Mon, Jan 30th - 6:50PM
STUDY IN MATTHEW
"Then Jesus went out, and went from that place, and departed to the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried to Him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, You son of David; my daughter is grieviously vexed with a devil. But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and besought Him, saying, Send her away; for she cries after us (15:21-23)."
Jesus leaves Israel for the very first time during His public ministry. It is interesting because He came to Israel as her King and sent His disciples out to her cities but not beyond her boundaries. But upon being rejected by Israel and visited by conflict with the spiritual rulers Jesus Himself chooses to step over the boundaries of the nation and approach the Gentiles.
A Canaanite woman approaches Him and asks for mercy. This woman was a mixture of several races and was a true gentile. She had no cultural claim to Jesus as the Son of David, and He did not respond to that title at all. Then we get to witness the disciples urging Jesus to send her away for she is making a scene, perhaps even causing some of them to be embarassed. What was Jesus's response to this woman? Did He immediately help her?
"But He answered and said, I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then she came and worshipped Him, saying, Lord, help me. But He answered and said, It is not good to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their master's table. Then Jesus answered and said to her, O woman, great is your faith: let it be to you even as you wish. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour (15:24-28)."
A pretty harsh sounding remark, don't you think? Jesus required this woman to recognize the fact that He came first to be the fulfillment of all of the prophesies concerning the coming of the King of David's lineage. That Jesus had come as King of the Jewish people was the primary issue that had to be settled in that day.
But this poor woman still came and worshipped Him, calling Him Lord. She asked again for His help. And yet Jesus replied with a rebuff to her seeking of assistance. Instead of becoming offended, this woman made a realistic observation concerning what He had said to her. The Israelites referred to the Gentiles as "dogs." Being a Gentile herself she understood what Jesus was talking about, and yet she remained before Him because she believed in Him. How about us? Do we give up too soon in our prayers? Do we insist on remaining before God in prayer even when nothing seems to be coming back to us in response? Do we throw our hands up in disgust and impatience?
This Syrophoenician woman earnestly, persistently, sought help from Christ Jesus; even when it appeared to be hopeless. Because of her determination she received an answer. Jesus marvelled at her faith. The principle given to us here is this: If we wish to receive anything from God we must first have faith enough to ask, and then enough faith to continue asking in the face adversity, and finally enough faith to see it through to the very end of the matter. We have not because we ask not. Another important thing that we must take away from this passage is that we shall receive exactly as we ask; so be sure to ask correctly and to ask for the correct thing.
That is all for today my friends. Next time I shall cover the next eight or so verses. Be faithful to Christ Jesus, trust in Him completely, wait upon Him to answer your prayers, and pray fervently and persistently from the depths of your heart to Him for what you need.
Sat, Jan 28th - 11:01AM
STUDY IN MATTHEW
"You hypocrites, well did Elijah prophesy of you, saying, This people drsws nigh to Me with their mouth, and honors Me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me (15:7-8)."
Jesus called out the scribes and Pharisees as being hypocrites. Today this term carrys a scorching meaning, but back in that particular time it meant to answer back and was basically used of an actor in a play. The actor was given a cue and they answered with their lines. Jesus was accusing these people of "playing" at their religion.
These religious leaders were excited and eager for people to go through the ceremony/ritual of washing their hands, but all the while they totally ignored the filthy condition of their own hearts. Ultimately which is more important? The condition of the heart. In a very pious manner they were breaking the Mosaic Law.
Beloved, we too are pretty good at rationalizing. We tell our kids to go and wash their face and hands before sitting down for dinner, but pay no attention to what the kids are watching on television or on the internet. Which activity will damage their heart? What is on the inside of us is far more important than what is on the outside of us. A major failure of today's society is not paying attention to what affects our outward conduct.
"But in vain they do worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. And He called the multitude, and said to them, Hear, and understand: Not that which goes into the mouth defiles a man; but that which comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man (15:9-11)."
The great principle being taught here is that moral defilement is spiritual, not physical. What we eat does not defile us, it is what we think and speak that does this. What a person purposes within their heart...
"Then came His disciples, and said to Him, Do You know that the Pharisees were offended, after hearing this saying? But He answered and said, Every plant, which My heavenly Father has not planted, shall be rooted up (15:12-13)."
