Author: Matt Sherro

The Bible Train (Family Worship) 3.18-3.24

The Bible Train (Family Worship) 3.18-3.24

This week we will see the Lord instructing Moses to take a 2nd Census. The old generation has passed away and the people are preparing to take the land of promise. We will also see Moses address the Host of Israel as he prepares to pass leadership to Joshua.

  • Sunday– Numbers 22:1-41
  • Monday– Numbers 27:1-23
  • Tuesday– Numbers 31:1-54
  • Wednesday– Deuteronomy 4:1-43
  • Thursday– Deuteronomy 8:1-9:6
  • Friday– Deuteronomy 15:1-18
  • Saturday– Deuteronomy 20:1-20

Discussion Questions:

  1. How were Balak and Balaam able to ensnare the people of Israel?
  2. What can we learn from the Angel of the Lord appearing to, and rebuking, Balaam?
  3. Israel worshipped the false god, Baal of Peor. Why was this so offensive to YHWH?
  4. During Moses’ speech, he recounts the 10 Commandments. Why are these so important to the people of Israel? Why are they important to us as Christians?
Holiness and Works

Holiness and Works

Text: Matthew 6:1-4

As chapter 6 opens, we see Jesus giving us instructions for our good works. The term in Hebrew is tzedakah, which literally means acts of righteousness. In this case, Jesus is speaking about our almsgiving, which by the time of NT Judaism was the meaning of Acts of Tzedakah.

“The ‘righteousness which exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees’ (5:20) is to be seen not only in a new radical approach to the legal and ethical questions which concerned the scribes (5:21-48), but in a new attitude to the scrupulous religious observance which was the hallmark of the Pharisees (6:1-18). The new attitude consists not in a repudiation of the main aspects of Jewish piety, but in an avoidance of ostentation in their performance. Religious observance is to be directed towards God, not to gaining the approval of men.”

Tyndale New Testament Commentaries – Matthew.

6:1 practice … righteousness. This verse introduces the discussion of three acts of righteousness: (1) giving (vv. 2–4), (2) praying (vv. 5–15) and (3) fasting (vv. 16–18).

Jesus did not prohibit public acts of righteousness, but He warned that the motivation for such acts is more important than the bare fact of performing them. All such deeds must be done for God’s glory, not human reputation. Those who seek human acclaim when performing good works will receive no heavenly reward. In verses 2-18, Jesus supplies general principles for performing righteous acts.

James would later say, Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. (James 1:27).  At the risk of belaboring the point, the concern here is the heart, in other words your mind, will/volition, and emotions.  I have said, several times, that the entire purpose of the Sermon on the Mount is to destroy any sense of self righteousness that we might have and instead put the focus back onto the heart and what a heart full of the Holy Spirit looks like.
6:2-4 The words whenever you give assume that disciples will regularly assist needy people. The prohibition don’t sound a trumpet stems from the fact that the offering chests in the temple were trumpet-shaped with a wide opening where coins were deposited and a winding, ever-narrower funnel that, at its narrowest point, exits into the chest. This arrangement prevented thieves from sticking their hands into the chest. Thus, “sounding the trumpet” is likely a reference to tossing coins noisily into the trumpet-shaped coffer and thereby calling attention to one’s generosity. Jesus described such conduct as hypocritical and we can well see how Jesus, as the Divine Son of God, would consider this to be hypocritical; causing the loud sound of tossing a denarius or other coins into the chest would be nakedly self serving in its intent to gather attention.

The word hypocrites (Gk hupocrites) originally referred to actors who performed in Greek or Roman theaters. The hypocrites to whom Jesus referred are spiritual actors who pretend to have piety in order to win human approval. The instructions about the left hand and the right hand prohibit a person from celebrating their own acts of righteousness. Give liberally, but never dwell on the fact that you do so.

As believers, we need to realize that we are naked before God and that all of our thoughts/emotions/attitudes are laid bare before Him. Therefore, why we do a thing is as important as the actual deed itself. Any “good works” that we do for any other reason than God’s glory robs Him, or rather, attempts to rob Him of that which is due Him.

 

Holiness and works ARE connected, but not in the way most people think; we do works because righteousness has been imputed to us not so that it might be.

 

3 questions to consider when doing righteous works: 1. Why am I doing this deed? 2. How does this act glorify Christ? 3. Is there an opportunity to share the Gospel through what I am doing?

 

In the remainder of our time together, I am going to wade barefoot into a cactus patch…

 

There is a propensity among many Christians to focus on what may be known as the social gospel. Certain academics claim that this movement is in decline but I vigorously disagree. Before we get into that, let me explain what I mean by the social gospel.

 

The Social Gospel is a movement in North American Protestantism which applied Christian ethics to social problems, especially issues of social justice such as economic inequality, poverty, alcoholism, crime, racial tensions, slums, unclean environment, child labor, inadequate labor unions, poor schools, and the danger of war. It is argued, by some, to have peaked in the early-20th-century United States and Canada. However, an observant person would notice that it is alive and well in the United States today. Theologically, the Social Gospel adherents seek to operationalize the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:10): “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. This tends to lend itself to the post-millennialist position; that is, they tend believe the Second Coming can not happen until humankind rid itself of social evils by human effort. This, unfortunately, leads to churches being overly involved in politics, particularly on the “liberal” end of the political spectrum.

