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January 18, (Day # 18) – Candy-Coated Spirituality

Our readings for today contain much for us to ponder and consider. Yesterday, Proverbs reminded us (1) to seek wisdom by searching for it like we might search for silver or for hidden treasure, and (2) to recognize that its source is the LORD. Today, Jesus warns us not to allow our hearts to become calloused - lest we close our eyes and ears to the truth. Indeed, we are fortunate to see and hear what many have historically longed to see and hear, but our good fortune comes with great responsibility, which we dare not ignore and for which God will hold us accountable.

In Genesis 34-35, we see foolishness and rash behavior by the children of Jacob. In 34:1, we read that Dinah, the daughter of Leah, “went out to visit the women of the land.” What was the purpose of her visit? We are not told, but from everything we have learned about the land in our readings of Genesis thus far, we should conclude that such a visit by a single girl alone was dangerous. No sooner does Dinah leave home than “Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite “sees her, takes her, and violates her” (verse 2). These same verbs also explained Eve’s sinful actions in the Garden of Eden (cf., Genesis 3:6). Jacob “heard this,” but “he kept quiet about it until his sons came home” (verse 5). This is unbelievable. Where was Jacob’s outrage? Instead, we see the two parties entering into marriage negotiations with Canaanites – something against which Isaac specifically warned Jacob. Hamor’s position is, “intermarry with us” (cf., verses 8-12). The world is always interested in just enough spirituality to candy-coat its evil desire to look, taste, smell, feel, and seem a little more attractive than it actually is. The world is actually a cesspool, and no matter how much one covers it over with perfume, it still stinks. In the end, it is still rotten to the core. Now Jacob’s sons will follow in his path by replying “deceitfully” to Shechem (verse 13). Unfortunately, fighting sin and deceit with deceit leads only to greater sin and deeper deceit. They should have presented them with truth – Shechem raped Dinah, and he should face punishment for it. The whole chapter relates an embarrassing departure from God’s desired best for us. It is always the better part of wisdom for us to maintain a position of separation from the things of the world with its thorns that, potentially, threaten to choke the life out of us spiritually. In chapter 35, we see God renew His covenant promises to Jacob and rename him “Israel” a second time (cf., Genesis 32:28 and 35:10). The chapter concludes with the deaths of Rachel and then Isaac.

In Psalm 10, the writer clarifies for us certain truths about wicked people so we can recognize and identify them when they come into our presence. They are “arrogant, they victimize the weak, they boast and revile the LORD; they are proud, they lie and reject the truth and the laws of God” (verses 1:11). In addition, Psalm 10 reminds us that “the LORD is King forever” and that “He defends orphans and the oppressed” people so that man will no longer terrify” the earth (verses 10-18). God promises to take up vengeance for His people.

In Matthew 12:46 – 13:17, Jesus begins by identifying for us the true members of His family. He doesn’t deny His birth mother or brothers, but He adds that the real members of His family are those “who do the will of His Father in heaven” (verse 49). This is a classic illustration of what Jesus meant when He talked about the place for “new wine” is not in “old wineskins” (cf., Matthew 9:15). He also came to bring in new relationships. In chapter 13, Jesus begins to teach in parables. A parable is a didactic story that projects one thing by the side of another for comparison or contrast. In Scripture, parables are always occasioned by some inattentiveness or unreceptiveness on the part of their hearers. This indicates that Jesus specifically understood the precise need for His hearers to hearken to what He was teaching – His teachings exactly addressed their needs – even when they were completely unaware of their own needs. We notice that He spoke in parables because “though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand” (verse 13). Jesus began with the parable of the Sower, and its purpose is to communicate that the kingdom of God does not come in the way that the Jews (or we) would expect or understand it. It does not come in with pomp and power; it comes in by the Word of God. May God grant us the capacity to follow after the truths He has taught us in His Word!

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