Tag Archives: parables

Sentencing

Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out,(Psalm 5:10 ESV)

When Jesus entered Jerusalem the last week of His earthly ministry, He went to the Temple, His Father’s house, and cleared away the vendors and moneychangers. He disrupted Annas’ Bazaar, violently driving them from the Temple grounds. In the Gospel of John, at the beginning of His ministry when He did the same, He accused the authorities of turning His Father’s house into a market. “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade”  (John 2:16 ESV). Now, the second time, He accuses them of thievery. They are stealing from the people and from God.“It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers” (Matthew 21:13 ESV; see Mark 11:17, Luke 19:46). Jesus acts angry.

Following this scene, Jesus confronts and is confronted by the spiritual leaders of Israel, who are leading the people away from God, not toward Him. Yet, the people come to Him, especially those who need healing. Children cried out, exclaiming over Him.

And the blind and the lame came to him in the Temple, and he healed them.

But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the Temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” 

And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, “‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?” And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there. (Matthew 21:14-17 ESV).

The next day, Jesus again entered the Temple. There is no indication Annas’ Bazaar was still there. Immediately, the chief priest challenged and questioned Jesus’ authority. Jesus asked them about John’s baptism.“The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” (Matthew 21:25 ESV). They refused to answer. “And they discussed it among themselves, saying, ‘If we say, “From heaven,” he will say to us, “Why then did you not believe him?” But if we say, “From man,” we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.’” (Matthew 21:25-26 ESV). They were not interested in knowing the truth. All they wanted was political power. “For there is no truth in their mouth” (Psalm 5:9 ESV).

Jesus confronts them and their rebellion using two parables. “When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet” (Matthew 21:45-46 ESV). Jesus used His stories to convict them of their guilt and wrongdoing.

Jesus’ first parable was of the two sons. A father had two sons. He told them both to work in their vineyard. One son declared he would, but did not. The other son said he would not work, but went and worked. One son claimed obedience but lied. The other son rebelled but then obeyed. The Father is God. The sons are the children of God. 

Which of the two did the will of his father?” 

They said, “The first.” 

Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.   (Matthew 21:31-32 ESV)

Jesus second parable is of the tenants of a master who built a winepress then traveled to a distant country. The tenants mutinied against him, killing the servants of the master sent to gather the profits of the winepress. The master sent his son, whom they also killed. They believed by killing the son they would then be rid of the master and have full control of the winepress. The Master is God. The tenants are the people of God. The servants are the prophets of God and the son is Jesus.

When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”

They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”  (Matthew 21:40-41 ESV)

Their own words condemn them. “Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits”  (Matthew 21:43 ESV). They will bear their own guilt. They will fall by their own counsel. They rebel and sin against God and He will cast them from His presence.

Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you. (Psalm 5:10 ESV)

Advertisements

Kiss the Son

Meditations on the Psalms

Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. (Psalm 2:12 ESV)

Who is the Son? He is the blessed, righteous man from Psalm 1. “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2 ESV). He is the Anointed (Psalm 2:2). He is the King of Zion God has set on His holy hill (Psalm 2:3). He is the One begotten by God (Psalm 2:7) who is given the earth and the nations of the earth (Psalm 2:8). He is the One who will crush the rebellion of those who have mutinied against God (Psalm 2:9). He is the One they are to serve with fear and trembling (Psalm 2:10). He is the King of kings, Emanuel, Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, the Son of God, Messiah.

Kiss means to touch gently or to put together. One would kiss those of greater rank to show respect and allegiance to the person and to that which they represented. Thus, these kings and rulers, and the people they represent, are to abandon themselves to Him by giving Him their complete loyalty in all the thinking of their hearts.

There are only two possible outcomes to God’s command to embrace His Son. This is a command, not a request. Nowhere in Scripture does God request anyone do anything for Him voluntarily. His commands are given with the expectation of obedience. Yet, bent by sin, no one can obey God without His direct intervention, which He gives freely. Still, people disobey Him, refusing to identify themselves with His Son, the King. Either God’s commands are obeyed, which is the natural action of those created in His image, or they are disobeyed, which brings His wrath.

Notice the warning given after the admonishment to kiss the Son. He will be angry and you perish in the way. Perish means to go astray and be destroyed. Annihilation awaits those who continue in their rebellion against Him. Their words and works are destroyed and they are consigned to eternity outside the presence of the life giving and sustaining God. Though God is patient in His dealings with people His patience does come to an end, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Wrath is the same word used in 2:5 for snorting through the nostrils. He will heatedly and justly condemn those who refuse to obey.