 

This begs the question, “Is there a social justice aspect in the Bible?” Of course there is a social justice aspect in the Bible. God is always concerned with justice because He Himself embodies and defines it. We need to remember that we can have all the social programs we want but if the people we are commanded to minister to end up in Hell, we have not done justice. Justice must have its origin in the Gospel message; without it all you really have is welfare, not justice.

 

As Christians, we do need to be concerned with ministering to the world. There are two verses that I want to bring to our attention:

 

Micah 6:8 (NKJV)  He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?

 

Hosea 6:6 ESV For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

 

It is most excellent, and I would dare say, pleasing to God to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves; we saw that from the Apostle James. However, when we do these acts of righteousness, there is a propensity for 2 errors, self righteousness and judgmentalism.  Have you noticed that self righteousness keeps coming up? That is because it is the foundation for assuming Heaven is deserved. It is clearly very easy to fall into the trap of self righteousness because of the works we do. The other trap is being judgmental. We have a tendency to compare ourselves to others in terms of what we are doing for God and then use our level of activity as a barometer against which to judge others.

 

Note that this exactly the problem the Pharisees had, which is why Jesus refers to them as hypocrites. There is no issue with doing acts of mercy, there isn’t even an issue with those acts being seen, sometimes, to spur others on to do more themselves. It is the heart behind the actions that houses the issue. Why are you doing your good deed? Is it because you want to be made holy or is it because you know you have imputed righteousness and you are following the lead of your Lord? That, Beloved, is what we are getting at here; the Lord is destroying any sense of self righteousness that we might have so that we approach life in pursuit of holiness.

Why Is There a Congregational Reading?

Why Is There a Congregational Reading?

On Sundays, as part of our worship, Abounding Grace Baptist Church offers a Congregational Reading of the Scripture. I have been asked, several times, what this is and why it is a part of our worship service.

First, our Congregational Reading is a passage of the Scripture that is related to the text that we will be working with in the sermon portion of our worship service. During the reading, we stand to give reverence to the Word of God and I read the odd numbered verses while the congregation responds with reading the even numbered verses.

Second, we have a Congregational Reading because the Word of God, both the written Bible and the Lord Jesus Christ, the Logos (word) of God is the central focus of our worship service. It is in the singing of hymns and the responsive readings that the congregation participates in the worship of God. Faith comes by hearing (Romans 10:17) and, in reading aloud together, we strengthen the faith of the worshippers.

Also, we read together because life is busy and full of activity, which means that for some of our beloved congregation, all the Bible they will get in a week comes on Sunday. After rich worship and the preaching of the Bible, we send our congregation out as sheep amidst the wolves and so we desire to send them out as full of the Scripture as possible. The days are evil, the Bible is our sure comfort, and it is our first line of defense against the wickedness.

In short, we have a Congregational Reading because we love you and we want you to have as much of the Bible as you possibly can.

 

Grace to you,

Pastor Matt

CSB Pastor’s Bible Review

CSB Pastor’s Bible Review

 

The most important tool any pastor carries is his Bible and a number of publishers have released special Bibles for pastors, all of which are worth consideration.  Previously, we have reviewed the EVS Pastor’s Bible from Crossway and today we are reviewing the CSB Pastor’s Bible in brown genuine leather. (Note: This Bible was acquired at my own expense; no review has been solicited by Holman Bible Publishers.)

 

Before we begin, some information from Holman…

Product Description

Available in two editions, Genuine Leather or Deluxe Leather-Touch-the CSB Pastor’s Bible is ideal for pastoral use during preaching, officiating services, or personal study. Helpful features include a single-column setting, large type, wide margins, a special insert section in the middle of the Bible. Also contains outlines for officiating weddings and funerals, and extensive tools and articles from some of today’s respected pastors and church leaders. The CSB Pastor’s Bible is a valuable life-long resource for Pastors.

 

Features include:

  • Smyth-sewn binding
  • Single-column text
  • Footnotes
  • Black-letter text
  • 10-point type
  • Concordance
  • Presentation page
  • Two-piece gift box
  • Over 17 articles on leadership and ministry by experienced pastors and leaders disbursed throughout the Bible’s pages
  • Outlines for officiating weddings and funerals

The CSB Pastor’s Bible features the highly reliable, highly readable text of the Christian Standard Bible (CSB), which stays as literal as possible to the Bible’s original meaning without sacrificing clarity. The CSB’s optimal blend of accuracy and readability makes Scripture more moving, more memorable, and more motivating to read and share with others.

A Few Remarks About CSB

The choice to preach and teach from the Christian Standard Bible (CSB) is one that more and more pastors are making and I can see why. On a number of occasions, I have described the CSB as the perfect blend of NASB (the most literal) and the NIV (the most popular). CSB is fastidiously literal yet very easy to read. I would estimate at an approximately 8th grade level, which is excellent because it will afford the teacher of God’s word the broadest audience spectrum possible. I have mentioned, in previous articles, that CSB is one of the 3 main translations that I use for regular reading. I am happy to commend the CSB to you; you will find it to be very accurate, readable, and most importantly, faithful to the original text.

Cover and Binding

I selected the brown genuine leather version, for myself, and I want to tell you two things about it. 1. Brown genuine leather is a total understatement. This is actually goatskin leather, as you will see stamped on the back of the Bible. 2. This goatskin cover is absolutely exquisite and I cannot believe that you can find a goatskin Bible at this price ($99.99)

The liner is a paste down, which I think contributes to the pricing. Here, in Phoenix, the heat can make a paste down liner a little problematic because if you leave it in your car, you can melt the paste (This has actually happened to me in the past.).

