Today: Psalms 36; Luke 4:14-37; Numbers 13:26-33; Numbers 14
Some people are so mired within this physical world that they have no understanding of the spiritual realm. Some interpret God’s promises in the Scriptures as if they are PHYSICAL promises of wealth and health. But God’s promises to us in the Scriptures are SPIRITUAL promises because the kingdom of heaven is a spiritual kingdom. It doesn’t work to try to claim God’s promises as if they pertained to the physical. Some of us may get away with it for a time in this age of prosperity but it is bad theology.
The “river of delights” and the “abundance of [God’s] house” that David speaks of in Psalms 36 are spiritual promises. They are things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self control, faithfulness — the fruits of the SPIRIT. Some may think this is a bummer… they want the physical gifts instead. But actually the spiritual gifts are much more valuable. Only the spiritual is eternal. All physical things can only be temporary. Everything in this physical world dies, rots, decays. But our spirits last forever. Spiritual gifts are infinitely more valuable than anything physical. Understanding this truth, and living within it, is to have eternal vision.
“The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, because He anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.” Luke 4:18-19
Wow! This was an audacious proclamation from Jesus as He read this passage from Isaiah 61 in the Nazareth synagogue. Can you imagine the mic drop moment when Jesus read those words, rolled the scroll back up, handed it to the priest, and said, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing….” ?!?!? (v.21)
For some reason, this particular passage in Luke was never really emphasized in my Sunday School classes when I was growing up. My Sunday School teachers always focused on Jesus’ healings and miracles instead. I can’t recall ever hearing a sermon about these verses in Luke 4. But it is perhaps the most important thing Jesus ever said. As Nicky Gumbel says, it is Jesus’ manifesto, His mission statement that He revealed to the people as His ministry officially began. And what an amazing ministry it was!
Many people undoubtedly interpreted Jesus’ mission as a physical calling. They had heard about and witnessed His physical healings, giving sight to the blind. They thought Jesus would physically free them from their Roman oppressors.
But Jesus’ mission was never a physical one. His mission is still in effect today and it affects every single one of us. It is US who are spiritually poor, captives, blind, and oppressed. Jesus came to give us the good news that He can give us sight and set us free!
When Moses’ scouts return from the Promised Land with reports of the fortified cities inhabited by giants, the Israelites threatened revolt. “If only we had died in the land of Egypt!” they exclaimed, “Why is the LORD bringing us into this land to fall by the sword? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” (v.2-4)
God was offering the Israelites freedom, autonomy, their own land. But those things require a lot of hard work. Getting to the promised land is never easy. And so the Israelites preferred to return to SLAVERY! They wanted the guaranteed crumbs the Egyptians threw at them instead. Only Joshua and Caleb had faith that God would be true to His promise and give them victory.
The Israelites paid a dear price for their grumbling, unbelieving hearts. God vowed that only Joshua and Caleb would enter the promised land. As for the rest of them, their “dead bodies [would] fall in this wilderness. (v.32) And indeed they did.
God’s path is hard work. But we don’t go there alone. God promises to lead us if we follow Him. In this world of people clamoring for comfort and ease, be Caleb and Joshua. Don’t go back to Egypt. Choose to do the work and follow God’s guidance. Choose to seek first the kingdom of God so that you may enter His promised land. Choose freedom.