I’ve been thinking a lot about the greatness of God lately, something you may have gathered from these thoughts for the day. And today is no different because I want us to think about the parable of the great banquet in Luke 14. This is one of those parables that cuts right to the heart of the difficulty we all have with seeing the invisible. If Jesus was here right now, and invited us into the Kingdom, how many of us would make excuses? Is a field (v.18), yoke of oxen (v.19) or even your spouse (v.20) more important than the Kingdom? None of us would ever envision saying to Christ, “Sorry, I don’t want to enter the Kingdom, because I have things to take care of in this temporal world which is going to come to an end, but I’d rather stick with that than be with you for eternity”. But that’s effectively what those who make excuses do say in the parable.
Accepting Christ’s invitation is really about our ability to see the invisible and envision the prospect of eternity with our Lord and his Father. That’s not easy. But perhaps present circumstances can get us into the right frame of mind. We’re so used to what we can see with our eyes, touch with our hands, the normality of life. Well, right now, that normality has been turned upside down. In a matter of a few weeks’ society has halted and it all feels very surreal. Perhaps we can use that feeling to convince ourselves that even greater changes are going to come when our Lord returns. Jesus is going to return, the judgment is going to happen, God’s Kingdom is going to be set up on earth and we aregoing to inherit eternal life and put on immortality. Right now, whatever the fields, yoke of oxen and wives represent in the parable have been put on hold. The economy has ground to a halt. Now is the time to focus on eternity instead of making excuses that we need to get back to the temporal things of this world. At the beginning of your life it’s especially easy to get into the mindset of “I want to get through college first and get married and have a family before the Kingdom!” Everything we know and value in this life has such a pull, but we must seek first the things of God and tell ourselves that anything this life has to offer is nothing in comparison with the Kingdom of God.
So, what has all of that got to do with the greatness of God? The clue is in the similar parable Jesus told in Matthew 22. There we are told “they paid no attention” (v.5) but “went off, one to his farm, another to his business”. The phrase “paid no attention” means to neglect. We’ve been called to the Kingdom and to neglect that call is the most foolish thing we could do. The same word is used in Hebrews 2 where the apostle asks the question, “how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation” (v.3). Just before that it says, “therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it” (v.1). The chapter break is unfortunate because at the end of chapter 1 of Hebrews we’re reminded of God’s work in our lives through the angels who are “ministering spirits sent out for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation” (v.14). Angels are those “sent out” and we can see their equivalent in the servants sent out in the parables in Luke and Matthew. The question is, are we listening to the message they bring, responding to the invitation to the Kingdom of God?
All these things bring out the spirit of Malachi’s message to the people of his day. When the servants in parables were sent out to find other people who did wants to embrace the invitation, they were sent to the “highways and hedges” (Luke 14:23), and the idea behind those locations is the border of the land. They were often marked by highways and hedges and so the servants were sent outside of Israel. Malachi means “my messenger” and the question in the book is whether we’re listening to the message. But just like in the parables the people were half-hearted and neglected their calling. They were going about their religious duties but bringing blemished offerings. Four times in chapter 1 Malachi reminds the people of the greatness of God, but each time in reference to him being great “beyond the border of Israel!” (Mal. 1:5). Then in verses 11 (twice) and 14 there’s further reminder of his greatness but “among the nations”. It’s as if God is saying to the people “if you can’t appreciate me, I will find others who do”.
God is also perfectly capable of going beyond the borders of Christadelphia to find people who appreciate the invitation to the Kingdom of God. Let’s not make excuses and say we’re too busy doing this or that in this world which is coming to an end. Instead let’s embrace the greatness of God and the greatness of the hope he has offered to us and say “yes” to his invitation, making sure we are ready.
Simi Hills, CA