Year A – Lent 4 – John 9:1-41

John 9:1–41 – As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, 7 saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. 8 The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10 But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” 12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.” 13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15 Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. 17 So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.” 18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21 but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.” 24 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” 25 He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 28 Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30 The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34 They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out. 35 Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him. 39 Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.

Summary – This story in John’s gospel highlights Jesus’ work in healing a man born blind. The Gospel of John is a marvelous exposition of “Signs” that call for faith. They are arranged as follows:

The Seven + One New Creation (Signs in John)
1. New Creator: Water into wine (2:1-11)
2. Redeemer/Healer: Prevents death of nobleman’s son (4:46ff)
3. True Sabbath: The paralyzed man at the pool (5:2-9) GO SIN NO MORE
4. Bread of Life: Multiplication of loaves (6:1-14)
5. Light of the World: Born blind, healed on Sabbath (9:1-7) IT WAS NOT HIS SIN
6. Resurrection & Life: Delays/death then raises Lazarus (11:1-44)
7. Living Water: Water & blood on the cross (19:34-35)
+ 8. New Adam/Gardener: The resurrection (20:1-29) “First Day” (8th Day)

From this you can see that both the 3rd and the 5th sign have to do with the Sabbath. In the early part, the disciples question whose fault this blindness is: his or his parents? Of course, if the man were born blind . . .  how could his own sin cause state at birth? It seems that perhaps they were somewhat muddled in their thinking. Jesus corrects them. “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.”However it is clear that is some cases one’s sin can affect him in drastic ways (see 5:2-9). The rest of the story reveals the glory of God through this astounding sign in John.

Insight – This Gospel reading is an amazing and even amusing story. This blind man received his sight from Jesus, but the Pharisees who claimed to have sight (so as to lead others) could only “see” a Sinner. Their system of righteousness which included Sabbath-work kept them from seeing what was right in front of their face. The righteous (but) blind Pharisees reasoned that, “This man [Jesus] is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.” The unrighteous (but) seeing man (healed by Jesus) reasoned, “If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.” For a while the Pharisees were in power, so they used that power to perform the first excommunication in the New Testament, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you teaching us? So they put him out [of the synagogue].”

Child’s catechism – Who is Jesus? Jesus is the light of the world.

Discussion – Can you say with the blind man and John Newton (in Amazing Grace), “I once was blind, but now I see”?

Prayer – O Lord, thank you for opening our eyes to see the light of your glory. Help us to love you more and to walk in your light. Amen.

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Year A – Christmas Day – Isaiah 52:7-10

Isaiah 52:7–10  How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” 8 Listen! Your sentinels lift up their voices, together they sing for joy; for in plain sight they see the return of the LORD to Zion. 9 Break forth together into singing, you ruins of Jerusalem; for the LORD has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem. 10 The LORD has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.

Overview – The Book of Isaiah – is a fascinating book. Sometimes called a “fifth Gospel,” it is quoted in the New Testament more often than any other book. Isaiah is at once “the prophet of a glorious future (e.g. 1:26–27; 2:2–4; 4:4–6; 9:1–7; 11:1–16)” as well as “the prophet of disaster and total loss (e.g. 5:24–30; 6:11–12; 7:17–25)” (Motyer). One of the interesting things about it is that it somewhat mirrors the whole of Scripture in the following way: there are 66 chapters, just as there are 66 books in the Bible. Further, Isaiah 1-39 addresses the situation of Israel, just as there are 39 Old Testament books. Isaiah 40-66 primarily addresses Messianic prophecies (in the post-exillic setting), just as there are 27 books of the New Testament which are addressed to proclamation of Jesus. Isaiah 52 pictures a renewed Jerusalem without its previous uncleanness due to idolatry. He speaks of redeeming the people, as in the days of the Exodus from Egypt. “For thus says the LORD: You were sold for nothing, and you shall be redeemed without money. For thus says the Lord GOD: Long ago, my people went down into Egypt to reside there as aliens; the Assyrian, too, has oppressed them without cause” (52:3-4).  This announcement of their restoration (from Babylon) evokes the familiar words of our passage: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.'” This heralds the return of God – “for in plain sight they see the return of the LORD to Zion” (52:8). This announce signals the end of the  Babylonian exile and the full restoration of Israel.

