Matthew 21

Read Matthew 21.

Wouldn’t it be nice if your car or truck could just give birth? Instead of buying a new one, you could just breed the one you have and instantly have a new vehicle, a new way to move stuff around.

That is one advantage that animals have over machines.

Here in Matthew 21:2, Jesus commands the disciples to go find a donkey and her colt. The colt, we know from Luke, has never been ridden. It still has that “new colt smell.” The family who owned these animals must have been pleased to have this new one. Maybe they had a teenager who was looking forward to riding the old one around without having to share it with mom and dad.

Or, maybe I just injected my own story into the biblical narrative a bit.

Anyway, along came the disciples of Jesus. They saw the colt and donkey tied up, just as Jesus said (cf. vv. 2, 6) so they untied them, just as Jesus commanded them to do (cf. vv. 2, 6).

This was not a case of “Grand Theft Animal,” however. In Jesus’s world, it was acceptable for a rabbi or someone else with authority to borrow resources from other people. Usually, though, a person would ask before borrowing someone else’s property. Jesus did not tell the disciples to ask. He told them to “Untie them and bring them to me” (v. 2e).

When the owner inevitably asked the disciples what they were doing (Lu 19:33-34), Jesus had already instructed them not to ask but to tell the owner, “…the Lord needs them” (v. 3b). Some owners might have said, “Well, then, shouldn’t the Lord ask to borrow them?” But that was not the response in this case. Instead, Jesus said the owner would “send them right away” (v. 3c).

This was an act of lordship. Jesus Christ commanded his disciples to commandeer the colt so that he could use it to fulfill God’s word (vv. 4-5). We believe in and the Bible teaches the right of private ownership of property. The stuff you own is yours. You have the right to use it or lend it or do whatever you want with it.

But God is the ultimate owner of everything and that means he owns what you own. Your home, your car, your money, and any other resources you have ultimately belong to him. As followers of Jesus Christ, you and I should want the Lord to take what we have if he’s going to use it for his kingdom and glory.

It is unlikely that the Lord or one of his disciples will show up and take your car. But, think about this passage in terms of Matthew 25:31-46. I’ll quote a few verses of it right here:

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Matthew 25:37-40

Lending or using your resources to help or refresh the Lord’s servants is an act of service to the Lord himself. It is as if Christ himself came to take your colt and you willingly, gladly handed it over when you help one of God’s people. And, when you and I volunteer to help someone and generously lend or use what you have without expecting any return, you will be blessed by the Father (Matt 25:34).

How is the state of your heart when it comes to generosity? If you have a chance to help someone today, even if it is inconvenient or costly, think about this passage. The Lord has the right to take and use our stuff so let’s look for ways to be useful for him to anyone who has a need we can meet.

2 Chronicles 25 and Proverbs 30

Read 2 Chronicles 25 and Proverbs 30 today. This devotional is about Proverbs 30.

This chapter was authored by “Agur” (v. 1a) We don’t know who he is, nor does anyone recognize “Ithiel” (v. 1b), the man to whom Agur wrote.

Agur’s words in this chapter, though, show us a man who is yearning for God. He told us in verse 3 that he had not “attained to the knowledge of the Holy One.” Consequently, he was “weary” (v.1c) and lacked understanding (v. 2).

In verse 4 he described the one he is looking for. Only God can gather up the wind in his hands and wrap up the waters in a cloak. Only he “has established all the ends of the earth” (v. 4d). All of this, and the parallelism that we find in poetry like these Proverbs, leads us to conclude that the one “who has gone up to heaven and come down” is also a reference to God. It is interesting, isn’t it, that when he asks God’s name he also asks, “what is the name of his son?” The phrase “who has gone up to heaven and come down” and “what is the name of his son” foreshadow the coming of Christ, whose birth we celebrate on Monday.

Verses 5-9 describe Agur’s life after he found God. He treasured the “flawless” nature of God’s word, it’s completeness (v. 6) and how he protects all who trust him (v. 5b). Instead of sin and wealth, Agur longed for God to protect him from sin (v. 8a) and from the false self-sufficiency that would come from wealth.

Although we are material beings and, therefore, need stuff to survive, what we need more than anything is God’s self-revelation and sustaining grace. Agur’s words remind us that we have nothing apart from God and that knowing him brings joy and satisfaction. These are important lessons at any time in our lives but as we give and receive gifts this Christmas, may the Lord cause us to yearn for him and find our satisfaction in his flawless words, including the “Word” incarnate, our Lord Jesus Christ.

John 6

Today’s reading is John 6.

This passage records two of Jesus better known miracles–the feeding of the 5,000 in verses 1-15 and his walk on water (minus the part about Peter) in verses 16-21. When Jesus multiplied the bread and fish, he met an immediate need to eat that he, his disciples, and the crowd had. Many of the people he fed lived near the edge of starvation. One big drought or natural disaster would put many lives in peril and make a hard life even more difficult. When they saw how easily he could meet their need to eat, they “intended to come and make him king by force” (v. 15b).

Surprisingly, Jesus withdrew (v. 15c) instead of embracing their monarchial intentions. I say that this is a surprise because Jesus came preaching a kingdom and offering it to people, so why would he withdraw when they seemed ready to accept is offer? The answer comes later in verses 26-27: “Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” Instead of seeking that eternal life, however, they asked for a sign in verses 30-31 which demonstrated their unbelief. They did not want a genuine relationship with God; they wanted an easier, more prosperous life.

Many people come to Jesus like this today. They want to be prospered not to give praise. They want revenue instead of wanting to repent. Even genuine believers can, at times, fall into the temptation to look to God for health, wealth, and happiness instead of seeking his glory and to become holy like he is.

Do you find yourself there today? Are you looking to Christ for to give you something instead of thanking him for the eternal gift he’s already given you? Remember that God cares more about your eternity, your holiness, and your walk with him than anything else. Seek those things and, as Jesus said in another context, the rest “will be added to you as well” (Matt 6:33).