Persistent in Prayer

November 30, 2015 at 12:28 pm | Posted in Matthew | 3 Comments
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In Matthew Chapter 15 we see Christ beginning to minister to the gentiles.

But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.

Matthew 15:18

You may have heard the expression, “You are what you eat.” This expression may be even more accurate spiritually than physically. There is a sense in which what we become – spiritually speaking – depends upon what type of spiritual food we have been consuming, and how we’ve been feeding our hearts. Then, what comes out of our mouths shows what we really are, because it comes from the heart.

For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man. Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon.

Matthew 15:19-21

Tyre and Sidon were gentile lands.

And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.

Matthew 15:22

This woman was trying to show that she recognized Jesus’s divinity in the way that she addressed Him, even though she was not Jewish.

But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.

Matthew 15:23

Jesus’s initial refusal to answer her was not an act of cruelty or a lack of compassion. He did this in order to give her faith an opportunity to grow. His disciples, though, were simply exasperated with her. “Give her what she wants so she’ll go away,” may have been their reasoning.

But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.

Matthew 15:24-25

This woman had a desperate faith. She recognized Jesus as Lord over all – Jews and gentiles alike.

But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.

Matthew 15:26

This was possibly an ironic reference by Jesus to the practice that the Jewish people had of referring to gentiles as “dogs.” Jesus may have used the term for dog that denoted more affection – like a “pet dog” – to contrast the offensive way that Jewish people used the term.

And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.

Matthew 15:27

Here the woman demonstrated a mature faith: “I don’t want anything more than what Your will is for me.”

Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.

Matthew 15:28

This statement commending someone’s “great faith” is reminiscent of His statement to the centurion from Matthew Chapter 8. The gentiles, during the Old Testament period, were “afar off,” but Jesus looked ahead to the time after His Crucifixion and Resurrection, when those gentiles who believed would – along with believing Jews – be one in Christ Jesus.

For this woman, it must have seemed like everything was against her. She was crying out boldly in public when it was not socially acceptable for a woman to do so. She was a gentile, seeking help from the Jewish King and Lord, surrounded by Jewish followers. And, at first, it even seemed as if the King Himself was against her. However, she was persistent in asking. Let that be a lesson to you and me to be persistent in prayer, even at times when it may seem like everything is against us.

Beware of Dog

August 3, 2011 at 10:49 am | Posted in Common Expressions | 4 Comments
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I happen to like dogs in general. I wouldn’t want one living in my house, and it’s frustrating to have to take care of the one that was supposed to be my kids’ dog now that they don’t want to feed him or play with him any more, or give him his flea medicine, but dogs, in my opinion, are still the best kind of pet to have.

It is tough, however, to find anything good about dogs in the Bible. There are dogs eating the dead flesh of evil people (I Kings 14:11, I Kings 16:4), dogs lapping up blood (I Kings 21:19-24, I Kings 22:38, Psalm 68:23) and licking sores (Luke 16:21), dogs that will get you if you mess with their ears (Proverbs 26:17), dogs stirring up trouble in the flock of sheep (Job 30:1), dumb dogs (Isaiah 56:10), greedy dogs (Isaiah 56:11), and dogs eating their own vomit (Proverbs 26:11, II Peter 2:22). There is a popular cartoon movie called All Dogs Go to Heaven, but apparently not! (I like to think that my two favorite dogs, Trigger and Clarence, are going to be there, but I can’t guarantee it from Scripture.)

Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision

Philippians 3:2

Dogs in Bible times, in the ancient Middle East, were scavengers, and were considered unclean by the Jewish people. They weren’t pets like they are today. They were thought of the way we think of rats today. Because they were not pets, they were semi-wild animals, and they did not have owners or “masters.” Like people, a dog who has himself for a master is a very sad dog.

Philippians 3:2 is a warning against false teachers and church infiltrators who taught salvation by works or by grace plus works. These “dogs” were disturbing the flock, and, like mean little yapping dogs, they were following the Apostle Paul around and snapping at his heels wherever he went. The “evil workers” were not just workers who happened to be evil. They were evil because they told people that their salvation was based on “works.”

The use of the word “concision” was a pointed insult at the false Jewish teachers who were teaching that Gentiles must be circumcised to be saved. “Concise” means to make shorter. If “circumcision” means to “cut around,” then “concision” means to “cut short.” Those who were being circumcised based on the belief that this act played a part in their salvation were really just mutilating themselves. So this verse was a stinging jab at those who were encouraging people to “cut themselves short.”

