Do you remember what you have gone through? Do you remember how it has shaped you? Do you remember what you have learned? Do you remember the power of forgiveness? Do you remember the power of love? Do you remember the promises of God? Do you remember the provision of God? Do you remember the wisdom of God? Do you remember the benefits of being a willing vessel? Do you remember the benefits of obedience? Do you remember the importance of presence? Do you remember the blessings so great that you can’t contain them? Do you remember the moments? Do you remember the journey? Do you remember the difference it made in helping you become who you are today? Have you shared it? Have you told your story so that others can learn from it? Don’t forget!
Today’s reading gets us started in Deuteronomy.
‘“Be careful to obey all the commands I am giving you today. Then you will live and multiply, and you will enter and occupy the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors. Remember how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands. Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord . For all these forty years your clothes didn’t wear out, and your feet didn’t blister or swell. Think about it: Just as a parent disciplines a child, the Lord your God disciplines you for your own good. “So obey the commands of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and fearing him. For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land of flowing streams and pools of water, with fountains and springs that gush out in the valleys and hills. It is a land of wheat and barley; of grapevines, fig trees, and pomegranates; of olive oil and honey. It is a land where food is plentiful and nothing is lacking. It is a land where iron is as common as stone, and copper is abundant in the hills. When you have eaten your fill, be sure to praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. “But that is the time to be careful! Beware that in your plenty you do not forget the Lord your God and disobey his commands, regulations, and decrees that I am giving you today. For when you have become full and prosperous and have built fine homes to live in, and when your flocks and herds have become very large and your silver and gold have multiplied along with everything else, be careful! Do not become proud at that time and forget the Lord your God, who rescued you from slavery in the land of Egypt. Do not forget that he led you through the great and terrifying wilderness with its poisonous snakes and scorpions, where it was so hot and dry. He gave you water from the rock! He fed you with manna in the wilderness, a food unknown to your ancestors. He did this to humble you and test you for your own good. He did all this so you would never say to yourself, ‘I have achieved this wealth with my own strength and energy.’ Remember the Lord your God. He is the one who gives you power to be successful, in order to fulfill the covenant he confirmed to your ancestors with an oath. “But I assure you of this: If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods, worshiping and bowing down to them, you will certainly be destroyed. Just as the Lord has destroyed other nations in your path, you also will be destroyed if you refuse to obey the Lord your God.’—Deuteronomy 8
Today’s reading then continues into Isaiah.
‘The Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, will take away from Jerusalem and Judah everything they depend on: every bit of bread and every drop of water, all their heroes and soldiers, judges and prophets, fortune-tellers and elders, army officers and high officials, advisers, skilled sorcerers, and astrologers. I will make boys their leaders, and toddlers their rulers. People will oppress each other— man against man, neighbor against neighbor. Young people will insult their elders, and vulgar people will sneer at the honorable. In those days a man will say to his brother, “Since you have a coat, you be our leader! Take charge of this heap of ruins!” But he will reply, “No! I can’t help. I don’t have any extra food or clothes. Don’t put me in charge!” For Jerusalem will stumble, and Judah will fall, because they speak out against the Lord and refuse to obey him. They provoke him to his face. The very look on their faces gives them away. They display their sin like the people of Sodom and don’t even try to hide it. They are doomed! They have brought destruction upon themselves. Tell the godly that all will be well for them. They will enjoy the rich reward they have earned! But the wicked are doomed, for they will get exactly what they deserve. Childish leaders oppress my people, and women rule over them. O my people, your leaders mislead you; they send you down the wrong road. The Lord takes his place in court and presents his case against his people. The Lord comes forward to pronounce judgment on the elders and rulers of his people: “You have ruined Israel, my vineyard. Your houses are filled with things stolen from the poor. How dare you crush my people, grinding the faces of the poor into the dust?” demands the Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
The Lord says, “Beautiful Zion is haughty: craning her elegant neck, flirting with her eyes, walking with dainty steps, tinkling her ankle bracelets. So the Lord will send scabs on her head; the Lord will make beautiful Zion bald.” On that day of judgment the Lord will strip away everything that makes her beautiful: ornaments, headbands, crescent necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and veils; scarves, ankle bracelets, sashes, perfumes, and charms; rings, jewels, mirrors, fine linen garments, head ornaments, and shawls. Instead of smelling of sweet perfume, she will stink. She will wear a rope for a sash, and her elegant hair will fall out. She will wear rough burlap instead of rich robes. Shame will replace her beauty. The men of the city will be killed with the sword, and her warriors will die in battle. The gates of Zion will weep and mourn. The city will be like a ravaged woman, huddled on the ground.’—Isaiah 3
‘In that day so few men will be left that seven women will fight for each man, saying, “Let us all marry you! We will provide our own food and clothing. Only let us take your name so we won’t be mocked as old maids.”
But in that day, the branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious; the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of all who survive in Israel. All who remain in Zion will be a holy people— those who survive the destruction of Jerusalem and are recorded among the living. The Lord will wash the filth from beautiful Zion and cleanse Jerusalem of its bloodstains with the hot breath of fiery judgment. Then the Lord will provide shade for Mount Zion and all who assemble there. He will provide a canopy of cloud during the day and smoke and flaming fire at night, covering the glorious land. It will be a shelter from daytime heat and a hiding place from storms and rain.’—Isaiah 4
Today’s reading then brings us into the New Testament starting in Matthew
‘Then Jesus left Galilee and went north to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Gentile woman who lived there came to him, pleading, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! For my daughter is possessed by a demon that torments her severely.” But Jesus gave her no reply, not even a word. Then his disciples urged him to send her away. “Tell her to go away,” they said. “She is bothering us with all her begging.” Then Jesus said to the woman, “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel.” But she came and worshiped him, pleading again, “Lord, help me!” Jesus responded, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.” She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table.” “Dear woman,” Jesus said to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.” And her daughter was instantly healed.
Jesus returned to the Sea of Galilee and climbed a hill and sat down. A vast crowd brought to him people who were lame, blind, crippled, those who couldn’t speak, and many others. They laid them before Jesus, and he healed them all. The crowd was amazed! Those who hadn’t been able to speak were talking, the crippled were made well, the lame were walking, and the blind could see again! And they praised the God of Israel.
Then Jesus called his disciples and told them, “I feel sorry for these people. They have been here with me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat. I don’t want to send them away hungry, or they will faint along the way.” The disciples replied, “Where would we get enough food here in the wilderness for such a huge crowd?” Jesus asked, “How much bread do you have?” They replied, “Seven loaves, and a few small fish.” So Jesus told all the people to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, thanked God for them, and broke them into pieces. He gave them to the disciples, who distributed the food to the crowd. They all ate as much as they wanted. Afterward, the disciples picked up seven large baskets of leftover food. There were 4,000 men who were fed that day, in addition to all the women and children. Then Jesus sent the people home, and he got into a boat and crossed over to the region of Magadan.’—Matthew 15:21-39
and then into Romans
‘Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law. For the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.” These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law. This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living. Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.’—Romans 13:8-14
As we remember and reflect, let’s take hold of what God has done in and through us. Let’s remember the power of faith and obedience to our journey and how we got to this point. Let’s remember to share these stories with our family and friends as they testify to the greatness of God and His love through Jesus Christ into our lives.
Today’s reading concludes with a psalm.
‘Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted. Unless the Lord protects a city, guarding it with sentries will do no good. It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones. Children are a gift from the Lord ; they are a reward from him. Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior’s hands. How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them! He will not be put to shame when he confronts his accusers at the city gates.’—Psalms 127