34 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing! 35 See! Your house is left to you desolate; and assuredly, I say to you, you shall not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord’” (Luke 13:34–35, NKJV)!
God wanted to hold Jerusalem close to Himself, sheltered and safe. But she objected. Now, desolation would be left in the wake of their rejection of God’s prophets and the Messiah. Only in the Messiah’s salvation from her sins would she be blessed (v. 35; Ps. 118:26). Our nation faces many problems brought on by sin: Racism, hatred, division, crime, immoralities of all sorts, hypocrisy – the list goes on. Our sins disgrace our nation: “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov. 14:34). The answer to our nation’s ills is not political, economic, sociological, psychological, or environmental. The answer is salvation from sin, conversion of hearts and lives to Jesus Christ. His gospel truth changes hearts and lives, replacing injustice with fairness. It overcomes evil. Salvation from our sins is the prosperity we must seek. “Save now, I pray, O Lord; O Lord, I pray, send now prosperity. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! We have blessed you from the house of the Lord” (Ps. 118:25-26).
19 Then His mother and brothers came to Him, and could not approach Him because of the crowd. 20 And it was told Him by some, who said, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see You.” 21 But He answered and said to them, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it” (Luke 8:19–21, NKJV).
Jesus loved His family, honored His parents, and was an obedient son (Luke 2:51). He faced family dynamics, not unlike many have faced. When His brothers did not believe in Him, Jesus took time to teach them (John 7:1-8). On the cross, He arranged for his mother’s ongoing care, even as the pain intensified and death drew near (John 19:26-27). His statement on the occasion of today’s text was not an indictment against his fleshly family. Instead, He acknowledged the priority of His spiritual relationship with those who hear and do the word of God. Jesus repeatedly taught following Him and fellowship with Him takes priority over every other relationship (Matt. 10:37; Luke 14:25-26). Christians are children of God, and Christ is not ashamed to call us His brethren (Gal. 3:26-29; Heb. 2:11-13). Families arrange earthly inheritances, but the children of God have an eternal inheritance (Heb. 9:15; 1 Pet. 1:3-5). It is wonderful to spend time with our families. I wonder, do we desire to be with our spiritual family (those who hear the word of God and do it)? Do we love Jesus more than every other relationship?
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:4–6, NKJV).
God made “us alive together with Christ” when we were dead in our trespasses and sins (v. 5). Three questions arise as we consider God’s tremendous work of saving sinners. (1) Why save us? Three elements of God’s character answer why God saves sinners: His mercy, love, and grace (v. 4-5). God’s mercy is rich, His love is great, and His grace is available to all (Titus 2:11; 3:4-5; 1 John 4:10-11). Without God’s mercy, love, and grace, we would all face the wages of our sins, eternal death (Rom. 6:23). (2) Who is saved? The “us” who are made “alive together” constitute the church, the body of Christ, the household of God (Eph. 1:22-23; 2:14-22). The Lord adds saved people to His church (Acts 2:47). Therefore, the church is essential; it is the saved ones (Eph. 3:10-11; 5:25-27). (3) Where is salvation? Salvation is “in Christ.” Sinners are raised out of the death of sins to “sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (v. 6). The “heavenly places” signifies the spiritual relationship of salvation in Christ. In the “heavenly places,” we have fellowship with Christ, every spiritual blessing, and we stand with Christ in the battle against the devil and evil (Eph. 2:6; 1:3; 6:10-13). God still The riches of God’s grace continue to be proclaimed in the gospel to everyone, offering salvation “by grace…through faith” (Eph. 2:7-8).
24 And some were persuaded by the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved. 25 So when they did not agree among themselves, they departed after Paul had said one word: “The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers, 26 saying, ‘Go to this people and say: “Hearing you will hear, and shall not understand; And seeing you will see, and not perceive; For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them”’ (Acts 28:24–27, NKJV).