If I see a sign on a fence that says “Beware of Dog,” my tendency is to want to stay far away. If you have ever been near a pond wearing nice clothes when a swimming dog decides to emerge onto the bank near you, you know it behooves you to back away as far as you can, because you are about to get wet when he starts shaking out his fur. If professing Christian believers with an agenda of works righteousness insist on skulking in among a church fellowship like dogs, and then shaking off their dirty beliefs all over everyone, the Bible says to “beware” of them. Stay as far away from them as possible, until the Shepherd can come over and crack them on the head with His staff.

Arise: Naboth’s Vineyard, Ahab’s Vice, and God’s Vengeance – Part 4

December 16, 2009 at 3:53 pm | Posted in Arise | 5 Comments
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In Part 1 and Part 2 we met:

I. The Pious Patriarch (Naboth)
II. The Pouting Potentate (Ahab)
III. The Poisonous Puppeteer (Jezebel)
IV. The Pestering Prophet (Elijah)

In Part 3 we saw:

V. The Preeminent Precept

Now we will discover:

VI. The Poignant Payment
and
VII. The Punctual Punishment

There came a time when Jehoshaphat the King of Judah was preparing to go to war with Syria, and he wanted the help of Ahab the King of Israel. Ahab agreed, on the condition that he would disguise himself, and that Jehoshaphat would wear the robes of a king. The King of Syria had a plan for his men to disregard the rest of the troops and go directly after the king. But a strange thing happened in the heat of battle.

And a certain man drew a bow at a venture…

I Kings 22:34

Dr. R.G. Lee, who preached a great sermon on this passage of Scripture, called this man “the nameless aimless archer.” He was a “certain” man – not named – who drew his bow at a venture – not really aiming at anything. (In keeping with my own outline, I probably should have called him the “Passive Pointer.”)

Are you “nameless?” God knows your name, even the hairs of your head are numbered. But does the devil know your name? He knew Job’s name. When God asked, “Hast thou you considered my servant Job?” (Job 1:8) the devil didn’t say, “No, who is that?” He knew Job by name, because Job was living an exemplary life for the Lord. The devil knew Paul’s name. The evil spirit summoned by the Jewish exorcists said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?” (Acts 19:15) As Christians we should not be “nameless,” because we are certainly not “aimless.” We are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). Your “calling” (your vocation) is to love God and love others – to serve God and to serve others. This archer did God’s will, but there is no indication he received God’s blessing for doing it. God will get the glory out of your life one way or the other. The question is not whether God will be glorified – the question is whether you will get the tremendous blessing of having a part in that glory.

And a certain man drew a bow at a venture, and smote the king of Israel between the joints of the harness: wherefore he said unto the driver of his chariot, Turn thine hand, and carry me out of the host; for I am wounded. And the battle increased that day: and the king was stayed up in his chariot against the Syrians, and died at even: and the blood ran out of the wound into the midst of the chariot. And there went a proclamation throughout the host about the going down of the sun, saying, Every man to his city, and every man to his own country. So the king died, and was brought to Samaria; and they buried the king in Samaria. And one washed the chariot in the pool of Samaria; and the dogs licked up his blood; and they washed his armour; according unto the word of the LORD which he spake.

I Kings 22:34-38

This is the Poignant Payment. Just as the dogs had licked the blood of Naboth, so they licked the blood of King Ahab. But what about Jezebel?

Ahab’s son became king, and Jezebel pulled his strings the way she had pulled Ahab’s. He also worshiped Baal, and was a wicked king… and years passed. Elisha replaced Elijah. Then, one day God told Elisha that Jehu, the chariot driver, was to be anointed king.

And when thou comest thither, look out there Jehu the son of Jehoshaphat the son of Nimshi, and go in, and make him arise up from among his brethren, and carry him to an inner chamber;

II Kings 9:2 (emphasis added)

Jehu rode down on the palace in Jezreel, and, after killing Ahab’s wicked son, he looked up at Jezebel, the painted and poisonous puppeteer.

… and said, Who is on my side? who? And there looked out to him two or three eunuchs. And he said, Throw her down. So they threw her down: and some of her blood was sprinkled on the wall, and on the horses: and he trode her under foot. And when he was come in, he did eat and drink, and said, Go, see now this cursed woman, and bury her: for she is a king’s daughter. And they went to bury her: but they found no more of her than the skull, and the feet, and the palms of her hands. Wherefore they came again, and told him. And he said, This is the word of the LORD, which he spake by his servant Elijah the Tishbite, saying, In the portion of Jezreel shall dogs eat the flesh of Jezebel:

II Kings 9:32-36

Why did God make the penalty for the sins of Ahab and Jezebel so poignant? We might say that God was pleased with the symmetry of it. Sometimes, as in the case of Absalom’s hair (II Samuel 14:26 and 18:9), God just decides to make the punishment fit the crime in a ghastly humorous way.

