Hear my cry, O God;
listen to my prayer.
From the end of the earth I call to you,
when my heart is faint.
The new generation begins with a new census. The first census had been in preparation for battle, for fulfillment of the promise of nationhood. This census, although also for preparation for war, has inheritance as its major theme. Distribution of land to each clan is assigned according by number of people. Fairness is assured by assigning land by lot. Land is to be kept within the clan that first inherits it. Note that only male children can inherit land.
They know the law, and they challenge it, or at least, a rigid interpretation of it. They ask Moses to amend the law. God agrees that the women--in this circumstance--can inherit. Laws can be interpreted as situations change.
Will the new generation be any different from the earlier one?
Every church has a genealogy. The history of every congregation includes people, family, and clergy who have shaped its character. New leaders emerge, but their work is affected by the ideals and the shortcomings of their predecessors.
They were still living in the land promised to them at the time of Abraham, a place abandoned during a time of need, then, after a long exodus, a place to which they had returned. A place that they had once more lost and to where they had been able to return. They are there in that place, but they are ruled by the Romans, a people who held no allegiance to the Lord of the Jews.
Luke makes this specific. He names the emperor, the governor, and the Jewish accomodators and the priests.
God has not forgotten them nor abandoned them.
The word of God comes to a prophet in the wilderness.
Who's in charge of your life? Whose presence in your life governs the decisions you make?
Crowds had gone to wilderness to be baptized by John. They were expecting a messiah and many thought John was the one. John cleared up that misconception for them. It occurs to me that we moderns still may be confused about the source of our salvation--financial security, a fence with a locked gate, a more youthful visage, etc.).
John told them that the Messiah was going to make judgments.
It might be instructive for us to look at the verses just before this reading. The crowds fearful of the coming judgment have asked John what they should do to escape the wrath to come. John tells them to share, to be fair, to be honest, and not to be greedy.
As I read verse 17 and picture the Messiah coming with a winnowing fork, I fear the possibility of being one of the chaff that gets blown into the unquenchable fire. What I hope John means is that the Messiah can blow away those parts of me that are not generous or fair so that what is left is a person whose baptism has made a difference to her and to the world she lives in.
Prayer for Today: Lord, help us to be the generation that will carry out your intentions. Cleanse us from all those actions that do not further your kingdom. Amen.