Today: Psalms 18:1-6, Matthew 21:1-17; Job 19, 20, & 21

Matthew 21 – Jesus Arrives in Jerusalem

“Behold your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey.” Matthew 21:5

Any pomp surrounding Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was arranged by others — not by Jesus. He came humbly, riding on a donkey.  All the fanfare, the cheering crowds, was a product of misplaced expectations. Many of these same adoring fans would be screaming “Crucify him!” in a few short days. How quickly our fickle loyalties turn when our hopes are spoiled. The Jews wanted a mighty ruler who would conquer their Roman oppressors and set them up as the ruling class.

But Jesus’ focus was never on earthly power. The only physical force he ever showed was to throw the vendors from the temple. He caused quite a ruckus turning over tables, pushing those money changers around. How excited the crowds must have been to see this. Jesus begins his glorious march toward victory with a bang. What wild savagery would come next??

But this was the one and only remotely violent act Jesus ever committed. And it was all about soul and spirit. “My house will be called a house of prayer,” he told them, “But you are making it a den of robbers.”

How dejected they must have felt when Jesus was arrested and paraded around as a defeated prisoner. He had failed them. And they bitterly turned upon him.

Misguided expectations keep so many people from submitting to God. We expect justice. We want piety to be rewarded. Those we think are wrong should be punished. When these things don’t happen, so many people turn bitterly against God. They shout, “God is dead!” And yet they still clamor for some earthly king who could never meet their absurd expectations.

If only we would mold our hopes around what God has already told us. Life is going to be difficult. The innocent will suffer. He warns us about this over and over again. We see this story play out repeatedly in Genesis. It is the main message of Job. This current world is under a curse. True justice will never truly manifest during this particular time period. We get glimpses of it here and there, but it will never hold.

That is why the good news is good news. Justice IS indeed coming if we only wait for it. God longs to give us eternal vision rather than our incomplete faulty focus on this life only. Eternal vision corrects our false expectations and gives us hope and peace for the future.

"The Last Journey" painting by Jakub Schikaneder

Job 19-21

You should read all of Job, you really should… but if you find yourself getting bogged down in all the laborious exchanges between Job and buddies you can always just read my funny little summaries (haha!).

Seriously, I do believe the Bible should ALL be read at some time or another. But it’s better to read some of it than none of it. For example, I think it’s okay to skip those boring begat sections. They are important and there for a reason but it isn’t for light fun reading. If you ever get into deep Biblical genealogical investigation, then by all means dissect those begats.

But in the meantime, dive into the good stuff, the parts that speak to you. The Job dialogues can get tedious which is why I’m trying to add a bit of fun with my synopses. And that’s okay! The most important parts of Job are the first two chapters, God’s response (chapters 38-41) and the epilogue in the last chapter (42). That’s the meat of it. The middle is pretty much the same repeated arguments with lots of different flowery metaphors. It’s important. But don’t let it make you quit. Let’s have some fun with it.

So having said all that, it’s synopsis time!

Job: Shut up, you idiots! Even if I were wrong, that’s on me. But I’m not wrong. God is destroying an innocent man. Everyone hates me now. Even my wife can’t stand my stinky breath. Nobody loves you when you’re down and out and that includes you backstabbing weasels I thought were my friends. If only somebody would write down my words. Because here’s what it all boils down to… my God lives! He will be victorious some day even if my sad self is long gone. God knows my heart and he will vindicate me in the end.

Zophar: Well I never! I am so offended! How dare you disagree with our superior intellect? We are right and you are wrong! You are weak and we are strong! Of course God punishes the wicked!! Wicked people always get destroyed!!! I know it’s true because I saw it on the internet!!!! I’m not listening to you anymore! [BLOCKED!]

Job: I know you blocked me, Zoph, but I’m gonna say it anyway. You’re just wrong. God doesn’t always punish the wicked, not in this life anyway. Evil folks reject God and mock his power. They go to their graves rich and fat. The poor man dies hungry and bitter. But here’s the rub… they BOTH die…

Oh death… the final great equalizer. He who dies with the most toys, still dies. We may have 75-80 years or so here on this earth, breathing, eating, sleeping, working, playing, dying. But that is nothing compared to eternity. Understanding our own mortality is the first step of eternal vision. However this isn’t a message of futility but of hope. Yes, we all die, but the one who holds all knowledge and power is reaching out to us for relationship. He gives us strength and peace during the inevitable difficulties if only we let him.

The biggest excuse people give for not following God is that he lets innocent people suffer. But God warns us about this from day one. Evil people aren’t always punished. Righteous people aren’t always rewarded. Children are abused. People get cancer. It is the condition of this current world. Set your expectations accordingly. Justice is not promised here. But it IS promised in the next life. God wants us to have eternal vision, to focus on the promised prize. Our short time here is only the tiniest part of our entire story.