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“And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. This then is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,'”Matthew 6:7-9
Quite often, Jesus references the Old Testament in His New Testament discourse. This should, in our minds, solidify His statement that He came to fulfill the Law and not to abolish even the smallest portion of it [Matthew 5:17-18].
The mention of pagans here, hearkens back to the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal [1 Kings 18:26-29] and an exhortation of King Solomon about speaking thoughtfully and purposefully with God [Ecclesiastes 5:2]. Both contrast the verbose tendencies of idol worshipers.
Their gods are no god at all but rather precious metal, stone, wood and the like–statues and images made by human hands [Psalm 115:4 & 135:15; Isaiah 2:8; Jeremiah 16:20-21]. They cannot hear or respond. Because of this, idol worshipers tend to talk and talk and talk their nonliving god into the ground, like beating a dead horse they can never penetrate the idol’s ears, let alone its heart, with their many words.
As Christians, we serve the one true living God [Jeremiah 10:10]. We don’t need to drone on with repetitive incantations or nagging requests. God hears us just fine [1 Samuel 1:17-20; 1 John 5:14]. And He knows what we need before we even ask Him [Matthew 6:8]. So we shouldn’t treat Him like a deaf stone statue. It’s irreverent. And it shows that we don’t have a right understanding of Him. That we need to grow in our relationship with Him.
When we pray, we know that God hears us and that, in His wisdom, He will do what is right in response to our request. Which–contrary to human opinion–is not always to give us what we ask for.
So then, how should we pray?
Recognize God for who He is. Our heavenly Father, whose very name is hallowed–meaning holy. We don’t use God’s name emptily or profanely. We don’t treat it like a magic genie’s lamp to get whatever we want. Instead, we call on the Lord as our friend who sticks closer than a brother and as our loving Father [Proverbs 18:24; 1 John 3:1].
It’s like walking into a king’s palace or any U.S. president’s Oval Office and saying, Yo bub, give me whatever I want because I’m asking you by name and you’re my government servant and you have to do whatever I want. We wouldn’t dream of trying to get things like this from earthly authorities. So why is it that when we pray we treat God with no more respect than a fictitious genie in a lamp?
If you struggle with prayer and the faith to believe that God will answer, maybe try putting your requests on ice for a time, and start seeking God to show you who He really is. Get to know Him as God. Begin to reverence Him in your heart and life. Then, when your relationship is right, bring your requests to Him as your Holy Heavenly Father.
How do you talk to God when you pray?
“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 and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:19-20
There are so many questions concerning sin and the ten commandments and salvation through faith in Christ alone. Like–is breaking one of the ten commandments a sin today? Does the Old Testament really matter if we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus? If we are saved by God’s grace, and our sins are forgiven, is it ok if we still sin unknowingly? What about knowingly? Can’t we just ask forgiveness for our new sins? And many others.
When we accept Christ as Lord of our lives, it’s true that grace is ours. We are no longer under the Law which brought condemnation. So when we sin–whether knowingly or unknowingly–we have forgiveness in Christ. But that’s not license to keep on sinning [Romans 6:1]. Our old selves have been made new [2 Corinthians 5:17], so that we can hold the new wine of Jesus’ power in our lives [Matthew 9:17].
Jesus tells us that forgiven lawbreakers will be in heaven. But those who continue to disobey God’s commands and teach others to do it too, those people will be known as the least in heaven. While those who keep and teach God’s commands will be considered great in heaven.
While God is completely transcendent–above and outside of any such continuum–heavenly rewards will vary depending on the lives that we live [1 Kings 8:32; Matthew 5:12 & 6:19-24; Luke 6:23].
So yes, breaking a ten commandment–and any of God’s other commands–is still a sin today. Because disobeying God is sin. Yes, the Old Testament absolutely still matters because Jesus came to fulfill all that was written in the Old Testament, not to expunge it. Through the Old Testament we understand the heart of the greatest commandments and recognize our sinful state. Yes, if we are under grace our sins are forgiven whether continually committed knowingly or unknowingly. But no, we should not be ok with willfully continuing to sin.
