Elijah Will Come

Elijah Will Come (and restore all things)

Matthew has taken great care to give his readers enough clues that they will identify John the Baptist as Elijah. However, we must remember that as this was unfolding in real time, not everyone was making that connection. Just like with Jesus being the Son of God, not everyone believed the evidence in front of them. The evidence was present to identify John as Elijah, but many refused to believe primarily because they refused to repent of their sins. Matthew has used other titles for John which include The Voice in the Wilderness and My Messenger.

In case you haven’t guessed, this is the next installment in The Tax Collector’s Guide to Fulfilled Prophecy. I am looking at prophecies or references to the law and prophets to see how Matthew records the fulfillment. Between Matthew 16:13 and 17:13 there are three clear references to Elijah the prophet. The first is a case of mistaken identity in 16:14. The second is Elijah himself appearing in glory (see Luke 9:31) with Jesus in the holy mount (II Peter 1:16-18). The third is the discussion between Jesus and three disciples concerning Elijah, how events concerning Elijah will be fulfilled, and the identification of John the Baptist as Elijah. While we do not have a clear quotation from the old testament, we have plenty of imagery from which to draw, all centered around the person of Elijah.

A Case of Mistaken Identity

Jesus asks the disciples what the crowds are saying about Him. Who are people saying that I am? The first wrong guess that Matthew records is John the Baptist. At this point, remember that John has been beheaded by Herod, see Matthew 14:1-14. Matthew writes that Herod is confused and perhaps haunted by his conscience concerning John. He knows he put to death an innocent man. Jesus had been known for some time before this, but not until after the death of John the Baptist did Herod hear of His fame. Because many did not hear of Jesus and His power until after John had died, they did not understand that their ministries overlapped to some degree, see especially John 3:22-24. For some it seemed like John was struck down, and someone more powerful rose to take his place. Surely this was John the Baptist, innocent man put to death, rising from the grave to continue his prophetic ministry. Sorry, guess again.

The second wrong guess is Elijah, the one whom we are discussing. Did people believe Jesus was literally Elijah, or someone carrying on in the spirit and power of Elijah? For the first answer, many people believe that Elijah never died, and therefore that makes him a candidate to come back from heaven. I don’t know why that is appealing to some people, but it is. I myself do not believe that Elijah was carried into the presence of God in II Kings 2, but rather the chariot and horses of fire separated Elijah and Elisha, and the whirlwind carried Elijah into the air, or heaven. There are different aspects of heaven, one of the primary aspects is simply the sky above us, see Genesis 1:6-8 which shows water above (clouds) and water below (sea) and what is in between those two is heaven. Remember that 50 of the sons of the prophets witnessed this entire event, see II Kings 2:7. After witnessing the event they begged Elisha to allow a search party to be sent out. Now where would they search for him if he had went straight up? Instead, it seems that Elijah went across the sky to another location allowing Elisha to carry on in the spirit and power of Elijah. Hence, the sons of the prophets went in the direction that Elijah was carried but could not find him. The primary reason I believe Elijah continued to live on earth is because of II Chronicles 21:11-15. It can be confusing because there are two King Jehorams (Joram for short). From II Kings 3:4-14 it is clear that Elisha had received Elijah’s mantle sometime during the reign of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah (southern kingdom). Now years later, after the death of Jehoshaphat, during the reign of his son Jehoram, a letter from the prophet Elijah arrives rebuking him for his sin. So Elisha saw Jehoshaphat face to face in his role as prophet, but after Jehoshaphat is dead, Elijah is still alive, and still a prophet to some extent. So my belief on this is that Elijah was carried to another location to live out his days until he died while Elisha bore the responsibility of prophet of God to the people of Israel.

We know that Elisha carried on in the spirit and power of Elijah without actually becoming Elijah. We also know that John the Baptist went forward in the spirit and power of Elijah without constituting Elijah returning from the dead, or from heaven, whichever you prefer. Some people could have believed, “It is Elijah that has literally come back. It is his actual body.” Others may have believed, “The mantle of Elijah has come to rest upon Jesus of Nazareth. He is going forth in the spirit and power of Elijah.” The second option seems more likely. So when we read, “I will send you Elijah the prophet,” the general understanding could have been a continuation of the mantle that faded when Elisha passed away. Elijah had led the people in revival to the LORD, but it was not welcomed by Jezebel. This next appearance of a great prophet in the spirit and power of Elijah would be in anticipation of the Day of the LORD and His wrath, see Malachi 3-4. Whether the people believed that Jesus was literally Elijah or a fulfillment of the prophecy going forth in the spirit and power of Elijah, either way, their guess was wrong.

The third wrong guess is the prophet Jeremiah. I have written about this before concerning a different matter. Jeremiah was the last prophet at Jerusalem before the 70 year captivity. Two different sources name him as the one responsible for hiding the ark of the covenant. I will include the quote from II Maccabees in a comment below. It is possible that some Jews expected someone to reveal the location of the ark of the covenant in anticipation of the coming of the Messiah or the restoration of temple worship. Perhaps it would be Jeremiah returning from the grave or perhaps someone in the spirit of Jeremiah revealing the location of the ark as a sign to the people of Israel. It is difficult for us to know why Jeremiah is included in the list when others are absent, but Matthew includes him so we speculate. Whatever the case, it’s another wrong guess. It’s possible that the way Matthew words the statement that “Jeremiah or one of the prophets” is a third wrong guess and not a third and fourth wrong guess. Other prophets are not named specifically, so we cannot deal with them individually. Whatever the case, they were all wrong. Jesus is the Son of the living God, the Messiah, as Simon Peter said. The Father had revealed this truth to him and he clung to it.

Elijah Appears in Glory

The transfiguration is difficult for me to understand. I know what happened because I have read this story since I was a child. However, I don’t quite understand the why of what happened. The best that I can write here is that God the Father and Jesus wanted a very limited group to witness the glory of God revealed in Jesus Christ. Jesus had emptied Himself of His Godhead and took the form of a servant. Yet He retained His identity as the Son of God. Peter, James, and John were chosen to witness this event in order that they might communicate to the church after the resurrection that He had been the Son of God all along. Jesus did not become the Son of God when He rose from the dead. He had been the Son of God all along and they had seen and heard the proof. John would write about it in I John 1:1-2, John 1:14, and he identified Jesus as the Lord (the King, the LORD of hosts) enthroned in Isaiah 6, see John 12:37-42. Peter also wrote specifically about this event in II Peter 1:16-19. He states that they were eyewitnesses of His majesty, but instead of dwelling on his experience, he uses his experience to point people to the word of God. It confirms the prophetic word, to which we should pay attention, like a light shining in a dark place. In short, the transfiguration is yet another testimony that Jesus is the Son of God.

I believe there is something more to this event. It has to do with the appearance of Moses and Elijah. Why did these two men appear with Jesus in glory? While Jesus is God, we should also remember that Jesus is a man. He had told the disciples about His death, but Peter vehemently denied this would happen. They didn’t understand. Even though Jesus is the Son of God, as a human He may have needed someone to talk to about this death sentence that He must face. Here Luke helps us out by telling us that the initial reason that Jesus took them into the mountain was to pray. As Jesus prayed, the disciples fell asleep. When the disciples woke up, they found that Jesus had been transformed, shining like the sun. He was talking to Moses and Elijah about His own death which was about to be accomplished at Jerusalem, see Luke 9:28-32 for these details. We don’t know how long Jesus was talking with Moses and Elijah before the disciples woke up. Moses and Elijah had both experienced the rejection of the nation of Israel. Now Jesus was able to talk about His rejection at the hands of His own people to two men in glory who could identify somewhat.

Why Moses and Elijah? Why not Enoch and David? Or Abel and Zechariah the son of Jehoiada? I have no definitive answer. Moses is representative of the law. He received the law from God on Mount Sinai. He wrote the law, that is, the first five books of the Bible, and read them to the nation of Israel. Elijah is representative of the prophets. Samuel was the last judge and first prophet and then established the school of the prophets. It is this school of prophets that Elijah is seen with, in my opinion. In the midst of horrendous backsliding, Elijah appears out of nowhere and holds back the rain from heaven with his constant intercessory prayer. Elisha later takes up that same mantle. All the prophets which have books to their name prophesied after the downfall of the house of Ahab which was prophesied by Elijah. Elijah stands as the one who brought revival through the judgment of the LORD. It was his boldness that gave them boldness. Many times the old testament scriptures are referred to as the law and the prophets, see Matthew’s use of the terminology in 7:12, 11:13, and 22:40. Moses and Elijah represent in some way the law and the prophets.

Moses and Elijah also had face-to-face type encounters with the living God which resulted in some type of transformation. The story of Moses is probably more well known. In Exodus 33 the children of Israel had been committing idolatry and fornication. This resulted in God’s presence being removed from them, see Exodus 33:7-8 where it states that the tabernacle was pitched well outside the camp. Moses had to go outside the camp to the tabernacle in order to intercede for the people. Notice that this was not the holy tabernacle yet, but a tabernacle of the congregation. Moses talks with God face to face as unto a friend, see 33:11. He asks to see God’s glory, but the LORD states that Moses will only be allowed a glimpse, see 33:18-23. The result is that the face of Moses shone and he was required to put on a veil while talking with the children of Israel, see 34:29-35. During that time on Mount Sinai, Moses went 40 days and nights without food or water, see Exodus 34:28-29.

Elijah also went 40 days and nights without food and met God on Mount Horeb, which is another name for Mount Sinai, see Exodus 3:1, 12, 4:27, 33:6, Deuteronomy 5:2, 9:8, I Kings 8:9, Psalm 106:19, Malachi 4:4. In I Kings 19:8-18 we read the story of how Elijah met with God wrapping his face in a mantle. The wind, the earthquake, and the fire did not have the presence of the LORD. Instead, the LORD chose to speak to Elijah in a still, small voice, like you would expect from a face to face encounter. When Moses had his encounter, the LORD proclaimed His very character to Him, see Exodus 34:5-8. Elijah also hears the very character of God in keeping His covenant with the nation of Israel by choosing a successor for Elijah, choosing the next king of Israel, and choosing the next king of Syria. But most importantly, God determines to preserve a remnant for Himself, see Romans 11:2-5. This all reveals the character of God as Elijah speaks with Him face to face.

The final aspect of this appearance of Elijah (and Moses) that may shed some light as to why they appeared is the mention of the three tabernacles by Peter. Most preachers that I have heard and some commentaries try to make it sound as if Moses, Elijah, and Jesus were to be the objects of worship in Peter’s mind. It’s difficult to say because we don’t know why Peter said what he said other than Mark stating that he didn’t know what to say, see Mark 9:6. However, after reading a couple of better commentaries and meditating on this passage, I don’t believe that is the case. The tabernacle was associated primarily with Moses rather than the other two. The tabernacle was a place where God was worshiped while someone else interceded for others on their behalf. Notice Psalm 99:6-8 and how it names Moses as a priest who interceded for others. This happened at the tabernacle. Elijah also had an intercessory ministry of prayer, see James 5:17-18. So in Peter’s mind, he was saying that erecting three tabernacles on this Holy Mount would allow three ministries of intercession to be occurring on behalf of the nation of Israel. After all, if Moses and Elijah are now back, what else would they be doing? The disciples had no knowledge that they would be gone shortly. The voice of God the Father seems to be a direct response to Peter. “This is my Son. Listen to Him.” His ministry of intercession is the ultimate one. Jesus would talk with Moses and Elijah, but ultimately the voice of Jesus is to be adhered to.

Elijah-Talk by Jesus

Here is the section of this post that will show us how prophecy works. On the way down from the mountain, Jesus commands them not to tell anyone what they saw in the vision until after the Son of man be risen again from the dead. They don’t understand about the resurrection, but they do ask about Elijah since it is still fresh in their minds. Apparently, the disciples had conversation with some of the scribes who insisted that before the Messiah could come, Elijah the prophet must first come. It may have been a common objection from the scribes. “He can’t be the Messiah because the scriptures clearly state that Elijah must first come.” Before we go any further, let’s look at the prophecy to which the scribes were referring.

Malachi 4:5-6

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.

The message of Malachi is relatively simple. The nation of Israel was sinful. They need to repent because the LORD wants to bless Israel and make His name great among all nations, see Malachi 1:5, 11, 14, 3:12. A fiery judgment is coming and who can endure it? See 3:2-3, 4:1. Now here to close his book, he foretells that Elijah would be sent prior to the Day of the LORD to preserve a godly remnant to prevent utter destruction. Families would be restored so that when the Messiah comes they could be the instrument of God’s blessing upon the nations rather than suffer His judgment.

The disciples ask, “Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” They are curious, like we are, as to the timing of things. The response of Jesus defies timing as we know it. Jesus gives an answer that is both past and future. It is quite easy to identify which portion is past and which is future. But this isn’t the way we normally talk, or is it? Let’s look at the first statement in the answer of Jesus.

He answered, “Elijah does come, and he will restore all things.”

If we look solely at this statement, we would come away with the impression that Jesus spoke of Elijah only in the futuristic sense from His point in time. Elijah, according to Jesus, is yet to come. Elijah will come and restore all things. It will happen just like Malachi foretold and just like the scribes are insisting. Elijah himself, or someone in the spirit and power of Elijah [carrying his mantle if you will] will turn the heart of fathers and children to each other bringing about a restoration. This will be before the fiery judgment known as the Day of the LORD. Count on it. It will happen.

However, Jesus has a following statement.

“But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands.”

If we look solely at this statement we would think that Jesus spoke of Elijah strictly in terms of the past. Elijah has already come. They were unwilling to recognize him, although all of the information was right in front of them. They could not bring themselves to repent, so they had to insist that his authority was not from God. Gabriel had told the godly priest Zechariah that John would go before the LORD in the spirit and power of Elijah, see Luke 1:17. John dressed like Elijah, see Matthew 3:4 with II Kings 1:7-8. He ate simply like Elijah, see I Kings 17:6. He was in the wilderness like Elijah, see Matthew 3:1, Luke 1:80, I Kings 18:10-12. And, most importantly of all, he preached a fiery judgment just like Malachi said would follow Elijah’s coming, see Matthew 3:10-12, Malachi 4:1.

This is how prophecy works. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Sometimes passages are talking about past and future events in the same context. Sometimes they are talking about the same person, but two different people at the same time. Sometimes it seems like an event is just on the horizon, but many other events must chronologically occur before it will arrive. Look at Philippians 2:8-11. Jesus humbled Himself with death and is highly exalted. Our suffering Savior and exalted King are described in the same context. It’s not that Paul felt it would all happen at once. He knew of the present time in between Christ‘s coming in humility and His coming in glory. The prophets of old wrote in similar fashion. Jesus spoke of Elijah in the past and future at the same time. He spoke of John being Elijah and someone else in the future being Elijah after having just talked to actual Elijah. John the Baptist preached a message of repentance in light of a fiery judgment as if it were impending over the nation of Israel in his generation and almost 2000 years later that fiery judgment is still future.

We don’t need to get bent out of shape about the way this works. We should just accept it. Prophecy is capable of many things. The minute we start making rules about the way prophecy works, we will find some place in scripture that breaks our rule. Context will determine what is past and what is future, and sometimes it will be both.

The sobering part of this passage is that at this point in time, John the Baptist’s head had been chopped off. Jesus was here predicting a similar fate for Himself. He also told His disciples that a disciple is never above their teacher, see Matthew 10:24-25. Righteous people suffer at the hands of sinful people. Yes, Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. But that doesn’t mean that we escape the effects of this sinful world.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

See the following links:

The Voice in the Wilderness

I Will Send My Messenger

The Reappearance of the Prophet Jeremiah



Posted in Bible, Eschatology, Fulfilled Prophecy, Prophecy, The Gospel of Matthew | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Is Wealth Redistribution Scriptural?

Do you think the following point of view is scriptural?

If there is someone in your town who is poor, you are to give to them whatever they need. Do not have a hard heart toward your brother. Don’t hold your hand back from giving to him. You are to allow him to borrow what he needs so that the LORD can be generous with you. Any time your neighbor needs to borrow something, open your hand wide and lend him what he wants.

Every seven years, everyone who has someone who in indebted to them must release them from that debt. All creditors must not require what is owed to them in that seventh year. There is to be a remission of all debts to those that live in the same land. Foreigners may be charged what they have borrowed, but those who live among you must be released from all that they have borrowed. If you carefully listen to the LORD and follow what He commands in this, He will bless you so that you will lend to many nations and reign over them. This release is from God and you must obey Him in order to be blessed.

Always lend to whomever is in need. If it is the sixth year, and the next year is the year of release, do not have a worthless thought in your mind saying to yourself, “If I loan to my brother, I will never see this money again because next year is the year of release.” No matter what year it is, you must be generous with your neighbor. Don’t be evil to your brother and deny him the things that he needs because he may cry out to God against you and it will be counted as a sin unto you. You must give cheerfully and then the LORD your God will bless you in everything that you do. There will always be poor people among you and that is why I am commanding you to open your hand freely to the needy.

