Matthew 1: 3 Thamar
Isn’t it a wonderful thing to discover right at the beginning of the New Testament such a great example of God’s marvelous grace. Tamar is mentioned as an ancestress of our Lord. Why not Sarah or Rebecca or for even Eve for that matter? Any one of them would be more worthy of mention in this genealogy than Tamar. Why not keep her out of the picture? Why not cover up Judah’s sin, this lion’s whelp of a man? Why dig up this indiscretion? We would be more politically correct to overlook it, bury it, let sleeping dogs lie.
But no, right here just three verses into the record of the birth of Jesus we begin to learn about the family from which He descends. Perhaps we should go back and see if this is representative of His stock. God chose Jacob over Esau, it must be, because of the good He saw in him. Ah, no, Jacob was smooth in more ways than one, a supplanter, just as his name indicated and surely undeserving of the birthright that he stole from his brother. In fact, God’s choice of Israel (Jacob’s earlier name) to be His people and to produce the Messiah is certainly not due to anything commendable on their part for as He said, they were a stiff-necked people (Deut.9:6).
Surely too, it might seem that we could catch more flies with honey so why besmirch David’s name before going half a dozen verses? Matthew, what are we trying to do here anyway? Adulterer, murderer, gentile dogs like Rahab the harlot and Ruth a despised Moabitess, how come our Savior sprung from such a wretched family?
Well, if these sinners found such grace as to be included in Christ’s human family we too can be thankful as sinners saved by grace that we also belong to the wonderful family of God!
Matthew 2:8 The Young Child
Studying for today’s devotional thoughts has exposed to mind how important it is to be careful with our handling of the sacred text. Many times I have wrongly used the word in this chapter translated young child endeavoring to make the point that our Lord Jesus was no longer a babe when the wise men came. To my chagrin I have discovered that the same word is used in Luke 2:21 of Him when He was but eight days old. Studying the Greek New Testament is of great value in helping us to be accurate in our use of words and the blessing is that with all the helpful material available today for the English reader, it is not necessary to be knowledgeable of the Greek. The average lay person could have easily discovered the same error that I did with no knowledge of the Greek at all. I say this to encourage those to study who might be tempted to think one must have more training than is actually necessary. Of course, the study of the New Testament Greek is necessary if one is to be delving into the more technical aspects of exposition. Here again, the King James Only heresy comes out on the short end of the stick because they actually disparage the study of Greek. Why should one bother if the King James version is the perfectly preserved word of God? With my limited knowledge of the original language I can say that one’s study in this field is of tremendous value in understanding what God has communicated to us in a language far richer in expression than our English language and the pastor who has access to it and neglects it is either lazy or deceived.
Of course, the words young child are not really necessary to the concept that the coming of the wise men was at a later time than the shepherds. Verse eleven speaks of their finding Him in a house in contrast to the manger where He was born, and it would seem to be overkill in the strictest sense of the word for Herod to order the execution of two year olds (v.16). Praise God who forewarned of this tragedy by sending the family to Egypt.
Matthew 3: 17 Well Pleased
Did not the Lord Jesus have the Holy Spirit prior to His being baptized? Of course, in fact, it is probably not the proper way to speak of it, for the three Persons of the Trinity are one. Yet in some way, not quite clear to those of us who “see through a glass darkly” there appeared to be a separation mostly, I suppose, intended to enable us to understand better the work of each member. Several times, the Father speaks, as He indeed does in this chapter indicating that He was in heaven while His son was on earth and yet Jesus could say of Him, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9).
The appearance, especially for John’s benefit, (John 1:33) of the Holy Spirit descending upon the newly baptized Christ was another of such occasion where there is an apparent division in the Godhead for an express purpose. Here it is to indicate His being set apart for the ministry for which He came.
If we might say, when the fulness of time had come, as the Son of God took His departure from the court of Glory that He took leave, in a sense, of His Father, perhaps at the same time He took leave of the Holy Spirit though He had been very much involved in the miraculous Virgin birth. If so, at this probable pre-arranged time He (the Spirit) took His leave of the Father to join the Son for His period of ministry. Who among us can delve into such mysteries?
Suffice it to say that the Lord Jesus was baptized by water and we should be; He was equipped by the Spirit as we should be; He was led by the Spirit as we should be (4:1). He is our example as well as our Saviour. Let us follow Him that the Father may be “well pleased” in us as well.
Matthew 4: 4 Living by Bread Alone
Abraham would not take even a shoe lace from the king of Sodom lest it be said that it was thus that he grew wealthy. What would the devil have to say about Jesus receiving bread at his behest. Where we get our needs supplied from seems very important to God and Paul’s idea was that all our needs were to be supplied by Him (Phil.4:19). It was significant that Jehovah said to Abraham after the episode referred to above that He was his reward. Could He have said this if Abraham had enriched himself with the spoils of Sodom through the generosity of this king of the burnt lands (prophetic meaning of Sodom)? Would angels have come to minister (food?) to the Lord Jesus had He preemptively been found feasting on bread piping hot from Satan’s oven? Running ahead of God is equally as serious as running from Him. Jonah, ere he had set one foot aboard the vessel at Joppa ought to have asked himself if it had Satan or God as its captain, and if the former, just what sort of a voyage it might be.
