Thursday, April 14, 2011

Eating Words

There is something really special going on in the temptation of Jesus in Matthew 4. As I was reading this passage this week, I couldn’t get past the first temptation, especially Jesus response found in the 4th verse:

“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Jesus, defending the tempter’s challenge, retorts with the impervious Scriptures found in Deut. 8:3.  However, there is much more going on here than just a simple quote from the Torah.  The two stories seem to be inexorably linked. 
Jesus is in the wilderness for 40 days.           
Israel was in the wilderness 40 years.
Jesus is hungry.                                            
Israel was hungry.
Jesus is tempted to make bread.                  
Israel was complaining they needed bread. 
Jesus is being tested.                                   
Israel was being tested.

The hunger that Jesus and Israel was experiencing was very real.  Their stomachs were growling, they are growing physically weak from lack of food.  Both Jesus and Israel need physical food to survive.  Israel had the added weight of mothers and fathers hearing their little children cry out for food.  Cries of inconsolable toddlers echo across the camp that translate to nagging wives and agitated fathers.  Discontentment and grumbling is about to erupt. 

The solution is simple, provide bread.  FEED MY CHILDREN and the cries will be silenced, the mothers will calm and fathers will have peace.  Unfortunately, Israel’s shortsightedness would only lead to more outcries and unhappy families if God doesn’t provide a permanent solution to their physical and spiritual needs.  

Jesus has the insurmountable weight of all of mankind, both living, dead and yet to live, resting on the outcome of this temptation.  In both cases, God is called upon to make bread but a something larger is looming.  For Jesus, this becomes a definitive victory against his foe. 

For Israel, and for us, it becomes a resounding life lesson in faith and obedience.  Will we be willing to patiently wait on God’s timing to provide?  Do I have the faith to believe that when God promises to provide, I can take Him at his word?  Am I willing to accept that bread alone will not satisfy.  The children of Israel first began complaining only 3 days after seeing the astounding miracle of the Red Sea.  How long can you last?  Jesus was 40 days in the wilderness without the very edge of maximum time a human body can deprive oneself of food before death ensues. 

Jesus provides us with more than bread, but a life lesson that obedience and dependence on God is better than temporary satisfaction.  He is the bread of Life.  God wanted to bless Israel but He needed to know what was in their heart, whether they would keep His commandments or not (Deut. 8:2).  God wants to know what is in our hearts.  Our call is to trust in God who promises to provide and satisfy, resulting in glory to our God.

“My God shall supply all your needs” (Phil 4:19).
“Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you” (Matt. 6:25-34).
“God knows what we need even before we ask for it” (Matt. 6:8).
“To obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Sam. 15:22).

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Death and Taxes

They say that two things are sure in this life, death and taxes.  Every year I approach April with fear and trepidation.  Not because I normally owe the government, but because I despise preparing my taxes.  Needless to say, I was quite pleased with myself that I actually completed my taxes in record time this year, 3 weeks before the due date.  It might have something to do with being out of work and really needing the refund...but none the less the deed has been done. 

This morning I was reading about man who was trying to avoid paying his dues.  He was trying to profit on something that he didn't do and literally just stumbled upon.  It's like finding a bag of money in the street, you know it doesn't belong to you, but in an instant it seems ok to pick up because no one is watching.  You try not to think about the desperation of the one that lost it, you try not to think about how you will have to explain to your loved ones how you suddenly came into all this money.  You tell yourself if you tithe on this bag of money it will somehow become holy and justified.  

Such was the story of Achan in Joshua 7.  The booty in Jericho was under a ban but the lure and desire of riches caused Achan to make a deadly mistake.  The gold and silver was to be an offering to the Lord (Joshua 6:19; 7:12).  That mistake cost him his life, it cost his family's life and it cost the lives of 36 fighting men that lost their life in battle.  Finally, it tarnished the reputation and glory of the God of Israel. 

It only takes a second.  In that split second we can make a wrong decision that can cost us everything.  Achan knew that he wasn't supposed to touch the silver and gold but he coveted them (7:21) and sinned against God.  What was Achan thinking?
  • No one is watching, it won't effect anyone else.
    • God is always watching.  There is no place we can hide, no place that we can go to run from the eyes of the Lord.
  • He had good intentions.  Maybe he really needed the money, he had a noble cause.
    • Maybe his kids needed a doctor.  Maybe his taxes were due.  Maybe his tent (home) was leaking and needed a new roof but he couldn't afford it.  His kids were getting sick, his wife was complaining, his mother-in-law kept calling him "good for nothing". 
  • Did God really say not to take any silver or gold?  After all, God let us get all that silver from our Egyptian neighbors, surely he would want us to have this silver and gold.
  • Achan forgot that God was supplying all their needs.  He had already revealed Himself as omnipotent provider and the God that deeply cared for His people.  God would supply their needs and provide His people with a portion of the booty (8:27), but the first part went to Him (as in Jericho). 
How can we ensure that we won't slip in that moment of weakness?  Just do what God told Joshua to do:
"This book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.  For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success."  Joshua 1:8