Deuteronomy 26:1-11; Luke 4:1-13
The first lesson is from the fifth book of the Bible called Deuteronomy, toward the end of the Torah in the Old Testament. The people of Israel, who came out of Egypt in the book of Exodus, were at Mount Sinai in the book of Leviticus, and in the wilderness in the book of Numbers. In the book of Deuteronomy, they are now on the other side of the Jordan. On the plains of Moab, Moses tells the people about the law of God one more time.
The portion of the book of Deuteronomy chosen for today begins with an introduction for the people who are about to cross River Jordan to enter the Promised Land. Before they entered the land of Canaan, the people of Israel lived in the wilderness. Many historians and sociologists say that ancient Israelites were nomads, moving from one place to another. They moved around alright, but I am not entirely convinced that they were nomads, for it took miracles for them to survive the desert.
Now finally they are about to enter the land. There they will live like Canaanites, working on the field. When one works on the field, something happens to the field. In the words of Paul the Apostle in Gal 6:7, “You reap whatever you sow.”
You sow seeds, and the harvest will come in due time, and when abundance comes, Moses insists that there is one thing the people of Israel must remember, to thank the Lord. Take some of the first of the fruit and go to “the place that LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for [God’s] name.” And say this to the priest: “Today I declare to the LORD your God that I have come into the land that the LORD swore to our ancestors to give us.” When you enter the Promised Land and receive abundant crops out of the earth, remember to thank the Lord. Make it your priority.
When we come to this Lenten season, we too clear our mind and simplify our lifestyle, so that we can get back the most important detail in life. As Jesus said in the gospel lesson, though our daily life is consumed by the pursuit of bread, we do not live by bread alone. Though our society is driven by the desire for fame, power, and glory, none of these is really the most important thing. Jesus said, “Worship God alone.” Often we dare to live as if God must come around to our way of thinking, whatever we do. Jesus says, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” God is not there to serve us. We are here to serve God.
Lent is a time to get back to the principle of priority. The first entry in the Oxford English Dictionary says what we expect: “Precedence in order or rank.” However; there is a curious notation, “such a use is now rare”.
The word today means “the right to precede others or to receive something before others.” Now it has become a matter of entitlement. Today, the word priority is no longer primarily concerned about what we must place before other matters. It is more about who will get ahead.
In a time when priority primarily means getting ahead of others instead of thinking of others, Lent places before us a challenge. It is time to recover the sense of priority.
Moses told the people with the offering from the harvest to say, “Today I declare to the LORD your God that I have come into the land that the LORD swore to our ancestors to give us.”
When we find ourselves in the bountiful blessings, we remember to thank God, for God is our priority. For what we have received in abundance, we will remember to thank God, for God is our first.