Matthew 6 – Don’t Worry

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Don't Worry Be HappyJesus comes in the flesh as an itinerant rabbi – traveling throughout the region of Judea/Palestine declaring that the kingdom of God has arrived. This kingdom is not a place where one goes after they die – but is a way of life in the here and now. Jesus demonstrates what a life lived under the rule and reign of God looks like. It is a victorious life of faith. Matthew, the first perspective of this message from Jesus, is written to the Jewish people who had been waiting anxiously for the one promised by the prophets. According to Matthew, Jesus was that one they had been looking for. After validating this by listing how Jesus fits into the lineage of King David, Matthew then shares various teachings of Jesus through a Jewish lens.

Beginning in chapter 5, there is a section of teachings entitled the “Sermon on the Mount” (because they are given on the side of a mountain). Dealing with various practical, every day issues, Jesus reveals how an individual who is in alignment with God will go about their normal life. One of those teachings, near the end of chapter 6, deals with a major source of stress even for us today, that is worrying. We all battle this inclination to worry and stress about our provision, our future and our decisions. In fact – it is tempting to claim this as a normal part of being human. But that is not how Jesus sees it…

 

“Therefore I tell you, stop being perpetually uneasy (anxious and worried) about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink; or about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life greater [in quality] than food, and the body [far above and more excellent] than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father keeps feeding them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by worrying and being anxious can add one unit of measure (cubit) to his stature or to the span of his life.  And why should you be anxious about clothes? Consider the lilies of the field and learn thoroughly how they grow; they neither toil nor spin. Yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his magnificence (excellence, dignity, and grace) was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and green and tomorrow is tossed into the furnace, will He not much more surely clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not worry and be anxious, saying, What are we going to have to eat? or, What are we going to have to drink? or, What are we going to have to wear? For the Gentiles (heathen) wish for and crave and diligently seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows well that you need them all. But seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right), and then all these things taken together will be given you besides. So do not worry or be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will have worries and anxieties of its own. Sufficient for each day is its own trouble.”– Matthew 6:25-34 AMP

 

Jesus teaches that people who are living under the rule and reign of God (in His kingdom), should not worry, be fretful, or over-anxious about their lives.

Reasons to not worry:

  • Life is more than what you eat (v 25)
  • Your body is more than what you wear (v 25)
  • Men are greater than material goods (v 25)
  • Men are worth more than birds – whom God takes care of without their worry (v 26)
  • Worrying cannot change your body (v27)
  • Men are worth more than the plants – who don’t worry (v 28-30)
  • God takes care of all creation, not just the birds and plants (v 26-32)
  • Worry is useless and sinful and most not be tolerated (v 33-34)

We (as God’s people) should work overtime to quit worrying. It isn’t noble nor is it healthy.

What worry really is:

  • Sinful and produces fear
  • A disease causing other ills
  • Borrowing trouble that cannot be paid back
  • Brooding over what may not happen
  • Creating trouble, misery, death
  • A burden borrowed from tomorrow and others who should carry it
  • Weight that kills prematurely
  • Mental and physical suicide
  • A grave-digger that has no sympathy
  • Needless and wasted time and effort that should be spent on worthwhile things
  • A robber of faith, peace, and trust in a never-failing, heavenly Father
  • A stumbling block to others
  • A disgrace to God and should never be indulged in by Christians
  • Anxiety over what is nothing today and less tomorrow, in view of faith
  • Anticipating troubles which seldom come to those who trust God
  • Torment over something that will likely be a blessing if it comes
  • Living like an orphan without a heavenly Father
  • A crime against God, man, nature, and better judgment
  • Mental cruelty to self and others
  • Foolish, for whatever is going to happen cannot be stopped by worry; and if it doesn’t happen, there is nothing to worry about. Should adversities actually come, one may still be victorious by trusting God.

Don’t worry – be happy!

 

Be Fruitful & Multiply,

PK

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Malachi and Beyond

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Between the TestamentsThe short book from the prophet Malachi spells the end of the Old Testament. Like Haggai and Zechariah, Malachi (“my messenger”) writes his prophecy to Israel during the post-exilic years. Written around the end of the 5th century B.C., this “oracle of the words of the Lord” is directed towards God’s people, who despite having numerous historical examples to follow, fall right back into sin and rebellion against God’s ways. In what has begun to sound like a broken record, the prophet warns the people about the consequences of choosing their own way over Yahweh, while also providing hope for the future.

