Reading Ramblings – February 14, 2016

Reading Ramblings

Date: First Sunday in Lent, February 14, 2016

Texts: Deuteronomy 26:1-11; Psalm 91:1-13; Romans 10:8b-13; Luke 4:1-13

Context: Who is it that gives good gifts? God is the giver of all good things. Satan lies and pretends as though he can give us good things, but he can’t. He lies and pretends what he does not have and what he would not give, even if he could. This is the first Sunday of Lent, the season of preparation for Easter which will last for four more weeks before Palm Sunday (which is technically still part of Lent but as the beginning of Holy Week takes on a different tone from the previous Lenten Sundays.

Deuteronomy 26:1-11 – Moses begins teaching the Israelites in Chapter 5, and most of Deuteronomy is this extended teaching session, prior to Moses’ death and the Israelite entry into the Promised Land. Chapter 26 concludes this extended discourse, aimed at reminding the Israelites to be faithful to God and thankful to him once they receive the land He has promised them. Gratitude is situated within the entire story of the covenant people, not just individual personal experience. This begins with Abraham, extends through the migration of Jacob and his sons to Egypt, through slavery in Egypt, through the Exodus and the wilderness and to being situated in the land and enjoying the richness of the land. Our gratitude to God should likewise be anchored not just in the events of this day or hour, but in the story of God’s faithfulness to us through Christ. We are part of a larger story! And the purpose of remaining in this larger story is not just for our own blessing, but so that others may also recognize the goodness of God and rejoice in him.

Psalm 91:1-13 – It can be difficult to read this psalm without thinking to ourselves that this isn’t necessarily absolutely true. Being a follower of Christ does not exempt us from the suffering of the world, including death in battle and suffering in numerous other ways. Yet regardless of the dangers we face, as followers of Christ we need not fear. These things cannot separate us from God. He remains our refuge and our protection. We do not seek out these dangers recklessly, but when faced with them we face them as people who have a hope and a promise that extends beyond the risks at hand to eternity. Whether we are spared from calamity and live to a ripe old age, or whether we die young or in battle, we remain in Christ. Truly there is no harm that can overtake us in this respect, and the Most High will remain our dwelling not only here and now but for eternity.

Romans 10:8b-13 – This short reading could link the Old Testament text with the psalm, but it also serves as insight into the Gospel lesson as well. The Word of God is readily available to us and can be called upon by us at any time. But while we may fret about what to memorize or how much of Scripture to memorize, what is most important is our willingness and ability to profess Jesus Christ as Lord. It is our trust that He was raised from the dead wherein our salvation lies.

Luke 4:1-13 – Jesus’ encounter with Satan is not random – it is part of God’s plan and so the Holy Spirit leads Jesus to this encounter. Jesus must prove that He will remain fully obedient and faithful to God the Father, rather than disobey as Adam and Eve did. In order to rescue humanity from sin, Jesus must remain without sin himself, so that He can be the perfect, final sacrifice for sin.

Satan tempts Jesus in regards to both his humanity (in regards to his hunger) and his divinity (in regards to his mission). Can Satan make good on his claims? His first and third temptation rely on Jesus’ power, not his own. In each of these instances he is asking Jesus to misuse his power to satisfy himself, whether his physical hunger or his desire to be recognized and honored for who and what He is. Only in the second temptation does Satan claim to have power of his own. But this is obviously a lie. The only one capable of bestowing all authority and splendor is God. While Satan may be speaking truly about being the prince of this realm, and therefore having influence, that he can convey all earthly splendor to Jesus is very far-fetched to say the least. All such honor and acclaim will be Jesus’ by remaining obedient to God the Father.

In all three instances Jesus refutes Satan by relying on the Word of God. The result is that Satan leaves. Satan does not give up – but recognizes that at this point he is not going to be able to lead Jesus into sin. While memorizing Scripture may not be so fashionable these days, Jesus demonstrates how it is useful for resisting temptation.

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