The block, itself, is sewn. If you know anything about bindings, you know that a sewn binding is the only type that will stand up to the near constant punishment a pastor will subject his Bible to and I can confidently state that the cover will wear out before the sewn binding will.

Layout, Font, and Margins

This Bible is laid out in a single column paragraph format. The margins are approximately 1-inch. A wide margin is essential for a pastor so that you can mark out your notes and references.

2k/Denmark designed the font and, even though it is officially a 10-point font, it reads more like an 11-point to my eyes. The text is black letter and I have found this to be much more useful in the pulpit than a red letter.

The single column paragraph format works out well for large scale consumption of the Biblical text and, since consuming the Biblical text is a pastor’s most important undertaking, this format is highly desirable.

Helps

At the end of the Bible are the various pastoral helps.  These include a “where to turn” section with Scripture references to help (pictured below), “A Brief Biblical Theology of Leadership,” “Eight Traits of Effective Church Leaders,” “Pastor, Find Your Identity in Christ,” “Glorifying God in Your Ministry,” “What is Biblical Preaching?,” “Preaching Christ from All the Scriptures,” “What is Doctrinal Preaching?,” “Four Keys for Giving an Effective Invitation,” “Five Ways to Improve Congregational Singing,” “Soul Care: Walking with Others in Wisdom and Love,” “Letter to the Church,” “Five Steps to Start and Keep an Evangelistic Culture,” “How Do You Disciple Others?,” “The One Thing You Must Do as a Student Pastor,” and “Sharing the Gospel with Children.”

In between Psalms and Proverbs is where you will find the “Life Events” helps. These are for weddings, funerals and so on.  Noticeably absent are helps for communion and baptism as well as cross-references, which can all be found in the rival ESV Pastor’s Bible. Whether or not missing these helps is problematic will depend entirely upon who you are as a pastor. The helps that are “missing” I have in other books that are in my library.

There are 3 ribbons provided so you can mark your spot in each of the 3 major sections of the Bible: Old Testament, Worship and Wisdom, and New Testament.

As A Carry Bible

The Pastor’s Bible is not small but it is not overly large, either. I would list it as just right. It fits in my bag easily, I can hold it one handed without my hand/arm getting tired, and it pairs well with my iPad when placed on my pulpit.

Final Thoughts

Would I recommend the CSB Pastor’s Bible? Yes. As the pastor at Abounding Grace Baptist Church, I use different translations (NLT, CSB, & NASB) for different purposes and I definitely plan on moving the pastor’s Bible into rotation as my pastoral care and discipleship Bible. I will also be using it alongside my Tyndale Select NLT Reference Bible for large scale consumption of the Biblical text.

 

The Bible Train: Family Worship 3.11 to 3.17

The Bible Train: Family Worship 3.11 to 3.17

As we draw close to the Passover season and to Resurrection Sunday, the Bible Train is rolling toward the House of Israel reaching the Promised Land. We will see the scouting of the land, a rebellion from some of the priests, and a lack of trust in God so troubling that it will cause the Children of Israel to be sentenced to wander in the Sinai Wilderness for 40 years, until an entire generation passes away.

 

  • Sunday– Numbers 11:1-35
  • Monday– Numbers 13:1-33
  • Tuesday–Numbers 14:1-45
  • Wednesday–Numbers 16:1-50
  • Thursday– Numbers 17:1-30
  • Friday–Numbers 20:1-13
  • Saturday–Numbers 21:1-35

 

Discussion Questions

  1. What similarities do you see between your life and the 10 spies who were fearful of the inhabitants of Canaan? Are there areas where you have trouble trusting God?
  2. Why did Korah and his followers rebel against Moses and Aaron?
  3. What parallels can you see between God selecting Aaron as His priest and Him choosing Christians as His people?
  4. The bronze serpent had to be lifted up and gazed upon in order for people to be saved from the serpent’s bite; how does this parallel the Son of Man being lifted up?
Swearing, Getting Even, & Love: What the Law Really Demands

Swearing, Getting Even, & Love: What the Law Really Demands

Text: Matthew 5:33-48

 

Teaching about Vows

You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not swear falsely”: The scribes and Pharisees had twisted the law You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain (Exodus 20:7) to permit taking virtually every other name in a false oath. Now, a false oath is not one where an unforeseen circumstance prevents you from fulfilling your oath; it is an oath that you never intended to keep in the first place. Even today, we have people give oaths that they never intend to keep and one of the most common issues that the courts have to decide is that of a breach of contract and in certain industries, a breach of your fiduciary, or good faith obligation, is grounds for loss of license, loss of job, and potentially even jail. Clearly our oaths are important.

 

So why the prohibition against taking oaths? Do not swear at all: Jesus reminds us that God is part of every oath anyway; if you swear by heavenearthJerusalem, or even your head, you swear by God – and your oath must be honored. But let your “Yes” be “Yes”: Having to swear or make oaths betrays the weakness of your word. It demonstrates that there is not enough weight in your own character to confirm your words.

Some have taken this word of Jesus as more than an emphasis on truth-telling and honesty as an absolute prohibition of all oaths. This is at best misguided and at worst ignorance of scripture because oaths are permitted under certain circumstances, as long as they are neither abused or used as a cover for deception.

  • God Himself swears oaths:Hebrews 6:13 and Luke 1:73.
  • Jesus spoke under oath in a court:Matthew 26:63-64.
  • Paul made oaths:Romans 1:9, 2 Corinthians 1:23, Galatians 1:20, 2 Thessalonians 2:5.

