"For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth." ~ Deuteronomy14:2

Monday, March 7, 2011

Raising The Standard: Contentment Is Rejoicing In The Way That God Made Me

"I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well." ~ Psalm 139.14
From The Pages Of Scripture:
Comparison breeds discontent. For this reason God warns us that we are not wise if we try to compare ourselves among ourselves (See 2 Corinthians 10:12). Instead, God wants us to thank Him for the way that He designed our unchangeable characteristics, such as appearance, family background, or basic mental abilities. If we fail to be thankful, we will develop attitudes of inferiority or superiority. In either case, we will become self centered and will not be able to freely give to others. Instead, we will develop wrong motivations to gain wealth and influence. This is the destructive pattern that developed in the life of a man who had a visible reason to compare himself with others. When a man rejects God's design for his life, he can easily develop an attitude of inferiority. This response often drives a man to concentrate on symbols of status such as wealth, position, and reputation. Who in Scripture learned that personal wealth and physical stature are not important to God? Zacchaeus the Tax Collector.
How Is Contentment With God's Design Illustrated In Scripture?
The bidding became furious as scores of wealthy businessmen shouted out their lucrative offers. Driven by the desire for power and status, a small men in the crowd stepped forward and ultimately submitted the highest bid. After signing the official documents, he triumphantly strutted from the auction hall and began to prepare for this long awaited opportunity to gain great wealth and power. With his newly acquired authority, the new official began to oppress his own countrymen. He soon became the most hated individual in the entire region. People frowned at the mention of his name and fled when they caught a glimpse of him walking down the narrow streets. As the head of the tax and customs bureau, he quickly accumulated an impressive fortune. However the material wealth he acquired failed to satisfy the longing in his soul. His Hebrew name, meaning "the just one" or "benevolent one", mocked him because of his dishonest way of life. Overwhelmed with guilt and bitterness, he desperately sought a solution. One day he did a curious thing for a man in his position. After he did it, he heard someone call out his name. He was surprised, for the voice was filled with understanding, love, and acceptance. The official's heart responded to the gentle words. Many in the crowd began to grumble when their teacher announced that He would be the guest of such a wicked man. The official then amazed his enemies with the statement, "Behold, Lord, I will give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything by false accusation, I will restore him fourfold." With that humble confession the crooked tax collector trusted the Lord Jesus and became content with God's design for his life. By realizing that his physical stature and material wealth were unimportant to God, he began to fulfill the true meaning of his name, Zacchaeus. [From Luke 19:1-10]
What Attracted Zacchaeus To Jesus?
The record simply states, "And he sought to see Jesus who he was ..." (Luke 19:3). He was curious like others in the crowd who pressed in to get a glimpse of the famous Galilean, but his enthusiastic and joyful response to the Lord indicates that more than mere curiosity was at work in the heart of Zacchaeus. He knew he was guilty of cheating his own countrymen. John the Baptist had clearly commanded the tax collectors, "...Exact no more than that which is appointed you" (Luke 3:13). Zacchaeus may have heard about the conversion of Jesus' disciple, Matthew, who had been a tax collector. If those in his own lucrative profession were willing to follow this man, perhaps he should pursue the matter further. At the same time, Jesus was looking for Zacchaeus, "For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10). The Father was revealing Himself to Zacchaeus who had a receptive heart (See Matthew 16:17). The Father in turn revealed Zacchaeus to His Son, and Zacchaeus was found and saved (See John 6:35-40).
Why Did The Crowd Disapprove Of Christ's Visit With Zacchaeus?
In addition to the expected animosity that the people felt toward Zacchaeus, there was also a religious reason why they were offended by Jesus' association with him. All tax collectors were considered ceremonially unclean because of their continual contact with Gentiles and their custom of working on the Sabbath. Jewish people were taught by the scribes not to eat with anyone who was ritually unclean. Eating with a tax collector was a violation of scribal law. That is why tax collectors, or publicans, were closely associated with sinners and harlots (See Matthew 9:10-11; 11:19; 21:31). The Lord's response to this criticism was, "...They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (Mark 2:17).
