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What it Sounds Like When a Camel Goes through the Eye of a Needle

Luke 18 and 19 present the contrasting stories of the so-called ‘rich young ruler’ and the wealthy tax collector Zacchaeus.

After his encounter with the young ruler, Jesus makes the famous statement, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:25).

Then comes another rich man, Zacchaeus, who heeds the call of Christ:

“And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold” (Luke 19: 8).

Interestingly, the rich young ruler made the claim that he had kept the moral law from his youth; but when called upon by Christ to give up his riches, he “went away sorrowful.” Zacchaeus, on the other hand, was a notorious sinner – not a law-keeper. But he honors Old Testament restitution law in his response to Jesus:

“If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and kills it or sells it, he shall repay five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep” (Exodus 22:1).

On top of this obedience to the law (giving fourfold restitution), he was willing to give half of all he had to the poor.

I can’t pin down the source of the quote, but years ago I heard someone comment on this verse saying, “This is what it sounds like when a camel goes through the eye of a needle.”

“What is impossible with men is possible with God” (Luke 18:27).

What Gray Hair?

-“Strangers devour his strength, and he knows it not; gray hairs are sprinkled upon him, and he knows it not.” – Hosea 7:9

James Montgomery Boice comments:

G. Campbell Morgan wrote of this blindness, ‘Signs of decadence, which are patent to others, are undiscovered by ourselves; and we go on, and on, and on, the victims of ebbing strength, spiritually and morally becoming degenerate, without knowing it! We are blind to the signs which are self-evident to onlookers…’ It was of Israel as it had been of Samson so many years before: ‘He did not know that the LORD had left him’ (Judg. 16:20) (The Minor Prophets, vol I, p. 61).

David Foster Wallace makes a similar point in Infinite Jest; something you learn when you go to a halfway house: “That other people can often see things about you that you yourself cannot see, even if those people are stupid.”

Denis, from Crome Yellow, learns it when he sees sketches drawn of him by a woman he considered obtuse.

One of the great realizations we can come to is that others will often see our faults before we see them ourselves. Don’t be afraid to ask them: What do you see as my weaknesses? What do you see as my greatest faults? What do I need to be working on? Is there anything in my character that you think I need to be aware of?

Others will see your gray hair before you do.

The same goes for a culture. I’ve made this point before. You often have to get outside of a culture to see what’s inside of it. That means that we need an outside reference point, or we’ll start going gray and fail to realize it until our hair is white. The mirror can’t be ourselves; it has to be something outside ourselves.

Flipping the Pancake

Ephraim mixes himself with the peoples; Ephraim is a cake not turned – Hosea 7:8

Gordon Ramsay screams, ‘It’s raw! Can’t you cook a pancake? You didn’t even flip it!’

This is reminiscent of the ‘lukewarm’ church Revelation 3. Be hot or cold, not lukewarm. Be cooked or not cooked. Flip the pancake.

Perhaps the preacher is a spatula in the hand of God? Our job is to make sure all parts are heated equally.

Ministering Before Idols

  • Ezekiel 44:12 Because they ministered to them before their idols and became a stumbling block of iniquity to the house of Israel, therefore I have sworn concerning them, declares the Lord GOD, and they shall bear their punishment.

Do we minister to the people before their idols? This means that we share their idols. It means that we are either in willful rebellion or that we are oblivious to our shared idolatry.

Matthew Henry comments,

Those who have been treacherous are degraded and put lower those Levites—or priests who were carried down the stream of the apostasy of Israel formerly, who went astray from God after their idols (v. 10), who had complied with the idolatrous kings of Israel or Judah, who ministered to them before their idols (v. 12), bowed with them in the house of Rimmon, or set up altars for them, as Urijah did for Ahaz, and so caused the house of Israel to fall into iniquity, led them to sin and hardened them in sin; for, if the priests go astray, many will follow their pernicious ways.

In my mind, I saw three things as I read this verse today: 1) A mega-church preacher standing in front of a plasma screen, 2) a health and wealth preacher standing in front of a million dollar stage setup, an 3) I’ll leave you to guess at the other one…

The good news is that Christ too ministers before our idols; but, rather than endorsing them, he tears them down and replaces them. He is our true Icon (Col. 1:15).

Image from stuffchristianculturelikes.com

Snippets: Why did Daniel keep Praying? The Need to Pray

  • When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done (Daniel 6:10)

Not because he was a rebel: He went to his own house apart.

Not because he wanted trouble: He did not start a petition or hold a sign.

Not because he had a death-wish: Jerusalem was the longing of his heart.

Not because of his powerful position: He got down on his knees time after time.

But because he had trained his body and soul by repetition –

By a life of spiritual discipline.

The lions might tear him apart,

But lack of prayer might break his heart.

Only those who by habits have been enslaved

Truly know what it is to need to pray.

Snippets: The Context of Private Prayer (Daniel 6)

  • When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done (Daniel 6:10).

In a Predicament: When Daniel knew the document had been signed…

Make it Personal: He went to his house

Find a Place: He went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber opened…

Grab a Promise: Where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem…

Pick a Posture: He got down on his knees…

Stick to a Program: three times a day…

Make your Petition: And prayed…

Give Him Praise: And gave thanks before his God…

Persevere: As he had done.