Deuteronomy 21-22, Ecclesiastes 2:1-17, Luke 21
In these two chapters, more instructions are given about living a life that is worthy of God. Most of these instructions are related to marriage, divorce, and sexual relationships. Most of the offenses listed in these chapters have a sentence of death by stoning. In each of the instances where a rule has been given, followed by the sentence of stoning, the paragraph ends with the words “You must purge the evil from among you.”
The dictionary defines purge as “rid (someone) of an unwanted feeling, memory, or condition.” God instructs us to rid evil from our memory. We live in a fallen world, and there is evil lurking around the corner. But we can purge our hearts of evil thoughts by turning to God. I am reminded of our current Max Lucado book study, that in every situation, turn to God in prayer. If we are to purge evil from our hearts, we need to go to God in prayer. Give thanks to God for his sovereignty and his grace, which can wash away our sins.
We live in a world where materialism is rampant. I think of the old Queen song “I Want It All,” in which Freddy Mercury and crew sing “I want it all, and I want it now.” There are many people who are never completely content. Not too long after they have that shiny new object of happiness, it’s luster slowly fades and it is no longer good enough. A common place where I see this all the time is with cell phones. Apple comes out with their latest smartphone version, only to come out with an even newer version within a year. All of a sudden, last year’s model seems so obsolete; so outdated.
The writer of Ecclesiastes tried out living like this. Anything that he wanted, he got. Huge chunk of property, complete with gardens and livestock…CHECK! Huge house…CHECK! Servants…CHECK! You get the idea. And despite having seemingly all that he could ever possibly want, it still wasn’t enough. There was always a new hole to fill.
The same happens with people in modern times. Just look at the modern celebrity life. Read any tabloid magazine, and you will read of stars who have all of this stuff, and yet suffer from depression. You will find those who, despite all of their wealth, squander it all away and end up in bankruptcy court. Trying to fill the hole with “stuff” isn’t the answer. We will never be able to keep up with the Joneses (whoever they are). The hole that exists in our hearts is waiting to be filled by God.
Much of this passage involves Jesus telling what all will happen before the end of times. Something that comes up more than once in this passage, again, is the word anxiety. Jesus says that all of these things that will happen before his return, but not to worry. But, those of us who have faith and believe that God will deliver us from the evil things yet to come, have nothing to fear. God has our back!
In each of these passages, we see a theme that is consistent with our lenten study of anxiousness. This is a characteristic that I have struggled with throughout my life, and even more so as an adult. But, when I get into a funk of seemingly overwhelming anxiety, I come back to God, through prayer and study. And when I recenter myself in Him, my anxiety dissipates. Lust. Greed. Envy. Pride. All of these things can well up feelings of anxiety. We will never fill the hole with these things. But, through prayer and petition, we can bring these to God and request that they be taken away from us, and be replaced with God’s love, grace, and mercy.