Of Pride and The Sword

Scripture Focus: Ezekiel 32.9-10, 19-21
9 I will trouble the hearts of many peoples 
when I bring about your destruction among the nations, 
among lands you have not known. 
10 I will cause many peoples to be appalled at you, 
and their kings will shudder with horror because of you 
when I brandish my sword before them. 
On the day of your downfall 
each of them will tremble 
every moment for his life. 

19 Say to them, ‘Are you more favored than others? Go down and be laid among the uncircumcised.’ 20 They will fall among those killed by the sword. The sword is drawn; let her be dragged off with all her hordes. 21 From within the realm of the dead the mighty leaders will say of Egypt and her allies, ‘They have come down and they lie with the uncircumcised, with those killed by the sword.’ 

Matthew 26.52
“…all who draw the sword will die by the sword.”  

Reflection: Of Pride and The Sword
By John Tillman

Jesus does not simply make up this proverb (Matthew 26.52) about the sword out of thin air. 

Jesus was pointedly referencing the recurrent theme of the sword in scripture. He did so both as a warning to Peter and the disciples and a condemnation of the religious leaders and the empire with which they were partnering in his unjust murder.

The English phrase “the sword” is mentioned over 1,400 times in the New International Version of the Bible. Its usage is sometimes literal, but the word is often used as a metaphor for violence. It is sometimes the violence of war between nations, sometimes the violence of nations against their own poor, orphans, widows, and foreigners, and sometimes the violence between people.

In scripture the sword is not inanimate. The sword is hungry, with an appetite to devour individuals, races, nations, kings, and empires. (2 Samuel 11.25; Jeremiah 46.14) The sword is wielded by kings and empires and then cuts them down. Even David, the human archetype of the messiah to come, wielded the sword selfishly and was told “the sword will never depart from your house,” as a result. (2 Samuel 12.10)

God’s question to Egypt, (Ezekiel 32.19) “Are you more favored than others?,” could be phrased, “Are you the exception?” This question implies a belief in Egyptian exceptionalism. Many nations think so. “Other nations have fallen, but we can not. Other nations were foolish, but we are wise. Other nations are evil, but we are worthy of praise.”

God had emphasized to Egypt that greater nations than she had fallen due to pride and abuse of authority. Despite how Egypt, or any nation, postures itself, those who live by the sword will fall by it. Those who profit by violence will face justice.

God does not rejoice in the death of any person, much less any nation (Ezekiel 33.11; 2 Peter 3.9), but he rejoices to see justice done to oppressors and the proud humbled. 

As individuals and nations, may we learn this in humility. May we not puff ourselves up with pride. May we not deny our sins but confess and repent. Then, rather than shake with fear, (Ezekiel 32.10) we may rejoice on the day oppressors fall, unjust governments are unseated, and Jesus, with the sword of his mouth (Revelation 19.11-16) cuts down wielders of the sword who oppose justice.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” — Psalm 14.1

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Ezekiel 32  (Listen – 5:30) 
Psalm 80 (Listen – 1:58)

Read more about Hearing the Groans of the Prisoner
He hears the cries of all those oppressed by their rulers. He judges all rulers and leaders who conduct themselves with pride and irresponsibility.

https://theparkforum.org/843-acres/hearing-the-groans-of-the-prisoners/

Read more about Prepare for the End
Christians are sometimes guilty of looking forward to the apocalypse like a private revenge fantasy.

Living Is Harder—Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Azikiwe, New York
This devotional is one of the most impactful this year because of its simplicity. Self-reflection on our daily interactions and tasks causes you to be intentional, with how your time is spent; is it on yourself or through living out the gospel. This means even when I don’t want to, instead allowing the Holy Spirit to lead and guide me. Surrendering to God’s will over my life, moment by moment.

Originally published, July 16, 2020, based on readings from Jeremiah 12 & Matthew 26.

Scripture Focus: Matthew 26.35
“Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same.

