Last Words

Posted: December 14, 2017 in Malachi, Uncategorized

Malachi 3-4, “Last Words”

Last words can carry huge significance. When they are uttered on someone’s deathbed, they can communicate final wishes, or speak of their faith (or lack thereof) regarding their eternal destiny. Some people leave this earth well; others, not so much. The atheist philosopher and founder of communism, Karl Marx said, “Last words are for fools who haven’t said enough.” Comedian and actor Groucho Marx said, “This is no way to live!” Of course last words aren’t always uttered on deathbeds – they can be final warnings or final exhortations. The last words the Lord Jesus said to the apostles was exactly that: Acts 1:8, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” There was a mission that awaited the disciples, one for which God would fully equip them – and they needed to go about doing it.

The final words spoken by the Lord Jesus to the Church overall are not so much words of exhortation, but words of comfort: Revelation 22:20, “He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.” Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” There is a day in which the mission will be complete, and we will see our Lord Jesus. We want to be prepared for that day!

In a very real sense, that is exactly the message of the final words of the Old Testament. When the book of Malachi comes to a close, the revelation of YHWH God to His covenant people of Israel goes silent for 400 years. These were His last words to His nation before a massive change would take place. Although all of God’s word is important, surely the last words of God ought to carry huge weight. And what did He say? Simply this: the Messiah was coming soon, bringing the judgment of God. Heed the message, and be ready!

The entirety of this short prophetic book has led up to this point. Although the Jewish people were back in their land and had renewed their practices of worship at their newly-built temple, the nation was falling back into old habits. God loved His people, but He was not blind to their sin. Their worship was mere ritual, comprised of defiled left-over sacrifices. Their priests were corrupt, neither handling God’s word correctly for themselves, nor able to teach the Scriptures correctly. The people themselves were unfaithful to their national covenant with God, demonstrating this through their unfaithfulness in marriage. The men rampantly divorced their Jewish wives, taking pagan Gentiles to themselves instead. It’s this sort of rampant disregard for God that got them thrown into Babylonian captivity, and they were doing the same things all over again.

Thus, God called them to repentance. This was His message through all of His prophets, but especially through one messenger yet to come. That messenger would point the way to the Messiah, who was prophesied to come in true judgment, discerning the righteous from the wicked. The people needed to be ready, and they could be…but only if they listened to the message.

Malachi 3

  • The coming of the Lord & His judgment (3:1-7)

1 “Behold, I send My messenger, And he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, Will suddenly come to His temple, Even the Messenger of the covenant, In whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,” Says the LORD of hosts.

  1. Right off the bat, we have a potential interpretative issue: the messenger. Is there one messenger, or two? Although NKJV capitalizes one & not the other, the original Hebrew doesn’t have any capital letters at all. The root word used for both is identical; the only difference being the conjugation within the context. Yet it’s that same context that makes it clear that two different messengers are in view. 1a speaks of “My messenger” who prepares the way for the personal God (“Me”), whereas the Messenger of 1c is parallel with the Lord who comes suddenly to His temple. In addition, the people would not necessarily delight in a prophet nearly as much as in the Lord Himself. Thus, these are two messengers.
  2. Messenger #1: the messenger of the Lord. Literally: “Malachi.” Is this a reference to the writer of the book? Not likely. This other “malachi” has a ministry of preparing the way for the personal arrival of God. This is a future “malachi,” most likely being a reference to John the Baptist. Isaiah 40:3–5, “(3) The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the LORD; Make straight in the desert A highway for our God. (4) Every valley shall be exalted And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough places smooth; (5) The glory of the LORD shall be revealed, And all flesh shall see it together; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”” Virtually the exact same wording used in the two prophecies – both of which were used to describe John the Baptist. John was to clear a path for Jesus, like a royal herald preparing the way for an approaching king. 
  3. Messenger #2: the Messenger of the Covenant. Can we be certain this is a reference to Jesus? Almost definitely. The word translated “messenger” can just as easily be translated “angel,” and “angel of the covenant” is a very parallel idea to the Angel of the Lord. Additionally, the whole idea of this Messenger/Angel of the covenant is grammatically parallel to the Lord (Adonai) who has come suddenly to His temple. Even though it might have seemed a bit weird for God to speak of Himself in 1st person and then switch to 3rd person in speaking of the Angel of the Covenant, it makes perfect sense in light of the Trinity. This would have been one of the many things that was mysterious in the Old Testament that would have been made clear in the revelation of Christ in the New Testament.
  4. The bottom line is that God speaks of the sure, sudden arrival of the Messiah. A messenger clears a path for His arrival, and then He will be presented to Israel. The One whom they longed to see through the ages will be right in their midst. And He was!
    1. This is what we celebrate at Christmas. The One who was prophesied to come, has come! God in our midst, God with us!
  5. The Messenger/Messiah appeared once, but although He appeared in the temple, He did not bring a judgment upon sin. Instead, He bore the judgment of God on sin. (Praise God!) Yet we know that Jesus’ 1st Advent will not be His only Jesus is coming again, and when He comes, He will judge all the sin of all the world…especially the sin found among Israel. Vs. 2…

2 “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire And like launderers’ soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, And purge them as gold and silver, That they may offer to the LORD An offering in righteousness.

  1. Who can stand as righteous in the presence of God? Who, in his/her own righteous, can truly “endure the day of His coming”? It is impossible!
  2. Though we cannot stand on our own, God can make us to stand. As for the Israelites who sincerely and devotedly awaited the arrival of the ultimate Messenger of God (the Messiah), God would refine them. God will make them righteous. He cleanses and purifies.
    1. This is the promise we have in Christ. (1 Jn 1:9)

4 “Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem Will be pleasant to the LORD, As in the days of old, As in former years.

  1. Cleansed people = pleasing offering. Just as the sacrifices of old were a sweet-smelling offering in the nostrils of God, so would the sacrifices of Israel be once more. Yet, it was impossible without the grace of God. As they were, the people (even those with faith) were in their sin, defiled by their actions and insincere worship. It was only when they experienced God’s cleansing grace that their sacrifices of praise would be pleasant to God & received by Him.
    1. God receives the praises of cleansed people. Unless we are in Christ, God has no reason to receive our worship.
  2. What for those who remain in their rebellion, they will be judged for their sins. What sins will be judged? All of them. 5…

5 And I will come near you for judgment; I will be a swift witness Against sorcerers, Against adulterers, Against perjurers, Against those who exploit wage earners and widows and orphans, And against those who turn away an alien— Because they do not fear Me,” Says the LORD of hosts.

  1. There is no distinction in the “minor” and “major” sins. ALL sin is rebellion against God, and He will witness against all who engage in them. Exploitation of the poor is judged on the same level as sorcery. Sin against our neighbors is still sin against God. A lack of love is no less rebellion than a lack of integrity or faithfulness.
  2. How was it that the people of Israel felt free to engage in this kind of sin? They lost their fear of God. “Because they do not fear Me…” Although God had worked miracles on their behalf, they did not revere Him. He worked in tremendous visible ways, yet it all went unnoticed by the people, and they took Him for granted. When they took God lightly, they took their sin lightly. They lost sight of the sinfulness of their sin, and they simply didn’t care anymore.
    1. This can happen with us. Don’t think that as born-again Christians that we are immune. Remember that this happened to a people who had witnessed God’s visible intervention on their behalf. They could look to God’s freedom from Babylon (and from Egypt, etc.) just like we can look to the cross and empty tomb. If they could take God for granted, so can we.
    2. Beware! Don’t lose the fear of God! We love God, but we still fear Him – we still revere Him as
  3. How was it that God could speak of cleansing in vs. 4, and judgment in vs. 5? Because that is His perfect character. 6…

6 “For I am the LORD, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.

  1. God never changes! This is a foundational verse regarding the doctrine of immutability. God doesn’t “mutate” – He doesn’t change. He doesn’t ebb & flow with the times & culture. He neither changes in His character, nor does He change in His passions (theological term = “impassibility”). He doesn’t base His actions upon poll numbers or surveys. He isn’t affected by the whims and will of men. We change; God does not. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
  2. Consider what that means regarding His word. If God never changes, His word & promises never change! There is no promise that He will not fulfill. There is no Scripture that God will declare null & void. Thus, when God declares you to be saved, you’re saved! When God declares you to be forgiven, and that you are His child, that is exactly what you are! No Christian never fear that God’s promises will fail. Why? Because God does not change and God does not lie. What He has declared, He will do.
  3. This isn’t just a wonderful promise for us; it’s one for Israel. Why was Israel not utterly consumed & cast aside? Because God had made unshakeable promises to them. Back with Abraham, God promised that all the earth would be blessed through him. Back with Adam & Eve, God promised that the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent. God does not back down from His promises! Israel was necessary in order to bring forth the Messiah, and Israel would be necessary in order to institute the Messianic kingdom. That’s why Israel/Jacob was “not consumed.” As Paul later wrote to the Romans, “the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable,” (Rom 11:29). God made promises to Israel, and He would see them through.
  4. Yet the people acted as if He did change. 7…

7 Yet from the days of your fathers You have gone away from My ordinances And have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,” Says the LORD of hosts. “But you said, ‘In what way shall we return?’

  1. The people left the worship of God and the word (ordinances) of God because they lost their fear of God. It was as if they believed God no longer upheld His word – an idea which is expanded in vss. 13-15. 
  2. Departing from God’s word was like departing from God Himself. In His word, God’s nature is revealed. In His word, God’s promises are made known. The righteousness of God is demonstrated in the law and ordinances of God. The love of God is demonstrated in the sacrifices and supernatural miracles of God. When the people left behind the Scriptures, they left behind the God of the Scriptures.
  3. What did they need to do? Repent! They needed to turn around in their hearts & in their actions. What God spoke through this post-exilic prophet, He had spoken through an earlier post-exilic prophet: Zechariah 1:3, “Therefore say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Return to Me,” says the LORD of hosts, “and I will return to you,” says the LORD of hosts.” The offer was still good…they just needed to follow through.
    1. What do we need to do regarding sin? Repent! Turn around – turn back to God. If we do, we will find that He turns back to us. Do you find it difficult to pray? To worship? If as a born-again Christian you have unconfessed sin in your life, this could be the reason why. Confess those things & repent, and find your fellowship with Jesus renewed.
  4. Yet the people feigned ignorance regarding their sin. “In what way shall we return?” I.e., “In what ways have we left you?” God has already detailed much through the book of Malachi; He provides two further examples through the rest of Chapter 3.
  • The sins of Israel (3:8-15) Sin #1: robbery of the tithe (8-12)

8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. 9 You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation.

  1. Theft is always sinful, being a violation of the 8th What makes is worse is when it is committed against the Lord God Almighty. The people of Israel plundered/robbed God when they robbed Him of the “tithes and offerings.” Tithe = tenth, in reference to any source of income or wealth. Israel was commanded to provide several tithes: there was a tithe to be given for the Levites (Num 18:24), a tithe to be eaten with the Levites/priests (Dt 14:22-23), and a tithe every third year to be given as benevolence for widows, orphans, and strangers (Dt 14:28-29). Basically, it served as the national tax upon the Hebrew people, funding both religious and civil institutions. Prior to the Hebrew nation, there was a different tithe, as exampled by Abraham when he gave a tenth of all the spoils of war to Melchizedek, the priest of the Most High God (Gen 14). That was done out of an act of worship; not legal obligation.
  2. The issue here for Malachi’s readers is that they violated their legal obligation based upon their covenant with God. This was a national sin in regards to a national statute. The tithe was something owed unto God, and by withholding it they incurred national punishment (the “curse”).
  3. This is crucial to understand when looking at these verses in a New Testament context. Many Bible teachers quote Malachi 3:8-9 as proof that the tithe is legally obligatory upon Christians, but to do so is to take the teaching out of context. Although Jesus never speaks ill of the tithe, nowhere is the Hebrew national tithe commanded upon the Church in the New Testament. The tithe that is upheld is Abraham’s act of worship (Heb 7:4-10), given to Melchizedek as a priest in thankfulness to God. Thus the Christian motivation for giving is not obligation; it’s worship.
    1. Paul affirms the same thing when writing to the Corinthians. 2 Corinthians 9:7–8, “(7) So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. (8) And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.” When we have our full trust and worship in the Lord for our eternal things, how can we not have our full trust and worship in the Lord for physical things?
    2. Is it “robbery” of God if we don’t give cheerfully and abundantly? No – again, this is a different covenant with different stipulations. That said, we rob ourselves of the opportunity to worship. We rob ourselves of the experience of walking in abundant faith. Why let anything as minor as money hold us back in our trust of God?
  4. What’s the solution to problems of the heart regarding tithes and offerings? Give them! 10…

10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,” Says the LORD of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it.

  1. Israel was invited by God to test the promise. If they brought the tithe, God would bring the blessing.
  2. Again, this is a specific promise to a specific people at a specific time. We do harm to the text if we force this national promise to Israel to literally apply to the Church. That said, the principle is true. God will provide for His people…of that, there can be no doubt!

11 “And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,” Says the LORD of hosts; 12 And all nations will call you blessed, For you will be a delightful land,” Says the LORD of hosts.

  1. These were the national curses for withholding the tithe. Locusts, famines, droughts, etc.
  2. Yet the curse could (and would) turn to a blessing, if the people but trusted their Lord to act according to His word and promise. Again, God does not change. If He was faithful to their forefathers regarding His covenant promises, He would be faithful to them regarding those same promises. They simply needed to walk by faith and trust Him.
    1. So do we! Trust the Lord!
  • Sin #2: Complaints against God (13-15)

13 “Your words have been harsh against Me,” Says the LORD, Yet you say, ‘What have we spoken against You?’ 14 You have said, ‘It is useless to serve God; What profit is it that we have kept His ordinance, And that we have walked as mourners Before the LORD of hosts? 15 So now we call the proud blessed, For those who do wickedness are raised up; They even tempt God and go free.’ ”

  1. Not only had the people withheld their tithes and offerings, they withheld their praise. Worse yet, they spoke blasphemies against God, speaking strong words of arrogance against Him. Like their forefathers, they groaned and complained against God – but the current generation took it to a new level when they gave false witness against God. Thus not only had they violated the 8th Commandment (“do not steal”), they broke the 9th Commandment (“do not lie/bear false witness”).
  2. What was their lie? They claimed that it was “useless to serve God” – that it was vanity & emptiness to do so. They believed that worship was a waste, and that God was lazy and ineffective.
    1. Before we point too many fingers, how many Christians today make the same claim?
  3. The overriding point of Chapters 3-4 is that God will judge! God does act, because God never changes. The fact that His judgment seems to be delayed is not a matter of laziness; it’s a matter of mercy! The full judgment of God will be known when He returns in power & glory, and there will not be a single sin which will escape His sight. The depths of hell will be fully populated with those who have sinned against God & rejected the sacrifice of Jesus on their behalf, and there will be an eternity in which the fullness of God’s wrath is poured out upon sin. God’s judgment is severe and certain. And because it is, the delay of His coming should not cause us to question His commitment or ability to judge; it should cause us to praise Him for His mercy! 2 Peter 3:8–9, “(8) But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. (9) The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” The reason for the delay is that God is giving time for people to be saved!
  • The remnant of Israel (3:16-18)

16 Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, And the LORD listened and heard them; So a book of remembrance was written before Him For those who fear the LORD And who meditate on His name. 17 “They shall be Mine,” says the LORD of hosts, “On the day that I make them My jewels. And I will spare them As a man spares his own son who serves him.”

  1. Many spoke ill of the Lord, but others feared Him rightly. Not everyone in Israel had lost their fear of Him. There was a remnant.
  2. God heard them & knew them. He knows the name of those who know His name. The idea of a “book of remembrance” is somewhat like the book King Ahasuerus of Persia used to record the name of Mordecai the Jew, when Mordecai unveiled a conspiracy against the king. (Esther 2:22-23) Whether or not this particular book of remembrance is literal or figurative is unknown, but it wouldn’t be unusual for God to have a book of names. After all, He has the book of life! God knows the names of those who believe upon Jesus, and God knew the names of those who truly feared Him in reverent worship.
  3. Were these people perfect? Of course not – but that’s where grace comes in. God makes them precious, and takes them to Himself.

18 Then you shall again discern Between the righteous and the wicked, Between one who serves God And one who does not serve Him.

  1. God’s not the only one who knows who worships Him. In the future day of the Lord, the difference between those who fear God & those who don’t will be obvious. Israel themselves would “again discern” these things.
  2. It ought not be difficult to discern those who follow the Lord, serving Him & fearing Him. Christians are known by our love for one another – Christians are known by our fruit. Of course, what might not be so obvious today will one day be revealed to all. (Better to settle any doubts today!)

Malachi 4 – the Day of the Lord

Interestingly, the Hebrew text does not have the division of Chapter 4, but rather continues on with Chapter 3 (4:1 = 3:19, 4:2 = 3:20, etc.). For good reason: the subject doesn’t change. Chapter 3 ends with the discernment between the righteous & the wicked, and Chapter 4 begins with the difference in judgment between the two.

  • Certainty of the Day (4:1-3)

1 “For behold, the day is coming, Burning like an oven, And all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up,” Says the LORD of hosts, “That will leave them neither root nor branch.

  1. The day of judgment is coming! To Israel, it seemed to be delayed, but it was coming, no doubt!
  2. What happens to the proud & the wicked? It will be impossible to stand in the light of God’s righteousness and glory.
  3. Yet not everyone will be burned up. 2…

2 But to you who fear My name The Sun of Righteousness shall arise With healing in His wings; And you shall go out And grow fat like stall-fed calves. 3 You shall trample the wicked, For they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet On the day that I do this,” Says the LORD of hosts.

