Said

The LORD brings his people into his kingdom, as he has said

Advertisements

Read: Deuteronomy 31

“I am now one hundred and twenty years old and I am no longer able to lead you. The LORD has said to me, ‘You shall not cross the Jordan.’ The LORD your God himself will cross over ahead of you. He will destroy these nations before you, and you will take possession of their land. Joshua also will cross over ahead of you, as the LORD said.” (Deuteronomy 31:2-3)

Reflect:

There is so much in these verses. Moses is 120 years old and other than his first 40 years, raised in an Egyptian palace, he has had a hard life: 40 years a wandering shepherd in Midian and another 40 years a wandering Shepherd of Israel in the Sinai desert. Yet Moses is still disappointed, even if also resigned, because the LORD has barred him from entering the land God promised to Abraham’s descendants. Moses, at 120, would still like another 40 years, adventuring in the Promised Land.

Later, much later, Moses would visit the Promised Land as he met with Jesus, his long-awaited Messiah, at the mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-4), as Jen Wilkin pointed out at The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference. Meanwhile, God had a good plan for the immediate future: the LORD, together with Joshua, Moses’ apprentice, would cross over into the land ahead of the people. They would conquer the people of the land and wipe out all their despicable abominations of religious practices. The LORD himself would be with Joshua (31:23) as he took Israel into the Promised Land.

Today, I know that whether I see it or not, God is bringing and will bring all his chosen people into his kingdom, under Jesus our King. According to 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise … he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish but everyone to come to repentance.” As I leave this land today, I trust God that he will finish any conversations I have begun, that he will grow any gospel seeds I have sown, for his kingdom and his glory.

crux:

The LORD brings his people into his kingdom, as he has said.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Thank you once again for the reassurance of your sovereignty. Thank you for the reminder that you order my life and you are capable of bringing your chosen into the kingdom of Christ Jesus your Son.

I pray for Ari, the Jew whom I met at McDonalds, to whom I explained the need to trust Jesus to reconcile him to you. I pray for the homeless woman I hugged, who just wanted shelter I had no means to give her. I pray for Liz and Sharon, the ladies who asked me what “gospel” meant as we visited Niagara Falls. I pray for Alistair, the gay man I met last night while we watched the sunset over the Toronto skyline from the Toronto islands, who feels excluded within the conservative culture of country Ontario. May you bring each of them into your kingdom, the kingdom of your Son.

I entrust them into your hands.

Amen.

Teacher

I want to be a teacher who opens the door of the kingdom to others

Read: Matthew 23

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” (Matthew 23:13)

Reflect:

As a teachers, I can imagine few greater professional criticisms than this one.

It’s like saying to a literacy educator, “You make it harder and more confusing for your students. You don’t read yourself, and you take books away from people trying to learn to read.” This criticism sounds extreme when translated to a modern parallel in this way. But that is the sort of complaint Jesus made against those who were meant to be teaching God’s Law.

Jesus told the Pharisees they were blocking the way to God’s kingdom when they should have been showing the way and leading the way. They weren’t just bad teachers, they were anti-teachers.

Alas! Jesus said their end will be desperate: “Look. Your house is left to you deflate.” (23:38) All their hypocrisy would leave the house of God, the temple in Jerusalem, empty and deserted; a wasteland rather than a place of worship.

In contrast, I see Jesus, the perfect Rabbi, who led his disciples faithfully and humbly. How his heart must have ached to see such anti-teachers as these influencing God’s people.

crux:

I want to be a teacher who opens the door of the kingdom to others.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Your Son Jesus was the greatest teacher who ever lived. Your Scriptures are the greatest revelation that has ever been given. Your Spirit is the greatest guide who ever led the way.

May I follow in Christ’s steps. May I be a teacher who opens doors, not shuts them. Please use my teaching at work to reduce recidivism. Please use my training to help people to gain the skills to work to support their own needs and those of their families. Please use my teaching to help men keep in contact in a positive way with the families from whom they are separated.

But LORD, I want so much more than that for my students. May they learn how to read and then choose to read your Word. May your Scriptures be plain before them so they know the glory of your grace for them in Jesus Christ. May they read their way to meeting you and entering your kingdom by the blood of your Son.

Thank you for your love to the “least of these”, LORD. Please bless them with an open door to become citizens of your kingdom by your mercy. Please grant them a future with you.

Amen.

Treasure

Jesus’ teaching is treasure for his disciples, then and now

Read: Matthew 13

The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”
He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them.” (Matthew 13:10-11)

“Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked.
“Yes,” they replied.
He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom is like the owner of a house who brings out of the storeroom new treasures as well as old.” (Matthew 13:51-52)

Reflect:

At a certain point in his ministry, Jesus moved from teaching openly about how God’s people should live (eg Matthew 5-7), providing a rabbinical commentary on the Mosaic Law, to speaking in parables about the ways God’s people did live and would be judged, providing a commentary on the society in which he lived and their relationship to their God.

Jesus gave his closest followers, those he’d selected to be his disciples, enough explanation to understand his parables. But the mystery must have infuriated Jesus’ opponents. How could they openly rebuke him when admitting they understood his veiled criticisms applied to themselves meant admitting his criticisms were valid?

Jesus ensured his disciples understood his parables, and described his teaching as new treasure to supplement the old treasure of the rabbis’ teaching on the Tanak, the Old Testament.

crux:

Jesus’ teaching is treasure for his disciples, both then and now.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Thank you for Jesus Christ, the radiance of your glory, the ultimate rabbi. Thank you for his teaching, so faithfully recorded by Matthew and the other gospel writers.

