The Difference Between Taking Off Your Shoes And Picking Blackberries

The poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861) wrote an intriguing poem that has stuck with me since I first read it years ago:

Earth’s crammed with heaven,

And every common bush afire with God;

But only he who sees, takes off his shoes-

The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries. . . .

Today we’re going to talk about the difference between taking off your shoes and picking blackberries. Please join me.

TODAY’S READING

Judges 9:22-10:18
Luke 24:13-53
Psalm 100:1-5
Proverbs 14:11-12

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Judges 9:22-10:18. Once again, we see the failure of a great leader—Gideon—to raise up any worthy successors. Abimelech, Gideon’s son killed all of his brothers so he could be the judge of Israel. We also see evidence of idol worship beginning to flourish upon Gideon’s death.

Most interesting to me is the comment that “God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the citizens of Shechem” (verse 23). Although God isn’t evil, the evil powers are still subject to him.

After Abimelech’s death, we read a list of judges who followed him. They weren’t, however, godly leaders, and as a result God sent other nations to invade the people. Then we see the familiar phrase, “Then the Israelites cried out to the LORD.”

Luke 24:13-53. We’ll take a closer look at the walk to Emmaus in a moment, but I never noticed that the two men who initially failed to recognize Jesus actually see Jesus in the next scene when Jesus appears while the men are telling their story to the 11 disciples (remember that Judas Iscariot was no longer with them).

In verse 39, Jesus invites the men to touch him. This was significant, because when the gospels were written, Gnostics were gaining influence. They believed that the material world was completely evil—so they taught that Jesus didn’t have a material body. In other words, he was like Casper the Friendly Ghost. Jesus, in fact, says, “Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

After that, we also see Jesus eating fish in their presence, which a ghost wouldn’t do.

Later in Galatians and Colossians, we’ll take a closer look at this Gnosticism, which opens the doors to a host of problems.

Last of all, notice that Jesus’ parting words to his disciples were, “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” Remember that Luke is part one of a two part series (the second part being the book of Acts). Read Acts 1 and you’ll see that the two books work together seamlessly.

Psalm 100. This was a song sung by Israel when they gathered at the temple. Notice that the song begins with “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.” We don’t see a lot of shouting at church nowadays, but I think when we realize how great and awesome God is, we’ll shout.

Proverbs 14:12. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” This is another passage that demonstrates the importance of humility. We can convince ourselves that we’re right and refuse to listen, but in the end it leads us to death.

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

The story of the two men on their walk to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35) is a fascinating story. Jesus had risen from the dead that morning and Jerusalem was buzzing about the missing body. While walking to Emmaus, Jesus suddenly appeared to the two downcast men.

What amazes me about the story is the men’s inability to recognize Jesus. They obviously were followers of Jesus, because his death had dashed their hope in the belief that he was the messiah.

Then, we read that they’re eyes were opened, in other words, they didn’t recognize Jesus, God most likely opened their eyes for them. But also, did you notice that their eyes were opened when Jesus broke the bread and gave it to them?

How often does Jesus appear to us—and speak to us—yet we fail to recognize him? I often get so myopic about me and my world that I fail to see the people around me, and even more so, Jesus. Either that, or I get so busy that I run right past him without recognizing him.

Granted, God speaks to us all around, but I think at times many of us need to break our addiction to busyness before our eyes will be opened. That’s why the Sabbath is so important (I’m speaking to myself here).

Dear God, slow us down and open our eyes so we will see you at work around us all the time.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. What can you imagine your world would look like if God opened your eyes to see Jesus all around you?
  3. Where would you find him?
  4. Read Psalm 100. According to the passage, what inspired the people to shout for joy? What can we learn from them?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

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