  1. Though the wicked will be burned, the righteous God-fearers will be warmed. The glory of God, though an oven of incineration to the wicked will be a sun of righteousness to those who love God.
  2. Depending on your translation, “sun of righteousness” is personal (like KJV & NKJV); others are impersonal (NASB, ESV, NIV). The impersonal translation is probably best. A truly literal translation would be “And they will arise for you, those who fear My name, the sun of righteousness with healing in her wings,” as “wings” is a feminine noun. Additionally, the poetic contrast of oven & sun seems to be the point, with the rhyming of “sun/Son” being purely coincidental in English.
    1. That said, the Son of God does offer healing to those who belong to Him in faith!
  3. The bottom line is that God gives the victory. Those who fear Him today will not only be saved in the day of judgment, but will have eternal victory over their enemies in the future.

All of that begs the question: how could Malachi’s readers ensure that they would be those who feared the Lord? How could they be ready to see the Messenger of the Covenant (the Messiah) when He eventually came among them? That’s how the book comes to a close…

  • Preparation for the Day (4:4-6)

4 “Remember the Law of Moses, My servant, Which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel, With the statutes and judgments.

  1. Remember the Law” = stay in the word! Israel (by and large) had abandoned the ordinances of God (3:7). What they needed to do was remember it. They needed to go back to the old paths & foundations of their relationship with God, and that would only be found in His word. The things that God had revealed to Moses had been written down…all they needed to do was read & remember.
    1. Stay in the word! Don’t leave the Scriptures – don’t leave the gospel. Stay grounded in what was written, so that we keep our eyes upon Jesus.
  2. Stay on the watch! 5…

5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. 6 And he will turn The hearts of the fathers to the children, And the hearts of the children to their fathers, Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.”

  1. Elijah the prophet had lived several generations in the past, but there was another Elijah yet to come. This future Elijah would seem to be the future Malachi, the one foretold in 3:1.
  2. What would this Elijah do? (1) He would prepare the way, as seen in 3:1, clearing the path for the Messiah “before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.” (2) He would preach repentance, turning “the hearts of the fathers to the children, And the hearts of the children to their fathers,” (3) He would preach judgment: “Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.”
  3. With whom was this prophecy fulfilled? In part, with John the Baptist. Although he specifically said he was not Elijah (Jn 1:21), he simply denied that he was the reincarnation of the historical Elijah. The New Testament is replete with references of John partially fulfilling the prophetic role of this future Elijah.
    1. The angel Gabriel quoted Malachi 3:6 to John’s father Zacharias, illustrating how John would go “in the spirit and power of Elijah.” (Lk 1:17).
    2. Jesus personally referenced John as the Elijah who is to come (Mt 11:14, 17:22-23).
  4. Is John the Baptist the only fulfillment of this prophecy? Jesus was personally accompanied by the historical Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mt 17:3), and Jesus spoke of a future day and ministry of Elijah (Mt 17:11). When will that be? Most likely during the Great Tribulation as Elijah prophesies in the streets of Jerusalem as one of the two witnesses sent by God (Rev 11). Just as John the Baptist prepared the way for the 1st Advent of Jesus, Elijah will prepare the way for the 2nd Advent of Jesus.
    1. Don’t ignore their message!

Conclusion:

God had sent a messenger, who in turn spoke of another messenger, who in turn would prepare the way for the ultimate Messenger: the Messenger of the Covenant, the Messiah. Israel needed to listen up & take heed. If they didn’t listen, they wouldn’t be ready.

For Israel, they had 400 years until they actually saw the Messiah with their own eyes. They would witness Him in Judea, Galilee, and at the temple – they would hear His words, and see His actions. Yet their time with Him was limited…a mere 33 years. If they didn’t heed the message while they had the chance, they wouldn’t see Him again for millennia.

As for us, we can see Him at any moment! We want to be ready! What John the Baptist proclaimed 2000 years ago is even more true today: repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Pay attention, and take advantage of the opportunity you have. If you’ve never truly feared the Lord & surrendered your life to Jesus to be your King & Savior, God has given you the chance now. His will is that you not perish, but you have to turn to Jesus in repentance and faith. Respond to Him while you have the chance.

For those who know Jesus as Lord, the message is still the same: be ready! He has come once, and He is coming again. We want to be ready on that day!

In the process, we want to help others be ready on that day. We too, have a ministry of Malachi & John, as we pass on the message of the King. What are you doing to participate?

Advertisements

When? Wait!

Posted: December 10, 2017 in Luke, Uncategorized

Luke 21:5-19, “When? Wait!”

Failed predictions about the timing of the rapture and Jesus’ return are common, and increasingly so. What used to be spaced apart by a few years now seems to only take a few months before some new self-proclaimed prophecy-expert gives a series of dates detailing the end of the world. There is little question that we are in the end-times, so perhaps it’s to be expected that speculation will increase at the same rate as other false teaching in the church. (And though it may be with good intentions, it is false teaching.)

The sad part about all of these failed predictions is that it’s all unnecessary. Jesus told us exactly what to expect with His return, and He also specifically told His disciples that it would take time. All of the things we tend to look to for confirmation of the popular prophecies are the very things that Jesus said would always exist, and these things end up being distractions and disappointments.

Jesus didn’t give prophecies about His return for our disappointment; He gave it so that His church would have hope. He gave it so that His church would have confidence. We don’t need to worry about the end of all things; we simply need to trust our God. He has it under control.

Question: Why study about the 2nd coming of Christ in December? Shouldn’t we be talking about Christmas? (1) This is where we are in our verse-by-verse study of the gospel of Luke, and all of God’s word is relevant at all times. (2) The fact that we can talk about a 2nd coming means that there was a 1st – and that’s what we celebrate at Christmastime. Whenever we think of the Babe in the manger, we cannot help but think of His entire ministry: His death on the cross, His resurrection from the grave, and His reign as the King of kings & Lord of lords. The song “Joy to the World,” one of the most beloved Christmas carols, actually speaks more of Jesus’ 2nd Coming than His 1st. Listen again to the 3rd and 4th stanzas:

No more let sins and sorrows grow / Nor thorns infest the ground / He comes to make His blessings flow / Far as the curse is found…

He rules the world with truth and grace / And makes the nations prove / The glories of His righteousness / And wonders of His love…

Those are expectations of the Millennial Kingdom, when King Jesus lives and rules upon Planet Earth. As Psalm 98 says of that day: Psalm 98:7–9, “(7) Let the sea roar, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell in it; (8) Let the rivers clap their hands; Let the hills be joyful together before the LORD, (9) For He is coming to judge the earth. With righteousness He shall judge the world, And the peoples with equity.” In the Bethlehem manger, the King of all the world was first seen by the shepherds – but there is soon coming a day in which He will be seen by all the earth. That is a day worth celebrating & studying.

And that is a day of which Jesus taught in great detail – much of which is contained in what is often called the “Olivet Discourse,” which Luke condenses to most of Chapter 21. It is similar, though not identical, to the versions of the Olivet Discourse found in Matthew & Mark (as we’ll see), but the overall point is the same: Jesus is returning, and while His people are to be ready, they are not to worry. God has all things under His control.

It will take us several weeks to worth through the passage. We begin with a prophecy and a follow-up question from the disciples that leads to a lengthy, yet simple answer from Jesus. As to the question “when” all of the future things take place, Jesus says “wait.” Patience is a virtue – not only in life, but as we await the return of our Lord & King.

Luke 21:5–19

  • Prophecy: Destruction (5-6)

5 Then, as some spoke of the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and donations, He said, 6 “These things which you see—the days will come in which not one stone shall be left upon another that shall not be thrown down.”

  1. If it seems like vs. 5 picks up in the middle of a narrative, that’s because it does. We need to remember our overall context. This is the last week in the earthly ministry of Jesus, just a few days before His death on the cross & Sunday morning resurrection. Jesus had entered Jerusalem with much celebration from His disciples, but much criticism from the religious leaders. He easily defended Himself from all their attacks and exposed the Pharisees, Sadducees, priests, and scribes as religious hypocrites, not really knowing the Scriptures. Though the people needed to obey the authorities placed over them, they weren’t to follow their example, because these leaders would face the judgment of God. A far better example of a Godly heart was seen in a poor widow at the temple. When she worshipped the Lord, she gave (literally!) everything she had: her last two copper coins. She gave God her whole life & livelihood. She may not have been esteemed by men, but she was certainly noticed by God.
  2. All of this had taken place within the temple complex, and while they were there, it seems the disciples got to looking around and seeing the sights. This isn’t a bad thing at all, as it’s totally natural to appreciate beautiful craftsmanship – especially that which was meant to give glory to God, as it was found in the Jerusalem temple. Though it was known as “Herod’s” temple, it was really the continuation of the temple that was finally completed after the Jewish return from Babylonian captivity (back in the days of Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah). What had started out as minor and insignificant (even causing some of the original witnesses of its foundation to weep in grief – Ezra 3:12) had become magnificent. It was truly a glory to behold. The Jewish historian Josephus describes it: “Now the outward face of the temple in its front wanted nothing that was likely to surprise either men’s minds or their eyes, for it was covered all over with plates of gold of great weight, and, at the first rising of the sun, reflected back a very fiery splendor, and made those who forced themselves to look upon it to turn their eyes away, just as they would have done at the sun’s own rays. But this temple appeared to strangers, when they were at a distance, like a mountain covered with snow; for, as to those parts of it that were not gilt, they were exceeding white.” (Wars of the Jews, Book 5, Chapter 5.) The stones were massive, impressive not only in size but in appearance. It would have caused any observer to stop and stare a bit.
  3. As all of the temple decorations and stones were being admired, it gave Jesus the opportunity to give a sobering prophecy: one day, it would all be “thrown down.” This temple which had taken so many years to build to completion, which was so beautiful and wondrous – all of it would be utterly destroyed. The marble pillars – the gold and silver gates – the very stones of the temple itself (each of which were massive) would be demolished, thrown into a state of ruins. And it was! When the Roman general Titus commenced his final invasion of Jerusalem, he apparently had not intended to destroy the temple, but a Roman soldier started a blaze that soon engulfed everything. In order to salvage the vast amounts of gold, the stones were overturned and scavenged…leaving Jesus’ prophecy fulfilled to the letter. Proof of the prophecy’s fulfillment can be seen to this day. 
  4. All of that leads to a natural question…
  • Question: When? (7)

7 So they asked Him, saying, “Teacher, but when will these things be? And what sign will there be when these things are about to take place?”

  1. The disciples ask the obvious: “When”? Keep in mind this wasn’t merely academic for them – the prophecy given by Jesus would have been truly disturbing. The temple was the center of Jewish life. It was their national place of worship – the location where they celebrated the presence of God among them – where sacrifices were offered and sin was atoned. This was the place the people longed for while in Babylon, and was important to rebuild upon their return. In a sense, the temple stood as a symbol for the nation as a whole. If the Jewish temple was to be destroyed, what would come of the Jews? This was unthinkable to them. For Americans, it might be as if we were admiring all of the buildings of Washington DC, only to be told it would all be reduced to ash and rubble. Such a thought would be beyond comprehension.
  2. Yet it was true. If it was spoken from the lips of the Lord Jesus, there could be no doubt that it was 100% accurate. Though it grieved the disciples to hear, they needed to know more. That’s when they asked their follow-up question to Jesus. Technically, they asked two follow-up questions: (1) When would it take place? (2) What sign could they watch for in order to know when it was about to happen? Jesus answers each question in turn.
  3. Notice what question is not included by Luke, but that was also asked by the disciples: Matthew 24:3, “Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”” Although some of these things will be addressed by Luke, this is the first clue to the reader that his emphasis is going to be different than that of Matthew. Whereas Matthew truly hones in on the end-times (specifically regarding the Great Tribulation), Luke focuses on the destruction of the temple & the city of Jerusalem. These aren’t contradictions between Matthew & Luke – it’s just an indication of different writers with different emphases. Jesus taught it all; each writer only recorded some. (Which ought to make us grateful for the whole of the Biblical record!)
  4. So the question has been asked, and thankfully Jesus doesn’t leave His disciples hanging. He provides them the answer…
  • Answer: Wait (8-19)

8 And He said: “Take heed that you not be deceived. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time has drawn near.’ Therefore do not go after them.

  1. Right off the bat, we see this isn’t going to be the answer the disciples were looking for. They were looking for dates, and Jesus doesn’t give any. Instead, He starts talking about the danger of deception. In fact, deception will be so prevalent regarding these things (the destruction of Jerusalem & Jesus’ 2nd Coming) that Jesus actually begins with a command: Don’t be deceived – don’t go after the false teachers. Don’t be led astray – don’t go wandering away from the teachings that Jesus has given. More than that, don’t go wandering away from Jesus Himself! There will not only be false teachings about the end, but there will be false teachers about Christ. There will be imposters claiming to beMany will come in My name, saying ‘I am He.’” Be warned! Be wary!
  2. There have always been false messiahs, and no doubt there will always be false messiahs until the True Messiah returns in His 2nd False messiahs had already been common in Judea prior to Jesus. The rabbi Gamaliel reasoned with the Sanhedrin regarding how to treat the apostles of Jesus in light of the false messiahs of Theudas and Judas of Galilee (Acts 5:36-37). This only continued through the years and centuries. Menahem ben Judah was a leader of the Zealots leading up to the Roman-Jewish war, who claimed to be the messiah, only to be soon assassinated. He was followed by Bar Kokba and many others.
  3. False messiahs are not unique to the Jews. All kinds of people have claimed to be the messiah, if not the 2nd coming of Jesus Himself. Sun Myung Moon (the Moonies) has claimed the title, though he died in 2012. Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda was a cult leader in Miami who claimed be both Jesus and the Antichrist…he died in 2013. David Koresh was another, who famously died in Waco, TX in 1993. 
  4. How are Jesus’ followers to respond to these imposters? “Do not go after them.” It would seem obvious, would it not? Yet the warning is necessary. All kinds of people get caught up in these cults. They want to see Jesus’ return (rightfully so), but they let themselves be led astray in the process. How so? They wander from the safety of the Scripture. Like a guardrail on the side of the highway, or a fence on the edge of a cliff, the Bible is a God-given gift to keep us from dangerous doctrine. Yet when the Bible is discarded or ignored simply because a guy is a charismatic speaker or seemingly has a winning personality, that’s when people get into trouble. That’s when people open themselves to deception.
    1. Don’t be deceived! Stay in the Scriptures! When you keep your eyes in the Bible, you’ll keep your eyes on Jesus. He Himself will guard you from being led astray…but you have to be willing to follow Him.
  5. BTW – what these false teachers typically say about themselves is telling: “Many will come in My name, saying ‘I am (He).’” Technically, the “He” is assumed. The words that Luke records Jesus using is Ἐγώ εἰμι, “I am.” This is the same terminology John uses over and over again throughout his gospel, referring the claims of Jesus to be God. To be sure, Luke doesn’t use the term in the same way as John, but it’s an interesting word choice, nonetheless. Jesus basically warns His disciples that people will come in His own name, claiming to be “I AM.” Anyone who does so is a deceiver and a heretic. This is a dead giveaway of false teaching. Per vs. 27, when Jesus comes, it will be obvious to all the world. Jesus isn’t going to sneak in under the radar with another earthly ministry revealed only to a few people. Again…don’t be deceived!
  6. That’s not the only “don’t.” 9…

9 But when you hear of wars and commotions, do not be terrified; for these things must come to pass first, but the end will not come immediately.”

