The Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 7, 2016
Genesis 15: 1 – 6/ Psalm 33: 6 – 22 / Hebrews 11: 1-2; 7-13/ Luke 12: 32 – 37
“The Goal of Receiving the Kingdom”
Gary W. Thurman
There are three topics that we find in the Scriptures today. The Old Testament reading and the Epistle reading from Hebrews talks about God’s promise to Abraham - God’s covenant with Abraham. In Luke 12, Jesus mentions the kingdom of God. “It was the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Towards the end of the gospel, it mentions the coming of Jesus. What do all of these have to do with each other and how do they fit together? How can we synchronize and synthesize God’s covenant with Abraham in the kingdom of God, in the coming of Jesus?
Basically, God’s covenant with Abraham was twofold. There were two promises; two areas of blessing which He promised to give to Abraham. One was land. God promised Abraham when He sent him out from Ur of the Chaldeans, as he was walking along the land of Canaan, “All these land I am going to give to you and to your descendants.” The second promise was that Abraham indeed would have descendants. He was 75 years old when he started his journey and to the time that he finally received the first little tiny touch of the promise, he was already 86 years old. He was 99 years old when he received the child of promise; and yet, God promised him, “Your descendants will be as many as the sands of the seashore, as many as the stars of the sky.” So there were two basic areas of God’s covenant with Abraham: that he would receive the promised land of Canaan; and that he would receive many descendants.
Hebrews 11 says that Abraham saw those things from a distance, saw the beginnings of it, but he never received the fullness of the promise. When Abraham entered Canaan, he was 75 years old. On the day of his death, he was 175 years old. For one hundred years, Abraham lived in the promised land, and he actually bought a little piece of it. He was actually able to own one tiny corner, one field in the town of Shechem. In that field was a cave, and he bought that for a burial place for his family. It became the family plot and this was the tiniest foretaste of God’s promise. God said, “You’ve got the whole land,” and Abraham had walked through the whole land on his way from Ur in Heron, down to the Beersheba where he spent a lot of time. On his way to Egypt, he went from north to south, but he didn’t stay there and he did not own anything except for the little field.
When Sarah died, Abraham was 137 years old. He lived 38 more years, but at that time, he had two children – Ishmael, the son of Hagar, the handmaid of Sarah, and Isaac, whom God says is the child of promise. He was the heir. After Sarah died, Abraham lived 37 more years and remarried to woman named Keturah and had six more children. At the time Abraham died, at age 175, he had 8 children. Eight is a long way away from many as the sands on the seashore. It is a lot fewer than the stars in the sky. He was like seeing it at a distance, a little foretaste of the promise, but he was far, far, from the fulfilment; and he did not receive it yet.
God finally fulfilled His promise to Abraham in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ was the heir that God promised to Abraham. Jesus Christ was the fulfilment of the promise of the land and the fulfilment of the heir of God’s promise to Abraham. In Christ, we are reconciled to the Father; Christ is our brother; and we also have become the heirs of Abraham. When God promised Abraham, “Your descendants are going to receive this inheritance,” He was talking about all the Jews up to that time; and at the time of Christ, there were millions of Jews on the earth. It is a lot more than eight, but it is not still as many as the stars of the sky or the sands on the seashore.
Christ became the fulfilment of the promise; and through Christ, we also become heirs of the promise. The land of Abraham wasn’t really the biggest issue. The land was just a venue, a place where his heirs were to live out that promise and to live out the covenant that God had given him. God so designed that the heirs of Abraham were special people, a peculiar people; and He put a mark on the heirs of Abraham to set them apart.
Part of the covenant was the covenant of circumcision, which was peculiar to the heirs of Abraham. Circumcision is not something that you just do on a whim like watching a movie or going to the park. This is not something you do for fun. It is not a hobby; it is something that makes you unique. Circumcision made the Jewish heirs of Abraham unique, and Christ had received that, and then, He passed it on to us. We are not Jewish by blood, but we have received that promise and that promise for us is baptism. We, who are baptized in Christ, have received this and this is the mark of our being heirs of the covenant of Abraham.
We call the promise that God made to Abraham, the covenant which we, as heirs, received, not the land of the promise anymore, but the kingdom of God. All those promises that God gave Abraham were all symbolic of God’s kingdom. God’s kingdom is that inheritance which God promised Abraham and which we, as heirs, have received. This is why Jesus could say, “It is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” This is because we are the heirs of Abraham and the kingdom of God is the inheritance of Abraham. Inheritance means living life the way God taught Abraham to live it. It is the way Jesus Christ reminded us to live in the Sermon on the Mount and in His very life.
If we look at the life of Abraham, what could we say he was? One word to sum up Abraham was that he was a servant. When his nephew, Lot, was in trouble and was kidnapped by five enemy kings, Abraham took his 318 servants. At this point of his life, it was just he and Sarah with no children. Why does one elderly 90 year old couple need 318 servants? This is overkill, but Abraham was not just about serving himself. Abraham was a man who lived to serve others. He had those 318 servants to help him serve other people. When Lot was in trouble, Abraham’s 318 servants went out and rescued him and destroyed the army of the five kings, brought Lot and his family and all his possessions back. This was Abraham showing his servanthood. When the Lord, in the appearance of three men, came to visit Abraham, Abraham went just all over himself to serve those three men. He did everything he could to serve these men because he was a servant. Perhaps, this is what drew God’s attention to Abraham – his having a servant attitude. When we come to Jesus Christ, the heir of Abraham’s covenant, we certainly know that Jesus Christ was a servant. He said, “I came not to be served, but to serve and to give My life a ransom for many.”