Why do some people readily respond to the gospel of salvation? Why do some people reject the gospel and refuse to believe it? The answer is not due to any deficiency in the gospel itself. The gospel is not a distant, inaccessible, and undiscernible message. It has been preached openly to the world (Rom. 10:6-8; Eph. 3:3-5). The answer lies in the heart of the hearer. Isaiah wrote of the dull hearts, heavy ears, and closed eyes of Israel (Isa. 6:9-10). Jesus applied the prophet’s words to His generation (Matt. 13:13-15; 15:7-9). Christ also taught parables that illustrated hard hearts that prevent the gospel’s penetration and saving power (Matt. 13:18-19). Do not marvel when the truth of the gospel is rejected, scorned, and denounced. The problem is not the word of salvation; it is the solution (Rom. 1:16). Honest and good hearts receive the word of God, “keep it and bear fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15).
Whatever the Lord pleases He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deep places” (Psalm 135:6, NKJV).
“God is in control.” We hear that a lot, but what does that mean? The Scriptures help us understand God’s control over the world. (1) God’s sovereign will prevails on earth (Psa. 135:6; Dan. 4:34-35). “He rules and works according to His eternal purpose even through events that seem to contradict or oppose His rule” (Holman, 1523). (2) God did not create the world and then walk away from it. The false theology that only nature’s laws operate in this world is called Deism. It rejects God’s interaction with His creation whether by revelation, by miracles, or by answering prayers (Eph. 3:3-5; Heb. 2:4; Matt. 7:7-11; Acts 14:17). (3) God does not control every event in your life. Free will means we can choose between good and evil, and our choices have consequences (Deut. 30:19; Gal. 6:7-8). Conversely, fatalism is the “doctrine that events are fixed in advance so that human beings are powerless to change them” (Merriam-Webster). Calvinism’s doctrine of predestination is false since God gave us free will (Josh. 24:15). (4) God’s plan for us is that we fear Him and keep His commandments (Eccl. 12:13). His will and purposes prevail in heaven and earth, and human redemption in Christ is the centerpiece (Rom. 8:28-30). Through the gospel, God is calling us to believe and obey Him to be saved and walk with Him in life and eternity (Mark 16:15-16; 1 John 1:5-10; Matt. 7:21-23).
36 So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:36–37, NKJV).
There is a lot of unneighborly conduct these days—all manner of unkindness and cruelty result when hearts are full of jealousy, envy, bitterness, and malice. For example, the woke cancel culture of today shows no mercy to a neighbor. Its virtue signaling, self-vindication, and hypocritical deflection of self-scrutiny are bearing the fruit of injustice, suspicion, and division among us. Conversely, being a neighbor means showing mercy to others when they need it. To do that, we must have hearts full of compassion (Col. 3:12). Being a neighbor is about loving “your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we all did that? In this encounter between a lawyer and Jesus (Luke 10:25-37), the critical question was not when the lawyer asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor” (Luke 10:29)? It was Jesus’s question back to him, “So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves” (Luke 10:36)? The true neighbor actively shows mercy to others (Rom. 13:8-10; 1 Pet. 3:8-9). We ought to look for opportunities to show mercy to others. They are not hard to find. Be a neighbor today. Show mercy to someone in their time of need. You will reap what you sow (Matt. 5:7).
10 There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, 11 or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. 12 For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you (Deuteronomy 18:10–12, NKJV).
Israel was strictly warned not to “learn to follow the abominations of those nations” they dispossessed in the land of Canaan (Deut. 18:9). These abominations included those claiming to have messages from the dead for the living. Many still listen to these purveyors of false knowledge and hope. There are crucial lessons for us here (Rom. 15:4). (1) Seeking messages from the dead was forbidden as sin. These false and futile efforts were faithless and associated with paganism and idolatry. To trust in their false messages forfeited Israel’s blamelessness before God (Deut. 18:13). (2) God spoke to Israel through His appointed prophets (Deut. 18:14-22; Heb. 1:1). The living God sent Israel His “servants the prophets” to “the law and the testimony” instead of mediums and wizards, but most refused to hear and obey Him (Jer. 7:25-26; Isa. 8:19-20). (3) Jesus Christ is the Prophet we all must listen to and obey (Deut. 18:18; Acts 3:22-23). God’s prophets to Israel were shadows of the Prophet Jesus, whose word is from the Father and contains eternal life (Heb. 1:2; John 12:49-50). Seeking messages from the dead is a dead end. The gospel message from the living Son of God gives sure comfort and solid hope now and beyond the grave (John 6:68-69).
