“Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles –
the people living in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.”
- – Matthew 4:15-16
Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.
- – Hebrews 13:1-3
I’m inclined to think hospitality is becoming a bit of a lost art, especially in the big city. I certainly haven’t taken any strangers in for a meal lately. What are some safe and non-awkward ways to show hospitality to strangers? For one thing, they might be just as concerned about your intentions as you are theirs! Bringing cookies to a new neighbor? Inviting someone you’ve recently met at church, work, school or another place to grab a coffee with you, or come over for tea? It’s a good idea to exercise sound judgment, especially if you are a woman, alone, have children, or are otherwise more vulnerable. Just being friendly to other people you meet at the park or library or grocery store or wherever is a good place to start, I think. There are also ministries to prisoners, refugees, students, and those who’ve ‘just moved’.
“But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
- – Matthew 20:13-16
As the parable goes, those who were hired in the morning and worked all day got paid the same amount as those who were hired late in the day and only worked for an hour. On top of that, at the end of day, the vineyard owner instructs his foreman to pay out the wages beginning with the last ones hired and ending with the first. Now, what do you think of that?! Seems pretty unfair, at least from the perspective of those hired at the beginning of the day!
I could be wrong, but I don’t think Jesus was trying to set a hiring or management policy here. For one thing, I can think of how this sort of thing could lead to some real friction amongst co-workers! (It may be surprising but this sort of thing can actually happen, although usually wages are kept confidential and not paid out publicly like that.) However, I think what he was getting at in this parable was salvation, or entrance into the kingdom of heaven. And also probably being content and not striving to be first. How hard it is to be humble of heart, or to get less than we think we deserve, to not be greedy. How easy it is to compare ourselves to others, to compare what they get to what we have, and envy them.
How long will the enemy mock you, God?
Will the foe revile your name forever?
Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand?
Take it from the folds of your garment and destroy them!
But God is my King from long ago;
he brings salvation on the earth.
It was you who split open the sea by your power;
you broke the heads of the monster in the waters.
It was you who crushed the heads of Leviathan
and gave it as food to the creatures of the desert.
It was you who opened up springs and streams;
you dried up the ever-flowing rivers.
The day is yours, and yours also the night;
you established the sun and moon.
It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth;
you made both summer and winter.
– Psalm 74:10-17 (NIV)
Not only King from long ago, whose power and might is beyond human fathom, but King today, holding back His hand and offering even to those who revile his name more time and opportunity to repent and accept his gift of salvation.
As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”
This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:
“Say to Daughter Zion,
‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.'”
– Matthew 21:1-5
For those of us who love horses and riding, it’s fun to picture Jesus as a good rider, horseman and colt-breaker. I doubt he had much trouble, considering who he was/is. And although he chose a humble donkey that day instead of a fancy steed like a king typically would at that time and place, let’s not forget that one day, it is said, he’ll ride out of heaven with eyes like fire on a white horse, and followed by the armies of heaven (Rev. 19:11-16).
Moses assembled the whole Israelite community and said to them, “These are the things the LORD has commanded you to do: For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day shall be your holy day, a day of sabbath rest to the LORD. Whoever does any work on it is to be put to death. Do not light a fire in any of your dwellings on the Sabbath day.”
- – Exodus 35:1-3
Death to workaholics. And be sure to keep a good supply of blankets and sweaters handy. Good thing the Israelites didn’t live in Manitoba. All joking aside though, sabbath was to be taken very seriously. I find it a little perplexing and disturbing just how serious. No wonder legalism crept in. If breaking the sabbath meant the death penalty, you’d surely want to know exactly what you could and couldn’t do that day.
At the same time, it has occurred to me how as humans we generally tend to minimize most, if not all, of our sins. How we literally don’t even see a problem with our behaviour AT ALL sometimes, much less with our thoughts. And yet, Jesus – Creator of the Universe! – died for our sinful thoughts and behaviour! So that means it’s bad! No matter whether we can always see it, or admit it, or not. Only by God’s grace do we have a conscience at all.
Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there,
but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).
Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'”
Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.
- – John 20:11-18
Sometimes when we are all alone and sad or full of grief and crying, like Mary Magdalene, we can’t see it’s Jesus standing there behind us – at least not right away.
The Genealogy of Jesus the Messiah
This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham:
Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,
Perez the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram the father of Amminadab,
Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,
Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,
Obed the father of Jesse,
and Jesse the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,
Solomon the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah,
Abijah the father of Asa,
Asa the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram,
Jehoram the father of Uzziah,
Uzziah the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,
Hezekiah the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amon,
Amon the father of Josiah,
and Josiah the father of Jeconiah[c] and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.
After the exile to Babylon:
Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
Zerubbabel the father of Abihud,
Abihud the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
Azor the father of Zadok,
Zadok the father of Akim,
Akim the father of Elihud,
Elihud the father of Eleazar,
Eleazar the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob,
and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.
Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah.
- – Matthew 1:1-17
Quite a few interesting individuals feature in the genealogy of Jesus, with varied reputations and legacies. Only four women are mentioned, but all of them with stories behind them: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba (described here as Uriah’s wife). But what struck me this time as I read through was that Joseph was indeed the descendant of kings – from the kingly lineage of David. And kings they were…up until the exile to Babylon. From there, things changed. Israel was no longer a free nation. A couple generations later, Zerubbabel led the first group of Jews back from captivity and served as the governor of Judah, only a Persian province by then. And by the time Joseph comes on the scene, the Romans ruled, and he was a humble carpenter by trade. Not a bad occupation, to be sure, but hardly that of royalty.
The LORD is my light and my salvation –
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life –
of whom shall I be afraid?
When the wicked advance against me to devour me,
it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall.
Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then I will be confident.
One thing I ask from the LORD,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the LORD
and to seek him in his temple.
For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
and set me high upon a rock.
Then my head will be exalted
above the enemies who surround me;
at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make music to the LORD.
Hear my voice when I call LORD;
be merciful to me and answer me.
My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”
You face, LORD, I will seek.
Do not hide your face from me,
do not turn your servant away in anger;
you have been my helper.
Do not reject or forsake me, God my Savior.
Though my father and mother forsake me,
the LORD will receive me.
Teach me your way, LORD;
lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors.
Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
for false witnesses rise up against me,
spouting malicious accusations.
I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD.
Whether we have actual armies besieging us, or full scale wars breaking out against us like David did – or whether it just feels like it – we can turn to and trust in the Lord. Seek after Him. Be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.
The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Come and see what the LORD has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
He says, “Be still and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
- – Psalm 46 : 7-11 (NIV)
This concludes Psalm 46. I believe the scenario described would fit with end times.