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This is a forgiving God who has stayed his hand from completely destroying the children of Israel time and again over the last forty years. And yet, there are some things for which forgiveness might be granted, however, there is a just consequence that must be borne out. The decision to not allow Moses to cross over into Canaan, the Promised Land, is an example.
Moses gives the people the long “song” that captures the story of their existence—the one that they are to hand down from generation to generation—and after he turns over all leadership responsibilities to Joshua, Moses is told by God that his time is up. Alas, he will not cross the Jordan and see the new land in person, but will only view it from a mountain-top, and after he has had the satisfaction of doing this, Moses will breathe his last.
47 They are not just idle words for you—they are your life. By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.” These are Moses’ last words to the children of Israel about the “song” that he teaches them. I wonder if the Jewish people still recite this song…
Turning next to our reading in the Book of Luke, we find Jesus speaking in parables to both his disciples and the people at large. One of his parables is about watchfulness where Jesus urges the upright believer to be watchful for the end times. 40 You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
Jesus also warns against becoming careless with what you have been entrusted with. Your talents and your gifts are yours all right, but it is your responsibility that you use them wisely. Because you will be held accountable for them.
Jesus says: 48 From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.
There are other things that Jesus cautions about: peace is not always easy to come by, Jesus says, and he has not come to establish peace, he says to the people. So volatile are some of his teachings that they are sure to divide people one against the other even if they are from within the same family. You believed, or you did not. And if you did and your mother didn’t, well then, you would be in opposition to her point of view, perhaps on some point of the ancient Judaic law, and there would be a division amongst you.
Following Jesus and his radical ways of interpreting the law came with a cost at times. Prepare to be different is what Jesus is telling them.
In our reading from the Psalms today, we see a continuation of David’s account of his ancestors history of rebellion. It is a sad day indeed when the children of Israel are taken away in captivity by the Persians and the Medes and find themselves desolate. David is recounting in this psalm, God’s utter disgust at his people and how he permits much calamity to befall them when they turn from him.
When will you learn, O Israel? How long before you see and understand that your God is an inconceivably amazing God? David is most likely harboring these thoughts as he writes the verses of this psalm.
Finally, our proverb for the day is one verse only. Solomon, the wise king of Israel, says this:
24 Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in forced labor.
May it be that we put our hands to good use in order that we might always taste the sweetness of freedom and power. Not using them might very well result in forced labor and eventual decay.
May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word. Amen.