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God’s Word for You

Luke 11:11-13 Pray big! Pray bold!

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Which among you fathers, your son will ask for a fish, but instead of a fish will give a stone to him? Grammarians wrestle with this ungrammatical construction which comes out differently no matter what way it is translated. “In spite of the grammatical hopelessness of the sentence,” Robertson said, “it has great power” (Grammar of the Greek New Testament p. 436). Sometimes our Savior and the Holy Spirit through inspiration transcend the limitations of human grammar to present the truth of the gospel in marvelous language. When this happens, it’s time to close the grammar books, put down the chalk or the whiteboard marker, and sit quietly with Mary at the Lord’s feet and listen.

11 “Fathers, if your son asks for bread, which of you would give him a stone instead? Or if he asks for a fish, would you give him a snake?  12 Or if he asks for an egg, would give him a scorpion? 13 So if you, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”

If a human father treats his son with affection and love, surely the heavenly Father does, too. And if there is a human father who is cruel to his son, would our heavenly Father do the same? Not at all. A son who has been mistreated by his earthly father has a heavenly Father who loves him and who will love him for all eternity in his “many mansions” (John 14:2). Jesus uses the comparison of the gifts, bread or stone, fish or snake, egg or scorpion, to teach us about our heavenly Father’s love. We wonder whether there is a correlation between these things:

  1. bread and stone
  2. fish and snake
  3. egg and scorpion

We won’t find anything that ties all of them together. That’s not the Lord’s point. Of course, we remember that when the Lord was hungry, the devil really did offer him stones instead: “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread” (Matthew 4:3). The devil is no substitute for a loving father, either human or heavenly. The devil is never your friend; he never, ever, has your best interests at heart.

No, the progression here is that the son asks for three acceptable things: bread, fish, and egg. Bread was the staple food whether it was made of wheat, rye, barley, spelt (dinkle wheat), or something else like rice. Fish were eaten if they met the requirement of the clean animals. For fish, this meant that they had to have “fins and scales” (Leviticus 11:9; Deuteronomy 14:9). Any other swimming thing like an eel would not be a valid substitute. Scorpions were likewise unclean. The only bugs that were permitted for food were the locust, katydid, cricket or grasshopper (Leviticus 11:22). No land animal of the “third category” (“those that move along the ground,” Leviticus 11:31; Genesis 1:24, 3:14) was to be used for food. Remember that even the serpent, which had originally been a “second category” land animal (the “wild animals,” Genesis 1:24-25, 3:1) was cursed to become a “third category” creature after the fall (Genesis 3:14). The devil ruins whatever he touches.

Jesus gave his disciples authority “to trample on snakes and scorpions, and to overcome all the power of the enemy” (Luke 10:19). God also encouraged his prophet: “You, son of man… do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or [be] terrified by them” (Ezekiel 2:6). Sometimes we have figurative snakes and scorpions in our lives, or even alligators who snap at our feet while we try to carry out the Lord’s work.

At the end of verse 13, notice the gift the Father gives: It is the Holy Spirit! What better gift could we be given? I ask God for guidance, and he doesn’t give me a scrap of paper or a sketch of a map. He gives me the Guide, the Counselor, the Paraclete: The Holy Ghost. The Spirit of God comes to me through my baptism and he lives within my flesh, the Spirit in my body. This is a gift that is unparalleled; that transcends even the parables of Jesus. How could we hope to chronicle the benefits of having God dwell within us? This is how we are able to look at unclean things—snakes and scorpions, greed and doubt, drugs, fame, murder, whores, theft, power, pride, glory, idolatry, blasphemy, and even sarcasm, and turn away in disgust when others wallow in them as if nothing else matters. Only through the mercy of the indwelling Holy Spirit can we see them for that they are, cursed, defiled, and defiling things, and look to the Father instead. When we stumble, we have Christ. When we don’t, we thank the Spirit. We are led by them, taking us by both hands, to the throne of our good and gracious Father.

Our heavenly Father is not the source of sin, nor is he the giver of unclean gifts. He knows what we need, and even what we desire. He wants us to pray with the confidence that he will not be fickle, like the pagans imagine their gods to be. He will give what is good. So pray big! Pray bold! Your heavenly Father loves you, and what he gives is good.

Note: 11:11 A few witnesses including Papyrus 45 omit the “bread” and “stone” portion: “Fathers, if your son asks for a fish, would you give him a snake instead?” Papyrus 45 (c. 250 AD, Egyptian) is known for its brevity. The copyist wielded, as E.C. Colwell said, “a sharp axe,” and whole phrases are sometimes omitted from the text.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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