Simon Says

“One on occasion,” as Luke 5 begins, a crowd was gathering around Jesus to hear the word of God. Jesus was by a lake so he got into a boat, and had Simon, the owner, push off from shore so he could speak to the people.

After he finished speaking, rather than return to shore, Jesus tells Simon to go further out into deep water. Jesus, the carpenter, then proceeds to instruct Simon, the fisherman, in how to fish. “Let down your nets for a catch.” Simon’s first response is to say that he and his partners have already toiled all night and have caught nothing. Maybe he thinks this isn’t going to work or perhaps this isn’t a good idea. I can’t hep but think there was at least a slight pause and recognition on Simon’s part between his first words, “we have caught nothing”, and his following response to Jesus. Maybe just as he is finishing his complaint his tone changes, his eyes turn away in embarrassment for his doubt, and he realizes who it is that is speaking to him. Simon then says, “But at your word I will let down the nets.” What follows is by now to be expected from the reader. Simon and his crew catch so many fish the weight begins to sink the boats.

Jesus’ simple command to let down his nets is a challenge to Simon’s wisdom, experience, and expertise. Jesus isn’t having a discussion, he is issuing a command. But Simon has to battle what he knows and feels. He just had been fishing in this water all night long. What sense does it make to let down his nets one more time? So he responds to Jesus accordingly and it is a contest between what Simon says and what Jesus says. But thankfully Simon ignores his own words and heeds the words of Jesus.

All the crowds had gathered and pressed in around Jesus to do just that, “to hear the word of God” (Luke 5:1). Now his word was directed to Simon. How could he not respond? What followed was an incredible show of God’s power.

Being in the presence of the Lord and witnessing such power, Simon is terrified, as are others around him. He confesses his sin and unworthiness. But Jesus didn’t leave him in fear. He had made Simon a successful fisherman that day, and Jesus now calls him to continue to heed his words–not Simon’s own. He wants Simon to follow him, stop catching fish, and start catching people. When they all got to shore, they left everything and followed Jesus.

Week 5

We start today another week and in the Old Testament we follow along to see what the people of God do having been freed from the slavery of Egypt. God guides them in setting up life around the worship of the one, true God and in this section God reveals his ten commandments to Moses.

Jesus calls his disciples in Luke and continues his public ministry with amazing signs and wonders, as well powerful teachings, like Luke’s account of the beatitudes in chapter six. Our focus passage this week comes from chapter eight when Jesus is confronted with a man possessed by many demons, so pay close attention to that section.

Enjoy these passages and the Psalms as well. As always, send your questions my way.

The Story So Far, Week 4

This week we made it through some of the most monumental events in the history of God’s people: their captivity in Egypt, the Passover, and the Exodus. It was a lot to cover in only sixteen chapters. In Luke we see the birth of Jesus and John foretold, people recognize Jesus’ for who he is, whether it is Simeon or shepherds, and Jesus initiates his public ministry with fasting and teaching in the synagogue. We also read the first four of the psalms.

Like in the beginning of the Gospel of John, John the Baptist plays a large part in the opening chapters of Luke. What I love about him is his amazing humility. The people around him see his boldness and how he speaks with authority, and his followers don’t want anyone to detract from his notoriety, but John recognizes that he is only to prepare a way for Jesus. He is unworthy to untie Jesus’ sandals. John’s job, and a job he is delighted to do, is to point others away from himself and to Jesus.

It’s a humility that recognizes that we shouldn’t seek out glory for ourselves or try to claim credit for work that only God can do. God is the center of this whole story.

We see God as the main player in our Old Testament readings. Looking back to Joseph, we saw how only God could bring him from slavery into the courts of Pharaoh, and only God is able to do it again with Moses. Because of the persecution of the people of Israel, when he is just a baby, Moses is set adrift and found in a river. It is the daughter of Pharaoh who finds him, has him cared for, and makes him her son. Joseph and Moses have two very different ways to be brought into Pharaoh’s courts, but God is there in both.