We ought to be a bit wary when things come too easily be it guidance or goods. David said that we must not set our heart on riches and Jesus warned that a man’s life consists of more than abundant possessions. It is certain that the devil could make us rich and would if he could side track us by doing so. How many lives are ruined by listening to Satan’s subtle suggestions? That scholarship that led to a wrong school, that new job that meant the compromise of conscience. How many of life’s wrong paths were the direct leading of our arch enemy?
Bunyan called these “by paths” and in Pilgrim’s Progress Christian and Hopeful, his companion, went over a stile to walk on an easier path called “by path meadow” which seemed to be going right along beside the King’s Highway. Before long they found themselves in great danger and only with great difficulty did they retrace their steps but not without being held captive by the giant Despair. Even Jonah, through much tribulation finally got back on the right path after a “whale” of a ride. Take care my friend or one may swallow you ( as the children’s chorus goes).
Matthew 5:3 The Path of Blessing
Our Lord is not saying here that it is a blessing to be poor, though it is probably more so the case than to be rich which usually brings more problems into the life than does being poor. The poor who are spiritual may cry to a bountiful God, the rich usually are inclined to self sufficiency, hindering spirituality.
Rather the meaning of these words relates to an attitude of humility, a poverty of spirit in contrast to haughtiness. It is probably quite similar to the thought of David in the 51st Psalm when he said, “the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart O God thou will not despise” (v.7).
His mouth is opened to us (v.2) and we hang on His every word especially as He shares with us the means by which we may claim for ourselves the blessings of the Almighty God of the universe –wow!
Reading Adam Clarke on these Beatitudes puts one back to the old days when it was considered a mark of spirituality to cultivate a humble heart, to mourn over one’s sins, to be meek. Even in his day, the mid 19th century, he was lamenting that the term gentleman meant exactly that once, but no longer. Our present generation, with some exceptions we hope, knows little about being gentle and meek. These, however, are the ones that, according to our Gracious Saviour, will inherit the earth. Clarke says that this refers to the land and spoke typically of the blessings Israel was to receive in the promised land. I always thought it referred to the millennial kingdom and perhaps that is what He meant, but then I think the blessings of the promised land begin for us when we take possession of the position we have in Christ. When He is living out through us, these attitudes certainly will be ours. Let us hunger and thirst to know these expressions of His life in us. There is no mercy shown to one’s enemies nor is there much purity in heart in TV drama. A “peacemaker” would be an AK 47. Lord, if you are going to reach us today You must be a bit more modern. (Not seriously)
Matthew 6: 22 A Single Eye
Recently I learned, quite by accident, that a man I know saw a condition at a property, not his own, that needed attention. He corrected the problem and then quietly went his way. I am sure he did what he did as unto the Lord for, as far as he knew, He was the only one who saw him do it. That man went up several notches in my estimation when I became aware of it. It is so like us to want to trumpet our good deeds so that others know we did them, but as we learn here in this passage, verily, that’s all the recognition we get, with none from the Lord! It is a test of how real heaven is to us when we lay up our treasures there and wait for the Lord’s commendation if He has seen that our eye was single when we gave, prayed, fasted or whatever else we thought we were doing for the right reasons.
To have a single eye (v. 22) is a wonderful attribute of character. The Greek word is a picture word and speaks of the braiding of the hair or the weaving of threads. I think it speaks of all the strands having a single manifestation or all the threads combining to make a single tapestry. Such a goal in our life will absolutely extinguish all fleshly rising of prideful endeavor. Only in our apprehension of Christ (Phil. 3:12) can we possibly achieve this. One Master and every other inclination of self crucified . These kingdom principles can only work for us, actually in us, when our eye is single to His Lordship. When this is true, even food and clothing and all such mundane issues take their rightful place in the seeking of His kingdom.
Matthew 7: 1 Judging
After spending much time reading and praying over this chapter I decided the best thing to do would be to produce word for word what Matthew Poole in his commentary of the Bible has written on the subject of judging.
Ver. 1,2. Our Saviour must not be understood here prohibiting any judgment, which is elsewhere in holy writ allowed, for the Holy Spirit doth not command and prohibit the same thing; whence it if evident, that it is not to be understood of political or ecclesiastical judgments, nor was our Saviour here speaking to any such persons: it is therefore to be understood of private judgments, nor of them absolutely, for it is lawful for us to judge ourselves, yea, it is our duty, #1Co 11:31: Nor is that judgment of our neighbour’s opinions or actions here forbidden which terminates in ourselves, in our satisfaction as to the truth or falsehood of the former, or the goodness or badness of the latter; we ought so to prove all things in order to our holding fast that which is good. Nor is all judgment of our neighbour’s actions with reference to him forbidden: how can we reprove him for his errors, or restore him that is fallen, without a previous judgment of his actions? But that which is here forbidden, is either,
1. A rash judgment of his state, or a judging him for doing his duty: such was Simon’s judging the woman, or the disciples’ judgment of that woman, #Mt 26:8,9. Or:
2. A judging of others for things which they judge to be indifferent, forbidden #Ro 14:1-3. Or:
3. A judging them for secret things, such as inward habits of grace, when no apparent fruits to the contrary are seen. Or,
4. Condemning others for single acts, of a public censuring and condemning others for private failings. Or:
5. Finally, Any open and public censuring the actions of others, when and where it cannot conduce either to God’s glory or our brother’s good.
