I’m going to jump right into the Bible readings this morning.
The parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25:1-13 communicates the message of the last few verses of chapter 24. Be ready, because you don’t know when the “bridegroom” is coming. The Reformation Study Bible adds this note: “Being ready means being prepared for a long delay; short-lived zeal is inadequate.” I look at this, and I wonder…is my zeal adequate? I have lived a life of devotion to Jesus Christ. As long as I can remember, I have been following Jesus. Sure, there have been times where my path was crooked (times that I almost lost it altogether), but NEVER have I walked away from my Lord. I have watched friends over the years fade away. Through it all, I have held on to my devotion, my love for Jesus. I am not boasting of anything in myself. I know that it is the grace of God that has held me. I know that, somehow, he still has a plan for me. My efforts to serve him have been feeble, at best. This is not false humility. This is simply recognition of my inability to do anything at all outside of his grace and mercy. Last night, on Facebook, Joel Engle asked us what our favorite song on his new cd was. My answer was a song that he wrote called “Without You.” The reason is that the lyrics to this song describe perfectly my inadequacy to do anything without the mercy and grace of God.
Am I ready? Do I have enough oil in my lamp? I don’t know, but I’m still waiting, and I haven’t given up on his coming.
Jesus tells another parable in verses 14-30, the parable of the talents. Many people have “literalized” this parable to mean talents in the same way we think of them today. Jesus was referring to monetary values, of course. Is the other interpretation valid? Perhaps. My take on this parable is that, whatever our Lord gives us, we need to use for his glory. The one servant buried his in the ground. That was of no use to anyone.
In Isaiah 44, there is prophecy concerning the number of believers that will spring up.
3 For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.
4 They shall spring up among the grass like willows by flowing streams.
5 This one will say, ‘I am the LORD’s,’ another will call on the name of Jacob, and another will write on his hand, ‘The LORD’s,’ and name himself by the name of Israel.”
I am part of the fulfillment of that prophecy, and so are you, if you call on the name of the Lord.
Once again, the Lord declares his uniqueness as God.
:6 Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.
7 Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me, since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen.
8 Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.”
There is no God besides our God!
The next section of Isaiah is a fascinating description of the folly of idolatry. When put the way Isaiah writes this, it is almost humorous, but also tragic. Verses 9-20 describe the process of making an idol out the same wood that is used to warm the house and cook the food.
14 He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it.
15 Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it.
16 Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!”
17 And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!”
18 They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand.
19 No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, “Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten. And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?”
20 He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?”
The Lord calls on Jacob to remember. He tells Israel that they will not be forgotten. Then the most beautiful words…”I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you.”
Father, I praise you for your mercy and grace, without which I could do nothing. I can’t even breathe without your Spirit, Lord. I pray that I will keep myself ready, waiting for your return. Let me not “fall asleep” as I wait. Let my zeal for you and for your word not diminish. And I pray that I will use whatever it is you give me, whether it be money or literal talents, to glorify you and to share your mercy and grace with those around me. Let me never be guilty of worshiping something that I have made with my own hands (or that anyone else has made with their hands). Let my worship never be directed at another person. You are the object of my worship and praise. You and you alone are worthy of my praise.
I continue to pray for our friend Kathy. She had to reschedule her followup appointment on the mammogram yesterday, due to other difficulties. I also pray for our dear friend Amy, who has a job interview today. She was hit by the cuts in education budgets this year.
I pray that this day will be a good day, Lord. Let Stephanie have a great day at school today. Yesterday’s ARD meeting seems to have gone very well. We also pray for wisdom and guidance as we continue to work out this guardianship issue.
We continue to pray for much-needed rain in our area, Lord. I also pray for the extinguishing of the many wildfires that are raging in Texas.
Use what you have for his glory, and stay ready.
Grace and peace, friends.