When Moses is called by God to return to Pharaoh’s courts, to the very person who had sought to kill him, again it is only achieved because God is with him. God gives him words, God reveals his name to Moses, he promises he’ll work signs and wonders through Moses, and he even provides Aaron. Moses is a great character from our history, but like John the Baptist, his greatness is only in that he points others to God. There is no way Moses is taking credit for parting the Red Sea. His job is to make sure the world knows that it is our God who has done such a marvelous work.

That is our job as well. We don’t broadcast how great we are or what great things we have done. We just point others to our God and give him credit for all the good things that he has done.

Jesus Quotes Scripture

In Luke 4 we see Jesus, led by the Holy Spirit, going into the wilderness. After forty days he is tempted by the devil and in each of Jesus’ replies, he uses Scripture to rebuke him.

It is written…
Man shall not live by bread alone.

You shall worship the Lord your God,
and him only shall you serve.

You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.

(Luke 4:4, 8, 12)

We see in Jesus one who treasured the words of God and knows well how to use them in times of trials. Truly an example for us.

But what I want to draw our attention to is from which books Jesus quotes. Each time he is pressed by the devil Jesus find words fitting to the temptations from the book of Deuteronomy. He quotes from Deuteronomy 8:13, 6:13, and 6:16.

There are parts of the Bible that, for whatever reason, attract our attention and we find ourselves reading them more often. We think they are full of great insight and wisdom and aren’t the “boring ones.” Deuteronomy doesn’t always top that list.

Seeing Jesus faced with temptations greater than what I have faced and speaking the words of Deuteronomy reminds me that I shouldn’t assume I know where God is going to speak to me. God can and does speak to us throughout the whole of Scripture and we must keep ourselves humble before him and remain open to hearing his words on every page.

It is good to remember that sometimes it is in the unexpected places that God speaks, and that is where it may be the hardest to hear.

What Do the Israelites Have to Do?

As I read this week this verse just jumped out to me:

“Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

Exodus 14

Moses is to lead God’s people out from slavery and Egypt, and here he explains the two roles in this plan. God’s role is to provide their salvation. What is left for the people to do? What must they do to aid in their exodus? What is their role?

“You have only to be silent.”

What a picture of grace. What have we to do? God has provided all we need in Jesus Christ. What is left for us? The faith we have is in a way an absence of our work. It is a recognition that our works cannot do it and our faith is complete trust in the work of God. We fully rely on what God has done for us to be enough.

When it comes to who we are and what we can do, we can only be silent. If anyone dares break the silence, if anyone believes they have something to say, they can only speak God’s Word, Jesus Christ. Therefore as it is written, if anyone boasts, boast in the Lord.

A Pharaoh Who Did Not Know Joseph

Exodus changes the tone quickly from the prosperity Joseph and his family enjoyed at the end of Genesis, and it does so in the first chapter with the line in verse eight: “Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.”

This leads to the growing oppression of the people of Israel and sets the stage for what we know comes later in Exodus. Because he did not know Joseph, the king (or pharaoh), does not know the debt Joseph is owed for saving the land from famine. He does not know of the commitments made and relationships built. What this pharaoh does know is that the people of Israel are too many and too mighty.

Knowing your history is important as it helps shape our future and inform our decisions. Paul reminds the church of its history in 1 Corinthians 10, urging his readers not to be ignorant of what our ancestors went through and he does so that we may learn from their mistakes. If we don’t learn from the mistakes of others, we are bound to learn from our own. Paul reminds us that our ancestors, after the Exodus, were lead by a cloud, passed through the sea, were fed with bread from heaven, and yet they still turn from God to idols. Paul tells us that ignorance is not bliss, it is folly. 1 Corinthians 10:11-13 says:

Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the age has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Learning from these examples is at times the way of escape. So let us choose to learn our history and learn from it, not choosing ignorance that will lead us to repeat the sins of others.