Matthew 8:16 He Healed All
Dead things go bad. Just how bad we see in this chapter. From the unclean leper to the demon possessed Gergesenes we are here confronted with devastation but not much different from what we too encounter as we exist in a sin - cursed environment. A wonderful display of compassion and remediation, however, meets us here as we sojourn with Jesus through this token capsule of tragedy. The leper, from our study of the subject, we would see as one whose suffering is deserved. A judgement has been graciously meted out upon him (Numbers 12:10) the sooner to produce repentance and restoration. Note, it is not a disease (as the modern form) to be healed but a condition needing cleansing (10:8) and the deliverance produced by Jesus was not any different than that expected as one would apply the ancient remedy (Leviticus 13 & 14). The sad fact was that probably the Word of God had been forgotten largely due to the neglect of the shepherds (Ezekiel 34:2-4). (More on this subject at another time).
Speaking of God’s Word it was that spoken rebuke to the palsy which tormented this servant of a Gentile soldier which, though separated by distance from the Speaker, could bring as immediate a recovery as could the gentle touch of His hands upon the mother of his devoted disciple’s wife. His projected death was the antidote for every plague our race has suffered and somehow, He bore it all at Calvary (v.17).
And let us not miss the fact that satanic driven winds and sea while threatening to drown their Creator and Master were instantly calmed by the sound of His voice as again His Word prevailed. To the very demons He said “Go” and with that brief but powerful command two more souls were free. Think of how in a moment of time our own lost souls were gloriously set free when we believed. It is as if He spoke a Word from a distant place to still the stormy unrest in our souls and suddenly we too were clean and at peace.
One final thought. Isn’t it amazing that these things are absolutely unimpressive to the lost around us, but then it is pretty hard to impress a dead person, isn’t it? (V.22; Eph. 2:1)
Matthew 9:38 Pray Ye
Where shall we begin as we seek to obey the last statement of this chapter which looks
for all the world like a command to me, how about you, what do you think? Perhaps one way around it would be to say that it was simply directed to His disciples and that our Lord did not intend to include us, but then, most of us feel as though the term “disciple” should be accepted by all who follow Him. Possibly we might reason that this is not the time of harvest or that there are already more laborers than are needed to get the job done. Somehow that doesn’t seem to fly.
Okay, we’ll do it – where shall we begin? The first ones to do the praying should be all of those who can pray without having to worry lest the Lord of Harvest might tap them with the thought, “perhaps I should go in answer to my own prayer,” say, the old people, the sick and infirm. They could probably be quite sincere.
Next, we should all pray for the kids of missionaries, for after all, they are already more than half way there, they know the ropes so to speak and it’s a little easier for their parents to let go of them especially if they might be called to the same field where their parents serve. These missionaries are a rare breed anyway and it shouldn’t be asking too much more of them to put their children on the altar of sacrifice.
We ought to pray, it would seem, for our local church that it might be a sending church for at least one of our young people , say, someone who can’t seem to find a job (or a husband). What better place to perhaps forget one is a bit of a reject than to be immersed in busyness in some foreign land.
Well, I guess we’ve about exhausted the possibilities. “What ! You expect me to pray my own children out to some place where I’ll never see them again. My grandchildren! I couldn’t bear to part with them or have them exposed to a dangerous environment. I am proud that they all have a good education and are holding down a good well- paying job. We just have to draw the line some place.” I have attended prayer meetings for years and so far as I can remember, I have yet to hear a parent ask the Lord call their child to the mission field.
Matthew 10:38 What Does it Mean to Us?
It is in this chapter that we encounter the first of numerous references to taking up the cross found here in the Gospels. Mention of the cross, obviously the place and means of His execution, prior to His actual death on one is fascinating. It was a Roman form of executing criminals far different from the Jewish practice of stoning theirs to death. I have never seen it discussed anywhere by any commentator, but it would seem that the thought of one taking up his cross must have been a colloquial expression and if so, what did it mean for the disciples to hear their Master telling them to do so. There is no question but that it referred to death and yet the disciples never accepted the idea that He was going to die so reference to it as it pertained to them must have gone right over their heads.
I guess that it is not so much what it meant to them but rather what it means to us that should occupy our attention. Our Lord made the doing of this a basis for our being considered as one of His disciples (Luke 14:27). In all of the references we encounter the concept that this is going to mean a losing of one’s life but that in doing so one would actually be truly finding it. Let us look at it this way. The disciples were being asked to follow One that was considered by everyone who was somebody ( Scribes & Pharisees) to be a loser but, many on them became leaders in His church before it was over for them here, and eternity alone will reveal to what heights they will one day be elevated. So, was it true, yes definitely so! Did it cost them? He called it a sword. In many lands today, to become a Christian involves a painful separation from loved ones and friends so we must not measure this against American Christianity. The question is, are we willing to follow Him cost what it will? If so let us tell Him right now. He won’t mind hearing it again and besides it may be a bit more meaningful than when we were 12 years old.
Matthew 11:11 John is Least?
It is too much to try to expound on all of the difficulties that present themselves in the gospels, but occasionally we will make the effort though our goal is to produce a devotional thought not to write a commentary.
