Day 129

How to Reap Far More Than You Sow

Wisdom Psalm 58:1-11
New Testament John 6:1-24
Old Testament Judges 9:1-57

Introduction

Walter Nishioka knew that the service was good at the Hawaiian hotel where he ate brunch on Wednesdays. But he found out just how good it was when he was offered something that was definitely not on the menu – one of the waiter’s own kidneys.

Mr Nishioka, aged seventy, was a local businessman. He was seriously ill with kidney disease and had been told by doctors that he needed a transplant urgently. He had almost given up hope of finding a matching donor until the waiter, Jose Rocasa, fifty-two, volunteered one of his own. Nishioka said, ‘I didn't have long to survive and the doctors said that it was unlikely that they could find a match in time. But with this good man here and a lot of help from above, now I am alive and well.’

In the twenty-two years that Mr Nishioka had frequented the hotel, Jose Rocasa had been his waiter, and recalled that he had always been kind and affable – and had tipped generously. ‘I just wanted to help him,’ he said. ‘For years, we have this friendship in which he comes to lunch and I do my best to make him very happy, and he is always good to me in return. So of course I say, “Don't worry – I can give you a kidney.”’

Mr Nishioka sowed generosity and he reaped generosity!

Today, we see that:

  • You reap what you sow
  • You reap later than you sow
  • You reap more than you sow
Wisdom

Psalm 58:1-11

For the director of music. To the tune of “Do Not Destroy.” Of David. A miktam.

1 Do you rulers indeed speak justly?
  Do you judge people with equity?
2 No, in your heart you devise injustice,
  and your hands mete out violence on the earth.

3 Even from birth the wicked go astray;
  from the womb they are wayward, spreading lies.
4 Their venom is like the venom of a snake,
  like that of a cobra that has stopped its ears,
5 that will not heed the tune of the charmer,
  however skillful the enchanter may be.

6 Break the teeth in their mouths, O God;
  Lord, tear out the fangs of those lions!
7 Let them vanish like water that flows away;
  when they draw the bow, let their arrows fall short.
8 May they be like a slug that melts away as it moves along,
  like a stillborn child that never sees the sun.

9 Before your pots can feel the heat of the thorns —
  whether they be green or dry—the wicked will be swept away.
10 The righteous will be glad when they are avenged,
  when they dip their feet in the blood of the wicked.
11 Then people will say,
  “Surely the righteous still are rewarded;
  surely there is a God who judges the earth.”

Commentary

Sow justice

Hundreds of thousands of people (mainly women and children) are trafficked for sex every year in this almost unbelievably evil trade. There are millions trapped in modern day slavery. Almost every day we read of atrocities carried out by ruthless tyrants and evil regimes.

The psalmist speaks out against this kind of injustice: ‘Is this any way to run a country? Is there an honest politician in the house?’ (v.1, MSG).

He cries out against rulers who do not speak justly (v.1), whose hearts devise injustice and whose hands ‘mete out violence’ (v.2). They are ‘cauldrons of evil’, doing ‘deals with demons’ (v.2, MSG) and they speak out lies (v.3). They ignore the cries of those who desire justice – both humans and God himself – for they are like ‘a cobra that has stopped its ears, that will not heed the tune of the charmer, however skilful the enchanter may be’ (vv.4b–5).

Leadership is key in any society. A leader who sows injustice will reap terrible consequences. They are sowing poison: ‘Their venom is like the venom of a snake’ (v.4). They create an unstable society and will eventually be ‘swept away’ (v.9). When this happens there will be great relief all round. They reap what they sow. Likewise, ‘the righteous… are rewarded’ (v.11a). When we see this principle at work we say, ‘there is a God’ (v.11).

Often, the reaping will happen a lot later than the sowing. Even if we have to wait until the final judgment, this psalm reminds us that justice will take place. God’s judgment is a good thing. It stems from his love. God values each one of us so much that he cares how we treat one another. Ultimately, injustice will not triumph. Justice will prevail and the righteous will ‘be glad’ (v.10).

Prayer

Lord, help me to do everything I can to sow justice in this world. Help me to fight against injustice wherever I see it.

