander.

(27)  “Why have you come here?” Isaac asked. “You obviously hate me, since you kicked me off your land.”

(28)  They replied, “We can plainly see that the LORD is with you. So we want to enter into a sworn treaty with you. Let’s make a covenant.

(29)  Swear that you will not harm us, just as we have never troubled you. We have always treated you well, and we sent you away from us in peace. And now look how the LORD has blessed you!”

(30)  So Isaac prepared a covenant feast to celebrate the treaty, and they ate and drank together.

(31)  Early the next morning, they each took a solemn oath not to interfere with each other. Then Isaac sent them home again, and they left him in peace.

(32)  That very day Isaac’s servants came and told him about a new well they had dug. “We’ve found water!” they exclaimed.

(33)  So Isaac named the well Shibah (which means “oath”). And to this day the town that grew up there is called Beersheba (which means “well of the oath”).

(34)  At the age of forty, Esau married two Hittite wives: Judith, the daughter of Beeri, and Basemath, the daughter of Elon.

(35)  But Esau’s wives made life miserable for Isaac and Rebekah.

Thoughts along the road:

In going through this and other sections of the story of the patriarchs of Judaism seems to be a lot like a soap opera. People seem to be driven by fear. That certainly seems to be what has driven Abimelech to follow after Isaac after he kicked him out of his territory. He comes with flattering words and seeks a treaty to avoid any future conflicts. Isaac planted the seeds of this distrust when he copied his father’s lie about his wife being his sister. That lie was prompted by fear and resulted in the poisoning of any good relations between himself and Abimelech.

In a solemn ceremony, they promise not to harm each other and Abimelech departs in peace. Then, just as things seem to settle into a peaceful existence for Isaac and his family, his nephew Esau’s Hittite wives began to make trouble for Isaac and Rebekah continuing the family strife caused by the scheming of one brother to steal the birthright and blessing of the other. Like I said, it’s a soap opera.

Where to go from here:

Why do we continue to have trouble in our lives?

Sometimes it just happens to us with no warning or provocation. I think about Job when this happens. I need to understand that trouble is going to come my way and it is not always the direct result of something that I did. If I can expect blessings from God, I should also expect tribulations. They can arrive for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is God trying to get my attention.

Other times bad things happen to me directly as a consequence of something I have done. This is not so much a repayment from God for my sin as it is the natural result of an action I have taken. If I choose to jump out of a 2nd story window, I am going to get hurt. If there are no other mitigating factors, the only fault is mine.

In the case of Isaac here, he lied to Abimelech (repeating the sin of his father) and placed him in danger of God’s anger in case he or someone in his country had violated Rebekah. Abimelech justifiably kicked him out of the country. Isaac did not have to lie. His own fear (and lack of trust in God) prompted him to do so. HIs son Jacob’s treachery (talking Esau out of his birthright and therefore inheritance) caused the trouble they had with their son Esau’s Hittite wives. They, no doubt, were well aware of the treachery and took advantage of that family discord to visit trouble on their wealthier in-laws. Trouble can come from anywhere.

We often do not understand why trouble happens to us. My best course of action is to pursue and close and familiar relationship with God. Read his word. Communicate the issues of your heart with him in prayer and supplication. Pursue that relationship daily. Seek to align your heart and mind with his so that no matter what happens, you can accept what has happened (or is happening) as his will and seek refuge in his presence. He will comfort you. He will help you deal with it and give you peace. Jesus said this:

John 16:33 New Living Translation (NLT)

33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

 

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“Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”

Journeys Through the Word

“Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”

Verse(s) considered:

Matthew 13:1-9

(1)  Later that same day Jesus left the house and sat beside the lake.

(2)  A large crowd soon gathered around Him, so He got into a boat. Then He sat there and taught as the people stood on the shore.

(3)  He told many stories in the form of parables, such as this one: “Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds.

(4)  As he scattered them across his field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them.

(5)  Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow.

(6)  But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died.

(7)  Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants.

(8)  Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!

(9)  Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”

Thoughts along the road:

Jesus often taught in story form as a means of teaching the truths he wanted to communicate. Why? I have heard lots and lots of different explanations for it, but I think it is because stories stick with us longer than straight statements of fact. The truth of a story digs its way into our heads and our hearts much more firmly that straight teaching does.