In “rightly dividing the word of truth” (ll Tim.2:15) it is imperative that we understand that there are dispensational distinctives. Verse eleven is an example of just how important it is to know the difference between the old and new covenants. Here John is presented in the proceeding verses as a truly great person by none other than the Lord Jesus and yet He follows this praise with a seemingly contradictory statement viz. “Notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” Commentators are quick to state that it is not John’s character that is being compared, but rather his position. The fact is that John was an Old Testament prophet since he came on the scene prior to the beginning of the church and the lowliest believer indwelt by the Holy Spirit is of greater privilege than he. How thankful we should be to belong to that “general assembly and church of the firstborn which are written in heaven” (Heb.12:23). We are the bride, John is the friend of the bridegroom (John 3:29).
In another vein, it may also help a bit to compare verse 12 in our chapter with a parallel passage in Luke 16:16 and the key is understanding the word “violent”, which there is translated “presseth”. The amplified has a note here picturing the kingdom of heaven as a prize being seized by ardent zeal and intense exertion. Perhaps we might paraphrase this way, the entrance to heaven isn’t easy in one sense because it is pressed violently by it’s enemies but those who want to enter badly enough will press on through despite the obstacles. (Picture the Muslim convert approaching the gate). We have so much to be thankful for.
Matthew 12:49 Behold.....My Brethren
What an interesting scenario occurs at the end of this chapter! Jesus’ mother and brethren appearing on the fringe of the large group of people that are thronging Him and desiring to speak with Him are seemingly brushed aside. Remember, our Lord is perfect in all His ways and He intended no ill will toward His human family, but obviously the occasion was seized upon by Him to teach a very important lesson. These words that He spoke should thrill us to the tips of our toes!
Not only did He acknowledge that His disciples were indeed His kindred but so are all of us who do His will. What did He mean by this remark?
Paul made a very important statement about human relationships when writing to the Corinthians in his second epistle (5:16). He said that our human relationships, even that with Christ Himself are over. What did he mean? You see both Paul and our Lord Jesus saw things as they really are! In Galations 2:20 Paul said he was dead and, friends, death ends human relationships. Jesus said in Matt.8:22 “Let the dead bury their dead”. In this latter instance Jesus recognizes that all men are already cut off from the God of life and are judicially dead in God’s eyes. Christ died our death so that we might have new life and we must learn to count ourselves to have died with Him (II Cor.5:14; Col.3:3). A new relationship has been established beyond the cross that involves our being made one with Christ in answer to His prayer (John17:22) “that they may be one, even as we are one.”
Here in this story our Lord is, on the one hand reminding His earthly family that they have no privileged claim upon Him and on the other telling us that we do. He belongs to us, He is our Brother. If Paul could say that Rufus’ mother was also his (Rom. 16:13) how much more was she the Lord’s mother as well. In fact, to apply this as we should, if those who do the Father’s will are considered to be Jesus’ family are they not also ours? Oh, would that we as Christians might be more conscious of the reality of these things as were our Lord Jesus and the apostle Paul. Sad to say, but obedience to the Lord often takes a back seat to human relationships. May our hearts be teachable in this matter. As a pastor I have seen so many people fail right here. Let the story of Abraham and Isaac help us see that we are apt to be tested in the area of human relationships and we must have family on the altar.
Matthew 13 What do They Teach ?
Adam Clarke quotes Maimonides (most important Jewish philosopher of the Middles Ages), “fix it as a principle to attach yourself to the grand object of the parable without attempting to make a particular application of all the circumstances and terms which it comprehends.” In other words try to find the basic purpose of the parable without trying to make every part of it applicable.
So, what is the purpose of the parable of the sower? Is it to show us that much of our work in the gospel will be unproductive, but we can expect to see a pretty good harvest?
And the tares? Again we must wait til the harvest time before we know who is and who isn’t saved.
The two parables of the mustard seed and the leaven seem very similar and the more conservative view point is that the visible church is full of strange birds and hot air. These may possibly parallel the two kinds of ground in the first parable which seems to be totally unproductive.
The next two also seem to be alike and are much more encouraging. They speak of a couple of people to whom the gospel is so precious that they are willing to make it their most valued possession. Finally, the dragnet dredges up all kinds of creatures and the separating of them is likened to the final judgement.
What, therefore, might we conclude to be the simple overall teaching? The preaching of the gospel will be successful no matter how it might appear to us now. Leave the results with God. We close with a note of interest that I discovered in reading brother Clarke’s commentary that you might find interesting as well. Tares are literally bastard or degenerate wheat (from a Chaldee word zizania) which was “wholly a right seed in the beginning but afterwards became degenerate.” This parable may then have reference to the origin of evil. God made man good but the enemy corrupted him .
By the way, Spurgeon classified Clarke as one of the best commentaries in his day.
Matthew 14:17 Five Loaves and Two Fishes
In this chapter and the next we have the two accounts of our Lord providing food for the multitude. In the first episode He took five loaves and two fish and fed a very large crowd. This occasion is usually called the feeding of the 5000 but this is wrong, for v.21 tells us that there were that many men besides all of the women and children. It is a good thing that the children came, for some farsighted parent had given one little fellow a lunch. Nothing is said of his parents, but simply that “there is a lad here which hath five barley loaves and two small fishes” (John 6:9). This account is one of the few stories about Jesus that is found in all four of the gospels. It’s a good thing, for look what we would have missed. A young boy shared his lunch, the loaves were barley and the fish were small. The critics step in here and try to be helpful. They say that when he gave up his lunch a whole lot of others also shared theirs and that’s where it all came from. What is amazing is that there were 12 baskets of left overs! The critics just left by the backdoor! Mark tells us that the grass was green where they sat down and that someone organized them into ranks of hundreds and fifties (16:39 & 40).