Leave it to the disciples to be right on the ball! They just have to point out the obvious: those Pharisees were highly offended by what you accused them of. Jesus simply accurately identified them for what they were: hypocrites. This is a breaking point between Jesus and the religious rulers of the time. There had been unease between them up to now but from this point on they would actively seek to remove Him from teaching the multitudes. What the religious rulers failed to comprehend was that anything that God had not "planted" would be uprooted and thrown into the all-consuming fire in the lake of fire and brimstone. Today, anything that mankind initiates and promulgates which is unbiblical will be uprooted and destroyed by Christ. It may not happen immediately, but judgment will be carried out at God's appointed time. These verses address both individual and group efforts at promoting false doctrines within the Christian movement. If it is a lie, then it is of Satan and not of God.
"Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch. Then answered Peter and said to Him, Declare to us this parable. And Jesus said, Are you also still without understanding? Do you not yet understand, that what ever enters at the mouth goes into the belly, and is cast out in the feces? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from out of the heart; and they are what defile a man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but to eat wit unwashed hands does not defile anyone (15:14-20)."
The word previously interpreted as "plant" means a system. So every religious system that is not started directly by God is false and shall be judged and destroyed by God. The people were spiritually blind, turned for help to the Pharisees who also were spiritually blind, and both were lost. The Pharisees could not help anyone. Peter finally voices the sentiments of all of the disciples and bluntly asks for an explanation of what Christ has been saying. God's explanation is for us as much as it was for the disciples back then. People are not defiled by what they eat but by what they speak. Whatever a person believes deep down inside of themselves will eventually be spoken by their lips, or acted out through their conduct.
Christ then proceeds to give examples of the evil, wicked, things that defile people. Today we see these sorts of things being worked out all around us on a daily basis. It is what provides fodder for the media outlets 24/7. Our contemporary society has embraced the "new morality" where it calls evil good and good evil. Those who consider the Bible to be believable are labeled as being of low intelligence, ignorant, superstitous, enslaved, and delusional. Those who reject the notion of God label themselves as being intelligent, enlightened, free-thinking, liberated, and morally responsible. Do we actually have more social freedom and morality today? Is this anything new at all? No, we have the same old things. We still have evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, false witness, blasphemy, and thievery. We have only managed to open up the cover on Pandora's Box completely and have absolutely no idea of how blind society is, let alone having no true idea of how to fix our problems.
The reality of society is that man has to be controlled. Man is the most vicious animal on the entire planet at this time. We put other animals in little cages, we torture animals, and we also put others of our own species in cages and torture them as well. But, "man must be free!" is what is trumpeted from within the enlightened societies of the world. Governments have been authorized by God to control the conduct of mankind. Laws are passed and enforced in order to control conduct of people. If people have complete liberty to do what they wish, chaos will be the result. What is the major emphasis across American society today? SEX. It is in our schools, our churches, on television, on the internet, in advertising, on the radio, in books and magazines, and has infested every home. These things defile us and our children. No one is immune to its effects for we swim in an ocean of it. Our children are defiled by it before they ever have a chance of exiting adolescence with their innocence intact. All of it is done in the lofty-sounding terminology of "freedom of speech." We can't have any cencorship in our fair democracy. The reality of it all is this: the dark, vile, things that have been locked up in people's hearts have been allowed to come out under the guise of constitutional rights. But what about my constitutional rights? They get trampled under by spiritually blind feet.
That is all for today beloved. Next time we shall consider the Syrophoenician woman's daughter who got healed. Until then, go before Christ and ask Him for that which you lack. Ask Him for courage, patience, forebearance, faith, and endurance. May God's grace and peace also be yours today!
Tue, Jan 24th - 8:21PM
STUDY IN MATTHEW
"If you pray for bread and bring no basket to carry it in, you prove the doubting spirit which may be the only hindrance to the gift you ask."
"And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped Him, saying, Of a truth You are the Son of God (14:32-33)."
You and I live in a world where the breakers are rolling in against our shores each and every day, 24/7. From time to time the winds increase in velocity to galeforce and then lessen slightly, only to increase once more. We are faced today with international terrorism, social upheaval, financial upheaval, economic collapses, marital decay, educational regression, and political malaise. In these times in which we live we must remain focused upon Jesus Christ. We can't be mislead by anyone or anything. We must keep God's Word as our anchor and bedrock of faith. If we determine in our hearts to do this, what will be the result?
Miracles will happen. Our Lord performed this miracle for His own disciples, that they might be brought to the place of faith. Even bold and brash Simon Peter got his eyes off of Jesus and his faith did then falter. I can't fault Peter, I do the same thing in my life. I step out in faith and then after awhile I take my eyes off of God and wonder how come things begin to get screwed up. It is the tragedy of the hour for all of us today. But, we are to learn from the mistakes made by these disciples, and not keep on repeating them. Instead, we are to have faith in Christ and in due time we will know that He is in control of everything around us; we are to have no fear.