“The truly good man will never need to take an oath; the truth of his sayings and the reality of his promises need no such guarantee. But the fact that oaths are still sometimes necessary is the proof that men are not good men and that this is not a good world.” (Barclay)

Oaths and vows were not only permitted but, in certain circumstances, commanded in the Old Testament (Number 5:19.). Discussions of the relative validity of different forms of oath and vow occupied the Rabbis to the extent of filling several tractates of the Mishnah. But an oath is needed only if a person’s word alone is unreliable; it is an admission of failure in truthfulness. Of course we know that people lie because of the sinful flesh. Jesus therefore goes behind the whole structure of legislation on oaths to the ideal which it has replaced. The passage, while on the surface concerned with oaths, is actually on truthfulness, focusing on v. 37 rather than v. 34a (Jeremias, NTT, p. 220). As with divorce, the accommodating legislation, both in the Old Testament and in later Judaism, is bypassed to return to the ideal which makes it unnecessary.

“33. The two clauses summarize Old Testament teaching rather than quote it explicitly. You shall not swear falsely echoes Leviticus 19:12 (Exodus 20:7 may also be in mind); you shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn takes up the teaching of Numbers 30:2; Deuteronomy 23:21; Psalm 50:14; Ecclesiastes 5:4. All these last are concerned with vows, but Numbers 30:2 mentions oaths as parallel, and the distinction between oaths and vows was generally not kept clear (see Davies, p. 240). The Old Testament thus prohibited both false oaths and unfulfilled oaths or vows.

34-36. Jesus’ total rejection of oaths (not … at all) is not paralleled even by the Qumran literature, strict as it was on this issue (Davies, pp. 241-244), and contrasts starkly with the Rabbinic casuistry which he goes on to expose in these verses (cf. 23:16-22). That this ideal should not be taken as a rigid rule, e.g. with reference to oaths in court, is suggested by Jesus’ own response when the High Priest ‘put him on oath’ (26:63-64), and by occasional ‘oaths’ in the New Testament (2 Cor. 1:23; Gal. 1:20; cf. 1 Thess. 5:27); even God can use an oath (Heb. 6:13-17). But Jesus goes on to repudiate the use of ‘second-class’ oaths which avoid the name of God (and therefore are not binding). First they do not in fact exclude God, as heaven, earth and Jerusalem are all inseparably linked with God (as Jesus shows by references to Isa. 66:1 and Ps. 48:2 (v. 3, Heb.), and even your head is God’s creation and under his control. And secondly, as v. 37 shows, they should be unnecessary.

  1. 37. Simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ is literally ‘Yes yes, no no’. The repetition is not a new formula, but a Semitic way of indicating that ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ are to be used (alone) on each occasion. (‘two two’ in Mark 6:7 for ‘two at a time’.) James 5:12, which is clearly based on this passage, has correctly interpreted the meaning: ‘Let your yes be yes and your no be no.’ All words are binding, and the Christian’s word should need no buttressing. Any addition comes from evil, or the evil one: The Greek genitive ponērou could be either masculine or neuter, here as often; it makes little difference to the general sense whether the need for safeguards against falsehood is traced to the wickedness of the world in general or to the ‘Father of lies’.”

Tyndale Commentaries – Tyndale New Testament Commentaries – Matthew.

 

 

So, in accordance with the Old Testament standard, we are to swear by no other name but God’s—not by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Appealing to heaven, earth, Jerusalem, and other such things was considered by most Jews to make their oaths less binding. Those were grand and great things, things that gave an aura of power, importance, and veracity to what was said or promised in their name. But because those things were far less than God, they made oaths given in their names far less binding than an oath made in His name. Still less binding would be an oath made merely by your head.

 

Any oath sworn is binding and should not be entered into lightly. How you deal with oaths and promises are a good indicator of your character.

 

 

Teaching about Revenge

The Mosaic law did teach an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth (Exodus 21:24). But over time religious teachers moved this command out of its proper sphere (a principle limiting retribution for the civil government) and put it in the wrong sphere (as an obligation in personal relationships). Retribution for a wrong done to you is no more obligated than a pancake breakfast. Like a pancake breakfast, vindication and retribution are nice but if you do not receive it, you need not be disappointed.

 

But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also: Here, Jesus presents the fullness of the eye for an eye law, and how its idea of limiting revenge extends into the principle of accepting certain evils against one’s self. Many times, I have heard the somewhat cliche comment, “an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.” There is truth in that, though. A desire for retribution invariably leads to destruction.

 

Even today, in parts of the world, slapping the face and especially what we call backhanding a person is a horrible insult. When a person insults us (slaps you on the right cheek), we want to give them back what they gave to us, plus more. Jesus said we should patiently bear such insults and offences, and not resist an evil person who insults us this way. Instead, we trust God to defend us. (Deuteronomy 32:35)

It is wrong to think Jesus means evil should never be resisted. Jesus demonstrated with His life that evil should and must be resisted, such as when He turned tables in the temple. “Jesus is here saying that the true Christian has learned to resent no insult and to seek retaliation for no slight.” (Barclay) When we think how Jesus Himself as insulted and spoken against (as a glutton, a drunk, an illegitimate child, a blasphemer, a madman, and so forth) we see how He lived this principle Himself.