Do not test the patience of God with your sin.

Jesus speaks the parable of the wheat and the tares as an illustration of the kingdom of heaven and His authority and rule.

The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also.

And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?”

He said to them, “An enemy has done this.”

So the servants said to him, “Then do you want us to go and gather them?”

But he said, “No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, ‘Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’” (Matthew 13:24-30 ESV)

God created that which is good, people with the image of God. An enemy, the Deceiver came and led His people into rebellion. Yet, God has provided a way for those who are rebelling to return to Him. Some will, others will not. Those that will not are separated from those who will. Those who are His are gathered to Him and have His pleasure, while those who refuse to obey and give their loyalty to Him are removed from His presence and face His eternal wrath.

Righteous

Meditations on the Psalms

for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. (Psalm 1:6 ESV)

Righteousness is shown by thought, motive and action. Those who are righteous will think in a righteous way. They will do righteous acts. Their motivation for righteousness will come from their love for God because of His love for them. Created in His image, righteousness is a natural, integral element of the essence of people. However, sin corrupted the vessel making it impossible for people created by God to think and act in a righteous way. It is the thinking of the heart which is known through the actions of the will which shows to whom the individual gives allegiance.

Conversely, those who are wicked are betrayed by their actions. Their motives are known by their actions, or in some instances, their inaction. Sin is not just an action. Sin is also notorious for the willful decision to not confront or restrain evil. Even the corrupted person has the uncorrupted image of God and knows when a motive, thought and action is unrighteous. Wickedness is the willful giving oneself permission to think and act in an ungodly way, justifiably condemned by God.

Jesus, just before His passion, spoke about the final judgment of God. In Matthew 24 and 25 He gives a chilling description of what will happen before and during this final judgment. God, the Son of Man, will finally separate those who are His from those who are not His. He “knows the way of the righteous” and will bring them into His presence. He knows “the way of the wicked” brings His righteous judgment as He drives them from His presence.

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. (Matthew 25:31-32 ESV)

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. (Matthew 25:41 ESV)

And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Matthew 25:46 ESV)

God’s righteous judgment is based upon the thinking of the hearts of all people measured against His divine moral law. Read the entire Matthew 24-25 passage. You will see throughout God separating one from another, those who love Him from those who hate Him. Those who love God, doing that which is driven by the righteous thinking of their hearts, will be persecuted by those who are driven by ungodliness and sin. Wickedness will grow and try to overwhelm and destroy righteousness. But, Christ will return to gather to Himself those who are His and to banish from His presence those who war against Him by attacking the righteous.

Jesus illustrates His teaching through the parables which follow. All of the parables speaks about the deepest motivations of the thinking of the hearts of each person. The parable of the ten virgins show those who consciously pursue their relationship with Him versus those who lazily believe they have to do nothing. The parable of the talents illustrates those actively serving God through abandoned devotion to Him are blessed. Those who refuse to serve Him with what He has given lose that which was initially given and their lives. Jesus illustrates this in other places describing salt losing its saltiness. “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Luke 14:34-35 ESV). God judges the thinking of the heart based upon the evidence of the life.

We are engulfed in a war where those who hate God actively and purposefully choose to rage against Him. Since they cannot touch God they actively and purposefully rage against those who are His. Read carefully the passage in Matthew 5:31-46 and you will see God identifying with people, just as He did trough the physical life of His Son. God’s righteous judgement is against those who refuse to act in a righteous way but instead embrace the world and its refusal to pursue righteousness in every way.

“Have Mercy on Me”

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt:

“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 

But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’

I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” [Luke 18:9-14 ESV]

Jesus tells this parable which describes one who is rich in spirit contrasted with one who is poor in spirit. Since it is a parable it is important we understand the context in which it is told, to whom He is speaking and about whom He is speaking. Parables are often interpreted in a way which makes them walk away from their meaning.

Beginning in Luke 14 we see Jesus drawing a sharp distinction between those who say they worship and know God and those who truly do know and worship Him. There is a running argument between the Pharisees and Jesus. Many stories and illustration given in the Gospels show the disparity between the teaching of the Pharisees and Jesus. From the feast to the lost coin, sheep and son, the healing of lepers and the persistent widow, Jesus continually draws a distinction between the two camps.

