MATTHEW

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Imagine yourself stilled by the Presence of God with ears to hear what the Spirit of God is saying. Are you ready to hear what God has in store for those who acknowledge Him?  Our Father uses ordinary people like you and me to overflow with His love. Matthew was like an agent of the IRS and he gave up that job to be used by God and write this letter! Written and spoken words have power and we know this to be true because God spoke and all that is took form!

Matthew is the first of four Gospels in the New Testament. Within this collection of inspired words, we can see Jesus as the King in the book of Matthew; as the Servant in the brief words of Mark; and as the Son of Man in the recordings by doctor Luke. The final Gospel is the book of John and he aptly crowns the good news with a direct pronouncement that Jesus is the Son of God.  Matthew picks up what Mark omitted, but there are volumes that were never recorded.

Because Matthew’s audience was the Jewish people, many scriptures are quoted. This letter therefore emphasizes a number of fulfilled predictions or prophecies spoken by a cast of characters that God chose in the Old Testament!  Matthew was an ordinary man who lived in Israel during the forceful rule of the Roman Empire.  God chose the voice of this despised tax-collector to break the 400 years of silence between Malachi’s prophecy and the announcement of the birth of Jesus, the Messiah.

What is the New Covenant?  It is a formal agreement between God and His people.  The New Testament establishes that new covenant! God chose a number of uneducated people to write 28 letters to enable this generation to come to know God personally!  Matthew gives us his eye witness account of the many miracles that Jesus performed. Matthew places the story of Jesus within world history by reciting the incredible royal genealogy of Christ, the King.

This text makes the creation story found in Genesis fully relevant to all generations.  All four of the Gospels in the New Testament affirm the birth; life, death and resurrection of Jesus as the fullness of God’s plan. Back in the times of Noah, all news traveled by foot and it was mostly oral. This written record became necessary so that facts could be verified. The scientific mind of doctor Luke wrote; “Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you.”  (Luke 1:1).

Hooking up with your ancestors; all the way back to Abraham, Matthew records the first 14 generations plus 14 more, plus 14 more generations which lead us all the way to the birth of Jesus.  Our God is a God of precise order and He proficiently confounds the wise in this world with His Ways. The lineage of Jesus is listed in the first chapter of Matthew. From Abraham, we see the name of Boaz, the guy who married Ruth, and his mother was Rahab the prostitute who historically helped Joshua conquer Jericho!

Regardless of our past, reading about our ancestral history as outlined in the entire Bible gives us a sense of belonging to something greater than what the visible world offers.

Becoming a kid of the King of kings, we simply admit our sin of rebellion and whatever else, and we invite Jesus to come in, clean house, and make us a new creation in Him. AMEN

The book of Matthew affirms that Jesus Christ is the long awaited Messiah, the King. The birth of Jesus took place to fulfill our Father’s promise of a Messiah. The Old Testament prophets promoted the day that the Savior would arrive. The New Testament is a celebration of all those Old Testament prophecies.

The person God chose to birth the King of Kings was a young woman named Mary.  She was engaged to be married to Joseph but as God would order it; “She was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 1:18). Jesus was born in the village of Bethlehem during the horrible reign of king Herod. The prophet Micah  foretold:  Out of the city of Bethlehem  “for out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”   (Micah 5:2).

A few scholars arrived in Jerusalem and inquired; “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?” Well that question fell on Herod’s ears. He had the scholars brought before him and asked where this king was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea, they replied.” (Matthew 2:5). Herod secretly found out the exact time the leading star had appeared and he encouraged the scholars to; “Go make a careful search for this child, and report to me as soon as you find him so that I can worship him too.” This group of scholars known as the Magi, found Mary with the baby Jesus and they worshipped him and presented the child with gifts.

The Magi were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, and so they returned home.  After the visitors of Jesus departed; “an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream.” (Matthew 2:13).