New Testament

John 6:1-24

Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand

6Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), 2 and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. 3 Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. 4 The Jewish Passover Festival was near.

5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

7 Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”

8 Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, 9 “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”

10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

14 After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.

Jesus Walks on the Water

16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, 17 where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. 18 A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were frightened. 20 But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” 21 Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.

22 The next day the crowd that had stayed on the opposite shore of the lake realized that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not entered it with his disciples, but that they had gone away alone. 23 Then some boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus.

Commentary

Sow generously

There are, of course, so many lessons to be learned from events in the life of Jesus. One of these is the principle that those who sow generously will also reap generously.

Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming towards him. ‘He said to Philip, “Where can we buy bread to feed these people?” He said this to stretch Philip’s faith’ (vv.5–6a, MSG). Faith is like a muscle, it grows by stretching.

In fact, although Jesus asked the question ‘he already had in mind what he was going to do’ (v.6b). This shows that it is alright to ask questions to which you already know the answer. (In fact, when I was practising as a barrister I was taught only to ask questions to which I already knew the answer!)

‘Philip answered him, “Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” Another of his disciples… spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”’ (vv.7–8).

This boy’s act of generosity will never be forgotten. Jesus is able to do a lot with a little. The boy gave generously all that he had. It was not very much – it was ‘a drop in the bucket for a crowd like this’ (v.8, MSG).

However, it multiplied in the hands of Jesus. At least 5,000 people were fed and there was plenty left over. Jesus said, ‘Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted’ (v.12). If it needed a biblical basis, here is a biblical basis for not wasting food – it always seems a terrible waste if food is thrown away unnecessarily.

The world produces enough food to feed everyone. Yet, well over half a billion people are suffering from chronic undernourishment. At the same time, around a third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year gets lost or wasted. Individually and corporately we need to act urgently on Jesus’ instruction: ‘Let nothing be wasted’ (v.12).

What you give to Jesus, he multiplies. The apostle Paul wrote, ‘Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously’ (2 Corinthians 9:6).

Make it your aim to be the most generous person you know. Be generous with your money, your possessions, your time and your love. You cannot out-give God. The more you give the more you will harvest and the more you will enjoy the favour of God on your life.

Straight after this amazing miracle of the feeding of the 5,000, the disciples find themselves in a storm (John 6:18). Jesus calls his disciples to move from a faith based on a very visible miracle that fulfilled their physical need to a faith that is a total trust in him and his words.

Miraculously, Jesus walks on the water towards them. They were ‘scared senseless’ (v.19, MSG). Jesus says to them, ‘It’s me. It’s all right. Don’t be afraid’ (v.20, MSG). Following Jesus is not always easy. There are storms and other challenges of life, but Jesus’ presence with us is transformational. No wonder the crowd went ‘in search of Jesus’ (v.24).

Prayer

Thank you, Jesus, that what I give to you, you multiply. Lord, help me to be generous with everything – with money, possessions, hospitality and time.

Old Testament

Judges 9:1-57

Abimelek

9Abimelek son of Jerub-Baal went to his mother’s brothers in Shechem and said to them and to all his mother’s clan, 2 “Ask all the citizens of Shechem, ‘Which is better for you: to have all seventy of Jerub-Baal’s sons rule over you, or just one man?’ Remember, I am your flesh and blood. ”

3 When the brothers repeated all this to the citizens of Shechem, they were inclined to follow Abimelek, for they said, “He is related to us.” 4 They gave him seventy shekels of silver from the temple of Baal-Berith, and Abimelek used it to hire reckless scoundrels, who became his followers. 5 He went to his father’s home in Ophrah and on one stone murdered his seventy brothers, the sons of Jerub-Baal. But Jotham, the youngest son of Jerub-Baal, escaped by hiding. 6 Then all the citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo gathered beside the great tree at the pillar in Shechem to crown Abimelek king.

7 When Jotham was told about this, he climbed up on the top of Mount Gerizim and shouted to them, “Listen to me, citizens of Shechem, so that God may listen to you. 8 One day the trees went out to anoint a king for themselves. They said to the olive tree, ‘Be our king.’

9 “But the olive tree answered, ‘Should I give up my oil, by which both gods and humans are honored, to hold sway over the trees?’

