“He who oppresses the poor taunts his Maker, but he who is gracious to the needy honors Him.” Proverbs 14:31
In Proverbs, Solomon put together two thoughts to make a complete picture: God our Maker is honored or mocked depending on how we treat others. The proverb says we honor God when we extend grace to the needy. Jesus taught His disciples, “When you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous,” Luke 14:13-14.
When Israel was taken into captivity by the surrounding nations of Assyria and Babylon, they were the people who were considered to be poor, crippled, lame and blind in the eyes of the nations. Israel lost her independence, her economy, and her land. It was almost 400 years for the Israelites in Assyria before they would return to Israel and about 70 years for those in Babylon. How dependent they found themselves on the nations in which they dwelt. More importantly, they learned to repent and remember their dependence is on God alone. Though many had turned from the Lord, there was still a remnant of believers. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego are such examples. Ezekiel preached to the captives. Nehemiah led the first group of Israelites back to Jerusalem.
All the while, a young woman named Esther had been raised to the position of Queen in the Persian Empire. When a plot to annihilate the Jews was uncovered, Esther was initially afraid to help out; but she sought the Lord, received wise counsel (“Who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14), and ultimately delivered protection for her people throughout the empire. The celebration of Purim, which honors God’s faithfulness through the life of Esther, is still held in Israel today as a remembrance of God’s provision for His outcast people.
As Christians, we can likewise honor the Lord by celebrating His faithfulness to us as we look for ways to use the means He has given to us to help others, especially the poor, crippled, lame, and blind among us. After all, that’s what God does for us. “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” Romans 5:8.
This week as Purim is celebrated, we have the opportunity to remember the outcasts. In Syria, there are over a million displaced people trapped between warring Turkey, Russia, Iran, and Syria. One headline writer calls it “Syria’s worst humanitarian catastrophe in its 9-year civil war.” This week as we seek to honor our Maker, we will do well to remember the admonition of Solomon: He who oppresses the poor taunts his Maker, but he who is gracious to the needy honors Him.” May we rile against the evil perpetrated by others by actively helping the needy on Earth. By this can we honor our Maker and make the great name of Jesus known throughout the world until He returns!
Our friends at Partners Relief and Development have people in Syria helping provide needed food and medical relief. To learn more about the war in Syria and how you can help by prayer and donations, visit Partners Relief and Development. You can also contribute to a special collection we are taking here for the ministry of Partners in this afflicted region of Syria. You can make a check payable to CCMV and write “Syria relief” in the memo line, or you can give through the church app by selecting “Syria relief.”
You don’t need to look too hard to find evidence that we are living in a sinful world. Even those of us who are Christians, regularly referred to as saints in New Testament letters, struggle with sin. A quick glance at the headlines or turn on social media quickly confirms this. Too often I’m convicted by my own selfishness and reminded of Paul’s instruction to the believers in Philippi: “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:4).
The parable of the Good Samaritan, though told 2,000 years ago, is a timeless reminder of the high value God places on compassion. We are taught by Jesus that despite the myriad of differences we may have with one another, we are alike in the one most important way: each person is created in God’s image.
So, how do we keep the cacophony of culture from drowning out the sweet dulcet sounds of the Gospel? How then does the Gospel constrain us when it comes to showing compassion to others?
The Gospel tells us that we’re sinners in need of the cleansing, all-sufficient blood of Christ. The Gospel, when received with a thankful heart, compels us to show the same grace to others that God has shown to us in Jesus. It is important to understand that the Gospel not only saves us, but also empowers us to follow the most holy commands: love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.
The good news of Jesus living a sinless life on earth, being crucified without guilt, buried without His own tomb, and raised again by His own Word transforms the guiltiest of hearts into Christ-honoring, love-bearing, neighbor-serving ambassadors of heaven’s Gift on earth.
How then should we respond to the story of the Good Samaritan?
I encourage you to spend some time in the attached study guide written by Pastor Jamin Roller. If you make it through one page per day, you’ll have spent 5 days studying the parable of the Good Samaritan.
“All of us carry biases and divisions within us. It’s part of what it means to be sinful people in a broken world, but Jesus came to free us from that bondage so that we can walk in the freedom of loving in a way that displays God’s love for us.”
When Jesus spoke about anxiety, He taught us that we are called to trust a very generous God. If God clothes the fields with grass and feeds the birds of the air, how much more will He be generous with us, His image bearers? It’s a lesson that’s not as much about the importance of our level of trust as it is about Who we are trusting and how generous He is with all of His creation.