Those who know the scriptures know that the above is almost word for word out of Deuteronomy 15. I have rearranged the order, but the basic premise is completely scriptural. In light of the above teaching of God’s word, how are we to live our lives in relation to those around us who do not have enough?

There are terms being thrown around disparagingly, many times by Christians, about certain viewpoints. Socialism, Communism, Wealth Redistribution, Hand-Outs, Welfare, Entitlement, Free Health Care, and I got all these from my Christian friends on Facebook. The viewpoint expressed by my Christian friends is something to the effect of: “I worked for my money so why would I give it to someone who doesn’t work?” “Give them someone else’s money and they will vote for you.” Or, my favorite, “Look at how much all that FREE stuff costs.”

So I find myself in a quandary. I see that God’s word says to give to the poor. The act of giving takes place with no strings attached. I give freely because they are in need, and believe me, there are people in true need. I cannot discriminate based on whether or not people have looked for a job, passed a drug test, been irresponsible with money in the past, are living sinful lives, vote a certain way, live in a certain part of town, etc. I could loan them the money, but ultimately I will have to relinquish any right that I have to collect the money. It just seems simpler to give it and not expect anything in return from them, only that God will be faithful to provide for them through me. On the other hand, I have all of my Christian friends posting these cute little sayings on Facebook about, well, see my above list.

This may not be a politically correct post, but here is the way I see this whole matter. I don’t get bent out of shape when I hear about how a political party or a presidential candidate wants to give money to the poor. That is a part of my duty as a Christian. Part of what God blesses me with is commanded by God to go to the poor, see also Deuteronomy 24:19-21. I don’t see why rich people need to hoard their wealth as it creates poor economic conditions. I’m not rich, but I’m not poor either. I have enough money for food, clothes, shelter, and money left over to have a couple of hobbies. There is money enough for me to intentionally give to the poor as long as I set it aside ahead of time. When I get my paycheck, my church, and a couple of other ministries get their money first. Then what is leftover goes to meet my needs, then after that my wants. My church gives to those in need and one of the ministries that I support is specifically for the needy.

This is something that I have been doing for quite some time. God has blessed me since my decision to do this. When I began giving to my church, it didn’t look like I could afford it. God blessed me with a great job with great benefits after I made that decision. I decided at different points in my life to give more and to additional ministries. I also am generous with family members in need. I’m not saying I say yes to every request, but to quite a few of them. All these things are God’s resources and are His to use however He wants. Yes, I use discretion and don’t just give money to every need that pops up.

It troubles me when people who are Christians are posting things from a political viewpoint that almost seems to supersede the Christian viewpoint. Yes, we should be responsible with our money and not throw it away. But Deuteronomy teaches us that giving to the poor is definitely not throwing our money away, but being obedient to God. It’s almost like an investment if you read the chapter in full. We are generous with those around us who are in need, and God is generous with us. How generous do you want God to be with you? Is that reflected in how generous you are with others? Think about it.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman


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Isaiah Prophesied of You

Isaiah Prophesied of You

Their heart is far from Me

Matthew 15:1-20 brings us the next installment in The Tax Collector’s Guide to Fulfilled Prophecy. This is a little bit different than some of the other passages because the words “fulfilled prophecy” are not there. Rather, Jesus points out the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and states, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you…” Jesus said that Isaiah prophesied (foretold?) of the generation to whom Jesus was speaking. This brings up the questions, “How does prophecy work?” and “Why did Jesus quote Isaiah 29:13?” But before we go any further, let’s look at the passage in question.

Matthew 15:1-20 is laid out in story form but Mark’s version of the story in Mark 7:1-23 has the rare occasion when Mark gives more details than Matthew. I recommend reading Mark in this instance as he lists what the traditions of the Pharisees are and even uses the term “Corban” and explains it. I will follow Matthew as the text is essentially the same with just a slight difference in order. I will not post the entire passage as it is quite lengthy.

The Pharisees from Jerusalem are again finding fault with the disciples of Jesus, see Matthew 12:2. Cross referencing Luke 5:17 with Matthew 9:2 shows that the Pharisees from Jerusalem had been closely watching Jesus for all this time. The fault that they find this time is not with the law but with a tradition. The disciples had no religious training and it seems like they were just common folk like fishermen, tax collectors, etc. The Pharisees had all been trained to ceremonially wash their hands before eating. The disciples obviously weren’t and the Pharisees ask why they “transgress” this tradition. Their use of the word transgress makes it sound like a sin. Jesus takes the word transgress and turns the situation completely around this time showing how they transgress the commandment of God with a tradition. Note that this is a bad word, see Romans 5:14 for the word transgression.

Let’s look at the tradition of the Pharisees first. At any point in time, someone could declare that their wealth was “Corban”, or a gift to God, or dedicated to the temple, note the use of this word in Matthew 27:6. However, they did not necessarily have to give their wealth to the temple at that time. It was dedicated to God, but the owner could continue to use their wealth until some later point in time. The issue would arise when someone’s father or mother would be in need. A wealthy individual would be expected to care for their ailing parent. However, if the person with the wealth did not want to use their goods to help their father or mother, all they had to do was say that their wealth was “Corban”. “Sorry father, I would love to help you but all of my goods are Corban and therefore they cannot profit you in any way.” So the ailing, aged father that had provided for his son for most of his life would be turned away.

Jesus quotes two separate commandments, each one being located in two different places. The first, “Honor your father and mother”, is from the ten commandments and is located in Exodus 20:12, Deuteronomy 5:16. The second is the death penalty for dishonoring father or mother and is found in Exodus 21:17, Leviticus 20:9. The fact that Jesus quoted the death penalty shows that he was being completely serious in His response to the Pharisees. In essence Jesus is saying, “You have a tradition which dishonors your father and mother and you should be put to death for it!” The command to honor father and mother was nullified by this tradition and yet the Pharisees are chastising the disciples for transgressing a tradition which cannot be found in the scriptures. Now that’s hypocrisy. This very vividly describes how the Pharisees were play-acting that they worshiped God. It should come as no surprise that Jesus then addresses them as hypocrites.

You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:
“This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”

I wonder how shocked the Pharisees were when Jesus said, “Isaiah prophesied of you.” Let’s skip over looking at the context of Isaiah 29 for now and finish the passage. Jesus turns to the crowds and publicly denounces the Pharisees in front of all of them. He does it by way of a parable that some may not have understood. The accusation according to Mark was that the disciples hands were defiled when they ate. So Jesus is responding to that accusation by stating that something going into the mouth of a man does not defile him but what comes out from his mouth defiles him. The disciples are surprised that Jesus offended the Pharisees so boldly. They are referring to the rebuke at this point. The response of Jesus is to let them alone. Any plant that is not planted by “My heavenly Father” shall be rooted up. It is these plants that are not planted by the Father that Jesus states are blind leaders of the blind. So there is no categorical statement here that all Pharisees are blind, only those that are not planted by the Father. There are hints throughout the gospels that some may have been close to understanding some basic spiritual truths. Peter asks for an explanation of the parable which Jesus then gives. Basically, defilement is a matter of a sinful heart not dirty hands.

Let’s turn back to this issue of blindness. In Matthew 13:14-15 Jesus had made a point concerning the blindness of the nation of Israel by quoting from Isaiah 6. Matthew also made a statement in Matthew 13:34-35 concerning the parables which was a statement concerning the blindness of Israel. Now here, Matthew includes another statement of Jesus which Mark does not include. Luke makes a similar statement in Luke 6:39, but it was clearly on another occasion. Here Matthew includes this statement of the blind leading the blind in direct reference to the Pharisees. I cannot find this anywhere else in the gospels. The Pharisees were supposed to be the spiritual leaders in Israel and they were spiritually blind.

I have read commentaries on how Matthew’s gospel is a Jewish gospel, or at least it has a Jewish tone to it. What so many fail to realize is that Matthew’s gospel is a diatribe against the nation of Israel. Here is the Messiah standing in front of them and they cannot “see” Him. They see someone who is a lawbreaker, because He breaks their man-made traditions. Matthew the Tax Collector had nothing to lose. He was already considered an outcast by society and the Pharisees in particular. Now here he is in the inner circle of the Kingdom of Heaven pointing out the spiritual blindness of the religious elite of the day. Matthew includes the quote from Jesus that the Pharisees are blind leaders of the blind, both falling into the ditch. His gospel is arranged in such a way as to highlight the spiritual blindness of the nation of Israel in the face of incredible revelation from heaven.

Now let’s turn to the real genius of the passage, that is, by examining the original context of the quote in question. Isaiah 29 is part of a longer complex prophecy. There is, however, a portion that can be separated and examined without taking it out of context. Isaiah 29:9-14 includes the portion that is quoted (being verse 13) as the prophecy focuses on the blindness of the nation of Israel. That is not coincidence. Here is the passage in the ESV.

Astonish yourselves and be astonished;
Blind yourselves and be blind!
Be drunk, but not with wine;
Stagger, but not with strong drink!
For the LORD has poured out upon you a spirit of deep sleep,
And has closed your eyes (the prophets),
And covered your heads (the seers).

And the vision of all this has become to you like the words of a book that is sealed. When men give it to one who can read, saying, “Read this,” he says, “I cannot, for it is sealed.” And when they give the book to one who cannot read, saying, “Read this,” he says, “I cannot read.”

And the Lord said:
“Because this people draw near with their mouth
And honor me with their lips,
While their hearts are far from me,
And their fear of me is a commandment taught by men,
Therefore, behold, I will again
Do wonderful things with this people,
With wonder upon wonder;
And the wisdom of their wise men shall perish,
And the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden.”

The context here is so fitting. The spiritual blindness of the leaders is what caused them honor God with their mouths while their hearts were far from Him. It opens highlighting the spiritual blindness, the spiritual drunkenness, and the spiritual sleep as being the condition of those that should have been most aware of God’s agenda. The prophets and seers could no longer even read the vision of prophecy.

No other nation had God’s prophets prophesying in their midst. Right there in the nation of Israel they had every advantage to hear God’s word and repent. Yet they failed to repent. Therefore God poured out upon them a spirit of deep sleep. The spiritual leaders (for the most part) kept talking when they had nothing to say. The nation of Israel, specifically the spiritual leaders, would honor God with their words while their hearts were far away from Him due to their spiritual blindness. These leaders who were supposed to have insight and light from God were really blind, not knowing anything. It was the blind leading the blind, if you will.

The true meaning of the words of God could no longer be discerned. The book would be handed to the one who should be able to expound upon its meaning, and they can’t even read it. But that did not stop them from talking. They continued by teaching their own commandments. “Their fear of me is a commandment taught by men.” Isaiah had an audience that deserved to hear this admonishment. Remember that there were many prophets in his day, but most of them were false. However, this rebuke is so fitting for the Pharisees to whom Jesus was preaching. They also had not repented. They were spiritually blind, spiritually drunk, and spiritually asleep. The leaders of the nation of Israel and the nation itself was in a state of blindness. Note that Paul’s quotation of Isaiah 29:10 in Romans 11:8 shows the exact same context, the spiritual blindness of the nation of Israel.

How does prophecy work? Prophecy is capable of coming alive and being relevant for multiple generations. Some prophecies may apply to only one generation, but the general principles found therein will be applicable to generation after generation. It would not surprise me if a true prophet of God were to arise in the nation of Israel today and quote these very words to them. The nation of Israel is still spiritually blind to their Messiah, their Christ. A remnant has believed on him, but the rest remain in unbelief.

I have two thoughts to close this post. First, Isaiah 29:14 gives hope to the people of Israel. Even in the face of their blindness, God intends to work a wonder with this very people. These blind Israelites are the ones that God will use. He says, “I will again do wonderful things with this people.” Later in Isaiah 29:18 He says, “The deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see.” This condition of spiritual blindness is temporary. There are prophecies yet unfulfilled for the nation of Israel.

Second, I want to point out a slight word change from the original prophecy in Isaiah to the way Jesus quotes it. This is not something I will be dogmatic about, but I think it is worth noting. In Isaiah 29:13, Isaiah uses the term “their hearts are far from me.” Jesus has it slightly different using the singular “their heart is far from me.” Might I suggest that Jesus changed the word hearts to heart because he was addressing the nation of Israel as having one heart. Isaiah was speaking about individuals with hearts that were far from God, but Jesus was speaking about one nation, the nation of Israel, whose collective heart was [and is] far from God. In light of my post at this link here which focuses on the spiritual blindness of the nation of Israel in Matthew 13, and the context here in Matthew 15, I think this is worth considering. I’m going to close with the verse that I think is a lynchpin to Matthew’s presentation which can only be found in his gospel. Here it is in the KJV.

Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?

Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

P.S. Is your heart far from God? Do you understand God’s will for your life? Do you feel spiritually blind? Jesus Christ is the answer for all of this. He brings us to God. He reveals God to us. He opens our blind eyes.


Posted in Bible, Eschatology, Fulfilled Prophecy, Prophecy, The Gospel of Matthew | Leave a comment

Secret Things

Secret things: Seeing but they don’t see, and hearing but they don’t hear

Matthew 13

The book of Matthew contains the most complete account of the parables of the kingdom of heaven in the gospels. In Matthew 13, we have seven of those parables grouped together. The number seven is a scripturally significant number, so there must be some reason that the Tax Collector has for this group of seven. These are not the only parables of the kingdom of heaven, as I can count at least five others just in the book of Matthew, see #1- Matthew 18:23-35, #2- Matthew 20:1-16, #3- Matthew 22:1-14, #4- Matthew 25:1-13, #5- Matthew 25:14-30. Others may be considered parables of the kingdom of heaven even if they do not contain that key phrase “the kingdom of heaven is like…” since even the parable of the sower does not contain that phrase, see Matthew 21:28-32, 21:33-45, 18:12-14, 19:23-24, 24:32-35 for some examples. Mark 4 seems to be given on the same occasion as Matthew 13 and contains one parable not included by Matthew, see Mark 4:26-29.

Because Matthew has such a complete version of certain events, I believe it is possible that Matthew was writing down some of these events and sermons as they occurred. True, the Holy Spirit later would give him understanding concerning all of these things, but the Tax Collector accustomed to logging every transaction may have transferred his skills over to be a scribe of the kingdom of heaven, writing as he went. The three examples that stand out to me the most are the Sermon on the Mount, see Matthew 5-7, the seven parables of the kingdom of heaven, see Matthew 13, and the Olivet Discourse, see Matthew 24-25. Matthew’s details of the words of Christ in these three passages are much more complete than any of the other gospel writers. Instead of relying on memory, crowds, the preaching of other apostles, Matthew could have been referring to his own notes when compiling his gospel.

The reason for this study of Matthew 13 is because it constitutes the next post in The Tax Collector’s Guide to Fulfilled Prophecy. In this chapter we have the words “in them is fulfilled the prophecy” and another phrase “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet”. That is fulfilled prophecy in the life of Christ. So I am going to look at the two prophecies which are quoted and try to explain the significance of each one. The first thing we should notice is that this is the first time that Matthew records Jesus as speaking the words instead of writing them himself as part of the commentary. Thus far, Jesus has quoted the prophets, explained the relationship between His words and the words of the prophets, but it is Matthew who has been writing the phrase, “This was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet.” Here in Matthew 13:14 it is Jesus who uses the phrase “fulfilled prophecy” and then quotes the prophet Isaiah.

This may explain why Matthew adopted this style of writing. He was following the example of His Teacher and Lord. Jesus used the phrase “fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah” so this was a cue for Matthew. Matthew decided that he will also reveal the prophets with this same language. Each time a prophecy was fulfilled in the narrative, he adds an aside which states, “This was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet.” He follows the example of Christ who imparted knowledge to him by pointing out fulfilled prophecy, and then in turn imparts knowledge to us. Examples thus far are Matthew 1:22-23, 2:15, 2:17-18, 2:23, 4:13-17, 8:16-17, and most notably, 12:15-21.

Matthew 13:13-17

This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:

You will indeed hear but never understand,
And you will indeed see but never perceive.
For this people’s heart has grown dull,
And with their ears they can barely hear,
And their eyes they have closed,
Lest they should see with their eyes
And hear with their ears
And understand with their heart
And turn, and I would heal them.

But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

Isaiah 6:8-10

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” And he said, “Go, and say to this people:

Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
Keep on seeing, but do not perceive.
Make the heart of this people dull,
And their ears heavy,
And blind their eyes;
Lest they see with their eyes,
And hear with their ears,
And understand with their hearts,
And turn and be healed.”

Jesus calls the parables “the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” in Matthew 13:11. These mysteries are revealed to the disciples, so there is no point in touting them as being unable to understand. Two of the parables are explained to the disciples in Matthew’s narrative. The reason why they are called mysteries is explained in the text. The public was in a state of disbelief concerning Jesus as the Messiah. Certainly they came, they witnessed miracles, asked for healing, but they failed to repent. Here the Kingdom of God was in their midst and they sat there like bumps on a log. Christ was presenting Himself, but the truth was hidden from their eyes. The disciples had believed in Him, but they were a minority. Because of His love for the nation of Israel, He continued to present Himself, but in a way that they would not completely understand.