Joseph packed up Mary and child and they got out of Bethlehem and rode to Egypt.   Joe’s obedience fulfilled this prediction.  “Out of Egypt I called my son.” (Hosea 1:1).  When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, the wicked king gave orders to kill all the baby boys born in Bethlehem who were age 2 or under.   Go issued His warning; “weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.” (Jeremiah 31:15).

After Herod died, Joseph was visited by an angel of the Lord. “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.” (Matthew 2:19). Ever obedient to God, Joe took his family to live in Nazareth which fulfilled what Isaiah foretold.  “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Immanuel means: “God with us”. (Isaiah 7:14). God is love and He is still with us today.

Incredibly, as God would have it, Jesus and John first met before they were born. In the third chapter of Matthew John the Baptist arrives on the scene as a grown preacher in the desert of Judea. John was the child of Zachariah and Elizabeth and born in a small village near Jerusalem. When Mary was pregnant with Jesus she visited Elizabeth who was at the same time, pregnant with John the Baptist.

The unborn John leaped in the womb of Elizabeth. The mother of John was filled with the Holy Spirit as she loudly exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child (Jesus) you will bear!” (Matthew 1:41). It seems that God called John to preach while he was in the womb!    John the Baptist preached; “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 3:3).

Hundreds of years before Isaiah had predicted. “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight paths for him.” (Matthew 40:3). John stood in the Jordan River baptizing with water proclaiming; “But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry.”(Matthew 3:11).  Jesus asked John to baptize Him. After humble hesitation, John consented.  As soon as Jesus came up out of the water, heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending on him. And a voice from heaven said; ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”(Matthew 3:15).

Just as we are today, immediately after his baptism, Jesus was tempted by the devil.  “The tempter came to Him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus replied: “Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”   (Matthew 4:3).

Our heavenly Father made a way for us to become as powerful as  His Son Jesus. We simply allow His grace and the Holy Spirit to do the changing in us. As we surrender to the perfect will of God, our desires, our ways, our hearts are transformed.

Jesus forewarns us by His example that we too will be strongly tempted. Most assuredly the deceiver will come as soon as we accept Jesus as Lord!  In this account we are being taught to speak the authoritative Word of God! It is more powerful than a nuclear weapon and it will defeat the schemes of evil to destroy our faith. The devil seeks to destroy us by luring us with hopes of increased pleasures, fame and riches.  We are more than conquerors with Christ in us; we are our Father’s hope for glory on earth!

The devil showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world from atop a high mountain and said;”All this I will give you if you will bow down and worship me.” To this Jesus replied; “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.” Jesus was again speaking the power of the word. “Fear the Lord your God, serve him only.” The devil fled and angels came to tend to Jesus.  (Matthew 4:10).

While Jesus was in the desert for 40 days, John the Baptizer was put in prison. Jesus left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum, near the Sea of Galilee. Another prediction fulfilled. “He will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan – the people walking in darkness have seen a great light.” (Isaiah 9:1).

Walking the beach of Galilee, Jesus calls His first disciples. Two brothers Simon and Peter, both fishermen. “Come follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  (Matthew 4:19). Jesus went throughout Galilee teaching in their synagogues, preaching and healing the sick.

His disciples met with him on a mountainside and Jesus taught them. “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5).

The example of Jesus teaches us that we are to rejoice when we are persecuted, falsely accused, or insulted for following His Ways. His example teaches us to trust our heavenly Father, not our feelings. We are strangers on this earth because our true citizenship is in heaven. While on earth, the Spirit of God enables us to endure the same unjustified treatment as the prophets before us. The book of Matthew gives us keys to living in the Spirit. God speaks to us through this letter and He advises us to love our enemies, be patient, give to the needy, and to love one another.

Jesus teaches us how to pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:9).  Jesus emphasizes that we are to constantly practice forgiveness, especially when we do not feel like it. Again, we are to trust God’s word, not our feelings!

 

“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14).  We are to trust God and forgive quickly, just as He forgave us quickly and completely.  Our Father knows the contents of our hearts, and so He knows if we are holding onto bitter resentments.