As a sign of the rebellious state of the people, Malachi reveals a prophetic conversation between the Lord and His disobedient people. Six times the Lord mentions their disobedience – and six times the people argue with Him. Having quickly forgotten how the Lord delivered them from Babylon, returned them to their land in miraculous fashion through Cyrus, and helped them rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple, the people have rejected Yahweh once again.

Statement #1 (1:2-5): “Yahweh loves Israel”

Response #1: “How have you loved us?”

Statement #2 (1:6-2:9): “Why do you despise My Name and offer polluted sacrifices?”

Response: “How have we done that?”

Statement #3 (2:10-16): “Yahweh hates divorce and will not accept your offerings.”

Response: “Why?”

Statement #4 (2:17-3:5): “You have wearied Yahweh.”

Response: “How?”

Statement #5 (3:6-12): “You are robbing God by withholding tithes and offerings.”

Response: “How are we doing that?”

Statement #6 (3:13-4:3): “You have spoken against me.”

Response: “How have we spoken against you?”

Each time God delivers an indictment against His people, they do not respond with repentance and a contrite heart, but with defense and rebellion.

Yet, as we have seen so many times already, the heart of the Lord overcomes Him. He promises that He will restore His fallen nation, sparing them “as a man spares his own son” (3:17), healing those who fear His name (4:2), and placing them over their enemies (4:3).

Then, after some final instructions – to remember the laws which Moses gave them, and keep watching for the return of the prophet Elijah who will be the signal of their restoration, the Old Testament ends.

The prophets go silent.

Yahweh stops speaking…

For almost 500 years – there was the Silence of the Lamb!

 

During that time… the world stage changes hands. Alexander the Great, of Greece, conquered the entire known world by 331 B.C. Overthrowing the powerful Egyptian city of Alexandria, Alex the Great populated it with many Jews, giving them freedom to worship according to their customs. It was during this time that the Septuagint (translation of the OT from Hebrew to Greek) was compiled – evidence that many of the Jews were starting to forget their heritage and adopt the Grecian world around them. Alexander did much to promote the Greek philosophy, infamously through Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato.

The world began to change.

Eventually, around 200 B.C., the Roman Empire began to assert its strength. Overthrowing the divided Grecian kingdom, Rome became the rulers of the world. Greco-Roman philosophy would continue to spread and gain a foothold across the known world, swallowing up the Jews under its tide.

In 170 B.C., in fulfillment of Daniel 11:1-34, the Syrian king Antiochus Epiphanes entered the Temple in Jerusalem and polluted it by sacrificing a pig and erecting a statue of Jupiter upon its altar. The outcry from the Jews was immediate… and led by the Maccabees family, they successfully revolted and regained their independence. (They celebrate this monumental victory during Hanukkah still today).

In time the Romans would again rule the Israelites, and in 47 B.C., Julius Caesar would become the leader of Rome. Ten years later, in 37 B.C., the Romans would insert Herod the Great as a nominal sovereign over the Jews. Of mixed blood, Herod would never really gain the trust of the Jewish people. As a puppet of the Romans, he would dramatically change the landscape of Israel by building Roman temples and monuments to Caesar. Viewed as betraying the Law, various groups rose in quiet opposition to these changes. The Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Zealots (to name a few) – all found their place among Jewish society.

The Jews were oppressed. They had no say in their own affairs. They were enslaved by a foreign ruler.

All they had were promises from God, written by prophets long ago.

Now God was silent. Where was He? Why wouldn’t He help them?

 

The Jews needed a Savior…

 

 

Be Fruitful & Multiply,

PK

The Branch in Zechariah

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branchZechariah joins Haggai and Malachi as the only Prophets to minister to Post-Exilic Israel (after their return from Babylon). As we saw with Haggai, Zechariah’s main mission is to speak words of hope and encouragement to a tiny remnant returning to Jerusalem with intentions to rebuild the shattered temple. Throughout his book, Zechariah shares several visions of what will happen in the future.