 

Remember that in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is giving us a correct understanding of the Law so…

 

It is wrong to think that Jesus means a physical attack cannot be resisted or defended against. When Jesus speaks of a slap on your right cheek, it was culturally understood as a deep insult, not a physical attack. Jesus does not mean that if someone hits across the right side of our head with a baseball bat, we should allow them to then hit the left side. “If a right-handed person strikes someone’s right cheek, presumably it is a slap by the back of the hand, probably considered more insulting than a slap by the open palm.” (Carson) 2 Corinthians 11:20 probably has in mind this kind of “insult slap.”

 

It is also wrong to think Jesus means that there is no place for punishment or retribution in society. Jesus here speaks to personal relationships, and not to the proper functions of government in restraining evil (Romans 13:1-4). I must turn my cheek when I am personally insulted, but the government has a responsibility to restrain the evil man from physical assault.

 

If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also: Under the Law of Moses, the outer cloak could not be taken from someone (Exodus 22:26; Deuteronomy 24:13).

“Jesus’ disciples, if sued for their tunics, far from seeking satisfaction, will gladly part with what they may legally keep.” (Carson)

“Yet even in a country where justice can be had, we are not to resort to law for every personal wrong. We should rather endure to be put upon than be forever crying out, ‘I’ll bring an action.’” (Spurgeon)

Whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two: Positively, we are told to take command of evil impositions by making a deliberate choice to give more than we are required. At that time, Judea was under Roman military occupation. Under military law, any Roman soldier might command a Jew to carry his soldier’s pack for one mile – but only one mile. Jesus here says, “Go beyond the one mile required by law and give another mile out of a free choice of love.” This is how we transform an attempt to manipulate us into a free act of love.

 

“The Jews fiercely resented such impositions, and Jesus’ choice of this example deliberately dissociates him from militant nationalists. Rather than resisting, or even resenting, the disciple should volunteer for a further mile.” (France)”

“The old said, ‘insist on your own right, and loving your neighbor, hate your enemy, and so secure your safety.’ The new says, ‘suffer wrong, and lavish your love on all.” (Morgan)

I know good and well how hard it is not to return wrong for wrong. I am half Italian and, the joke among many of my kinsmen, is that getting even is the family business. It is tough to turn the other cheek, very tough indeed.

 

This idea of turning the other cheek takes me to research I was doing for this sermon and arriving at Lamentations 3:30. I would like to consider some things my colleague, Rev. Matt Bassford had to say

 

“That aside, the truly interesting translation in Lamentations 3:30 in the NLT is “turn the other cheek”.  This is certainly an interpretive reading, but the passage that it’s interpreting isn’t Lamentations 3:30.  Instead, it’s interpreting Matthew 5:39.  In fact, the NLT uses language from Matthew 5:39 to translate Lamentations 3:30, even though the latter is hundreds of years older.  It makes this choice to imply that Jesus in Matthew 5:39 is quoting Lamentations 3:30.

 

If indeed Jesus is citing Lamentations 3:30 as a signpost to an Old-Testament context and speaking to an angry Jewish audience that is considering rebellion against Rome, that dramatically changes the meaning of “turn the other cheek.”  The context of Lamentations 3:30 is clearly about how the defeated Jews ought to behave after Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem in 589 BC.  Here’s Jeremiah’s prescription:

 

It is good for a man that he should bear the yoke in his youth. Let him sit alone and be silent since He has laid it on him. Let him put his mouth in the dust, perhaps there is hope. Let him give his cheek to the smiter, let him be filled with reproach.  For the Lord will not reject forever, for if He causes grief, Then He will have compassion according to His abundant loving kindness. 

 

(Lamentations 3:27-32 NASB)

 

In other words, Jeremiah is saying to the Jews of his day, “You’re in this fix because you sinned and God punished you.  In these circumstances, rather than fighting back, you should submit to your oppressors until God rescues you in His compassion.”

 

It makes perfect sense for Jesus to be saying exactly the same thing to the Jews of His day.  Like the Jews of Jeremiah’s time, first-century Jews were suffering under the boot of the oppressor, albeit a Roman rather than a Babylonian overlord.  In using Lamentations 3, Jesus is arguing that the Romans are over the Jews because of divine punishment for Jewish sins.  The Jews need to solve their Roman problem not by rebelling against their conquerors (because fighting against God’s will is pointless) but by repairing their relationship with God—doing everything else that Jesus tells them to do in the Sermon on the Mount.

 

Once the Jewish nation is righteous, God will deliver them from the Romans.  Until then, they need to meekly submit to the oppression that they brought on themselves.  Note that this reading dovetails with Matthew 5:41 (the “second mile” text) which is also about Roman-Jewish relations.

 

If this reading is correct, Matthew 5:39 is not a general call to personal pacifism.  Instead, just as Christians in the seven churches would have understood Revelation 4 in the light of Isaiah 6 and Ezekiel 1, Jesus’ Jewish audience would have understood “turn the other cheek” in the light of Lamentations 3, as a primarily political rather than personal instruction.

 

This is not the way you treat the robber who breaks into your house in the middle of the night.  This is the way you treat the Roman soldier who abuses and oppresses you.  The point is not that violence is wrong per se, even in self-defense.  It is that violence is wrong when the object of your violence is somebody whom God has set over you.  Rebellion, not self-defense, is the spiritual problem.”

 

Like Matt, I find myself saying this is very, very different from the way that I’ve ever read Matthew 5:39 before. I’ve always only heard it relating to personal insult but I can most definitely see the case for it also being a rebuke to people who don’t want to submit to judgment.

 

 

Give to him who asks of you: The only limit to this kind of sacrifice is the limit that love itself will impose. It isn’t loving to give in to someone’s manipulation without our transforming it into a free act of love. It isn’t always loving to give or to not resist.

