Tags: 1 John 3, commentary on Matthew, hatred, Matthew 5, murder, righteous indignation, Sermon on the Mount, Sunday School lessons on Matthew
Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.
We are created in the image of God. This deals more with the make-up of our inner selves than any physical characteristics. It includes our will and our emotions. In some ways, our emotions are a mirror of the ways God chooses to express His feelings. We are able to love because God is love, and He has created an ability to love in us. We have compassion because God understands everything about us, and He has created in us an ability to understand others.
Many of the emotions which we received from God have been warped and perverted because of sin. Jealousy is one example. God’s jealousy is good. We should be jealous of those we love in the sense of wanting what is best for them, and wanting to share a special bond. But instead we make it into a petty, selfish emotion, where we are jealous of what someone else has, so that we want it for ourselves. Another example is lust: a strong burning inward desire for something. We should lust after our spouses. We should lust after righteousness. But we’ve turned lust into a sinful desire to have what is forbidden, and our flesh enjoys it all the more because it is forbidden. Fear is another example. We should have an awe of God, and a reverent fear of Him that helps us. Instead, we make fear our excuse for not moving in faith, for not boldly going into the unknown while knowing that God is with us.
Let’s focus on another example: anger. Anger was created by God. God is love, but He does get angry. God is love, and He is good, but a part of being good is being just, and part of being just is rewarding right and punishing wrong. God’s holiness must be offended by, and angered by, sin. It must be angered by injustice, so God reserves His anger for times when His creatures rebel against Him, as is the case with Lucifer, Adam and Eve – and you and I.
Question: How can God be loving and angry?
Answer: How can He not?
We tend to be subjective when we think about someone’s evil deeds. Two people read about a criminal in the news. One person is offended, and another person is not. One person does not approve of the criminal’s actions, but is sympathetic over the consequences of getting caught or over the circumstances that led him to commit the crime. A third person is aghast and disgusted at the villainy that was perpetrated. Deep down, though, each of them has a sense of justice. When the crime is horrific enough, or cruel enough, we feel an urge to see punishment meted out, if not by the authorities, then at least by some cosmic judge. None of us really, truly want a God who could look at 9/11 and just want to give Osama Bin Laden a hug. God’s response to kidnappings, rapes, murders can not be, “Let’s just hold hands and sing kumbaya.”
Question: If God is all-powerful and all good, why is there so much bad?
Answer: That’s the wrong question. The question should be: “If God is all-powerful and all good, why has He not obliterated this whole world a long time ago?”
God created anger – it seems – as a way of dealing with injustice and sin. But we have taken our God-given capacity for anger, and have warped it and abused it and tainted it with sin.
There is a righteous anger and a holy indignation. The Bible even tells us to be angry (but not to sin, Ephesians 4:26). Some examples of righteous indignation include Jesus chasing the money-changers out of the Temple, and sinners under John the Baptist’s preaching reacting violently to get past the Pharisees in order to get to God (Matthew 11:12).
Matthew 5:21-26 is part of the Sermon on the Mount, where Christ the King issued His decrees on the fulfillment of – and the real meaning of – the Law. The Pharisees had made the law of Moses completely external. Christ said that its real application is to the heart – internal. Sinful anger is anger that is not justified – anger that exists, according to Matthew 5:22, “without a cause.” And this may very well include 99.9% of all human anger. Because, unlike God, we are sinful and not capable of exercising or administering perfect justice, we are commanded to be forgiving, meek, humble, long-suffering, kind, loving, prayerful for enemies, willing to turn the other cheek.
We who have been forgiven in Christ have been spared the consequences of God’s anger, although God remained just. Therefore, we, being unjust, must not place our own selfish interpretation of justice around us and seek to enforce it.
Sinful anger is very dangerous. It makes us want to destroy, when Jesus has called us to be builders rather than destroyers.
Sinful anger in our hearts comes out of our mouths, and makes a bad situation worse. God wants us to come into bad situations and make them better.
The Law said “thou shalt not kill.” The Pharisees added:
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
Jesus said not only is murder a sin, but unjustified hatred in the heart is murder.
Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.
I John 3:15
Most murders are not cold and calculated; they are a result of unrestrained anger. Most of them don’t take place when people are defending a righteous cause; most of them take place in the barrooms and the bedrooms. God values human life. Only He gives it, and only He has the right to take it away. So the Lord says, make things right with your brother before you come to the altar to show your love for God. We need to come to worship with a right heart. Bitterness and anger toward our brothers intrudes on our relationship with God, and our worship of Him.
Tags: boldness, commentary on Hebrews, drawing near to God, Hebrews 3, Hebrews 4, Moses, prayer, Sunday School lessons on Hebrews, superiority of Christ
Christ is greater than the prophets. He is greater than the angels. He is greater than any spiritual leader – even Moses, who had a special place in the hearts of Jewish believers.
Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;
“Partakers” means that all Christians are in this together. The Holy Ghost reminded the Hebrew believers that they were partakers of the heavenly calling when He began to talk about Moses, their most beloved spiritual leader, because drawing nigh to God needs to be real. The Holy Ghost doesn’t want us to deceive ourselves by drawing close to a spiritual leader when we can go directly to God. Remember, Jesus isn’t just a faraway principle or an idea or a symbol. Jesus is also a “partaker” with us.
For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end;
It is not that our salvation is dependent upon us holding on until the end with our own strength. No, the whole chapter is written explicitly to believers. Moses should be studied. For the most part, he’s a good example – a man of faith – greatly used of God.
And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after;
But we are to “consider” Jesus – to study Him more carefully and closely than Moses. If you really want to consider something – to study it carefully – you get close to it. Moses was a prophet and a priest, but:
But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.
“Confidence” means surety, hope, knowledge of how things are going to work out. If I tell someone something in “confidence,” it’s because I trust that person not to tell anyone else. I trust them with the information, and therefore, I can be bold.
Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
We use that verse many times to encourage folks to be bold with God during prayer time, but remember, to speak with boldness, to speak with confidence, I must draw near. Coming boldly, with confidence, does not equal loud or proud. Can you imagine a petitioner shouting at a king from a distance?
Tags: Ark of the Covenant, Biblical offerings, commentary on Exodus, exclusivity of Christ, Exodus 24, Exodus 25, Mercy Seat, Mt. Sinai, offerings, Sunday School lessons on Exodus
Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel: And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness. And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink. And the Lord said unto Moses, Come up to me into the mount, and be there: and I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that thou mayest teach them. And Moses rose up, and his minister Joshua: and Moses went up into the mount of God. And he said unto the elders, Tarry ye here for us, until we come again unto you: and, behold, Aaron and Hur are with you: if any man have any matters to do, let him come unto them.
Moses was going to be there a while, so Aaron and Hur could act in his stead to settle issues among the people.
And Moses went up into the mount, and a cloud covered the mount. And the glory of the Lord abode upon mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days: and the seventh day he called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud. And the sight of the glory of the Lord was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel. And Moses went into the midst of the cloud, and gat him up into the mount: and Moses was in the mount forty days and forty nights.
Moses was alone with God for 40 days and 40 nights. That’s a long time to be in the midst of this devouring fire. I hope there has been or will be a time in your life when you become very intense about getting into the presence of God the Father. We don’t climb a mountain to do it – we do it in Christ – but it is a still a real thing, and it can transform your life.
And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take my offering.
God gave the people the gracious opportunity to give willingly and freely from the spoil they had taken from the Egyptians and the Amalekites, and from whatever they had managed to obtain on their own. The people gave willingly, from the heart, but you will note the design of the worship was all God’s. The people didn’t incorporate ideas from the world, and they didn’t dream it up on their own. Corporate worship is supposed to be about what pleases God, not what we happen to like.
And thou shalt put into the ark the testimony which I shall give thee. And thou shalt make a mercy seat of pure gold: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof.
The Mercy Seat is where the Law was, and God knows the Law will be broken, but it is called the Mercy Seat instead of the Judgment Seat because blood will be applied there.
And thou shalt make two cherubims of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat.