Insight – The question on  the minds of those in the first century was whether the exile was indeed over. While the Jews were in the land and had rebuilt Jerusalem and the temple, many of the blessings predicted by the prophets did not seem to be a reality. There were the Herods, the oppression of Rome and impurities and sects within Jewish life, the Sadducees and Pharisees. The New Testament answers the longing for the exile to be over and for God to return to Zion in a surprising way. The Lord would be born in Zion. Yahweh, the God of Israel would come and take the the role of Israel as the Servant (from the chapter before, Is. 51) and redeem not only Israel, but the world. He did this through the person of Jesus of Nazareth.

What is the good news that Isaiah announced? That God would come to Israel in the form of Jesus Christ.

Discussion – How was Jerusalem renewed? What form did the purified Zion take?

Prayer – O God, you make us glad by the yearly festival of the birth of your only Son Jesus Christ: Grant that we, who joyfully receive him as our Redeemer, may with sure confidence behold him when he comes to be our Judge; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (BPC Nativity I)

John 13 – Jesus Serves the Disciples

A Reading of John 13 – “Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. 2 During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, 4 got up from supper, and *laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself…”

A Reflection on John 13 – It is still Epiphany in the Church Calendar, but as we look at the text, we zoom forward to Maundy Thursday. We find Jesus (in Jn 13) at the table. John 13 gives a unique example of simple, lowly service as love. Unlike the other Gospels, John gives us more teachings of Jesus at the Last Supper. The glorious collection of truths in John 13-17 begin with this teaching on love. “A new commandment I give to you.” And this teaching begins with an action, an enacted parable. All of the rich words of John 13-17 unfold just as Jesus unfolds the towel to wash (or “wipe” like Mary did to Jesus) the disciples’ feet. The dirt on their sandal-shod feet was not what we sweep up in the kitchen. It was the build-up of the filth of excrement, decaying animals, rotted food, the “waste” of open sewage which ran in the streets. It was the foul remnants of a defiled world. To clean this was the lowest servant’s work. It could not even be required of a Hebrew slave, in Israel only Gentile slaves could wash feet.

Jesus’s reason for taking this sub-human role is striking: “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God, and was going back to God — rose from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself about.” As the earthly ministry and mission of Jesus was about to reach its climax, as He was fully aware and this crested in His thoughts – What did He do? He arose to do the lowliest service to scrub off the filth of uncleanness.  Jesus unexpectedly provides an action to explain His mission. He made vivid His teaching by this parable. We are to love one another. The next day, Good Friday, Jesus would love them in a more unimaginable way. He would do the work, not of a domestic (Gentile) slave, but of a domestic animal, a sacrificial animal. He would take upon Himself, not the filth of feet, but the blackest wickedness of all the world of evil men. His servanthood with the basin and towel, though shocking to His disciples, is only a small, small example of being the Suffering Servant for us: “And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore … He was pierced through for our transgressions” (Is. 53:3-5).

If through Christ’s crossly and costly work, you have His love in you, What simple actions would show your love to others in your family, church or community?

Year C – Proper 21 – Amos 6:1, 4-7

1 Alas for those who are at ease in Zion,
and for those who feel secure on Mount Samaria,
the notable men of the first of the nations,
to whom the house of Israel comes…

4 Alas for those who lie on beds of ivory,
and lounge on their couches,
and eat lambs from the flock,
and calves from the stall;
5 who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp,
and like David improvise on instruments of music;
6 who drink wine from bowls,
and anoint themselves with the finest oils,
but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph!
7 Therefore they shall now be the first to go into exile,
and the revelry of the loungers shall pass away.