One of these visions continues what is known as a “Progressive Prophecy” that has been slowly evolving throughout the Old Testament. Sometimes when we read it we forget that the people of the Old Testament received theses visions/words/sayings in a progressive state. This means that they would only receive a portion of the message – with another portion sometimes not being revealed for many generations.

One example of such a progressive message is Zechariah’s vision of THE BRANCH in chapter 3:8. What is the meaning of this title? To whom is it referring? If we only look at what Zechariah is saying, we can get confused by what seems to be a partial image. But, if we connect it to what has already been said in the past we gain the entire perspective.

First, we need to understand that the Hebrew word for “branch” used by Zechariah is “tsemach” – and it is properly translated as “shoot” or “stem”. It isn’t only speaking of a full-grown branch (like on a tree) – but also of the initial root, stem, shoot of a blossoming plant. This is important as we look back to the words of Isaiah and Jeremiah.

Isaiah mentions the “Branch” as something/one coming in futuristic language:

“In that day the Branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be excellent and lovely to those of Israel who have escaped.” – Isa 4:2 AMP

“And there shall come forth a Shoot out of the stock of Jesse [David’s father], and a Branch out of his roots shall grow and bear fruit.”Isa 11:1 AMP

Now obviously Isaiah is referring to something that will happen in the future (from his day). He doesn’t have all the details – he just sees that it will be connected with King David and will represent good things. (IN fact – take a moment to read the entire chapter 11 to see more details of what this “Branch” will do).

Isaiah goes on…

“For [the Servant of God] grew up before Him like a tender plant, and like a root out of dry ground; He has no form or comeliness [royal, kingly pomp], that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him.” – Isa 53:2 AMP

This is where we really start to hone in on the Branch. It is a person – and He will bring healing (as Isaiah 53 tells us).

Next, Jeremiah gets in on the flow…

“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch (Sprout), and He will reign as King and do wisely and will execute justice and righteousness in the land.”  – Jer 23:5 AMP

“In those days and at that time will I cause a righteous Branch [the Messiah] to grow up to David; and He shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.” – Jer 33:15 AMP

So Jeremiah sees that this individual will be a King, connected to the family line of King David, and He will be Righteous (meaning He will be in right relationship with God – this cuts out many of the kings we have seen thus far!).

So by the time Zechariah comes on the scene it has been established by these (and other) scriptures that there is a Righteous King coming in the future who will continue the line of David on the throne and usher in healing and peace. Everyone was waiting for this “Branch”.

“Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, you and your colleagues who [usually] sit before you—for they are men who are a sign or omen [types of what is to come]—for behold, I will bring forth My servant THE BRANCH.” – Zec 3:8 AMP

Zechariah is the first to really give a title to this mystery… actually calling Him “The Branch”. He will be a servant from God…

“And say to him, Thus says the Lord of hosts: [You, Joshua] behold (look at, keep in sight, watch) the Man [the Messiah] whose name is the Branch, for He shall grow up in His place and He shall build the [true] temple of the Lord.” – Zec 6:12 AMP

Finally Zechariah tells us that this Branch, King, Servant will “build the true temple of the Lord”.

So what does this mean? Who is this Branch? What temple did He build?

For those answers… we must look to the New Testament – where Paul and the early Apostles understood that this Shoot, Branch, Root of Jesse was referring to Jesus – the King of Kings – from the family line of King David.

As for the Temple… Paul tells us in Acts that God no longer dwells in a “temple made by human hands” (Acts 17:24). He no longer dwells in a building (like in the OT) – but now He actually lives within us!

“Therefore you are no longer outsiders (exiles, migrants, and aliens, excluded from the rights of citizens), but you now share citizenship with the saints (God’s own people, consecrated and set apart for Himself); and you belong to God’s [own] household. You are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus Himself the chief Cornerstone. In Him the whole structure is joined (bound, welded) together harmoniously, and it continues to rise (grow, increase) into a holy temple in the Lord [a sanctuary dedicated, consecrated, and sacred to the presence of the Lord]. In Him [and in fellowship with one another] you yourselves also are being built up [into this structure] with the rest, to form a fixed abode (dwelling place) of God in (by, through) the Spirit.” – Eph 2:19-22 AMP

So from Isaiah forward we have heard of a Branch coming… a King who will bring in healing and peace. That Branch is Jesus and He is the King of Righteousness who restores the broken temple. Not a temple made of stone – but the Temple made of the human heart. You and I are the Temple – and it is through Jesus that the Spirit of God lives within us – bringing in healing and peace!

