Monday, March 25, 2013

A Question of Worthiness

Today is the first day of week 12, reading the Bible through in a year.  Our scriptures this week are:

  • Deuteronomy 6-9; Luke 7
  • Deut 10-14; Luke 8; Psalm 5
  • Deut 15-18; Luke 9; Psalm 115
  • Deut 19-22; Luke 10; Psalm 6
  • Deut 23-26; Luke 11
In the Luke passage, the Jewish elders approach Jesus, asking Him to heal the servant of a Roman centurion.  This is very unexpected, as good Jews didn't associate with gentiles--especially not their Roman occupiers.  But they say that this centurion is a special case.  He is worthy, they say, for Jesus to heal his servant, for he loves the Jewish nation and he personally funded the building of their synagogue. 

And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” 10 And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant well.

Did Jesus heal the servant because the centurion was worthy of it?  Because his contributions had purchased for him the right to divine intervention?  No--in fact, the centurion said himself that he wasn't worthy even for Jesus to enter his home.  So, if it wasn't because the centurion was worthy, why did Jesus do it?

Jesus responded to his faith.  And that's it.  Not because the man did anything to deserve it--but because he believed.

In Deuteronomy 9, God addresses the issue of worthiness:

“Hear, O Israel: you are to cross over the Jordan today, to go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than you, cities great and fortified up to heaven, a people great and tall, the sons of the Anakim, whom you know, and of whom you have heard it said, ‘Who can stand before the sons of Anak?’ Know therefore today that he who goes over before you as a consuming fire is the Lord your God. He will destroy them and subdue them before you. So you shall drive them out and make them perish quickly, as the Lord has promised you. “Do not say in your heart, after the Lord your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the Lord has brought me in to possess this land,’ whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is driving them out before you. Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the Lord your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.
“Know, therefore, that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people.

Again, God didn't act on Israel's behalf because they were better than the nations around them.  They were God's agent of wrath on nations that God needed to bring judgment upon.  Later, of course, God would use other nations to judge wayward Israel, proving that God doesn't show favoritism.  

If not because they were better or more worthy or more upright or righteous, then why did God act on Israel's behalf?  It was so that God could confirm the promise He made to Abraham.  And Abraham didn't receive God's promise because he deserved it more than others.  He simply received it out of faith.

Does God show favoritism?  Acts 10:34-35 says:  "34 So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him."  God neither blessed the Israelites nor the Roman centurion because they were worthy or deserved it.  God blessed them because they were willing to receive His gift of grace.  They received God's grace through faith--and that's how we're saved, as well.

Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast."  Praise God for His gift of grace!  May He increase our faith to receive it!


*All scriptures are taken from the ESV. 

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