"And when they were gone over, they came into the land of Gennesaret. And when the men of that place had knowledge of Him, they sent out into all that country round about, and brought to Him all that were diseased; And sought Him out that they might only touch the hem of His garment: and as many as touched were made perfectly whole (14:34-36)."
Having quelled the violence of the storm, Jesus debarked on shore and ministered to all who were diseased in the region around Gennesaret. He did not even have to speak, the people simply needed to reach out and touch His garments in order to be healed completely. Multitudes of people were being touched and changed by Christ everywhere that He went.
We come now to chapter fifteen. This chapter continues this movement of the King of kings, and He is begins now to move toward the cross. We have seen His rejection and conflict with the religious rulers. Now we are to see an advance of the ministry of Jesus to the very breaking point with the scribes and Pharisees.
"Then scribes and Pharisees came to Jesus, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they do not wash their hands when they eat bread (15:1-2)."
These people walked all the way from Jerusalem to Gennesaret, just to dicker with Him over their traditions! This was inconvenient, Jesus and His disciples had gone way out into the fringes of the desert in order to avoid any huge crowds of people. But here they came nonetheless. On the face of it it seems like a wonderful thing that the religious rulers had come all the way out to listen to Him and to ask Him some questions. But these rulers hadn't come out to applaud Him or to thank Him; they had come to criticize Him. They did not accuse Him of breaking Scripture but of violating the traditions which they considered to be on a par with God's Word. Why didn't He require His disciples to wash their hands before eating food? This wasn't based upon personal hygiene mind you, it was all about ceremonial cleansing. They basically were into going through an outward ceremony which supposedly cleaned the outside of the person, and that was all that was necessary in their eyes. But God desires us to become clean on the inside moreso than on the outside. God understands that once a man becomes cleaned up on the inside that he will become cleaner on the outside as a consequence.
"But He answered and said to them, Why do you also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honor your father and mother: and, He that curses father or mother, let him die the death. But you say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever you mightest be profited by me; and honor not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have you made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition (15:3-6)."
Christ said that honoring father and mother includes supporting them. These scribes and Pharisees got around that responsibility by dedicating their money as a gift to God, and that would relieve them of having to support their parents. It allowed them, in their minds, to break the Mosaic Law.
Today the barometer of any Christian is how he/she handles his/her own money and how he/she handles God's money. Men's traditions normally are established in order to help people avoid obeying God.
I believe that God expects me to pay my honest debts before I give to Him. He commands me to meet my obligations. He expects me to take proper care of my responsibilities. He expects me to support my family, to support my spouse, to take care of my elderly parents. I can't give everything to God first, and then claim that I am unable to provide for my family. Doing so places me in the same place as these religious rulers in Christ's day.
Well, that takes care of our study for today, beloved. Next time, God willing, I shall cover Jesus's continuing response to this accusation. May His grace and peace multiply through you on this grand day in January!
Sat, Jan 21st - 7:07PM
STUDY IN MATTHEW
"The statement that God is in control is either true or it's not true. If it's not true, we'd better forget about God. But if it is true and we accept God's revelation of Himself, our faith enables us to enjoy and rest in the certainty of His providence."
~Paul Little, How To Give Away Your Faith
22: And straightway Jesus constrained His disciples to get into a ship, and to go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away.
23: And when he had sent the multitudes away, He went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening came, He was there alone.
24: But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary (14:22-24).
God orders His disciples to enter a ship and to cross the sea ahead of Him so that He can disperse the crowds of people after having fed them. Then God leaves to find a mountain top where He can be alone to pray, leaving the disciples all alone on the sea in a boat where the wild winds can threaten their lives! What is God thinking here? Doesn't He care for their welfare? Does He want them to die in this windstorm? This is what the atheists believe, and what they claim this scripture is revealing. But consider the fact that God is all-knowing and is in control of all events as they unfold. Was Jesus ever late to arrive anywhere? He was always on time to achieve exactly what He had intended to do in every set of circumstances in which we find Him. This is no different. Jesus sent them off in that boat knowing full well what awaited them out on the sea. He took this time to go and pray to His Father in heaven, to get His spiritual batteries recharged so to speak. The time frame here covers several hours for we are informed that evening had come when Jesus was up on the mountain praying. And now we discover what His intentions had been all along.
25: And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea (14:25).