  1. First, Jesus warned not to get caught up with false teachers/messiahs; next He warned not to get caught up in false panic over signs. The word used for “terrified” is interesting in that it isn’t the normal word used for “fear” – in fact, this word is used only twice in the New Testament, both times by Luke. When used in the LXX, it translates a Hebrew word that speaks of ‘being shattered’ or ‘filled with terror.’ Imagine being reduced to a state of collapse because of one’s own fear – that’s the picture painted by Jesus. Don’t panic – don’t worry. “When you hear of wars and commotions,” don’t fall to pieces.
  2. Why? Because other things need to take place first. Jesus could be translated as saying, “For it is necessary these (things) come to pass, but the end is not immediate.” These other wars and conflicts are not merely possible; they are assured. These things most definitely will happen before “the end” takes place. How many times have we seen panic regarding Jesus’ return with every new military conflict? This is exactly what Jesus said not to do. Jesus’ return will not take place immediately…of that we have His precise word.
    1. This is a primary difference between the doctrines of the Rapture and Jesus’ 2nd Although we often use the terms interchangeably, they refer to distinct (though connected) events. The Rapture is when Jesus calls His church home to Him in heaven; the 2nd Coming is when Jesus sets foot upon earthly ground as King. The Rapture is when we’re are caught up in the clouds with Jesus; the 2nd Coming is when we come in the clouds with Jesus. The Rapture is when we are delivered from the wrath of God; the 2nd Coming is the culmination of the wrath of God as Jesus splits the Mount of Olives in two upon His return and puts an end to the battle of Armageddon. Why make such a distinction between the events? Because the Rapture is imminent; the 2nd Coming is not. The Rapture can happen at any moment without warning; the 2nd Coming is preceded by a very specific series of events already prophesied by Jesus in the Olivet Discourse and in the book of Revelation. Thus when Jesus says that “the end will not come immediately,” and that it is necessary for certain things to happen, He means it. 
    2. Christian: the main prophetic event we await is not any war, aligning of the stars, or any other earthly thing; it’s the Rapture. Stop looking to men to tell you when you will see Jesus; just look for Jesus! Be ready for Him at any moment!
  3. The warning in vs. 9 is true on a couple of levels. It certainly applies to us today as we look at the state of our world & we wait for Jesus, but it was also true for the disciples in the context of the destruction of Jerusalem. For them, they would see all kinds of things rise up, and they would experience all kinds of trouble – but those things didn’t necessarily signify the final end of the temple or the destruction of the city. That would come later (as Jesus will teach in vs. 20).
  4. In the meantime, what are we to expect? We will see the same worldwide catastrophes that we always see. Vs. 10…

10 Then He said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven.

  1. Would these things be seen before the destruction of Jerusalem? Will they be seen before Jesus’ return? Yes. So stop panicking! Don’t fear – don’t tremble with terror. It seems that every time a new massive earthquake hits (of which there are many), people think it’s the end. Every new war & every new disease sets off another round of speculation. 
  2. Beloved, this needs to stop. Jesus specifically tells us these things will take place, and that the end is not yet. We need Christians to stop following every so-called prophecy-expert always claiming to have interpreted the next major sign. Everything we see in this world is something that Jesus told us to expect. If we’re looking for signs in the heavens, in natural catastrophes, in political turmoil, or in worldwide conflicts, we’re looking in the wrong places. The fact that these things exist simply prove Jesus’ point: these things will always exist, because it comes in the natural course of the world. Will these things increase? Most certainly. The account from Matthew 24 shows that the increase of these things “are the beginning of sorrows,” (Mt 24:8). But these things by themselves are not the end. The existence of these things are not even the main items we are to watch for in regards to the end.
  3. So what are we to watch for? Again, look to the fencing & guard of Scripture: 1 Timothy 4:1–3, “(1) Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, (2) speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, (3) forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.” We look to the state of the church… 2 Timothy 3:1–5, “(1) But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: (2) For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, (3) unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, (4) traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, (5) having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” We look to the state of our culture – its rejection of God & influence upon the church… And of course, we look to Israel and the vast number of prophecies concerning the reestablishment of the Jewish nation – many of which have come true; others are yet future.
  4. All of these things are very specifically listed for us in the Scripture. If we stick to this, we’re on good prophetic ground. It’s when we get caught up in other speculation (blood moons, Shemitah, etc.,) that we get into trouble. Again, the important event for us to await is the Rapture. We don’t need to look to blood moons or stars; we look for our Lord Jesus!
  5. Not only are worldwide catastrophes inevitable, so is persecution. 12…

12 But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake.

  1. When Jesus speaks here of persecution, He’s clear on the context. “They will lay their hands on you.” Although persecution can certainly be mental & emotional harassment, this is something tangible. Jesus plainly tells His disciples that they will physically suffer. They will be beaten, arrested, and put on trial.
    1. Question: Is this for all of us, or just the immediate disciples of Jesus? Yes & yes. Christians throughout the ages have suffered physically for their faith in Christ. Although it seems so foreign to us, we need to understand that American Christians have lived in a bubble in history. No Christian has ever been as free from persecution as have been those of us in the United States. The fact that we see this freedom eroding is unwelcome, but it shouldn’t be unexpected. This has been the norm for all of Jesus’ followers throughout the past 2000 years.
  2. Even as the general principle applies to all, it most definitely applied to the original apostles. That’s why Jesus could say “before all these things,” in the context of before the wars & earthquakes & famines & pestilences, etc. This demonstrates the difference between Matthew 24 & Luke 21. If we assume Luke 21 is simply a parallel of Matthew 24, then it would seem strange for Jesus to say that this persecution would happen “before all these things,” considering that Matthew 24 seems to walk sequentially through the opening events of the Great Tribulation, lining up fairly well with the various seal judgments of Revelation 6. Yet Luke 21 shows a difference, demonstrating that these accounts are not fully parallel. Again, whereas Matthew 24 focuses on the signs and events surrounding the end of the age, Luke 21 focuses on the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. In Luke’s account, Jesus does still refer quite a bit to His 2nd Coming, but the description leading up to it fits the different context. – All of that explains the “before these things.” Yes, nations will rise against one another & earthquakes will take place all over the world, but before most of those things can happen, Jesus’ disciples will be persecuted. Not even a single generation would pass before the apostles experience the same persecutions as faced by their Master. How do we know? Just look to Luke’s 2nd book: the book of Acts. The point? Although the other worldwide events would take time, this wouldn’t. Persecution would come to the disciples, and it would come quickly. They needed to be ready.
  3. Why would it come? On account of Jesus: “for My name’s sake.” When the disciples were identified with Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah, the Son of God, they would be persecuted in the same way that Jesus was persecuted. They would be beaten, arrested, brought to the Jewish leadership, and to Gentile rulers. Jesus would face all of this in a matter of hours from His time of speaking; the apostles would face their own soon enough.

13 But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony.

  1. Is persecution always bad? It’s certainly not something to pursue or desire…but it can lead to something good: evangelism. For the disciples, the times they would be brought to synagogues and kings would be God-given occasions for them to share their testimonies. They would (in a literal translation) be “martyrs” for the Lord Jesus, even prior to their deaths. According to the original word, that’s exactly what the word “testimony” means. (μαρτύριον) Technically, a martyr doesn’t have to die for Jesus; a martyr is a faithful witness of Jesus. Can this lead to death? Yes – as it did for most of the apostles. Even that itself is a witness unto Christ. It was the 2nd century apologist Tertullian who said that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” When the world witnesses a Christian’s hope & faith in Jesus unto death, it is a powerful testimony of the eternal life we have in Him. 
  2. Of course, there would be many occasions for the disciples to testify of Jesus before they were eventually executed. What would they say? How would they be prepared for that moment? Jesus tells them…

14 Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; 15 for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist.

  1. It almost seems contradictory, does it not? “Settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand” – establish a plan not to have a plan. Or better yet, plan to rely upon the Lord & not upon yourselves. Instead of practicing a speech or rehearsing the best apologetic arguments, Jesus tells the disciples to determine in advance to not worry, but simply respond to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Jesus Himself will assist them, so their own assistance is unnecessary.
  2. So how exactly would Jesus prepare them? He seems to refer to what Paul later describes as the word of wisdom (1 Cor 12:8) – the spiritual gift displayed by Jesus when He was answering the Pharisees & Sadducees. It is the perfect word at the right time – an answer of wisdom unable to be contradicted or resisted by even our worst enemies. Not that the word of wisdom puts an end to the persecution, but it exposes the persecution for what it is: an unjust act against the people of God. The bottom line is that God the Son promises to give His followers the right words at the needed time. As when Isaiah and John each ate the words of God, Jesus fills our mouths with His word when we need it most.
  3. Again, we might ask if this is just a promise for the original disciples, or for all Christians everywhere? It certainly applied to the disciples, as the book of Acts goes on to demonstrate. That said, the general principle still applies today. Christians on trial for the name of Jesus need not worry about what to say. Our Lord is faithful, and He will not abandon us in our hour of need. There is not a single born-again believer in history who has faced his/her persecutors alone. Be assured that Jesus has given them a mouth to speak!
  4. That said, be careful not to take this promise out of context. It does not mean:
    1. That Christians ought to never prepare anything. That’s a ludicrous thought. A steady diet of the Scriptures and time spent in prayer is needful preparation for all aspects of life…especially persecution! All Jesus is saying is not to rehearse speeches in our minds. If we’ve been reading the Scripture, we can be sure He will pull out what He’s already implanted into our hearts and minds.
    2. That God will provide a defense for the troubles we bring upon ourselves. Remember that the whole context is of persecution for Jesus’ name sake (vs. 12). If we commit a crime, we’d better retain a lawyer. That sort of trial is a natural consequence of our action, and one which the Lord will readily allow us to face.
    3. That Bible teachers don’t need to prepare for lessons, but rather simply rely on Jesus to give them the words. This is likewise ridiculous, but it a frighteningly common thought! Paul wrote to Timothy that he was to study to show himself approved, as a worker who did not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Tim 2:15) God forbid that pastors use supposed spirituality as an excuse for their laziness! Those who teach the Scriptures are held accountable for what they teach, so they’d better do the work necessary.
    4. All in all, vss. 14-15 is a glorious promise of Jesus’ comfort to the believer and presence with the believer during times of persecution; it’s not carte-blanche for us to do whatever we want & expect God to clean up after us.
  5. Persecution wouldn’t come only from the outside. 16…

16 You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17 And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake.

  1. Just as the disciples were to expect persecution, they were also to expect betrayal & hatred. Friends and family would turn against them on account of their love for the Lord Jesus. To be sure, this would be far more painful. It’s one thing to expect opposition from our enemies; it’s quite another to have loved ones become our enemies. Although the book of Acts is relatively quiet regarding what the disciples experienced regarding betrayal, there’s no doubt this has been experienced by Christians throughout the ages. Even today, this happens at an alarming rate throughout the Middle East and Asia. Muslim-born believers are quite often exiled by their families, or counted as dead – and likewise for born-again Christians from Hindu households. Other times, secret church meetings are exposed by neighbors once believed to be friends, and lives are lost as a result.
  2. Should this be a surprise? Not at all. If Jesus endured these things, we can be assured of it as well. A servant is not greater than his master, and since the world hated Jesus, the world will hate Jesus’ disciples & followers. (Jn 15:19-20) Again, all of this comes as a result of being identified with Him. This is for His “name’s sake.” These are experiences that we not only expect, but for which we can expect the Lord’s comfort and presence. 
  3. Other experiences don’t have the same promises. If we suffer hatred because we’ve been jerks, that’s not persecution; that’s reasonable. … Suffering is expected, but if you’re going to suffer, suffer for the right reason. 1 Peter 3:15–17, “(15) But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; (16) having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. (17) For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.”

18 But not a hair of your head shall be lost. 19 By your patience possess your souls.

  1. There will be persecution, but there will also be protection. Question: what kind of protection? Is Jesus saying that none of His disciples will lose their lives? Not at all. He clearly spoke of physical persecution in vs. 12, and just got done saying that some would be put to death in vs. 16. Real persecution and suffering was guaranteed to the disciples. So what is Jesus saying? The disciples would suffer, but they wouldn’t be lost. Some would be killed, but their souls would not perish. Their spiritual eternal protection was assured. Their (and our) eternities were safe in the palm of His hand. Though the whole world turn against us, when we belong to Christ Jesus, we are His forever.
  2. What did they need in the meantime? They needed to endure. The Amplified version says, “By your steadfastness and patient endurance you shall win the true life of your souls.” This is not a statement of earning salvation; it’s simply a description of seeing things through to the end. The way you finish a marathon is simply to finish. Whether you’re running, walking, or crawling makes little difference, as long as you cross the finish line. Those who finish are those who have endurance. … Christians need to endure! Don’t give up – don’t turn aside from Christ. Whatever happens, stay in Him – abide. He is faithful for us; we ought to be faithful for Him. (And we can be faithful, through the power of the Holy Spirit!)

Conclusion:

To the news that their beloved temple would be utterly destroyed, the disciples asked the logical question of when it would take place. Jesus’ answer: wait. There would be much that would happen in the meantime – both in the leadup to the temple destruction, and in the days leading up to Jesus’ return. Jesus’ disciples were not to be deceived, nor led astray – they weren’t to panic nor were they to be surprised by the persecutions that awaited them. Instead, they were to stay focused upon Jesus, upon His word, and stay reliant upon His power and His Spirit. Jesus would see them through; they just needed to patiently endure.

So do we. Much of what Jesus taught already had one fulfillment, but there is still much to come as the days draw nearer to the Great Tribulation. So beware! Beware false teachers & false messiahs – beware false promises of speculative interpretation of prophecy. It’s so easy for us to get distracted and led away from the simple truths of Jesus. Stay focused on Him, His word, and the gospel mission. Instead of spreading the message of the latest fly-by-night prophecy teacher, spread the message of the gospel! Endure in the Great Commission of Christ! Tell people about Jesus with every chance you get, even (and especially) when those opportunities come via persecution and hatred.

Time is short; we dare not waste it.

Despising God’s Ways

Posted: December 7, 2017 in Malachi, Uncategorized

Malachi 2, “Despising God’s Ways”

Trail running can be a lot of fun. There’s softer ground on which to step, prettier scenery to see (when you actually stop to look around), and a quieter general environment than the normal urban/suburban streets. It can be a lot of fun, that is, as long as (1) you can see what you’re doing, and (2) you stay upright. In my experience, the moment I let my mind wander and stop paying close attention to the ground in front of me is the moment I go down. 

Something similar can happen on a spiritual level. As born-again Christians, things are generally great for us as long as we keep our eyes upon Jesus and His word. As long as we’re following His paths according to His way, we’re fine. But the moment we get away from His word (thus get our eyes off of Him), that’s when we stumble.

It’s bad enough for us when it happens by accident, or just in the course of being human – but what happens when it comes as a result of purposeful neglect? What happens when God’s people intentionally shut their eyes to God’s commands, turning away from His will? A fall is sure to come, and that fall is going to be hard.

Such was the case for the newly repatriated Jews living in their homeland. Having returned from Babylonian captivity, the Jews may not have had an independent kingdom, but at least they had a home. They even had a temple, despite all kinds of troubles they experienced when getting started with the construction. God had sent two previous prophets to help out during those trials (Haggai and Zechariah), but now there was something newly corrupt in Israel, and God sent His current messenger (Malachi) to address it. Malachi would be the final messenger of God before the ultimate messenger would be sent: the one who prepared the way for the Messiah. (John the Baptist prior to Jesus.)

So what was the message? God first established His love for the Jews, specifically stating how He had chosen them over & above the other nations of the world (such as Esau/Edom). God’s clear proclamation of His love for Israel was necessary, for there was some stern correction that needed to come. Though Israel was barely back in the land, they had already begun to despise God by despising their worship of Him. Instead of bringing their best unto the Lord, they brought their worst: third-rate leftovers – offerings of animals not even good enough to be used on the farm, much less as a gift to God. The Jews had no appreciation for the God who had brought them back to their homeland, delivering them from Babylon. Israel had lost their fear of the Lord, thus they lost their true worship of Him.

How had it all come about? Seemingly by the neglect of the priests. The priests had departed from their duty to teach the word of God, and as a result the people departed from the command of God. Everyone in Israel had lost sight of God’s ways, despising them, and they had fallen hard.

When we depart from the word & ways of God, we always end up in sin. Don’t despise God’s ways; abide in them!

Malachi 2

  • Defiled priests (1-9)

1 “And now, O priests, this commandment is for you. 2 If you will not hear, And if you will not take it to heart, To give glory to My name,” Says the LORD of hosts, “I will send a curse upon you, And I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have cursed them already, Because you do not take it to heart.

  1. God begins with a specific word to the priests. Of course, God had already been addressing the priests in Ch. 1 regarding the defiled offerings place on the altar, but that was indirect. The priests were the ones placing the sick animals on the altar, but the people as a whole were the ones who brought them for an offering. Here, God makes it clear that the priests were in view. They personally despised the name of God (1:6), which was demonstrated by the way they despised His word.
  2. Interestingly, this is a conditional statement. IF they ignored God, THEN they would be cursed. No one forced the priests to act the way they did; this was their choice. But choose it, they did. The statement may have been conditional, but it was true.
  3. As a result, they would receive God’s curse instead of His blessing. Think about that for a moment: the priests should have been blessed simply from the privilege of serving the Lord – they were blessed because they were back in the land – they were blessed because they had a functioning temple in which they could worship. Things were better for the priests (and for all of Israel) than they had been in generations – yet instead of living in God’s blessings, they received God’s curse. They turned away from their privileges, and lived in the consequences of their sin.
    1. Was it a foolish choice? Of course – but it’s one that we make all the time. How often do we choose to engage in sin, knowing that it’s sin? Perhaps we figure we can deal with the consequences later, or maybe there won’t be any consequences at all. Be assured of this: God will not be mocked. (Gal 6:7) As born-again believers, we may not be cursed by God, but God certainly loves us enough to allow us to experience the consequences of our sin. That is His holy discipline towards us, though totally unnecessary if we would but choose to take His word to heart.

3 “Behold, I will rebuke your descendants And spread refuse on your faces, The refuse of your solemn feasts; And one will take you away with it.

  1. The curse given by God to the priests was to be generational. Their “descendants” would live in the same rebuke given by God to their fathers. Why generational? Because that’s just the way it works. Patterns are passed from parents to children, for good or evil. The priestly line of Israel was no different. Fathers who ignored the word of God would teach their sons to do so as well, and thus they’d have the same consequences given them by God.
    1. Can this sort of generational curse be broken? Yes! This is part of the grace of the gospel! In Christ, we are new creations – thus, we don’t live the same way we did before. We have a new start in Jesus, and we can set new patterns for our own children.
  2. Of course, the priests of Israel weren’t living in the grace of the gospel; they were still involved in the filth of their sin. And God declared that this filth would be put back upon them. His curse upon the priests is one of disgusting defilement. The “refuse” speaks of the waste left in the digestive tracts of animals (what is sometimes referred to as “offal”). Normally, this was taken outside the camp & disposed of, never offered to God on the altar. Instead, this is what God declared would be smeared on their faces. These priests were disgraceful, and this what the extent of the disgrace that God declared upon them.
    1. Disgusting? But that’s all of us in our sin. Praise God for the cleansing we have in Jesus!
  3. The one good thing about it is that it would get their attention. 4…

4 Then you shall know that I have sent this commandment to you, That My covenant with Levi may continue,” Says the LORD of hosts.

