Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Streams of Living Water...

Psalm 65:9-13
9 You care for the land and water it;
you enrich it abundantly.
The streams of God are filled with water
to provide the people with grain,
for so you have ordained it.
10 You drench its furrows and level its ridges;
you soften it with showers and bless its crops.
11 You crown the year with your bounty,
and your carts overflow with abundance.
12 The grasslands of the wilderness overflow;
the hills are clothed with gladness.
13 The meadows are covered with flocks
and the valleys are mantled with grain;
they shout for joy and sing.

Reflection: The psalmist reflects on the abundance of the land God has provided for the Isrealites. It is teeming with all of God’s fruitfulness, there is nothing lacking. It an agricultural society, this was all a sign of God’s gracious provision for His people. A lot of us live in overpopulated, dense cities, and sometimes it is hard to imagine this shepherd-like scene. Take a moment to take in the beauty of God’s bountiful provision and all the riches He has for you in Christ! Start your day thinking of the abundance of God versus our own lack in and of ourselves.

Numbers 7:1-35
Offerings at the Dedication of the Tabernacl

7 When Moses finished setting up the tabernacle, he anointed and consecrated it and all its furnishings. He also anointed and consecrated the altar and all its utensils. 2 Then the leaders of Israel, the heads of families who were the tribal leaders in charge of those who were counted, made offerings. 3 They brought as their gifts before the Lord six covered carts and twelve oxen—an ox from each leader and a cart from every two. These they presented before the tabernacle. 4 The Lord said to Moses, 5 “Accept these from them, that they may be used in the work at the tent of meeting. Give them to the Levites as each man’s work requires.”6 So Moses took the carts and oxen and gave them to the Levites. 7 He gave two carts and four oxen to the Gershonites, as their work required, 8 and he gave four carts and eight oxen to the Merarites, as their work required. They were all under the direction of Ithamar son of Aaron, the priest. 9 But Moses did not give any to the Kohathites, because they were to carry on their shoulders the holy things, for which they were responsible. 10 When the altar was anointed, the leaders brought their offerings for its dedication and presented them before the altar. 11 For the Lord had said to Moses, “Each day one leader is to bring his offering for the dedication of the altar.”

This theme of abundance continues as Moses instructs a member of each tribe to present daily offerings to the Tabernacle, as a sign of God’s provision and a continual trust that He will provide each day. At the heart of Israel’s worship life in the wilderness, was daily offerings to God in response to His daily provision. The offerings were meant to be a sign of their trust in God and the first-fruits going back to him. As the daily offerings were provided, they also provided the Levites with what they needed to survive and thus took care of their daily needs. Still today, as we respond in faith to give God our first-fruits, he provides for those who care for the temple and also others in need in the community.

Mark 11:12-26
Jesus Curses a Fig Tree and Clears the Temple Courts

12 The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13 Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14 Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it. 15 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17 And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’”18 The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.

Reflection: We see the theme of fruit-bearing continuing in the gospel, as Jesus sees a fig tree that was supposed to have leaves and fruit is barren. It is a symbol of the house of Israel which was supposed to be a fruitful vine in the vineyard symbolizing God’s fruitfulness, yet was barren spiritually. As we go to temple we see some of the reason why they were so barren. The offerings were turned into a scene where people were trying to profit from people’s offering to God, the exact opposite of what supposed to be. Instead of offering things to God and providing for those in need people were trying to get extra for themselves. Jesus sees the hypocrisy and calls them out saying, “You have made my house a den of robbers when it was supposed to be a house of prayer.”

The leaders were not happy and this started their crusade to get rid of Jesus, as they tried to protect their self and prideful leadership. It is easy to judge these leaders, but the question is how have we turned the church into a den of robbers today? Or better yet is prayer at the center of all we do? Can we get caught up in growing the church so we can look good or puff up our chests? This passage and the passage in Numbers are good reminders of what worship and prayer and giving to God are truly meant to be. And they are all in response to the abundance of our God whose streams of living water give us new life each day.

Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored; renew our days as of old. Lamentations 5:21

Jesus said, "What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray?" Matthew 18:12

Good Shepherd, you restore, you renew, you retrieve. If we wander today, or just feel lost, help us to find in you what we need: to know we are yours and cannot ever really be lost. Amen.

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