Jesus was up in the mountains praying, the disciples were down on the Sea of Galilee in a brewing storm and in darkness; they are in the place of peril. Here is the illustration of our very own day! Jesus has gone on to be with the Father up in heaven, seated at the right hand of His throne, while we all are down here on earth on a storm-ravaged sea of humanity in the place of peril. And then in the fourth watch of the night Jesus came to them out on the sea. If I am correct, the fourth watch is the time from three in the morning until daylight. It is a time of night when the senses of those who have been awake all night begin to play tricks upon you. This might even suggest a time of day when Christ will return to earth, during the fourth watch of the night. Christ is the bright and morning star for the church and when He comes to snatch the believers from out of this dark world it may very well be at this time of the day. We simply do not know for sure. But it could be that currently we live in "the time of the fourth watch of the night." At any rate, Christ went to the disciples out on the sea by walking on top of the water.
26: And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear (14:26).
Gathering some additional information from over in Mark's gospel we know that the disciples were struggling to maintain control over the ship in the storm. In the midst of their labors they look out over the water and spot a figure approaching them over the water. They leap to the conclusion that it must be a ghost! Sound like what would happen today? Superstitious? Probably, but what would you think if you were out in the same situation? They had never before seen anyone walk on top of the water, anywhere!
27: But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid (14:27).
What do they receive from God? Immediate reassurance! We are to expect the same kind of treatment from God today.
28: And Peter answered Him and said, Lord, if it be You, bid me come to You on the water.
29: And He said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.
30: But when he saw the wind howling, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me (14:28-30).
Peter gets criticized for always being brash. I say, better to respond to the call of God immediately rather than put it off for another day! Say what you will, but Peter did indeed walk on the water for a period of time before he began to sink. He stepped out in faith. He trusted Christ. Too bad too few of us believers today do not trust God completely and take steps in faith which are out of the ordinary. Did Jesus rebuke Peter for stepping out in faith? No, He did not. Why did Peter begin to sink? He took his eyes off of Jesus and looked at the stormy seas which surrounded him. We have the exact same problem in our daily lives today. We allow ourselves to become distracted by events and circumstances happening around us and then we can't walk to where Jesus has called us. This was not a case of Peter failing to walk on water but a case of failing to keep his focus upon Jesus Christ. It was a failure to continuously completely trust God. It was something which Peter had to experience and then learn from later on.
Peter uttered probably the shortest prayer imaginable. "Lord, save me!" Any longer of a prayer and he would have drowned. Peter simply cut to the chase and kept his request short and concise! Sometimes we need to follow suit when praying today. Did Jesus then let Peter thrash around in the water while considering Peter's request? No, Jesus responded immediately.
31: And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand, and caught him, and said to him, O you of little faith, why did you doubt (14:31)?
Peter doubted Jesus' ability to keep him safe from the storm and keep allowing him to walk on top of the water. Little faith is a limiting factor in how much a person will be able to do for God. We see the waves a rolling in towards us, breakers towering up over our heads, and we take our eyes off of Jesus. We ought to keep our eyes riveted upon Him at these times, not look away at what is going on in the world.
That is all for tonight, beloved. I will conclude this account and the chapter next time we meet here. I pray that each of you determine in your hearts to remain locked in upon Christ and not become distracted by what goes on all around you or in other parts of our world. It does not mean that we ignore what is going on, just that we remain focused upon Christ. Grace and peace be yours!
Mon, Jan 16th - 10:45AM
STUDY IN MATTHEW
"Charity gives itself rich; covetousness hoards itself poor."
"In necessary things, unity; in doubtful things, liberty; in all things, charity."
13: When Jesus heard of it, He departed from there by ship into a desert place apart: and when the people had heard of it, they followed Him on foot out of the cities (14:13),
Jesus withdrew from the populous areas for He knew Herod's intentions towards Him. It was not the appointed time for Him to be offered up a ransom for our sins. So the Lord left the cities to be in a region which was desert, lacking in anything with which to feed any large gathering of people. And still a great crowd of people found out where Jesus was hanging out and they traveled to go and see Him. How determined were these people? Jesus had gone by ship across the Sea of Galilee but these people walked around the shoreline to reach Him! Jesus was immensely popular with the common person of the day.
14: And Jesus went out, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and He healed their sick.
15: And when it was evening, His disciples came to Him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages and buy themselves food to eat.
16: But Jesus said to them, They do not need to leave; you provide food for them to eat (14:14-16).