Summary— Amos, in his extended lawsuit against both the southern kingdom of Judah (“Zion” and “Mount Samaria,” v.1) and the northern kingdom of Israel (“Joseph,” v.6), targets “the notable men” (v.1)—which is to say, the aristocracy to whom others came for guidance and leadership (v.1): these leaders were preoccupying themselves with inordinate luxury (vss. 4-6) in the face of Joseph’s ruin (v.6)!  Specifically, they were sprawled out on ivory beds (v.4), eating the finest delicacies (v.4), bellowing drinking songs (fancying themselves musicians of David’s caliber! v.5), in a drunken stupor (proud that they had the largest stein at Oktoberfest, v.6), and dousing themselves with the priciest cologne they could waste their money on (v.6).  All this while Israel played the anti-type to Joseph (v.6)—wallowing at the bottom of the pit, about to be taken into exile.

Insight— These leaders regarded themselves as the first men of the first nation (v.1).  Well then, says God, they can be the first to go into exile (v.7).  How apropos.

Child Catechism—
Q:
  Is it always time to relax and have fun?
A:  No, not when I should be helping others, instead.

Discussion— Should leaders ever relax?  When?  When should they not?  Are most people more tempted not to relax when they should, or to relax when they should not?

Prayer— Great Shepherd, give to us, Your flock, under-shepherds who love You and us more than their bellies, that they might train us for good works, and thereby secure our hope that on the Last Day, You will embrace them and us into Your joy, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  AMEN.

[Contributed by Scott Cline]

Year C – Proper 20 – Amos 8:4-7

Hear this, you that trample on the needy,
and bring to ruin the poor of the land,
saying, ‘When will the new moon be over
so that we may sell grain;
and the sabbath,
so that we may offer wheat for sale?
We will make the ephah small and the shekel great,
and practice deceit with false balances,
buying the poor for silver
and the needy for a pair of sandals,
and selling the sweepings of the wheat.’

The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob:
Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.

Summary— In the Prophecy of Amos, Yahweh spends only 1:3 through 2:3 judging various pagan peoples.  By 2:4, He begins leveling judgement against the house of Israel, and in chapter 8, He’s still going strong!  In this section, He targets those who compartmentalize business and friendship, so that the “needy” wind up trampled on (v.4).  These businessmen are litigious about holy days, but even then look forward to the next day’s opportunity to turn a buck (v.5a).  They offer less product for more money (v.5b).  In verse 6, “silver” is probably a loan made to “the poor,” in hopes that the poor will default and thereby give himself up as a slave.  Similarly, “a pair of sandals” in this context is probably the product sold on credit, in hopes that “the needy” will be unable to pay even for those, and have to pay by his slavery (a pair of sandals is a small price for a businessman to pay for a valuable slave!).  In verse 7, Yahweh swears that He will never forget this evil.

Insight— Oaths are typically made on the basis of something solid—something constant and dependable.  People swear by God’s Name (Deut. 6:13), or by Baal (Jer. 12:16), or by the temple or by heaven (Matt. 23:16-22), or by one greater than themselves (Heb. 6:16).  Well, in verse 7, Yahweh makes a jab at these greedy businessmen: He swears by the most trustworthy element in this situation: Jacob’s pride.

Child Catechism—
Q:
Why should we be generous to a needy person?
A: Because generosity to a needy person honors that needy person’s Maker (Prov. 14:31).

Discussion— What are some good reasons to pursue financial profit?

Prayer— O God, to love money too much is to love You and neighbor too little. Save us from our greed, and help us to pursue profit ordinately, not to consume it on our lusts, but to love others by it, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  AMEN.

Contributed by Scott Cline

Year C – Proper 19 – Exodus 32:7-14

The Lord said to Moses, ‘Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” ’ The Lord said to Moses, ‘I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.’ But Moses implored the Lord his God, and said, ‘O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, “It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth”? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, “I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it for ever.” ’ And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.