When Elijah was announcing God’s punishment to Ahab, he told him:

Behold, I will bring evil upon thee, and will take away thy posterity, and will cut off from Ahab him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel,

I Kings 21:21

Most Bible versions other than the King James Version speak of the punishment of all the “male” followers of Ahab, but that is not the correct translation. The King James Version gets this right and retains the true context. Ahab and Jezebel did not see Naboth’s vineyard as God’s property. They saw it as belonging to whomever was powerful enough or sneaky enough to get it. So they marked it as theirs – the way a dog marks his territory against a wall. The poignant penalty is when God takes our vain attempts to dishonor Him, and our foolish boasting that we can somehow spite Him and get away with it, and He turns them into our own shame and disgrace. Be very careful about what you try to mark as “your” territory in this life. If we are trying to keep some things from God, He may just decide to take those things away, so we will have more time, energy, focus, attention, and love for Him.

The Punctual Punishment

God’s judgment may seem late or slow to us, or it may seem terribly swift, but the fact is – it is always right on time. The devil arises. His agents arise, and pull the strings of the lost. (Lost people are the devil’s puppets. See Ephesians 2:2.) God’s servants arise to proclaim His warnings and judgments. Finally, God ARISES.

Ahab got three years. Jezebel got many more. But the payment came due – and it was only a down payment. Jezebel is paying for all eternity. If you are not right with God, you have to ask yourself how close is God’s judgment from coming to you right now? It will not be tardy; it will not fail. One day everyone who has ever lived is going to confess the truth about God: that He is worthy of honor and obedience. Would you rather God have you by the heart or by the throat? II Corinthians 6:2 says now is the accepted time. “Behold, now is the day of salvation.” Fling yourself on the mercy of Christ this instant.

What Is Lying at Your Door?

November 23, 2009 at 10:48 am | Posted in Genesis | 21 Comments
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When I was a very young boy I had a dog named Trigger. Trigger was the best dog in the world. He was affectionate, friendly, brave, playful, easygoing, and, above all, loyal. He was an “outside dog,” and his tendency was to lie in wait near the door of my home. If I came bursting through the door, on my way to play in the woods, Trigger was right there, leaping to join me, as if he had been poised, anxiously expecting me at any moment. In a way, his desire was to please me, and I ruled over him.

Cain and Abel were brothers. Each brought an offering to the Lord. Abel’s offering was a slaughtered animal. Cain’s offering was some type of fruit grown from the ground. Abel’s offering pleased God. Cain’s did not. We do not know for sure if Abel’s offering pleased God because it was a blood offering, given as a sacrifice for sin. If so, then Cain’s offering, which was bloodless, could have been rectified. He could have made a second, proper, sacrifice. We do know that Cain had a bigger problem with his offering than the thing that was being offered. The bigger problem was the condition of Cain’s heart, evidenced by his attitude toward God.

Genesis 4:5 tells us that Cain was “wroth:” burning with a fierce anger. God addressed the condition of Cain’s heart with him in Verse 7: “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted..?”

God did not ask Cain the question in the first part of the Verse because He didn’t know the answer. God is (and always has been and always will be) omniscient. He may have asked Cain this question in order to give him a chance to repent, or to make a point. Then, in the rest of the Verse, God sets forth a warning: “…if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.”

Some Bible scholars believe that God was referring to Abel, Cain’s younger brother, when He said, “unto thee shall be his desire,” meaning that Abel would continue to look up to, respect, and try to please his older brother if Cain did what was right.

Others believe that God was telling Cain that, if he did what was right, he should (shalt) be able to rule over sin by not giving in to it, even though his wrong-doing had brought sin to his door.

Or is it possible that God was telling Cain that the attitude of his heart had brought sin to lie at his door like a faithful hound? Sin would be lying there, waiting obediently, and its (sin’s) desire would be to do the bidding of Cain, and those who followed the “way of Cain” (Jude Verse 11). Just as Trigger was anxious to please me, and have me “rule” over him, so sin would be the servant of Cain and all those who opposed the righteousness of God, and who encouraged others to rebel against Him (Proverbs 10:16). It is true that unregenerate people are the servants of sin (Romans Chapter 6). But it is also true that sin serves them as they attempt to corrupt and influence Christians (Romans 16:17-18).


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