We should daily be taking up our cross and wearing Christ like a robe, so that as we are being renewed in the renovation of our minds, we can be salt and light to this world.
The Pharisees and the teachers of the law knew and kept the law to the letter, but they missed the point. Their hearts didn’t grow closer to God but more full of themselves. They didn’t love their fellow human being but instead despised them as unholy and unworthy.
If God’s Word doesn’t change us anymore than it did the religious leaders of His day, Jesus warns us that we will not enter heaven [Matthew 5:20].
What reward will you receive for the life you live? Are you pressing on in faith to attain the prize? Or are you habitually going through religious motions without letting the truth penetrate your heart and make you new?
“But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20-21
God is omniscient. He knew Joseph’s heart–his thoughts and motivations [1 Samuel 16:7; Jeremiah 17:10; Hebrews 4:12]. He knew that Joseph and Mary were righteous and God-fearing. He knew that Mary would face public disgrace and possible life-ending consequences depending on Joseph’s reaction. But He also knew that Joseph was the man He could trust to see that Mary was well cared for as she bore the Christ child.
Joseph was a Godly father and husband. That was why he wrestled with the righteousness piece of this whole finding-Mary-pregnant-during-their-engagement thing. He knew that he hadn’t slept with her.
But God intervenes in Joseph’s understanding to set the record straight. God brings the light of truth through an angelic dream. Dream oracles were a firm part of ancient beliefs and not just in Israel. However, God spoke in dreams to the patriarch Jacob [Genesis 28:11-19], his son Joseph [Genesis 37:5-11], King Solomon [1 Kings 3:5-15; and many of the prophets [Numbers 12:6; Daniel 7].
It’s interesting that the angel addresses Joseph by his genealogy. Had anyone ever called him Joseph son of David before? Because of the meticulously kept family records, he surely knew his own descent from the great patriarch Abraham and King David, but did he readily identify with these two men of promise? God wants to make sure that Joseph now understands what his significance in this story is.
By calling Joseph his genealogical title God is showing that the baby to be born in his family will fulfill the promise made to King David. God further expands on this explanation, assuring Joseph that Mary has not been with another man. She is still a virgin, miraculously carrying God’s own child–which will be born a son.
Now there was no way to know in those days whether a child would be male or female until it was born. So God reveals the gender in order to confirm that what He is saying is true. When the baby is born and really is a boy, Joseph will understand that the dream really was from God and that the child really is the son of God.
Until then, he has to accept the situation on faith alone. But when the truth is fulfilled–the baby is born and Joseph consummates his marriage with Mary and finds she really still is a virgin–then he has a part to play as well. When Joseph’s faith comes to fruition, he will give his God-man stepson the name Jesus to publicly acknowledge his belief in the truth God spoke to him beforehand.
All of us are born with the seed of faith to believe in God and the truth of His Word. When we study and cultivate our relationship with Him, His Word is fulfilled in our lives through salvation, the fruit of the Spirit lived out in us, and blessings. Is your faith coming to fruition? Or is it drying up in the seed of your passing child and teen years?
“David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife, Solomon was the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa, Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram, Jehoram the father of Uzziah, Uzziah the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, Amon the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.” Matthew 1:6b-11
Throughout human history, God preserved a remnant through which to send His Son into the world–a remnant that fulfilled His promises to Adam and Eve, Abraham and David. But the people within the remnant were not sinless. In fact, many of them were bold-faced sinners.
Two kings of Israel–David, the man after God’s own heart, and his son Solomon, given wisdom by God. Six kings of Judah who did right in the eyes of the Lord. Seven kings who did wrong, though one repented. But even David and Solomon weren’t perfect or sinless.
David’s sin with Bathsheba is forever chronicled, not just in scripture, but in the very record of Jesus’ lineage. Is God condoning his adulterous and murderous behavior? Absolutely not! However, David sincerely repented before the Lord and, in God’s great mercy, the child born of a sinful relationship was made part of the line of the Messiah–the anointed one to come.