Gladly we are to examine our hearts.  The Holy Spirit in us will shine a light on all the darkness that prevents us from living and walking in the power of the Spirit. We must be honest and confess what we treasure more than God. Look in the mirror and ask: Do I desire to please God, or do I desire to simply please myself?   God is calling us to listen and trust Him completely as we “walk this way”.

In chapter 14 of Matthew we are told that John the Baptist was beheaded by king Herod and that Jesus miraculously had His disciples feed five thousand. Their faithful obedience multiplied food in the baskets as they distributed the food.  “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”  (Matthew 14:22).

Jesus takes Peter, James and His beloved disciple John to a high mountain. “There He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.”  His friends were shocked to see what they saw, but then they heard a voice from a cloud say; “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to Him!” (Matthew 17).

God advises us all to tune in with ears to hear what the Spirit of God is saying. The word LISTEN is found in the Bible 419 times.  Terrified, these incredible disciples fell down on their faces.  Jesus touched them and told them not to be afraid.  The disciples were baffled and they asked Jesus more questions. Whenever we are taken by surprise by what the Word of God says, it is wise to sit back and ask the Holy Spirit to clarify, to show us, to teach us.

We are to be worth our salt, which means we are to be effective as we preserve the Word of God. Jesus told us that while we are here on earth, we are to be a salt and light. The Word of God is not always sweet, but it is the truth. Without salt to bring out the God flavors, people will not be able to taste the Lord’s fullness, which includes discipline. (Matthew 5:13). “Season all your grain offering with salt. Do not leave the salt of the covenant of God out of your grain offerings; add salt to all your offerings.” (Leviticus 2:13).

After several chapters of parables and warnings, the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 is fulfilled in Matthew 21. “See, your king come to you, gentle and riding on a donkey.” The last supper of Jesus and his arrest is recorded in Matthew chapter 26.  The trial of Jesus, and His brutal crucifixion, death and burial are recorded in Chapter 27.

Jesus promised that He would be with us until the end of the age! Today all believers have access to the Most Holy Place; we can now go to Our Father directly as a result of the obedience of Jesus to lay down His life for us. At the moment of His death, the Temple curtain was torn!  The Temple curtain was made by God’s specific instruction. It was to separate common people from the most holy place. When the curtain was torn, what was behind the curtain was revealed to all, not just the priests. Jesus is the High Priest, and God now wants us all to speak to Jesus directly.

The massive curtain is described in the Old Testament, in Exodus chapter 26.    In order to separate the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place, the ark was placed “Behind the Curtain.”  After Jesus said “it is finished”; in front of all the priests, the Temple curtain was torn from top to bottom. This was God’s sign of His new covenant, His new agreement with His people.  All people are now welcome to have a personal relationship with God. “At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split.” (Matthew 27:51). Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I will be with always, to the very end of age.”(Matthew 28).

God knows that we learn by repetition, therefore, it is important to emphasize that Jesus is the High Priest. Since the curtain was torn, everyone has direct access to the High Priest, to Jesus Christ.  The will of God Almighty is made known to us by what He says and does.  Our Father wants His children to speak to Jesus directly, and develop a personal relationship with Him.  We are His chosen ambassadors of good will to all the people on earth. “My kingdom come, My will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” AMEN

The book of Matthew is the first of the four Gospels, otherwise known as the good news.

Each Gospel writer has a different audience, but all together they paint a picture of who Jesus is and how He conquered sin, Satan and death.   “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed.” (John 20:29).

 

Remember the power of the Word! All of history began in Genesis by a Word spoken! God’s Word is alive and by reading it, our faith is activated.  We are encouraged to seek God and discover that He faithfully opens the door for all who call knock.

 

Copyright © 2019 by Barbara Alley Hoyle.

All rights reserved.

(click on BLOGGER TAB “Books of Bible” for the rest of the story)

“It is finished.” 6/19/19

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