The first parable explains the reason why so many could not understand, see Matthew 13:18-23. Hardened hearts allow the devil to remove any remnant of the truth from their hearts. A shallow response results in temporary joy but not repentance. The cares of the world choke out the fruit of the Word of God. The blindness of the nation of Israel can be attributed to the sinfulness of the hearts of people. When God’s voice calls out to you to repent and you do nothing, that manifests the evil in your heart. This is what had happened in response to the preaching of John the Baptist and then Jesus and then the disciples as they were sent out in Matthew 10. Many had repented constituting that believing remnant, but so many more failed to repent and remained in unbelief.

The disciples question Jesus on His methods. The amazing thing is that He answers them. Imagine being able to ask the Son of God a question and He gives you the answer. This shows just how blessed these men were. They had repented, they had joined Jesus in the proclamation of the gospel of the kingdom, now they were being entrusted with the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. No wonder Jesus said, “But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear,” and again, “I thank you, O Father, because you… have revealed [these things] unto babes.” Can you imagine talking with the Son of God about the way life works? You could ask Him for clarification on something He taught and He would take more time and explain it to you.

As Jesus explains why He taught in parables, He quotes from Isaiah. His initial response just says, “It is not given to them to understand.” Well that seems like a non-answer at first. But in the overall context of Matthew’s narrative, it should be obvious. They won’t repent, so they can’t understand. The disciples had repented and believed the gospel, so they could understand. Because they possessed this, they were given more. Those that hadn’t repented didn’t have anything, and even what they had would be taken away. Based on this, it explains why Jesus taught in parables. He presented the truth, but in a way that those who repented would understand but those who hadn’t repented would not understand. It’s kind of ironic that Jesus taught about the blindness of those that heard in a way that their spiritual blindness would not allow them to comprehend. Their spiritual deafness wouldn’t allow them to hear about their spiritual deafness.

The Commission of Isaiah

Isaiah 6 is a well known passage to many. It’s convenient too, comparatively speaking. Many passages in Isaiah can be long and complex, but Isaiah 6 is 13 verses long, being a complete unit in itself. Since 5 chapters have preceded, we can assume that Isaiah had revelation given to him before this, before his formal commission. Now after having been God’s spokesman for a bit of time, He sees a vision of God in His glory, and we can safely say because of John 12:37-41 that Isaiah saw Jesus Christ in all His glory in this passage.

Isaiah is led by God through a transformation and there are several steps to this transformation. He begins with a consciousness of loss. Uzziah (Azariah) has just died. Uzziah guided the nation of Israel in a right way, seeking out God by Zechariah, see II Chronicles 26:1-5. For 52 years the nation of Israel could depend on his godly leadership. Now the nation was in crisis as they pondered who would take his place. From here Isaiah is led to a consciousness of God. This is because God allowed him to see a vision of Himself, the true King of glory. The train of His robe filled the temple as angels worshiped Him. This vision of glory leads Isaiah into a consciousness of self and sin. When we see God in His true holiness, His light exposes our sinfulness. This is the reason for Isaiah’s cry, “I am undone!” The prophet pronounces the prophetic woe upon himself! Instead of some city or nation that deserved God’s punishment, he realizes he has to look no further than his own heart to find someone worthy of God’s wrath. From here Isaiah is led to a consciousness of cleansing. This is symbolized in the angel bringing the living coal to cleanse his lips and atone for his sin. From here Isaiah is led to a consciousness of commission and this too is initiated by God. Isaiah hears the voice of the Lord asking, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” Immediately after Isaiah is cleansed, God is demonstrating a need for someone to go on His behalf. God hasn’t cleansed Isaiah so he can sit around enjoying his new status. He cleansed him to use him. Isaiah responds, “Here am I, send me.” This leads into Isaiah’s commission to go to the nation of Israel.

Here’s the depressing part. God explains to Isaiah that as he goes to preach to the nation of Israel that they will be spiritually blind and deaf to what he has to say. I would be confused. God is saying, “Go and preach to these people but they won’t be able to understand.” What would the point be, really? There is a certain element of faith involved in any act of obedience, but part of us wants an explanation. Why should I preach to these people who just won’t believe or even understand? But within this passage there is a bit of hope. There is the mention of healing, being converted, and understanding with the heart. So it is possible that this could happen, even though their spiritual blindness prevents it. This is where we have to back up and look at the whole panoramic view of all of creation and all of the scriptures as a whole. The whole human race and the nation of Israel in particular are all in sin. God’s grace reaches out to us and a remnant believe and trust in Him. Prophets, priests, pastors, preachers all proclaim His truth and some believe, but the majority remain in darkness.

Back in Deuteronomy 29:29 God had something to say about secret things to the nation of Israel. Following this were prophecies concerning the conversion of the nation of Israel as a whole, see Deuteronomy 30:1-10. The day would come when Israel’s sinfulness would be taken away and they would be given a new heart. Isaiah has already foretold of this coming time in Isaiah 4. Now it seems that God is telling Isaiah that the nation of Israel will remain in a state of spiritual blindness in spite of many insightful and even beautiful prophecies. So basically, “Go and preach to this people, but they will not be converted as a whole in your lifetime.” There will, however, be a remnant that will believe, see Isaiah 1:9. Praise the LORD that Isaiah was obedient in preaching and prophesying even though he knew that most would remain in their blindness. We have so many beautiful passages in his book. Matthew has already pointed out at least 4 passages which were fulfilled in the life of Christ.

This passage in Isaiah is not just applicable to the life and prophecies of Isaiah. Any of God’s messengers could claim this principle and prophecy as applying to their ministry. The Chronicler summed it up in this way at the end of his book, “And the LORD God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling place: But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against his people, till there was no remedy.” see II Chronicles 36:15-16.

I can think of no better passage for Jesus to quote than this one right here when speaking of the blindness of people in the face of spiritual truth. The hearts of mankind do not change even when the Son of God steps into the world as the Ultimate Prophet. Our hearts remain deaf and blind to God’s truth when we are in a state of unrepentance, and remember, this can be very religious unrepentance. Here in the gospel of Matthew, the nation of Israel is portrayed as being in a state of spiritual blindness. Jesus likens the entire episode to the commission of Isaiah which assured him that Israel’s blindness would not be lifted even in the midst of his prophecies. Here also, the blindness of Israel will not be lifted even though the Messiah is right in front of them.

So what does it mean that this prophecy is fulfilled in them, meaning in the unbelieving nation of Israel? The scriptures should very easily explain what fulfilled prophecy means. The prophecy is held to be as occurring in the here and now. The prophecy was fulfilled (occurring in the here and now) in the days of Isaiah, Micah, and Hosea. The prophecy was fulfilled during the Babylonian exile, during the return from Babylon, and during the inter-testament period. Now the prophecy is being fulfilled during the ministry of Jesus Christ. Israel remained in blindness throughout the writings of the apostle Paul, see Romans 11:28. They remained in blindness during the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD, the diaspora, and the birth of the state of Israel in 1948. So this prophecy is still being fulfilled because Israel is still in a state of national blindness. Fulfilled prophecy is not a case of “it happens once and then it’s over”. Sometimes that is the case, such as with the virgin birth. But in other instances there can very easily be an ongoing fulfillment over a long period of time, or multiple times when the prophecy is coming to life right in front of us in real time and space. However, we should be very careful about pointing to events around us and saying that these are fulfilled prophecy without first studying the entire context of God’s word concerning a specific prophecy.

Matthew 13:34-36a

All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet:

“I will open my mouth in parables;
I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.”

Then he left the crowds and went into the house.

Psalm 78:1-8

Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;
incline your ears to the words of my mouth!
I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark saying from of old,
Things that we have heard and known,
that our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deed of the LORD, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done.

He established a testimony in Jacob
and appointed a law in Israel,
which he commanded our fathers
to teach to their children,
That the next generation might know them,
the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them to their children,
So that they should set their hope in God
and not forget the works of God,
but keep his commandments;
And that they should not be like their fathers,
a stubborn and rebellious generation,
a generation whose heart was not steadfast,
whose spirit was not faithful to God.

The second passage quoted from the OT is Matthew’s commentary quoting Psalm 78. Some might find this quotation strange or out of place, or some may even say Matthew was reinterpreting this Psalm to have a different meaning than originally intended. If we only pay attention to the one verse that is quoted, it might seem strange. If we look at the whole psalm, we might come away with a different picture.

Psalm 78 gives us the principle that Israelites were supposed to teach their children the things that God had done for them in the past. This is how the psalm opens up. However, the way in which these things are taught are in the form of a dark saying, or riddle, or perhaps we might even use the word “parable”. If we are only studying the verse that Matthew quotes, we simply apply the general principle that sometimes things are taught in ways that are hidden to some or difficult to understand. The children of Israel taught their children the ways of God in riddles and here comes Jesus teaching the children of Israel in the same way.

If, however, Matthew had something grander in mind, and I think he did, then we should examine the psalm as a whole and conclude what its overall theme is. The two things that are prevalent in this psalm are, #1- God’s loving, faithful actions toward Israel as His people, and, #2- Israel’s unbelief and sinfulness in light of God’s unwavering commitment to His covenant. Again and again, God is faithful and can be trusted. But again and again, Israel does not trust God. I have a pastor-friend with an overactive imagination. He says that sometimes as he is reading through the stories of Israel that he hopes that perhaps as he is reading, the story might be slightly different this time. Maybe, this time they will believe in God and trust Him. But NO! Every time he reads the story, the Israelites still get it wrong and don’t trust God. The psalmist uses language that contrasts so greatly the faithfulness of God with the unfaithfulness of Israel. God is doing so much for them, yet they are so unappreciative and selfish. God is putting up with them, holding back His anger and wrath, and they sit back complaining; all the while God is providing for them every thing that they need. As I read through this psalm, I almost want to shout at the pages in my Bible like my pastor-friend, “Don’t you understand? Why are you so blind? God is doing everything for you!”

The setting for this psalm is probably post-exile during the days of Ezra. I believe the psalms of Asaph were written by the children of Asaph for reasons that I outline in this post here.  The author wrote the psalm to demonstrate God’s faithfulness in spite of Israel’s unbelief. It is interesting where the psalmist ends. To end the psalm with David as shepherd would hint at God’s covenant with David to bring forth the Davidic Messiah to which the nation of Israel was now looking forward. The idea of passing this parable from father to son (or parents to children) would have taught the Israelites that they still had the responsibility of teaching their children the scriptures. The setting of having been in exile for 70 years and then returning to Jerusalem and surrounding areas should not discourage parents from training their children in the ways of the LORD.

Here is the real mystery hidden in the psalm, or in the parable which we know as Psalm 78. Why would God continue with Israel in the midst of her spiritual rebellion, or should we use the words “spiritual blindness”? Read through the psalm again. Doesn’t it provoke the question, “God, why would you put up with these people? Why would you continue to be faithful to your covenant when they are so unfaithful to it?” Now imagine a young Israelite child, growing up in Jerusalem after the exile while the Persian Empire is reigning over them, as they listen to this psalm. Imagine the questions in their mind. “We are God’s chosen people. God has always been faithful to us. Any calamity that has come upon our nation is something that we have brought upon ourselves. We are sinful, yet He loves us and cares for us. Why?” That is the real mystery contained within Psalm 78.

Let’s turn back to Matthew’s quotation again and see fulfilled prophecy from this psalm. Matthew states that Jesus spoke in parables that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet. The prophecy in Psalm 78 concerns the blindness of the nation of Israel contained in a riddle form. Here is Jesus in front of the spiritually blind nation of Israel presenting Himself but they are still unable to understand. All He can do is speak in parables since they cannot comprehend. Matthew points out from Psalm 78 that this has been the way all throughout Israel’s existence. They are taught in riddles, dark sayings, and parables, and still cannot comprehend God’s love for them. The prophecy of teaching them in parables was fulfilled, meaning brought to life, when Jesus taught from the boat these “mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.”

These parables, or secret things, all concern the kingdom of heaven and the way it was being presented to the nation of Israel. I will try to briefly sum up all seven of them succinctly. #1- The power is in the word (logos) which has power to transform a heart, but a heart that receives it sincerely. #2- For those who insist that the kingdom of heaven is not only something that happens in the heart, but something that is established here on earth, Jesus reveals the following truths in the parable of the wheat and the tares. The kingdom of heaven will exist but not in a pure form. Wheat (the righteous) will be intermingled with tares (fake wheat) until the end of the age. The judgment preached by John the Baptist will happen (see Matthew 3:12 for harvest analogy) but not immediately during the preaching of Jesus Christ. #3- The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed, which is very small. This same grain of mustard seed is all the faith needed to perform a miracle, see Matthew 17:20. Yes, we have a small start with a handful of disciples, but the end result will be greater than all other seeds sown. #4- The power of the tiniest bit of leaven to transform 3 measures (9 gallons) of wheat flour is simply amazing. Even though we only start with a small portion, eventually, it will change the entire world. The same power that causes that tiny little seed to grow into a huge tree will cause that leaven to transform the entire lump of dough. God uses the most insignificant things like sheep among wolves, leaven in bread, a tiny seed in the ground. #5- The final three parables are given after the crowds have been sent away by Jesus. The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure in a field. The rest of the world cannot see it, but when someone discovers it, the only response that makes sense is to put everything else behind for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. #6- Here the kingdom of heaven is like the merchant man. When that merchant man finds the pearl of great price, he sells everything for that one pearl. This is similar to the previous parable, but the emphasis is different. The kingdom of heaven is both a treasure hidden, and the man desperately seeking the treasure at the same time. #7- This parable is like #2, but here is the emphasis is slightly different. In parable #2, the kingdom of heaven was like a man sowing good seed. Now the kingdom is like a dragnet which gathers all together. The first had emphasis on the pure work of the Son of Man. This has emphasis on the separation that happens at the end of the age. The wicked will be taken from the pure work that the Son of Man began, leaving only the righteous to enjoy the kingdom of heaven here on earth.

It seems so simple to a Christian reading this passage almost 2 thousand years later. But in the context of what Christ was doing at that time, this could be considered a dramatic shift. John the Baptist had said the kingdom of heaven was at hand, and it was at hand – in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. But the kingdom of heaven would not bring about a fiery judgment immediately. God’s grace will hold back judgment allowing the wicked to remain intermingled with the righteous. The power of the kingdom of heaven will change the world, but it has a small, almost insignificant start. That little bit of leaven is unnoticeable right now, but eventually everything will be changed because of it. The nation at large really could not understand this. Only individuals who had repented were allowed to understand these mysteries, or secret things.

Matthew the Tax Collector, being one of them, affirmed with the rest of the disciples, that he had understood all of these things, see Matthew 13:51. This qualified Matthew to be a scribe of the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew includes this closing statement by Jesus which is not in any other gospel. “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” What an interesting proclamation for Jesus to close with! This is why I believe Matthew was writing down events and sermons that occurred as they happened. Matthew was receiving new revelation from Christ, and later he would go back and compare the events with the “old” scriptures. This would enable him as a scribe of the kingdom of heaven to present Christ’s ministry (new treasure) while demonstrating “fulfilled prophecy” from Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah, Hosea, and from the psalms (old treasure).

Can you imagine the thrill that ran through Matthew’s heart as Jesus said those words? Here he is perhaps recording the words of Christ and Jesus proclaims him as a scribe of the kingdom of heaven. This Tax Collector was considered an outcast by the religious Pharisees of the day, yet he is the one who brings us the most complete account of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. This “new treasure” Matthew pairs with 2 pieces of “old treasure” from Isaiah 6 and Psalm 78 to show us the whole picture of Christ revealing Himself to His people but yet hidden from their eyes. No wonder Matthew remembered this saying of Jesus and included it in his gospel!

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman


Posted in Bible, Eschatology, Fulfilled Prophecy, Prophecy, The Gospel of Matthew | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

3 Examples of God’s Wrath

There are (in my opinion) three main examples of God’s wrath in the OT that are typological of the eschatological wrath of God. That’s just fancy talk for “God poured out His wrath in the past and He will pour out His wrath when Christ comes again in a similar way”. All three are in the first two books in the Bible. The first is the flood of Noah. The second is Sodom and Gomorrah. The third is the ten plagues upon Egypt.

I have three scriptures that clearly demonstrate that each example was God’s wrath. In reading through Genesis 6-9, it is difficult to find one passage that states that the flood is God wrath. It is the same with Genesis 18:16-19:29. While it is scripturally consistent that the flood, fire and brimstone, and ten plagues describe God’s wrath, I was having trouble finding a specific passage naming each event as God’s wrath.

