Bible reading for March 2: Exodus 13; Luke 16.
"And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people." (13:21-22)
Memorial and testimony (13:8-9). People are prone to forget, sometimes even forgetting important past events of their lives. God's people are also prone to forgetting what great things God has done for them (Mark 5:19). So, Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread became a "memorial" (an occasion to remember) and a "sign" (a distinguishing mark) so that people would talk about God's great salvation. Just as a husband and wife wear wedding rings, or place wedding pictures in their home to remind them of their covenant relationship, so too, God's people have signs and testimonies of God's saving goodness. Every baptism we observe, every time we gather at the Lord's table together, every time we share our story of coming to know the Lord, each of these occasions becomes a way of reflecting upon God's great salvation. It opens doors for teaching our families and sharing the gospel with friends and neighbors, and proclaiming that God saved us "with a strong hand" (13:9).
The pillar of cloud and fire. The later Jewish rabbis used the term, Shekinah ("that which dwells"), to describe the glorious, guiding presence of the Lord which led Israel all through their wilderness journeys (Neh 9:12; Ps 99:7; Isa 60:2). This is likely the meaning of the bright cloud which overshadowed Jesus and his disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt 17:5). Jesus is the light who has come into the world (John 1:5), who said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (8:12; cf 12:46). When we receive the Lord Jesus, he indwells us by the Holy Spirit from that time on and will never depart from us. He guides us by enabling us to understand, discern, and apply God's word. "I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness." (John 12:46)
"No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money." (Luke 16:13)
The abuse of wealth. In this chapter Jesus gives two stories both beginning with, "there was a rich man..." (16:1, 19). Between the two stories are principles about the use of money. The Pharisees were lovers of money, and justified themselves by thinking that their wealth was a sign of blessing from God (16:14-15). The Apostle Paul wrote, "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs" (1 Tim 6:10). As Erwin Lutzer has observed, "Few people have the spiritual resources to be both wealthy and godly." For many of us money can become an overpowering influence upon us -- we desire how we can get more, or fear losing what we have.
Investing what we have. What we do with our money may not seem like a big thing, especially if we think we don't have much of it to begin with! A little thing may be a little thing, but "faithfulness in little things is a big thing" (John Chrysostom). Jesus teaches us here, "One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much..." (16:10a). Our finances are a stewardship, and a kind of test for us, from the Lord. One thing that stood out to me in this chapter is this verse: "And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings" (16:9-10). This means when I "invest" my resources by giving to others I am enriching my future fellowship with them. So, imagine meeting in heaven a child or orphan you sponsored through a charitable or mission agency, or the poor that you had helped. Wouldn't that be a special blessing of fellowship? Or meeting those you supported on the mission field, or people led to the Lord through your giving... this will bring great joy in heaven. Jesus said that these people will receive you into their dwellings. It's a kind of "pay it forward" or investing in "futures", when we realize that we now have the privilege of banking on future joy and friendship.
Image credit. Painting above, "The Israelites Passing through the Wilderness," by William West (1793-1861) is housed at the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, UK.
We are following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson. A PDF copy is available here.
Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.