Links Daily Devotional

A Lesson on the Hillside

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Matthew 6:24, ESV)

One of my favorite places in all of Israel is the Galilee. When the winter rains quench the thirsty ground, vibrant wildflowers and green pastures bloom and blanket the hillsides. By May the landscape succumbs to the Middle East’s heat and the familiar shade of brown returns, but the region’s fertility persists and the Sea of Galilee offers a respite of delight.

In the first century, King Herod Antipas built his capital on the lower, southern slopes of Mt. Arbel along the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. It bustled with activity, Roman influence, and became the place where the Herodians made their home. To the north of Mt. Arbel, the triangle cities of Capernaum, Chorazin, and Bethsaida attracted teachers of the law who were known as “the righteous Jews.” The zealots set up residence in Gamla located in the Golan Heights to the northeast of the Sea. To the east, on “the other side,” as Jesus referred to it, were the ten Decapolis cities and the pagans who lived there.

This is the backdrop in which Jesus sat on the hillside above Capernaum and Tabgha teaching his Sermon on the Mount. His discourse covers three chapters in the book of Matthew and is full of wisdom for being in relationship with both God and other people.

Jesus knew who was in the crowd to hear his teaching that afternoon. As he gazed out over the Sea of Galilee and breathed in the humid air, he could see the faces of the Herodians who supported King Herod Antipas; they chose political advantage over serving God. The righteous Jews murmured because they were more concerned with their rules than receiving God’s grace and mercy. The zealots lived by the sword in their hopes in advancing the kingdom of God. And the pagans? Well, they worshipped every god except Yahweh.

Nestled into the middle of his teaching, Jesus shared how it is impossible to serve two masters. One will be hated… one will be loved. One will have our devotion… one will be despised. This is true not only when we struggle between serving God and money. It shows up in every area of our lives. Even though I was a follower of Jesus, I looked to my performance and success for acceptance and love for the majority of my golf career. I still struggle between believing the lies of the evil one that I’m not enough, instead of holding to God’s truth that I am his beloved daughter. When it comes to my choices, I tend to lean toward where money makes me feel secure, rather then taking a step of faith where God is leading, which makes me feel out of my control.

Can you picture yourself sitting on the hillside listening to Jesus? It’s hot and we’re thirsty. A breeze dances off the Sea of Galilee offering a moment of cool relief. Jesus’ words are alluring, welcoming us back to his grace and mercy, to his kindness, his wisdom. His voice is not harsh, but gentle, inviting us to place where he can be trusted as our master.

Tracy Hanson
December 3, 2014
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