Reading for Today:
Psalm 50:1 The Mighty One, God the LORD. The Divine Judge is introduced with three significant Old Testament names. The first two are the short and longer forms of the most common word for “God” in the Old Testament, and the third is the name for Israel’s God par excellence, i.e., Yahweh. From the rising of the sun to its going down. A common Old Testament idiom conveying from east to west, i.e., all over the planet.
Luke 16:13 You cannot serve God and mammon. Many of the Pharisees taught that devotion to money and devotion to God were perfectly compatible (v. 14). This went hand-in-hand with the commonly held notion that earthly riches signified divine blessing. Rich people were therefore regarded as God’s favorites. While not condemning wealth per se, Christ denounced both love of wealth and devotion to mammon.
Luke 16:15 justify yourselves. The Pharisees’ belief was that their own goodness was what justified them (see Rom. 10:3). This is the very definition of “self-righteousness.” But, as Jesus suggested, their righteousness was flawed, being an external veneer only. That might be enough to justify them before men, but not before God, because He knew their hearts. He repeatedly exposed their habit of seeking the approval of people (see Matt. 6:2, 5, 16; 23:28).
Luke 16:31 neither will they be persuaded. This speaks powerfully of the singular sufficiency of Scripture to overcome unbelief. The gospel itself is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16). Since unbelief is at heart a moral rather than an intellectual problem, no amount of evidences will ever turn unbelief to faith. But the revealed Word of God has inherent power to do so (see John 6:63; Heb. 4:12; James 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:23).
DAY 22: Why would the parable of the rich man scandalize the Pharisees?
The parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19–31) was employed in the same fashion as all Christ’s parables, to teach a lesson, in this case for the benefit of the Pharisees. The mention of table scraps, sores, and dogs all made this poor man appear odious in the eyes of the Pharisees (v. 21).They were inclined to see all such things as proof of divine disfavor. The idea was that Lazarus was given a place of high honor, reclining next to Abraham at the heavenly banquet, “Abraham’s bosom” (v. 22). This same expression (found only here in Scripture) was used in the Talmud as a figure for heaven. Yet the rich man was “in Hades” (v. 23). The suggestion that a rich man would be excluded from heaven would have scandalized the Pharisees. Especially galling was the idea that a beggar who ate scraps from his table was granted the place of honor next to Abraham.
“Hades” was the Greek term for the abode of the dead. In the Greek Old Testament, it was used to translate the Hebrew Sheol, which referred to the realm of the dead in general, without necessarily distinguishing between righteous or unrighteous souls. However, in New Testament usage, “Hades” always refers to the place of the wicked prior to final judgment in hell. The imagery Jesus used fit the erroneous common rabbinical idea that Sheol had two parts, one for the souls of the righteous and the other for the souls of the wicked—separated by an impassable gulf. But there is no reason to suppose, as some do, that “Abraham’s bosom” spoke of a temporary prison for the souls of Old Testament saints, who were brought to heaven only after He had actually atoned for their sins. Scripture consistently teaches that the spirits of the righteous dead go immediately into the presence of God (see 23:43; 2 Cor. 5:8; Phil. 1:23). And the presence of Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration (9:30) belies the notion that they were confined in a compartment of Sheol until Christ finished His work.