January 7

Matthew 6:1-18


Jesus continues his message to the Jews with His Sermon on the Mount. In these verses, Jesus is addressing people who live under a set of rules, the Mosaic Law. His message was focused on the heart, not the performance or discipline. 


In verses 1-4, Jesus focuses on the heart of the giver, giving to the Father without seeking praise from men. This isn’t saying that what the church does for our community should be kept as a secret. The church should be celebrated, not for praise for ourselves, but to give glory to God!


In verses 5-6 is the message of the heart of the one praying, not for attention, but for the Lord. Does this mean we should have collective prayer? No, of course not. 


Verses 7-13 contains the sample prayer, a prayer from the heart, not a repetitive prayer, as a ritual. 


In verses 14-15, Jesus taught the seriousness of holding someone in judgment for their sin. To forgive means to release. The Law was about legal execution for wrongs committed. 


In verses 16-18, Jesus again focuses on the heart of fasting, to seek the Father, not to get attention from others to be considered a good Jew, a good performer, perhaps better than someone else. In the eyes of God these performances are not done in a dependent faith that inspires obedience, but of pride and works. Words are about how others view us, attempting to gain approval from men rather than God. 


Genesis 18-19


In chapter 18, the Lord appears to Abraham. He appears alongside two angels. Abraham appears not to recognize them right away, but does the hospitable Bedouin thing to greet the visitors and offer them a meal. It was not uncommon in the Bedouin culture to stand while the guests ate. 


The guests asked about the location of his wife, and he answered, “Here, in the tent.” The Lord said, “I will return to you according to the time of life (or in nine months).” He said Sarah will have a son. This is the Lord, Jesus, prophesying Isaac, the bloodline from which He would be born. 


Sarah was listening. Sarah had passed the time of childbearing. In other words, she had been through menopause. When she heard the prophecy, she laughed. In verse 14 the Lord says, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” 


In Genesis 18:16, we find a powerful Scripture on intercession. The two messengers move on to Sodom, but the Lord remains with Abraham. He says, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing?” God wants to pull us in on what He is doing. He even gives Abraham input that could affect what will happen in two cities.   


The Lord heard many cries from Sodom and Gomorrah because of the depth of the sin among the wicked people. Does God hear us when we cry out to Him? Yes, absolutely, He does. Abuse is not His fault. He has given the earth to mankind, and He allows men and women to make choices. Let’s not blame God. Let’s not doubt His love. 


Abraham heard what the Lord was doing, the city where his nephew and family lived, and he asked Him, “Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked?” Abraham spoke on behalf of any possible righteous in the city to the Lord. He was in the middle, the go-between. He interceded, asking for mercy if He found fifty, then forty-five, then thirty, then twenty, then ten.


In chapter 19:22, the angel tells Lot to hurry and escape to a nearby city, saying, “Hurry… for I cannot do anything until you arrive there.” The angel had instructions from the Lord not to allow Lot to be harmed. If Lot’s wife had stayed with him and hurried to the refuge city, she would have been saved. How important it is that we stay close to our leaders. When they move, we are to move with them, not looking back from the place from which we were delivered. There is blessing and protection in obedience and submission. 


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