The critics also have something to say about their being a second feeding in chapter fifteen- too coincidental, it must have been the same occasion - just poor reporting. Oh, but how is it that the Lord spoke of both feedings in Mark 8 when He specifically asked the disciples how many baskets full were taken up after each (19 & 20)! He was there when it happened and He ought to know!
Of course the most wonderful part of the whole story is completely overlooked by three of the four evangelists . Only John records the exciting account of our Lord’s sermon on the Bread of Life (ch. 6).
What I would like to know is where they got all the baskets for the fragments? What do you think?
Matthew 15: 2 Clean Hands and a Pure Heart
The washing of the hands before eating had nothing to do with the reason given us by our parents, ”now be sure you’ve washed your hands before coning to the table.” It certainly is a good habit to instill in a child and it wouldn’t hurt if some adults practiced being a little more clean. It really gripes me when I see a man in a rest room leave without washing his hands. What has this to do with being spiritual? I say, “a whole lot.” It is a mark of selfishness for us to be so thoughtless toward others. I will not touch a handle on the inside of the door of a public men’s room and parents should train their children (sons especially) to never do so if possible. Why wash your hands and then touch the dirtiest place in town? Dirty because half of the people coming out have not washed theirs. Use a paper towel or the sleeve or tail of your shirt, anything but touching that handle! I have watched health providers in a local hospital walk out without washing and what about the people who work in restaurants? Again, why harp on such an issue? Because for a Christian to fail in such a matter demonstrates a callousness of heart just like the Pharisees in our chapter. Slothfulness and indifference are certainly evidence that we have a bad heart. Do it for the sake of others, it’s a principle of love.
These Pharisees did their washings for religious purposes. It was merely a ritual and obviously hypocritical (Mk.7:3 & 4). Jesus condemned them for washing the cup only on the outside (23:25). Much more of His condemnation when we get to chapter 23. His point was they were careful to observe a whole bunch of rules that weren’t in the Mosaic law and failed utterly to keep the spirit of the law which had to do with caring for people. Another example of their hypocrisy was to declare as Corban the support they should be giving to their parents. This they gave to the temple, thus diminishing the actual amount of their donations. In other words they had figured out a way to look good and still “ feather their own nest”. They were always concerned about how things looked outwardly and not so concerned about matters of the heart. Speaks to me, how about you?
Matthew 16: 24 On Taking up the Cross
You will note in 18:18 that what authority our Lord gave to Peter here, he gave to all of them there. As to exactly what this apostolic gift was and how it is, if it is, administered today, I can only pass on what I have heard as an explanation. The preacher today tells people what they need to hear and Heaven backs him up.
Here, perhaps, is a good place to be reminded of Deut.29:29 and pay more attention to what we know to do rather than be concerned about something we don’t quite understand. And I have an example of the former.
It has to do with what the Lord said to Peter in verse 23. He may just be as tough on us at the judgement seat of Christ, so we had better take this lesson to heart. What does it mean to savor something? The Greek word is translated think or regard (pretty simple so far!) Jesus says, Peter you think, talk and act like a man of the world rather than a man of God. You don’t want me to go to the cross because of selfish reasons - (He might have said in His heart, Oh, Peter, it will be so different when you have my life [Spirit] in you after Pentecost for then you will not care what people think you will care what God thinks [Acts 4:19].)
The sad fact is that we are more like the fleshly Peter than the spiritual Peter when it comes to obeying what Jesus said to His disciples on this occasion. If we have never verbalized to the Lord that we are actively taking up the cross and we have never personalized verse 25 (in keeping with Romans 12:1) then, it is a pretty sure thing that we are avoiding the issue with far more understanding and culpability than Peter had. Believe me, a wasted Christian life will result from lack of obedience at this point. Do it!
Matthew 17:2 “His face did Shine as the Sun”
In our solar system there is nothing that shines brighter than the sun. The
effulgence of this celestial body is so great that it is impossible to look at it without damaging the eye. This gaseous glowing orb, over 93 million miles from the earth, is itself revolving around the center of our galaxy once every 25,000 light years ( light year=5.88 trillion miles). It is 109 times larger than our planet earth and on its outer surface has a temperature of 10,000 degrees (F). Scientists say that it will only remain much as it is for another 5 billion years so someone had better get on the ball and figure out what will happen to life on this earth (as we know it) after that!
Since the sun is the most magnificently stupendous and potentially powerful natural entity in our daily lives, the Holy Spirit uses it often in Scripture to speak of the awesomeness of our “great God and Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). I say potentially because the rays of electromagnetic radiation reach us at just the right point to give us the exact amount of heat and light that we need to support life. Any closer and we would burn up!
In Malachi 4:2 our earthly sun is personified as the prophet speaks of Him as the “Sun of righteousness”. He has come close enough to us to bring us the light of His glorious gospel and the warmth of His holy love. What healing He has brought to my soul, how about yours? He has chased away the darkness and beams His illuminating rays upon the pages of His Word through His emanating spirit. His church spreads abroad a love which originates in Him and about which the world could know nothing except He shine through us. Yet the day cometh when He shall draw near and scorch the earth in judgement. II Peter 3:10- (and note v.11 also).