  1. What would be the proof God had sent the commandment? His judgment. The priests may have ignored God in the past, despising His word, but as soon as God acted upon it, no doubt they would pay attention! It would be a hard lesson to learn, but if that’s what it took for the priests to repent, then so be it. (Easy way or hard way? Your choice!)
  2. What God desired was His “covenant with Levi.” Why Levi? This was the priestly tribe, Aaron being the chief descendant. The current priests had departed from this ancient covenant that God had with the tribe of Levi. And they missed out! 5…

5 “My covenant was with him, one of life and peace, And I gave them to him that he might fear Me; So he feared Me And was reverent before My name. 6 The law of truth was in his mouth, And injustice was not found on his lips. He walked with Me in peace and equity, And turned many away from iniquity.

  1. What had Levi done? Aside being sovereignly chosen by God (Aaron being the brother of Moses & the spokesman for Moses to Pharaoh), the tribe of Levi had taken God’s side at Mt. Sinai. The people had sinned at the foot of the mountain, not only worshipping the golden calf (which Aaron had built!), but by engaging in all kinds of pagan gross immorality as they worshipped it. In response, Moses came down, calling whoever was on the Lord’s side to stand with him and take judgment upon the people. (Exo 32:25-26) This act was rewarded by God giving them the priestly service. More to the point of the covenant, this came as the result of one of the grandsons of Aaron: Phinehas, in response to the idolatrous acts of the people on the cusp of their entry into the Promised Land. The Moabites sent in women who engaged in harlotry with the men of Israel, and just as God was sending a plague among the people, Phinehas defended the zeal of the Lord. Numbers 25:10–13, “(10) Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: (11) “Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned back My wrath from the children of Israel, because he was zealous with My zeal among them, so that I did not consume the children of Israel in My zeal. (12) Therefore say, ‘Behold, I give to him My covenant of peace; (13) and it shall be to him and his descendants after him a covenant of an everlasting priesthood, because he was zealous for his God, and made atonement for the children of Israel.’ ”” Phinehas was zealous for the Lord, and generations of people benefited! As a result, God had a wonderful covenant with the tribe of Levi: “one of life and peace.
    1. This is what we have in Jesus! He is supremely zealous for the glory of God, and the result of His actions confer eternal life and the peace of God upon all those who believe.
  2. Obviously not everyone in the tribe of Levi had acted so righteously, but this was the zeal that God desired from His priests. 5-6 describe the ideal priestly character.
    1. He fears God, being reverent toward Him. He has the right attitude of worship. This was lacking among the people as a whole (1:6,14), but not with Phinehas or the other faithful priests of the tribe of Levi.
    2. The “law of truth” is in his mouth. Technically, this is a reference to Torah (and the specific word for Torah is used throughout the chapter). IOW, he taught the word of God. It was always on his lips, thus always in his heart.
    3. Injustice” is abhorrent to him. Sin is not something that is flirted with; it’s something to stay away from. Via Hebrew parallelism, the injustice is the opposite of the Torah of truth. When Levi spoke of one, he stayed away from the other.
    4. He walks with God “in peace and equity.” Or in shalom (wholeness) and uprightness. The idea of “equity” actually speaks of a “level place” – something that is to be remembered in light of how the corrupt priests demonstrated partiality with God’s law.
    5. He helps others walk in repentance, “turning many away from iniquity.” His teaching and example of zeal and reverence for God helped others do the same thing.
  3. Keep in mind that we as born-again believers are a kingdom of priests. What God desired from the ancient priests of Israel is what He desires from us today. God wants us to worship Him rightly – to dwell in His word – to abhor sin – to walk in the abundance of life in Christ – to set the example of godly living for others. (Is this the witness of your life? Is this what others could/would say of you?)

7 “For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, And people should seek the law from his mouth; For he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.

  1. If vss. 5-6 describe the ideal priestly character, vs. 7 describes the ideal priestly work. Ultimately, it comes down to this: the priest keeps and values God’s word. Like the godly person in Psalm 1:2, the righteous priest delights in God’s law & meditates in it day & night. The word of God drives the righteous priest in everything he does, because the righteous priest understands that “he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.” He is the מַלְאַ֥ךְ (~ Malachi) “messenger” of the Ever-existent Commander of the Heavenly Armies. IOW, he is a Godly herald with a divine message.
    1. Again, we are a kingdom of priests, and we too carry forth the word of God. When we proclaim the gospel (or any part of the Scripture), it is not our word to twist and turn to whatever meaning we desire; it is God’s It is His message, His knowledge, His law. Thus we are to treasure it and pass it on faithfully to others.
    2. Keep His word! Be faithful with the gospel! Don’t dilute it – don’t change it. Proclaim it as it is, so that when you speak it, people know that you are speaking forth the very word of God.
  2. This wasn’t what the current priests of Israel did. 8…

8 But you have departed from the way; You have caused many to stumble at the law. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi,” Says the LORD of hosts.

  1. The current priests did exactly the opposite of God’s desire for them! They didn’t keep the knowledge of God – they didn’t seek God’s law; they “departed from the way.” They left the true path of God to follow paths of their own devising. And because they were priests, they caused others to follow in their wandering.
  2. Instead of keeping the law, they corrupted it. They polluted it, making it something it was not. As a result, they “caused many to stumble.” Like blind leading the blind, the priests led the people in their corruption and stumbling away from the righteousness of God.
    1. Staying in the word keeps us from stumbling! Staying in the gospel keeps us from stumbling! The more we remain focused upon Christ and His work for us, the more aware we will be of our own sin – the less desire we will have to engage in sin – the less danger we will be to others as to them following us into sin.
    2. Beware becoming a stumbling block! How sobering a thought it is, that we might cause someone else to miss out on the grace of Jesus because of the way we choose to live our lives! Paul was so careful about this, that he was willing even to curb his own liberties, in order that others might be safeguarded. 1 Corinthians 8:9–13, “(9) But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. (10) For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols? (11) And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? (12) But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. (13) Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.” Salvation is too important! What is your liberty on any minor issue compared to someone’s eternity?
  3. This act of leading God’s people into sin is something that God would judge. 9…

9 “Therefore I also have made you contemptible and base Before all the people, Because you have not kept My ways But have shown partiality in the law.”

  1. The priests had defiled the covenant, so God would defile them. This is the curse mentioned in vs. 2 & the refuse/offal mentioned in vs. 3. These men may have had the title of “priest,” but they were anything but holy men of God. They were defiled, unworthy to serve in their calling.
    1. Many men have titles proclaiming holiness; many of the same are also contemptible and defiled. Titles do not determine one’s place in the kingdom of God; that only comes via the grace of God through Jesus.
  2. The priests had defiled the things of God in two ways: (1) they didn’t keep God’s ways, and (2) showed partiality with God’s law. Instead of walking in equity, exactly according to what God’s word proclaimed, they twisted their interpretation of the law to suit their own favor. Keep in mind that few people other than the priests even had access to the written word of God – the Jews were totally reliant upon people like the priests to teach it to them correctly. The priests, in all their corruption, failed.
    1. What’s the big deal? Abandoning God’s word was bad enough, but misrepresenting God’s word leads to misrepresenting God. 
    2. Be true to the word! It’s too important!

In all of this, there was a specific sin that rose to the top of the filth in Israel – one that came as a direct result of the priests’ neglect of teaching the Scripture: marriage in Israel was defiled…

  • Defiled people (10-17)

10 Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously with one another By profaning the covenant of the fathers? 11 Judah has dealt treacherously, And an abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem, For Judah has profaned The LORD’s holy institution which He loves: He has married the daughter of a foreign god.

  1. Israel was breaking their covenant with God by breaking their covenants of marriage. Instead of keeping pure the institution made holy by God, they despised it, and treated it according to their own preferences rather than according to God’s command for them. (Sounds sadly familiar!)
  2. We also need to remember the current events at the time. This was a definite struggle among the newly repatriated Jews. [Ezra 9-10]. No sooner had the people repented of their sin did they engage in exactly the same practice, as Nehemiah the governor discovered on one of his return trips to Jerusalem: Nehemiah 13:23–26, “(23) In those days I also saw Jews who had married women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. (24) And half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod, and could not speak the language of Judah, but spoke according to the language of one or the other people. (25) So I contended with them and cursed them, struck some of them and pulled out their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, “You shall not give your daughters as wives to their sons, nor take their daughters for your sons or yourselves. (26) Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? Yet among many nations there was no king like him, who was beloved of his God; and God made him king over all Israel. Nevertheless pagan women caused even him to sin.” If the wisest man on earth could not avoid sin due to intermarriage, how could anyone else avoid it?
  3. OK, so that’s Israel. Does this have any repercussions for Christians? 2 Corinthians 6:14–15, “(14) Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? (15) And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?” Objection: “Marriage is not mentioned in that verse!” True, but the principle certainly applies. What closer relationship can we have with a person, apart from marriage? If we are to beware business relationships with non-Christians, how much more the closest covenant relationship possible?
  4. Question: Why is this such a big deal? What did it matter if a Jew of ancient Israel married a Gentile? Because who you marry in a large way determines who you worship…especially in an ancient culture. It’s not much different today. Two people who have the same goals will naturally end up at the same place. Yet if they’re walking different directions, something is going to give. Two people who both love the Lord Jesus will love worshipping Jesus together, but in interfaith marriage, someone is going to compromise. (Newsflash: it’s generally the Christian…)
  5. We may not take these things seriously, but God does. 12…

12 May the LORD cut off from the tents of Jacob The man who does this, being awake and aware, Yet who brings an offering to the LORD of hosts!

  1. Malachi goes so far as to proclaim a curse upon the Jews who would engage in this sin. Of course, the key is that they engage in it knowingly & willingly. Someone who knows they are violating the commands of God, yet still attempts to bring an offering to God in worship (pretending as if nothing is wrong), is someone to be cursed, “cut off from the tents of Jacob.” IOW, they would be cast out of the nation and covenant promises as a whole.
  2. What is this talking about? How many times have we seen Christians knowingly engage in sin, and then walk into church with hands lifted in praise as if nothing is wrong? Sin needs to be addressed, through church discipline if necessary…
  3. God cares about the purity of His people. Remember that the Greatest Commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. He wants all of us at all times…that calls for hearts that are purely set apart for Him. 

13 And this is the second thing you do: You cover the altar of the LORD with tears, With weeping and crying; So He does not regard the offering anymore, Nor receive it with goodwill from your hands.

  1. The hypocrisy of the people carried over in another way. Not only did they bring an offering out of pretense, if they did bring an offering supposedly sorrowful over their sin, they still weren’t truly repentant. The whole picture described by Malachi is one of insincere weeping. The Jews would cry & wail, but not change anything in their lives. Why would God receive such an offering?
  2. Sorrow without repentance is worthless. Otherwise, it’s mere emotionalism, temporary and fleeting. True sorrow is godly sorrow, and that’s something that leads to repentance. (2 Cor 7:10)

14 Yet you say, “For what reason?” Because the LORD has been witness Between you and the wife of your youth, With whom you have dealt treacherously; Yet she is your companion And your wife by covenant. 15 But did He not make them one, Having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. “Therefore take heed to your spirit, And let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth.

  1. Once again, what seems to be one sin is made even worse by the actions of the people. Intermarriage with pagans was bad enough, but to divorce a Jewish wife in order to marry a Gentile was even worse. Apparently, that was exactly what was going on. The Jews “dealt treacherously” & deceitfully with the “wives of their youth,” in order to make way for their pagan Gentile women.
  2. This wasn’t lost upon the Lord. As the all-knowing, all-seeing God, He was “” God knew the infidelity of His people, and they would be judged on account of it.
  3. This perversion of marriage was a total disregard for God’s intent for marriage. The wives of the Jews were supposed to their companions – their covenant partners, having been made “one” with the other, in order to help perpetuate the nation with “godly offspring.” This was God’s intent for marriage from the very beginning… [Gen 2:18-24]
  4. Marriage to be valued & cherished; not to be treated lightly & thrown away. Marriage that is discarded always causes harm. 16…

16 “For the LORD God of Israel says That He hates divorce, For it covers one’s garment with violence,” Says the LORD of hosts. Therefore take heed to your spirit, That you do not deal treacherously.”

  1. Although scholars debate the right interpretation, Malachi doesn’t really mince words. God hates This is a different “hate” than in 1:3, when God said He hated Esau. This is true hatred & revulsion.
    1. Question: if God hates divorce, why does He allow it? Jesus was asked almost exactly the same question… Matthew 19:8–9, “(8) He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. (9) And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”” Allowance <> blessing/command.
  2. Divorce does violence to covenants. Divorce does violence to people.
  3. So what do we do about it? Be careful! Be true & remain faithful!

17 You have wearied the LORD with your words; “Yet you say, “In what way have we wearied Him?” In that you say, “Everyone who does evil Is good in the sight of the LORD, And He delights in them,” Or, “Where is the God of justice?”

  1. Although many scholars believe vs. 17 goes better as the beginning to Ch. 3, it also provides a great end to Ch. 2. God tires of our excuses and our false reasonings.
  2. There is no excuse for throwing away the word of God!

Conclusion:

Beloved, stay in the ways & word of God! When we abandon God’s word, then we abandon God’s will for our lives. Marriages become disposable, and purity is ignored. As a result, then God’s people become irrelevant to the rest of the world. Why should they pay any attention to what we have to say about Jesus, if our lives never give any evidence of His transforming power? When all our worship is religious hypocrisy, what reason would anyone else have to take our words seriously?

The priests and people of Israel had destroyed their own witness because of their disdain for the word and ways of God.

The good news is that God wasn’t going to leave them in that state! The very reason Malachi was sent to them was so that they would know the message of God for them at that time. They would know God’s will for them in the present, and they would be prepared for God’s Messiah soon to come. This message of judgment was actually a message of mercy, in that God gave them the opportunity to repent.

He does the same with us. Any person who experiences the conviction of God is a person with an opportunity to repent.

The free online CSS beautifier website takes care of your dirty code and strips every unwanted

The Knockout Punch

Posted: December 3, 2017 in Luke, Uncategorized

Luke 20:41-21:4, “The Knockout Punch”

In every great competition, there comes a moment when the eventual victor performs the finishing move, making his/her victory inevitable. In boxing, it’s often the knockout punch, something for which boxers like Mike Tyson, and Evander Holyfield were known. In racing, it’s the final surge or finishing kick. At most recent New York Marathon, Shalane Flanagan became the first American woman to win the race since 1977, due partly to a surge at mile 22 pace dropped from a 5:26 minute-per-mile pace to 5:09, soon leaving her competitors behind. Name your sport, and there’s usually a moment that comes when there’s no turning back…from that point on, the victory is assured.

The same thing can happen in a debate, when an argument is so compelling that the other side is left utterly speechless – and that’s exactly what happened in the theological contest between Jesus and the religious leaders of Jerusalem. After round upon round of the various Jewish scholarly factions attempting to discredit Jesus, the Lord Jesus suddenly turned the tables upon them. The question He posed to them left them speechless, and ultimately exposed or the hypocrites they were. These men had precisely the opposite sort of faith that God desired to see in His people: true sincerity and surrender unto God.

Before we get into the text, we might ask ourselves: why does the Bible spend so much time detailing these debates? Sure, it shows Jesus having a masterful intellect, and supernatural wisdom – but what does all of this mean for today? 

Of course, that itself is reason enough to study it. Jesus does demonstrate supernatural wisdom and insight into the Scriptures. He is the premier teacher of the Scriptures, able to teach with unmatched authority. This only serves to underscore the fact that Jesus is the Author of Scripture, being the Son of God. But more than that, all of this debate serves a broader purpose in the gospel narratives. Remember where Jesus is about to head: arrest, deliverance to the Romans, and the cross. When arrested by the Jews and placed on trial, was Jesus found guilty because He was unable to answer for Himself? No. Was the Jewish Sanhedrin able to turn Him over to the Romans because they somehow outwitted Jesus? Absolutely not. All of this can be seen in this series of debates Jesus had with the Jewish scholars earlier in the week. Jesus is superior to these men in every way imaginable: spiritually, intellectually, wisdom, etc. The only reason that Jesus was later convicted by these men is because Jesus allowed Himself to be. This was the plan of God leading unto our salvation, and Jesus was fully submitted to His Father in it.

That’s one of the major benefits of this whole series of events in Chapter 20: it emphasizes that God was always in control. The Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes never gained the upper-hand over Jesus; Jesus gave Himself over to them, because that was the way to the cross, and thus to the resurrection & our salvation. These passages aren’t here to necessarily help us learn how to win theological arguments and debates; they’re here to establish Jesus’ credibility in the gospel! Everything Jesus did was to point us back to Him, His gospel, and the glory of God. Regardless of what Scripture you read, be sure you don’t miss that!

Let’s be sure to establish our context… Upon arriving in Jerusalem, Jesus was immediately questioned by the religious rulers of the city. The Pharisees rebuked Jesus before He even entered the gate, unwilling that He should receive the rightful praise that He deserves as the Messiah. The priests demanded to know the credentials of Jesus after He cleansed the temple, exercising His authority as the Great High Priest. Later, the Pharisees sent spies to try to trap Jesus with a trick question regarding taxes, to which He have a divinely inspired answer showing His wisdom as God. Finally, the Sadducees hoped to discredit Jesus with what they believed was an unanswerable question regarding the resurrection. In response, Jesus not only answered the unanswerable, but exposed the Sadducees as being ignorant of the Scriptures and the God they claimed to serve. Through it all, Jesus was unfazed, showing Himself as the authoritative Teacher of Israel and the Messiah. He countered every move, and the rulers were finally too fearful to ask Him any more public questions.

It’s at this point that Luke goes on to show Jesus turning the tables, but there’s a huge difference here between Luke and the other two Synoptic gospels (Matthew & Mark). Luke leaves out the famous question from the Pharisaic lawyer/scribe regarding the greatest commandment in the law. (Mt 22:34-40, Mk 12:28-34) This is when Jesus was asked about the greatest (most important) commandment, to which Jesus answered that it was to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength – and that the second was like it, to love your neighbor as yourself.

