Sorry for the bold font on the previous post. Somehow, I just couldn't get rid of it.
This week we continue jumping around Jeremiah, reading through 1 and 2 Timothy, and deal with another Lukan parable.
Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15 - Prophesy and Hope in a real estate transaction. The armies of Babylon have surrounded Jerusalem and it will soon be sacked. Jeremiah is in jail. The word of the Lord comes to Jeremiah saying that one of his cousins will come to him asking him to purchase a field. When this happens, Jeremiah buys the field for 20 shekels of silver, and signs all of the contracts of deed with many witnesses. (Real estate transactions haven't changed much, have they?) He then has his aide, Baruch, put the contracts in an earthenware jar and bury it in a safe place. The reason for all of this: there will be a time when Israel will be restored and land will once again be bought and sold.
Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16 - This Psalm is the source for much of the song "On Eagle's Wings". The psalm is all about God's protection of those who fear and trust God. There is quite a bit of hyperbole (exaggeration) in the verses: you will never get sick from virulent diseases (pestilence), you will never get shot by arrows, you will never be whipped (scourged), you will not stub your toes, and you will be able to walk on lions and snakes if you remain faithful to God. Also, in the skipped verses, even if thousands of people are falling around you, you will not be harmed. When we praise God, we all have a natural tendency to exaggerate and the psalmist does the same.
[Alternate readings: Amos 6:1a, 4-7 (warnings to the rich and idle who ignore the ruin around them) and Psalm 146 (praise for God whose concern is with the oppressed, hungry, in prison, blind, crippled, strangers, orphans, and widows). Both fit nicely with the Gospel.]
1 Timothy 6:6-19 - We have jumped over 4 chapters, 2:8-6:5. Mostly these deal with qualification for church leaders (bishops, deacons, and ministers) and how believers are to act toward one another. In our reading today, Paul is encouraging Timothy to remain faithful, be content with what God has provided, and be wary of falling into the temptation of riches. There are also some advice for those who are rich: "They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that is really life." This raises a good question: What is "real" life?
Luke 16:19-31 - The title to this passage in my Bible reads "The Rich Man and Lazarus." While Luke does not specifically identify this story as a parable, it is. The last time Luke actually wrote the word "parable" was in 15:3 which opens the Parable of the Lost Sheep. There is then a series of stories which are all parables: the lost sheep, the lost coin, the prodigal son, the dishonest manager, and, after a brief interval of stewardship instructions (16:8b-18), the rich man and Lazarus. First, don't confuse this Lazarus with Jesus' friend in John 11. Secondly, Lazarus means "one who God helps". Third, Lazarus is the only character in all of Jesus' stories and parables who has a name. Finally, this parable is a type of "Pearly Gates" stories and is not intended to instruct us on the nature of hell. Too many people in my opinion, including some pastors, point to this parable when the discussion of hell comes up. As you read this parable ask your self some questions: What is Lazarus' relationship to the rich man? What is the rich man's responsibilities to Lazarus? What is the rich man's attitude to Lazarus before and after death and does it change? How does this passage relate to 16:10-13? There is so much more to say about this parable but I'll cut it off here.
What is your relationship to money? Reread the Amos, Timothy, and Luke passages.
May God bless you with understanding as you grow in faith.