Isaiah 54:7-10 ESV
For a brief moment I deserted you,
but with great compassion I will gather you.
In overflowing anger (flood of wrath) for a moment
I hid my face from you,
but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,”
says the LORD, your Redeemer.
“This is like the days of Noah to me:
as I swore that the waters of Noah
should no more go over the earth,
so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you,
and will not rebuke you.
For the mountains may depart
and the hills be removed,
but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,
and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,”
says the LORD, who has compassion on you.

The words translated overflowing anger in the ESV are translated as outburst of anger in NASB and surge of anger in HCSB. I’m not understanding why they don’t translate it as literally as possible. The Hebrew words are sheteph qetseph and literally mean flood of wrath. KJV says “a little wrath”. What is wrong with the actual words “flood of wrath” especially in light of the comparison to the waters of Noah immediately following?

The implications of the passage are that the flood of Noah was a time of wrath upon the earth, albeit temporary, followed by a covenant of peace. The passage is describing the time of wrath against the nation of Israel which will be over when God restores that marriage relationship between Himself as husband and Israel as deserted wife, see Isaiah 54:5. Once that brief period of time is over, it will be followed by a covenant of peace. The New Testament confirms that the coming of the Son of Man can be compared to the days of Noah, see Matthew 24:37-39, Luke 17:26-27.

Deuteronomy 29:22-28

And the next generation, your children who rise up after you, and the foreigner who comes from a far land, will say, when they see the afflictions of that land and the sicknesses with which the LORD has made it sick – the whole land burned out with brimstone and salt, nothing sown and nothing growing, where no plant can sprout, an overthrow like that of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, which the LORD overthrew in his anger and wrath – all the nations will say, “Why has the LORD done thus to this land? What caused the heat of this great anger?” Then people will say, “It is because they abandoned the covenant of the LORD, the God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them out of the land of Egypt, and went and served other gods and worshiped them, gods whom they had not known and whom he had not allotted to them. Therefore the anger of the LORD was kindled against this land, bringing upon it all the curses written in this book, and the LORD uprooted them from their land in anger and fury and great wrath, and cast them into another land, as they are this day.”

The context here is the wrath that will come upon the children of Israel if they abandon the covenant that God made with them at Sinai and on the other side of Jordan, see Deuteronomy 29:1 for context. That wrath that comes upon the children of Israel is paralleled with the wrath upon Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim (interesting that all four cities are named here). Deuteronomy 30:1-10 explains how God will be faithful to the covenant in spite of their unfaithfulness by giving them a new heart at which time the wrath of God will be over.

The days of Lot are also compared to the coming of the Son of Man in Luke 17:28-32. The comparison is that on the very day that Lot went out of Sodom is the day that the destruction rained from heaven. The deliverance of the righteous ensures the destruction of the ungodly. II Peter 2:6-10 and Jude 7 also instruct Christians that the example of Sodom and Gomorrah shows that one day judgment (God’s wrath) will come upon the ungodly while the righteous will be delivered.

Psalm 78:48-51
He gave over their cattle to the hail
and their flocks to thunderbolts.
He let loose on them his burning anger,
wrath, indignation, and distress,
a company of destroying angels.
He made a path for his anger;
he did not spare them from death,
but gave their lives over to the plague.
He struck down every firstborn in Egypt,
the first fruits of their strength in the tents of Ham.

Here in this psalm, all the plagues upon Egypt are named as God’s wrath. What’s more, the agents of this wrath are termed destroying angels. This is significant for the eschatological wrath where the trumpets and bowls are administered by angels. The trumpets and bowls are where God’s wrath is contained in the book of Revelation. Some dispute the trumpets as being God’s wrath but fail to see the parallel with the fire and brimstone of Sodom and Gomorrah. Another passage worth noting that also has end times significance is Exodus 15:7-8, although it is referring to the destruction of Egypt in the Red Sea. “You sent forth Your wrath, it consumed them like stubble.” What is notable is the end portion where it prophetically states judgment upon Philistia, Edom, Moab, and all of Canaan, see Exodus 15:13-15. The people of God pass by and enter the place of rest, a sanctuary which the hands of the LORD have made. This is in conjunction with the reign of the LORD which is stated to be forever and ever, see Exodus 15:16-18.

This passage is more difficult to prove that there is an eschatological parallel. There is no phrase that states “the coming of the Son of Man will be like the days when the children of Israel were in Egypt”. Those statements do exist for the coming of the Son of Man being compared to the days of Noah and Lot as shown above. However, I believe there are parallels based on the following scriptures. In Jude it is noted that the LORD delivered His people out of the land of Egypt, but the emphasis is on the destruction afterward of those same people that did not believe. This passage in Jude is warning us of future judgment. Another inference is one of the miracles performed by the two witnesses of Revelation 11. In verse 6 it states that they have power to turn water into blood and strike the earth with plagues as often as they will. Turning water into blood was one of the ten plagues in Egypt, however it was also one of the miracles that Aaron and Moses performed to prompt the children of Israel to believe that the LORD had sent them, see Exodus 4:9, 29-31. The whole debate about the identity of the two witnesses could come into play here, but suffice to say that we have evidence in a parallel with the plagues upon Egypt with events in Revelation. Another inference is how the 144,000 Israelites are sealed and protected during the trumpets, see Revelation 7:1-8, 9:4. The plagues are being poured out upon the world, but a believing remnant of Israelites are spared the effects. This is parallel to the way the last seven plagues were poured out upon Egypt, see Exodus 8:22-23, 9:4-6, 25-26, 10:22-23, 11:6-7, 12:27. There is also the prophecies which talk of a “second exodus” whereby the children of Israel will be gathered again in an event that will eclipse the first exodus, see Jeremiah 23:5-8. It only stands to reason that the second exodus would be like the first in some ways.

Finally, the entire life of Moses is a parallel to the life of Christ. Moses was miraculously spared from a slaughter against infants at his birth. He was mighty in words and deeds before the children of Israel. He was rejected by his own people. He went to a far country until his rejection time was over. He came back and delivered the children of Israel through signs and wonders. This parallel is exactly what Stephen preached about just before he was martyred, see Acts 7:20-37. The same Moses that was rejected also led the children of Israel to safety after that rejection period was over. Stephen’s point should not be too subtle for us to comprehend. He was stating that those who were rejecting Jesus as Deliverer were simply fulfilling the prophecies because of the typology of Moses. At the time of Stephen’s sermon, Jesus was rejected. But the time would be coming when Christ would present himself a second time and lead the children of Israel to safety. The same Jesus who was rejected and put on a cross would be the One to deliver them with signs, wonders, and plagues being struck on those that persecute the people of God.

So now you get to do the hard work. How does this principle apply to the second coming of Christ? Which parallels can be drawn? Which conclusions can we come to?

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman


Posted in Eschatology, Fulfilled Prophecy | Tagged | 3 Comments

The Day of Judgment According to Jesus

The Day of Judgment According to Jesus

In this installation of the Tax Collector’s Guide to Fulfilled Prophecy, I am primarily looking at two passages in the book of Matthew: Matthew 11:20-24 and Matthew 12:36-45. These two passages have 4 fundamental principles in common. #1- Jesus was pronouncing some type of judgment upon His current generation because of their rejection of Him. #2- Jesus referenced past events from scripture in order to contribute to the seriousness of the judgment upon His present generation. #3- Jesus spoke of a future Day of Judgment when all generations would be present. #4- At the future Day of Judgment, generations that Jesus considered as past will be able to interact with and be compared to the generation that Jesus considered as present.

Since this subject is covering the phrase “The Day of Judgment”, it is good to review what Matthew the Tax Collector has included about the subject thus far. It hasn’t been a major theme up until this point, but now it seems as if in this passage packed with prophetic significance that judgment is taking the center stage of His teaching. John’s preaching was full of judgment imagery, being designed to prompt people to repentance. John made it seem as if there was this impending doom hanging over the nation of Israel if the people did not repent. “The axe is laid at the root of the tree [and] every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Matthew 3:10. “He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Matthew 3:12. That’s pretty powerful language.

So Jesus comes along and starts healing and preaching, but the judgment aspect is not nearly as prevalent. The majority of the sermon on the mount is Jesus teaching how to live. He pronounces blessings upon His followers, explains the relationship of the law to God’s standards, teaches them to pray, talks about God as Our Father, but only references judgment briefly a couple of times. However, it is serious when He mentions it. “Whoever says [to his brother], ‘You fool!’ will be subject to hell fire.” Matthew 5:22. That’s fairly condemning considering one of the first things we learn to do as children is call our siblings “stupid” and other such names. In Matthew 7:21-23 there is a reference to “that day” when it appears that some will want to enter the kingdom of heaven but instead will be told, “depart from me.” Shortly after this in Capernaum, Jesus told of a future time when some would enter the kingdom of heaven, but others would be thrown into outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, see Matthew 8:12. That doesn’t sound too pleasant.

One very important reference on judgment that Jesus gives is found as He is sending out His twelve disciples to preach the good news of the kingdom of heaven. In Matthew 10:14-15, Jesus tells His disciples that rejection of the message they are preaching will result in a judgment worse than that of Sodom and Gomorrah. In some way, this must be referring to a future judgment, but in another way it must be contemporary with their current generation. I’ll try to explain this, but here is where some very odd views can develop. When it states “that city” that rejects the message of Jesus and His disciples, there must be some relationship to the current generation because they are the ones that did not receive the message. “That city” must be held responsible for their actions. So instead of people in the same city hundreds of years in the future, the judgment must be placed upon those people that live in that city in that particular time that rejected the Messiah. However, when Jesus talks about a judgment that seems to be pronounced upon Sodom and Gomorrah at the same time as these cities that reject Jesus, then we must conclude that in spite of a contemporary judgment, that these same people from this city will be raised up as a people-group at the same time that the people of Sodom and Gomorrah are raised up as a people-group and all be present at the same time. The people-group of Sodom and Gomorrah will be judged less harshly than the people-groups that heard the message of the kingdom of heaven by Jesus and His disciples.

This principle is called prophetic tension. It was common in the prophets of old. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah, Joel, etc., all these prophets pronounced judgment and doom upon their contemporaries. God would use another nation to judge His people but some aspects of the judgment that these prophets were preaching would not be fulfilled but await a future fulfillment. In short, judgment came upon their generation, but ultimate judgment loomed out in the future. Now Jesus was doing the same thing as the prophets of old. The people to whom He was preaching would have judgment upon them, but He spoke of Sodom and Gomorrah as still participating in a future judgment. With this as a backdrop, let’s look at the first of the two passages in question and study, study, study.

The First Passage

Matthew 11:20-24 ESV

Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”

Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum

Jesus condemns these cities in the manner that the prophets of old condemned cities that were under the judgment of God, see Isaiah 29:1, Jeremiah 13:27 for the word “woe” and Amos 1 for naming different cities. There is no need to guess why these cities are having judgment pronounced upon them. Matthew explains why before he records the words of Christ. These three cities were where most of the mighty works (miracles) of Christ had been done. They were all located on the north side of the Sea of Galilee. Capernaum was where Jesus moved to live after leaving Nazareth and going into public ministry, see Matthew 4:13. Chorazin and Bethsaida are not mentioned as often as Capernaum, but that should be understood since Jesus lived in Capernaum but traveled to other cities, see Mark 1:38 with Mark 1:21 as background.

The fact that the mightiest works of the Messiah would be done in Galilee was foretold by Isaiah, see Isaiah 9:1-2, Matthew 4:12-17, and this post here. It is difficult to tell how John’s gospel relates to Matthew, but John records that a certain nobleman’s son was sick at Capernaum in John 4:46. This healing miracle is noted by John to be the second miracle that Jesus did when He came into Galilee, see John 4:54. The healing of the centurion’s servant, Matthew 8:5-13, occurred in Capernaum. Peter’s mother-in-law was healed in Capernaum, along with a multitude of people, see Matthew 8:14-17. Simply doing a word search for Capernaum will not do this subject justice since the healing recorded in Matthew 9:1-8 occurs in “His own city”, meaning the city where Jesus lived, or Capernaum. Suffice to say that up until this point, the majority of the miracles that Jesus has performed have been either in Capernaum or in a neighboring town, possibly the two that Jesus has just named. Remember that Jesus has just pointed out how people have simply sat there throughout John the Baptist’s ministry and His own ministry like bumps on a log, see Matthew 11:16-19. They watched these mighty miracles, but never repented of their sins.

Tyre and Sidon

Here is where Jesus reveals how much He knows. Not only does Jesus know the unrepentant state of Galilee, He also knows of past judgments and alternate realities. The first judgment that Jesus mentions is that of Tyre and Sidon. He makes the statement that if the very miracles that He had been doing in Galilee had been done in Tyre and Sidon, then they would have repented and averted the judgment of God upon them. Jesus then makes another statement which reveals His knowledge of a future judgment where citizens of Tyre and Sidon from past generations will stand beside citizens from Chorazin and Bethsaida from the current generation. Jesus states that at this future judgment that it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon, meaning they will not be judged as harshly.

The judgment upon Tyre and Sidon occupies over 4 chapters in scripture and at least 100 verses. The main subject is Tyre (alternately spelled Tyrus) with Sidon (alternately spelled Zidon) being included in close association. The main texts are Isaiah 23 and Ezekiel 26-28. During the days of David and Solomon there was a close alliance between Israel and Tyre. During the days of Isaiah’s prophecy, Tyre was an enemy of Israel and under the judgment of the coming Assyrian army. Isaiah 23 foretells how the Assyrians would bring Tyre to ruin after which she would be forgotten for 70 years. After 70 years Tyre would be restored even though she did not repent. After her restoration she would be even more greedy being portrayed as a harlot.

This corresponds with secular history. Shalmaneser V besieged Tyre bringing it into submission very close to 722 BC, with Samaria being taken about the same time by his successor, Sargon II. Tyre remained under Assyrian domination for over 70 years despite attempts to rebel. In 652 BC there was an internal conflict between the Assyrian ruler, Ashurbanipal, and his brother, Shamash-shum-ukin. War raged for 5 years, and even though Ashurbanipal was victorious, the resources of the empire were spent allowing Tyre to regain her autonomy probably at least as early as 636BC, well before Ashurbanipal’s death in 627BC. (Note that the rest of Isaiah’s prophecies in Isaiah 13-22 were fulfilled at roughly the same time as Samaria’s downfall including destruction on Babylon, Philistia, Moab, Damascus, Ethiopia, Egypt, and Arabia.)

The picture of harlotry that Isaiah portrays of future Tyre in Isaiah 23:17-18 is described as being fulfilled in Ezekiel 26-28. Ezekiel 27 especially pictures Tyre (Tyrus) as this beautifully crafted ship that all sea merchants are fascinated with. Ezekiel prophesied during the Babylonian Empire and this particular prophecy was probably given in 587 or 586BC. So Tyre has been restored for at least 50 years and has gained a place of prominence once again amongst the nations. However, judgment is being pronounced by Ezekiel because when Jerusalem was besieged by Nebuchadnezzar, Tyre took this as an opportunity for herself, see Ezekiel 26:2-3.

What is fascinating about this prophecy is the language that Ezekiel uses to describe the destruction in metaphoric terms. Ezekiel 26:20 states that Tyre will be brought down into the pit, to the world below. The Bible often teaches that death is like a giant pit, see Psalm 88 specifically verse 4. When someone died it was like they were being thrown into this giant pit never to come out again. With the destruction of Tyre, Ezekiel was foretelling that the entire city would be thrown into the pit to go down to the world below. He was talking about the realm of the dead. Now look at Ezekiel 29:17-20. Because Nebuchadnezzar had besieged Tyre for so long with no reward, the LORD would give Egypt as payment to Nebuchadnezzar for doing His work against Tyre. Moving forward to Ezekiel 31, the destruction of Assyria is described in similar terms, as a great cedar tree being cut down and thrown into the pit, into the lower parts of the earth. Further, the LORD tells Pharaoh that Egypt will also be brought down to join Assyria, see Ezekiel 31:18. Ezekiel 32:17-32 is a lamentation against Egypt as it is being cast down into the pit, or into the depths of the earth, or lower parts of the earth, or the Hebrew word sheol which means the grave. See especially Ezekiel 32:30 where it states that the Zidonians and princes of the north are already there. This would include Tyre and Sidon. Tyre was judged by the LORD through Nebuchadnezzar by being thrown into the lower parts of the earth, or the world below and now Egypt is joining them.

