Soon after the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, a small boy was listening to the radio. He looked at his father anxiously: ‘I hope they haven`t found any more commandments’.
That small boy`s thinking is often the modern approach to the commandments because we think it would cramp our style to have any more. Many think that a pass mark of around 30 or 40% is acceptable and will be sufficient for a place in heaven. If you were asked to recite the ten commandments, would you be able to do it? Most, if they can name any, can name 3 or 4 because they are those they think are most important. They used to be written up in all Anglican churches and read each Sunday. Today, however, Christians say they are not ‘under law but under grace’, which is true, but does that mean the commandments have no relevance for Christians today. I hope, that by looking at them, we will find the real reason why God gave them and what they mean for us today. Read the rest of this entry »
Matthew 6:1-4 (12)
So far, in this sermon Jesus began by giving us the characteristics of a Christian, the kingdom citizen, in ‘the beatitudes’. He then went on to show their influence upon the world, ‘salt and light,’ and how they are to live according to God`s law with a ‘righteousness that exceeds that of the Pharisees’. Chapter five finishes with that incredible command, ‘Be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect.’ When people say ‘I`m not religious,’ and by that mean they follow no particular religious practice, I usually respond, ‘I`m not religious, I`m a Christian.’ Am I right to say that without clarification? We know we are not saved by what we do but, because we are saved, there must be a practical out-working of what we profess in our daily living. In this section Jesus teaches on three important aspects of our ‘religious’ life. Most religions regard these as pillars of their faith but what must be different for the Christian is the motivation. Read the rest of this entry »
Matthew 5:43-48 (11)
Jesus has shown, in comparing the righteousness of the Pharisees with that of the kingdom citizen, that unless something dramatic has happened within us this is an impossible standard to achieve. Here, in this last of His six comparisons, He reaches the summit of what the kingdom citizen is to be, perfect.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour’ and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (5:43-48) (NKJV) Read the rest of this entry »
(This is not a transcript of the message at our Tabernacles celebration, just a tidied version of my notes. It does however contain all the Scripture references and so will hopefully prove useful for study.)
The Feast of Tabernacles may not feature in or be important to the British calendar but it is one of Gods celebrations and rehearsals, set in Israels calendar, to teach us about Gods important events in history. These events are called the Feasts of the LORD. This is why it’s important for us as Christians to understand it and celebrate it. God has given us His feasts to get our attention and listen to Him.
- It’s the 7th and final feast, hence very important. Seven is an important number to God, the number of completion. Set in the 7th month of the Hebrew year. Every 7th year the Torah was to be read out aloud in the hearing of the whole nation at Tabernacles. Deut 31:9-13
- Known as the Season of our Joy, a week of rejoicing, commanded to rejoice at this feast. All the feasts were to help Israel remember her roots as well as looking forward to her future.
- Solemn yet joyful celebration, Jewish men take clusters of leaf branches of palm, myrtle and willow trees & lemony etrog fruit (in Hebrew acronym for faith (emunah) repentence (T’shuvah), healing (raphah) and redemption (goelah)) & wave them before the Lord as a sign of welcoming the coming King. It’s what happened in Jerusalem when Jesus made His triumphal entry in John 12:12-13, Ps.118:25-26
- Tabernacles is unique amongst the feasts, in that the nations also were invited in ancient times to come up to Jerusalem at this season to worship the LORD alongside the Hebrew people. When Solomon later dedicated his Temple at Sukkot (Tabernacles), he also called on the LORD to hear the prayers of all the foreigners that would come there to pray (2 Chronicles 6:32-33). Thus, Jerusalem and the Temple itself were destined from the start to be a “house of prayer for all nations” (Isaiah 56:7; Matthew 21:13).
- Tabernacles came to incorporate symbolic events with water and light. The water ceremony was performed by the priests and involved collecting water from the pool of Siloam and pouring it out in the Temple. There was also a light show with dancing every night.
Matthew 5:38-42 (10)
Let us remind ourselves that Jesus is illustrating how our righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees. He reveals a completely different set of attitudes to what had become the norm, both then and now. Attitudes; of the heart, the seat of hatred and lust, of commitment, to marriage and to our word, and He finishes with our attitude towards those who would use or abuse us. At this point many must have thought He had lost His marbles.
‘You have heard it said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.’ (5:38-42)
A Psalm of David
1 Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
2 Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them
and in whose spirit is no deceit.
3 When I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.
5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.”
And you forgave the guilt of my sin. Read the rest of this entry »
Matthew 5:33-37 (9)
Jesus continues His logical progression through what had become the Pharisees interpretation of the Law of Moses to show how the righteousness of the kingdom citizen must exceed theirs. We have reached the point where I think the Pharisees must have been feeling very uncomfortable. They thought they were law keepers, ‘par excellence’, but Jesus had shown them just how they conveniently re-interpreted the command to suit themselves. His next illustration shows their hypocrisy regarding oaths.
Matthew 5:31-32 (8)
Jesus continues to show how the righteousness of the citizen of the kingdom is to surpass that of the Pharisee, moving quite naturally from lust to divorce.
“It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.” (5:31-32)
The statistics on the number of divorces in the UK are depressing, if not frightening, and very few families are spared being involved in some way in the fall-out of divorces including now many Christians. The very deep wounds that this subject can open up has caused many Bible commentators to decline to comment on passages like this. However, since Jesus was not afraid to speak about it neither should we be.
Matthew 5:27-30 (7)
We saw from Jesus` first example that the root of all sin is the heart, not the pump that takes blood round our bodies, but used in the sense of being the centre of every desire, emotion and action. In His second example, on how the citizen of the kingdom is to let his light shine and exhibit a righteousness beyond that of the Pharisee, Jesus takes us to the core of sexual sin and the radical way that we must deal with it.
Matthew 5:21-26 (6)
We continue to follow Jesus` preaching on the characteristics of the citizens of the kingdom, we see Him expounding on what He means regarding our righteousness exceeding that of the Pharisees. He introduces six examples with, “You have heard that it was said” followed by “But I tell you”. Who had said long ago? If He meant Moses, was He at odds with what Moses had said? Definitely not! Jesus had just said, “Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices them and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (v19) Had Jesus been referring to the Mosaic Law He would have said ‘It is written!’ not “You have heard that it was said”.