I’ve been doing a Bible in a year reading plan…er, podcast, because I don’t have a lot of time to sit and read these days. If yall have ever read through the Bible, you know how wildly exciting the first couple of books are.
By that I mean long lists of people’s families and weird rules that feel outrageously outdated. The plan I’m following is really neat though in that it takes a few chapters from a couple of books plus a psalm each day. They are ordered chronologically, unlike how the Bible itself is put together. Therefore, it’s easier to get an overarching picture of the whole story of the Bible and how each page actually fits into the story of redemption.
As I listened to the pastor reading the Words of God, I got bogged down in the descriptions for building the tent of meeting. I know Coleman puts out a lot of quality tents, but this one far exceeded anything on the market today. In addition to being ornate, it was also practical and was easily moved from place to place. Because, in case you forgot, these guys were hanging out in the actual desert.
I think it’s easy for us to get to scriptures like this and kinda skip over them. Especially since we’re soo far removed from that time period and have established civilizations nowadays. We may not like the carpeting at our sanctuary, but we have it and AC to boot.
But these intricate details were important enough to be included in the Bible, so they must mean something to us, right?
The more I studied, the more I understood that what I was seeing was God’s intentional heart. He gives us all these “regulations” that go against our human nature in some ways. If we were left to decide for ourselves, we’d still be operating under wild west law. So, as our father, He laid out boundaries for our protection. Boundaries that ultimately reveal His love for us.
God’s whole story is just so intentional. He created the Earth and everything in it, including us, with intent. Even though we let Him down pretty much immediately, He intentionally made a way for our redemption. Chapter after chapter, we read of His immeasurable grace poured out on a people who, quite frankly, didn’t deserve it.
So His parameters made the people slow down and actually turn their hearts towards God. Rather than throwing on
their pajamas to run to Walmart raggedy camel-skin coats, they opted for coats with fewer stains and smells to show that they wanted to present themselves in the best light. Don’t be mistaken, this is not a case of putting lipstick on a pig; this is just the people choosing to make conscious choices to do better with what they had at the time.
Even all of the sacrifices that feel barbarian now are more examples of intentionality. And God, in all of His practicality, made provisions for everyone for what was acceptable to sacrifice. He recognized that there would be affluent people in the community as well as those who could barely find a bird to bring to Him. The point was the same – offer what you have. I’m not going to get too in the weeds on this point because, thankfully, Christ came and offered Himself in our place – once and for all people.
There are so many stories of intentionality throughout this great book. Times Jesus waited before providing the miracle. Times when He gave specific instructions that seemed otherwise irrelevant until the final act. Examples of people doing random things in His presence and receiving His mercy.
I am reminded of the sinful woman who anointed Jesus in Luke chapter 7. She showed up to a dinner party with a bunch of big-wigs and, well, made a scene. She was on the floor bawling her eyes out, wetting Jesus’ feet with her tears. If that weren’t weird enough, she took a whole jar of perfume and dumped it on His feet, too.
Yall already know the Pharisees were not feeling this public display of Axe body spray, but on top of that, they told Jesus that this woman was also the worst. Apparently, she was a sinner and none of these respectable fellas were.
Rather than just setting the record straight, Jesus intentionally gave them a parable of two debtors and how the one who owed more loved more after being forgiven. Looking at you, Joe, for these student loan debts…
Anyway, I thought more about this nameless woman. She reminded me of the widow and her olive oil in 2 Kings chapter 4. Both of them were intentional in their offering. Neither had a leg to stand on, and certainly no one standing up for them. But here’s our Jesus, willing to stand in the gap for them. He didn’t care if the oil was old and mostly used up. He didn’t care if the perfume was not his signature scent.
He saw the hearts and minds of these ladies turned towards Him, intentionally pouring out the absolute last of their reserves, faithful that Jesus would provide whatever they needed next. They didn’t stash a little in the back room for an emergency. They didn’t gauge His reaction before pouring a little more. They were all in. Every last drop.
I wonder how often we are willing to give Jesus every last drop? How willing are we to be intentional with Him? With our time, what we participate in, who we hang around? Do we intentionally sacrifice the things we want for the things that are better, like Paul talked about? Or do we sit back with the Pharisees and tell Jesus we’ve got it?
This week, we’re offering intentional prayers. We want to present ourselves in an intentional way that changes the atmosphere when others interact with us. We are called to be set apart, and that makes us look differently. It makes us speak differently. It makes us think differently. It makes us want to pour out all of our oil, all of our energy, all of our sin, knowing it will be replaced with God’s intentional love for us.
How will you live intentionally this week?
Luke 7: 36-50″ When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”
Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.
Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
2 Kings 4:1-7 “The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.”
Elisha replied to her, “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?”
“Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except a small jar of olive oil.”
Elisha said, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.”
She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. When all the jars were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another one.”
But he replied, “There is not a jar left.” Then the oil stopped flowing.
She went and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.”
Romans 7:15-20 “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.”