10 “Next, the trees said to the fig tree, ‘Come and be our king.’

11 “But the fig tree replied, ‘Should I give up my fruit, so good and sweet, to hold sway over the trees?’

12 “Then the trees said to the vine, ‘Come and be our king.’

13 “But the vine answered, ‘Should I give up my wine, which cheers both gods and humans, to hold sway over the trees?’

14 “Finally all the trees said to the thornbush, ‘Come and be our king.’

15 “The thornbush said to the trees, ‘If you really want to anoint me king over you, come and take refuge in my shade; but if not, then let fire come out of the thornbush and consume the cedars of Lebanon!’

16 “Have you acted honorably and in good faith by making Abimelek king? Have you been fair to Jerub-Baal and his family? Have you treated him as he deserves? 17 Remember that my father fought for you and risked his life to rescue you from the hand of Midian. 18 But today you have revolted against my father’s family. You have murdered his seventy sons on a single stone and have made Abimelek, the son of his female slave, king over the citizens of Shechem because he is related to you. 19 So have you acted honorably and in good faith toward Jerub-Baal and his family today? If you have, may Abimelek be your joy, and may you be his, too! 20 But if you have not, let fire come out from Abimelek and consume you, the citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo, and let fire come out from you, the citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo, and consume Abimelek!”

21 Then Jotham fled, escaping to Beer, and he lived there because he was afraid of his brother Abimelek.

22 After Abimelek had governed Israel three years, 23 God stirred up animosity between Abimelek and the citizens of Shechem so that they acted treacherously against Abimelek. 24 God did this in order that the crime against Jerub-Baal’s seventy sons, the shedding of their blood, might be avenged on their brother Abimelek and on the citizens of Shechem, who had helped him murder his brothers. 25 In opposition to him these citizens of Shechem set men on the hilltops to ambush and rob everyone who passed by, and this was reported to Abimelek.

26 Now Gaal son of Ebed moved with his clan into Shechem, and its citizens put their confidence in him. 27 After they had gone out into the fields and gathered the grapes and trodden them, they held a festival in the temple of their god. While they were eating and drinking, they cursed Abimelek. 28 Then Gaal son of Ebed said, “Who is Abimelek, and why should we Shechemites be subject to him? Isn’t he Jerub-Baal’s son, and isn’t Zebul his deputy? Serve the family of Hamor, Shechem’s father! Why should we serve Abimelek? 29 If only this people were under my command! Then I would get rid of him. I would say to Abimelek, ‘Call out your whole army!’”

30 When Zebul the governor of the city heard what Gaal son of Ebed said, he was very angry. 31 Under cover he sent messengers to Abimelek, saying, “Gaal son of Ebed and his clan have come to Shechem and are stirring up the city against you. 32 Now then, during the night you and your men should come and lie in wait in the fields. 33 In the morning at sunrise, advance against the city. When Gaal and his men come out against you, seize the opportunity to attack them. ”

34 So Abimelek and all his troops set out by night and took up concealed positions near Shechem in four companies. 35 Now Gaal son of Ebed had gone out and was standing at the entrance of the city gate just as Abimelek and his troops came out from their hiding place.

36 When Gaal saw them, he said to Zebul, “Look, people are coming down from the tops of the mountains!”

Zebul replied, “You mistake the shadows of the mountains for men.”

37 But Gaal spoke up again: “Look, people are coming down from the central hill, and a company is coming from the direction of the diviners’ tree.”

38 Then Zebul said to him, “Where is your big talk now, you who said, ‘Who is Abimelek that we should be subject to him?’ Aren’t these the men you ridiculed? Go out and fight them!”

39 So Gaal led out the citizens of Shechem and fought Abimelek. 40 Abimelek chased him all the way to the entrance of the gate, and many were killed as they fled. 41 Then Abimelek stayed in Arumah, and Zebul drove Gaal and his clan out of Shechem.

42 The next day the people of Shechem went out to the fields, and this was reported to Abimelek. 43 So he took his men, divided them into three companies and set an ambush in the fields. When he saw the people coming out of the city, he rose to attack them. 44 Abimelek and the companies with him rushed forward to a position at the entrance of the city gate. Then two companies attacked those in the fields and struck them down. 45 All that day Abimelek pressed his attack against the city until he had captured it and killed its people. Then he destroyed the city and scattered salt over it.