Turning to the history books once again, we see that Nebuchadnezzar did indeed besiege Tyre for 13 years. That’s a whole lot of effort for not much pay. Even at the end of it all, historians are divided as to whether or not Tyre was actually taken. It was in a position of subservience to the Persian Empire (which succeeded the Babylonian Empire). But a greater fulfillment came during the Greek Empire at the hands of Alexander the Great. At this point it becomes important to note that Tyre had two sections to it. There was a section on the mainland and a section on an island about a half mile out. During the siege of Alexander the Great, he piled rocks into the sea forming sort of a bridge in between the mainland and the island. He used the remains of the old city on the mainland which fulfilled an even deeper portion of the prophecies of both Isaiah and Ezekiel. Notice how Isaiah 23:11 states, “He stretched out His hand over the sea…” Ezekiel 26:12 states, “they shall lay your stones and your timber and your dust in the midst of the water…” Now the destruction truly comes to fruition. Each prophet spoke true to his own generation and yet left something for the future. After this, Tyre regained some of its prominence which allowed Jesus Christ to walk there, see Matthew 15:21, Mark 3:8, 7:24, 7:31.

Now here is where it gets interesting. The prophecy that Jesus is most likely referring to when citing the destruction of Tyre and Sidon is the prophecy of Ezekiel. Ezekiel condemned Tyre by saying it would be cast down into sheol, into the lower parts of the earth. Students of the scriptures should know that the Hebrew word sheol corresponds with the Greek word Hades in the New Testament, see Acts 2:27 which quotes Psalm 16:10. The destruction that Jesus pronounces upon Capernaum uses the exact same language. It even situates Capernaum in a similar, lofty situation¹ as Tyre in Ezekiel’s prophecy. Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades!

Because of modern science, we might have a hard time with language like “up to heaven” or “down to the underworld” or “down to the realm of the dead”. Scripture is clear though even if we don’t understand it. God’s abode is heaven which is situated above in some strange way. See Psalm 102:19 which states that the LORD “looked down from the height of His sanctuary, from heaven.” God looks down on us because He is up above in heaven. Also, where did Jesus go when He died? Look at Ephesians 4:9 which states that before the ascension of Christ He descended into the lower parts of the earth. That phrase “the lower parts of the earth” is identical to the language that Ezekiel used as to the destination of the city of Tyre. Jesus as a prophet was condemning cities like the prophets of old. You will be brought down to Hades! That should have made people sit up and pay attention.


The destruction of Sodom is generally more well known than the destruction of Tyre and Sidon for a couple of reasons. Number one is that the account of the destruction of Sodom is included in the scriptures whereas only the prophecy of how Tyre and Sidon would be destroyed is given in scripture, and most of that is in parable form. Number two is that most Christians have read Genesis more than Ezekiel. Number three is that the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah occurred at the very beginning of the Bible and is often referenced thereafter in many of the prophets. It is sort of a landmark. God had just promised that He would not destroy the entire earth with water. However, God clearly demonstrated that the destruction of individual cities by other means was an open option for the Almighty.

There were a total of four cities that were destroyed. Sodom is the city that is referenced most often with Gomorrah usually appearing alongside of it, see Genesis 19:24, 28, Isaiah 1:9-10, 13:19, Jeremiah 49:18, 50:40, Amos 4:11, Zephaniah 2:9, and Matthew 10:13. Most likely it is because these two cities were larger than the other two which were probably more like villages. There are a couple of references such as Deuteronomy 29:23 which name all four cities. The reason why Sodom is named more often is probably because that is where Lot dwelt. There is a first hand account of the wickedness of Sodom in Genesis 19. References like Genesis 13:13, Isaiah 3:9, Lamentations 4:6, Ezekiel 16:46-56 which name only Sodom all serve to highlight how wicked the people of Sodom were. That is why it is so telling when Jesus pulls out the reference to Sodom in comparison to Capernaum.

It should be no secret as to why Sodom was destroyed. The people were openly wicked forcing their homosexuality on others, see Genesis 19:4-5 and Jude 7. Romans 1:26-27 shows that this type of behavior occurs when people are not including God in their knowledge and decisions. Lot knew that men would not normally be safe at night in Sodom, that is why he urged them to be his guests, see Genesis 19:1-3. The location of Sodom and Gomorrah should be no secret either. Genesis plainly tells where they were located before they were destroyed. Genesis 13:10 states that there was a plain of Jordan that was well watered before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. Genesis 14:2-3 tells us that Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Bela were all located in a valley called the vale of Siddim. It also states that this valley is the Salt Sea or the Dead Sea. Apparently after God rained down fire and brimstone on Sodom and the surrounding cities, the well watered plain was destroyed and a big crater where the valley was simply filled up with water from the Jordan River. Anytime someone saw the Dead Sea, it was a reminder as to what could happen to any city that turned so wicked that God had to destroy it. Here was undeniable proof that the LORD was Judge and intervened in the affairs of men.¹¹

If the average Israelite in Jesus’ day were asked, “What is the most wicked city of all time?”; I’m sure a common answer would have been “Sodom”. So how do you think Israelites reacted when Jesus stated that at the future judgment that it would be more tolerable for Sodom than for Capernaum? The men of Sodom were so wicked that God had to rain fire and brimstone down and destroy the city. The huge crater filled with water called the Dead Sea was still there to show the ongoing desolation. Now these people of Capernaum have committed a wickedness of greater judgment than that of Sodom. Jesus states that if the mighty miracles that He had done in Chorazin and Bethsaida would have been done in Tyre and Sidon that they would have repented in sackcloth and ashes. He also states that if the mighty miracles that He had done in Capernaum had been done in Sodom that there would have been no need for the destruction and it would have remained until this day, meaning they would have been brought to repentance. Those wicked Sodomites would have at least repented at the presence of Jesus, something that Capernaum did not do.

This shows the awesome privilege that the Israelites, especially the Galileans, had in witnessing the miracles of the Son of God. Here was the Messiah standing in their midst, healing, casting out demons, raising the dead, and they just sat there, unrepentant. Even the poor had the gospel preached to them. The ministry of Jesus did not discriminate. Poor people had no excuse because they heard the gospel as well. Now with the manifestation of the Son of God, they would be held to a higher standard. They couldn’t un-see what they saw. They couldn’t pretend that it never happened. They would be held responsible for a clear rejection of the Messiah because they had seen, they had heard, and they hadn’t turned from their sins and believed in Him. Some people think that in order to reject Jesus that they have to say they don’t believe in God, or turn and do something really wicked. No. All that is needed to reject Jesus Christ is to hear about who He is and do nothing. This will be borne out in the next section as well.

The Historical Judgment on Galilee

During the ministry of Jesus, He pronounced judgment upon three different places: upon cities of Galilee, upon the city of Jerusalem, see Luke 13:34-35, Matthew 23:37-38, Luke 21:24, and finally upon the temple, see Matthew 24:1-2, Mark 13:1-2, Luke 21:5-7, 20. Much attention has been given to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, but many overlook the destruction upon the cities of Galilee. It’s unfortunate because all three of these prophecies were fulfilled in the exact order that Jesus gave them. Josephus records that before the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, the beginning of the Jewish War started north in Galilee. Josephus gives a firsthand account of the destruction because he was a general for the Jews who were fighting against the Romans. He was taken alive by the Romans and later wrote massive works documenting the entire history of the Jewish War. Here is a quote from Josephus:

The Roman force sent to Sepphoris, under command of Placidus the tribune, ravaged the surrounding country, causing Josephus and his men serious difficulties. Josephus did attempt an assault on Sepphoris, but was repulsed. This provoked fierce hostilities from the Romans, who spread fire and blood over all of Galilee, killing any who were capable of bearing arms. The only places of security were those cities that had been fortified by Josephus.

That is a general statement, but Josephus then describes in detail the fall of those fortified cities. The location of them is quite telling. First there is the destruction of Jotapata which is located in central Galilee, see The Jewish War (or War of the Jews), 3:150-316 which concludes with this statement, “Vespasian ordered Jotapata razed, reducing all its forts to ashes.” After this Josephus is captured by the Romans. Next, the Romans advanced on Tarichaeae, which was located on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee only about five miles from Capernaum, see The Jewish War 3:462-532. As Josephus is documenting this battle, he describes how sweet and pure the water of the Sea of Galilee is. He mentions Capernaum as being the spring for this beautiful lake with surrounding fertile soil. How sad it must have been for him to write concerning the battle on the lake, “The lake was red with blood, the shores strewn with wrecks and swollen carcasses, which, in following days, polluted the district with a horrible stench. The dead, including the number who had fallen defending the city, totaled 6,700.” After this, most cities submitted except for a couple of towns including Gamala. Vespasian marched to Gamala, and in doing so had to pass directly through both Capernaum and Bethsaida. This is not directly stated by Josephus, but if you look at a map, you will see the plain alignment of these cities around the Sea of Galilee. Gamala was built on a mountain, Josephus had previously built a wall around it, and it had a natural spring. Despite this, the Romans still conquered the city with “their blood flowing down the slopes of Gamala.” In the final defeat, the Romans flung the remainder from the precipices and cliffs, see The Jewish War 4:1-70. So Gamala literally fell. Remember that Josephus was a prisoner of war at this very time at these very locations. He was a first hand witness to everything that happened. He was treated with dignity and was kept apprised on a day by day basis of all that transpired concerning his people. By the grace of God, he was allowed to document all of this in order to demonstrate the accuracy of the prophecies of Jesus Christ.

The Second Passage

Matthew 12:36-45 Note: Jesus is speaking.

“I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold something greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven others spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation.”

The Day of Judgment

This phrase is used by Jesus again in a very similar fashion as the previous passage that we examined. He has been addressing the Pharisees since verse 25 who have accused Him of being in league with the devil. Now Jesus delves into intimate details about the nature of the future judgment. Up above we saw a future judgment where cities of the past like Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom will be judged alongside of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum. Now Jesus talks about individuals being accountable on the Day of Judgment for every single word they have spoken throughout their entire lives. Jesus even specifies that for every careless word people will give an account. The word translated careless or idle basically means lazy. We will be held accountable even for words for which we didn’t want to accomplish anything. Just think about every little word, idle chatter, small talk, I-didn’t-mean-anything-by-it phrase that you have ever spoken. Now think about how much more we will be judged for every thing we have said on purpose with much forethought. We will have to give an account. “Why did you say that word right there?” “What did you mean when you said that comment to that person?” “When you said to your brother, ‘You lied to me; that’s wrong,’ that shows you knew that lying is a sin.” It won’t be hard to find reason to condemn us to eternal hell forever. Thank the LORD that there is room for us to be justified by our words. Of course this can only be done by confessing with our mouths the LORD Jesus as our Savior.

The Sign of the Prophet Jonah

Jesus mentions Jonah in two different passages in the gospel of Matthew, see Matthew 16:1-4 for the second instance. Luke 11:29-32 is a parallel passage to this one and is worth examining. The Pharisees are giving a response to Jesus when they ask for a sign. This response is probably in reference to the entire passage of Matthew 12:25-37 as Jesus gives a defense that He casts out devils by the power of God, not the devil. So basically the Pharisees are saying, “Okay, you say you have holy power to do this, let’s see a sign.” Later in Matthew 16 they ask for a sign from heaven. In that passage Jesus points out that so much had already been done to point to the reality all around them but they still missed it. They could not discern the signs of the times.

Here in this passage, Jesus mentions Jonah twice for two different purposes. The first reason is in direct response to the request for a sign. Here Jesus chooses a disobedient prophet and the consequences of his disobedience as the sign for His generation. Jonah was in the belly of a great fish for three days and three nights, and Jesus proclaims that He will be in the belly or heart of the earth for three days and three nights. This is interesting considering our discussion above about descending into the lower parts of the earth. There is only one thing that Jesus could mean by this. He would enter the realm of the dead but for a limited time only. After three days and three nights He would no longer be in the heart of the earth, but would be expelled like Jonah was expelled from the belly of the great fish. This was difficult to understand at the time because this had never happened before. With isolated exception, when someone died, their life was over. To predict that the duration of a death would be only three days and three nights would cause serious realignment to our belief about death. It is quite possible that the Pharisees did understand to some extent what He was saying. If you notice in Matthew 27:62-63, they state that Jesus predicted He would rise on the third day. This was something that Jesus had taught, but only to His disciples in private, usually restricted to the twelve. But after the crucifixion the Pharisees knew of this teaching and it is quite possible that they were listening to this teaching here about Jonah and discerned more than we generally give them credit for.

With almost seamless transition, Jesus is focusing again on the future judgment. He launches into this by mentioning the men of Nineveh to whom Jonah prophesied. It may seem as if He is changing the subject, but this is in keeping with the entire passage whereby Jesus is condemning His own generation. Again, like the passage in Matthew 11:20-24, Jesus uses a historically wicked city in comparison to His own generation. Nineveh was one of the most wicked cities of all time. If you asked any Jew in the days of Jesus they would have told you so. Many think the story ended with the repentance of Nineveh in the book of Jonah, but that’s not the case. The book of Nahum prophesied years after that repentance and the judgment was grim, see Nahum 1:1-2, 2:8-13. However, one generation of that wicked city did repent, see Jonah 3. Jesus does the same thing that He did with Sodom. He compares His generation to the wicked city of Nineveh and finds them more righteous than His own generation. At least they repented when the prophet Jonah preached the message of repentance.

When Jesus says that the men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment, He is using a Greek word that can mean to rise from the dead, see Matthew 17:9, 20:19. The nature of this judgment is such that past generations are rising from the dead alongside the generation of Jesus in order that they might be judged. In fact, it seems as if these men of Nineveh are being raised from the dead for the very purpose of giving a testimony at this judgment. It is a courtroom scene that is being described. Back in 12:36, Jesus said our own words would be used against us. Our own testimonies are being recorded to either condemn us or justify us. It’s like Jesus is reading us our Miranda rights. “Anything you say may be used against you at the final judgment.” Now He states that past generations will be called as witnesses against us. People that never even lived at the same time will be used to prove that we had a chance to repent. Here in this instance, the men of Nineveh will give their testimony as to how they repented at the preaching of Jonah the prophet. I can just hear it now.

Judge: “When Jonah came preaching, was there anything that had come before him to warn you of a coming judgment?”

Ninevite: “No, it was just him.”

Judge: “Did Jonah perform any miracles?”

Ninevite: “No, he just shouted and preached that we needed to repent.”

Judge: “Did he spend time with you, like eating with you at dinner?”

Ninevite: “No, he just walked through town from one end to the other. After he made his circuit, he left the city and sat outside under some thing he made. He never got to know us in any way.”

Judge: “And yet you repented. Why?”

Ninevite: “We thought that maybe God would be gracious. Here He was giving us a warning. If He had wanted to destroy us He could have just burned our city to the ground like Sodom and Gomorrah. We figured that hearing the prophet was like having one last chance. So we might as well make the best of it. We put our trust in God who just might be gracious and spare our city.”

Judge: “And now you, citizen of Capernaum. Before Jesus came preaching, was there anything that had come before Him to warn you of judgment?”

Capernaumite: “Yes, John the Baptist had come some time before and warned us of judgment to come. He came baptizing and preaching the gospel of the kingdom and then Jesus of Nazareth came preaching the gospel of the kingdom as well.”

Judge: “Did Jesus perform any miracles?”

Capernaumite: “Oh yes. It was well known that He had done many miracles. I talked to several people who had seen them and even witnessed one myself when He fed thousands with just a few loaves and fish.”

Judge: “Did He spend time with you, like at a dinner or something?”

Capernaumite: “Like I said, He fed us on that one occasion and taught us all day long. I was there seeing how He interacted with little children. I witnessed Him interacting with the teachers of the law on another occasion. So yes, I did spend time with Him in a more intimate setting. It wasn’t like I just heard Him one day saying ‘Repent’ and that’s all I ever heard.”

Judge: “And yet you didn’t repent. Why not? And keep in mind what this Ninevite has just testified against you. Who is greater, Jonah or Jesus?”

I hope you get the idea. If that wasn’t enough, Jesus ups the ante.

The Queen of Sheba

The next illustration is not meant to show a direct parallel with Nineveh. Instead, this is raising accountability to a new level. Jesus mentions the Queen of the South, whom we know to be the Queen of Sheba, see I Kings 10:1-13, II Chronicles 9:1-12. This is not an instance of someone being confronted with the message of a prophet, like in the case of Nineveh being confronted with Jonah. In the case of the Queen of Sheba, she heard of the fame of Solomon in a faraway country and traveled a great distance to witness the truth for herself. The parallel here is that not everyone in Galilee had Jesus or one of the twelve come to visit their town. However, the fame of what Jesus had done and who He was had gone out to every town, see Matthew 4:24-25, 9:26, 31. Just because Jesus did not personally visit there or perform a miracle there did not give people an escape from culpability. The mere fact that they had heard the name of Jesus gave them the opportunity to respond in the same way that the Queen of Sheba had responded to the fame of Solomon. Again, who is greater, Jesus or Solomon?

In the same way, at the future judgment, people will not necessarily have had to hear a full sermon on Jesus Christ in order to be held responsible. In many cases, people will read something in the news, or hear about a story in their extended family, which will give them a chance to respond to the name of Jesus Christ in some way. In the days of Jesus, it was responding to His personal presence here on earth. In our days, it is responding to the message of His church, His disciples, as they live out the gospel. Many have heard the name of Jesus, how He died on the cross, how He is the Son of God, how He loves the world. But how many have responded to that fame to search out the truth for themselves? The Queen of Sheba will be there to testify against those that have heard of the fame of Jesus Christ and have done nothing to respond. The church has a responsibility to go into the world and preach the gospel, but those that hear the name of Jesus also have a responsibility to respond to His fame. After all, He is the Son of God.