God has compassion on us all. It may pass right over our heads sometimes, but He does care for each and every one of us. Jesus went out and upon seeing how many people had gathered outside, was moved with compassion. He saw the great need in them and went out to heal those who were sick. I imagine this covered more than just those with physical ailments. Mental illnesses, emotional illnesses, and whatever type of phobias they suffered from were all healed so that they were made whole once more. God's concept of what makes us "sick" differs from our own concept of sickness. I wonder how many hundreds, or even thousands, of people were healed that day alone. Plus Jesus never asked for recompense for what He had done for anyone. Compare that to how the "healing cults" of today do business.
At the close of the day we find a difference of opinion between Jesus and His disciples. They want Him to send all of these people away from them. They were not stopping to consider the financial plight of any of those who had come to be healed and taught by Jesus, they were thinking basically of themselves. The disciples were acting like advisers to Jesus. Jesus turned around and advised them to provide for the crowd. This coming miracle is found in all four gospels. It is an important event that illustrates truth to mankind. Disciples of Jesus Christ are not appointed board of directors, deciding what Christ can and can't do. Here Jesus gave His disciples an impossible command, just as He does with us today beloved.
17: And they said to Him, We have here only five loaves and two fishes.
18: He said to them, Bring them here to Me (14:17-18).
Doesn't this illustrate the state of many congregations in the church today? How many congregations state that they do not wish to increase the size of their congregation? They claim that they are content with how things are, or that they can't afford to have more people attending services. Five loaves and two fishes type of thinking. Or they claim that some people have too many "issues" and ought to go elsewhere for help. Five loaves and two fishes type of thinking. Send them away! Send them to a doctor, or to the government for help! But what about offering them spiritual bread? What about actually acquiring the power of God to accomplish the impossible? If we possess the power of God then we do not need to send the multitudes away, we can invite them to come. Solutions to today's problems are not in government handouts nor in human imaginations, they are in God. This is why too many parts of the church are powerless.
Verse eighteen is applicable to all aspects of our lives. Whatever you may have, bring it to God and He will work miraculous things with it. What counts most with God, what we have or what we don't yet have? "You have not because you ask not." God knows all too well what we do not yet have in our lives. He urges us to ask of Him so that we may receive that which we lack. Too many people dislike admitting that they are lacking certain things and so they refuse to ask God for anything. Then, too many of us clutch what we do have and refuse to give any of it to God. Five loaves and two fishes type of thinking. Why not try giving God whatever we do have and let Him be the director in the disposition of it?
In the other gospel accounts we discover that these loaves and fishes came from a young boy who was there. Can you imagine what sort of impact this miracle had upon this young boy? He knew exactly how many people could be fed by what he had in his basket. These were not two foot long loaves of bread nor were these fishes six or seven pounds each. They were small loaves and small fishes. Still, Jesus commanded that they be brought to Him.
19: And He commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, He blessed, and broke them, and gave the loaves to His disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.
20: And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full.
21: And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, besides women and children (14:19-21).
Over five thousand people got fed that day from five loaves of bread and two fishes. From the other accounts of this miracle we learn that they were seated in an orderly fashion by groups. We also learn here what God does to those who feel that they ought to be telling God what to do and how to do it. Christ sent the disciples out into the multitude in the capacity of waiters. Jesus gave to His disciples (us) and the disciples in turn gave to the multitude of people (those who do not know Jesus). This is the pattern we must embrace: Jesus gives to us and we must then give to others what we have been given. Feeding the multitudes of unbelievers comes in the form of physical food and spiritual food.
One problem within too many congregations is that too many people want to tell everyone how to do things and too few are willing to do it. What is vitally needed is to have plenty of "waiters" to give out the Bread of Life, the Word of God. That is the business of Christians yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
That is all on this Martin Luther King holiday my friends. Next time we meet here I will write about Jesus walking on the water. That is another awesome miracle which has application in all of our lives!
May Christ provide abundantly in your life today, and every day!
Sun, Jan 15th - 3:30PM
STUDY IN MATTHEW
1: At that time Herod the tetrarch heard of the fame of Jesus,
2: And said to his servants, This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead; and therefore mighty works do show up in him (14:1-2).
John the Baptist was slain on the pretext of Herod having to keep an oath. It was an overt act of antagonism toward light and right which ultimately ended by laying wicked hands upon Jesus. It also sounds very superstitious does it not? It is the superstition of old Herod and also of other ignorant people of his day. Don't be fooled by the so-called sophisticated people of our times, who claim, "In our contemporary society we are no longer superstitious like that!" How many people follow their horoscopes each day? Or their astrology charts? Religions of the Orient have had an ever increasing influence upon Western culture since the 1950's. The human race as a whole is quite superstitious, and once you get away from the Word of God you do not have much else but superstition. Even the atheists find themselves gravitating to pagan religions and other cults.