16 At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them. 17 But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. 18 And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen (2 Timothy 4:16–18, NKJV)!
Paul could have been bitter as he surveyed his situation. He was now aged, and life was nearing its end (Philem. 9; 2 Tim. 4:6). Demas had forsaken him for this present evil age (2 Tim. 4:10). Alexander, the coppersmith, had done him much harm and resisted the gospel Paul taught (2 Tim. 4:14-15). No one stood with him when he defended himself before the Roman authorities (v. 16). But Paul was not weakened in faith. The Lord rescued Paul from inevitable demise (the lion’s mouth). The Lord would certainly deliver him even though death was near. His faith was in the Lord, not people (v. 17). Paul fixed his faith on the everlasting, heavenly kingdom and deliverance from the evils of this world (v. 18; 2 Tim. 4:7-8). Do not become embittered when people let you down, hurt you, and forsake you. The Lord will not fail you (Heb. 13:5-6). Wouldn’t it have been tragic if Paul had become a bitter, cynical old man at the end of his life? His example of steadfast faith continues to strengthen aged ones whose faith is in the Lord.
Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves (Matthew 10:16, NKJV).
Before Jesus sent His apostles into all the world to preach the gospel to every creature, He sent them on a limited commission to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 10:5-6). Their message then was that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 10:7). They would need the wisdom of serpents and the innocence of doves to accomplish their mission. Both traits are still necessary for Christians who live “in the midst of “a crooked and perverse generation” (Phil. 2:15). Consider the snake’s wisdom. (1) Snakes are aware of their surroundings. They are artfully in their pursuit of prey. We need to use heavenly wisdom as we try to seek and save the lost with the gospel (James 3:13, 17-18; 2 Tim. 2:23-26). (2) Snakes have heightened senses. The keen senses of a snake alert it to potential danger and its next meal. Christians must be wise about their moral and spiritual surroundings to avoid sin and partake of spiritual nourishment (1 Cor. 15:33; Heb. 5:12-14; 10:24-25). Consider the dove’s harmlessness. (1) Doves signify the innocence of a character. They glide gracefully through the air harming no one. Even so, Christians are to be innocent of guile (1 Pet. 2:21-22). (2) Doves signify the innocence of pure motives. Doves fly without malice; they are not predators. Doves were the humble offering of the poor at the Jewish temple (Lk. 2:22-24). Likewise, let us be pure in heart and humble in spirit toward all (Matt. 5:8). Our spiritual protection as sheep among wolves is wisdom and innocence.
30 You send forth Your Spirit, they are created; And You renew the face of the earth. May the glory of the Lord endure forever; May the Lord rejoice in His works (Psalm 104:30–31, NKJV).
God “created the heavens and the earth” and all life on it (Gen. 1:9-28). The evidence for creation compels us to honor the Creator who is blessed forever (Rom. 1:20, 25). The earth serves God’s purposes: “You laid the foundations of the earth, so that it should not be moved forever” (Ps. 104:5). Among these purposes is the earth sustains our life (Gen. 1:29-30). Some make doomsday predictions of the earth’s demise unless we stop changing the world’s climate. We have an impact on our environment, no doubt. As stewards of God’s creation, we ought not carelessly abuse the earth but carefully tend to it (Gen. 2:15; Ps. 8:3-8). Its resources are God-given and blessings to be used with careful responsibility. We should also admit that climate changes. It has done so since the beginning of time (Eccl. 1:3-11). Weather events, seismic shifts, volcanoes, animal extinctions, and human development impact the earth. They result in droughts, famines, diseases, and many catastrophes. Despite all this, God said He rules the earth. Man will not turn the planet into a utopian existence. Earth remains because of God’s kindness toward us, not due to humanity’s rule over it (Acts 14:15-17). Instead of being driven by fear that the world will end through human-made climate changes, let us be responsible stewards of God’s blessings and put our faith in Him. He renews the face of the earth. His glory endures forever. “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease” (Gen. 8:22).