Teaching about Love for Enemies

 

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy”: The Mosaic Law commanded you shall love your neighbor (Leviticus 19:18). Yet some teachers in the days of Jesus added an opposite – and evil – misapplication: an equal obligation to hate your enemy. “They generally looked upon all the uncircumcised as not their neighbors, but their enemies, whom the precept did not oblige them to love.” (Poole)

 

But I say to you, love your enemies: Instead, Jesus reminds that in the sense God means it, all people are our neighbors, even our enemies. To truly fulfill this law, we must loveblessdo good and pray for our enemies – not only our friends. Most people have no idea how truly scandalous this idea is. Revenge comes naturally to us but vengeance is the Lord’s (Deuteronomy 32:35) but to show love and grace is to demonstrate the Holy Spirit working in us.

 

Jesus understood we will have enemies (it goes hand in hand with John 16:33, In the world ye shall have tribulation), yet we are to respond to them in love, trusting that God will protect our cause and destroy our enemies in the best way possible, by transforming them into our friends.

 

That you may be sons of your Father in heaven: In doing this, we are imitating God, who shows love towards His enemies, by sending rain on the just and on the unjust.

“You see our Lord Jesus Christ’s philosophy of nature. He believed in the immediate presence and working of God. As the great Son of God he had a very sensitive perception of the presence of his Father in all the scenes around him, and hence he calls the sun God’s sun- ‘He maketh his sun to rise.’” (Spurgeon)

“As though he did not regard human character at all, God bids his sun shine on good and bad. As though he did not know that any men were vile, he bids the shower descend on just and unjust. Yet he does know, for he is no blind deity. He does know; and he knows when his sun shines on yonder miser’s acres that it is bringing forth a harvest for a churl. He does it deliberately. When the rain is falling yonder upon the oppressor’s crops, he knows that the oppressor will be the richer for it, and means that he should be; he is doing nothing by mistake and nothing without a purpose.” (Spurgeon)

“What does God say to us when he acts thus? I believe that he says this: ‘This is the day of free grace; this is the time of mercy.’ The hour for judgment is not yet, when he will separate between the good and the bad; when he will mount the judgment seat and award different portions to the righteous and to the wicked.” (Spurgeon)

This is an example – that we also are to love our enemies and bless them if we can. In doing so, we show ourselves to sons of our Father in heaven. “We are made sons by regeneration, through faith in the Son; but we are called to make our calling and election sure – to approve and vindicate our right to that sacred name. We can only do this by showing in word and act that the divine life and principles animate us.” (Meyer)

For if you love those who love you, what reward have you: What do you do more than the sinner? We should regard it as no matter of virtue if we merely return the love that is given to us.

 

Remember, Jesus here taught the character of the citizens of His kingdom. We should expect that character to be different from the character seen in the world. There are many good reasons why more should be expected from Christians than others:

  • They claim to have something that others do not have; they claim to be renewed, repentant, and redeemed by Jesus Christ.
  • They do in fact have something that others do not have; they are in fact renewed, repentant, and redeemed by Jesus Christ.
  • They have a power that others do not have; they can do all things through Christ who strengthens them.
  • They have the Spirit of God dwelling within them.
  • They have a better future than others do.

Therefore, you shall be perfect: If a man could live the way Jesus has told us to in this chapter, he would truly be perfect.

  • He would never hate, slander or speak evil of another person.
  • He would never lust in his heart or mind, and not covet anything.
  • He would never make a false oath, and always be completely truthful.
  • He would let God defend his personal rights, and not take it upon himself to defend those rights.
  • He would always love his neighbors, and even his enemies.

 

Do you see? Do you get it? The Law demands, “Be perfect.” It must demand this because the Law testifies to God’s holiness and God’s holiness demands our perfection. We cannot, however, be perfect. That has been the entire point of the Sermon on the Mount thus far. You, on your own, cannot be perfect. However, you can, through the power of the Holy Spirit living in you, fulfill the law.

 

So many people get it wrong: they over emphasize the law or they over emphasize grace and liberty and miss the point of the Law, to point us to Christ. The Law shows us our sin and it must condemn for without that condemnation we would never seek a savior. The Law, beloved, is itself a Means of Grace because it is how God ordained us to seek a savior, in fleeing to Christ our sweet savior from Law’s damnation.

The Bible Train (Family Worship) 2/25-3/3

The Bible Train (Family Worship) 2/25-3/3

This week, the Bible Train will take us to Mt. Sinai (the Mountain of the Lord) where Moses will see the glory of YHWH. We will also see YHWH lay out His proscriptions for worship. We will also see the Lord defend His absolute holiness when Nadab and Abihu offered strange fire. We will also see the most important day of the year under the Old Covenant, Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). May this week’s readings fill you with awe and worship.

 

  • Sunday– Exodus 33:7-34:11 & Exodus 34:27-35
  • Monday–Exodus 35:30-36:7
  • Tuesday–Exodus 39:32-40:38
  • Wednesday–Leviticus 1:1-17
  • Thursday–Leviticus 8:1-36
  • Friday–Leviticus 10:1-20
  • Saturday–Leviticus 16:1-34

Discussion Questions:

  1. What prevents man from seeing the Lord face to face?
  2. What does the Tabernacle teach us about God?
  3. Why was the fire offered by Nadab and Abihu unacceptable?
  4. How does the Day of Atonement point forward to Christ and the Cross?