Jesus’ discourse found in Luke 15-17 illustrates the difference between sin and repentance, and faith and obedience. Those who do not worship God, though they will say they do, do not understand that before you can be found you must be lost. Before you can repent you must acknowledge sin. Also, where faith is true the evidence of faith, obedience, is obvious. Where obedience is lacking there can be no faith. Saying you obey is not good enough. Changing the rules so it looks like you are obeying is still rebellious. No one can jump over repentance straight to obedience. The process is sure. First comes acknowledgment of sin, then repentance.  With repentance is faith. The evidence of faith is true obedience.

Jesus then moves on to Jerusalem where He knows He will face His passion, the final sacrifice of Himself for the world. This is the reason He came and the culmination of His life on earth. While on His way He cleanses ten lepers, telling them to show themselves to the priests. Only one returns to Him to praise God for his healing. He is then asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come. Jesus is speaking to His disciples with the Pharisees present about the coming of God’s kingdom drawing a sharp distinction between those who are accepted into the kingdom and those rejected. He tells them a parable about the persistent widow and about the Pharisee and the tax collector.

In the second parable two men come before God to worship Him.  One is self-righteous, saying he has done all and more than God requires. He thinks he has fulfilled the written law in all its aspects. He may have. But his attitude goes beyond simply doing the laws. He compares his righteousness, as measured by the his own interpretation of the law, with the unrighteousness of the other man in the story.

We do not need to imagine the history of either in this parable. They have no history. The other man is a tax collector who recognizes his sin before a righteous God. His life is black with sin. There is nothing he can do to take away his sin. Even keeping the law perfectly cannot take away the judgment of God against his sin.

The first man needs on the law not God. The second know he needs Gods mercy but also knows his sin keeps him away. The first did not know he was under God’s judgment and wrath. The second recognizes he deserves only God’s judgment and wrath. The first asks God for nothing. The second pleads for his life beating his breast and begging for mercy.

God’s mercy and grace coupled with our faith and obedience places us in a unique position before God. There is a real and true relationship. Jesus tells us we can ask God for anything in His name. This is not a blank check giving us the right to expect anything we want. Grasping after our wants is rebellion. Wanting what God wants motivates the desires of those devoted to Him. Jesus’ statement is surrounded by everything God wants for us, nothing the world has for us.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. [John 14:12-17 ESV]

Notice God promises us the Spirit of truth. Having His Spirit will motivate us to do what He does. We love Him by doing His commandments. There is no place in the thinking of our hearts for the world’s or our own selfish expectations. Eternity has room only for what God wants which is pure and undefiled, righteous and holy, untainted by sin, selfishness or self-righteousness.

Yet, honestly examining our motives will reveal the extent of our selfish, self-centered, self-absorbed rebellion against Him. It is wholly appropriate we beg for mercy and acknowledge His grace.

I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted. [Luke 18:14]

Called by God

“Many are called but few are chosen.” [Matthew 22:14 ESV]

If you ask the normal Christian who has grown up with flannel graph Bible stories in Sunday School and listening to Sunday sermons Jesus frequently uses this phrase. He does make similar statement but this is the only time Jesus actually says “many are called but few are chosen.” This startling statement comes on the heels of a number of parables directed against false teaching about who God is and what He wants in a relationship with those He loves. Jesus ends the last parable in this string of stories with the above declaration.

This parable is about a wedding banquet and the lack of desire to attend by the invited guests of the father of the groom. It was the King of the land who invited them and they had so little regard for him they found excuses to not attend. So, instead of forcing them or compelling them, the king disowned them and invited the poor and needy and anyone his servants could find on the road. It did not matter if they were citizens of his kingdom or just traveling through they were invited in and came. Knowing those invited from the streets would not have proper attire the king clothed them so they would reflect the dignity of the occasion of the wedding of his son. But, he found one man who refused the clothing choosing to wear his own cloths and not those provided. When the king saw this man dressed in his clothes, an anomaly amidst the wedding guests, he spoke to him and received no answer from the man who was not wearing proper attire. He was speechless so the king had him bound hand and foot and thrown out. Does this sound violent and abusive? Is it not the prerogative of a king to demand compliance with his wishes?

