January 5

Matthew 5:1-32


Chapter 5 begins what is known as the Sermon on the Mount. We’re not certain which mount He was on, but most likely it was near Capernaum. There was a much wider audience than His twelve disciples, but His target audience was the Jew, the Jew who lived under the Mosaic Law. Let’s keep that in mind as we read His teaching. 


Also, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus often refers to the kingdom. We know Jesus will reign as King over a kingdom in the Millennium, but His kingdom has already started with the Jews during his earthly ministry. 


He begins with what we know as the Beatitudes. Throughout this sermon, we will see Jesus describing attributes of the people of His kingdom. He doesn’t just speak of kingdom behavior; Jesus goes to the heart, revealing the need for salvation and a Savior. He starts with the “poor in spirit,” those who see their need and lean on God’s grace. He pronounces a blessing over each characteristic, those who are aligned with the character of Jehovah. 


The word for “blessed” in the Greek is makarios (3107), meaning “happy, fortunate, extremely blessed.” The root is mak, indicating large or of a long duration. God’s will for His people, including the Gentile, is a happy condition, a condition that comes from being in an aligned position of faith and dependency in Him. 


As a Jew, Jesus is speaking to Jews who are living under Roman rule. He tells them to be a light that shines and salt to season. We are to have an effect on this world. 


As a Jew, Jesus is speaking to Jews about the Law, the Prophets, and the Pharisees. He speaks of a righteousness that even the Pharisees cannot attain by keeping the Mosaic Law. It is a righteousness that fulfills the Law, a righteousness that is received by grace through faith. 


As a Jew, Jesus mentions guilt for breaking the Law, saying that being angry at a person can make someone guilty, just as murder makes one guilty. Calling someone a fool puts someone in danger of hell fire. Therefore, to worship God with an offering means nothing if something is wrong in the heart between us and another person. 


Again, he mentions the guilt for breaking a marriage covenant, but He also says that to even think on cheating with a woman makes one guilty of before God. I’m sure the same goes for a woman who thinks on being with another man. After all, who do men cheat with? A woman is involved. Jesus makes a point, it is better to cut out your eye than to go to hell, based on the impossibility of keeping the Law; however, Jesus was showing the need for salvation, a change of heart. 


Jesus mentions the marriage covenant under Mosaic Law, a covenant that can only be truly broken by death. If someone committed adultery under Jewish Law, the punishment was death. Jesus, teaching a crowd, addresses the men. If the wife is sexually immoral, she has broken the covenant and should be stoned to death, making the man free to remarry. If the man divorces his wife for any other reason, the covenant is not broken. In another passage, Jesus said these certificates of divorce were not given with God’s permission, but only Moses. Therefore, when a woman meets someone else, she is transgressing that first marriage covenant. He makes her guilty of adultery. 


I would like to add that marriage is still a covenant, a blood covenant, where a virgin sheds blood when the hymen in broken. The marriage covenant is representative of our covenant with God, and it is never to be broken. Today, about half of marriages in the United States end in divorce, and that percentage is reflected among Christians as well. Just because divorce is common doesn’t mean that the significance of the marriage covenant has changed in the eyes of God. Divorce is the breaking of a covenant, and God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). God hated adultery. God hates lust. Why? Because God works by covenant, and our design is to function within covenant. The enemy works hard to destroy us by messing with our relationships, our identity, our worth. It is even more destructive when adultery and divorce happen in the house of God. It is a travesty when Satan enters the heart of a minister to sexually prey on the vulnerable and hurting, whether they are adults or children, whether they are male or female – we have seen it all. That transgression is difficult to overcome in the world among sinful hearts, but imagine trying to overcome it when God and the church is woven into the experience, a spiritual and sexual combination. In Revelation 2, it is referred to as the depths of Satan. 


However, God is greater than our sin. In the book of Hosea, God shows His heart to restore a broken marriage covenant, to forgive the transgressor, to receive cheating Israel back into covenant the way Hosea received Gomer. God can forgive. God can restore, and not just the breaking of a marriage covenant, but any sin that breaks covenant with God. The mercy of God does not trivialize sin. The grace of God does not excuse bad behavior. The forgiveness of God does not mean we are accepting of harmful transgression. The love of God removes sin because the love of God wants to reconcile with people. Divorce is forgivable, and God is able to restore the damage done from ripping apart the knitting together of hearts, dreams, lives and children. Trust can be rebuilt. Behaviors and hearts can change. Believe the best, but use wisdom. Not every person truly repents. Not every person is truly set free. And not every victim of adultery is able to embrace grace and fully recover. It often takes a process of transformation and restoration. As pastors, we sometimes see people slip back in the restoration process, going back to a sort of default setting in their soul. To the victim, it is often a challenge to trust, show mercy, walk in God’s grace. However, nothing is impossible with God. 


Genesis 13-15


Abraham inherits Canaan. When it came time for Lot to separate and expand his own family, Lot chose Jordan. Jordan was once a land more beautiful than Canaan, but wicked men lived there. Today, if we think our country is so beautiful and blessed that it could never be changed or it could never fall to an enemy, we are mistaken. 


In verse 17, God tells Abram to walk, or tread, the length and width of the land. This was an act of authority, of possessing what God had promised. His feet took dominion over it as Abram claimed it. Abraham worshipped the Lord at an altar he constructed. What a powerful lesson for us: our authority comes from submission. Praise the Lord. 


In chapter 14, lot is captured and rescued by Abram. In verse 18, Abram returns God’s tenth to the priest. In Hebrews 7 we see that Melchizedek is a foreshadow of Christ. Now it is Jesus who receives the tithe. The tithe belongs to God, and by returning it, Abram was acknowledging God’s authority and help. 


In chapter 15, God makes a covenant with Abram. A covenant is a binding agreement. When it is made in blood, the agreement cannot be broken unless the other party dies. Life is in the blood. In this agreement, God pledges to Abram that he will have a multitude of descendants, even though he had no children. God promises that his heir would be from his body, not by a servant in his household. 


There are several covenant rituals that are seen in this chapter:

  1. In a covenant ritual, coats and belts were exchanged, a symbol of protection and full surrender. God promised to be Abraham’s shield and reward.
  2. In a covenant ritual, blood is shed. God cut an animal. In verse 18, the Hebrew word for made is karath, meaning “to cut.”
  3. In a covenant ritual, the two parties would walk between the pieces of the animal as to bind themselves together. In this covenant, God did the walking, basing the covenant on Himself, which could never be broken. “A smoking oven and a burning torch” was a hendiadys phrase, or a phrase where one noun modifies the other. For example it was nice and warm could be said to be nicely warm. This phrase is describing the Shekinah glory of God, blazing like an oven and a torch. 
  4. In a covenant ritual they would often exchange or change names. God’s name is YHWH. In Genesis 17:5, we see where Abram became Abraham. The “H” was added from YHWH to Abram. Abram meant exalted father, Abraham means father of a multitude. God also changed Sarai’s name to Sarah, adding the “H” from YHWH, meaning “princess.”
  5. In a covenant ritual, a scar would be made. In Genesis 17:10, we see God require circumcision, a cutting of the flesh. 
  6. In a covenant ritual, covenant terms were discussed. God promises the land of Canaan to Abraham (15:18-21; 17:7-8). 


God can’t make a covenant and not keep it. He swore by Himself, and He is perfect and true. It would be impossible for this promise not to be fulfilled. 


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