It’s been a mild winter in the Midwestern US and over the past month we’ve had unusually warm temps announcing an early Spring. Many of the trees are starting to bud and the tulips are beginning to pop up all over a month early… Therefore, it was time for a snowstorm! This is my place on Monday. Naturally, it snowed again Monday night…
Life can be hectic and loud, but all of us need some peace and quiet some times. It helps us to recharge, to relax and to calm our thoughts. Yes, we all need a little peace and quiet, a little break you might say…
We need a little peace and quiet to talk things over with our Lord; to pray, to give thanks.
Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah,
as you did that day at Massah in the desert,
where your fathers tested and tried me,
though they had seen what I did.
Psalm 95: 7b-9
We’ll never hear His voice in our hectic and loud world, we all need a little peace and quiet…
No, I’m not talking about politics…
In our study of Luke, we’ve arrived at Jesus’ last week in Jerusalem, and as I always find myself doing, I’ve couched these passages of Luke’s in military terms and metaphors. I’m not sure when I started teaching these passages that way, but it was a long time ago. As of this writing, no one has complained about it, although there is still time, I suppose. You see, as many times as I’ve taught with military terms over multiple decades, I’ve never gotten through it without someone objecting. Once a student called me a “warmonger”!
It’s important for us to recognize that when Jesus entered Jerusalem, war was exactly what was going on there, from the moment He entered the gate of the city. It was not however a war between Nations or peoples, it was a war in the spiritual realm between God and Satan. The scenes that are portrayed in the Gospels are the physical manifestations of that spiritual conflict, and it was a battle to the death.
The Jewish authorities by and large were the pawns of the Devil himself, whether or not they were aware of it, as in the end were Judas Iscariot and the Romans who nailed Jesus to the cross. Jesus Himself had even said previously that the Pharisees were the sons of the Devil…
Clearly, this conflict continued through the Book of Acts, and even up to the present day, and is easily seen many times in the centuries that have passed from then until now. Whether we want to hear it or not, the same battle rages around us to this very day.
Of course any discussion of spiritual warfare must include the good news about the victory of Christ and His Church over the powers of darkness, and even over death itself. It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ that is on the offensive in our time, and the forces of evil that are desperately trying to hold on to a forlorn hope that somehow God will fail in His purpose, and that forlorn hope will bring about the utter destruction of evil on the day that it pleases God to do so.
I should say that this is very good news indeed!
Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.
“Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” (13:34-35)
This is where we ended our last discussion: Salt. As I’m sure you know, there is a parallel in Matthew 5:
You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. (Matt. 5:13)
Salt had many uses in the ancient world, and from these verses it isn’t easy to nail down which use Jesus had in mind when He said this. Whichever use He was thinking about, if the salt wasn’t “salty” it would be useless. Let’s see if we can get a little closer to His thinking…
The two most common uses for salt in those days were as a food preservative, and as the basis for seasoning food. Traditionally, preachers and commentators speak of this “salt” as a preservative and so they say that if we are the “salt of the earth” that means that we are supposed to preserve it from sin and wickedness, and then they would go off into a sermon about sin. Ah yes, as a student long ago, I read many old sermons that went down this path, sermons that would scare the heck out of anybody.
Yet in context, this really doesn’t ring true, does it? We’ve already seen that in these appeals to His followers, He was giving warnings, but not threats. Rather, they were pleas for faithfulness, for to have even one person fall astray would grieve Him greatly.
My thought is that the preservative angle is valid, but it isn’t the whole story.
As the basis for seasoning food, salt is used to bring out flavor. Ask a chef, and he or she will tell you that food must be seasoned to be worth serving. Many people today confuse seasoning with spices and herbs, but a chef will tell you that seasoning is salt and pepper (mainly salt). You can put all of the herbs and spices you want into a dish, but you won’t develop a pleasing flavor without salt. If you are not a cook, I’ll add this so you’ll appreciate what I mean here: You will never taste salt in a properly seasoned dish; you will taste everything but salt. Ah yes, this is the nuance I mentioned last time.
Matthew’s parallel has more information than Luke’s, so let’s have a look at Matthew’s complete parallel now:
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Isn’t that interesting! We’ve already seen the rest of this in Luke and when you put these together, it’s much easier to see what the salt is all about. The light, as we have seen, shines forth the Truth of God’s Word, the salt brings out the wonders of God’s creation and the two together represent His glory bursting forth amidst the status quo of this world…
…And that is what the Kingdom is all about.
A true disciple doesn’t ever want to lose that “saltiness” any more than he or she would want to extinguish the light.
Over the last week or 10 days, we’ve been having unseasonably warm weather here in NW Illinois, in fact, we’ve set a couple of all-time records for high temperatures. It has been warm, often sunny; some days have seen temps in excess of 70 degrees F. The birds have been singing people have been cleaning up their yards; there’s definitely been a touch of spring in the air.
In the Mountain West they call this phenomenon “false spring” because everyone knows it happens every year and won’t last; winter will return in full fury soon enough. While I haven’t heard anyone here in Illinois use that exact term, the same is true here this year; there’s now snow in many places in the area.
That warm spell was sure nice while it lasted!
Life is like that, isn’t it? We all have good times when everything seems to chug along just fine, and we quickly grow accustomed to ease and carefree days. Sometimes these periods continue for a number of years, and we might even assume that everything will always be rosy and nice… And then BAM!
Trouble finds us.
Ah yes, this is a story as old as the Scriptures; come to think of it, it’s a story that’s in the Scriptures.
I’m not sure that we always appreciate those good times; after all they are really easy to take for granted. Yet they are a blessing from God when they come along. Yet when we forget this and take them for granted, there is a danger that the notion might creep into the back of our minds that we don’t really need God, that somehow we are the masters of our own success, and then slowly, subtly we begin to drift away from His presence.
Of course when trouble finds us with a big WHAM, we often feel entitled to demand answers from God: How could He let that happen!!??
Really? How could He let that happen? Didn’t we let that happen?
Maybe I’m only speaking of myself here, but in my experience, it was usually me that let it happen, at least as far as the drift was concerned. More often than not, the “Wham” came after a couple “hello’s” that I chose not to hear…
Anyway, there will always be troubles in this life, just as there will always be winters. When God blesses us with times of happiness and relatively few problems, it is for us to recognize His blessing and give thanks, realizing that there is a time for every season under heaven, both good and bad, and that our Lord is by our sides though all of them: When we are weak, He is strong. When we feel strong, we need Him more than ever.