The ministry and teachings of Jesus Christ could not escape the notice of the king sitting upon the throne in Israel. Herod was a member of the family which was chock full of rascals, they were in essence the Mafia of the first century. This very Herod was no exception.
3: For Herod had laid hold of John, and bound him, and put him in prison for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's wife.
4: For John said to him, It is not lawful for you to have her.
5: And when he would have put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet.
6: But when Herod's birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod.
7: Whereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask.
8: And she, having been instructed by her mother, said, Give me here John Baptist's head in a charger.
9: And the king was very sorry: nevertheless for the oath's sake, and them which sat with him at meat, he commanded it to be given to her.
10: And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison.
11: And his head was brought in a charger, and given to the damsel: and she brought it to her mother (14:3-11).
All of these verses are a flashback of what had already happened. When Herod heard about the preaching of Jesus, he immediately became fearful and filled with superstition. He quickly recalled what John had preached and recognized the similarities. He now had added reason to murder Jesus and be altogether done with the Baptist's condemnation.
We need to notice that Herod's actions concerning John the Baptist had been driven by feelings for another person. Herodias was someone who had influence over the king, and later on it will happen with others. He was a politician by nature and his motivations lay in that direction continually. John had dragged Herod's immorality out into the public square for all to see. Even though Herod was fit to be tied he did not dare touch John due to the influence of the crowds of people who considered John to be a prophet from God. But then one day this old, lascivious, lustful, dirty old man who lived with his brother's wife watched his niece dance before him. She influenced his emotions so much that he swore an oath to give her her heart's desire. Foolish man! Herodias certainly lived up to the Herodian character traits. She had trained her very own daughter to gain for her what her immoral sex partner could not: the head of John the Baptist. Herodias clearly understood how to influence Herod and thus she obtained vengeance upon John. John had damaged her public image, made everyone painfully aware of what sort of person she was, and so he must pay for her humiliation.
But keep looking at Herod. He felt that he had to keep his oath to his niece, and also not look bad in the eyes of his dinner guests! What a sad, sadistic, and sordid affair this was. It reveals more than anything else what kind of society existed at that time in Israel. But how much has human nature actually changed in two thousand years? Lust, murder, and revenge are part of our society still today.
12: And his disciples came, and took up the body, and buried it, and went and told Jesus (14:12).
John's disciples clearly understood the relationship between these two men. They knew that Jesus would want to know what had been done to John. The messenger of the Messiah had served his purpose and had been called home to paradise. Now it was time for Jesus' ministry to increase.
That is all for today beloved. Grace and peace be with you all today!
Sat, Jan 14th - 7:37PM
STUDY IN MATTHEW
51: Jesus said unto them, Have you understood all these things? They said unto Him,
52: Then He said to them, Therefore every scribe which is instructed of the kingdom of heaven is like a man that is a householder, which brings from out of his treasure things new and old (13:51-52).
How much of those parables do you think the disciples actually understood? Probably not as much as they thought. We are to bring both old things and new things from out of God's Word as we teach others about God and heaven. It is to be our treasure in life.
53: And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these parables, he departed
54: And when He was come into His own country, He taught them in their synagogue, inasmuch that they were astonished, and said, From where has this man this wisdom, and these mighty works (13:53-54).
I will remind you again that in Jesus' day no one questioned whether or not He could perform miracles. Their question was, "What is the source of your wisdom and ability to perform these mighty works?"
55: Is not this the carpenter's son? is not His mother called Mary? and His brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas (13:55).
Christ was the son of a carpenter and yet He had undeniable wisdom concerning God's Word and could perform incredible miracles. They simply could not recognize who He really was: God made manifest in human flesh. It remains the problem with very many people today, they simply think that Jesus was a day laborer who managed to come up with some pretty good concepts. They may reach a point where they will admit that He must have been a great teacher, rabbi, healer, and a compassionate man. But they rarely reach the point of admitting that He was God in the flesh.
56: And His sisters, are they not all with us? From where then has this man all these things (13:56).
It is rather obvious from these verses that Jesus had younger siblings. He was not an only child and His mother did not remain a virgin the remainder of her life. People at that time knew this family and they could not comprehend how this eldest son of Joseph and Mary could arrive at such incredible wisdom and ability to perform miracles of all sorts.
57: And they were offended by Him. But Jesus said to them, A prophet is not without honor, except in his own counry, and in his own house (13:57).
Isn't that mankind's basic response to whatever they can't understand in other peoples? They either fear it, are offended by it, or both. Jesus' hometown residents were so familiar with Him and His entire family that they were blinded to the truth of who He really was. They chose to not believe in Him and His mighty works.