In a very real sense, Jesus is telling us a story here about what happens to the truth stories that he tells and how the seed planted by them can thrive or die in the soil of our hearts.

Where to go from here:

At the end he makes this remarkable statement: “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.” It sounds kind of nonsensical at first, but if you take a moment to think about it, it goes to the heart of the story just told. Our ears act as gatekeepers for the things we hear. In a sense, our ears either accept a statement of truth readily or it discounts it heavily because is doesn’t mesh with other things we have heard or believe. Other times, we simply tune out things that we do not want to hear or so directly contradicts the other things we have heard or believed. Those statements of truth seem to bounce right off of us.

I believe that Jesus is challenging his listeners (and that includes you and me) to open up our ears and give the things he has to say openly and honestly. Regardless of what we have heard or believed before, we need to listen to what Jesus has to say. His words, like the seed in the parable, contain the stuff of life. Listen to them. Accept them. Benefit from them.

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“At last the LORD has created enough space for us to prosper in this land.”

Journeys Through the Word

“At last the LORD has created enough space for us to prosper in this land.”

Verse(s) considered:

Genesis 26:19-25

(19)  Isaac’s servants also dug in the Gerar Valley and discovered a well of fresh water.

(20)  But then the shepherds from Gerar came and claimed the spring. “This is our water,” they said, and they argued over it with Isaac’s herdsmen. So Isaac named the well Esek (which means “argument”).

(21)  Isaac’s men then dug another well, but again there was a dispute over it. So Isaac named it Sitnah (which means “hostility”).

(22)  Abandoning that one, Isaac moved on and dug another well. This time there was no dispute over it, so Isaac named the place Rehoboth (which means “open space”), for he said, “At last the LORD has created enough space for us to prosper in this land.”

(23)  From there Isaac moved to Beersheba,

(24)  where the LORD appeared to him on the night of his arrival. “I am the God of your father, Abraham,” He said. “Do not be afraid, for I am with you and will bless you. I will multiply your descendants, and they will become a great nation. I will do this because of My promise to Abraham, My servant.”

(25)  Then Isaac built an altar there and worshiped the LORD. He set up his camp at that place, and his servants dug another well.

 

Thoughts along the road:

It seems that Isaac had a very difficult time finding a place where he and his household could dwell without issues over water. They needed water for all of life’s daily needs. They needed water for their livestock. But, it seemed that no matter where they dug a well, someone else claimed the water rights. It sounds a bit like an old western movie, only there were no guns, gunslingers, or barbed wire involved.

So, Isaac kept moving on until, finally, they dug a well and no one was argumentative or hostile over it. That did not end his migration, however, he moved one more to Beersheba and the Lord greeted him in a dream the very night he arrived.

The Lord took the time to reassure Isaac that he was with him, that he should not be afraid, and restated the promises that he had made to his father, Abraham. In response, Isaac built an altar there, set up camp, and dug another well.

He was finally in the place he belonged. He was with the Lord.

Where to go from here:

We will often have troubles similar to Isaac trying to find our place in the world. Very rarely will someone move through life settled and stationary in one place. It’s nice when it happens, I guess. It is certainly not something that has ever happened in my life. I could count all the places I have lived even if I used all my fingers and my toes. My family moved a fair amount when I was young. After high school, I had an abortive attempt at college and then went into the Navy. I moved, on average, every year and a half for the nine years I was enlisted. That continued after my discharge and right up until we bought a house in 2001 and lived there for fifteen years. We now live in another town and have no expectation that we can stay in the place we are at beyond the length of our current lease.

My point with all of that is that lots of things can cause us to move from one place to another, but one thing that needs to stay constant is our relationship with the Lord. Isaac had developed a relationship with the Lord from observing his father. He continued that relationship as a two-way relationship as evidenced by verse twenty-four above. Keeping the Lord in mind when considering a move is not something that we always do. It’s pretty much an add-on after the fact. When we moved this last time, I spent time researching churches before we moved. I wanted to make sure that we would have a solid church home wherever we landed. God honored that and we now live in our new town and are members of a fantastic local body that has embraced us and allowed up to feel free to participate in the ministries of the church.