Reflection: Living Is Harder—Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman

“Dying to self” and “carrying our cross” are biblical metaphors for self-sacrificial living, but sometimes they become a literal, lived reality.

Many sermons (mostly to youth groups) challenge believers with the stories of modern Christians who were killed while doing ministry or who refused to denounce Christ to save their own lives. These sermons ask, “Would you be willing to do the same?” 

These well-meaning sermons are intended to be inspirational. (And they are.) They don’t truly intend for us to follow these human martyrs, but to follow Jesus in the same, self-sacrificial manner they did. However, an unintentional lesson in these sermons is that the hardest or greatest thing we could do for Christ is to die in some violent way. We can unintentionally denigrate living for Christ by glorifying dying for him. 

The truth is that living for Christ in the mundane and ordinary is far more difficult than dying for him. Dying is momentary. Living stretches on. Paul recognized this, stating that he would rather die and be with the Lord, but it was better for all if he continued struggling and living for Christ. (Philippians 1.20-24) Living for Christ in the world often makes a larger difference in the world than dramatic sacrifices. 

Peter gets a lot of flack for being the first, loudest, and proudest to declare that he would die for Jesus without following through later that night. But all the disciples did the same. May we have the passion of Peter and the disciples, yet retain the humility and wisdom of knowing that despite our best intentions we may fail.

Just like Peter, don’t many of us feel that we would give our lives for Jesus? Why then do we resist giving of our time for him in service, in study, or in prayer? 

It matters less what we might say about Christ when someone puts a gun in our face than what we do say about him to a friend who is hurting. It matters less how willing we are to give up our lives while sharing the gospel in a dangerous place than how willing we are to give up our rights, or give up our money, or give up our time when we are living in comfort.

In the end, it is what we do in life that makes the biggest difference for the gospel, not what we do in death.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Righteousness and justice are the foundations of your throne; love and truth go before your face. — Psalm 89.14

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 48 (Listen – 7:31)
Psalm 25 (Listen – 2:18)

Read more about Where Martyrdom Begins Part 1
It is in the so-called small, everyday sacrifices that we give our lives for each other.

Where Martyrdom Begins Part 1

Read more about Supporting our Work
The Park Forum strives to provide short, smart, engaging, biblical content to people across the world for free with no ads. Gifts to The Park Forum support this mission.

Living is Harder

Scripture Focus: Matthew 26.35
“Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same.

Reflection: Living is Harder
By John Tillman

“Dying to self” and “carrying our cross” are biblical metaphors for self-sacrificial living, but sometimes they become a literal, lived reality.

Many sermons (mostly to youth groups) challenge believers with the stories of modern Christians who were killed while doing ministry or who refused to denounce Christ to save their own lives. These sermons ask, “Would you be willing to do the same?” 

These well-meaning sermons are intended to be inspirational. (And they are.) They don’t truly intend for us to follow these human martyrs, but to follow Jesus in the same, self-sacrificial manner they did. However, an unintentional lesson in these sermons is that the hardest or greatest thing we could do for Christ is to die in some violent way. We can unintentionally denigrate living for Christ by glorifying dying for him. 

The truth is that living for Christ in the mundane and ordinary is far more difficult than dying for him. Dying is momentary. Living stretches on. Paul recognized this, stating that he would rather die and be with the Lord, but it was better for all if he continued struggling and living for Christ. (Philippians 1.20-24) Living for Christ in the world often makes a larger difference in the world than dramatic sacrifices. 

Peter gets a lot of flack for being the first, loudest, and proudest to declare that he would die for Jesus without following through later that night. But all the disciples did the same. May we have the passion of Peter and the disciples, yet retain the humility and wisdom of knowing that despite our best intentions we may fail.

Just like Peter, don’t many of us feel that we would give our lives for Jesus? Why then do we resist giving of our time for him in service, in study, or in prayer? 