Question: Why didn’t Luke include it? Perhaps because Luke had already dealt with the substance of this command in regards to the parable of the Good Samaritan. (Lk 10:25-37) When a lawyer asked Jesus about the same commandments, the lawyer also asked Him who exactly was his neighbor (because the lawyer wanted to justify himself). That’s when Jesus taught the parable, illustrating what true selfless love looks like.

Regarding the debates of Luke 20, Luke’s account is not contradicted by Matthew & Mark, nor vice-versa. They simply chose different emphases, being different authors. Remember that the gospels are not biographies (though they contain biographical material), nor are they unabridged transcripts of the words of Jesus. Each gospel writer specifically chose what to include & leave out, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Thus, even though the question/attempted-trap of the greatest commandment did take place, Luke didn’t need to include it in his book.

Instead, Luke moves on to the closing argument, the knockout punch. After everything said by the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes, it’s now Jesus’ turn. He would ask them His own unanswerable question, with the exception that He did know the answer. They could too, if they simply surrendered themselves to God in sincere worship. They weren’t willing, but there were others in Jerusalem who would. That’s whom God was seeking: those who would love Him & thus love the Lord Jesus with everything.

Luke 20:41–47

  • Jesus’ turn to question (41-44)

41 And He said to them, “How can they say that the Christ is the Son of David?

  1. Although it’s unmentioned in Luke, Matthew notes that Jesus asked this directly to the Pharisees, and Mark says that Jesus spoke this while in the temple regarding the teaching of the scribes. The idea is that this was a public question, possibly posed back to the same scribes (who were normally Pharisees) that complemented Jesus in vs. 39 regarding His answer to the Sadducees about the resurrection. Remember that although the scribes were opposed to Jesus, they couldn’t help but gloat a bit when they heard Jesus’ response to the trick question of the Sadducees. That was a riddle that no doubt had been used against them in ridicule, and Jesus was able to answer it without breaking a sweat. Jesus’ question to them is almost a bit of a rebuke, as if He’s saying, “Don’t get cocky. You’ve got issues of your own regarding the testimony of Scripture.” After all, the scribes and Pharisees may have agreed with Jesus regarding the resurrection, but they were still in rebellion against God, because they rejected Him as the Messiah. Jesus wasn’t going to let them off the hook so easily.
    1. And praise God He doesn’t! Jesus wants us to be saved. God’s express desire is that all people would come to repentance and faith (1 Tim 2:4). If that means He needs to make us uncomfortable in order that we would seek Him, then so be it. Better to be humbled, than to be forever lost! … May our pride be broken!
  2. The question itself is a good one. “How can they [the scribes] say that the Christ [the Messiah] is the Son of David?” It was readily acknowledged that the Messiah was supposed to come from the lineage of David, as that was part of the original Davidic covenant. 2 Samuel 7:12–14, “(12) “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. (13) He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. (14) I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men.” There are actually two sons mentioned in this word of God to David: (1) Jesus, as the Messiah who is given an eternal throne, and (2) Solomon (and his lineage) who was chastened by God after committing sin. (Dual-fulfillment of prophecy.) Whatever one’s interpretation of 2 Sam 7:14 might be, the interpretation of 7:12 is absolutely clear: the Messiah comes from the “body” (lineage) of David. (Thus making Him the legitimate king of Israel.)
    1. This doesn’t seem to be a theological problem, until Jesus explains the issue in vss. 42-43…

42 Now David himself said in the Book of Psalms: ‘The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, 43 Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” ’

  1. So where’s the problem? We have to look a bit closer. The quote of Psalm 110:1 reads the same in the Greek as it does in the English, “The Lord said to my Lord,” but that’s because our English Bibles follows the same convention as the Greek LXX in regard to substituting the title “Lord” for God’s personal name. The true distinction can be seen in the Hebrew: “YHWH said to my Adonai,” or “the I AM said to my Lord.” What David is saying is that the Almighty Creator Covenant God of Israel spoke to another person that was the Lord of David. Granted, the title “Lord” could simply refer to a position of respect or superiority, but even that raises an interesting question: who in Israel could be considered superior to the king of Israel? Other than Saul and David’s father (both of whom had died, and neither of whom would fit the rest of the psalm), what human would King David ever refer to as “Lord”? Who is David’s Master?
  2. The rest of the quote goes even further with the mystery. Knowing that the Messiah/Christ was to be David’s son, how could this plainly Messianic psalm refer to a human Messiah as sitting at the right hand of Almighty God? On earth, God’s throne was symbolized by the mercy seat on top of the Ark of the Covenant sitting in the Most Holy Place in the temple. That God’s chosen king would sit at His right hand was symbolized by the fact that the palace was built next door to the temple. [MAP] Yet that’s all on earth…the symbol. What about the reality? God’s true throne is in the heavens, and that was where God promised the Lord of David that He would sit, as YHWH God gave Him an eternal victory. Every enemy would be forever conquered, and David’s Lord would be able to stand on their necks.
  3. Put it all together, and what is in view? This Lord of David, the Messiah has to be more than human; He has to be God. If YHWH God puts this Lord into a place equivalent with Him, giving this Lord eternal victory, then this Lord has to be the LORD, God Himself. That’s when Jesus really puts the theological screws to the scribes & Pharisees…

44 Therefore David calls Him ‘Lord’; how is He then his Son?”

  1. Here’s the rub. The scribes rightly acknowledge the Messiah to be the physical descendant of David. That is something totally clear in the Scriptures. Yet the Bible also indicates that the Messiah is to be God. Regarding His humanity, Genesis 3:15 specifically states the Messiah is to be human, coming from the seed of the woman. God’s covenant with Abraham points to a human descendent, who would bless the nations of the world (Gen 22:18). This is affirmed through the various repetition of the covenant promise throughout the generations (to Isaac, Jacob, and Judah). Regarding His deity, Daniel 7:13-14 speaks of the Son of Man coming with God’s cloud of glory, standing in the presence of God, reigning for eternity. Isaiah 9:6-7 prophecies of a Son to be born who is specifically called “Mighty God” and “Everlasting Father.” So on one hand, the Bible shows that the Messiah is to be human, while also showing that the Messiah is to be God. How can He be both? That’s the question Jesus puts to the scribes.
  2. What is all of this? The question Jesus posed to the scribes and Pharisees is about what Christian theologians call the hypostatic union of Christ, or the dual-nature of Jesus. He is both God and Man. This is no mere mixture of natures, or a watering down of either nature, such as a mixing of DNAs from mother & father as a child is conceived – neither is this describing two separate natures existing side-by-side within Jesus; this is something totally different than any other concept on earth. Jesus is simultaneously 100% God and 100% Man. Though foretold in the Old Testament, this is something totally unique in Jesus. He has always been 100% God, being God the Son, the Eternal Word/Expression of God, the 2nd Person of the Godhead. As such, He is the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15), appearing to Adam, Abraham, Moses, and more. Yet once the Holy Spirit came upon Mary, impregnating the virgin, God the Son also became a true human being. This is the incarnation & what we celebrate at Christmas.
    1. And it is the only way we can be saved! Jesus’ humanity ensures that He is a perfect substitute and sacrifice for us. His deity ensures that His sacrifice is sufficient, and that His victory over death is total. In the doctrine of the incarnation is our only hope!
  3. With all that in mind, think back to the debate between Jesus & the scribes & Pharisees. The dual-nature of Christ is a difficult enough concept for Christians to understand. It wasn’t until the 5th century that the church finally settled on the correct language to describe the Biblical concept (Council of Chalcedon, 451AD). Imagine being a Jew in the 1st century listening to Jesus! Even the most well-trained Biblical mind, with all of the Old Testament and rabbinical writings at his disposal would have been stupefied by this. Much of what we can affirm about the dual-nature of Jesus is because we can look back at His work at the cross & resurrection, and (equally important) we as the church have the guidance and instruction of the Holy Spirit. The 1st century Jews of Jerusalem did not. What Jesus just laid out for them would have blown them away. This was His knockout punch, the coup-de-grace that closed out any possible notion of them besting Jesus in an argument. Jesus was the Victor, period!
    1. Jesus is fully God, fully Man, and fully victorious. This isn’t Someone to argue with; this is Someone to whom we ought to submit & surrender.
  • Jesus’ warning for the people (45-47)

45 Then, in the hearing of all the people, He said to His disciples,

  1. Just as the final argument was done in public, so was the warning that followed. The religious leaders had attempted to discredit Jesus and failed miserably. They tried to trap Him with the Scriptures, only to find that they didn’t know the Scriptures nearly as well as they thought they did. What was at the root of their rebellion and resistance to Jesus? They believed themselves superior to Jesus, wanting to control Jesus just like they controlled the people of Jerusalem. This was something that needed to be exposed, and that’s what Jesus did next.
  2. He may have said it publicly, but He spoke it “to His disciples.” The people heard His words, but the multitudes may or may not have paid attention. In fact, many did not, considering how easily they were manipulated by the Jewish leadership in the following days when Jesus was arrested. But His disciples definitely needed to pay attention. The religious leaders among the Jews were hypocrites; the future religious leaders among the Christians needed to be different. Those who follow Jesus need to follow Him sincerely, in spirit & truth. And for that, much can be learned by looking at the poor examples of the scribes & Pharisees.

46 “Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, 47 who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. …

  1. Luke shows Jesus calling out the scribes, but keep in mind that the scribes were mostly Pharisees. Matthew’s gospel goes into far greater detail here as Jesus lambasts them both, calling out with the refrain, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” (Mt 23:13, 14, 15, 23, 29.) These may have been the teachers and leaders among Israel, and thus deserving of the respect of the people, but they weren’t to be followed in their examples. Instead, the people were to be warned of their hypocrisy & sin.
  2. First of all, the scribes were full of greed and pride. They loved the best of clothing, especially the robes that would indicate their religious status among others. They loved the involved greetings that they would receive, as men would state their titles in their introductions. They loved receiving the seats of honor in the synagogues, and at feasts, knowing that men revered them as their religious leaders. They loved all the trappings that came with their social status, and longed for more.
    1. Sadly, this didn’t disappear with the ancient scribes & Pharisees of Jerusalem, but carried over into the church. Many men have entered the ministry because of their love of status, rather than their desire to serve. And likewise, they engage in the same prideful acts of the scribes. Some wear clothes intended to point out to others that they are ministers, deserving of respect and titles. Others brag about their $1000 suits, and other expensive items. They want to be addressed with massive titles, “The Most Right Reverend Dr. ____,” or to always be seated in the place of honor right up front in luxurious throne-like chairs. It’s the same sinful pride as the scribes and the Pharisees, and it’s still wrong.
    2. We have to remember that “ministry” by definition, means “service.” There is none more worthy of honor than the Lord Jesus, and even He didn’t come to be served, but to serve. (Mk 10:45) Any person who seeks the ministry simply as a career field, or for the stuff associated with it, ought not to be in ministry at all.
  3. Second, the scribes were dangerous. The greed of the scribes and Pharisees led them to go so far as to “devour widows’ houses,” as they took advantage of the people least able to defend themselves. As teachers of God’s word, they knew better than anyone how often God spoke of His desire to bring justice to widows and orphans, yet they engaged in the same crimes that God condemned. These women would have trusted the scribes and Pharisees to help them, but instead they were taken advantage of, and deceived by them.
    1. Again, this is still seen today. How many widows send in the bulk of their Social Security check to false teachers under the guise that they’re sending to “men of God”? The prosperity-gospel preachers promise a 100-fold return on the widows’ gifts, when in reality, they’re looking for a 100% profit for themselves.
  4. Third, the scribes were hypocrites. Their spirituality was fake, as their lengthy prayers were all “for a pretense.” They may have prayed with eloquent words and lifted their hands in supposed reverence, but it was all for appearances’ sake. It was all done for show.
    1. For examples of this, Christians don’t have to look far. This sort of spiritual hypocrisy shows up in more than just formalized religion or among the heretical televangelists. Evangelicals can be just as guilty. Anytime people pray to impress human ears rather than to humbly address God is a time that prayer is being done under pretense. That’s not to say beautiful language in prayer in wrong, but it depends on our motive behind the language used. Prayer is speaking to God, and corporate prayer is leading others in speaking to God – which means (by definition) others will be listening and (hopefully) joining. But even when we pray with others, they aren’t our audience; God is. And God isn’t impressed by our vocabulary. By all means pray, but pray sincerely. Let the Spirit and the Scripture be your guide as you speak to the Lord in reverence, humility, and praise.

… These will receive greater condemnation.”

  1. All of the actions listed by Jesus would not be ignored by God. These hypocritical rulers among Israel would be judged! God was not blind to their sin, not in the least demonstrated in the fact that God the Son was pointing out their sin at that very moment! He knew their deeds, their motives, and the sin in their hearts. And because He knows the future, He also knew that these men would never repent. Thus, they would be judged, receiving “greater condemnation.
  2. Why “greater”? Because as the teachers of Israel, they had greater responsibility. They were supposed to not only teach the word of God, but teach the character of God. They were supposed to set the example, but instead they led others astray. In doing so, they shut people out of the salvation of God that could have been shown to them in the Scripture. All of their attempts to discredit Jesus were examples of them getting in the way of God’s salvation. Matthew recorded Jesus this way: Matthew 23:13, “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.” They stood in the doorway of the kingdom, unwilling to follow Jesus, and unwilling to allow anyone else to do so either. Truly, their condemnation was just!
  3. All hypocritical teachers will be judged, even (and especially) within the church. James 3:1, “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.” The Bible commends those who desire to be teachers, saying that if a man desires to be a bishop/overseer, then he desires a good work (1 Tim 3:1), but at the same time, that is a desire to be carefully weighed. No man should enter the ministry unless he is called – otherwise he’s setting himself up for failure. Beyond the challenges in this life, there is yet a judgment to face after. Teachers today face a stricter judgment tomorrow.
  4. Keep in mind that the general principle isn’t limited to teachers. Hypocritical Christians will give account. Perhaps it will not be the greater/stricter judgment reserved for teachers, but any judgment of God is strict enough! All of us teach to some degree or another, as we set examples for our family and friends. Others look to us to know what the gospel of Jesus is all about, examining the patterns of our lives, even if they never pay close attention to our words. Hypocrisy in all its forms is dangerous, and it will be something for which we must answer.
    1. Thankfully, the forgiveness of God is freely available! Who among us hasn’t been hypocritical at times? Obviously, our desire is to live free of hypocrisy, but when we fall, never forget that we have an Advocate and a Savior in Jesus!

So the scribes and Pharisees were left speechless by Jesus’ question, and in addition, they were exposed as religious hypocrites who went so far as to take advantage of widows. Speaking of widows, Chapter 21…

Luke 21:1–4

  • Jesus’ example of sincerity (1-4)

1 And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, 2 and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites.

  1. Neither Luke nor Mark tell us exactly when this takes place (Matthew doesn’t mention it at all), whether it happened right after Jesus (rightly) reamed out the scribes & Pharisees, or if a bit of time passed & things calmed down. Whenever it was, Jesus was back in the temple, and witnessed the financial offerings taking place. All kinds of people came through, including the rich & poor. Things proceeded mostly as usual until Jesus noticed one “certain poor widow putting in two mites.” The “two mites” are described as two copper coins (λεπτός). According to scholars, this was equal to “six minutes of an average daily wage. This was next to nothing in value.” (NET)
  2. Yet it wasn’t nothing to Jesus! 3…

3 So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; 4 for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.”

  1. This was real The widow gave everything – even her whole life. “livelihood” = βίος (~ biology). This was everything she had to sustain herself, her whole “house” given freely unto the Lord. Unlike the rich who “gave out of their abundance,” the widow gave it all.
    1. Keep in mind that it’s not that what the rich gave was bad; note that Jesus does not condemn them. But there is a massive contrast between their giving, and the gift of the widow. They gave what they could afford to give – no doubt much of it was appropriate, from the heart, and possibly sacrificial. Yet the widow gave more than what she could afford…the widow gave all.
  2. What was this? A demonstration of the heart of the Great Commandment. Deuteronomy 6:5, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” That could hardly be demonstrated more than someone giving their whole life, or in this case, her whole livelihood. To love God according to the Great Commandment is to love God with everything: with all that you are & all that you have. It is full & complete surrender to God as your Father, Creator, King, and Savior. When the widow gave her two mites to the Lord in worship, she was trusting her God with everything. Unless the Lord provided for her that day, she wouldn’t eat. Unless God sheltered her, she would have no place to sleep. Her two mites contained all her hope, and she put 100% of it in the Lord.
    1. Can we say the same? This same sort of trust is what God desires from each of us. Don’t misunderstand: it’s not about financial giving; it’s about the giving of your heart. Finances are important, and often our money can be an obstacle to our full-fledged worship of God – that’s one reason we give to Him from our finances, ensuring that He is Lord over all our lives. But ultimately, it is your heart God desires. God doesn’t need your money; He’s perfectly capable of providing for Himself. You’ll never impress God with the number of zeroes you can put on your tithe check. What He most desires from you is all-in worship, wholehearted trust.
    2. Are you able to give that sort of trust to the Lord? If not, why? Whatever the obstacle may be, remove it.
  3. How does this all relate to the previous section? Easy: the widow was everything the religious leaders were not. The scribes and Pharisees were hypocrites. They made long prayers out of pretense; the widow worshipped God in purity & sincerity. The scribes & Pharisees took from the people of God; the widow gave freely unto God. The scribes & Pharisees called attention unto themselves; the widow put her everything into the Lord. If the people of Jerusalem needed an example to follow in true spirituality, they didn’t need to look to the scribes & Pharisees; they needed to look to the widow among them.