Matthew 18:7 Offenses
The general theme of this chapter has to do with offenses. First we have the
Lord Jesus warning against offending children. Many times I have seen children all excited about the Lord only to be turned off by, perhaps, well meaning parents. Only recently we have seen it happen or so we suspect. Two little ones starting to come to Sunday School and obviously enjoying it but suddenly a change! Satan, yes, but whom is he using? A few years ago I lamented to hear of a young man killed as he worked on his vehicle along the side of the road. Years earlier he was so interested in what he was being taught as a child until one day his parents stopped him from coming to youth group. We practically begged them to let him and his sister continue but to no avail.
Because the subject of little ones is continued in verse 10 it well may be that the offenses mentioned in 7 - 9 relate to this subject begun by our Lord in v. 2. What is worse than being drowned with a millstone around one’s neck? That would only bring physical death, but here the Lord Jesus speaks of what happens later when one is cast into everlasting fire.
Again, the story of ninety and nine seems bounded by His reference to “these little ones,” (v. 10 & 14). Let us be concerned for their salvation, Jesus certainly was.
Finally, what about being offended with a brother in the Lord? He too is one of God’s children. Instructions are given in v. 15-18 as to how the church should act. The words “again I say unto you” seems to tie together the prayer meeting with the subject of binding and loosing.
As for being forgiving, if the admonition to forgive seventy times seven were not enough, our Lord adds a powerful story before finishing these sayings (19:1). We must from our hearts forgive our brother no matter how badly he may have offended us, and this story tells us why!
Matthew 19:5 “For This Cause.”
Our Lord was asked this question (v.3), not so the Pharisees might be instructed,
but in order to trap Him. Two of the schools of interpretation in that day were deeply divided on the matter, the one being very strict and the other allowing a husband to divorce his wife for over-salting his food or if he found a better looking one. The Pharisees were of this latter school!
We cannot here attempt to answer all of the questions on this subject and even if we could, there would certainly be those who would disagree with our interpretation. We should all agree on the clear teaching put forth here by our Lord Jesus. The main problem for anyone counseling on this subject is the unwillingness of most believers involved in marital problems to agree to seek God’s mind on the subject and abide by it no matter how they feel. Such people are indeed rare but they shouldn’t be.
Here our Lord validates the union of one man and one woman for life. It is not possible to be “one flesh” with more than one partner. Anything less than this is, as they say, “outside of the box”, and as He said was already clearly not so from the beginning but allowed due to hardness of heart. In our dispensation of grace, hardness of heart is a sinful condition and inexcusable in the child of God. On the other hand, how we must treat people who are not sensitive to their Creator-God is obvious, with kindness and respect. How to do this and not appear to be compromising is every pastor’s dilemma.
One important observation regarding this Scripture is to note the fact that it is a prime evidence of the vindication of the Genesis record which has often come under suspicion by the critics as being myth rather than revelation of fact. Here the Son of God vindicates the very words of Adam recorded in Gen.2:24 as being God’s word (v.6) and thus authoritative.
Matthew 20:19 The Third Day
The term third day used here and in at least five separate occasions by our Lord obviously refers to the time of His resurrection. What I would like to suggest for your possible edification is that the term used in other places in Scripture quite possibly speaks figuratively of that subject. For example, in Genesis 1:13 it was on the third day that life appeared on the earth. In the story of Abraham and Isaac it was on the third day that they arrived at Mt. Moriah whereupon Isaac was received back from the dead in a figure (Heb. 11:19). The healing of Hezekiah was on the third day (2 Kings 12:12), and so it was too, that Esther was delivered (5:1).
The occurrence of these words, often relating to life after (the sentence of) death, stimulated my thinking when I noted it in John 2:1 where the story of the wedding in Cana of Galilee is referenced. Since there seems to be no particular reason for citing this as being the third day I wondered what might there possibly be about this story that would be suggestive of the power of resurrection. Since the main theme of John seems to be “life”, in all probability, when Mary spoke to Jesus of the need at this wedding our Lord was thinking beyond the temporal to the eternal. What these people need is life and I can’t give it yet for “my time is not yet come” but as a precursor He performed the miracle of filling six pots with the best wine. The number six, and symbolism of empty pots and wine which speaks of life, these things shout to me of a miracle more important than appears here on the surface. You will remember that at Pentecost the men were accused of being full of new wine. The obvious connection between wine and blood at the communion table taken with the clear teaching that the life of the flesh (sacrifice) is in the blood and the command to drink His blood in John 6:53 are all tied together. These people could not now and probably would not later drink it (His blood) but they gladly drank the wine He made on this third day! Soon He will drink it new with us in the kingdom at the marriage supper of the Lamb (Matt. 26:29). Hallelujah!
Matt. 21:45 They Got It!
Our Lord’s instruction with the chief priests, scribes, and pharisees in this chapter is something to behold. He did “wonderful things,” v.15 but they were unimpressed, especially with the cleansing of the temple. “By what authority do you do these things” they asked Him. He answered them by asking them what they thought about John the Baptist. They didn’t dare to answer Him one way or another for He had them “over a barrel.” When they showed that they did not have the moral courage to assess John’s ministry, He refused to reveal anything to them regarding His heavenly authority. Having exposed their hypocrisy why should He?