It matters less what we might say about Christ when someone puts a gun in our face than what we do say about him to a friend who is hurting. It matters less how willing we are to give up our lives while sharing the gospel in a dangerous place than how willing we are to give up our rights, or give up our money, or give up our time when we are living in comfort.

In the end, it is what we do in life that makes the biggest difference for the gospel, not what we do in death.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
I will thank you, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and glorify your name forevermore. — Psalm 86.12

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 12 (Listen – 3:06) 
Matthew 26 (Listen – 10:01)

Read more about Where Martyrdom Begins Part 1
It is in the so-called small, everyday sacrifices that we give our lives for each other.

Readers Choice is your time to share favorite Park Forum posts from the year. What post challenged you?

https://forms.gle/DsYWbj45y9fCDLzi7

A Trinity of Neglect :: A Guided Prayer

Matthew 25.37-40
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“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.’

1 Timothy 4.13-15
Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.

Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.

Reflection: A Trinity of Neglect :: A Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

Matthew 25 is famous for the sheep and the goats parable. But really, the entire chapter is about people who shirked their responsibilities to themselves, to their master, and to others. The foolish virgins, the wicked servant, and the goats are a trinity of spiritual neglect.

Pray this weekend through the three stories. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you warning signs if you are following the path of one of these neglectful souls.

May we avoid the neglect of The Foolish Virgins…
We need not stumble into extravagant sin to endanger our relationship with you, Lord.

The virgins excluded from the banquet were not lascivious, or lustful. They were not greedy or cruel. They simply were irresponsible and unthoughtful.

May we never fall into the dim thoughtlessness of complacency, and may we regularly refresh ourselves with the oil of your Holy Spirit to brighten our lamps when called on.

May we avoid the lazy apathy of The Wicked Servant…
We need not squander your blessings to use them unworthily, oh Lord.

The servant given one bag of gold didn’t lose it, or gamble it away. He didn’t try to steal it. He just didn’t try to use it. The servant failed to understand, and so do we, that the king wasn’t investing his money with people. He was investing in people with his money. The king expected growth in the servant. Growth of the gold would only be a side effect. He would have found more mercy in the master had he tried and failed, than in failing to even try.

May we dare to step out with whatever seemingly insignificant gift he has given us. You, oh Lord, do not despise small beginnings or small gifts well and truly used in faith.

May we avoid the careless denial of responsibility of the goats…
We need not be ignorant of you, Lord, to miss heaven. We need only be uninvolved and unconcerned for others.

The goats didn’t actively cause hunger, or thirst, or homelessness, or refugees. They didn’t cause nakedness, or crime, or unjust punishment, or oppression, or sickness. They just didn’t do anything about it. This was enough to show that Christ had no place in their lives and they had no place with Christ in his eternal life.

Dwell with the Holy Spirit this weekend, asking him to enlighten you about areas in which you may be prone to following in the missteps of the virgins, the servant, or the goats.

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.  — 2 Corinthians 4.6

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Genesis 26 (Listen – 4:31) 
Matthew 25 (Listen – 6:04)

This Weekend’s Readings
Genesis 27 (Listen – 6:25) Matthew 26 (Listen – 10:01)
Genesis 28 (Listen – 3:17) Matthew 27 (Listen – 8:45)

Join Our New Facebook Group:
This weekend, in our new Facebook group for email subscribers, we will begin with the first of a series of short live videos discussing some simple, practical tools of spiritual practice using modern technology. Join the group to discuss them with us.

Follow this link to find the group. When you request to join, you will be prompted to answer questions about the email that you have used to subscribe to The Park Forum. Once we check that you are a subscriber, we will approve you to join the group.

Read more about Cultivation Leads to Harvest
We are responsible for the care of our communities, spiritually and physically. This requires a financial and a spiritual harvest.

Read more about Beyond Selfish Thankfulness
We too often, like Jonah, feel responsible that those who have wronged us should not “get away with it.” But in God’s timing, nothing goes unpunished.

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