Conclusion:

In the grand showdown between Jesus and the religious leaders of Jerusalem, Jesus came out the clear winner. He had easily withstood the toughest theological attacks they had to offer, and came back with a knockout punch they couldn’t counter. In the end, it was no contest at all, and Jesus exposed the hypocrites for what they were: religious frauds.

What they lacked in true faith, the widow demonstrated in abundance. She trusted God with everything she had, demonstrating that she loved God with everything she had. Hers was the example to follow; not that of the scribes & Pharisees.

Which example do you follow?

Despising God

Posted: December 3, 2017 in Malachi, Uncategorized

Malachi 1, “Despising God”

The story is told of a rancher who expected one of his cows to give birth. He knew she was pregnant with twins, and although it was to be a very expensive gift, his desire was to give one to the Lord in an act of gratitude and worship. He didn’t know which one it would be, but was sure he would know when the time came. Eventually, the mother cow gave birth, and two calves soon stayed with her in the barn. His wife asked him about which calf he’d give to the Lord, and he replied that he didn’t know which would it would be, but was sure he would know when the time came. Things were going well, until one night one of the calves grew terribly sick. The next day, the rancher came in, and his wife asked him why he was so sad. He replied, “The time came, and last night, the Lord’s calf died.”

It’s funny, but it’s not. Sadly, this is exactly how some people treat their worship of the Lord. It’s second-hand & second-rate. They give Him their leftovers, rather than their best. They claim their love for the Lord who saved them from sin, but treat Him as if He was the one who caused them to sin.

Such was the case with the newly restored people of Israel. Time has passed since their restoration to the land from Babylonian captivity. As a people, they were small & still under the rule of foreigners, but they had been able to see the miraculous provision of God with their own eyes. They ought to have been incredibly grateful, and careful to walk in holy reverence with the God who had shown them such great mercy. Instead, they quickly took God’s grace for granted, and started giving Him second-best, or worse: their leftovers. It’s a sad commentary on how quickly a people can forget the gift of God’s grace. At the same time, it’s a wonderful book of prophecy that looks forward to the only One who can truly keep the law of God: the Son of God, the Messiah, Jesus Christ. He would soon come bringing cleansing and salvation. And just like there was a messenger in Malachi now proclaiming the word of God to Israel, so would there be a future messenger preparing the way for Messiah (i.e., John the Baptist).

The book of Malachi is not only the last of the prophetic books of the Hebrew Bible (Old/First Testament), but also the last of the post-exilic books. Although no date is directly stated in the book, Malachi gives a couple of clues as to when he wrote. (1) He makes frequent mention of sacrifices that are currently being offered at the time, meaning there must have been a functioning temple at the time of his writing. (2) He refers to a governor (1:8); not a king. Prior to the Babylonian exile, only kings ruled over Jerusalem when sacrifices could be offered; it was only after the exile that governors were in charge with a working temple. This tells us that Malachi not only wrote after the exile, but he wrote at some point after Haggai and Zechariah, the two prophets whom God used to help spur the Jews to actually rebuild the temple.

Beyond that, we cannot say with specificity as to a date, although some scholars attempt to do so. It does seem quite possible that Malachi was a contemporary with Ezra and Nehemiah, considering that some of the sins he addresses were sins that Ezra and Nehemiah had to deal with as well. Other than that, we simply have no information. Malachi’s name is not mentioned anywhere else in the Bible, and some have even suggested that his name is less of a proper name & more of a title. (A title seems unlikely, as this book would be the only place the Bible uses it. It seems far more likely to be a proper name, although it does have a specific translation of “My messenger.”)

God had already shown His people much grace, and He does so again through this final messenger before the Messiah. It would be 400 years until God’s people heard a prophetic voice again, so they needed to pay attention now. They were hardly back in the land, and already falling into familiar sinful patterns. They were giving God their worst, rather than giving God their best. He was loving them, and they were despising Him.

Be careful not to take the grace of God for granted! Don’t despise Him; worship Him in spirit & truth!

Malachi 1

1 The burden of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi.

  1. It begins with the briefest of introductions, declaring that what follows is the burden/oracle of the Covenant God of Israel (the LORD) lifted up unto Israel by the prophet Malachi (“My messenger”). It’s basic enough: a message – a messenger – an Author – an audience. It may be brief, but this by itself says much.
    1. There was one nation: Israel (as opposed to two kingdoms warring against one another).
    2. There was a covenant God in relationship with His people: the LORD.
    3. This covenant God still spoke to His people through His chosen prophet: Malachi.
  2. Bottom line: God wasn’t done! Israel may have settled into a rut, but God hadn’t. His word was about to go quiet for several centuries, but He had one more thing to say to them before He would send His Son to personally see them. God was still active among His people, and they needed to pay attention. (So do we!)
  • God’s love for Israel (2-5)

2 “I have loved you,” says the LORD. “Yet you say, ‘In what way have You loved us?’ Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” Says the LORD. “Yet Jacob I have loved; 3 But Esau I have hated, And laid waste his mountains and his heritage For the jackals of the wilderness.”

  1. Love affirmed. Among the prophets sent by God, it is truly unusual for a burden to begin with such a clear statement of God’s love for His people. Normally, we would expect a message of judgment (which is coming!), but what is given is a message of love. God loved God cared for them and provided for them. All they needed to do was to look around at where they now lived, and they had tangible proof of God’s love for them.
    1. Same with us. Where do we look? The cross! It is the demonstration of His love for us. (Rom 5:8)
  2. Yet this love was questioned. This sort of back-and-forth dialogue is a literary feature of Malachi, as God anticipates the questions of Israel and answers them before they are asked. In this case, Israel foolishly questioned “in what way” God loved them. How could they be so blind? Of course God loved them – it was evident to all! Yet, apparently not to Israel. They were so blinded by their relapse into self & sin that they missed what should have been as obvious as the noses on their faces.
    1. It’s always amazing that some Christians question the love of God for them. As if the sacrifice of Jesus & His resurrection from the dead on their account was insufficient proof! Don’t misunderstand – it’s natural for us to question our circumstances from time to time. We all encounter things we can’t handle, so we ask God why He allowed them into our lives. (I.e., Job) But never in any of those doubts ought any born-again Christian question God’s love for us. The Christian who gets to that point is consumed in self-pity to the point of sin, and that’s something of which to repent. It is to spit at the sacrifice of the cross, and it ought to be abhorrent to us.
  3. Even with this blasphemous sort of attitude, God still graciously responded to His people. His love for them was demonstrated. How? God had chosen them. God loved Israel, while He hated Esau. This goes back to the history of the Hebrew patriarchs, when Isaac (son of Abraham) begot Esau & Jacob. The two sons were twins, thus born on the same day – yet, as with all twins, one son would be born slightly before the other as they exited the womb. Even so, God chose that the older would serve the younger (Gen 25:23). Esau, the older twin, would serve Jacob, the younger. Jacob would receive the covenant blessing & later be known as “Israel,” whereas Esau and his descendants (the Edomites) would always be in Israel’s shadow. God, in His sovereignty, chose Thus He says that He loved Israel, while hating Esau. IOW, God preferred Jacob over Esau (Israel over Edom) – a clear act of the willful choice of God to love Israel.
    1. This very text is quoted by Paul to the Romans in regard to God’s right to extend His salvation to anyone He so chooses. Romans 9:10–13, “(10) And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac (11) (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), (12) it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.” (13) As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.”” The broader context of Romans 9 shows that God had still chosen to extend His salvation to Israel, only that they are now blinded in order that the gospel might go out to the Gentiles (us). Even so, the basic idea is that God chooses to love people, and He chosen to love Israel – just as He has chosen to love us.
    2. God chose to love you! That idea ought to captivate you from the moment you wake every day until the time you lay down on your pillow at night. There is nothing in us that would warrant God’s choice to love us, but He does. That is the grandeur of His grace! (And anyone can experience this loving choice of God. All you need do is ask!)
  4. God’s choice resulted not only in blessing upon Israel, but in judgment upon Edom. The earlier prophet Obadiah had proclaimed God’s judgment for Edom in great detail. Not only were they guilty of their own national sins against God, but they had laughed at Israel when God’s people experienced their own discipline. The proud nation of the Edomites would be humbled, and they were. God allowed them to experience the same conquest by the Babylonians as what came to the Jews.
  5. Not that this judgment of God was easily accepted by Edom. 4…

4 Even though Edom has said, “We have been impoverished, But we will return and build the desolate places,” Thus says the LORD of hosts: “They may build, but I will throw down; They shall be called the Territory of Wickedness, And the people against whom the LORD will have indignation forever.

  1. Edom desired to rebuild their land after the conquests of Babylon. The Jews did it, so why not them? Because that wasn’t God’s sovereign will for them. Again, God chose to love Israel, and to hate Esau. God showed preference to His covenant people because they were His covenant people. Edom had no covenant relationship to God, thus no true access to God apart from what individual Edomites might have found if they converted to worship the God of Israel. Thus Edom may have had a desire to rebuild their nation, but they were denied by the Lord. Instead of rebuilding, they would experience perpetual judgment by God.
    1. Historically, this is exactly what happened. [MAP] The Edomites attempted to repopulate their land, but they were pushed out by the Nabatean people (who later built the famous rock-city of Petra). The Edomites relocated west to an area south of the Jews, and they became known as Idumeans. Unlike Israel who kept their national identity and was promised a homeland forever, the Edomites eventually lost their identity and their homeland…also forever.
  2. Question: Was this fair? (1) It’s unreasonable for humans to judge the actions of God as being fair. If we were truly interested in “fair,” then all of us would be doomed to hell. That’s fair! We don’t want fair; we want mercy & grace…and that’s up to God to give. (Per Romans 9) (2) Everlasting judgment is fair when we consider that sin is sin against an everlasting God. Sin has an infinite scope, because it is committed against an infinite God. This is why hell lasts for eternity. The people who reject the love of God found in Jesus Christ end up suffering the indignation of God forever. They have committed an infinite act of rebellion against the Infinite God. That’s fair…thankfully, we don’t receive fair; we receive grace!
  3. God’s judgment upon Edom would have a profound effect upon Israel. 5…

5 Your eyes shall see, And you shall say, ‘The LORD is magnified beyond the border of Israel.’

  1. When the judgment of God is witnessed, the glory of God is known. The judgment received by Edom would drastically contrast with the love experienced by Israel, and they would glorify God. How could it be otherwise? (Even in eternity…)
  2. At that point, what is it that Israel would know? That the LORD is God over all the earth! The Lord their God is God, period. There is none like Him – none that compares to Him. He is sovereign over every nation of the world, and thus every nation ought to give Him praise & glory…especially the people who have tangibly experienced His love & grace!

One would think all of this would lead to wonderful praise and worship, as Israel glorified the God who chose to love them, despite their historic sin. Not so. They took the love and grace of God for granted, and ended up dishonoring and despising Him…

  • Israel’s despising of God (6-14)

6 “A son honors his father, And a servant his master. If then I am the Father, Where is My honor? And if I am a Master, Where is My reverence? Says the LORD of hosts To you priests who despise My name. …

  1. It is common sense for children to honor their parents, and for servants to honor their masters. If that happens in earthly relationships, shouldn’t it also happen with God? God was the Father of Israel and their ultimate Master, yet they didn’t treat Him as He deserved. They didn’t honor Him = they didn’t glorify Him. (כָּבֵד) They didn’t revere/fear Him.
    1. God is worthy of our fear, respect, worship, and honor! We love Him as our Abba Father – we enjoy life with Him, grateful that Jesus calls us His friends – we look forward to eternity with Him, promised to be the Bride of Christ – all of that speaks of wonderful close personal relationship with God. But none of that takes away from our reverent respect of Him. May we never take Him for granted! If we truly love God the Father, God the Son, God the Spirit, then we will honor and fear Him as He deserves.
  2. All the nation was guilty of this (as is seen in Chapter 2), but the priests were the first mentioned. Of all people among Israel, the priests ought to have been the first to fear and honor the Lord their God. Instead, they despised His name – thus, they despised God Himself. These were the ones that ought to have set the example, and taught people what it was to glorify God. Instead, they abdicated their responsibility, and hated Him in their derision of Him.
    1. Keep in mind this isn’t limited to the priests of ancient post-exilic Israel. WE are priests unto God, being a royal, holy priesthood. (1 Pt 2:5-9) If we don’t honor Almighty God in our worship, who will? If we don’t fear Him, how will anyone else know how to fear Him? Beware that we don’t fall into a similar trap of derision!

…Yet you say, ‘In what way have we despised Your name?’ 7 “You offer defiled food on My altar, But say, ‘In what way have we defiled You?’ By saying, ‘The table of the LORD is contemptible.’

  1. God asks and answers the anticipated objection. How did the priests despise His name? By bringing unclean sacrifices, “defiled food.” Obviously God does not need to eat. (If He were hungry, He would not tell us. Ps 50:12) This is symbolic language referring to the sacrifices – something made clear in the following context. The sacrifices brought forth by the people & presented by the priests were defiled & unclean – unworthy for service of any kind, much less that of worship. Their defiled sacrifices demonstrated how they despised God’s name.
  2. Along the same lines, their careless actions & attitude towards worship demonstrated their contempt for the Lord God. They treated His “table” (the altar) as “contemptible” in that what they brought was worthless.
  3. The whole idea of “defiled” is interesting, when seen in the Hebrew. Hebrew has several words that can be translated “defiled,” but the one used here is rather uncommon. The word is actually a homograph, a word that has the same spelling, but different definitions depending on the context. In English, an example might be “bass” – either a low toned instrument/voice, or a type of fish. Here for “defiled,” the word is גָּאַל (ga’al), which can either mean “defile” or “redeem.” (Go’el is the participle referring to the “kinsman redeemer,” as with Boaz or Jesus.) What makes it an interesting word choice is the context. The very items that were supposed to be brought as pictures of their redemption were, in reality, defiled & polluted. The people may have brought sacrifices, but what they brought condemned them instead of redeeming them.

8 And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, Is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, Is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably?” Says the LORD of hosts.

  1. Not only was their worship careless, it was downright “evil”! It was more than thoughtless; it was sin. How so? Because they were recklessly offending God. The example is given of the governor. If a human would be offended by such a gift, how much more God? …
    1. Think about this for a moment. What would we bring to God in our worship or service that we would never consider bringing to another person. For a musician, would they put more effort and practice in for an outside gig than they would the worship of God? For our devotional times of prayer, would we pay more attention in a meeting with our boss than we would for a meeting with our Lord? Or maybe we put more thought into how we word our emails or Facebook posts than we do in what we say to Jesus in prayer? How is this any different than the priests of Israel?
    2. Obviously, we’re not to hamstring ourselves by turning acts of devotion into legalism – i.e., not doing anything at all, if we can’t do it according to perfection. But neither should we fall into the other extreme of apathy and carelessness. When we worship, we’re worshipping the Living We’re not to walk through the rut of a bunch of rituals; we’re actually praying to the God who hears us. We’re honoring the God who receives honor. That’s something to take seriously, and to engage with intention!
  2. The priests ended up giving worthless sacrifices to God. Livestock that is blind, lame, and sick does no good on the farm; why would it be any better in worship? They were bringing exactly what they were commanded not to bring. (Deut 15:21) They were bringing their leftovers; not what actually cost them something. What should the priests have done? Followed the example of David. [plague after the census; God relenting at the intercession of David] 1 Chronicles 21:22–24, “(22) Then David said to Ornan, “Grant me the place of this threshing floor, that I may build an altar on it to the LORD. You shall grant it to me at the full price, that the plague may be withdrawn from the people.” (23) But Ornan said to David, “Take it to yourself, and let my lord the king do what is good in his eyes. Look, I also give you the oxen for burnt offerings, the threshing implements for wood, and the wheat for the grain offering; I give it all.” (24) Then King David said to Ornan, “No, but I will surely buy it for the full price, for I will not take what is yours for the LORD, nor offer burnt offerings with that which costs me nothing.”” David didn’t give the worthless to God; he demanded that he have the opportunity to truly sacrifice something of value in his worship.
    1. The idea is to give something of worth. Thoughtful, intentional praise is worth something to God; thoughtless, second-rate praise is worthless.

9 “But now entreat God’s favor, That He may be gracious to us. While this is being done by your hands, Will He accept you favorably?” Says the LORD of hosts.

  1. The question asked in vs. 9 is ironic. How could the people ask for blessing, when they were currently in the process of despising and insulting the Lord?
  2. How often we do the same! We’ll bring second-rate worship, but then ask God for His blessing & provision. We’ll pray without thought when it comes to His honor, but we’ll be extra descriptive in our prayer requests for ourselves.
    1. It’s not about setting up a bunch of legalistic hoops for us to jump through in our worship; it’s about sincerity, intentionality, and love. God loves us, not because of anything we have done, but because we are in Christ Jesus. He looks upon us favorably because He sees us in Christ. It is because He does, that our worship ought to be sincere.

10 “Who is there even among you who would shut the doors, So that you would not kindle fire on My altar in vain? I have no pleasure in you,” Says the LORD of hosts, “Nor will I accept an offering from your hands.

