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March 7

Other comments on this day's readings can be found here.

Reading 1 - Lev 14:45

"It [the house which was still contaminated with "leprosy"] must be torn down -- its stones, timbers and all the plaster-- and taken out of the town to an unclean place" (Lev 14:45).

This all may be seen as a prophecy: Jesus Christ, in his role as the priest, "inspects" the "leprous house", that is, God's temple at Jerusalem -- and he finds it polluted by the sins of the nation. Even after his first cleansing of the house, at the beginning of his ministry (John 2), the house's condition grew worse (Mat 21:12,13). "You knew not the day of your visitation" (Jer 8:12; Luk 19:42-44), Jesus had said to the nation. By the end of our Lord's ministry, his second "inspection" of the house revealed conditions just as bad as at the first: in the language of the Law, the house of Israel was incurably infected with the "leprosy" of sin and uncleanness. The only remedy was to pull it down and carry it away, stone by stone.

And thus it was done, even as the "priest" prophesied: "Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. 'Do you see all these things?' he asked. 'I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down' " (Mat 24:1,2).

Reading 2 - Psa 115:5

"They have... eyes, but they cannot see" (Psa 115:5).

"Half dazzled peering through the lens,
Self-blinded by the test-tube's reek,
They gauge the wave length of the tones,
But hear not the Creator speak.

"O fools and blind! O fools and blind!
The blinder since you think you see;
Tracing the veining of the leaf,
You miss the glory of the tree.

"The feather of the painted wing
You view with microscopic eye,
Laying each nerve and tendon bare,
Yet never see the butterfly.

"You seek the reptiles in the slime
Of oozy cave and cavern dim,
And see not circling overhead
The chariots of the Cherubim" (CA Ladson).

Reading 3 - 2Co 8:1-5

"And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will" (2Co 8:1-5).

The "good work" of giving to others has its origin, Paul says, not in man's generosity but in God's –- and not just in God's generosity in material things, but especially in His grace in Christ. When we understand this, then we see the need to abound in every good work -- in acts of kindness, in visiting the sick, and in giving of our material blessings. There is a direct connection between God's grace and our acts of concern for others, between God's generosity and ours. And so there is a direct connection between the cross and the checkbook, between the empty tomb and the full collection bag. Those who have been bought with a price (2Co 6:20), the precious blood of Christ (1Pe 1:19), willingly give themselves to the Lord (2Co 8:5). Having made that commitment -- of the entire being to Christ and to his Father -– there is no question of the commitment of their material resources to the doing of good works. And so one "grace" surely begets another, and another.

Paul writes of the "grace of God" bestowed upon the Macedonians (probably the church, or ecclesia at Philippi) (2Co 8:1). Since this "grace" did not guarantee its recipients against either "severe trial" or "extreme poverty" (v 2), Paul must have meant the grace -- or gift -- of the gospel of salvation in Christ. So the Philippians gave generously to help others, even though they themselves were neither rich nor comfortable. They gave because they knew the joy of God's love in Christ as God's grace had abounded, or overflowed, toward others (2Co 8:2,7; 9:8).

Giving to the work of the Truth -- whether it be for gospel proclamation or charitable assistance -- is no mundane matter. It should not become just a habit or a tiresome necessity. Even though it should not be flaunted as a reason for pride (Mat 6:1-4), neither should its necessity be hidden away as an embarrassment (Mat 5:14-16; 2Co 8:3,4). It is nothing less than an opportunity, and a wonderful privilege, to contribute in a small way to the saving purpose of God. The printed appeal, which we have seen before -- the cold figures on paper, which only an accountant could love -- these may be the means by which other people may come to praise God for His grace, for present burdens eased and for futures made infinitely brighter. We need to "see" the circle of God's grace growing ever wider, and to "hear" more voices being raised to praise His grace. And we need to remember, with our wallets and purses and bank accounts, no less than with our Bibles and hymnbooks, the one who "though he was rich, yet for our sakes... became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich" (2Co 8:9). "Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift" (2Co 9:15)!

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