This design instruction did not violate the Second Commandment because the Giver of the Law Himself specifically commanded it, and because these cherubim figures were not “saints” or animals to be worshiped. They were images of supernatural beings that show the intense interest these creatures have for what God is doing out of love for lesser, fallen creatures (mankind).
And make one cherub on the one end, and the other cherub on the other end: even of the mercy seat shall ye make the cherubims on the two ends thereof.
Tags: Acts 4, commentary on Acts, God's absolute will, God's omnipotence, human agency, sovereignty of God, Sunday School lessons on Acts, will of God
There are two main ways to think about the will of God. One is to think about His will in general. What is He doing? What is He accomplishing with His existence? The other, more common way, is to think, “What is His will for my life?” I would like to offer some ways in which we can think about God’s will systematically.
The first of these falls under the heading: God’s Decretive Will (His will of decree), meaning what He has decreed or commanded to come to pass. Or, to put it another way, what He has ordered, or spoken into existence. This is sometimes called His absolute sovereign will. This is how we think about God’s will in the sense that it can not be resisted. For example:
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
God’s decretive will can not be resisted, much less overcome. Other examples of this kind of exercise of God’s will would be: the speaking into existence of all of creation; the manna falling from Heaven; and the unredeemed and Satan being cast into the lake of fire at the final judgment; just to name a few.
God’s decretive will often acts through the means of human agency, and sometimes completely overrules human choices. In Acts Chapter 4 Peter and John healed a lame man, and ended up being brought before the council. The authorities could not deny the divine healing, nor even the truth of their message, but they threatened them to stop preaching, to which they responded that they could not. They had to obey God even if the government said it was illegal. Then they went back and reported to the other disciples what God had done, and here is what they said:
And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is:
God did the acts ascribed to Him in Verse 24 by His decretive will.
Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things?
The people who instigated and demanded Jesus’s execution were furious at Him for claiming to be God.
The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ.
The people in charge summoned all their authority and effort. The Jewish leaders and Roman authorities worked together for one evil, united purpose.
For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.
But, despite their total assumption of the control they wielded, they ended up doing exactly what God wanted done.
Tags: Aaron, Biblical priests, Cinco de Mayo devotions, commentary on Hebrews, Hebrews 5, humility, Jesus Christ, priests, Sunday School lessons on Hebrews
The Lord Jesus Christ, in His position as the Great High Priest, is superior to the Levitical priesthood of the Old Testament. Not only is He seated at the right hand of God, on the throne of grace, but He is a superior High Priest in the way in which He was ordained. Aaron was appointed by God as high priest, and was given great honor, respect, responsibility, and privilege among men.
For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins:
But Christ was appointed by God as the Great High Priest without any glorying in Himself on His own behalf.
So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee.
Christ was greater, not only in the way He was ordained, but also in the sacrifice that He offered. Aaron sacrificed animals. Christ sacrificed Himself. None of those animals came back to life, but Christ rose from the dead. God did not speak directly to Aaron at his ordination, but He did speak to Jesus.
Aaron and the subsequent high priests felt formidable. Despite their best efforts to remain pious and humble, they were guilty of pride and self-promotion because of their position. The Lord Jesus Christ humbled Himself to the point of becoming a servant, enduring abuse, and allowing Himself to experience a greater undeserved humiliation than any other man. God honored this humility and sacrifice by making Him the eternal Mediator between God and man. We must never think of ourselves as worthy to minister on behalf of God, nor as holding a special exalted place in ministry because of any inherent good within us.
Tags: answered prayers, commentary on Matthew, divine healing, faith, Jairus, Matthew 9, prayer, Sunday School lessons on Matthew, superstition, woman with the issue of blood
In Matthew Chapter 9 Jesus heals Jairus’s daughter and the woman with the issue of blood.
While he spake these things unto them, behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshipped him, saying, My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live. And Jesus arose, and followed him, and so did his disciples. And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment: For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole. But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour. And when Jesus came into the ruler’s house, and saw the minstrels and the people making a noise, He said unto them, Give place: for the maid is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn. But when the people were put forth, he went in, and took her by the hand, and the maid arose. And the fame hereof went abroad into all that land.
