March 31

Deuteronomy 9:6 (NIV) 6Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the LORD your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people.

Need some humble pie? Try this verse! We get things backward today, thinking we have been so good that God has to bless us. Wrong! All our righteousness is like filthy rags. If we were not blessed we would be whining complaining, and possibly even forsaking God. He only gives us what we can bear, and for some of us that is not very much. They are mature souls, those that have a heart to learn from God, that endure many trials. The more willing you are to learn, the more difficulty comes your way to teach you. Along with the difficulty comes great grace.

Never get to thinking the blessings are because of your goodness. If there is any goodness in your life, it is from the working of the Holy Spirit, the goodness of God. Now, if you should yield to His Spirit, and learn and grow so that you demonstrate the fruits of the Spirit, does God owe you blessings? No way! That is merely your duty, your responsibility as a creature. God owes you nothing. If He chooses to bless you it is either because you need a break before more instruction comes your way, or you are just too wimpy to take anything else.

Stiff-necked, what an expression! When God calls, our heads do not turn. We go our own way ignoring Him. This is the nature of fallen man.

Consider: Thank God for every blessing and realize it comes from His generous Spirit. Thank Him for the trials too, because they come from the same Spirit.

March 31

Matthew 26:27-29 (NIV) 27Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. 28This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom."

At the Last Supper, Jesus did something out of the norm for the traditional Seder of the day. The traditional meal had four cups of wine. Each has a name and spiritual significance. The cup that Jesus was presenting in our text above was the Cup of Redemption. In the past, it had reminded the people of the blood of the lambs that marked the doorposts in Egypt. The destroying angel saw the marked doors and passed over them. Instead of the regular phrases that were repeated here, He told them the cup was about His blood! Some manuscripts include the word 'new' before 'covenant'. In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul quoted it with the words 'new covenant'. What did Jesus mean?

The old covenant was the covenant made on Mount Sinai. It was made with the blood of animals and dependent on the rules being kept. The prophets told of a day when God would make a new covenant. God promised to make one that was not written on stone tablets but written on the transformed heart of the recipient. That day had come.

There is another nuance here that we would only catch if we were familiar with traditions of the day. The wording is very much like a proposal for marriage. A groom would present a cup of wine to a prospective bride and propose a covenant of relationship with her. If she took it and drank it all, it meant she received his life and would give him her life as well.

One of the dearest expressions of all is the last verse. Wine was a symbol of joy and celebration. Jesus said He would not drink it again until He drank it anew with us in the Father's kingdom. We long to be with Him, but this expression tells us how He longs to be with us. That should reveal to our hearts His great love for us.

Remember: The next time you have communion, remember the meaning behind these rich symbols and words.