More reason why Christian should study their Bibles – each part connects to the next…

 

Be Fruitful & Multiply,

PK

Warnings from the Minor Prophets – part 2

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Major from MinorsFor 55 years, Manasseh, the only son of Hezekiah, reigned as king over Judah. Despite the northern kingdom’s recent demise, King Manasseh failed to heed the warning and “did evil in the sight of the Lord, after the [idolatrous] practices of the [heathen] nations whom the Lord cast out before the Israelites” (2 Kings 21:2 AMP). During this half-century, there was only silence from heaven. No prophets spoke the oracles of the Lord to the people. In essence, God turned his back in displeasure.

Zephaniah broke the silence with his warnings to the people of Judah foe their sin. Judah’s new king, Amon, reverted right back to the evil ways of his father, and therefore Zephaniah spoke up with a message of doom for God’s people. Like the many OT prophets we have read, he spoke a warning to the leadership and flock of Israel, a warning to turn back and repent or face dire consequences. He likened the destruction to come as worse than the flood of Noah’s time:

“By taking away I will make an end and I will utterly consume and sweep away all things from the face of the earth, says the Lord. I will consume and sweep away man and beast; I will consume and sweep away the birds of the air and the fish of the sea. I will overthrow the stumbling blocks (the idols) with the wicked [worshipers], and I will cut off mankind from the face of the earth, says the Lord.” – Zeph 1:2-3 AMP

The pattern we have seen over and over again in the Prophets continues in Zephaniah, as the message of doom and destruction seems to turn on a dime in chapter 3. In fact, this short book ends with a message of hope in 3:9-20. After the destruction (which comes at the hand of Babylon), a remnant will be saved in Israel. God will forgive, sin will be removed, and hope will be restored.

God’s heart to bless once again prevails.

Let us fast forward to October 12, 539 B.C. Cyrus the Great officially ends the Babylonian empire, and releases those in captivity. A remnant of Israel hears the Lord instruct them to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. There is hope in the air again.

The Prophet Haggai is sent by God to encourage the people in their work. Speaking to the newly installed governor of Israel, Zerubbabel, and Joshua, the high priest; Haggai reminds the people of the instructions from the Lord. Through the prophet, God asks why they have worked so hard to rebuild their own houses, yet ignored the temple?

“Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses while this house [of the Lord] lies in ruins?” – Hag 1:4 AMP

According to Haggai, the very reason for their lack was their neglecting of God’s house. Because of their selfishness, God had removed The Blessing from off their lives, and a curse had done its work.

“You have sown much, but you have reaped little; you eat, but you do not have enough; you drink, but you do not have your fill; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and he who earns wages has earned them to put them in a bag with holes in it.” – Hag 1:6 AMP

The way out of the curse was obedience. God had specifically sent them to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, yet they had gotten off track on that mission. It wasn’t that God didn’t want them to improve their own houses, but not at the expense of His own.

Much of what Haggai says can also be applied to us today. We have been given a mission from the Lord, to “make disciples” (Matt 28:19). The vehicle used to fulfill that mission is the Church. Although as Christians, we no longer worship at a temple (we ARE the temple), we are still commanded to tithe, support the local Christian community, and be involved in the spreading of the Kingdom (Acts 4:34-35; 1 Cor 16:1-2; Gal 6:1-2; etc).

Unlike the days of Haggai, today we are under grace. But that grace is meant to empower us to obey (not excuse us from it). The Blessing of the Lord comes through our trust in the Lord and obedience to His Word. May you be cautioned by the words of Zephaniah, and encouraged by the words of Haggai – obey the Lord and see The Blessing fill your life.

That is His heart, after all.

 

Be Fruitful & Multiply,

PK