This Wicked Generation

The parable that Jesus ends with in this section should not be taken out of context, see Matthew 12:43-45. Jesus is still addressing His contemporary generation and their lack of repentance. He has been casting out devils, but they have failed to repent. So what will be the state of His people given these conditions? The unclean spirits go out, but they will be back. The last state of a man will be worse than the first state he was in. Then Jesus proclaims, “So also will it be with this evil generation.” He is still condemning His own generation for their lack of repentance. The evil spirits are gone, but only for the moment. They will be back. Jesus is warning them that they are doomed to be seven times more wicked than they were before He came to them. Reading about the downfall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple is quite sad. The Jews turned the temple into a fortress. What should have been there to honor God and be a house of prayer for all nations was being used as a battlefield of blood.

The judgment came upon that wicked generation in 70AD and the years leading up to it if we are to include the destruction in Galilee. So what do we make of the language whereby Sodom would be judged less harshly than Capernaum? What about the men of Nineveh rising from the dead in order to testify against those that heard Jesus and didn’t repent? What about Jesus saying that every word that we speak would be used either against us or for us? It should be obvious that these things simply have not yet happened. Yes, judgment came upon the nation of Israel because of their rejection of Jesus Christ, or their failure to repent in the presence of Jesus Christ. However, the rest of these things await a future judgment. We should simply recognize that prophecies were fulfilled in the first century, but many things that Christ spoke remain unfulfilled. There is no need to deny that prophecy was fulfilled in the first century. It was literally fulfilled. And since those prophecies were literally fulfilled, the rest of the prophecies must be literally fulfilled. The dead will rise and be judged. Witnesses will be called to testify against those that failed to repent. All of our words will be used to show how sinful we are. That judgment looms out in the not-to-distant future. How awful it will be for the Queen of Sheba to rise up and testify as to how she heard of the wisdom and fame of Solomon which led her to travel many miles to find out the truth, and then to hear how so many could have ventured into a nearby church to find out for themselves whether or not there was any truth to the fame of Jesus Christ. Let each church shine for Jesus Christ.

There is nothing wrong with being a Preterist if what you are doing is recognizing that some of the prophecies of Jesus are in the past. What most Preterists do, though, is try to say that all of the prophecies of Jesus are in the past, which is quite simply an untenable position. In God’s sovereignty, He allowed there to be eyewitnesses that would record which prophecies were fulfilled in the first century AD. There were no witnesses that recorded Jesus coming in power and glory with His holy angels. There is no record of any heavenly judgment, or Jesus reigning from His glorious throne, or rewards being given to the righteous, or any resurrection from the dead. Fret not, though. These things will surely come to pass. Those prophecies of destruction were fulfilled in the generation that heard them to prove the accuracy of everything that Jesus prophesied. The destruction on Galilee, Jerusalem, and the temple was fulfilled in the exact way that Jesus foretold. The rest will be fulfilled exactly as He said as well. Judgment is coming. Be warned.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman


¹ It has been documented that the fishermen of Galilee were quite wealthy. Jewish fishermen in particular would separate the fish in the manner that Jesus describes in Matthew 13:47-48. Jews would only buy from these Jewish fishermen because they had no fear of breaking the Levitical law, see especially Leviticus 11:9-12. When Peter, Andrew, James, and John all walked away from the family business, they left a very lucrative lifestyle behind them, see Matthew 4:18-22. Note the use of Zebedee throughout the gospels as being someone noteworthy, Matthew 10:2, 20:20, 26:37, 27:56, probably being someone very rich, or possibly later becoming a Christian who was known to the early church.

¹¹ The mystery of the Dead Sea has kept scientists theorizing many different possibilities. Why did it form the way it did? The Jordan River flows in, but nothing flows out. The high content of saline (salt) literally keeps life from surviving making it truly a “Dead Sea”. Ezekiel 47:8 and Zechariah 14:8 both point to the fact that the Dead Sea is still under a curse from God because of the perpetual destruction imposed upon Sodom and Gomorrah. But those prophecies point to the future when that curse will be lifted and God’s blessing will come upon the Dead Sea allowing the waters to be healed.

Posted in Bible, Eschatology, Fulfilled Prophecy, Prophecy, The Gospel of Matthew | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

His Covenant Forever

His Covenant Forever

Hey, it’s time to play that game again. This is called “How well do you know the scriptures?” If a portion of the Bible were being quoted or perhaps it is posted somewhere in writing, could you identify it? Would you know where that scripture passage is found in the Bible?

So here are the rules. You read the scripture. You try to find it in your Bible without cheating. Cheating means using online searches, concordances, or some type of knowledge other than what is in your own brain. How well do you know the Bible? Can you find the following scripture?

The following quote is from the ESV. I like quoting from the KJV because it is the most familiar. However, there should not be any serious issues between translations. The only significant difference in the title is that the KJV renders it “His Covenant For Ever”. Big difference, I’m sure. So here it is:

Great are the works of the LORD,
studied by all who delight in them.
He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered;
the LORD is gracious and merciful.
He remembers his covenant forever.
He has shown his people the power of his works,
in giving them the inheritance of the nations.
The works of his hands are faithful and just;
all his precepts are trustworthy;
they are established forever and ever,
to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.
He sent redemption to his people;
he has commanded his covenant forever.

Notice the eternality of His covenant. Also notice that He remembers His covenant forever, and He commands His covenant forever. A part of that covenant is giving His people the inheritance of the nations. If you study the covenants, you need to know where this passage is located in the Bible. Also notice that the LORD causes His works to be remembered, but those that delight in His works study them. That’s God’s sovereignty and man’s free will existing side by side with no conflict. If no one can guess it, after a couple of days I will post it in the comments.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman


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what didn’t happen today

What is Easter about? Just looking at the comics strips on Easter Sunday will tell you. At least, it will tell you what the world thinks it’s about. For most people Easter is about Easter egg hunts, getting Easter candy, and maybe some fictitious story about the Easter Bunny. To hear someone talking about a dead Savior come back life is not the norm nowadays. When we hear the term Resurrection on Easter Sunday, our ears should perk up and recognize that’s a minority term as of late.

Yes, I take the Sunday comics way too seriously. I religiously read the funnies and have a running critique in my mind. I think it is so ironic that so many comic strips will mention Easter, but fail to mention Jesus or the Resurrection. So here is my summary of what happened (or what didn’t happen) in today’s comic strips.

First off, let’s see which strips only mentioned Easter themes, without even mentioning the word “Easter”. Mutts doesn’t mention the word “Easter” but someone dressed in a bunny costume holding a basket is vague reference. Diamond Lil features a very large chocolate bunny, but not too large for a large mouth. Flo and Friends have lots of chocolate bunnies. In Rhymes with Orange, a large white bunny is explaining to his son how he got into the egg business.

Now let’s get to my real target audience. Here are the people who are using the word Easter, on Easter Sunday, in the Sunday funnies, without mentioning anything about Jesus, the Bible account, or the Resurrection. Here we go.

Agnes mentions Easter sea shells. It’s a running joke that Agnes always seems to misunderstand religious holidays. Baby Blues has the kids digging up Easter candy from between the couch cushions. In Blondie, Dagwood treats the kids to an Easter surprise. It’s jelly beans and marshmallow peeps on a pepperoni pizza. Dennis the Menace has had too much Easter candy for Easter brunch to be enjoyable. Funky Winkerbean pokes fun at how people want to give kids Easter baskets with waaaaaaaay too much candy in them. In Family Circus, it’s a classic joke as Billy “makes his rounds” before everybody else in anticipation of the Easter egg hunt. In Hi and Lois, Hi dresses up like Santa Claus (because all the bunny costumes were rented) to bring Trixie an Easter basket. Classic Peanuts has the Easter bunny (Easter beagle) hiding eggs in the yard. Sally Forth has the running joke of how Hillary’s chocolate Easter bunny has the ears bitten off by her mom, or perhaps by someone else this year. Oddly enough, Ask Shagg mentions the Easter Bunny, or was it a bunny? Marvin holds a contest with a friend on who can find the most chocolate Easter eggs. Who wins? Trust me. In Non Sequitur, Pierre of the North almost falls for a little Easter magic. In For Better or for Worse, Elizabeth gets a phone call from the “Easter Bunny.” In Frazz, Caulfield makes up an Easter rhyme. In Gasoline Alley, old Walt Wallet’s caretaker, Gertie, is decorating Easter eggs, and having a good conversation with them as well. Crock has the Easter Bunny wishing him a Happy Easter, but looking for a promotion as well.

Now here are a handful that mention Easter, and are vaguely religious as well. These strips don’t mention the real meaning of Easter, but they are getting a little warmer. In Barney Google and Snuffy Smith they are taking up two collections in church, one for money and the other for Easter candy. In Wizard of Id, the friar is wishing people a Happy Easter as they come to church, no dragons allowed though. In Prickly City, Carmen is praying to remember the true meaning of today while Winslow is screaming “Chocolate Bunnies!” Maybe next year that strip will mention the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Cake or Death by Alex Baker has Jesus coming out of the tomb with a brief description underneath, He is risen. Heaven’s Love Thrift Shop mentions Easter and Jesus in the same context. Heathcliff mentions Easter and Jesus, but it’s in conjunction with the opening day of baseball season. Mallard Fillmore has a quote from C.S. Lewis which is obviously about Jesus and His death, and then also a scrawl wishing us a Blessed Easter. B.C. probably does the best in prepping for a Sunrise Service, but instead, it’s Son Rise, Serve Us.

So this year was not without any mention of Jesus in the comic strips. But the references to candy, Easter eggs, and the Easter bunny are far more common. This is what the world focuses on. So what are you focusing on? Do you realize that Jesus Christ rose from the dead? Do you realize that means He has defeated death? Jesus died for our sins. He rose again for our justification. Man can be right with God, but it is only through the LORD Jesus Christ and his resurrection power.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman


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The Chosen Beloved Servant Who Withdrew Himself

Matthew 12:15-21 contains a centerpiece of sorts to the entire gospel of the Tax Collector. Matthew has already recorded the details of the birth of Christ surrounded by humility and rejection. Later Matthew will detail the account of His death surrounded by humility and rejection. And here in this passage we have one instance that encapsulates His entire life and it is surrounded by humility and rejection.

Jesus has just publicly debated the Pharisees twice. Both times He has easily proven them to be in the wrong according to the scriptures. In response to this, the Pharisees are plotting to destroy Jesus. Jesus could have gone back and continued to demonstrate their wickedness. Instead, He withdraws. Matthew points this out in order to prove that He is the Servant Messiah foretold by Isaiah. My running commentary is called The Tax Collector’s Guide to Fulfilled Prophecy. Since this passage contains the wording, “That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet,” we have an instance of fulfilled prophecy in the life of Christ according to the Tax Collector, Matthew. Here is the passage we will be looking at.

Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all and ordered them not to make him known. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah:

“Behold, my servant whom I have chosen,
my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased.
I will put my Spirit upon him,
and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
He will not quarrel or cry aloud,
nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not quench
until he brings justice to victory;
and in his name the Gentiles will hope.”

Jesus does three things which prompt Matthew to identify Him as Isaiah’s Servant. #1- He withdraws. Instead of asserting His authority, Jesus diminishes His authority. The complexity of His meekness is what causes this disciple to reexamine the One that He believes is the Messiah. Here He has authority with the scriptures, can easily win debates against the religious of the day, but instead of continuing the debates, He withdraws. John records a similar action of Jesus in John 6:14-15. As Jesus withdraws, it’s like He is silently saying, “If they want their bad theology, they can have it. I’m not going to oppose them.” He had already proven them unscriptural in public twice. If people still wanted to follow these false teachers, Jesus wouldn’t force them to stop. Jesus withdraws allowing people to follow Him and hear Him teach the truth in another location.

#2- As people follow Him, He heals them. Matthew has already pointed out that as Jesus heals, it proves that He is the suffering Servant of Isaiah 53, see Matthew 8:16-17 and this post here. As Jesus withdraws, crowds follow Him and He serves them by taking upon Himself the weight of their sicknesses. When Jesus healed the man with the withered hand, see this post here, it was in front of the religious authorities. However, Jesus also healed when public leaders were not around. He was not healing to put on a show; He was healing because He is by very nature a Servant, doing the Servant work for others that they couldn’t do for themselves.

#3- Jesus orders them not to make Him known. Jesus did not try to increase His reputation in any way. Throughout His ministry Jesus always diminished His reputation, see Matthew 8:4, 9:30, 16:20. It’s like He was saying, “Don’t make Me known. I didn’t come to be famous. I came to serve.” As He is healing them and doing powerful miracles that no one else can do, He is downplaying Himself. It’s not that He is covering up what He does, He is reducing Himself. “That they should not make HIM known.” All of His ministry, healing, miracles, they were not to gain Him any bit of reputation, but to serve people and identify Him as the Servant that God had chosen. In short, Jesus didn’t come to get famous, but to be a Servant, see Matthew 20:28.

After recording the reaction of Jesus to the Pharisees, Matthew points out the passage in Isaiah 42:1-4 as being fulfilled in Jesus Christ. It is Matthew alone who brings this passage to the forefront out of all the New Testament writers. This also is the longest passage from the Old Testament that Matthew quotes, and I believe it is the longest Old Testament passage quoted in the entire New Testament. I count 76 words and 10 lines of poetry, even though the original passage has 12, but 2 of them are skipped over in Matthew’s gospel.

This should be a lesson to us as to exactly how Fulfilled Prophecy works. The prophecy was given hundreds of years before by Isaiah. Then along comes Jesus Christ and behaves in a gentle way emulating the characteristics of the Servant. The prophecy is noted by Matthew as fulfilled, however, it is not a one-time event. All throughout the entire life of Jesus Christ, He withdrew, did not assert His authority, behaved Himself in a meek and mild way, and tried to keep peace with all men, even those with whom He disagreed. The ramifications of the prophecy continue for around 2000 years as Gentiles continue to put their trust in this Servant that chose to humble Himself. (Forgive the huge run-on sentence, but) Because this is the longest passage from the OT quoted in the NT, and because this prophecy is located at the center of Christ’s earthly ministry and the center of Matthew’s gospel, and because this passage characterizes Christ’s earthly ministry as a whole, it behooves us to go back and study this prophecy in its original context.

The Chosen Beloved Servant of Isaiah 42

There are three passages in Isaiah which prophesy of the Servant. They are roughly Isaiah 42, 49, and 53, although start and stop designations are not quite that simple. Isaiah 53 easily begins at least in 52:13, Isaiah 42 has some backdrop at the end of chapter 41, and an end point for Isaiah 49 is difficult to determine since many people want to include 50:4-6 as applying to the Servant, myself included. As I work through Isaiah 42, I will reference verses in the other passages since they are speaking of the same Servant. All three passages show the LORD speaking to this person that He calls “My Servant”. All three passages present the Servant as someone Whose chief characteristic is serving in humility. All three passages show His ministry extending not just to Israel, but to many nations, see Isaiah 42:6, 49:6, 52:15.

Isaiah 42 is the first of these passages so the other two are built upon the foundation found there. Before we read Isaiah 42, the very end of chapter 41 determines the context. God has issued a challenge to those that trust in idols to show the things that are coming, to predict the future, so that it may be known if they are true gods or not, see Isaiah 41:23. As the LORD examines them all, He finds that there was no man among them that could act as a counselor, verse 28. His conclusion is that they are all worthless leading people to confusion, verse 29. After looking for some counselor among these false gods, we read in Isaiah 42:1, “Behold My Servant!” This is in contrast to the worthless idols. It’s as if God is saying, “Forget these idols and those who trust in them. Instead, look at My Servant because He is the One who will be the Counselor!” Here is the passage from Isaiah quoting through verse 7.

1 Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
2 He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
3 a bruised reed he will not break,
and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
4 He will not grow faint or be discouraged
till he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his law.

5 Thus says God, the LORD,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it:
6 “I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness;
I will take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you as a covenant for the people,
a light for the nations,
7 to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.

So here is a clear picture of God’s Servant. He is upheld by God, chosen by God, loved by God, and God has put His Spirit upon His Servant. The chief characteristic is that of a servant. He will not start trouble. He will not get into arguments. He will not start riots. After all, a good servant doesn’t do any of those things. A good servant faithfully serves without causing problems. He is so gentle that He would not break off a bruised reed or put out a smoking candle. The imagery is that of a tender plant that most would consider as good as dead if it were bruised. Or perhaps the reed has been dried and is a fragile staff that has been slightly cracked and would be considered of no practical use at all. In either of these situations, the Servant would not do so much as break that reed since it may still have a chance at being useful for something. The other example is that of a candle that has burned so low that it is giving no light, but simply smoldering. Most would just snuff that candle out since it looks like it will just go out anyway. After all, what good is a smoking candle stinking up the house that gives no light? The Servant is so gentle and caring that He will not put that candle out entirely since there is still hope that it will burst into flame.