Summary— Moses had spent forty days on Mt. Sinai, receiving further instruction from Yahweh.  The children of Israel at the base of the mountain, not sure what had become of him and wanting some reassurance of Yahweh’s presence, had persuaded Aaron to fashion a young bull out of gold, to represent Him.  Although they had not turned to another god, per se, they had presumed to represent Yahweh too concretely and unworthily.  This kindled Yahweh’s wrath, so that He declared His intent to wipe them out and replace them with a new nation from the loins of Moses.  Instead of grasping at this opportunity to be the New Abraham—instead of jumpting at this chance to father God’s People, called “the children of Moses”—Moses interceded for the children of Israel out of zeal for Yahweh’s reputation: Yahweh had delivered this people out of Egypt—if He destroyed them now, the pagan world would get the wrong idea about Him.  What’s more, Yahweh had promised the land to Abraham’s decendents forever—if He destroyed them now, His faithfulness would be in question.  Yahweh relented.

Insight— If God has planned the end from the beginning, ordaining whatsoever shall come to pass—and, if He is all knowing and all wise, and if man is not—then, how is it that He “relented” from His plans, at the pleading of Moses?  Or, for that matter, how is it that our prayers ever “change” anything?  The answer must be that God authors the entire story, including our prayers.  He has planned the situations that we pray about, and He has planned that we pray about them, and He has planned His response to our prayers.  In other words, there is a very real level on which God interacts with us, and there is an equally real level on which He has ordained all parts of that interaction.

Child Catechism—
Q:
  Does God really answer our prayers?
A: Yes, God has planned our situations, our prayers, and His answers.

Discussion— Why do you think that Yahweh “set Moses up” to intercede for Israel in the way that he did?

Prayer— Yahweh, You have ordained the end from the beginning, so that we need never question whether anything which comes to pass has been ordained by You.  Not only does this not exclude our prayers, but it in fact establishes their importance: for, You have planned our free and heartfelt prayers, and Your answers, for You love to hear and answer us.  Your ways are unsearcheable, and Your love everlasting, in Jesus Christ Your Son through Whom we pray.  AMEN.

Contributed by Scott Cline

Year C- 21 Sunday after Pentecost – Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16

Text –
91:1 You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,

2 will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.”

3 For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence;

4 he will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.

5 You will not fear the terror of the night, or the arrow that flies by day,

6 or the pestilence that stalks in darkness, or the destruction that wastes at noonday.

14 Those who love me, I will deliver; I will protect those who know my name.

15 When they call to me, I will answer them; I will be with them in trouble, I will rescue them and honor them.

16 With long life I will satisfy them, and show them my salvation.

Summary – The Psalmist here is describing peace that comes from resting in God’s protection. Those who live in God’s shelter will receive his protection. This protection is described as being like a bird who spreads it’s wings and pinions over it’s chicks to protect them from prey or the elements. Those who trust in God will not have to fear any danger, whether it comes in the night, or in the daytime. In verse 14, the psalm switches from a person speaking to God speaking. In verses 14-16 God promises that he will deliver, protect and always be with his people in their troubles. He promises and answer those who call out to him, and promises to send his salvation.

Insight – What is something that you worry about or are scared of? Whether it’s something as simple as being alone in the dark or maybe loud thunderstorms to something more grave such as serious illness or death, this psalm tells us that we do not need to be afraid. Nothing is outside of God’s power. Now does this mean that nothing bad will ever happen to us? No it does not. If we look at the entire book of the Psalms we see that bad things do happen. But these things never happen apart from God’s presence. In the midst of troubles or dangers of life, where do we look for help? Do we pray to God who promises to be with us in our trouble. Do we look to Jesus Christ, who has showed us how much he loves and cares for us by dying on the cross? By looking, and meditating on this sacrificial love of God that we can be sure that “neither death, or life, nor angles nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Jesus our Lord.” Nothing can separate us from God, and thus we are protected from all the dangers of life.

Catechism – What happens to those who cry out to God, when they are in trouble? God will always answer them.

Question – What are some ways that you often respond when you are facing trouble or hardship? How might thinking about the love of God, in Christ change how you respond to your hardships?

Prayer – Heavenly Father, our Lord and Protector, we thank you that you so preserves us that without your will, not even a hair can fall from our heads. We thank you for your love that you showed on the cross, and we ask that you would be with us in our day of trouble, that you would protect us in our hardships, and that we would have boldness in the face of your enemies, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

 

Contributed by Jared McNAbb

Year C – 20th Sunday after Pentecost – Psalm 79:1-9

Text – 79:1 O God, the nations have come into your inheritance; they have defiled your holy temple; they have laid Jerusalem in ruins.

