08 October 2016

Stone 34 - Matthew

Matthew is the first book in the New Testament and presents an account of the life and teachings of Jesus. Let's take a look at what we find.

Hey Everyone! This is the Guy!
Matthew begins with another one of those genealogies that makes you wonder if the New Testament is going to be just as dry as the some of the Old Testament.

Good News!

This one is short and very deliberate. Matthew is establishing Jesus as a descendant of both Abraham and David. Since Matthew's goal is to show that Jesus is the Messiah that has been prophesied for so long, this is an appropriate place to start.

Still within the first chapter, Matthew moves to the birth of Jesus. As this account begins, however, take note of Joseph...

Joseph is betrothed to Mary. They had not even consummated this arrangement yet (Mat 1:18). So as would have been acceptable for him, he was going to break it off in secret as to not disgrace her. That is actually pretty noble if you think about it. All Joseph knows is that Mary is pregnant and they have never slept together. I think it is fair to say that Joseph and the rest of the people have a pretty good understanding of how things like pregnancy happen. So in the eyes of Joseph... she has been sleeping around on him. Imagine how he felt in that moment... and yet he chooses not to disgrace her publicly (Mat 1:19).

Before he could actually follow through with that - he was told not to be afraid and that her pregnancy was a work of the Spirit (Mat 1:20). Note also here in Mat 1:23 the words from Isaiah 7:14. Matthew is continuing to connect the dots for the reader. This was prophesied.

In chapter two, the wise men sought the newborn king. They happened to swing in to Herod's place and inquired to the whereabouts of the child. Herod basically does the double-take and brings in the chief priests to tell him where this child was to be born (Mat 2:3-4). Bethlehem as prophesied (see Micah 5:2) comes the answer in Matthew 2:6. (This is the guy!!)

Herod asks the wise men to return to him so that he can go and worship too (Mat 2:8). Yeah right...
The wise men are warned not to go back to Herod and so they do not (Mat 2:12). Joseph is then told to go to Egypt because Herod wants to kill the baby (Mat 2:13). Ahhhh, the true feelings in Herod's heart are revealed. He was not interested in worshiping at all. He wanted to eliminate a threat to his own rule on the throne. Herod was furious and had all the male children under the age of two killed. Awful. Just imagine. Since Jesus was not there but in Egypt, he was in no danger. After Herod died, Joseph, Mary, and Jesus returned to Israel and settled in Nazareth (Mat 2:21, 23).

He is Coming!!
John the Baptist is now on the scene and he also quotes Isaiah (40:3) and proclaims to the people that the kingdom is near (Mat 3:2). Jesus shows up and wants to get baptized by John as well (Mat 3:13). After some hesitancy and persuasion, John agrees.

So Jesus sets this example for us and gets baptized. This is very important since it marked the beginning of Jesus' ministry and his intention to follow God's will. This was also a way for Jesus to identify himself with all of the sinners that he came here to save.

Jesus then is led to the wilderness where he is tempted. The account details three times that he was tempted.

  1. Life
  2. Trust
  3. Faith/Worship
I may not have accurately broken this down but would love to discuss it further in the comments for any who want to.

The well-known Sermon on the Mount comes to us in chapters five through seven. There really is an amazing amount of guidance and could be an entire course by itself.

Okay so let's segue into a little bit of life reality for a moment. As I was sitting here engaging in some study and reflection on the book of Matthew and typing this up, I was really drawn into taking a close look at the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness and more specifically - number three as listed above. So much so that I put some thoughts out on Facebook. I was going to continue through the book but felt I need to simply end it on this particular topic. Here is the post from Facebook...

Consider the object of your worship. You might even think that you do not worship anything.
The word worship probably brings up an image in your mind. The word worship may even stir up positive or negative emotions.
Maybe it looks like being on your knees and bowing, arms above your head, repeatedly leaning forward to place your palms down on the ground in front of you with the object of worship in front of you. 
Maybe it looks like sitting criss-cross applesauce with your wrists on your knees, palms up, with thumb and forefinger touching while softly repeating the word Ooohhmm, Ooohhmm.
Maybe it looks like singing praises as part of a large group in a building called church.
Maybe it is something else entirely.
Whatever it may currently be - put that aside for a moment and consider this...
Implicit in the act of worship is that there is a dependence of the worshiper upon that which is worshiped. In other words, the worshiper acknowledges, (knowingly or not), that they are not sufficient without the object being worshiped).
Do you feel "less than", insufficient, insignificant, of little value without something? Money, spouse, job, material items, etc...?
You might say - "Hey, wait a minute! I don't worship those things!" - but is that because we are using whatever image we have of worship?
Satan is crafty - he is the deceiver. He wants nothing more than to trap us into doing evil while thinking that we are doing good. He will tell you lies about how you can be happy, successful, wealthy, respected, etc... Do you feel insufficient without those things?
Consider the object of your worship. What does that really look like? Is it what you thought it was? Is it what you want it to be? Is it what you need it to be?

The faith and worship of Jesus was attacked. Satan offered Jesus the world and in effect, the power to control them all if he would just bow down and worship him. Jesus does not take the bait, of course, but how many of us do?

How many of us think that we are serving God but are really bowing our knee to Satan? This was just blowing my mind today - especially since I have often told people that Matthew 7:21-23 should be scary verses for all who claim to be Christians. I do not want to be one of these people. I think about all the areas in my own life where I may be engaging in what I might call "unintended worship". What things have I been fooled by? What am I currently pursuing under false pretenses?

Jesus demonstrated his trust in the Lord in his response to Satan after the first temptation to turn stone to bread and thus satisfy his hunger and perhaps save his life. Noticing that Jesus quoted scripture, Satan twisted scripture in his next temptation and changed his angle by trying to get Jesus to demonstrate that trust by throwing himself off of the top of the temple. Dodging this, Jesus is presented with a third temptation where Satan tries to use the good intentions of Jesus of following the will of God as bait. 

Is this not where we get caught...?

Jesus wants to bring the kingdom of God to Earth. He could do that. He could be a great king, he could save the people, he could continue to do amazing things for God...?

Are we ministering for the wrong reasons? We cannot serve multiple gods... Who are we really serving...? Whoa - mind blown at the moment.

I pray for all of us that God and His Holy Spirit would reveal to each of us the areas in our lives that are bowing to the wrong master. I pray that He would convict and cleanse our hearts. I pray that we would have the will and strength to let go of those things to which we cling so tight for the best of intentions but that are truly not good for us. Reveal to us the truth. Speak to your servants, Lord, and clear the wax the blocks your voice so that we might hear, wipe the sleep from our eyes that we might see, and set a fire ablaze in our hearts to seek you and your will.

Here are the videos for the book of Matthew from our friends at Join the Bible Project.

Until next time...

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