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Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading:For today, I'd like to share some of my personal Bible study on Luke 18:25:
"For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God."
What a strange picture comes to mind at first reading this verse. A camel going through the eye of a needle! What is this?
Mark mentions this amazing statement of Christ as well:
"And Jesus (Yahshua) looked round about, and saith unto His disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the Kingdom of God! …Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the Kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God.”The word "hardly" in the above verse means that it is "impossible" and "unattainable"! And this makes sense from the strange analogy. For it is certainly impossible for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.
Yet this may not be what Messiah actually said. It may be a misunderstanding - a mis-translation. In the Aramaic Translation of Mark 10:25 the word "camel" appears as "rope" instead. The verse in the Aramaic-English Translation reads:
“…It is easier for a rope to enter through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of Elohim.”Certainly a rope makes a bit more sense, to me anyway. But, whether it is a camel or a rope, it is impossible to pass either through the eye of a needle. What makes it impossible to enter the Kingdom of God? The passage goes on to say that if we "trust in riches" the Kingdom of God will be unattainable. "Trust in riches" means to "rely upon something which is needed". What is needed? This encompasses much more than money alone. It encompasses all of our "needful things".
But while it is impossible to pass a whole rope through a needle's eye, if one were to fully unravel the whole rope, leaving only a single strand of it, that single strand could be passed through the needle's eye. And that is what God is in the process of doing in each of our lives.
He gradually strips away from us, in trials and by design, that which we rely upon (other than Him). For He knows that if we rely on anything other than Him alone, we cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.
To demonstrate this process, consider how God dealt with the Children of Israel in the Wilderness. Each camp-lesson or test was specifically designed to challenge their "needful things". God did this to encourage them to depend fully upon Him and no one else. Notably, Scripture also tells us that Israel's Wilderness experiences were recorded as examples for us living now.
1 Corinthians 10:1-11 “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea… But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted… Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.”
Throughout the many tests that the Children of Israel faced, their "needful things" and earthly dependencies were removed one by one. This is the process of circumcising the heart, removing all competing affections, until at last God reigns supreme within our hearts.
What idolatrous "needful things", did Christ indicate would make it impossible for us to enter into the Kingdom of God?Deuteronomy 30:6 "And the LORD (Yahweh) thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD (Yahweh) thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live."
Abraham Maslow, father of Psychology, developed a Hierarchy of Human Needs, portrayed in this pyramid. To the carnal heart, each area represented in this pyramid is a "needful thing". Maslow taught that if a person went through life with every "need" met in this pyramid, that the person would ultimately become a fully mature, self-actualized adult.
The bottom rung of the hierarchy is the area of our physiological needs. We need air, water, food, and rest to survive. To help the Children of Israel to not rely on these things, nor make a god of their bellies, He purposely brought them into places where they had no food or water. These were opportunities to trust in God. God wants His people to know that we don't rely on temporal bread.
Deuteronomy 8:3 "And He humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that He might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every Word that proceedeth out of the Mouth of the LORD (Yahweh) doth man live."Next comes the purple area of the pyramid representing our need for safety and security. We need employment, physical safety, and security of property and family. God challenges this "needful" area also. For the Children of Israel, there were armies to face - giants even. And they wandered in the Wilderness, without a place to call home. To them then, and to us today, God is calling His people to surrender in full submission to Him. Whether we live or die, we will be faithful to Him. Even the "needful" area of our safety must be committed to God's Care.
Matthew 10:33-34 "But whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father which is in Heaven. Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword."The next pyramid rung is our need for love and the need to belong. This is our need to be loved and accepted by our family, friends and society. Here the "needful things" of love and acceptance from our families need to be surrendered on the altar. Nothing must be of more value in our eyes than our love for God.
Luke 9:23-25 "And He said to them all, If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for My Sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?"
This "needful thing" may be challenged in your life when you learn another level of God's Will from His Word. Perhaps, as you endeavor to align your life with God's Will in this previously unknown area, you will step out of favor with your loved ones. Perhaps they will resist you. Young people have been disowned by their parents for accepting Christ as their Saviour. The message is clear: "Return to our way of thinking and you'll be restored to your family". But, when pleasing one's family involves displeasing our Heavenly Father, love and loyalty for Him must always win:
Matthew 10:35-37 "For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me."Next comes the rung of self-esteem. We have a need to be respected and appreciated by others. This area too will be removed, so that we will choose God first in every area.
Matthew 10:22 "And ye shall be hated of all men for My Name's Sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved."Why does God remove the "needful things" from us like this? Does He like making us uncomfortable? No. Rather God knows that we cannot enter into His Kingdom with all this baggage of competing affections. Did you notice the top of Maslow's pyramid? What is enthroned at the top, if indeed every "needful thing" is provided, unchallenged? Self! Self is on the throne of the "self-actualized" human being.
Thus, what psychology says one must have in order to be fully mature is exactly the opposite of what God says we must have to be fully mature - spiritually. In fact, if God never challenged these "needful things" in our lives, our reliance would not be upon God, but upon self! In such a state, bringing us into the Kingdom of God is impossible - like trying to thread a rope through the eye of a needle.
God is working to bring each of us to the point of total surrender. And so, strand-by-strand, God unravels the "rope" of all idolatry in our lives. He continues this uncomfortable, but necessary work, because He wants us to be in His Kingdom. But before we can physically enter His Kingdom, His Kingdom must spiritually reign in our souls.
So, as our loving and wise God circumcises our hearts, more and more day-by-day, let us trustingly say with John the baptist, "I must decrease, that He might increase."