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Reflections on the New Testament: Matthew
“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven,” Matt. 5:17-20, NKJV.
Herein Jesus identifies Himself as the fulfillment of the law. He also presents something of a riddle: He declares that whoever breaks even one small portion of the law shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven. In saying this, He implies that such a person may be within the kingdom of heaven despite his/her c…
Reflections on the New Testament: Matthew
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” Matt. 5:3, NKJV.
What is meant by the phrase, “poor in spirit,” that it should here be particularly applied to the children of God? Firstly, is not “poor in spirit” an accurate description of humanity in general? Nevertheless, only those who acknowledge this poverty and submit to God shall enter the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted,” Matt. 5:4.
Those who suffer at present shall have the greater joy in the end. Recall a similar passage in Ecclesiastes, which states: “Better to go to the house of mourning that to go the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men; and the living will take it to heart,” (Ecc.7:2). Mourning is a sign of humility, and is a word often used in the Old Testament to indicate the brokenness of a righteous person upon recognizing his or her sin. Feasting, on the other hand, is a Biblical term commonly ass…
Reflections on the New Testament: Matthew
“Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to [John] and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, ‘Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?’” Matt. 3:5-7, NKJV.
Note the contrast here: that John baptized the people, who eagerly went out to him and confessed, but rebuked the religious leaders the instant he saw them approaching! The reason for this is simple, and, indeed, is addressed all throughout the gospels. The Pharisees and Sadducees adhered to the Law, and eagerly embraced its requirement of human effort as a means of self-glorification. They mistakenly believed that this outward display of religiosity was sufficient to gain righteousness—in short, that no divine intervention was necessary. To this, King Solomon soundly replies in Proverbs 26:12, “Do you see a man wise in his ow…
Reflections on the New Testament
The book of Matthew begins with the genealogy of Jesus Christ—and it is wondrous to note that the salvation message is proclaimed even in this. That our Savior should be descended from a line of sinners (not contaminated by them, for He was born of a virgin)—sinners whom God predestined to be the direct ancestors of the One who was to wash away their sin once and for all. In this genealogy, it is clearly shown that man is sinful, but God is merciful and mighty to save, able to use the meanest of vessels for His glory. Note that the first three verses make no mention of any female ancestor, but of the male only. Then note verse 3: “Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar…” and verse 5: “Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse.” Here we are compelled to acknowledge that Rahab the harlot and Ruth the Moabitess were instrumental in bringing forth the Messiah. Our God is no respecter of persons! But is able to redeem all.
Furthermo…
Reflections on the Old Testament: Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi
The book of Haggai focuses primarily upon the temple of the LORD. In chapter one, the LORD rebukes the people for allowing His house to lie in ruins, while they themselves “dwell in paneled houses,” (see Hag. 1:4). While the LORD, indeed, gives the command for His people to rebuild the physical temple, is He not truly concerned with the spiritual temple?
“’Thus speaks the LORD of hosts, saying: “This people says, ‘The time has not come, the time that the LORD’s house should be built.’”’ Then the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet, saying, ‘Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?’ Now therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Consider your ways! You have sown much, and bring in little; you eat, but do not have enough; you drink, but you are not filled with drink; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag w…
Reflections on the Old Testament: Micah, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah
“Is the Spirit of the LORD restricted? Are these His doings? Do not My words do good to him who walks uprightly?” Micah 2:7, NKJV.
“But truly I am full of power by the Spirit of the LORD, and of justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin,” Micah 3:8, NKJV.
The house of Jacob knew the Word of the LORD. The priests, at any rate, knew the Law by heart, and God continually sent prophets to the people. In short, they were without excuse. Nevertheless, throughout the book of Micah, we see the LORD’s wrath poured out upon the Israelite leaders, who mercilessly persecute the prophets and abuse their God-given authority over the people.
“Woe to those who devise iniquity, and work out evil on their beds! At morning light they practice it, because it is in the power of their hand. They covet fields and take them by violence, also houses, and seize them. So they oppress a man and his house, a man and …
Reflections on the Old Testament: Hosea
“Ephraim is oppressed and broken in judgment, because he willingly walked by human precept,” Hosea 5:11, NKJV.
How much sorrow might have been avoided if Ephraim had simply trusted in his God! But, alas, he trusted in man—nor was he deceived, nor bribed into it, but he willingly walked by human precept. How vile, how low, to reject the counsel of the almighty God and joyfully embrace the empty philosophies of the world! To exchange glory and wisdom for shame and folly! And yet, is there anyone among us who is not guilty of the same? Alas, for Ephraim is no more wicked than we. Therefore, the LORD says: “I will return again to My place till they acknowledge their offense. Then they will seek My face; in their affliction they will earnestly seek Me,” (Hosea 5:15). When we eat the fruits of our folly, will we then repent? When we are “oppressed and broken in judgment”? Even “in our affliction,” it is by God’s grace alone that we “acknowledge our offe…
Reflections on the Old Testament: Daniel
It becomes evident very early on that the main point emphasized in the book of Daniel is that God alone grants knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. Moreover, all throughout the Bible we see a pattern in the men to whom God grants these great gifts—the key verse in the book of Daniel, for example, is: “Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard….”(Daniel 10:12, NKJV.) 1) “Daniel set his heart to understand”: what exactly is meant by this statement? Jeremiah 17:9 denotes the heart as “wicked and deceitful above all things”—therefore, how can Daniel himself set his heart to understand? By surrendering it entirely to God. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,” Prov. 9:10. 2) “Daniel humbled himself before God”: in other words, he recognized his lowly estate, his unworthiness to receive the Holy Spirit, and surrendered himself as vile cl…