  1. No one cared for holiness or for sincere worship, so why not just shut the doors? What purpose did it serve to have a restored temple and brazen altar, if it wasn’t being used for worship? God didn’t give those things to Israel so they could engage in a bunch of ritual. God doesn’t care about thoughtless routine, just like He doesn’t care about vain repetitions in prayer. God’s desire is that His people would worship Him in spirit and truth. For Israel, all the things of the sacrifices and temple were the tools used to help the people worship Him sincerely. Those were the things to help the people understand their sin & need for God’s grace & forgiveness. If they were just going do it by rote & go through the motions, then they were just wasting their time.
    1. The same thing happens with the Catholics and their various repetitions of the “Our Father.” The same thing happens with Protestants and our vain repetitions of “In Jesus’ name,” when we never consider the words, or when we mouth words to songs in which our hearts and minds aren’t engaged.
  2. For Israel, it went a step further, as all of this false worship hid what had become a false faith. That’s why it wasn’t worth keeping the doors open to the people. They didn’t believe the word of God, which is why they treated their worship of God so flippantly. As a result, God took “no pleasure” in His beloved people, and promised no acceptance of their worship.
    1. Could this be changed? Yes! But only through repentance and faith… Thankfully, this is exactly why the next prophetic voice after Malachi was to be John the Baptist pointing to Jesus.
  3. What’s most ironic of this is that as insincere and worthless the worship of Israel was, the rest of the world would do far better! 11…

11 For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles; In every place incense shall be offered to My name, And a pure offering; For My name shall be great among the nations,” Says the LORD of hosts.

  1. The Gentiles of the nations would do what Israel refused. Of course, this wasn’t happening during the days of Malachi; these were future events foretold by the prophet. One day, all over the world, God’s name would be made great. Every place the sun touched would be a place where God’s name was praised. In that day, the offering will be pure & holy. In that day, it will be everything that the praise & worship in the days of ancient Israel was not.
  2. God’s name will be honored, of that, we can be sure! Every knee will bow & every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father!

12 “But you profane it, In that you say, ‘The table of the LORD is defiled; And its fruit, its food, is contemptible.’ 13 You also say, ‘Oh, what a weariness!’ And you sneer at it,” Says the LORD of hosts. “And you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick; Thus you bring an offering! Should I accept this from your hand?” Says the LORD.

  1. The profanity & worthless offerings of Israel are reiterated. Just as Israel repeated defiled sacrifices, so did God repeat His judgment of those sacrifices. They were worthless & defiled.
  2. What made it all the worse was their worthless attitude. As if it were laborious and a hardship to worship God! “Oh, poor me! I have to worship God today!” (And Christians fall into the same trap!)
  3. With all that in mind, why should God accept such unworthy offerings? Why should God give any thought to offerings that the people didn’t give any thought to when they offered?
    1. Sometimes it seems that we expect God to care more about our prayer requests than we do!

14 “But cursed be the deceiver Who has in his flock a male, And takes a vow, But sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished— For I am a great King,” Says the LORD of hosts, “And My name is to be feared among the nations.

  1. The old joke sadly was a true summary of the attitude of Israel in worship. They purposed to bring what was worthless to God, keeping the best for themselves. And for that, God declares such a one would be “” Bad enough to break a vow made unto the Lord; far worse to attempt to fulfill that vow with something that is defiled and despised.
    1. It’s not unlike someone claiming to love God, yet offer their praise in the name of Allah, or the “Great Architect of the Universe.” Such a person is cursed, because they have demonstrated that they do not truly know A person who worships God so wrongly doesn’t know that God they claim to worship.
    2. How can we know God? By looking to Jesus! He is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through Him. 
  2. God isn’t to be despised; He is to be feared! The idea isn’t one of terror, but one of worship… Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” A proper reverence of God brings a right perspective of His holiness, which leads us to right worship. 
  3. Why fear Him? Because He is a great King! He is the grandest of the grand – He is the King of Kings & Lord of Lords!

Conclusion:

We have the wonderful privilege and opportunity to worship the Creator God of the Universe. We have been brought into real relationship with Him through the sacrifice of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. How can we offer Him anything less than our best in our praise & service?

Israel gave God their second-best, their cast-offs. After everything God had done for them, they gave Him what was worthless, showing that their love for Him was worthless. They despised the God who loved them.

May we learn the lesson & heed the warning!

Round 2: Jesus vs. the Sadducees

Posted: November 26, 2017 in Luke, Uncategorized

Luke 20:27-40, “Round 2: Jesus vs. the Sadducees”

As a kid, I would occasionally catch it when flipping the channel, but it always seemed a bit “over the top” for me. Yet there’s one term from wrestling nearly everyone knows: tag-team. In tag-team wrestling, teams of wrestlers go up against one another, with (supposedly) only two people allowed in the ring at any given point. For the 2nd person to come in, they have to be “tagged” (tapped) by their teammate. Of course, invariably the entire ring gets swarmed, chaos breaks out, and the WWE makes a lot of money. 

Although the Pharisees and Sadducees were rarely on the same side for anything, their opposition to Jesus made them virtually like tag-team wrestlers. Just as soon as one gets done attempting to discredit Jesus (and failing in the process), the other jumps in for their turn (and they fail as well). They would have done well simply to listen to Jesus, but they didn’t. Instead, they tried to take Him down, and they end up embarrassing themselves along the way. It’s a fool’s errand to try to trap the Son of God; it can’t be done!

Perhaps not surprisingly, this is still quite common today. Especially that atheism and opposition to Christianity is in-vogue, quite a few people believe they’ve discovered the perfect argument against faith. They think they’ve come up with the one question that can never be answered by any religion (much less Christianity), and that they hold the final nail to put in the coffin of faith. And after a tiny bit of research, they (like their ancient forbearers) find themselves mistaken & likely embarrassed. There’s not an objection to Jesus that hasn’t been asked and answered. Again, Jesus isn’t so easily trapped.

Remember that there has been opposition to Jesus ever since He entered Jerusalem for the week of Passover. Obviously there was much acclaim over Him as He approached the city, but that was from His disciples and the crowds accompanying Him from Jericho and Bethany. The Pharisees were actually the first to oppose Him before He even came through the gates of Jerusalem, rebuking Him for not rebuking His disciples. Of course, there was no reason to rebuke them. They were proclaiming Him to be the Messiah, and He is!

Jesus had offended the Sadducees next, being that they were the priestly party, and thus in charge of the temple. Jesus had gone into the Jerusalem temple, seen the corruption that had once again arisen, and He performed a work of cleansing by driving out the people who were commercializing the things of God. The priests later demanded that Jesus give an account of His authority & right to do this, to which Jesus proved that His authority was obvious & given by God (just as was John the Baptist’s). The religious leaders may not like the fact that Jesus has inherent authority, but it doesn’t change the fact that He does, and they would be held accountable for their rejection of Him.

Later, the Pharisees came at Jesus again, with what they hoped would be a surefire trap for Him in regards to taxes, putting Him between the anger of the crowds and the anger of the Romans. In response, Jesus gave a perfect answer – a supernatural word of wisdom, with which neither the Jews nor the Romans could find fault. In any contest, God always comes out as the Victor.

The same principle is seen here, in the latest encounter between Jesus and the Sadducees. They’ve been “tagged” once more for the ring, and they truly believe that they have a dilemma that will leave Jesus on the ropes, struggling to provide an answer. Once left speechless, the Sadducees would be able to denounce Jesus in front of the crowds, leaving Him discredited and humiliated. Or at least, that was their plan. As with the Pharisees, the Sadducees would fail, and they would find that the humiliation fell upon them.

How foolish it is to try to trap & stump the Son of God…it can’t be done! Don’t try to shut Jesus down; believe Him & the Scriptures, and find your life in God!

Luke 20:27–40

  • Ridicule of the Sadducees (27-33)

27 Then some of the Sadducees, who deny that there is a resurrection, came to Him and asked Him,

  1. Luke begins by introducing his readers to the Sadducees – a necessary task, considering that Luke’s original readers were likely Gentiles, without the cultural background needed to know the Sadducees’ theological biases. There were several religious scholarly groups/sects within 1st century Judaism, the Pharisees and the Sadducees being the most famous. Whereas Jesus had the most conflicts with the Pharisees, at least their theology was mostly sound, even if their practices were hypocritical and legalistic. The Sadducees, however, had a lot of political power, but terrible theology. They were the theological liberals of their day, giving credence to only the five books of Moses, and denying most supernatural beings and acts (angels, demons, miracles).
  2. Along these lines, as Luke points out, they also “deny that there is a resurrection.” They neither believed in an eternal life, nor a physical resurrection from the dead that would lead to eternal life. This was a well-known position of the Sadducees to all the Jews, and thus any question from them regarding the resurrection would have to be heard with caution. It was obviously going to be a dishonest question, because they didn’t believe in the resurrection in the first place.
    1. As with the spies of the Pharisees in the previous section, these were skeptics, but they were dishonest skeptics. An honest skeptic has nothing to fear from the truth, because if someone is truly honest in his/her skepticism, he/she is seeking the truth – wherever it might lead. Thus an honest skeptic who hears the gospel is eventually going to be glad, because it’s going to lead them to a conviction of sin & (hopefully) faith and salvation in Jesus. Dishonest skeptics, on the other hand, are a different story. These are people who have no interest in the truth; they just want to argue their preferred beliefs. These are people that even if they were confronted with irrefutable evidence regarding Jesus, would still refuse to believe.
    2. What do we do with dishonest skeptics? Do what Jesus did: answer with the truth, but don’t waste a lot of time on them. It’s interesting that with as much opposition Jesus experienced from the religious leadership in Jerusalem, Jesus didn’t spend the majority of His time on Passover week with them. Most of His time was spent either in public teaching, or among His disciples in private instruction. He certainly addressed the Pharisees and Sadducees when He was around them, but there’s no indication that He actively sought them out trying to debate them or change their minds. Why? They were dishonest skeptics; they weren’t willing to change. Plus, there were too many other people in Jerusalem who did want to hear what Jesus had to say. Far better to spend His time among them. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told His hearers not to give what was holy to dogs, nor cast their pearls to swine. (Mt 7:6) Dogs & pigs don’t appreciate what is precious & holy. Neither do dishonest skeptics appreciate the grace of God available in the gospel. What they need is conviction of sin & brokenness – and that comes through the law; not the gospel.
    3. As for us, beware of getting caught up in fruitless debates with dishonest skeptics. By all means, share with them the truth of God, and their need for salvation – but if they aren’t willing to hear, shake the dust off your feet and go to someone else. There will always be others waiting to hear the gospel of grace – let us spend our time reaching them with the good news of Jesus!
  3. In any case, Luke gives the background of the Sadducees to the reader, then he records what they said. They began well enough, referring back to a teaching of Moses. 28…

28 saying: “Teacher, Moses wrote to us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife, and he dies without children, his brother should take his wife and raise up offspring for his brother.

  1. It makes sense that the Sadducees would quote Moses, considering that his books were basically the majority of what they believed in their Judaism. They sum up his teaching well enough, not necessarily quoting a specific verse of Scripture, but paraphrasing the doctrine known today as “levirate” marriage. Deuteronomy 25:5–6, “(5) If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the widow of the dead man shall not be married to a stranger outside the family; her husband’s brother shall go in to her, take her as his wife, and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. (6) And it shall be that the firstborn son which she bears will succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel.” Although the command might sound bizarre to modern ears, it was actually a gift of mercy for widows would otherwise be destitute. Keep in mind that in ancient cultures, there was no federal or state welfare office – there was family and the charity of others, and that was it. Even beyond Israel, women in ancient cultures typically had very few ways of supporting themselves, always being dependent upon their families. Either their father, their husband, or their sons would support them, ensuring they had food to eat & a roof over their heads. Yet what would happen if her husband died, and she had no children? She’d be left penniless & a beggar. That’s where levirate marriage comes in. The widow’s brother-in-law would take her to himself as a wife, providing financially for her, and hopefully providing an heir for his brother – which would in turn, provide future security for the child’s mother. Is the concept of levirate marriage needed today? No. But it was certainly an act of mercy that God gave to the Hebrews.
  2. In addition, levirate marriage was also important from the standpoint of the covenant that God had with the tribes of Israel. Remember that a huge component of God’s covenant with Israel was the land of Israel. This was passed from father to son over the generations. Yet how would this land continue if the family line didn’t continue? That’s one more blessing of levirate marriage for the Hebrews.
    1. For a beautiful example of how levirate marriage was supposed to work, simply read the book of Ruth. There, a woman and her daughter-in-law are left mourning and destitute, with little hope of survival until a relative takes on his family responsibility and becomes their kinsman-redeemer, marrying the widow of the son, and purchasing the land for himself. How good were the results of his mercy? He became the great-grandfather of King David.
  3. All that to say is that (although it might sound weird to us), the command of God was a wonderful thing. It was His word based in His love and mercy. Yet this is what the Sadducees chose for their tool of humiliation. They took the good word of God, and twisted it to their own perverted purposes.
    1. People still do this today, and just as it was for the Sadducees, it’s still pathetic and evil. In fact, it’s downright Satanic. In the Garden of Eden, Satan questioned the word of God. During the temptation of Christ, Satan twisted the Scripture. Satan has always tried to use the inspired word of God for his own gain, and when dishonest skeptics do the same thing, they’re following in his footsteps.
  4. The Sadducees begin their twisting in vs. 29…

29 Now there were seven brothers. And the first took a wife, and died without children. 30 And the second took her as wife, and he died childless. 31 Then the third took her, and in like manner the seven also; and they left no children, and died. 32 Last of all the woman died also. 33 Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife does she become? For all seven had her as wife.”

  1. The thing to note about this example is its extreme absurdity. It starts out well enough in vs. 29, but quickly escalates to ridiculous imaginary proportions by vs. 32. It’s one thing for the first of seven brothers to die and leave a widow. It’s conceivable that it might even happen with the second (the very scenario occurs in Genesis 38 when Judah’s two sons died, and Judah refused to provide another husband for his widowed daughter-in-law Tamar). But for this to happen seven times in a row goes beyond credibility. The chances of this happening are next to nothing, making the whole scenario imaginary, impossible, and insulting.
  2. What makes the whole thing insulting was the trap in vs. 33, intentionally laid for Jesus. The Sadducees sneer, “therefore, in the resurrection,” as if they actually believe the resurrection. They don’t! Remember that Luke made that clear to his readers back in vs. 27. They don’t believe in the resurrection; they believed themselves intellectually superior to the people who did believe in the resurrection. Unlike those moronic Pharisees, they were the ‘enlightened’ ones, knowing that such supernatural things like resurrection from the dead is impossible & non-existent. (Sound familiar?) Scholars note that everything about the scene sounds like a classic trap. AT Robertson writes, “They had a stock conundrum with which they had often gotten a laugh on the Pharisees. So they volunteer to try it on Jesus.” This was their trump-card, their unbeatable scenario. This was their ancient equivalent to “If God is all-powerful, can He create a rock He cannot lift?” or “If God is so good, how can He allow evil to exist?” To modern atheists, these are their unanswerable questions, and it seems as if every new atheist that asks it thinks him/herself to be the first one to discover it. So they smugly ask, intending to ridicule those who disagree with them.
    1. How do we respond to such things: (1) We remember that there are answers to the questions. Christians have a great advantage here, in that we have 2000 years of questions and answers. There’s not yet been an objection raised to Jesus that has not been answered. A bit of research on Google will provide all the answers a person needs, if they are willing to read for a minute. (2) We remember that anything can be pushed to a ridiculous extreme. Just because an example is awful doesn’t mean that the underlying concept is wrong. Food and water are both essential for life, but too much of it in too short a time can kill you. The theology of God’s goodness and His sovereignty is Biblical & sound, but even that can be pushed to an extreme where it might seem lethal. The problem isn’t with the theology of the question; it’s with the bias of the questioner.
  3. So how does someone get to the bias of the questioner? Look to what is at the core of their bias: pride. They believe it is impossible for them to be wrong, and they proudly assert themselves over God and anything having to do with God. Yet God is used to dealing with proud people. God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Take people back to God and His word, and let Him speak to them directly through His Spirit-inspired word. That’s what Jesus did, even as He engaged them head-on.
  • Response of Jesus (34-38)

34 Jesus answered and said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; 36 nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.