The next time you have to move, whether you are moving homes or just changing jobs, make God a partner in that process. While not explicitly stated in today’s selection, we can see God’s hand in guiding Isaac to the place God wanted him to be. Don’t you want that for your life too?

 

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“Anyone who speaks against the Son of Man can be forgiven, but …”

Journeys Through the Word

“Anyone who speaks against the Son of Man can be forgiven, but …”

Verse(s) considered:

Matthew 12:22-32

(22)  Then a demon-possessed man, who was blind and couldn’t speak, was brought to Jesus. He healed the man so that he could both speak and see.

(23)  The crowd was amazed and asked, “Could it be that Jesus is the Son of David, the Messiah?”

(24)  But when the Pharisees heard about the miracle, they said, “No wonder He can cast out demons. He gets His power from Satan, the prince of demons.”

(25)  Jesus knew their thoughts and replied, “Any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed. A town or family splintered by feuding will fall apart.

(26)  And if Satan is casting out Satan, he is divided and fighting against himself. His own kingdom will not survive.

(27)  And if I am empowered by Satan, what about your own exorcists? They cast out demons, too, so they will condemn you for what you have said.

(28)  But if I am casting out demons by the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom of God has arrived among you.

(29)  For who is powerful enough to enter the house of a strong man like Satan and plunder his goods? Only someone even stronger—someone who could tie him up and then plunder his house.

(30)  “Anyone who isn’t with Me opposes Me, and anyone who isn’t working with Me is actually working against Me.

(31)  “So I tell you, every sin and blasphemy can be forgiven—except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which will never be forgiven.

(32)  Anyone who speaks against the Son of Man can be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, either in this world or in the world to come.

Thoughts along the road:

Jesus always helped people. Whether it was sickness, sin, or possession by a demon, he always took the time to meet that person’s need. The Pharisee’s sought to turn everything he did into an occasion for criticism. They seemed to only focus on tearing people down. Instead of ignoring their criticism, which I am sure he often did, he chose to engage to put their hypocrisy on display.

They accused him of casting out demons by the devil. Jesus takes them to task to show how just plain silly that type of logic was and to point it back at their own exorcists and ask how they did it.

He makes it clear that he is not using the power of the devil but of God and that was proof that the Kingdom of God was in their midst and they should not be in the position of opposing him.

What they accused him of was blasphemy, he pointed out that that was exactly the sin they were committing and that was the only type of sin that could not be forgiven. Pretty dangerous ground to be walking on.

Where to go from here:

In our efforts to emulate Christ, we need to think about meeting people’s needs where they are. We can’t ask that they clean up their act before we choose to help them. That is not how God works, so that is not how we should work.

We need to be careful of our judgemental attitudes for in judging others, we might be fighting against God. We sometimes are working under our own power when casting judgment or criticism against people who are doing their very best to serve and to honor God. Just because they are not doing it the way we would, does not make it wrong. Sometimes it’s just different. God quite often uses different to use different people. He made us all different in some ways. He knows how best to reach people and to meet them at their point of need. We, quite often, do not.

We need to be careful that we are not fighting against the Holy Spirit when he is working in an area in order to try to set up things of our own design. We could be working against him. Let us prayerfully approach our service to God and remember that we serve him best by serving others and meeting their needs. That is, after all, what Jesus did.

 

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“So Isaac moved away …”

Journeys Through the Word

“So Isaac moved away …”

Verse(s) considered:

Genesis 26:12-18

(12)  When Isaac planted his crops that year, he harvested a hundred times more grain than he planted, for the LORD blessed him.

(13)  He became a very rich man, and his wealth continued to grow.

(14)  He acquired so many flocks of sheep and goats, herds of cattle, and servants that the Philistines became jealous of him.

(15)  So the Philistines filled up all of Isaac’s wells with dirt. These were the wells that had been dug by the servants of his father, Abraham.

(16)  Finally, Abimelech ordered Isaac to leave the country. “Go somewhere else,” he said, “for you have become too powerful for us.”

(17)  So Isaac moved away to the Gerar Valley, where he set up their tents and settled down.