Jairus was a leader among the Jews and a man; this will sound mean, but, to society’s way of thinking at that time, the woman was a “broke nobody.” Jairus worshipped at the synagogue; the woman was considered unclean. Jairus was pleading for his daughter; the woman needed healing for herself. Jairus’s daughter had been healthy for 12 years; the woman had been sick for 12 years. Everybody knew about Jairus’s problem; no one knew about the woman’s problem. Jairus needed God to increase his faith; the woman’s faith was very simplistic, childlike, and almost superstitious. Jesus ultimately healed both the woman and Jairus’s daughter. As fallen human beings, our faith, just like everything else about us, is far from perfect.
When my second daughter was born, the doctor and the nurse who were in the delivery room with my wife and I remained calm and acted very similar to the way the doctor and nurse had acted when our first daughter was born. They were calm, and seemed occupied in cleaning her off, checking all her body parts, getting her onto the scale, etc. But we could sense something was wrong. She wasn’t crying nearly as loudly as our first daughter had, and she seemed to be wheezing and having trouble breathing. After a few moments, the nurse decided that she needed to be taken out. It was frightening – terrifying actually – and for the next few days our daughter was in the newborn intensive care section of the hospital on a breathing tube. We were only allowed to hold her very briefly a couple of times a day. Despite the fact that the breathing tube bypassed her vocal cords, making her crying soundless, it was obvious that she was in distress and wailing with body-wracking sobs almost constantly. One of the most frustrating things about the whole situation was that the doctors and hospital staff couldn’t or wouldn’t tell me what was wrong. They said it was too soon to tell, revealing only that it may be something as routine as the need to drain fluid from her lungs or something as serious as a heart valve problem. I pled for percentages, possible diagnoses, treatment options, contingency plans, you name it, but the doctor in charge of her case would only shake her head somberly and say that she could give me no assurance at all. I tried my best to stay with my wife, who needed comfort in her hospital room, but it was hard to stay away from the intensive care unit. They had a special waiting area, and I would sit in there all alone, all night long, pleading with the Lord to heal my daughter. This might very well be one of the most sinful prayers you can pray, but many, many times during those three days, I asked God to take my life in exchange for my daughter’s. This was one of the most miserable periods of my entire life, but I can honestly say that I probably drew closer to God in that ICU waiting room than I ever had before. I give Him glory and praise today, almost 17 years later, that He did completely heal my daughter, despite the superstitious nature of my faith.
I don’t know exactly what was going through the mind of Jairus or the woman with the issue of blood before Jesus answered their prayers, but I am eternally thankful that He does answer imperfect prayers prayed with imperfect faith.
Tags: 1 Corinthians 15, commentary on Hebrews, Ephesians 6, Galatians 1, George Washington, Hebrews 2, Leviticus 17, Matthew 16, Sunday School lessons on Hebrews
Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;
It was important for Jesus to become flesh and blood, so He could die and break the power of death and the power of the devil. Angels aren’t flesh and blood; they’re spirit beings.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
I Corinthians 15:50
For this reason, if we are to inherit eternal life, we must be “born again,” and, in this second birth, we must be “born of the Spirit.”
To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:
And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
Jesus told Peter that he was blessed because his confession of faith was based on listening to God, not just on what he had seen with his flesh-and-blood eyes.
For the life of the flesh [is] in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.
The Bible tells us that that thousands of years ago God told people that the life is in the blood. George Washington died after being “bled” as a means of healing, even though there was a Bible right there on his bedside table that would have refuted this so-called “science.”
Tags: commentary on Exodus, cruelty to animals, dietary laws, Exodus 23, food preparation, goat, goat milk, Old Testament Law, Sunday School lessons on Exodus
The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring into the house of the Lord thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk.
Why would God not want them to cook a baby goat in its mother’s milk? For one, it was a Canaanite fertility ritual, intended to magically impart extra fertility into the herds and crops, and, therefore, it would be an obviously sinful practice for God’s people.