  1. Before we get to Jesus’ response, we might ask ourselves, why did Jesus even address the issue? After all, if it’s obvious to us that the Sadducees were insincere in their question, attempting to trap Jesus, surely it was even more obvious to the Son of God. Why spend valuable time on this at all? (1) Because He’s Jesus. He cannot be trapped, nor can He be intimidated. The skeptic that believes he/she can catch Jesus off-guard is in for a surprise! (2) Because He was questioned in public. Remember that all of this took place in Jerusalem in the days leading up to Passover. The very reason the Sadducees were trying to humiliate Jesus with their stock-objection was because they wanted to discredit Jesus in the eyes of the people. He had interfered with their money-changing racket in the temple, and He was being seen by many as the Messiah, and the Sadducees couldn’t have that sort of competition. Jesus wasn’t going to engage much with all of these dishonest skeptics, but He did need to engage a little – just enough to turn the tables and maintain His testimony among the crowds.
  2. There are actually two parts to Jesus’ response – the first is found in vss. 34-36. There are differences between the “sons of this age” & the “sons of the resurrection.” Assuming that there is indeed a resurrection (which there is), then the example of Sadducees had some ideas that were fundamentally wrong. Considering that even the ridiculous example given by the Sadducees assumed an age of resurrection, Jesus picks up the assertion, correcting their obvious and false mistakes along the way.
  3. Difference #1: For now, people “marry and are given in marriage.” Marriage is good & normal for this age and time. Obviously not every person gets (or remains) married, but it is an acceptable cultural norm. Marriage is an institution given by God for our benefit and for His glory – which is why Biblical marriage is meant to be between one man and one woman for life. Anything less is less than God’s standard for marriage. – In the future age, marriage is different. Those who are resurrected in Christ will not engage in future marriage in the same way that it happens now. To assume that life in eternity will continue exactly as life on earth today is simply false. People will be different, and thus relationships will be different.
    1. That’s not to say that marriage itself will not exist. There is a marriage that is celebrated throughout the age of the resurrection: the marriage between Jesus and the Church. It is the relationship between Jesus and the Church that is the main focus and example for all marriages between husbands and wives today. Ephesians 5:25–32, “(25) Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, (26) that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, (27) that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. (28) So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. (29) For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. (30) For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. (31) “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” (32) This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” He may have written of a mystery, but Paul didn’t mince words. The instruction he gave to Christian husbands is based on the example of Jesus’ own love and labors for His own bride, the Church. The Bible is clear: there is indeed a glorious marriage celebrated in eternity; it’s simply different than the ones often celebrated on the earth. The Church is presented as a bride to her husband, and her husband is Christ Jesus, the Lamb of God slain for her. (Rev 21:9)
      1. As an aside…husbands, this is exactly how & why we are supposed to love & serve our wives. We are to be like Jesus. He did it for us as the Church; we are to do it for our wives in return.
    2. Question: Does this mean that current husbands and wives will not know each other in the age of the resurrection? In all likelihood, we will know one another better then, than we do now. Will the nature of our relationships change? Most likely, yes – that’s exactly the implication of Jesus’ teaching. There is going to be some sort of change, but we can safely assume that whatever change there is will be good. God’s gifts to us and plans for our future are not evil. He is a good God who gives good things, and there is not a single born-again Christian who will be disappointed with heaven. For those who truly love their spouses today, unable to imagine an eternity without them, know this: if you’re both born-again Christians, you won’t be without them. You will know your spouse in a new & better way in eternity, as you each know Jesus in a new & better way, and it will be wonderful.
  4. BTW – note from vs. 35 that not everyone is going to experience the blessings of the future age of the resurrection. Only “those who are counted worthy to attain to that age” will be there. To the Sadducees listening to Jesus that day, this was a distinct warning! To people listening to Jesus’ words today, it’s the same thing. Not everyone attains to the age of the resurrection, as individuals must be found worthy to enter it. That begs the question: how can anyone be counted worthy? After all, we have no worth on our own! The reality of our sin defiles us, counting us worthy only of the wrath of God. Answer: we have to be found in Christ. The Lord Jesus is our worth! He’s the One who loves us & gave Himself for us. He’s the One who sanctifies us & cleans us up. How do we attain to the age of the resurrection? It is only by the grace of Jesus!
    1. And that is something that can be experienced by anyone! All you need do is repent & believe!
  5. Difference #2: The sons of the resurrection cannot die. Jesus made this clear in vs. 36: “nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.” In the age of the resurrection, death is no more. Leading up to the eternal state, the Bible goes so far as to showing even death itself being thrown into the lake of fire, alongside the devil and his minions. (Rev 20:14) Today, it sounds difficult to believe, but it makes perfect logical sense if we think about it. After Jesus resurrects us from the dead, there is no need for us to ever die again. Once we’re raised to resurrection life, death has no more power over us. (That’s not the case for those who reject Christ, because in so doing, they reject His resurrection life. Thus when they are raised from death unto judgment, they are raised only unto their second death. Those who reject Christ are born once and die twice; those who believe upon Jesus are born twice and die once. Believe!)
  6. Before moving on, three questions:
    1. What does it mean to be “equal to the angels?” Jesus’ context shows this in regards to the inability to die. (Which, FYI, is specific in the Greek. It’s not that we simply won’t die after the resurrection; we cannot die after that point.) Jesus never once states that Christians become angels in heaven. No human ever becomes an angel. Angels are created beings, totally distinct from humans. Although it is a commonly held belief that people become angels in heaven, that is a false No born-again Christian ought to ever say, “Heaven just gained another angel”…it’s unbiblical.
    2. Why “sons of the resurrection?” First of all, this doesn’t exclude females. The term is used generically. Second, it points to our new relationship with God, we have been born of the Holy Spirit, and have been given the spirit of adoption. We can call Him “Father,” because of the grace of Jesus. Third, it seems to point to the idea that we follow Jesus in His own resurrection. He is the firstfruits of those resurrected from the dead (1 Cor 15:20), being the firstborn (preeminent one) of God. We follow in the footsteps of our Lord & our co-heir.
    3. Why is all of the focus on the resurrection, rather than eternal life? Obviously, this was the scenario posed by the Sadducees, so Jesus responds naturally to their question. But there’s an important difference between resurrection and eternal life: resurrection requires a death. Angels have eternal life, but they are never resurrected. Humans were created to experience eternal life in the same way, but we sinned & fell into death. Death comes because of sin, and Jesus came to save us from those consequences. By focusing on the resurrection, Jesus keeps the focus upon the gospel. 

37 But even Moses showed in the burning bush passage that the dead are raised, when he called the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ 38 For He is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all live to Him.”

  1. This is the second major part of Jesus’ response: an affirmative proof from the Scriptures of the concept of the resurrection. Just as the Sadducees referred back to Moses and affirmed Moses as an authoritative teacher, Jesus did the same thing. If the Sadducees wanted to argue Moses, they were welcome to do so…they just didn’t know they were arguing Moses with the Person who taught Moses!
  2. Here, Jesus actually does quote the Scripture. This is the famous instance at the burning bush when Moses has a personal encounter with the Lord for the first time. Exodus 3:5–6, “(5) Then He said, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.” (6) Moreover He said, “I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God.” Literally, the Hebrew actually quotes God saying, “I – God of your father, God of Abraham…” – the verb “am” is assumed at this point in the text. (Unlike Exodus 3:14 when God gives His name as “I AM.”) God is saying that this is who He is, currently – His identifying mark to Moses was in regard to the people who worshipped Him. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had all worshipped God in the past, but it wasn’t only in the past; they were presently worshipping Him, because God was currently their God. As Jesus concludes (by answering the supposedly unanswerable question), “For He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to Him.” IOW, out of the few Hebrew prophets the Sadducees actually honored, Moses affirmed the fact that Hebrew saints who had previously died afterwards lived in the presence of God. Life after death is the very definition of “resurrection,” thus it could be positively concluded from the Scripture “that the dead are raised.
    1. BTW – what else did Moses testify in his writings? That he saw Jesus. If Jesus is the image of the invisible God, who did Moses “look upon” when he saw the burning bush? He looked upon the pre-incarnate Jesus. Every time Moses looked upon God (which was often, being that God talked to Moses as a man talks to his friend – Exo 33:11), Moses looked at Christ. It wasn’t only Moses’ writings concerning the resurrection that pointed people to Jesus; Moses could testify personally of Him!
  3. The bottom line is that this was a knock-out punch. The Sadducees had brought out their biggest theological gun – they brought the one argument to which no Pharisee or anyone else had ever been able to counter. They threw it out to Jesus, expecting to laugh Him off just like they laughed off everyone else. All of a sudden, they weren’t laughing. Jesus not only shot down their argument, but He just demonstrated that the priests of Israel were fundamentally clueless about the Scriptures. The Sadducees had come to destroy the credibility of Jesus, and found their own shattered. This didn’t go unnoticed by the crowd. 39…
  • Reaction of others (39-40)

39 Then some of the scribes answered and said, “Teacher, You have spoken well.”

  1. The scribes were mainly Pharisees, and although they were equally opposed to Jesus, they couldn’t help but gloat a little bit. No doubt they had gotten trapped in this question from the Sadducees in the past, and they finally learned the answer to the riddle. They may not have liked Jesus, but they had to admire His words. “Teacher, You have spoken well” – yes, He most certainly did. What else would you expect from the Messiah? 😊 If only the scribes had been willing to listen to Jesus for everything He taught! They learned how to win a theological debate with the Sadducees, but they could have learned how to receive eternal life. They could have learned how they could have been counted worthy to enter that age.
  2. How sad it is to be so close, yet so far from the kingdom of God! That isn’t unique to the scribes & Pharisees – the same thing is seen in church buildings around the world. So many people sit in the pews, singing the songs of the redeemed and listening to words of Jesus to His church, and yet they never truly partake. They get enough from the Scriptures in order to help them feel better about themselves, but not enough to truly cast themselves upon Jesus in faith for the forgiveness of sin. Maybe they pick up their attendance around Christmas services and a few times a year, but mostly they look at their faith as their good morals and relatively well-behaved lives. They read the parts of the Bible that mostly affirm what they already believe, and skip over the rest. Like the scribes, they are so close, yet so far from the kingdom!
    1. Don’t merely listen to the words of Jesus to win your arguments or to give yourself a pat on the back; listen to what He really says – look to who He really is! He is the Perfect & Holy Son of God, and we must cast ourselves upon Him & His grace if we are to receive forgiveness & eternal life.

40 But after that they dared not question Him anymore.

  1. Both Matthew & Mark place this concluding statement a bit later in their chronologies, but neither of them phrase it in a way that contradicts the other gospel writers. For Luke, this was the last of the objections he records, so it made sense for him to place it here.
  2. The whole idea is that Jesus shut them down. To this point, the Pharisees and Sadducees were each smug & bold in their perceived ability to debate & discredit Jesus; now they lost their nerve. They refused to convert in faith, but they had a newfound respect for Jesus and feared to debate Him in public. Even when tag-teaming, they learned they could not defeat Him openly, so they would have to resort to more subversive means. (Which is exactly what they did in their conspiracy with Judas Iscariot.)

Conclusion:

Try as they might, the religious elite could not take down Jesus. They may have been the theological heavyweights of their day, but they were nothing compared to the Son of God! Try as they might, they could not stump the Son. Their attempts to discredit Jesus left only themselves humiliated, and Jesus will come back in the remainder of Ch. 20 to seal the deal, and warn all the people of the false religion of their leaders.

For those who, like the Sadducees, are dishonest skeptics – drop the act. Stop pretending that you have the unanswerable question & final nail in the coffin of Christianity. Every objection to Biblical Christianity has been asked and answered; the burden of proof is on you. But it doesn’t need to be a contest! Deep down, you know the truth that you’ve sinned against a Holy God, and that you’re deserving of His punishment. God’s law is written upon the heart of every human, and our consciences testify against us, no matter how badly we might try to drown it out. Stop resisting the conviction of God & humble yourself before Him. Cast yourself upon Jesus, who proved His ability to save not through His debating skills, but in His historical resurrection from the dead. Humbly surrender your life to Him, asking Him to save you, and He will…no matter what you did or said in the past. When Jesus forgives, He forgives all.

For all of us, Christians included, don’t resist Jesus; find your life in Him! It’s easy for born-again Christians to get to a point where we find ourselves arguing against God, as if we think we’ll actually win the argument. That’s not the relationship He wants with us; He wants us to surrender to Him & find our life in Him. He’s the author of Life & the giver of the resurrection life, providing life in all of its abundance. That’s what the Sadducees missed, but it’s something we can enjoy. Enjoy it, by enjoying Him.

Night of Thanks 2017

Posted: November 23, 2017 in Psalms, Uncategorized

It was in the middle of the American Civil War that President Abraham Lincoln set a national holiday of Thanksgiving. Listing off the many provisions of God given to the United States during the war, Lincoln went on to write: “They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.” (http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/thanks.htm)

Lincoln recognized the need for the nation to pause, and give thanks to God, because God’s works had been visible among them. They still are! Too often, we pray for God’s help, while rarely giving thanks for His answer. As a nation, and especially as a church, we need to give thanks to God. He has worked in marvelous ways, and we as His people need to recognize Him.

That’s the whole context of Hebrew praise, and something seen regularly throughout the Psalms. Psalm 111 gives a great example of this, being a song of God’s praise from A-Z. It’s a perfect acrostic, with each strophe (subdivision of the verse) following the order of the Hebrew alphabet (aleph-bet). We don’t know the original author, but we know that he had a love for God, and had a desire to praise Him for His wonderful works. We can do the same.

Psalm 111

  • Call to praise (1)

1 Praise the LORD! I will praise the LORD with my whole heart, In the assembly of the upright and in the congregation.

  1. Praise who? Praise the LORD! Twice, the psalmist uses the covenant name of God (YHWH), making it clear whom is to be praised. Every Christian knows a bit of Hebrew here, as “Praise the LORD” is literally “Hallelujah!” (הַ֥לְלוּ יָ֨הּ) God alone is to be praised – the true God, the Creator God, the One God – this God is to be praised, exalted, thanked, and worshipped by all peoples at all times.
  2. Praise how? Personally & publicly.
    1. Personally: The psalmist declares that he would praise God with all his heart, meaning with all his being. Just like the Hebrew Shema commands Israel to love God with all our heart, soul, and strength, so is the personal praise of God to be done the same way. Christians have no reason for wimpy worship or half-hearted thankfulness; we ought to give all our beings over to God in our praise.
    2. Publicly: The psalmist wasn’t going to only praise God at home, but also in the assembly. He would gather with other Israelites and publicly glorify God with one another. For us, it is the reason the church gathers together for worship. Together, we arethe assembly of the upright” – we have been made righteous by the work of Jesus, called out from the dark work through His grace, congregated together in order that we might give praise to God. Peter put it this way: 1 Peter 2:9, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;” One of the reasons God saved us is so that we can praise Him together – to come together in glorious worship and witness of our Lord Jesus!
  3. Praise why? Because of His wonderful works…as shown in the rest of the psalm.
  • Recognizing the works of the LORD (2-3)

2 The works of the LORD are great, Studied by all who have pleasure in them. 3 His work is honorable and glorious, And His righteousness endures forever.

  1. We are to gaze upon the great works of God, going beyond a casual glance at what He has done, and truly look upon it with intent and study. How many times have we given God a cursory thanks, when we’ve just prayed the same thing we’ve always prayed, without giving it any thought? How many times have we said “thank you” without really meaning anything it is we’ve said? May we be done with that kind of thoughtless-thanks! Study His works – look carefully into the things Jesus has done for you and in your life, and let it bring you to your knees in prayer and lift your hands in praise!
  2. When we do, what will we find? We’ll discover that the work of our God is truly amazing! Another translation of vs. 3 might begin: “Majestic and splendid are His deeds,” as if the works of God drape Him like a royal robe. His deeds highlight His everlasting righteousness, helping us see Him for who He really is.
    1. When we praise God, it helps us to know God. Want to know Him better? Want your prayer life and spiritual life with God to improve? Start by giving Him thanks & praise! Your worship of God will lead to a better walk with God.
  • Remembering the works of the LORD (4-6)

4 He has made His wonderful works to be remembered; The LORD is gracious and full of compassion. 5 He has given food to those who fear Him; He will ever be mindful of His covenant. 6 He has declared to His people the power of His works, In giving them the heritage of the nations.

  1. Why does God work in our lives? In order that we would see Him, and remember His works! A more literal translation of vs. 4a is “He made a memorial of His wonderful acts.” Just as when we look at a statue & think of what it represents, so we see the memorial of the Lord, and think of Him. What is the best memorial of His works? The empty cross & empty tomb! Forever, they are a memorial of the victory of Jesus over sin, ever declaring God’s grace and compassionate mercies!
  2. Specifically, the psalmist writes of everyday acts of God: giving food to His people, working with the Hebrews according to His covenant promises, giving them their homeland & assurance of a future kingdom. Likewise, we have very specific things for which we can thank God: daily bread, our current relationship with God through Christ, and our future eternity we will have with Christ. Everything from the mundane to the massive, is a gift of God worthy of thanks!
    1. Take time tonight to think through the myriad works of God in your life. How many days have you had bread on the table? Woken up in health? Actively seen God’s provision? What is the scope and breadth of the promises of Christ Jesus for you? You’ve been born of the Holy Spirit, empowered for His work, and promised everlasting heaven…what He has done is amazing!
    2. These are all things to remember…praise Him – thank Him!
  • Receiving the works of the LORD (7-9)

7 The works of His hands are verity and justice; All His precepts are sure. 8 They stand fast forever and ever, And are done in truth and uprightness. 9 He has sent redemption to His people; He has commanded His covenant forever: Holy and awesome is His name.

  1. Notice how the works of God reflect His character and nature. Just as God Himself is truth & righteousness, so are His works. Just as God is faithful & reliable, so is His teaching & word. God always works according to His character, so our praise of His works easily leads to our praise of God Himself.
  2. The very best work of God? The “redemption” sent to His people. The Hebrews received their redemption when God freed them from Egyptian slavery during the Passover, and when they passed through the midst of the Red Sea – incredible displays of His awesome power. When did we receive redemption? When Jesus died upon the cross for our sin & rose from the grave. Again, Peter says it well: 1 Peter 1:18–19, “(18) knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, (19) but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” Jesus was our purchase price – our redemption.
    1. We praise God for Jesus! We give thanks for the Son of God sent for us!
  • Responding to the works of the LORD (10)

10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever.

  1. At first glance, this may seem to come out of left-field, but it is a perfect response to the works of God. Once His deeds have been recognized, remembered, and received, what comes next? Reverent worship! To “fear” God is not to run from God in terror; it is to have the right perspective of God as our Creator & King, totally & inherently worthy of our worship & respect. When we fear Him rightly, wisdom is sure to follow, as seen in faithful obedience to His commandments.
  2. What does any of this have to do with the context? When we recognize the works of God as being from God – when we get a grasp of how He has actively worked in our daily lives and for our eternal salvation – at that point, we cannot help but worship Him, reverence Him, and fear Him. That sort of Godly perspective changes our very lives!

Conclusion:

For born-again Christians, every day is a day to give God thanks & praise, but tonight, especially so. Praise Him! Recognize the things He has done, gazing & studying upon His good works in Christ Jesus. Let it lead you to praise, thanks, and worship.

May God help us be done with casual, thoughtless thanks, and help us to praise Him as He truly deserves: with our whole hearts, and among one another. May we lift up the praises of God, that the rocks themselves (among the rest of the world) would take notice!