This is exactly what Matthew saw in Jesus Christ as He withdrew from the Pharisees. He did not start an argument with them. Even though He could have gone back and proved His point, He withdrew without condemning them. He still held out hope that the bruised reed could be healed, or perhaps the candle of their faith may burst into flame. He humbly served humanity by healing them without expecting anything in return. All the while, Jesus is instructing them not to make Him known. This meek and mild Servant is the One in Whom the Gentiles would learn to trust.

The salvation of the Gentiles is at the forefront of this prophecy. In verse 1, He will bring forth justice to the nations, which is a reference to Gentile nations. This idea of justice denotes an ongoing righteous judgment system of which He is in charge. In verse 4, the coastlands wait for His law. The term coastlands refers to far away places, meaning Gentile places. Isaiah 49:1 is insightful showing the parallel between the term coastlands and nations/peoples from far away. These Gentiles wait for His law, and that word means to wait for, to hope for, or to expect. The Gentiles will be in hopeful expectation of this Servant’s laws. This prophecy shows that there will be a relationship of trust between Gentiles and this humble Servant. It may be noteworthy that the final line of verse 4 follows the Septuagint. Isaiah 42:4 of that line reads, “And the coastlands wait for his law.” The Septuagint (which is a Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures) reads, “and in his name shall the Gentiles trust.” The ESV renders Matthew’s gospel as, “And in his name the Gentiles will hope.” It seems that the Septuagint translation shows the underlying meaning of Gentiles trusting in the Servant Messiah as their Savior, so this is why Matthew follows the Septuagint in this instance.

It can be easily proven that Isaiah’s Servant is the Davidic Messiah. In Isaiah 11, which is unquestionably about the Davidic Messiah, the root of Jesse would have the Spirit of the LORD, Isaiah 11:1-2, would strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, slay the wicked, Isaiah 11:4, and the Gentiles would inquire of Him, Isaiah 11:10. The Servant of Isaiah 42, 49, 53 also has the Spirit of God upon Him as well as having a relationship of trust with the Gentiles, see also Romans 15:12. The similarities are too great to overlook. We must study these Servant passages as if this is the very Messiah come to rule and reign over all the earth, not just the nation of Israel. Isaiah 49:6 explains that it was too small a thing for the LORD to raise up, re-gather, and restore the nation of Israel. His plan included being a light for all nations that salvation may reach to the ends of the earth. The aspect of this passage in Isaiah 42 that seems to be unique is that here the Gentiles are portrayed as wanting this Servant to rule over them. They trust Him. They want to hear what His laws are so they can obey. The full version of 42:4 shows that the Servant will persist in meekness and mildness until these Gentiles know that they can fully trust Him.

There is also a bit of a play on words in the Hebrew with the use of the word “bruise”. The word translated as bruise in reference to the reed is the same word translated “discouraged”. So the idea of the phrasing is such that the Servant won’t break off a bruised reed, and He Himself will not faint or be bruised until He establishes justice in the earth and the Gentiles are waiting and hoping for His law. The gentle Servant may seem weak to others, but this fragile reed will not be broken off. Somehow, someway, the Servant will prevail in what seems to be weakness into a position of victory. Through Servant-hood, He achieves the victory without being bruised Himself. (Note that the word for bruised in Isaiah 53:5 is a completely different Hebrew word.)

Later in 42:10, it is commanded that a new song be sung unto the end of the earth. The eschatological significance of Psalm 96 should be considered here. In Psalm 96, the new song is sung by the believing remnant among the Gentile nations in anticipation of the Messiah Who is coming to reign. Here in Isaiah 42:10 the new song is being sung just in advance of the LORD going forth like a mighty man of war to lay waste mountains, Isaiah 42:13-15. The gentle Servant will also come as a man of war.

The phrase “the end of the earth” (like coastlands), is a euphemism for Gentiles. In the context of a Jewish prophet like Isaiah, it meant somewhere far away, which would have to be where foreigners live. A great example of this is Psalm 67. In Psalm 67:2, the prayer is for God’s way to be known among all nations, meaning Israel and all Gentile nations. “Let all the peoples (plural) praise you!”, Psalm 67:3. “Guide the nations (plural) upon earth,” Psalm 67:4. Then in Psalm 67:7, “Let all the ends of the earth fear Him!” Psalm 65 also contains this phrase. The context starts out in Zion (Jerusalem), Psalm 65:1. But God is the salvation and hope of “all the ends of the earth”, Psalm 65:5. “Those that dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe of your signs,” Psalm 65:8. Back in Isaiah 42:10, we see the meaning of this verse to be “Sing to the LORD a new song among the Gentile nations,” which parallels Psalm 96:1, 3, 10.

Since Isaiah 49 should be built upon the foundation of Isaiah 42, we can easily see that this Servant, in humility, will be salvation to the Gentiles. Isaiah 49:6 states, “I will make You (the Servant) as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth,” or essentially to the Gentiles, see also Acts 13:47. Then He is named as “the Servant of rulers.” How odd. The One who will rule over the Gentiles will be the Servant of these Gentile rulers. Because of His humility, these kings shall see and arise and then prostrate themselves before Him, see Isaiah 49:7. He humbles Himself before them, and then they follow His example. This is the exact opposite of how the world thinks. In Isaiah 49:8, just as in Isaiah 42:6, the Servant is given as a covenant to the people. The covenant is the Servant Messiah. Isaiah 53 will explain just how the Servant is given as a covenant to the people, the people who have all gone astray. Matthew has already quoted Isaiah 53:4 in Matthew 8:17, which shows Matthew also believed that the Servant of Isaiah 53 is Jesus Christ. There should be nothing preventing us from studying the three Servant passages together to gain a composite picture of the Servant Messiah.

There is much more in these passages concerning the salvation of the Gentiles. I’m going to cut my thoughts short because it involves some speculation. One thing is certain though, the death of the Servant Messiah in Isaiah 53 must be built upon the foundation of Isaiah 42, which is the centerpiece of Matthew’s gospel. The Gentiles will trust in this Servant Messiah chiefly because of His humility. It must be remembered that Matthew wrote His gospel after the formation of the church and the inclusion of Gentiles within the church. He is relaying the humility of Christ in withdrawing and showing that it was foretold that Gentiles would trust in Him, and He is relaying this to the Gentiles within the church. Matthew’s gospel is distinctly for Gentiles in this respect. Those who say that Matthew’s gospel is strictly Jewish simply do not understand how this outcast of a Tax Collector was showing the blindness of His own nation and how Gentiles were entering the kingdom of God ahead of His fellow countrymen.

It is generally agreed that there are two main passages of scripture that foretold of the death of Christ more vividly and descriptively than any others, those two being Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22. It is worth noting for this study that there is a reference to Gentiles turning to the LORD after the description of the rejection and death of the Messiah in Psalm 22. It contains the phrase “all the ends of the earth.” Just read Psalm 22:27-28.

All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the LORD,
And all the families of the nations
Shall worship before you.
For kingship belongs to the LORD,
And he rules over the nations.

The Kingdom of God has come upon you

Before closing this post, I want to look at Matthew 12:22-32 because there is so much there of prophetic significance. Jesus heals a man with multiple issues which prompts the crowds to proclaim that perhaps Jesus is the Davidic Messiah. “Can this be the Son of David?” Of course the Pharisees hear of this and must have an explanation as to why Jesus canNOT be the Davidic Messiah. Their counterargument is that Jesus is performing His miracles by the power of the prince of demons, or Satan, if you will. They still have not repented of their view that Jesus is a Sabbath breaker and a sinner, see John 9:16, 24. They can’t deny He has power, so they concede He has power, but it’s demonic power.

These accusations are public so Jesus responds publicly. Jesus shows that Satan’s kingdom cannot be turned against itself. Further, Jesus shows that other people cast out demons and if it’s true for Him, then it must be true for these others. On multiple fronts, the claim of the Pharisees simply does not hold up.

Then Jesus delves into the theology of the Kingdom of God by making an if-then statement. “If” Jesus casts out demons by the power of the Spirit of God, “then” the Kingdom of God has come upon you. We know, because we believe and trust that Jesus is the Servant of Isaiah 42:1, that He cast out demons by the Spirit of God, therefore we must also know that the Kingdom of God had come upon them as Jesus stood in their midst. There must have been a present aspect of the Kingdom of God as Jesus came even in His humility. To deny this is to deny Matthew 12:28. Matthew also keenly includes the parable of the two sons that I can’t seem to find in the other gospels, see Matthew 21:28-32. His point at the end makes a similar statement concerning the Kingdom of God. Tax collectors and prostitutes were entering the Kingdom of God because they repented and believed while Pharisees remained in unbelief. Both of these passages show the present working of the Kingdom of God in the ministry of both John the Baptist and Jesus, see Matthew 11:12-13, with Luke 16:16.

When John and later Jesus came preaching, “The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the gospel.”; there should be no long complicated explanations as to how the Kingdom of God really wasn’t there. The Kingdom of God was at hand, near enough to be grasped through repentance and belief. The Servant Messiah was in their midst proving that the Kingdom of God had come upon them. The common people could see that this was the Davidic Messiah, but the blindness of the religious authorities kept them from seeing the truth and from entering the Kingdom of God. Sinful outcasts like prostitutes and tax collectors could enter because they could admit their sinfulness. Religious people could not stoop that low. They shut the Kingdom of God in the faces of others, see Matthew 23:13, Luke 11:52, then took away the key so they could not enter. Jesus had come and bound the strong man, Satan, and was able to completely plunder anything that formerly belonged to him, see Matthew 12:29. The power of the Kingdom of God left Satan powerless in the presence of the King. Unclean spirits had to flee since they were powerless being part of Satan’s kingdom.

Because the Servant Messiah has come and fulfilled the prophecies so literally, we should expect that the remainder of the prophecies will be fulfilled just as literally. The Gentile nations will eventually trust in the Servant Messiah when He comes again. The down payment of Gentile salvation is present in the church today. When the Servant Messiah comes to rule and reign over the earth, this is not to simply be the Savior of the nation of Israel. The ends of the earth will trust in this Servant. They will eagerly wait for His law. In Pre-Millennial theology, we can fully expect that the Messiah will come again to rule and reign during a period of time whereby nations will turn to the LORD voluntarily. Because He humbled Himself and gave His life for the world, Gentiles humble themselves in return. They will realize that it is only through the Servant Messiah that anyone will receive true justice.

I encourage you to go back and read Isaiah 42 again. Matthew felt it was of significant importance. It is the foundation for Isaiah 53 which seems to be one of the most popular passages in Isaiah. It is also a key passage for the doctrine of the salvation of the Gentiles. After reading it, go back to Matthew and try to comprehend the significance of how it relates to the life of Jesus Christ, otherwise known as The Chosen Beloved Servant Who Withdrew Himself. Do you want to be like Jesus? Follow His example as a Servant.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

P.S. Some of my thoughts on the salvation of the Gentiles can be found at this post here. Beyond that, I believe that the Gentiles of this present time who trust in Christ will be the future witnesses of Isaiah 43:9-10. They are brought forth to show that God is gracious even to Gentiles in the future day when He comes in power and glory. In the future arrangement, Gentiles revere the nation of Israel as pictured in Isaiah 49:22-23. Jesus terms this time the regeneration in Matthew 19:28.

P.P.S  How can people be afraid of a Baby in a manger?
How can people be a afraid of a Man who withdrew and wouldn’t argue?
How can people be afraid a Man dying on a cross for their sins?


Posted in Bible, Eschatology, Fulfilled Prophecy, Pre-Millennialism, The Gospel of Matthew | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The LORD of the Sabbath (I desire mercy and not sacrifice)

I desire mercy and not sacrifice

The LORD of the Sabbath

In this next installment of The Tax Collector’s Guide to Fulfilled Prophecy, there are so many things of prophetic significance packed into Matthew 11:20-12:42 that it is hard to keep up. It really seems as if Matthew wrote his gospel for the purpose of demonstrating fulfilled prophecy in the life of Jesus Christ. We have read this phrase multiple times, “This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet.” It seems that Matthew 12:17 lies at the center of this particular passage, but I am going to have to arrange this in three separate posts. Matthew 11:20-24 has much in common with Matthew 12:38-42, so I will wait and deal with that last. The subject of that post will be something like, Past Generations Rise and Testify at the Future Judgment. Matthew 12:1-7 contains a familiar quote from Hosea, “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,” which is the subject of this post. This leads into the controversial healing on the Sabbath in Matthew 12:9-14. Then that leads into the quote from Isaiah 42:1-4 which I will deal with second.

So for this post, I am focusing on the story in Matthew 12:1-7. In this story, Jesus references two scriptures in his response to the Pharisees concerning their accusation about the Sabbath. Then He proclaims that something greater than the temple is present. He then quotes from Hosea 6:6. Then He proclaims Himself LORD of the Sabbath. I think this alone is sufficient for one post.

Before I get into the substance of this story, I want to preface this post with two basic thoughts. The first comes to us in the passage directly before the story. Jesus has just pronounced condemnation on unrepentant cities such as Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum. This is probably directly related to the chastisement that Jesus gave in Matthew 11:16-19. Jesus came performing powerful miracles and they just sat there, unresponsive to the presence of the King. But in the midst of this condemnation of the present generation, Jesus thanks His Father in heaven that the truths He came to teach had been revealed to “little children.” Jesus tenderly calls His disciples “little children” in contrast to the so-called wise and understanding. The religiously schooled could not bring themselves to repent, but these simple men had repented and received revelation from the Father in heaven because of their response to the person of Jesus. Jesus bypassed the old wineskins in favor of the new wineskins that could contain the explosive power of the new wine that He came to give. The invitation for those who labor and are burdened is so often quoted, but let’s get the context correct. Christ promises rest, but within the context of the command to repent and believe the gospel. Some may consider themselves wise and understanding in the scriptures, but a failure to recognize Jesus Christ will mean that those truths are hidden to them. All the while, someone simple in understanding who responds to Christ in faith will have revelation from the Father in heaven. So as Jesus promises rest, now comes a discussion about the Sabbath, which is the day of rest, between the religiously schooled Pharisees and the LORD of the Sabbath Himself.

The second basic thought is that while the Pharisees were religiously schooled, much of what they had learned was not scripture. They had traditions which had been taught to them by their fathers which did not necessarily have any backing in the actual word of God. In fact, they had added so much tradition onto the revealed word of God that much of what they had added contradicted the original scriptures. Matthew includes this conversation between the Pharisees, scribes, and Jesus about tradition versus the scriptures in Matthew 15:1-9. Mark 7:1-13 contains an extended version of this event, with verses 3-4 being especially insightful into the mindset of the Pharisees. I love how Mark 7:8-9 puts it all in perspective, “You reject the commandment of God, and keep the tradition of men!” It is no different as we approach this passage here.

The story finds the disciples walking through a field on the Sabbath day. They are a bit hungry so they take a few stalks of grain in between their hands and rub off a few kernels for a snack. The Pharisees immediately find fault. They publicly denounce the disciples of Jesus as Sabbath breakers. The implication here is that these simple children in understanding just do not understand the scriptures properly otherwise they wouldn’t be breaking the law and sinning on the Sabbath day.

Instead of debating with the Pharisees about whether or not it is lawful to grab a snack in a field on the Sabbath, Jesus turns to the scriptures to disprove their entire way of thinking. Jesus proves that their traditions that they had added onto the word of God will end up contradicting the word of God. A debate between how to interpret different passages would have placed Jesus and the Pharisees on equal ground. That’s your interpretation, but MY interpretation is ___________. Those who are reading this blog post should know that there is no way that the Pharisees and Jesus were ever on equal ground. Jesus appeals to the scriptures in a superior way, see Matthew 7:29.

The first example had confused me for many years. It seemed to me that Jesus was saying that David broke the law, so that meant it was acceptable for Him to break the law. This is not the case. The story that Jesus references is found in I Samuel 21:1-6. In this story, David is fleeing for his life to a certain priest. David and his small band of men are hungry. David asks for food and the priest gives him the showbread (shewbread in the OT, KJV), which Ahimelech the priest admits is holy bread. This bread was being taken away from the day before as newly baked bread replaced it. Ahimelech gives David and his men this holy bread.