(18)  He reopened the wells his father had dug, which the Philistines had filled in after Abraham’s death. Isaac also restored the names Abraham had given them.

Thoughts along the road:

Isaac was becoming more successful than he had probably imagined. The problem was that his prosperity was causing problems with his neighbors. It was so much of a problem, they began to fill up the wells that Abraham’s servants had dug for his flocks. We can only imagine the contention and conflict that began to show up in his relations with the neighbors and indeed the country of the Philistines. Finally, the king Abimelech ordered him out of the country. He had grown too powerful for the residents to feel safe. It was time to move on.

You notice that he did not put up a fuss. He did not complain about the crops and wells that would be left behind. He packed up and moved to the Gerar Valley and set up there. Once there they found more wells that the Philistines had filled in. He just reopened them and begun to live there.

Where to go from here:

The time comes for most of us at one point in time or another when we will be required to move from where we have been planted and prospered. Sometimes it is our idea to move on and sometimes it is not. God moves us around from time to time. He wants us to be flexible in his service. There are some who serve in the same location and capacity for many years. But, for most of us, there are seasons in our lives where we serve here or there for periods of time and then in some other location or capacity for other periods of time.

We are in a new season in our life in a new town, with a new church, and in some new capacities. This type of change can be very frightening if we do not realize that the same God that enabled our connectedness and opportunities to serve where we came from will also help us to connect and find places to serve in our new home. It has been very interesting to view the landscape in our new church and to try to figure out where we could plug in. Trust me when I say that the new place will never be just like the old place. You will (as we have) struggle to figure out what giftedness God will provide you with to serve your new church.

All churches seem to have different needs. Each one of them is at a different stage in its development. Each one of them is serving a different community and has unique needs. God will provide you with some capacity to serve that your new church needs. Allow God to mold you and use you in new ways in your new church. God will provide you with the tools. My job, your job is to serve. Let us do so with all our hearts.

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And His name will be the hope of all the world.

Journeys Through the Word

“And His name will be the hope of all the world.”

Verse(s) considered:

Matthew 12:15-21

(15)  But Jesus knew what they were planning. So He left that area, and many people followed Him. He healed all the sick among them,

(16)  but He warned them not to reveal who He was.

(17)  This fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah concerning Him:

(18)  “Look at My Servant, whom I have chosen. He is My Beloved, who pleases Me. I will put My Spirit upon Him, and He will proclaim justice to the nations.

(19)  He will not fight or shout or raise His voice in public.

(20)  He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle. Finally He will cause justice to be victorious.

(21)  And His name will be the hope of all the world.”

Thoughts along the road:

Jesus had to maintain a delicate balance of reactions toward his presence and his ministry. On the one hand, he had to reach as many people as possible with his message, his love, and his healing. On the other, he had to stir up the religious authorities enough to fulfill the prophecies about his coming. This section appears to be about when he had stirred the pot up enough that he had to leave the area and let the pressure die down a bit. It seemed like he was constantly aware of what he needed to do to get them to the right point at the right time and to fulfill the prophecies about him at the same time.  

Where to go from here:

I cannot imagine the pressure that might have come from keeping all those plates spinning at the same time and to honestly and sincerely care for the people he was ministering to and to carefully develop the faith of the disciples all at the same time. It boggles my mind all of the things Jesus had to manage to accomplish at the same time. And, it never, ever seems like he is in a rush, or concerned, or anxious about any of it—at all—ever. If you ever wonder how God manages to keep his hand on all the people of all time, the events, and nature … you will realize that it is simply out of the realm of our understanding. None of us could ever wrap our heads around it—at all—ever.

So when God does not fit into the little box that we try to put him in so that we can say we have him figured out—so we can reject him. You can’t. He is simply outside our ability to understand. So when Isaiah said the things that he said in verses 19 and 20 above, he perfectly described the calm, collected manner in which Jesus lived his life. He could do all that because he relinquished control of these things to the Father and that allowed him to concentrate on the people he dealt with every day. And that allowed him to become “,,, the hope of all the world.”

We need to imitate Jesus in this area. We need to relinquish control of the larger things to God (our Father) and to concentrate on the things that we can affect in our everyday lives. Our job is to imitate Jesus and point others to “,,, the hope of all the world.”

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