Second, commentators also believe that such a cooking method would have been evidence of the type of callowness and cruelty that God did not want to see in His people. I don’t consider myself to be a particularly cruel person, nor an animal-hater, but, if you told me that you had prepared some succulent baby goat meat for me, I would probably be looking around for a knife and fork, although I guess the method of preparation does sound somewhat cruel.
Third, some scholars think that God prohibited the practice just because it was a dumb idea for goat herders. Wasting milk, possibly killing a breeding, or future breeding, goat, just so the meat would taste a little better was not forward-thinking enough for people who were supposed to be good stewards of the resources entrusted to them by the Lord.
Whichever the case, it does appear in the Covenant Code right before this very important break in the list of laws:
Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared.
Who is this Angel, Who will make sure they stay in the “way” of God? The wording reminds us of John 14, where Jesus told His disciples He was going away. If this Angel in Exodus 23:20 was in fact a reference to the preincarnate Christ (as many theologians believe), then Jesus brought His people to God’s promised prepared place (Canaan) in the Old Testament, just as He is going to bring us to Heaven, the prepared place, under the New Testament. In the Old Testament He kept them in the “way.” In the New Testament He is also the Way.
There is a counter argument that the “Angel” in Exodus 20:23 could be a special appointed angel like Michael or a cherub or seraph, but I don’t think so.
Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions: for my name is in him.
The statement “obey his voice” reminds us of the words spoken by God the Father from Heaven at Jesus’s baptism, and the words of Mary at the wedding of Cana. The clause “provoke him not” seems to foreshadow Psalm 2:12. The promise that “he will not pardon your transgressions” seems to attribute deity to the Angel, and to whom besides Jesus has God given the authority to pardon transgressions/sins? Finally, the last clause of the verse says “my name is in him,” and certainly only one Person can say that “I and my Father are one.”
But if thou shalt indeed obey his voice, and do all that I speak; then I will be an enemy unto thine enemies, and an adversary unto thine adversaries. For mine Angel shall go before thee, and bring thee in unto the Amorites, and the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Canaanites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites: and I will cut them off.
This is an early example of the “Christus Victor” motif in Scripture, in which Christ is seen as a warrior – a conquering hero – Who vanquishes His enemies and sets His people free.
Tags: children's catechism, Christian living, Christianity, Ephesians 2, good works, Jesus Christ, John 14, living for Christ, Micah 6, righteousness
Question 22: How will you live for Jesus?
Answer: By loving Him and doing what He says.
If ye love me, keep my commandments.
A person who has not trusted Christ unto salvation may perform acts of kindness, exercise some manner of admirable restraint, exhibit a life that speaks of comparative morality, and even accomplish what appear to be acts of self-sacrifice. However, underneath the visible exterior, no one is able to accomplish true righteousness in his or her own power, and, apart from the grace of God, every non-Christian’s deeds are tainted by self-interest and sullied by the fact that they are not done with a pure motivation of giving God glory.
One of the many varied blessings of receiving the salvation of the Lord in Christ is the creation of a new heart which is capable of responding to God’s love, and of being able to love Him back in true obedience. Our children, and we ourselves, must all remember that true conversion is not the permission to lapse into spiritual inactivity. Instead, it is the beginning of our call to serve our Master, King, Lord, Older Brother, and Best Friend, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Other verses to consider:
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
He hath shewed thee, O man, what [is] good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?
Tags: 1 Timothy 5, Christian widows, Christian wives, Cinco de Mayo devotions, intercessory prayer, prayer, prayer ministry, widows
It is right and good that the Bible admonishes us to pay special attention to the needs of widows. Ladies whose husbands have passed away have always been at risk in a sinful society. However, the Lord, while certainly pointing to the plight of, and being compassionate toward, older widows, is also very gracious to recognize their worth and value to the body of Christ.
Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day.
I Timothy 5:5
A Godly lady who would otherwise find herself alone and desolate may nevertheless learn to lean upon, and trust in, the Lord in ways which go beyond the abilities of wives still attending to the needs of earthly husbands. For this reason, among others, the Bible reminds those in church leadership to encourage the powerful and prayerful intercession of these precious women.