Please help me to treasure Jesus’ teaching. Please help me to understand Jesus’ parables and see myself in them where you see me – where I truly am, not where I’d like to believe I am.

Please teach me through Jesus’ parables. Teach me to value money and possessions less, and your kingdom more. Teach me to pay attention to your word and to not allow lack of understanding, trouble and persecution, worries or wealth to prevent your word bearing fruit in my life. Teach me to allow your word and your ways to spread through my whole life like yeast through dough, until there is no part of my life not changed to be like your Son. Teach me to be shrewd, yet innocent, with regard to the “weeds” in my local “paddock”.

Amen.

Expand

Limited by his humanity, Jesus was still able to expand the kingdom of God

Read: Matthew 8

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.”

Reflect:

Jesus “was amazed.” I read those words and I’m a bit amazed myself. The word “amazed” has connotations of surprise or even shock. How can Jesus Christ, who is the Creator of all the universe, be surprised? How can He who knows all things be shocked?

The ESV says Jesus “marvelled,” which implies he felt a combination of admiration and astonishment. How can the Sovereign God be astonished? What has the Almighty LORD to admire?

I think the key to understanding this statement is to realise that Jesus was both divine and human. His humanity brought limitations upon his divinity. As Philippians 2:7 says of Christ Jesus, “he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” Jesus’ human brain, with its finite number of neutrons, was unable to know all things. This was a temporary limitation due to his incarnation.

Crucially, it was the limitation of his divinity brought on by his incarnation that also ultimately enabled Jesus, the God-Man, to die.

Jesus was unable to know the centurion’s thoughts, and so Jesus was capable of being amazed by his faith. Yet Jesus still knew the plan of God to bring other Gentiles (as well as this one) from the east and the west into his kingdom, into the family of Abraham, and declared it in advance.

crux:

Limited by his humanity, Jesus was still able to expand the kingdom of God.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are Almighty, all-powerful, Sovereign, omniscient. Yet your Son chose to humble himself, submitting to the limitations of human life in order to expand the bounds of his kingdom to all who have faith in him.

Thank you for the centurion’s faith in Jesus. May he continue to glorify your Name to all who read his story in Scripture.

Thank you for my faith in Jesus, for my husband’s faith in Jesus. Thank you for enabling us to hear the gospel at that long ago Alpha course, for removing the veil from our eyes so we would believe in Jesus as our Saviour. Thank you for bidding us come from the east into Jesus’ kingdom, to take our place at the banqueting table with the patriarchs of our faith.

Please grant this same amazing faith to our children, to our parents, and to the rest of our relatives. Please grant this marvellous faith to the adults and children who attend our church and to all in our local community. Reveal yourself to them that they may come from east and west to your celebratory feast. LORD, I pray especially for the people of the townships of T to our east and F to our west. Please grant that they may come and hear the good news of Jesus Christ, Lord and Saviour, and they will be welcomed into your kingdom. May our church be faithful in proclaiming his Name. May our faith in Jesus amaze all who witness it.

Make them come, LORD.

Amen.

Standard

The only way to meet Christ’s standard of righteousness is with Christ’s righteousness

Read: Matthew 5

“For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and teachers of the Law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20)

“…I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgement.” (Matthew 5:22a)

“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)

Reflect:

Jesus sets the bar extremely high for entry into heaven’s kingdom.

Granted, John the Baptist declared the Pharisees to be a “brood of vipers” (3:7) which is possibly akin to calling them “sons of Satan.” But to the Jewish layman, the Pharisees must have seemed the strictest, most actively religious Jews around. Yet Jesus said even their upright behaviour was not enough to get them into the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus took a few strictures from the Law and drew them tighter still. Don’t murder: don’t even call a fellow believer a nasty name. Don’t commit adultery: don’t even think lustful thoughts; and don’t divorce your wife thinking you’ll be free to remarry, because that will bring even greater condemnation upon you.

Then Jesus expands on the positive commands of the Law. Fulfil your vows: and when you say even a simple “Yes” or “No,” keep this as an absolute promise. Just recompense may be sought lawfully: but extravagant generosity, reckless kindness and radical hospitality are even better. Love your neighbour: and love your enemy as well.

Jesus sums it all up with an impossible standard. “Be perfect” in the same way God the Father is perfect. How is this level of righteousness possible? Humanly, it isn’t.

But through his death on the cross Jesus Christ swapped his righteousness for my sin. This is called imputation. My righteousness can only surpass that of the Pharisees because God has credited me with Christ’s righteousness. I am made perfect with Christ’s perfection.

crux:

The only way to meet Christ’s standard of righteousness is with Christ’s righteousness.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

O Perfect One, you are good, you are glorious.
Holy, holy, holy is the LORD.

Your anger and wrath is always deserved, always righteous. You are never malicious or capricious in your judgement, unlike me – forgive me, please.

You are faithful, keeping your promises forever. You never leave your people, though I may turn my back on you – forgive me, please.

You are extravagantly generous, gracious and merciful. You never reject your people’s needs though in your mercy you frequently refuse to grant my sinful desires – forgive me, please.

You are loving, indeed you are love. Without you there is no real love. In you is perfect love which casts out fear and enables me to pray for the good of my enemies. Bless my enemies with love for you, LORD, please.

LORD, you are perfect and so clearly I am not. Please justify me with Christ’s righteousness. Forgive my sin. Renew me and make me a new creation in Christ my king.

Amen.