Not to Offend

Obol in the Mouth of the Fish

The Miracle of the Obol in the Mouth of the Fish (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Matthew 17:24–27 (ESV)

24 When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?” 25 He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” 26 And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. 27 However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

We are not told the identity of the tax collectors who approached Peter. Some argue that they were likely collecting a Roman civil tax. However, it seems more likely, and is the traditional view, that the collectors were Jewish and that they were visiting the residents of Capernaum (like Peter and Jesus) to collect a temple tax that would have been sent to Jerusalem in time for Passover. When asked if Jesus would pay the tax, Peter affirmed that he would. We then read Jesus’ words to Peter about the tax.

Jesus asked Peter if kings taxed their own sons. Of course they do not. They tax those outside of their own families. The royal family would not pay taxes to the king. Jesus then replies, “Then the sons are free.” The point is that the true King and his family do not pay taxes. Of course, Jesus and his disciples are in view here. Jesus is the true King and the disciples are his children. However, Jesus explained to Peter that they would pay the tax, not out of obligation, but in order not to offend.

As followers of Christ, the disciples were free from the authority of the Jewish religious leaders and the religious system of the temple. With Jesus, the temple system was finding its fulfillment (cf. Matthew 12:5-6, 41-42; Mark 7:19). Yet, it was important not to offend in order to show love and make it possible to speak the truth of the gospel.

As Christ’s followers in the world today, we also must be willing to give up our rights for the benefit of others (1 Corinthians 8-9). We do this so that we can gain every opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus Christ and so that we can show the same kind of love towards others that the Lord has shown to us. May God help us to put his plans before our own and to put others before ourselves.

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What Is Man?

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Reading the Word

Psalm 144:1–8 (ESV)

1 Blessed be the LORD, my rock,
who trains my hands for war,
and my fingers for battle;
2 he is my steadfast love and my fortress,
my stronghold and my deliverer,
my shield and he in whom I take refuge,
who subdues peoples under me.

3 O LORD, what is man that you regard him,
or the son of man that you think of him?
4 Man is like a breath;
his days are like a passing shadow.

5 Bow your heavens, O LORD, and come down!
Touch the mountains so that they smoke!
6 Flash forth the lightning and scatter them;
send out your arrows and rout them!
7 Stretch out your hand from on high;
rescue me and deliver me from the many waters,
from the hand of foreigners,
8 whose mouths speak lies
and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood.

Understanding and Applying the Word

In these verses, David gives credit to God for his strength and military successes. It is only because of God that David has accomplished all that he has. In verses 5-8, David once again calls on God to come to his assistance.

In verses 3-4, we find David asking an important question: “O Lord, what is man that you regard him, or the son of man that you think of him?” In other words, why does God care about mankind? In the vast scheme of all of creation, why does God take interest in the affairs of humanity. We are so small and seemingly insignificant!

Have you ever wondered about this? Why does God care so much about us? Christmas is a wonderful time to think about this. After all, this is the season when we remember and celebrate the incarnation. God came into the world as man. This is amazing in and of itself, but when we also consider that Jesus gave up his life for the salvation of mankind, it is truly a cause for wonder and worship. God entered the world and died to save mankind from our sin. What is man, O Lord, that you regard him? As the great hymn asks:

What wondrous love is this,
O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this
that caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse
for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul.

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The Lord Who Is on Our Side

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Reading the Word

Psalm 124:1–8 (ESV)

1 If it had not been the Lord who was on our side— let Israel now say— 2 if it had not been the Lord who was on our side when people rose up against us, 3 then they would have swallowed us up alive, when their anger was kindled against us; 4 then the flood would have swept us away, the torrent would have gone over us; 5 then over us would have gone the raging waters. 6 Blessed be the Lord, who has not given us as prey to their teeth! 7 We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we have escaped! 8 Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

Understanding and Applying the Word

This psalm observes that if the Lord had not been on the side of Israel, they would have been defeated. The enemy would have triumphed over the people and destroyed them. But God was on the side of Israel and the people escaped.

Romans 8:31 states, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” The Apostle Paul’s point in this verse is that if the sovereign God stands on our side, we are assured victory. Paul goes on to say that this is the same God who sent his Son to die for us. And if God was willing to pay such a huge price to save us, he is not going to just give us up. When we trust in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we are brought into the family of God. We are his and he stands on our side. Let us go into the world with confidence knowing that our salvation is secure and we have nothing to fear.

**Shaped by the Word is a daily Bible reading devotional. Please use the links at the bottom to subscribe to this page. You can also share this post with your friends through social media using the buttons below. Thanks for reading!

Precious in the Sight of the Lord

Rustic Cross Quote

Reading the Word

Psalm 116:12–19 (ESV)

12 What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me? 13 I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord, 14 I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people. 15 Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. 16 O Lord, I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant. You have loosed my bonds. 17 I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord. 18 I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people, 19 in the courts of the house of the Lord, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the Lord!

Understanding and Applying the Word

The people of God are important to him. God is a God of love and loyalty. And the death of God’s saints is “precious” to him. It is of great consequence. He cares about it deeply. This is why God rescues his people in times of trouble. It is not because we have something to offer God for “all his benefits” to us (v. 1). Therefore, our only response is to lift the cup of salvation and cal on the name of the Lord. We are left to worship and praise our Savior.

Scripture tells us in its most famous verse that “God so loved the word, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” It is because of God’s love that Jesus Christ came into the world and died for sinners. It was not because we could offer anything to God to entice him. We are precious to God, who calls us his children and tells us to call him “Father.” Let us respond to such great love with devotion and praise to our Lord.

**Shaped by the Word is a daily Bible reading devotional. Please use the links at the bottom to subscribe to this page. You can also share this post with your friends through social media using the buttons below. Thanks for reading!

He Stood in the Breach

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Reading the Word

Psalm 106:19–23 (ESV)

19 They made a calf in Horeb and worshiped a metal image. 20 They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass. 21 They forgot God, their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt, 22 wondrous works in the land of Ham, and awesome deeds by the Red Sea. 23 Therefore he said he would destroy them— had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him, to turn away his wrath from destroying them.

Understanding and Applying the Word

These verse recall when the Israelites fashioned an idol while Moses met with God at Mount Sinai. God’s anger was turned toward the people for their idolatry, but Moses “stood in the breach” on behalf of the people. The imagery is of a soldier who stands in the breach of a wall willing to sacrifice himself to stop a threat by sacrificing himself to the attacker. As a result of Moses’ intercession for the people, God turned away from his anger and the people were spared.

Scripture tells us that all people have sinned against God and are under his wrath. There is coming a day when God will judge mankind for their sin and all will be condemned. However, Jesus Christ has stood in the breach for all of people. He has given himself as a sacrifice to take the wrath that we deserve. All who trust in him will be saved from the coming judgment and given eternal life. Praise God for a Savior who serves his people by giving his life on our behalf!

**Shaped by the Word is a daily Bible reading devotional. Please use the links at the bottom to subscribe to this page. You can also share this post with your friends through social media using the buttons below. Thanks for reading!