Wouldn’t you liked to have seen their faces when Jesus told them, hooking them a second time, the parable of the two sons. The publicans and the harlots were being converted while these so-called spiritual leaders refusing to repent, were never going to make it. Like the second son, it was all show.
These priests and pharisees for a third time in this chapter fell into a well prepared snare as Jesus told them the parable of the householder’s vineyard. “He will miserably destroy....”etc., they said. Aha, yes and do you know about the stone that the builders rejected? (They knew it very well!) It is going to fall and grind to powder those on whom it falls. They got it! “...they perceived that he spake of them” v.45.
Matt. 22:14 Properly Clothed
In verse fourteen and from the preceding dramatic picture, we must realize a sad truth, that there are professing believers in the assemblage of the saints who, unfortunately, do not belong there. Hear our Lord Jesus telling about those who say “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you....” (Matt.7:22).
Yea, and if these described by our Lord who on the surface seem to be very zealous do not make it into the kingdom where will many of our church members be who are not worthy to be compared with these most active professors? They cannot pray at pray meeting; they cannot explain the basis of their salvation apart from some emotional experience, they rarely open their Bible from one Sunday to the next, they do not tithe. “If the righteous scarcely be saved...” (I Peter 4:18).
What then does the wedding garment represent? I think it represents Christ Himself. Romans 13:14. “Put ye on..”etc.
Perhaps the following episode may be of help. The Lord asked whose image was on the coin (v.20). Since it was Caesar’s it must be rendered to him. And whose image is upon us? The true child of God can only be told for sure when he is wholly yielded to His Lord and is bearing fruit for His glory (I Cor.6:20 and John 15:8). Self-examination on this score might not be a bad idea (2 Cor. 13:5).
Matt. 23:2 Most of us Probably Qualify
This chapter contains a scathing indictment against Pharisaism and we cannot help but admire the insight and integrity of our Lord Jesus as He dealt with it. We would wish to be more like Him when we encounter these attitudes in our fellow men, but we must remember that He knew what was in their hearts and could accurately identify them as hypocrites.
I think one of the first lessons for us here is that even though we may think that those over us are acting in hypocrisy, we are commanded to be obedient to the principle they represent. The first example that comes to mind would be that of a husband expecting his wife to follow his lead when she suspects him of wrong motives. For example, Naomi was in the will of God to follow her husband to Moab out of the will of God. The principle in our text is perhaps clearer as our Lord Jesus instructs, in effect, do as they say but not as they do (in relation to Moses’ law). Obviously, however, we must never do anything that is clearly against God’s law like a husband asking his wife to have an abortion.
It is what Jesus here identifies as hypocrisy that we may apply to our own hearts.
Doing what we do to be seen of men is something that speaks to me, how about you? I find myself so often acting from a base of pride rather than of humility. We like to have people know how spiritual we are, don’t we? Perhaps we would be used more to win souls if we weren’t so quick to talk about it. Proverbs 27:2 puts it this way, “let another man praise thee and not thine own mouth;”.
The business about swearing by temple & altar (vs.16-22) has to do with rationalizing if I understand it. How quick we are to rationalize some passage of Scripture rather than accept it as face value. Example, the rich young ruler was not being asked to sell all that he had, only be willing to do it. God doesn’t expect me to tithe, that’s O.T. I won’t offer to go to the mission field but I’ll use my money to send someone in my place–etc, etc.
Matt: 24 Rightly Dividing
One reason why many Christians have problems with this chapter is that they fail to
put it in its proper perspective viewing it dispensationally. I will not try to expound on the material, but admonish you that you make certain to get or listen to a dispensational commentary, by all means. For example, it is important to note that verse 9 applies to the Jew and, of course, it is certainly true today that they are hated around the world. Verse 13 is spoken concerning the saved and is not to be construed as an example of losing one’s salvation. Be careful with the passage in 38-41 which is almost always misinterpreted. Watch the context and interpret accordingly. Note those taken away (v.38) were taken in judgement so it follows that the woman grinding at the mill is likewise taken away in judgement. This is not a rapture passage!
There are things, however, in this chapter that we can apply to the church. Don’t worry about missing out when Christ comes (vs.23-28) by not being in the right place, for just like a bird of prey can find a rotting carcase, He will find us!
Much of what is written here in this chapter has to do with what will go on during the tribulation. I don’t plan to be here, how about you?
But, we can certainly take verse 42 to heart. We do not know the day not the hour of the rapture and it is a good idea that we be watchful as in 1 Thessalonions 5:6, “therefore let us not sleep, as do others, but let us watch and be sober”, but at the same time noting that in verse three it is them not us (v.4) that are taken away in the judgement
of the “day of the Lord” (tribulation).
Matthew 25:1 When? Then!
Some years ago while visiting in the NY metropolitan area I had the privilege of attending the Calvary Baptist Church then pastored by Steven Olford, an articulate English preacher. At the time, the church was involved in a prophetic conference and I especially remember a series being preached by the president of Columbia Bible College, it may have been Alan Fleece. The part remembered most clearly relates to the section of Matthew in which we now find ourselves. The speaker drew our attention to 24:3 and to the question of the disciples, “Tell us, when shall these things be?” (Italics mine).
From this point we were instructed to watch in the following verses for the answer, usually preceded by the word then. When? Then! Etc.
We must be very careful in seeking to understand these passages because we believe in literal interpretation as dispensationalists which means that we must pay strict attention to the context.