How Did Zacchaeus Demonstrate His Faith In Christ?
Zacchaeus demonstrated his new faith by repenting of his former sins and making restitution. Jewish custom for those desirous of a reputation for piety was to give one-fifth of one's annual income to the poor. In fact, the Pharisees went to great lengths to publicize their giving (See Matthew 6:1-4). Zacchaeus, however, used this figure to make restitution for everything he had obtained dishonestly (See Exodus 22:1). His spontaneous generosity reflected a drastically changed value system. His treasure, now in heaven, was being stored. "... where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal" (Matthew 6:20). The Lord did not ask Zacchaeus to give up all his wealth, as He had the rich young ruler, nor to leave his occupation and home, as He had Matthew. Zacchaeus was to continue his vocation as a new man. He was left to initiate local reform in a corrupt tax system and to be salt and light in Jericho.
Illustrated In The World Of Nature:
The turkey vulture is not particularly attractive, swift, or powerful. It is voiceless, except for a few angry grunts and hisses that it makes as it fights with others for a share of a meal. Its scientific name (Cathartes aura) comes from a Greek word meaning "cleanser." It is a bird that greatly benefits man in spite of its appearance and smell.
How Is The Importance Of Contentment With God's Design Illustrated In The World Of Nature?
Leaning against the dried out slats of an old chuck wagon, two trail hands paused for a cool drink of water. As they climbed back into their saddles, they noticed some strange movements in the distance. Just beyond a giant cactus, they caught sight of two turkey vultures fighting over the remains of a jackrabbit. "Aren't they the ugliest birds you ever did see" laughed one of the cowboys. "Yep," answered the old drover, "look at that puny bald head on that big clumsy body." One of the cowboys got off his horse and with a few well aimed rocks easily scared off the scavengers. That evening, the tired cowboys huddled around the campfire to escape the chill of the cool desert night. One by one they curled up in their bedrolls and dozed off to sleep. That night, one of the longhorns broke away from the main herd. Shaken with fever and convulsions, it finally collapsed onto a patch of buffalo grass. Two days later, as the noonday sun began to blister the arid landscape, circling turkey vultures descended and began to devour the decaying carcass. Preoccupied with their meal, the busy vultures failed to sense the presence of another scavenger. Without warning, a hungry coyote lunged at the birds from a nearby ridge. The vultures escaped, leaving only bare bones for the disappointed coyote. Aroused by the commotion, the two trail hands approached the skeleton. The coyote swiftly fled into the desert. The cowboys dismounted and examined the scene. As they stood over the pile of bones they did not realize that the ugly birds that they had mocked and driven away were now responsible for helping to protect them from certain death. By so completely consuming the carcass of the steer, they had removed the threat of the highly contagious disease anthrax from the cowboys and the herd. As the turkey vultures fulfilled God's design for feeding on death, others were given protection in life.
The Characteristics Of The Vulture In Scripture:
Most people are repulsed by the physical appearance and the basic function of the vulture. Despite its reputation, the vulture has been specifically designed and equipped to fulfill God's purposes.
"... There shall the vultures also be gathered, every one with her mate" ~ Isaiah 34:15
The Hebrew word for vulture is 'ayah (ah-yaw) which means "the screamer". Its root meaning may stem from 'ie (ee) and 'owy (o-ee) which mean "one crying woe". The vulture thrives on death, preventing the spread of disease by feeding on the carcasses of the dead. Scripture makes a special mention of the vulture's keen eyesight, equipping the bird with an alertness for death.
"There is a path which no fowl knoweth, and which the vulture's eye hath not seen" ~ Job 28:7
The vulture is also a symbol of God's judgment. The wages of sin is death. When a dead body of a person becomes a meal for the vulture, it means that a proper burial has not been provided due to disaster, vengeance, or judgment. When David stood against Goliath, he declared that God would give the giant's body over to the fowls of the air to punish his defiance (See Samuel 17:46). The vulture is specifically identified as unclean meat.
"But these are they of which ye shall not eat ... the glede and the kite, and the vulture after his kind" ~ Deuteronomy 14:12-13

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