One of the saddest scriptures in the life of Jesus is recorded in Matt 23:37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” Here Jesus is declaring His heart of wanting to minister to the people, to be close to them, yet the people were not willing to receive Him.
In looking at the Jewish people they seemed willing to follow Jesus, they eagerly received from Him when He fed the multitudes (Jn. 6:10), they sat for hours loving the depth of His teaching (Matt. 5:1,2) and they followed Him as He healed all that were sick or oppressed (Matt 12:15). Yet in spite of the fact that the people followed Jesus, they actually didn’t really follow Him, they were only interested in the outward side of their lives. When it got to the place where commitment, true relationship and trust were involved, the people would not respond. They received Jesus as a provider for their needs but not as their Lord, Saviour, or one who was close to Him.
Considering our walk with Jesus, do we see ourselves gather to Him because He is our companion, whom we love to be close to, or as our provider? Lord Jesus, may we always respond to Your desire to gather us unto Yourself; may our hearts also long to receive You and to be near to You.
With amazement we can look at the gifted people around us. There are individuals who are gifted with technology, music, sports, communication, creative work, the arts or good looks. In envy we way wish that we too could have our life “all together” like they do. Or we may look upon the money, possessions and honor that an individual possess and are amazed and desirous of what they have. We think of how we would love to have those same gifts, abilities and resources, how much better our life would be.
In Matthew 23:16-19 Jesus reprimands the cultural perspective of the day because, they were focusing upon the wrong thing. “You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.’ You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred?” (NIV)
The Jews were focusing upon gifts which people brought before the Lord, thinking that in some way the enormity or beauty of the gift that a person offered to God would validate a promise or commitment that was made to God. It was like a guarantee similar to saying “if I don’t fulfill my promise I’ll do …”. The more one offers the more likely they were to fulfill their commitment. What does Jesus mean when He says “Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred?”
Perhaps we need to reassess what we focus upon. Jesus was stating that it was the temple or the altar that made the gift special. In the same way it is God the creator and provider of every good gift (James 1:17) who is important. The gifts and abilities that people have are nothing compared to the great God who gave them to the individual. When we see what people have or what they can do, we need to see beyond the gift and see the greatness of God who empowered that individual to function as they do. We may not appreciate how everyone uses the gifts that God has given them, but we do need to appreciate the giver of all gifts.
Lord help me not to envy others, but rather to appreciate how You have worked in them, help me to see and enjoy You as the great gifted one.
With excitement a young couple sat in my office sharing their plans for marriage. As they talked about their love for each other and their plans for the wedding day, I asked about future goals. Where would they live? What jobs or vocational training had they obtained? How much would it cost for them to live as a couple? With a somewhat shocked look on their faces they both proclaimed, “We’re not worried because we know that God will provide”. It was hard to adjust this youthful confidence as I tried to bring the couple to reality. Yes, God will provide but there are responsibilities on our part also.
In Matthew 25:1-13 Jesus shares how the kingdom of heaven is like ten young ladies who are invited to an evening wedding celebration. Five looked ahead, determined how best to prepare for possible delays or challenges and they brought extra oil for their lamps, the other five used no foresight or planning and just “showed up”. Of course you know the story, the five who planned ahead, were prepared when the celebrations started, the other five were left behind as they scrambled to obtain what they should have procured beforehand. Looking forward and planning ahead are attributes which we as Christians need to have as daily characteristics of our life. We are challenged not to worry about the future (Matt. 6:25-34) but planning ahead and preparation is essential. The scriptures exhort us to:
- Study – i.e. diligently prepare now, for times in the future when that information will be needed (2 Timothy 2:15).
- Work – i.e. apply ourselves in appropriate means of earning our living so that we will be able to eat food later (2 Thess. 3:10).
- Count the cost – i.e. plan ahead concerning our having appropriate resources before we make or commit ourselves to projects (Lk. 14:28-32).
These activities of planning and preparing are not to cause us to be self-sufficient so that we are independent of our Lord or others. They are our part of the process whereby we do what we are able to do and then we wisely rest in our Lord for what is His part of the process.
All through the scriptures seemingly insignificant details are provided in the accounts, not because we need to know the details but because the writers recorded the way it was. These small details help to prove the authenticity of the accounts. If the scriptural accounts had been made up, then these trivial details would not have been provided.
Repeatedly critics have ridiculed the existence of Sodom and Gomorrah and the three cities of Admah, Zeboiim and Bela (Zoar), as mentioned in Genesis 14:2, because no archeological evidence could be found for the cities. They questioned whether there ever was an historical person called Abraham or that Moses couldn’t have written the Pentateuch because the critics felt that writing was not in widespread use during the time of Moses, if it existed at all during that time. These details in the scripture were used to discredit the authenticity of the scripture.
However in 1974 over 1800 clay tablets were found near the present city of Aleppo. These tablets known as the Ebla Tablets:
- Dated between 2500 BC – 2250 BC and made references to Abraham and the cities of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim and Bela (Zoar). These cities were listed in the same order as in the scriptures because they were a part of a common trade route at that time. The cities were destroyed around 19th century BC while Moses wrote 400 years later.
- Mentioned Haran and Ur, from which Abram left with his father Terah.
- Clearly showed that formal writing had taken place well before Moses the time when Moses was recording the Pentateuch.
Some of these cities that were not even important parts of the formation of the Jewish nation, yet Moses talked about them because that is what happened and he faithfully transmitted the accounts as inspired by God even though the cities had long since been destroyed. The Biblical details of Genesis when mixed with modern archeology helped to authenticate of the Book of Genesis.
In a personal application, God is working in the details. There are many aspects of our lives that we may not understand, yet, just as our Lord was working in the details in the past, He has a purpose in how and why He works in your life now. Be encouraged.