Selected Sunday Scriptures- #127

We have started the period of Lent. This is a period of fasting and repentance- of turning back to the Lord. In that spirit, here are some passages from scripture which I found appropriate:

In the fourth year of King Dari′us, the word of the Lord came to Zechari′ah on the fourth day of the ninth month, which is Chislev. Now the people of Bethel had sent Share′zer and Reg′em-mel′ech and their men, to entreat the favor of the Lord, and to ask the priests of the house of the Lord of hosts and the prophets, “Should I mourn and fast in the fifth month, as I have done for so many years?” Then the word of the Lord of hosts came to me: “Say to all the people of the land and the priests, When you fasted and mourned in the fifth month and in the seventh, for these seventy years, was it for me that you fasted? And when you eat and when you drink, do you not eat for yourselves and drink for yourselves? When Jerusalem was inhabited and in prosperity, with her cities round about her, and the South and the lowland were inhabited, were not these the words which the Lord proclaimed by the former prophets?”

(Zechariah 7:1-7)

A good gospel accompaniment would be this passage:

16 “And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

(Matthew 6:16-18)

Fasting is of little worth if our hearts are not in the right place. If we fast for God, then our reward will come from God. But if we fast for the sake of men, our reward will come from them- and thus perish in the end. Our actions must mirror our internal state- otherwise we are just stage actors.

A key part of this is turning towards the Lord and repenting.

25 Turn to the Lord and forsake your sins;
    pray in his presence and lessen your offenses.
26 Return to the Most High and turn away from iniquity,
    and hate abominations intensely.
27 Who will sing praises to the Most High in Hades,
    as do those who are alive and give thanks?
28 From the dead, as from one who does not exist, thanksgiving has ceased;
    he who is alive and well sings the Lord’s praises.
29 How great is the mercy of the Lord,
    and his forgiveness for those who turn to him!
30 For all things cannot be in men,
    since a son of man is not immortal.
31 What is brighter than the sun? Yet its light fails.
    So flesh and blood devise evil.
32 He marshals the host of the height of heaven;
    but all men are dust and ashes.

(Sirach 17:24-32)

King David, a man who was all too familiar with sin, understand the importance of repentance well:

Be mindful of thy mercy, O Lord, and of thy steadfast love,
    for they have been from of old.
Remember not the sins of my youth, or my trangressions;
    according to thy steadfast love remember me,
    for thy goodness’ sake, O Lord!

Good and upright is the Lord;
    therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
He leads the humble in what is right,
    and teaches the humble his way.
10 All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness,
    for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.

11 For thy name’s sake, O Lord,
    pardon my guilt, for it is great.

(Psalm 25:6-11)

Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
    whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity,
    and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

When I declared not my sin, my body wasted away
    through my groaning all day long.
For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me;
    my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.

I acknowledged my sin to thee,
    and I did not hide my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my trangressions to the Lord”;
    then thou didst forgive the guilt of my sin.

Therefore let every one who is godly
    offer prayer to thee;
at a time of distress, in the rush of great waters,
    they shall not reach him.

(Psalm 32:1-6)

And of course, it is important to keep in mind how Jesus opened his ministry after being tempted in the desert:

12 Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee; 13 and leaving Nazareth he went and dwelt in Caper′na-um by the sea, in the territory of Zeb′ulun and Naph′tali, 14 that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

15 “The land of Zeb′ulun and the land of Naph′tali,
toward the sea, across the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles—
16 the people who sat in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death
light has dawned.”

17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

(Matthew 4:12-17)

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