58: And He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief (13:58).
What is the only thing which had any possible means to limit the expression of God's power at that time? Unbelief. It wasn't that He was incapable of doing things; it was because of their unbelief that He did not do many works there. So, if I do not have faith to believe in Christ, I do not have God's miraculous power being manifested in my life. If I do not believe that Christ can save the lost and the missing people of this world, then I am forever lost myself As much as God desires to manifest Himself in our lives, if we do not believe then He becomes limited in our communities, our churches, our families, and in our own lives. Unbelief slows down the progress of God's Church but does not stop it. This is a great truth which should not be bypassed nor forgotten.
That concludes chapter thirteen of Matthew. The next chapter of this book has as its theme the following things: John the Baptist who is the forerunner of Christ is beheaded. Jesus Christ attempts to withdraw from the vast crowds of people but they continue to follow Him. Jesus feeds the five thousand and sends His disciples over the sea in a storm, then He walks on the water to them.
The general movement in Matthew of the rejection of Jesus as King and His conflict with the religious rulers continues. This chapter before us reveals that events are moving toward a crisis. But that is for the next time beloved. Until then, I pray that you gain wisdom and truth from God's Word. I pray that you find the peace of Christ. I pray that God's mercy and grace become realized in your life. Love God, love the brethren of Christ, love your spouse the same way that Christ loves His church.
Thu, Jan 5th - 8:35PM
STUDY IN MATTHEW
45: Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls:
46: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it (13:45-46).
The common interpretation is that the merchant man is a sinner looking for Christ Jesus. It is an easy mistake to make upon taking a quick look at these two verses, but it is an unworthy and unthoughtful consideration of its meaning. Sinners do not go looking for salvation, God goes looking for sinners. Sinners have nothing with which to purchase redemption and thus can't buy the "pearl."
No, the revelation here is that Christ is the merchantman. He left His heavenly home and came to earth to find a pearl of great price. He found lost sinners and sold all that he had in order to buy all of us and redeem us to God. In II Corinthians 8:9 we are informed again of this revelation, that though Christ was rich He became poor, that we through His poverty might become rich.
What does the pearl represent here? All of mankind? No, it represents the church. A pearl is not a stone like rubies or diamonds. It is formed by a living organism. The pearl was never considered very valuable by the Israelites. Though the Hebrews did not value pearls highly, the Gentiles considered them to be very valuable. The Oriental peoples gave the pearl a symbolic meaning of innocence and purity, fit only for kings and potentates.
So, Christ came to earth as the merchantman. He saw men in sin and He chose to take man's sin and bear it in His own body. Our sin was an intrusion into His body, just like a grain of sand is inside of an oyster. Christ was made sin for us, through the grace of God.
Christ covers us with His own white robe of righteousness, beginning the process of creating something new, different, and valuable. Christ sees us, not as we currently are, but as we shall be one day when we are presented to Him having no spot, or wrinkle, or blemish. Christ gave all that He had in order that He might gain the church of believers, the pearl. In Ephesians 5:27 we read that the church which He has purchased with His blood is to holy and without blemish of any kind. In I John 3:2 we are told that we now are the sons, the daughters, of God and that while we do not know what we shall become, we do know that when Christ appears again we will be like Him. We will know for we shall see Him as He is. At that specific point in time we will be able to look upon God in all of His glory and not perish.
In the Book of Revelation, if you remember, New Jerusalem is described. The future home of the church has an emblem on the outside of the city on the gates, and it is composed of pearls. It is no accident of literature. Christ has planned it all to happen a specific way at a specific time.
47: Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind:
48: Which, when it was full, the drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the goods into vessels, but cast the bad away.
49: So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come out, and sever the wicked from among the just.
50: And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth (13:47-50).
This term "world" is translated from the Greek aion. It means "age." The Bible does not teach about the end of the world, and then nothingness. It does teach that this current age in which we are living will come to an end, but it is simply that "time" will be no more. Eternity begins once God returns to assume the Kingship of the kingdom of heaven here on earth after the millennial reign of Christ ends. Don't be confused by the interchanging of Christ and God, they are one and the same. The end of the age is when Christ returns, eternity begins once the Great White Throne judgment has been completed and sin has been eradicated from creation.
God has laid it out very plainly, and clearly, that to end up being condemned for eternity will be anything but a party. You may not not for sure whether there is a heaven or hell, but you sure had better make sure that you are going to heaven because even if you are wrong you'll still be all right. But, if you are wrong about there being a hell and end up having to go there, it will be very bad.
