Luke 18:9-14 - He [Jesus] also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.' But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted."
This devotion pairs with this weekend's Lutheran Hour sermon, which can be found at lutheranhour.org.
Have you ever considered God to be as close as a friend? Some people may be uncomfortable talking like this. Others may be too comfortable, approaching God with a cavalier or arrogant attitude, thinking, "Of course God likes me, why wouldn't He?" It seems the Pharisee in Jesus' story is approaching God like that, as though God were merely a social media friend, one of his many followers he expects will like whatever he posts. But this is not the kind of friendship God offers.
Other people are very uncomfortable with the thought of God being as close as a friend. I'm guessing the tax collector in Jesus' story couldn't imagine God as a friend. Although, there was precedent in the Scriptures for this degree of closeness with God. The LORD Himself called Abraham "my friend" (Isaiah 41:8b). And we're told that "the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend" (Exodus 33:11a). But really, to be this tight with God, you'd have to be some paragon of righteousness, right? Like Abraham or Moses? Or maybe this Pharisee? Jesus tells us the truth about the Pharisee. And even a cursory reading of the lives of Abraham and Moses in Genesis and Exodus would tell us that their closeness with God was not a result of their works, but of God's mercy.
So, could God be your friend? Think about the people whom you consider your closest friends, the ones who really "get you," who understand you. They've seen you at your best and your worst, laughed and cried with you. They don't always agree with you. They don't approve of everything you say and do. They challenge you, sharpen you, make you a better person. Could God be that sort of friend for you?
In Jesus, yes. In Jesus, you stand before God completely exposed, with nothing to prove and nothing to hide and nothing to fear. In Jesus, you are already judged and already forgiven, humbled and exalted, crucified to the world, yet alive to God (see Galatians 6:14). Jesus gets you because He's got you, not just as a friend, but as a brother, a fellow child of the loving Father.
WE PRAY: O Lord, You know me better than I know myself, and love me, nonetheless. Thank You, in Jesus' Name. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Rev. Dr. Michael Zeigler, Speaker of The Lutheran Hour.
1. On a scale of "very uncomfortable" to "way too comfortable" when considering God as a friend, where might you fall?
2. Read Psalm 139:1-10 (yes, I know I asked you to do this last Friday). Which verse or verses are especially meaningful for you this time?
3. Commit those verses to memory by repeating them over and over. What is this doing for you?
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