Jesus also compared the way of the Gentiles, and their gods with them, to the way of the Lord. The Gentiles worry because their gods are ultimately powerless. The people of the Lord don’t need to worry because our God is both Creator and Sustainer. He called everything into existence and by His will we continue to live and breathe and have our being. So why would we fear starvation or worry about having clothes to wear?
It’s likely that none of us are afraid of death by starvation or exposure to the elements. We’re more likely to fear getting a painful diagnosis, being unable to afford our car payment, or needing the money to put our kids through college. Thankfully, God knows about our worries and He has already given us the cure. Instead of worrying, we’re told to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.”
Seeking doesn’t mean we have all the answers. As anxiety knocks on the door of our thoughts over and over, we can quiet those knocks by shifting our focus from needing answers about our own well-being to trusting that God has our best interest at heart. He never stops working for our maximum good.
When we seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness, we’re walking in the footsteps of Jesus who “for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame” (Heb. 12:2) for the sake of the Kingdom that’s not built with hands because Jesus knew the Father is good and His mercy endures forever.
Quieting those anxious thoughts means trusting God so much that we turn from worry about ourselves and turn to wondering how we can honor God and His people.
This video from The Bible Project further explores the biblical concept of Generosity.
“Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth” (Psalm 127:4).
This week Chris, Livi, and I watched a great Christian movie on Netflix called Like Arrows. It’s about Biblical parenting. In this movie about Biblical parenting, the parents realize how critical intentionality and focus are when shaping and molding their kids’ lives. The movie pairs itself with a parenting course called Art of Parenting. The online video series for Art of Parenting is available for free here.
As we look forward to this Sunday’s lesson for the kids, the Israelites crossing the Jordan, we are reminded how crucial our role is as parents to lead our kids daily to the Lord. The Red Sea generation turned from God and sent their kids over the Jordan. in large part, without them. May we be parents so close to Christ that our kids will follow Him as they follow us.
You are doing important work! I pray the Lord gives you the grace and wisdom you need to minister in the lives of each of your children as unto Him.
Waiting. Ugh. Waiting is not on my list of favorite things. Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens I’ll take, but you can keep the waiting. Waiting is difficult. Waiting is lonely. Waiting feels like we should be doing something, but we’re often powerless to do anything. But waiting can produce in us a desire for the guidance and comfort of God.
When he saw the destruction of Jerusalem, knowing that God had promised salvation for his people, Jeremiah meditated on the faithfulness of God and wrote: “It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD” (Jeremiah 3:26). While Jerusalem burned, Jeremiah realized it is better to wait for God to save. A building can be spared, people can live a little longer, but actually being saved for all eternity is a work that only God can do. So Jeremiah, even though he didn’t want to wait for it, knew that waiting for God’s salvation was his only lasting hope.
On Saturday after her dead Master and Teacher was taken off the cross and buried in a tomb, Mary had to wait for the day to pass. She had to wait for Sabbath until she could get to the tomb and anoint the body of the Lord. While the Bible doesn’t describe any events from this day, we can wonder. Did she understand why Jesus had been crucified? Was she imagining ways she could have helped Him escape the city? Did she wonder why Jesus’ disciples ran away? She most likely had a lot of questions to accompany her unimaginable grief. But I also imagine the Holy Spirit comforted her like never before as she waited to visit the body of her Lord on Sunday morning. Like Jeremiah, perhaps she began to realize how good it is to wait on the salvation of the Lord.
And, of course, she didn’t have to wait long.
“Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).
Sunday morning revealed what Saturday obscured. Her Lord was alive!
Instead of anointing Him, He would later anoint her with the Holy Spirit and use her story to minister to many throughout the millennia. She wasn’t forgotten. She wasn’t alone. Though she was powerless, she entrusted herself to the One who has all power. Mary’s attempt was to bless Jesus, even in His death, yet He had the power to bless her beyond her wildest imagination. She waited on the Lord through the longest day of waiting in her life. And her joy was unmatched when she saw the resurrected Christ. She got to see Christ, hold Him, and tell others about Him after waiting for Him. The waiting was difficult. The waiting was lonely. But the waiting wasn’t wasted. How to respond? What do you find yourself waiting for at the moment? To what do you cling in periods of waiting? In the midst of times of waiting, it’s important to both look back and look forward. Look back by remembering how God has provided in the past. Look forward to the promises of what is to come.