We could sum up the nature of the Kingdom in the word – service. The covenant of God with Abraham, the inheritance that Abraham had for us, the kingdom of God itself is expressed in service. We are servants of the Lord. The understanding of the portions in the Old Testament and in the Book of Hebrews helps us to understand the gospel reading. When Jesus says, “The Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom,” He is talking about us receiving Abraham’s inheritance of service, of servanthood.
As servants in the kingdom of God, as heirs of Abraham, as brothers in Christ, Jesus says in the gospel, “First of all, sell yourselves and give to charity; make yourselves purses which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven.” Jesus said, “Do not make yourselves money, but purses.” Isn’t this interesting because many of us spend most of our time trying to make ourselves money? We don’t have to make ourselves money because God is our Provider. If we are going to make ourselves money, we are just counterfeiters. We are to make ourselves purses, and what does this mean? Does it mean that we should buy DKNY, Prada or Chanel and make ourselves nice purses that will not wear out?
Jesus is talking about the money that God gives us, as our Provider. Some of the money that He gives us is for our needs. God made us needy people. We need to eat and to sleep. We need comfort once in a while and encouragement once in a while. There are many things that we need, and God made us this way. Some of the needs require money to be met. We need breakfast; we need money to get breakfast. We give money to the restaurant keeper when we eat because we have needs. God provides us money for this need. Children who are in school need money for tuition, and this is a need. God made us this way and He knows we have these needs and He promises that He knows these needs even before we ask and before we have them; and He provides for us. We need not feel guilty about spending that money for those needs.
The money that you spend on your needs rots; moths get in and eat it; thieves come and destroy it; and once this money serves its purpose, it is gone for good and it will never come back. The Lord will give you more, according to your need, but the money that you spend on your need is gone and it will never return. When Jesus is talking about the purses that will not wear out, it is the money that you give to help others. It is the money that you give in the service of the kingdom of God – giving to the needy, giving to help build the church building, giving to facilitate the work in the Kingdom. Whatever you give for the needs of others is eternal and this money never rots, does not get eaten by moths, and never gets stolen.
I received this from the Lord: money spent on our needs is gone; the money that we give for service lasts forever and it endures forever. It is based on the understanding that His kingdom is built on service. When we give to the service of God, to His servants or for the Church facilities or whatever need comes to our awareness, it will be forever. Jesus said, “When we are in heaven, there it will be, and it will be forever.” Money given for the good of the Kingdom endures forever.
Jesus said, “Be dressed in readiness; keep your lights alight. Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns to serve him.” Jesus is reiterating and calling to their remembrance what it means that He is going to give us the Kingdom. We should always be ready to serve. We are dressed to serve. These days, we would rather dress to kill. Dressed to serve doesn’t mean that we are going to get our clothes from a high-end department store or from the “tiangge.” I am talking about a heart that desires to serve the Lord. Jesus Himself said, “If you understand service, if you understand your role in My kingdom, that is to serve each other and to serve the needy, I will gird Myself to serve you.” The thought of, “The Son of God serving me, dressed to serve,” may seem too much, but all that Jesus was doing was preparing Himself for what He was going to do on the night of the Last Supper.
In John13, while they were eating the Passover, Jesus got up and girded Himself to serve His disciples by washing their feet. He did this for two reasons: one, He had a heart to serve people and He wanted to serve them; two, He did it as an example. He said, “If I have done this for you, what should you do for each other? It is not just for each other, but for all those outside who need this service.” When Jesus says being dressed to serve, He showed a heart of servanthood. He just didn’t teach it, but He lived it. This is how important it is to be dressed to serve.
Jesus was dressed to serve when He was stripped naked on the cross dying for our sins. He was dressed to serve us in His death, in His resurrection, and His ascension. Even now, He sits at the right hand of the Father interceding for us. In that, He dressed to serve us. Are we dressed to serve or dressed to kill? There is nothing wrong looking nice, but I am talking about the spiritual realm. Are our hearts a heart of service or are our hearts looking at taking care of ourselves?
Jesus said, “When the master comes,” for a long time, many people say that this passage is about the second coming of Christ. I believe in the second coming of Christ. Scripture talks about it in many places. This age must end when Christ returns from the throne of the Father and returns to the earth, and He is going to weed out from the Kingdom all stumbling blocks; and He is going to sit and reign and rule on this earth forever. There is an end to this age and Christ will come again to that which will know no end.
“When the master comes” talks about how Jesus comes to us, not once at the end of the age. He comes to us daily in the form of those who have needs. He comes to us daily to those who need to be served, who need us to serve them. Jesus says, “Are you dressed? Are you ready? Is your lamp lit? Are you ready to be able to see with that lamp?” Are you ready to meet the need where God is touching you? Daily, the Lord brings to you people who need Him. Every day the Lord comes to you and He brings people who need you to serve them like a classmate or an officemate who need someone to bring comfort, to give hope. People need these things from the Lord and the Lord sends these people. He comes to us in the form of these people daily.
Are we dressed to serve or to ignore them? We miss a lot of opportunity to serve people every day because we are busy with many things. I am not saying that this is evil, but are we dressed and ready to serve? All around us are people who need the Lord, people who need the service heart that God gave us.
Worship our Lord who stripped Himself of and clothed Himself for service to serve us on Calvary and in our daily life. Are we dressed to serve or are we dressed to kill? When we spend for our needs, on things which God built us to do, do we also make sure that we give of our treasures into those purses that will help those treasures to endure forever? Or do we just tuck it away? Anything that we tuck away and don’t use at all is not safe from the thief, from the moth, and from rot. Are we ready to give our treasures so that they will endure forever to help the need? Are we willing to give up of ourselves to find and to recognize and to serve those people who need the Lord?
The challenge of the gospel: as heirs of Abraham, as people of the Kingdom, let us fulfill this calling of God in our lives.