In his explanation, Jesus asks the Pharisees, “Have you not read what David did, how he… ate the bread, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests?” But the interesting thing is that nowhere in the entire law will you find substantiation for the statement that Jesus makes that it is only lawful for priests to eat this holy bread. What is happening here is that Jesus is using sarcasm to point out how the position of the Pharisees makes David into someone who broke the law. Apparently, the Pharisees had added onto the law some type of statement which forbade anyone besides a priest from eating that holy bread. You can search the old testament all you like, there is nothing that prevents others from eating that holy bread. Ahimelech wanted to make sure that the men who at the bread were not defiled in some way. That was the only prohibition in his mind that would keep those men from eating that bread. Yet the Pharisees thought they knew better than a priest in the days of David. And by their addition to the law, they made David out to be a lawbreaker. It’s like Jesus is saying, “If my disciples are breaking the traditions that you have added onto the word of God, they are in good company because that’s what the men of David did.”

There are two reasons why I believe that Jesus is not stating that David is a lawbreaker. The first reason is that there is no place in the law that states that only priests can eat that holy bread. Leviticus 24:9 could be cited in favor of the Pharisees, but this is not explicitly stated. It was intended for Aaron and his sons, but you have to add on to the law in order to prohibit others from eating it. The second reason is the second example that Jesus gives concerning how priests work on the Sabbath. The two examples should be considered parallels. Jesus is making the same point in both of them. I’m not a big fan of air quotes, but I think if Jesus were speaking today, he would have used air quotes around the words “not lawful” and “profane”. He engages their argument and states, “Okay, if it’s not lawful to break your tradition, then David did what was ‘not lawful’ and the priests end up ‘profaning’ the Sabbath every week. According to your strict interpretation of the law, David himself and every priest that has ever offered up a sacrifice on the Sabbath breaks the law.”

In the second example, Jesus points to the command in the law for priests to offer up sacrifices every Sabbath. Numbers 28:9-10 is the specific place where we find the command for additional offerings to be made on the Sabbath, and this is beside the daily sacrifices which were commanded in the verses just before, see Numbers 28:1-8. So at the very minimum, provided there is not another feast occurring at this time, on any given Sabbath, there would be a lamb offered up for sacrifice in the morning with a grain offering and drink offering, in the evening the same; then two lambs for the Sabbath with another grain offering and drink offering. Here are priests working quite diligently on the Sabbath according to the command of God. When Jesus says that they “profane” the Sabbath, it is obvious that He really doesn’t believe they are Sabbath breakers, but according to the strict definition of the Pharisees, they would have to accuse these priest of being Sabbath breakers if they are going to accuse His disciples of being Sabbath breakers for rubbing a few kernels of grain in between their hands. Incidentally, Deuteronomy 23:25 allowed this, but the issue of the Sabbath is separate. So this is why I believe Jesus is using sarcasm to illustrate His point to the Pharisees. It’s like he is saying, “According to your interpretation of the law, King David and his men are Sabbath breakers along with every priest who ever lived!”

I will have mercy and not sacrifice.

We now arrive at the section where Jesus quotes Hosea. Matthew has already included one story where Jesus quotes this exact same phrase from Hosea. Mark and Luke both share the same two stories, but neither of them include the quote from Hosea in either place. Matthew includes it in both places. I think the Tax Collector had a point that he was driving home to the Pharisees in both instances. In the first instance, it is at his own house. The Pharisees accuse Jesus of associating with tax collectors. Jesus responds by quoting Hosea. Here the Pharisees accuse the disciples of Jesus of being Sabbath breakers or common sinners. Jesus responds by quoting Hosea. Now here the quotation is important, but the way Jesus quotes it gives us a unique application. He states, “If you had known what this means, then you would not have condemned the guiltless.” Basically Jesus is saying, it is because of your lack of understanding the scriptures that you have a faulty accusation. Ouch!

In the other post where Jesus quoted this verse, I examined the whole content of Hosea. I’m going to do that again, this time focusing more on the prophetic aspect of the book. Israel as a whole in the book of Hosea is portrayed as very religious, but very ungodly. They are offering sacrifices, but their hearts are far from God. Hosea 4:6 is a very good summary of where they are at as a people. They had forgotten the law of their God. Hosea 7:2 states that they do not consider that God remembers all their evil. Hosea 7:10 shows how Israel as a nation was not prone to seeking God. Here is that verse:

The pride of Israel testifies to his face;
Yet they do not return to the LORD their God,
Nor seek him, for all this.

The Condemnation of Israel by Hosea

Instead, Israel trusted in their own way, not the way of God, see Hosea 10:13. The ironic thing is that all the while they cried out to God, “We know you!”, see Hosea 8:1-2. Israel had a promising beginning, but then the nation as a whole turned to Baal, which is idolatry, and died, see Hosea 13:1. Hosea compares their state in his day to the state of Israel at Baal-Peor in Numbers 25, see also Numbers 31:1-20. At Peor the children of Israel fell into sexual sin and fell away from God into another form of worship. In Hosea’s day, they had done the same thing as a nation. The significance of the quote by Jesus is that He places the nation of Israel in His day in the exact same situation as in Hosea’s day. Israel still has forgotten the true law of God, all the while crying out that they know God. The Pharisees thought they knew God and the law, but what they really knew was religion, their own religion.

What shall I do with you, O Ephraim?
What shall I do with you, O Judah?
Your love is like a morning cloud,
Like the dew that goes early away.
Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets;
I have slain them by the words of my mouth,
and my judgment goes forth as the light.
For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,
The knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

This is precisely why this quote from Hosea 6:6 is so appropriate. Hosea accuses Israel’s love as being like the morning dew. After a bit, it just goes away. It’s very temporary. Therefore the LORD had sent them prophets to convict them with powerful preaching in order to slay them with the words of their mouth, see Hosea 6:4-5. The reason is that all the while, throughout all their religion, God had desired mercy or steadfast love rather than sacrifice. Some of those Israelites might have objected stating that they had love. So there is a parallel verse immediately after it. God desires the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. The love that God desires must be in accordance with His revealed word. The Pharisees were quick to condemn and slow to show mercy. They had their burnt offerings in order but no true knowledge of God.

The true state of Israel was summed up immediately after the quote in Hosea 6:7. Israel was sinful nation like any other nation. The reason being is that they were composed of sinful people just like any other nation. They had descended from Adam just like the rest. When Adam fell into sin, he transgressed the covenant of God. He dealt faithlessly with God in the garden of Eden. Israel as a sinful nation was just like Adam. They transgressed the covenant and dealt faithlessly with God as well. Now lest we be overly harsh on Israel, there is no nation that has ever done right by God. Every other nation is sinful, full of sinful men, which has excluded them from the covenant plan of God. In Israel, there were individuals who believed, just like there are individuals in nations today who believe, but that is not the same as the nation as a whole being a part of God’s covenant. If you are reading this post, please understand me clearly. All of us are sinful and have dealt with God in a faithless way. We were not born into God’s covenant plan. God as the great Redeemer brings us into His covenant plan through Jesus Christ. It is no different with the nation of Israel.

The Solution for Israel from Hosea

So what was the solution that Hosea proposed to the nation of Israel? God had a contention with His people because they were destroyed for lack of knowledge, see Hosea 4:4-6. They must acknowledge their guilt and seek God’s face, Hosea 5:15. They must return to the LORD, see Hosea 14:1. They must recognize that it is time to seek the LORD, Hosea 10:12. They must confess that from their time in the land of Egypt that Israel as a nation was formed by the hand of the LORD Himself, and there can be no Savior beside Him, see Hosea 13:4. (This echoes passages like Isaiah 43:11, 45:20-21.) Bethel had become a place of idolatry, see I Kings 12:28-33. This was the place where Jacob (Israel) had first encountered the living God, see Genesis 28:10-22. It should have been a place of light and revelation from God, but it was a place of spiritual darkness and evil. In Hosea 12:4-6, he reminds the people of this history and then commands, “So you, by the help of your God, return, hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually for your God.” Sad to say, even in the days of John the Baptist and Jesus, this return to the LORD had not happened.

Prophetic Blessings for Israel foreseen by Hosea

The future promise of Hosea was one of blessing from the LORD. In light of that repentance, Hosea foresaw great things for his people. His nation would be called children of the living God, see Hosea 1:10. All Israelites, both Judah and Israel, would be gathered together with one leader, see Hosea 1:11. There would be no more war, see Hosea 2:18, and Israel would be able to dwell in safety. They would be in a covenant relationship with the LORD, likened to a faithful marriage relationship, see Hosea 2:19-20. They would come to fear the LORD, seeking out the Davidic King, or Messiah, see Hosea 3:5. God would heal them and love them freely, see Hosea 14:4. Israel would blossom like the lily and take root like the towering trees of Lebanon, see Hosea 14:5-7. In contrast to their lack of spiritual growth in Hosea’s day, they would flourish in the most beautiful way at some point in the future after they returned to the LORD.

So the rebuke of Hosea to Israel becomes the rebuke of Jesus to Israel. Jesus as the Prophet is standing in their midst telling them that they do not understand this simple six word phrase. God wants mercy and not sacrifice. His authority of the scriptures in this public rebuke is untouchable. They have no intelligent response to His two examples for how they blatantly contradict the scriptures with their interpretation of the law. He further states that something greater than the temple is present. This could be Jesus referring to Himself, or perhaps this is the entire introduction of the gospel of the kingdom first by John the Baptist and then by Jesus. The kingdom of God itself is here, present in the ministry of the Messiah, something greater than the temple. This would be a defense of whom Jesus has chosen to preach this gospel, meaning the disciples were above reproach because they hadn’t broken the law, and they were part of something greater than the temple itself.

Jesus also makes the statement, see Luke 6:5, that the Son of Man is LORD of the Sabbath. The Son of Man is the title that Jesus has been using to refer to Himself. Here He claims authority over the Sabbath itself. Now here is quite a claim. In order to be Lord over the Sabbath, you would have to predate the Sabbath. In order to be Lord over the Sabbath, you would have to be the One who instituted the Sabbath. It’s quite a presumptuous statement for Someone to proclaim Himself as Lord over the creation week itself. I don’t understand why more theologians don’t turn to this passage when looking for examples of Jesus proclaiming His deity.

Before we move into the short story of the controversial healing on the Sabbath, let’s sum up the story thus far. The disciples are getting a snack in a field. The religiously schooled Pharisees publicly accuse these unschooled common folk as being Sabbath breakers. Jesus defends them by publicly denouncing the entire religious system of the Pharisees in relation to the Sabbath. Their application of who can eat holy bread and what can be done on the Sabbath contradicts the scriptures. Jesus proclaims that He and His disciples are part of something greater than the temple itself and that He is LORD of the Sabbath. In the process, Jesus quotes Hosea 6:6 which condemns the Pharisees as being in the same spiritual place as idolatrous Israel, and the rest of the nation of Israel that did not currently believe in Him as well.

As we transition into the healing story, Matthew 9:9 tells us one thing clearly while another issue is unclear. First off, Jesus enters one of their synagogues. That means this is a synagogue of the Pharisees. Jesus went from synagogue to synagogue teaching and preaching in every city, see Matthew 4:23. Jesus did not purposefully stay away from the Pharisees up to this point. He talked with them, preached to them, healed their sick, and just basically loved them very much. The issue that is unclear is the timing. It almost sounds like the public debate of Matthew 12:1-8 occurs, and then later that day Jesus enters the synagogue. Luke 6:1-11 shows that this was definitely on another Sabbath. So the idea here is that this public debate occurred, the public had time to react, talk about it, question the Pharisees on their stance and how they interpreted the law, question Jesus on His claims, and basically see who the winner of the debate was. Meanwhile, the Pharisees had time to regroup, clarify their position, and determine their strategy in how they would challenge Jesus in the future, because in their minds they obviously couldn’t be wrong. So after some time has passed, Jesus finds Himself in a Pharisaical synagogue in the following situation.

There is a man with a withered hand in attendance on that Sabbath day. Mark 3:2 and Luke 6:7 both state that the scribes and Pharisees were watching Jesus to see if He would heal on the Sabbath in order that they might accuse Him. They had no compassion for the man with the withered hand. They only wanted to use him to try to discredit Jesus. Again, God desires mercy and not sacrifice. Now what happens next depends on how you reconcile the different accounts in the gospels. In Matthew, the Pharisees question Jesus, asking whether it was lawful to heal on Sabbath days. In their minds, if Jesus states that someone can heal on the Sabbath, then He has admitted that someone can work on the Sabbath, therefore He is a Sabbath breaker. However, Mark and Luke both state that it is Jesus asking them what the law states because He knew that they were watching Him that they might accuse Him. I suggest that both are correct. I believe the Pharisees waited for an opportunity as Jesus was teaching to bring the subject up. Once the subject of the Sabbath came up, they asked Him if it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath. Jesus responds by answering the question with a question, or series of questions. This was common practice for rabbis, and Jesus used this as well, see Matthew 21:23-27. The answer to their question was actually contained subtly in His question. The question of Jesus is basically, “Is it against the law to do something good on the Sabbath? Is it against the law to save a life on the Sabbath?”

You can search the Mosaic law all you want. You won’t find anywhere a command to not do good things on the Sabbath. The basic commands are, don’t work on the Sabbath, don’t force someone else to work on the Sabbath, and don’t build a fire on the Sabbath, see Exodus 20:8-11, 35:2-3, Deuteronomy 5:12-15. That’s it. But note from above that priests were required to build a fire on the Sabbath in order to offer up sacrifices. The basic idea here is that all your work that you are required to do is to be scheduled and executed on the first six days of the week. Do your work like God does His work, work six days then rest one day. Anything that you might add to the list in scripture may contradict something else in scripture. The above examples that Jesus used are a good start. Another good example is Exodus 23:4-5. The basic premise here is that if you see a good deed that needs to be done, do it right away. If you see an animal belonging to anyone, even someone like an enemy that either hates you or you hate them; if that animal has gone astray, you must immediately bring the animal back to the owner. There is no clarification here that states, unless it’s the Sabbath. Also, if someone’s animal has fallen down or needs rescuing, you must immediately rescue that animal, even if the owner is an enemy. So as Jesus questioned them concerning rescuing an animal on the Sabbath, He was questioning them on their knowledge of the whole law.

In Mark and Luke there is this dramatic pause after Jesus posed His questions to the Pharisees. You see, Jesus had them right where He wanted them. His question directly invoked Exodus 23:4-5. If they stated it was against the law to rescue an animal on the Sabbath, they have now contradicted the law just like their entire system contradicted the law in two different points as Jesus publicly demonstrated earlier. If an animal is allowed to be rescued on the Sabbath, then certainly a human being is allowed to be rescued or healed on the Sabbath. In Mark and Luke the wording of Jesus is such that He asks, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to save life or destroy life?” Now we’re getting somewhere. No matter what day of the week it happens to be, it is always against the law to kill someone or to try to destroy someone. And no matter what day of the week it happens to be, it is always within the scope of the law to save someone’s life. Immediately after Jesus heals the man, the Pharisees are plotting to destroy Jesus, and on the Sabbath day I might add. So who were the real Sabbath breakers? Note that Luke will have much more to say on this subject. The debate is not over as it seems to come up multiple times, see Luke 13:11-17, 14:1-6, and even John 5:1-18. John 5:17 shows that if the Father in heaven didn’t want these people healed on the Sabbath, then they wouldn’t have been healed at all.

What is so appropriate here is a reference to Romans 10:1-5. These Pharisees had a zeal for God, but not according to scriptural knowledge. They were ignorant of God’s righteousness. They just could not understand their need to repent from their sinfulness and believe in someone to save them. So they went about trying to establish their own righteousness by living according to God’s law. In the process, they condemned other people who did not keep the law as good as they did, not realizing they were condemned by the very law they were trying to keep. I feel so bad for so many people who call themselves Christians who do this exact same thing. They have either grown up in church, or started going to church, but have never repented of their sinfulness. They view themselves as being on the inside of God’s plan while other sinful people are on the outside of God’s plan. They too are ignorant of God’s righteousness and are trying to establish their own righteousness. Anytime a self righteous person is confronted with their sin or their sinfulness, they will immediately point to some “good” thing in their lives, whether past, present, or future. It’s either, look at what I’ve done, look at what I’m doing, or I’m about to start doing something. It is never about God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, or what they have accomplished on our behalf.

Lest I end this post on a negative note, I must turn back to Hosea once more before I close. I believe that there is more to that little quote from Hosea that Jesus shared. In the rebuke from Hosea, Jesus also insinuates that the blessings promised in Hosea would come if only His people would repent. Jesus held out hope for His people that they would one day repent, even if He knew that the present generation must reject Him. He looked forward to the day when His people would embrace Him as their Savior. He promised His disciples that in the regeneration (which basically means New Genesis) that the twelve that He had chosen would sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel, see Matthew 19:28. Jesus could have chosen any number for His inner circle, but He chose twelve; and for a specific reason. Yes, His generation was being condemned, but Jesus was also doing something new that would endure into the age to come, or the kingdom come, or the regeneration, however you want to term it. According to the words of Christ, that includes the nation of Israel. If you study the scriptures, that includes their repentance as a nation. One day they will return to the LORD and He will heal them, see Hosea 6:1.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman


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