You will note that the first word of our present chapter is the word “then”. It is important to understand that this parable of the ten virgins does not refer to the rapture of the church as this would be confusing to those of us who believe that this event will precede the things spoken of by our Lord as He used the word “then” in Matt.24:14 followed by a description of things that we know will take place during the tribulation.
Because this parable and others in these chapters contain such powerful teaching on the subject of watchfulness we are tempted to misinterpret them as being primarily directed to the church. Again, to understand them as such would be to ignore the context and encourage confusion.
There is no harm, however, in applying the principles evident in these parables. Remember, Scripture has but one true interpretation, yet may have many applications.
Matthew 26:26 Broken Bread
Perhaps this subject will come up again in the future when dealing with the matter of the Lord’s supper as it relates to the church but it will be well to note here at the first mention in the New Testament of the institution of this ordinance that the Lord did not speak of His body being broken as is often said by those in our day who are officiating at this periodic service. It may be an irrelevant point but then, on the other hand, we cannot be too careful in our handling of Scripture. If Satan is behind the thought which is a direct contradiction of the words “a bone of him shall not be broken” John19:36, he might take particular pleasure in hearing it being oft repeated especially since the breaking and sharing of the one loaf speaks of unity (1 Cor.10:16) not the division that the breaking of His physical body might represent. This especially in a day when disunity so characterizes the church. (Note particularly in the Corinthian passage referred to that it is again the bread which is being broken.) If we take the loaf here to represent the church as this passage (Corinthians) so clearly states one may see that it is consistent with the theme of unity which is the context of the oft read communion passage in I Cor.11 as noted in verse 18. Do you see the devil clapping his hands in glee every time we celebrate the “broken body” of our Lord. “Yes” he is probably saying, “my idea exactly and I am doing everything I can to break up the church so thank you for celebrating my work!” Think about it!
Finally, just a word about our Lord’s wonderful statement concerning the cup. He said that it was (represented - obviously) His blood of the new testament (covenant). The significance of this concept in light of the treatment of the blood under the old covenant is stupendous. Under the old order believers were forbidden to ingest the blood of the sacrifice but now are commanded to do just the opposite (in effect). The import of this is clear when we understand that the blood was the life of the sacrifice (Lev.17:14) and it was only after His death that His life was made available to the believer. When we drink of the cup we testify of His indwelling presence which prior to the imparting of the Holy Spirit was not the believer’s experience (John 14:17).
Matthew 27:51 “Rent in Twain”
Perhaps we should take some time today to think about the rending of the veil in
the temple. Only one spectacular event among so many at the time, but one to be particularly noted as being highly significant especially since it is specifically stated that it was torn from the top to the bottom.
This event is recorded in all three of the synoptic Gospels (Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45) and seems to be coupled with the moment of our Lord’s cry in “yielding up the ghost” though in Luke it is mentioned in a different order. At the same time there was an earthquake and Matthew alone records the opening of the graves of the saints and their subsequent appearance in the holy city. We can certainly identify with the centurion in charge and the modern expression would be Wow! He must surely have been who He said He was!
Someone once suggested to me that the meaning of the rent veil could be simply that the Old Testament order was over and that God was now coming out from behind the veil. Perhaps this is true, but for me it has always pictured that at the very moment of Christ’s death the way into God’s presence was made open for us to come to Him. This was, of course, the great and very thick veil that hung forty cubits high and signified that access to the Father (never called such in the O.T.) was now made available to us so that we might come boldly to His throne of grace (Heb.4:16), and this by a “new and living way which he hath consecrated for us through the veil that is to say His flesh” (Heb.10:20). I love to hear that old song that speaks of our Lord having been “veiled off from human view” through His suffering and death being available to us having “rent the veil in two.” We can understand that if the veil was His flesh, the moment it was stripped from Him, at that moment He was manifested openly as the Way.
Matthew 28:8 “Great Joy”
What a wonderful note on which to end our trip through Matthew’s gospel! JOY!
One can only imagine what transpired in those early morning hours as the news traveled from one to another of our Lord’s disciples. Finally His words “and the third day rise again” made sense as they remembered what He had told them (Luke 24:6-8). He had appeared “first to Mary Magdalene out of whom he had cast seven devils,” (Mark 16:9) a fact we would not discern from our present chapter. The details of this encounter are found in John 20:11-18. She must have somehow gotten temporarily separated from “the other Mary” (v.1) as these records would indicate but it was to both that Jesus said (v.10) “go tell my brethren...”
It would be an amazing event for us to experience the return to life of a loved one recently lost but even more so for these who had such a sense that He was special and that somehow in Him lay the hope of all the saints. As they beheld Him on the cross, it seemed that their hopes were dashed, that perhaps He was not really who He said He was. Had they not left all to follow Him (Mark 10:28)? So young, so promising we might say of a loved one who has recently perished in the service of his country, but not nearly so promising as this One! If there is no resurrection, if the dead rise not, “we are of all men most miserable” (1 Cor.15:19). “If Christ be not raised your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins” (v.17).
But He is risen even as He said,
He is alive - yes risen from the dead.
He is alive to die again no more.
The joy bells ring to tell it o’er and o’er.
With joy, I draw from this well of salvation,
a well now planted deep inside my heart,
yet flowing outward in great streams of mercy
till finally we meet to never part.