46 On hearing this, the citizens in the tower of Shechem went into the stronghold of the temple of El-Berith. 47 When Abimelek heard that they had assembled there, 48 he and all his men went up Mount Zalmon. He took an ax and cut off some branches, which he lifted to his shoulders. He ordered the men with him, “Quick! Do what you have seen me do!” 49 So all the men cut branches and followed Abimelek. They piled them against the stronghold and set it on fire with the people still inside. So all the people in the tower of Shechem, about a thousand men and women, also died.

50 Next Abimelek went to Thebez and besieged it and captured it. 51 Inside the city, however, was a strong tower, to which all the men and women—all the people of the city—had fled. They had locked themselves in and climbed up on the tower roof. 52 Abimelek went to the tower and attacked it. But as he approached the entrance to the tower to set it on fire, 53 a woman dropped an upper millstone on his head and cracked his skull.

54 Hurriedly he called to his armor-bearer, “Draw your sword and kill me, so that they can’t say, ‘A woman killed him.’” So his servant ran him through, and he died. 55 When the Israelites saw that Abimelek was dead, they went home.

56 Thus God repaid the wickedness that Abimelek had done to his father by murdering his seventy brothers. 57 God also made the people of Shechem pay for all their wickedness. The curse of Jotham son of Jerub-Baal came on them.

Commentary

Sow loyalty

I have noticed, over the years, how those who sow loyalty to their leaders reap a high degree of loyalty when they themselves come into positions of leadership. On the other hand, those who refuse to come under another’s leadership and who stir up trouble, invariably reap the same attitude of disloyalty if they themselves come into a position of leadership.

In this passage we see the disastrous consequences of the disloyalty of Abimelech to his father and to his brothers. Abimelech was a passionate leader, a good communicator and a skilled tactician but he was also arrogant and self-promoting. He wanted no rivals. Abimelech sowed violence. ‘He hired some reckless, riffraff soldiers... and killed his half brothers... seventy men!’ (vv.4–5, MSG). The youngest managed to hide – the only survivor.

Again, we see this biblical principle at work: we reap what we sow. Abimelech sowed disloyalty and violence. He reaped disloyalty and violence. Initially, he was in cahoots with the citizens of Shechem (v.2 and following). But three years later bad feeling arose between Abimelech and the citizens of Shechem, who had acted treacherously against Abimelech.

Abimelech reaped what he had sown. Shechem’s leaders ‘worked treacherously behind his back. Violence boomeranged: the murderous violence that killed the seventy brothers, the sons of Jerub-Baal, was now loose among Abimelech and Shechem’s leaders, who had supported the violence’ (vv.23–24, MSG).

Abimelech showed no loyalty to the people of Shechem. He used them when he needed them (v.2). However, he had no hesitation in wiping them out (vv.42–49).

Ultimately, they all reaped what they had sown, and Abimelech himself was ingloriously killed soon after (vv.53–54). The writer sums it all up: ‘God avenged the evil Abimelech had done to his father, murdering his seventy brothers. And God brought down on the heads of the men of Shechem all the evil that they had done’ (vv.56–57, MSG).

Prayer

Lord, help us to be loyal to one another in the church, in the workplace, in our families and in our friendships. Help us as a community to sow truth and justice, generosity and loyalty.

Pippa adds

Judges 9:1–57

How sad to see the destruction of Gideon’s family (Jerub-Baal). I think he needed to have read the The Marriage Book and The Parenting Book by Nicky and Sila Lee, and to have concentrated a bit more on those areas of his life. Our families are so important and we need to invest time in them.

Verse of the Day

John 6:20

‘“It is I; don’t be afraid.”’ (Jesus).
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References

Walter Nishioka story from, Charles Laurence, ‘Need a kidney? It’s all part of the service’, The Telegraph, 06 Apr 2003. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/1426772/Need-a-kidney-Its-all-part-of-the-service-sir.html

World Health Organisation (2016) http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2017/world-hunger-report/en/

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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