 

 

 

Adultery and Divorce: Sex Isn’t the Problem

Adultery and Divorce: Sex Isn’t the Problem

Text Matthew 5:27-32

Jesus continues to unmask the self-righteous externalism typified by the scribes and Pharisees by showing that the only righteousness acceptable to God is purity of heart. Without that purity, the outward life makes no difference. God’s divine evaluation takes place in the heart. He judges the source and origin of sin, not its manifestation or lack of manifestation. “As a person thinks within himself, so he is” (Prov. 23:7), and so he is judged by God (1 Sam. 16:7). You might ask yourself, why is there such an emphasis on the mind/will/emotions? The answer is simply this, all sin starts in the mind, will and emotions so this is where dealing with sin must begin. Nothing becomes the outward working of the flesh until is first germinates in the heart.

  1. You have heard that it was said to those of old: Now, Jesus deals with what they hadheard regarding the law of adultery. Of course, the teachers of the day taught that adultery itself was wrong. But they applied the law only to the actions, not to the heart. The whole point of the Sermon on the Mount is to deal with proper interpretation of the Law and the Prophets and, in its entirety, the Law and the Prophets deal with the heart.

 

 

  1. Whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart: Jesus explains that it is possible to commit adultery or murder in our heart – or mind, and this also is sin and prohibited by the command against adultery.

 

“It is important to understand that Jesus is not saying that the act of adultery and adultery in the heart are the same thing. More than a few people have been deceived on this point and say, “I’ve already committed adultery in my heart, so I may as well do it in practice.” The act of adultery is far worse than adultery in the heart. Jesus’ point is not to say they are the same things, but to say they are both sin, and both prohibited by the command against adultery. Some people only keep from adultery because they are afraid to get caught, and in their heart they commit adultery every day. It is good that they keep from the act of adultery, but it is bad that their heart is filled with adultery.” (Guzik)

At its root, I find adultery and divorce to be a contentment issue. We covet because have not learned to be content with what God has given us.  Everything we have comes from the hand of the Father (James 1:17) and in our lack of contentment we covet other people and things because we think we deserve more and better but if we stop and take an honest inventory of everything that we have been given by God, which by the way we do not deserve, the appropriate response is a heart overflowing with gratitude.

This principle applies to much more than men looking at women. It applies to just about anything we can covet with the eye or mind. “These are the most searching words concerning impurity that ever were uttered.” (Morgan)

In the end, there are really only 3 temptations that we face: lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life. Turn to 1 John Chapter 2 and let us consider verses 15-17. So what is lust, really? How does it relate to adultery and divorce?

 

Lust: noun 1. intense sexual desire or appetite. 2. uncontrolled or illicit sexual desire or appetite; lecherousness. 3. a passionate or overmastering desire or craving (usually

followed by for)

From John MacArthur

The philosophy of sexual hedonism is not new to our day. It was common in New Testament times, and Paul faced it full force in Corinth. His comment “Food is for the stomach, and the stomach is for food” (1 Cor. 6:13a) expressed the common Greek notion that biological functions are just biological functions and have no moral significance. It was a belief many of the Corinthian believers had reverted to, or had never given up, in order to justify their sexual misconduct. Apparently they were arguing, as do many hedonists today, that sex is simply a biological act, no different morally from eating, drinking, or sleeping. But Paul strongly refutes that idea by going on to say, “God will do away with both of them [that is, food and the stomach]. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord; and the Lord is for the body” (v. 13b). The body is more than biological as divine judgment will reveal. For Christians it is a member of Christ, a temple of the Holy Spirit, and belongs to the Lord rather than to us (vv. 15,19). It is therefore never to be used for any purpose that dishonors the God who made and indwells it. Christians should have but one response to sexual temptation—running away from it.

It is very hard to understate the case that we live in an incredibly sexualized society. Every kind of “pleasure” that you can imagine is available in moments. But those pleasures are a poison. Death awaits.

Our war against sin

“If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.”

 

  1. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out: Here Jesus uses a figure of speech, and did not speak literally. Sadly, some have taken it to be so and have mutilated themselves in mistaken efforts in the pursuit of holiness. For example, the famous early Christian, Origen castrated himself on the principle of this passage.
  2. The trouble with a literal interpretation is that it does not go far enough! Even if you did cut off your hand or gouge out your eye, you could still sin with your other hand or eye. When all those are gone, you can still sin with your mind.
  3. “Mutilation will not serve the purpose; it may prevent the outward act, but it will not extinguish desire.” (Bruce)
  4. It is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell: Jesus simply stressed the point that one must be willing to sacrifice to be obedient. If part of our life is given over to sin, we must be convinced that it is more profitable for that part our life to “die” rather than to condemn our whole life, but this is the one thing many are unwilling to do, and that is why they remain trapped in sin, or never come to Jesus. They never get beyond a vague wish to be better.
  5. “The salvation of our souls is to be preferred before all things, be they never so dear and precious to us; and that if men’s ordinary discretion teacheth them for the preservation of their bodies to cut off a particular member, which would necessarily endanger the whole body, it much more teacheth them to part with any thing which will prejudice the salvation of their souls.” (Poole)

The sinful flesh is not overcome easily. There is a reason why Jesus says that we must deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him. That’s a death sentence. Remember that the wage of sin is death. (Romans 6:23) and they will be paid. What we have to decide is whether we will die to self or whether we will experience eternal death.

