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First Sunday of Lent

February 25, 2007

Blessed Sunday!

And happy “little Easter”!

Every Sunday is a day of celebration, even in Lent :). We know the end
of the story. Christ has won the victory for us!

Deuteronomy 26:4-10 (bring God the first fruits of your
harvest to acknowledge that they came from Him)
Psalm 91 (Be with me, Lord, when I am in trouble)
Romans 10:8-13 (faith in Jesus leads to salvation)
+Luke 4:1-13 (Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness)

Today’s first reading has layer upon layer of meaning. For the sake of
brevity, I’ll limit myself to one of those layers today (others will
come up in later readings). Moses commands the Israelites to bring to
God the first and best of their harvest out of gratitude for His making
that harvest possible. In the process, he urges them to remind
themselves of their painful past, of their slavery in Egypt and of God’s
miraculous deliverance that brought them through the Red Sea and through
the desert to this land flowing with milk and honey. That’s the story
of Passover, a story that foreshadowed Christ’s whole mission.

Jesus spent forty days in the desert and was tempted there, a parallel
to the 40 years the children of Israel wandered in the desert (where
they, too, were tempted) after their escape from Egypt.

When the children of Israel grew hungry, they succumbed to the
temptation to grumble against Moses and Aaron, saying they wished they’d
died in slavery. They valued the physical satisfaction of food over the
spiritual gift of freedom. (God provided them with manna anyway -Exodus
16: 2-15). When Jesus grew hungry in the desert, He didn’t grumble or even use his miraculous abilities for His own ends. He said, “Man does not live on bread alone”, indicating that there are things more important than physical food.

When the children of Israel thought Moses (and God) had abandoned them
(Moses was on Mt. Sinai, with God, receiving the ten commandments) they
succumbed to the temptation to make a golden calf, which they worshipped
instead of God (Exodus 32:1-6). They chose the idol they could see over
the God they could not see. But Jesus, when enticed with earthly power
at the cost of bowing down to the devil, refused to worship anyone but

At Kadesh (also called Massah), the children of Israel again succumbed
to the temptation to come against Moses and Aaron, this time angry over
the lack of water (Numbers 20:1-13). They demanded that God do things
their way, and threatened mutiny when He didn’t. God provided water
from the rock for them, but Moses later warns the people, “You shall not
put the Lord, your God, to the test, as you did at Massah” (Deuteronomy
6:16). This is the same verse Jesus quotes when the devil tempts Him to
throw Himself down from the Temple, expecting angels to catch Him.

Three times, where Israel fell to temptation, Jesus stood firm. We too
will come up against these temptations, temptations to put physical
concerns over spiritual ones, to let something or someone other than God
take top priority in our lives, and/or to treat God like a divine
gumball machine (as if He owed us anything!).

May we meet these temptations the way Jesus did, with a fundamental
trust in God and with a deep reverence for Him.

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