Solomon prayed for God’s wisdom to govern, which God granted [1 Kings 3:7-12; James 1:5-6]. But in regards to his personal life, he also allowed sin to creep in and, eventually, to divide his sons who then divided the kingdom [1 Kings 11:4].
Six different prophets spoke the Word of God throughout this part of Jesus’ genealogy. The evil kings set up Baals and Asherah poles for people to worship false gods on the high places of the Promised Land rather than the One True God in His Temple in Jerusalem. The good kings restored rightful worship in Judah, turning hearts back to God.
Even unto King Josiah who had never even heard God’s Law in his lifetime–though he followed the right ways of King David and loved God–until it was found in the Temple ten years into his reign. At age eighteen he heard the words of God’s Law and rightly responded [2 Kings 2:8-13]. And to the exile to Babylon.
Despite the fact that God’s own people sinned just like everyone else, it didn’t nullify God’s faithfulness. Though the Israelites suffered the natural consequences of their godless choices, God still kept His promise, He still loved and redeemed the whole world by sending His Son–fully God and fully man–into the world to save the world through Him [John 3:16].
There may be people in your own history who are not doing what is right in God’s eyes. Unbelievers love to question God’s goodness and faithfulness in these situations because He allows those who come before us to exercise their freewill every bit as much as we get to.
However, God is good. And He is faithful.
He preserves a remnant, a faithful witness, in your life and in every life. Though others sin against us, God asks us to break the cycle. To step out of the shadows of our human history and to choose to do right in His eyes.
Do you live by God’s Word? Are you among those through whom God can work to reach the world?
“This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David.” Matthew 1:1-6a
The Israelites kept meticulous genealogies throughout their history. Family lineage was extremely important for earthly reasons, but God also determined an accurate recording of the direct line through whom Jesus would come.
At the outset of Matthew’s genealogical recalling, Jesus is named the Messiah–the promised deliverer of the Jewish nation. First, the author notes, in backwards order, the two most important men in Jesus’ line. He is the promised son of King David who will reign forever on the throne [2 Samuel 7:16; 1 Kings 9:5; Jeremiah 33:17; et al]. He is also the promised seed of the patriarch Abraham through whom the whole world will be blessed [Genesis 12:2-3, 18:18 & 22:18; Galatians 3:8].
Then the genealogy follows forward from the first notable ancestor. [Although, just like the rest of us, Jesus line can be traced all the way back to Noah and Adam. So we truly are brothers and sisters of Christ!] All three patriarchs make the list–Abraham, Isaac and Jacob–the three men with whom God identifies Himself to Moses at the burning bush [Exodus 3:6]. Jacob was later called Israel and the Jewish nation took this name from him [Genesis 32:28].
Jacob’s son Judah, meaning praise, is mentioned next as are his sons by Tamar [Genesis 38]. Tamar is one of the few women mentioned in the genealogy of Christ, she kept Judah accountable to his duties. And on down to Salmon the father of Boaz before another woman is mentioned. In fact, Boaz is tied to two notable women in Jesus’ lineage. His mother, Rahab, was the woman who aided the Canaanite spies when the Israelites were scouting out the Promised Land [Joshua 2 & 6]. And his wife, Ruth, was the Moabitess who accompanied her mother-in-law Naomi back to her homeland [Ruth 1:6-22].
From these came King David, the man after God’s own heart [1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22]. Jesus is the fulfillment of promise after promise. He is the son of Eve that will crush the serpent’s head [Genesis 3:15]. He is the seed of Abraham through whom the whole world–Jew and Gentile alike–will be blessed. And He is the son of David, the righteous one, who will always sit on the throne.
Do you understand the significance of Jesus’ genealogy? Are you ready to give an answer about Jesus’ lineage? More importantly, have you accepted Abraham’s seed with mustard-like faith and become a co-heir with Christ?