2 They have given the bodies of your servants to the birds of the air for food, the flesh of your faithful to the wild animals of the earth.

3 They have poured out their blood like water all around Jerusalem, and there was no one to bury them.

4 We have become a taunt to our neighbors, mocked and derided by those around us.

5 How long, O LORD? Will you be angry forever? Will your jealous wrath burn like fire?

6 Pour out your anger on the nations that do not know you, and on the kingdoms that do not call on your name.

7 For they have devoured Jacob and laid waste his habitation.

8 Do not remember against us the iniquities of our ancestors; let your compassion come speedily to meet us, for we are brought very low.

9 Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and forgive our sins, for your name’s sake.

Summary – This Psalm is a Psalm of lament, and crying out to the Lord. Jerusalem has been destroyed and the temple, the place of worship, has been ruined and defiled. This appears to be the invasion of the Chaldeans (2 Chronicles 36:17-20) which who killed many Israelites, and stole the temple treasures. The Psalmists here describes the violence done to them by their invaders, and how low the people have sunk. He also recognizes that it is the Israelites own sin that has caused this. However, he now calls out to God to remember not their sin, but rather to atone for their sin, to show compassion on them and save them from their enemies. He asks God to do this to the glory of his name.

Insight – Sin always brings consequences into our lives. It may not look like a violent invasion, but it always has consequences. Sin always looks appealing, but if we choose to repeatedly follow it, and indulge in it, it will always ruin us. We were made by God to worship him alone, and he will not allow our turning from him to go unpunished. But since we are sinful people, where do we look to for help. Like the Psalmist we look to God, namely Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Psalmist request in verses 8-9. His death for our sins is the reason God forgives our sins. Jesus Christ is our salvation, our deliver, and his death and resurrection is for our atonement. This was all done for his name sake, that we may glorify in his name.

Discussion – Why is it that our sins always bring negative consequences?

Catechism – Why does God deliver us, and forgive our sins? For the glory of his name

Prayer – Holy Father, We confess that we are sinful people, and deserving of your punishment. But we also know and believe in your Son, whom you sent to to make atonement for our sins, to deliver us, and forgive us. This is a great mystery to our eyes, but causes us to praise the great name of Jesus, to whom be all glory, and power. Amen.

 

Submitted by Jared M McNabb

 

Year C – Proper 18 – Deuteronomy 30:15-20

“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. 16 If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. 17 But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, 18 I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. 19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, 20 loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”

Summary— What should have been a short trip from Mt. Sinai to Mt. Zion—from Law to Communion—had taken 40 years, due to Israel’s disobedience. The Law is God’s fence: if His People break it, they become feral. The first generation who heard the Law had done just that; as a result, they were not brought into God’s Land.  Now, after a generation’s delay, a second generation is being given the opportunity to hear God’s Law afresh.  This second generation is standing on the borders of Canaan, ready to do what their parents did not.  Moses, immediately before handing the reins over to Joshua and dying, is reiterating everything their parents had heard.  And the final portion of his address is the passage above: obey and be blessed and live, or else disobey and be cursed and die.

Insight— This is not the first time that God has put life and death before His People.  He said the same thing, essentially, to Adam and Eve in the Garden: obey and live, disobey and die.  And it is not as though Adam would start living after enough obeying—no, Adam was already alive, so his obedience would earn him nothing; but, his disobedience would put him out of God’s Land and kill him. 

Child Catechism—
Q:
  What happens to those who do not care about God’s Law?
A: They are kicked out of God’s Land.

Discussion— In the Garden and in the Law, God blesses His People before they have obeyed, so that they have nothing to gain, but everything to lose.  How does this pattern carry into the New Testament?

Prayer— Lord, You have given us Your Land—the entire earth—to enjoy and to spread Your love through and to have dominion over.  Keep our hearts that we might keep Your Law and thereby keep our inheritance, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

[Contributed by Scott Cline]