Though Jesus does not interpret the parable it is not difficult to understand. In the story the king is God and the son is Jesus, the Son of God. God’s servants are the prophets including John the Baptizer. Those who are invited but refused to come are the religious leaders and the chosen people of God. Those who are invited and attend are those, including the Gentiles, who obey God’s command to come into His presence. Please note, the word “invited” is the word “called” and is not a request as an invitation is considered in our culture. It was not the king’s intent to request people come but a command they should come. For any to disobey this command is out and out rebellion. Jesus’ righteous is the wedding garment and all who attend the wedding must be clothed with His righteousness and not their own. So, the one who is found who is not dressed properly and is cast out represents those who claim to know God but refuse to be clothed in Christ’s righteousness preferring their own.

Jesus spoke this parable against the religious leaders who hated him and wanted him dead. They were the leaders responsible for teaching the people about God, His law and history. Yet, they had become so self-centered and focused on controlling the people they lost sight of God’s work and intent for them. They were self-righteous, as far away from “poor in spirit” as they could be. Though they espoused the thoughts and will of God they did not follow Him or have a relationship with Him. They were His servants yet refused to serve Him as He commanded. They were sinful yet refused to acknowledge their sin believing following the law to the letter would make them right before God. Using their works as an excuse they refused to respond to the One who had chosen them and taught them and was leading them toward Himself. They are “called” yet refuse His “chosen” status.

God’s call is not a request to come but a command. There is not option for refusal. When God calls a person He draws them out of one thing and into another. He calls them out of one place and sends them to another. Abraham was called out of Ur of Chaldea, away from his land and his people and his gods and sent to an unknown place. At no time during the journey did God ever say “I am sending you to Canaan, over next to the Mediterranean. You know the place in between the desert and the sea, with Egypt on the South and every other world power on the North.” God called Abraham and promised to bless him in the new place even though he was walking into the complete unknown.

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. [2] And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. [3] I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” [Genesis 12:1-3 ESV]

There are two major points in Abraham’s story. First, God chose a man who was not a godly man, who had nothing in his being or bearing which would show himself as one worthy of God’s attention. Looking back at Jesus’ parable Abraham would be one walking the street, not even a citizen of the kingdom, invited into the wedding banquet. Abraham was thoroughly pagan. He was not dressed appropriately for a wedding feast for the son of a king. Secondly, God called him out of the world of paganism and idolatry into a place He had already chosen and would direct into making His kingdom (albeit, on earth). God dressed him over the years, clothing him appropriately for attendance at the wedding feast and as a new citizen of His kingdom. God called him and chose him and he responded to the call and accepted being chosen even though he did not know what would happen.

Jesus says “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” He is calling those chosen out of one world into another. He is saying “look honestly at yourself, at those around you, at the world in which you live and recognize its total depravity, turn away from it and enter the exact opposite, the kingdom of heaven.”

When you leave the world you cannot bring anything with you. This world is condemned. In God’s timing he will destroy everything corrupted by sin. Why then would anyone try to bring something, anything, which has no eternal value out of this world into His kingdom?

God does not rip us away from the physical world. When Israel entered the Promised Land God said He would drive out the inhabitants “little by little”lest the land become desolate and the wild beasts multiply against you.” In the same way the Israelites were to drive out the people of the land of Canaan the Christian is to expel the sin from their lives. As sin is confronted it must be killed. Since the Israelites did not do what God commanded, leaving some of the ungodly people in the land they were to drive out, God allowed them to stay.

Now these are the nations that the LORD left, to test Israel by them, that is, all in Israel who had not experienced all the wars in Canaan. It was only in order that the generations of the people of Israel might know war, to teach war to those who had not known it before. These are the nations: the five lords of the Philistines and all the Canaanites and the Sidonians and the Hivites who lived on Mount Lebanon, from Mount Baal-hermon as far as Lebo-hamath. They were for the testing of Israel, to know whether Israel would obey the commandments of the LORD, which he commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses. [Judges 3:1-4 ESV]

As you read the history of Israel you will see the Philistines were a continual source of war and temptation. Israel has been suffering because of the sin of disobedience for thousands of years. So, we must have no mercy upon the sin we discover and face. It must be driven out and destroyed. That which is of the world cannot enter the Kingdom of God. However, like Israel, should we not drive out the sin God will allow it to stay to teach us to war against sin.

Though God does not rip any who are His away from this world He does tell us to break any connection we might have with the world so we not cling to that which is worthless. There was nothing in corrupted people to suggest we are worth God’s effort and attention. What we are not the issue. Who God is and that He works in those who are His is the issue. He is working to prepare the Christian for eternity though we deserve the exact opposite. His call is for the Christian to recognize sin and His grace and obey Him no matter the circumstance.