The hyperbole that Jesus used is extreme and shocking and it has to be. We don’t take sin seriously enough. Even those among us who are most fastidious about pursuing holiness don’t take our sin seriously enough. How serious is sin? Consider this, God knows every thought you had yesterday and would have been perfectly justified in killing you in your sleep. It is His grace that keeps us alive.

 

(31-32) Jesus interprets the law concerning divorce.

 

“Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce. But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.”

 

  1. It has been said, “Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce”: In Jesus’ day, many people interpreted the Mosaic permission for divorce (Deuteronomy 24:1) as granting virtually any reason as grounds for divorce. Some rabbis taught this even extended to allowing a man to divorce his wife if she burnt his breakfast.

 

“Moses insisted upon ‘a writing of divorcement,’ that angry passions might have time to cool and that the separation, if it must come, might be performed with deliberation and legal formality. The requirement of a writing was to a certain degree a check upon an evil habit, which was so engrained in the people that to refuse it altogether would have been useless, and would only have created another crime.” (Spurgeon)

 

However, in Jesus’ day, this permission of Deuteronomy 24:1 had become an instrument of cruelty against wives. “The scribes busied themselves solely about getting the bill of separation into due legal form. They did nothing to restrain the unjust caprice of husbands; they rather opened a wider door to license.” (Bruce)

 

The two dominant schools of thought had emerged among the rabbis by the time of Jesus

 

  • School of Shammai: “Restricted the ‘some indecency’ ofDeuteronomy 24:1to refer only to a sexual misdemeanor authenticated by witnesses.”
  • School of Hillel: “Reputedly took it of any cause of complaint, even including burning the dinner.”
  1. Whoever divorces his wife for any reason except marital unfaithfulness: The issue of divorce revolved around a strict or loose interpretation of the worduncleanness in Deuteronomy 24:1. Those who wanted to make divorce easy had a loose interpretation. Jesus makes it plain that the idea of uncleanness is sexual immorality, not anything the wife might do to displease the husband.

 

  1. Sexual immorality“translates porneia, the root meaning of which is ‘fornication’, but it is used more widely, so that it could include premarital unchastity, subsequently discovered.” (France)
  2. The teaching of Jesus on marriage and divorce is further explained in Matthew 19, but here we see the intent of Jesus: getting back to the intent of the law, instead of allowing it to be used as easy permission for divorce.

This emphasis of Jesus on the permanency of marriage and the wrong of unjustified divorce went against the thinking of many in both the Jewish and the Gentile cultures. “In Greece we see a whole social system based on relationships outside marriage; we see that these relationships were accepted as natural and normal, and not in the least blameworthy.” Roman culture came to adopt this attitude towards marriage. (Barclay)

  1. Causes her to commit adultery: An illegitimate divorce gives place toadultery because God doesn’t recognize the divorce, and sees a new relationship as bigamous. It is possible for a person to have a divorce that is recognized by the state, but not by God. If that person goes on to marry someone else, God considers that relationship adultery because He sees them as still married.

 

I am frequently asked, what about an abusive spouse? I cannot find anything in Scripture which would require a spouse to stay in an abusive situation.

 

What about the spouse that wants to reconcile? In the case of a spouse who wants to reconcile, I would counsel thusly: If reconciliation is at all possible, it should be considered and attempted. Naturally, it will take time for trust to be re-earned but we should still work toward being reconciled.

 

All in all, we are laid bare. Any self righteousness is completely obliterated by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. We are naked and exposed as sinners. There is hope, though. Because of God’s grace, we have hope of overcoming our sin.

The Bible Train: Family Worship for 2/18-2/24

The Bible Train: Family Worship for 2/18-2/24

This week, the Bible Train takes us to the Sinai Peninsula where YHWH will give the Law and will set down the regulations for the Tabernacle, the House of Worship for the Children of Israel.

 

  • Sunday:  Exodus 18:1-27
  • Monday:  Exodus 19:1-20:26
  • Tuesday:  Exodus 23:20-24:18
  • Wednesday:  Exodus 26:1-37
  • Thursday: Exodus 28:1-43
  • Friday: Exodus 32:1-33:6
  • Saturday: Exodus 33:7-34:35

 

Discussion Questions:

 

  1. Why is the giving of the Law the most important event in the Old Testament?
  2. What is foreshadowed by the Tabernacle?
  3. Why was Moses right to be so angry with the Children of Israel for their idolatry with the calf of gold?
  4. We speak of the Lord as being holy; what does that mean?
The Bible Train (Family Readings) 2/11-2/17

The Bible Train (Family Readings) 2/11-2/17

This week, in our guided tour of the Bible, we have some action packed readings. The showdown between YHWH and the false gods of Egypt comes to an end and YHWH is victorious. Following, the Host of Israel leave Egypt and begin their journey to the Promised Land. (Special Note: the journey to the Promised Land is a picture, or shadow, of what we as Christians endure as we journey to the ultimate Land of Promise, Heaven)

 

  • Sunday– Exodus 8:20-9:35
  • Monday–Exodus 10:1-11:10
  • Tuesday–Exodus 12:1-51
  • Wednesday–Exodus 13:17-14:31
  • Thursday–Exodus 16:1-36
  • Friday–Psalm 90
  • Saturday–Exodus 17:1-16

 

Discussion Questions

  1. What are we able to learn about God’s characteristics from the exultant prayer of Moses?
  2. God revealed Himself to Abraham as YHWH Jireh, the God Who Provides. What do we learn of God’s provision with the manna and quail experience?
  3. Another of God’s names is YHWH Shua, the God Who Saves (redeems). What do we learn about God as a redeemer in the Red Sea experience?

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