Sunday, February 6, 2011

Epiphany 5: A Devotional Commentary

Genesis 18:20-33 Yahweh said, “Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous, I will go down now, and see whether their deeds are as bad as the reports which have come to me. If not, I will know.” The men turned from there, and went toward Sodom, but Abraham stood yet before Yahweh. Abraham drew near, and said, “Will you consume the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous within the city? Will you consume and not spare the place for the fifty righteous who are in it? Be it far from you to do things like that, to kill the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be like the wicked. May that be far from you. Shouldn’t the Judge of all the earth do right?” Yahweh said, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sake.” Abraham answered, “See now, I have taken it on myself to speak to the Lord, who am but dust and ashes. What if there will lack five of the fifty righteous? Will you destroy all the city for lack of five?” He said, “I will not destroy it, if I find forty-five there.” He spoke to him yet again, and said, “What if there are forty found there?” He said, “I will not do it for the forty’s sake.” He said, “Oh don’t let the Lord be angry, and I will speak. What if there are thirty found there?” He said, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.” He said, “See now, I have taken it on myself to speak to the Lord. What if there are twenty found there?” He said, “I will not destroy it for the twenty’s sake.” He said, “Oh don’t let the Lord be angry, and I will speak just once more. What if ten are found there?” He said, “I will not destroy it for the ten’s sake.” Yahweh went his way, as soon as he had finished communing with Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place.

Colossians 3:12-17 Put on therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, a heart of compassion, kindness, lowliness, humility, and perseverance; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, if any man has a complaint against any; even as Christ forgave you, so you also do. Above all these things, walk in love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your heart to the Lord. Whatever you do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father, through him.

Matthew 13:24-30 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “This man does not cast out demons, except by Beelzebul, the prince of the demons.” Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? If I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your children cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if I by the Spirit of God cast out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can one enter into the house of the strong man, and plunder his goods, unless he first bind the strong man? Then he will plunder his house. He who is not with me is against me, and he who doesn’t gather with me, scatters.

We create many idols and none are more abominable than those idols that are created in the name of Christianity. We see disaster come upon a city or perhaps a person and think that those terrible things would never happen to people who are "real" Christians. We conjure up all kinds of false ideas about God and support teachers who teach us false things about God if they quote the Bible and call themselves Christians and tell us the things we like to hear.

The idea of "institution" is neither morally good or bad and will always develop any time more than a single person is involved but it too becomes an idol. Even those denominations that loudly proclaim how important it is to be faithful to the Scriptures have all at times cast the Scriptures away in order to preserve their institution. People arise within them to call them to repentance but the leaders respond my lashing out at the prophet among them just as the Pharisees did. They may look back with sadness on the way their institution treated those in the past who were concerned for truth but then they turn around and do the same thing. This is exactly what happened with Jesus. The Pharisees had given up trying to argue the Scriptures with Jesus. No doubt they told one another that Jesus simply wasn't teachable or that Jesus was just too argumentative. If Joseph's father had died by this time they no doubt would have said that Jesus was just lashing out because He was sad about His father dying.

Our old nature is always denying Christ. Our old nature listens to the lying words of the Devil and tell us that the words of Christ are the words of the Devil and the words of the Devil are the words of Christ. Our old nature hears the promises given in the Scriptures associated with baptism and calls the plain interpretation of these words demonic. Our old nature tells us that belief that Christ really gives us His body and blood in the Lord's Supper is demonic. Our old nature seeks salvation in our works.

But Christ has bound the strong man. Christ has conquered the devil. Christ has freed us from slavery to the devil. Christ feeds us with His Word and with His very body and blood to protect us from the poisons of the Devil. Although by nature we are sinful as Soddom and Gomorrah, God has spared us because of a single righteous man--Jesus Christ.

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