14 Follow me…
17 It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but those who are ill. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners…
Could there be a more unlikely choice than Levi [Matthew] for Jesus to choose as his second object lesson to the crowd as they walked through Capernaum? They’d certainly heard that Jesus had power over physical illness but this was Levi the local tax collector. Levi had been given his power by the king to make his living by squeezing as much of their money from them as he could. What could he possibly deserve, or need, compared to some poor invalid?
This time Jesus sees something invisible in a man it’s likely no one else in that crowd would ever choose. He chooses Levi. Jesus simply said “follow me” and Levi got up and followed him. It was a different kind of miracle that revealed Jesus is a very different kind of King that has the power to make a visible change in the circumstances of a life forever.
Philippians 1:14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.
Have you noticed how similar the words change and chains sound? Paul only mentions chains but he’s making a pretty clear connection between chains and “change” in this verse. That’s what started me thinking and looking in a topical bible to find references to those two words. What I found out was interesting. Chains were shackles for those who were imprisoned BUT they were also ornamentation [jewelry] for princes, priests and even camels.
Paul’s chains were meant to constrain him but instead they’ve become like jewelry to him. They are the visible evidence that reminds him, and others, “most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.” They’ve become chains that led to change.
Now about that word “change.” Oddly I didn’t find any direct references in my topical Bible to “change” but that word made me think of changing clothes and this part of Job 29:14. “I put on righteousness, and it clothed me…” It’s interesting to think how much emphasis I put on how I’ve changed as a believer. I’ve got the right clothes now but did I forget the right jewelry?
Is it possible that God has changed those very chains I was so happy to be rid of into the jewelry meant to become ornamentation for my new clothes? Is that jewelry visible evidence that allows my brothers and sisters to see how Christ can turn chains into change for them too?
I’m confident along with Paul that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Jesus has the power to turn chains into eye-catching jewelry to accent the beauty of being dressed in his righteousness.
Psalms 91:2 I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” 3 Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. 4 He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
I chose the theme of repentance as my focus for Lent. It’s a good topic, right? What I didn’t comprehend was just how serious God was about “his” choice to make “my” choice very personal this year. I could rightly describe some of my many years as a believer as “forgettably faithful” but not this one.
It’s so much easier to talk about repentance than to be confronted with the need for it. It’s exhausting and frankly painful. The “fowler’s snare” is the choice to accept this lie…’You blew it. You had the chance to get it right and you failed yourself and the Lord.’ That’s guilt…and that’s not how God chooses to change us.
OR…you can make this different choice; to be thankful that though your faith has taken a big blow in the light of reality, God has loved you enough to remind you of your need for him. “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; [HIS] faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” That’s where repentance happens.
Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. נ Nun
Back on September 4 when I was in my long study of this Psalm I wrote about the eight verses of “Nun” from the point of view that we begin life pretty much in the dark, looking like one thing but if we’re plugged into God’s plan we finally become what he’s meant us to be all along. Life in Christ is finding the path to get from that beginning to where we need to be. This verse is a reminder, the Word isn’t always a spotlight. Sometimes it’s a purposely directed flashlight beam that’s enough to light a path needed to navigate current events by.
Check out this 7-day devotional, Thriving in Babylon. [click title] It’s a story about Daniel, a man forced to live in the midst of big changes beyond his control. He faces fears about the future, concern for his safety, and the discouragement of a world that seems to be falling apart. Sound familiar?
This is a quote from Day 2.“Daniel’s humble respect was tied to his firm belief that God is in control of who is in control. It wasn’t merely a theological axiom. It was a reality he lived by. He saw Nebuchadnezzar as God’s servant, a wicked king allowed to reign for a period of time in order to fulfill God’s sovereign purpose—in this case, the discipline and judgment of Jerusalem for the sins of its people. Daniel wasn’t respectful because Nebuchadnezzar deserved it.
He was respectful because God commanded it.”