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(Part 49)


March 12, 2020

Today’s readings:
Jeremiah 17:5-10
Psalm 1:1-6
Luke 16:19-31

We read today about the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. Lazarus was poor, sick and deprived, while the rich man lived in luxury. Lazarus died and went to heaven, while the rich man died and went to hell. The rich man was concerned about his brothers and wanted Abraham to send Lazarus to warn them. Abraham replied, “They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.” (Lk 16:29).

Moses and the prophets spoke God’s words, on behalf of God. These were instructions by which one would build his house on rock. Those who would not listen to and act on God’s words will not only find their house collapsing and ruined, but would themselves end up like the rich man, who went to “the netherworld, where he was in torment” (Lk 16:23a).

The readings today look to another analogy by which one values God’s words, by which “the law of the Lord is his joy; and on his law he meditates day and night.” (Ps 1:2). It is not a house buffeted by waters, but “a tree planted beside the waters” (Jer 17:8a). The waters do not bring the house down, but bring life to the tree. So like the wise man who built his house on rock, this man “is like a tree planted near streams of water, that yields its fruit in season; its leaves never wither; whatever he does prospers.” (Ps 1:3).

For the one who did not act on God’s words, the winds had blown and buffeted his house, which collapsed. So too are the wicked, who “are like chaff driven by the wind.” (Ps 1:4). The fool who built his house on sand saw the collapse and ruin of his house. Likewise, “the way of the wicked leads to ruin.” (Ps 1:6b). “In the end they are only fools.” (Jer 17:11c).

The rich man had argued that what would make his brothers repent would be if someone from the dead goes to them. Abraham said, “If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.” (Lk 16:31). But someone did rise from the dead. He is Jesus. And he is the Rock on which we need to be built. We obey him completely as we trust him completely. “Blessed are those who trust in the Lord; the Lord will be their trust.” (Jer 17:7).

The rich man had gone to the netherworld. He could not bridge the chasm that separated him from Abraham and Lazarus. “Therefore the wicked will not arise at the judgment, nor will sinners in the assembly of the just.” (Ps 1:5). He had realized his mistake, but it was too late. How can we be blessed rather than cursed?

Notice the contrast. “Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings, who makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord.” (Jer 17:5). On the other hand, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in company with scoffers.” (Ps 1:1). We are not to listen to the world, the flesh and the devil, but only to the words of God. We are not to live immoral lives, but only according to the ways of God. We are not to be influenced by those who have no faith, but are to be set apart for God. Indeed, “the Lord knows the way of the just” (Ps 1:6a).

God gives us His words, His law, His way of life. It is up to us to listen to and act on them, or not. But we must know that our choice will have consequences­being wise or a fool, a house standing or collapsing, a tree planted beside the waters or “a barren bush in the wasteland” (Jer 17:6a), prosperity or ruin, life or death, heaven or hell. In the end, we will be judged. “I, the Lord, explore the mind and test the heart, giving to all according to their ways, according to the fruit of their deeds.” (Jer 17:10).

May your house stand, and may you be carried to the bosom of Abraham.

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