All of the sophisticated and educated people in our world claim that I can't possibly know that hell exists. That is probably true according to verifiable scientific data. But, in reality none of them know for certain that hell does not exist, for no one can go there to verify its existence. Since I know that life has verified much of what the New Testament, and the Old Testament, claim then I can safely conclude that the Bible is correct about heaven and hell being real. I can base my faith upon proof within my own life.
If you lived some 4 miles from the coast, and you were told that a hurricane was going to devastate your community, what would you do? Look at the nice blue sky without any clouds in it, and laugh at your informant, calling them crazy? Or would you consider your choices and begin making preparations? You would be foolish to not prepare to survive the coming storm. What about the person who rejects Christ's warning about hell, and the lake of fire? Are they not choosing to take their chances, to gamble? It will be too bad if they turn out to be wrong, there will be no "Get out of Hell" cards to lay down on the table at the end of the final card hand. God will send out His holy angels to remove the wicked people from the entire world and they shall be cast into a fiery furnace where they will wail and gnash their teeth. That tells me that they will not burn up in instant nothingness. No, they will be there for the remainder of eternity for their sin will not be allowed into the new creation.
That is all for today beloved. I will pick up with verse 51 the next time we meet here. Grace and peace be with you today and always.
Mon, Jan 2nd - 7:13PM
STUDY IN MATTHEW
36: Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and His disciples came to Him, saying, Declare to us the parable of the tares of the field.
37: He answered and said to them, He that sows the good seed is the Son of man;
38: The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one;
39: The enemy that sowed them in the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.
40: As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world (13:36-40).
The disciples desired to understand this parable. So they requested Christ explain it to them, and He obliged them. The picture painted by Jesus is an exact reflection of the condition of Christendom in our day and time. This exact scenario is declared once again in the Book of Revelation as the angels of the Lord are ordered to go out and reap the harvest of the world, bringing in those whose names are written in the Book of Life. Those poor souls who have refused to accept Christ Jesus as their Lord and Savior will be bound up and sent to the lake of fire in order to eliminate sin from His holy presence. This can be seen in the very next verse:
41: The Son of man shall send out His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity.
42: And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
43: Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who has ears to hear, let him hear (13:41-43).
In the kingdom during the Millennial reign of Christ Jesus there will be evil rearing its ugly head. But it will be removed from the kingdom permanently. The seemingly harsh words of verses 42-43 came from the gentle lips of Jesus. This judgment of those people who have rejected God clearly indicates that they shall not simply become erased from existence. No, what they experience is eternal condemnation which includes wailing and grinding of the teeth because of the extreme pain being felt. God is indeed merciful in that He does not require immediate death because of sinful behavior. God is longsuffering in order that a person has ample time and opportunity to repent of their sin and turn back to God. God's grace provides a person with the means to be reconciled with Him, that grace came in the form of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ pronounced a warning at the end of verse 43: If you have the ears to hear this, then you need to heed My words!
44: Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hid in a field; which when a man has found it, he hides it, and for joy he goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field (13:44).
In this parable the "treasure" is the Bride of Christ. The "field" is the entire world. The "man" is the Son of man who gave Himself to redeem His Bride. Christ did indeed give all that He had in order to purchase the treasure of redemption for all of mankind. This is not a parable about some man who sells everything that he has in order to purchase redemption that is hidden out in some field. Christ's church is effectively buried in the world today and needs someone to find her and payoff her sins.
In reality, the church is buried out in the world and must be found. In Zechariah we can read: "And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon Me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him, as one mourns for His only Son, and shall be in bitterness for Him, as one that is in bitterness for His firstborn (Zechariah 12:10).
The prophet Jeremiah speaks many times about the regathering of the people of Israel and of God bringing them to their own land. I believe that the reformation of Israel during the late 1940's fulfilled these promises of regathering the people back into their homeland. It was miraculous that they were able to survive the repeated Arabic attacks during the first twenty-odd years. Has God finished with Israel? Is He done with them? I do not believe so. Romans 11:1-2 states that God has not cast away His people Israel. But Zechariah does go on to write of the cleansing which will take place at the time of Christ's return (13:1).
A secondary application of this parable is this. The man represents believers who discover Jesus Christ as their Redeemer and joyfully sell all that they have in order to secure redemption. The person who finds Christ makes Him the most important thing in their lives, everything else is expendable. There can be no other path that can be chosen. This point, I believe, is driven further home in the very next parable. But that is for tomorrow, I hope.
Grace and peace be yours on this second day of the new year.
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