“And the Lord said, ‘I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,’ he said, ‘you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.’ Then the Lord said, ‘There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.'” Exodus 33:19-22
It is not permissible to see God’s being with our human eyes, because He wants us to live to tell about Him, and our sinfulness would altogether overwhelm us in His holy and glorious presence.
But Moses boldly petitioned to see God’s glory. And God, in His sovereign mercy and grace, granted that Moses see just His back. In fact, God covered Moses with His hand and only removed it at the first moment when it was safe for Moses to look upon Him.
Why would God not want everyone to see His face?
Can you imagine the world of trouble that human beings would cause creating and recreating the face of God? Painting. Sculpting. Duplicating. Publishing and posting. Especially in our very visual generation. The face of God would be reduced to an all too familiar, flawed representation that in no way compares to who He truly is. And people would come to replace the real God with a mere likeness.
Just the chapter before, the people of Israel demanded Aaron make them a golden calf to worship [Exodus 32]. They sang and made offerings to a piece of over-sized bovine jewelry!
The same danger existed with God showing His face to them. Wouldn’t these same hard-hearted people have desired to sculpt God’s portrait in gold and precious stones? But to whose glory and honor?
He didn’t want an empty self-portrait. He didn’t need their offerings or to enslave them in religious rituals, prostrating themselves before His image. He wanted their hearts full of love for Him. Just as He wants us to passionately pursue a personal relationship with Him.
In every other world religion, the false god has a face, an image that the followers associate with their worship–because they are no god at all, just an image made by human hands. But the One True God is high and lifted up [Isaiah 6:1 & 57:15-17].
He is holy [Leviticus 19:2; Joshua 24:19; 1 Samuel 2:2; et al].
He is beyond understanding and compare [Exodus 15:11; 1 Kings 8:23; Job 36:26; et al].
And we will behold God when we stand redeemed before Him in heaven one day [1 Corinthians 13:12; 1 John 3:2].
Are you living to see God face to face?
“Even while the people were worshiping the Lord, they were serving their idols. To this day their children and grandchildren continue to do as their ancestors did.” 2 Kings 17:41
Hand-me-down faith happens when we base what we believe about God on what others tell us, rather than on what God tells us about Himself in His Word. One of the greatest dangers of this hand-me-down religion is seeing God wrongly.
When our faith–what we absolutely, certainly believe without being able to see–comes from people rather than the Word of God, we inherit a flawed understanding. Because we are all sinful and therefore have imperfect understanding–understanding that falls short of fully comprehending the glory of God [Romans 3:23].
Jesus warned that there will be those who believe they belong in heaven, that they have lived religious lives invoking His name, but they will not actually have known God–by experience and relationship–they will not have known and done God’s will [Matthew 7:21-23]. Why? Quite possibly because they didn’t get into His Word for themselves. They didn’t read the Scriptures with the intent of pursuing the knowledge of God.
Yet, there is certainly a place for instructing others in the truth. God commanded the Israelites to love God with all that was within them, and from this love to impress God’s Word on their children by talking about Him all day long in every situation [Deuteronomy 6:4-9]. They were to observe Sabbaths and holy days and be ready to answer their children’s questions about why they did such things [Exodus 12:26; Deuteronomy 6:20; Joshua 4:21].
But this instruction was meant to turn hearts to seek God in His Word, not substitute human instruction for God’s Word.
In the 2 Kings passage above, we see that well-meaning, religious, but still sinful people, easily mixed worldly ideas with the truth of God. They worshiped the Lord. But even while they did what should have been right, they served idols–a complete rebellion against God. More tragically, they handed this mixed faith–which was no faith at all–down through the generations of God’s chosen people.
But the youth did not have to accept the watered down truth they were given. King Josiah ruled not many years after these verses. When God’s Word was found in the Temple and read to him, he grieved that he had not fully known God, that understanding had been withheld from his generation. He returned to a right belief in God and endeavored to lead all Israel into a right understanding [2 Kings 22:8-13].
What is your understanding of God based on? Human interpretation or God’s Word? If human interpretation in any measure, turn back to God’s Word like King Josiah and seek to meet Him face to face for yourself.