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“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.” Matthew 5:31-32
Even though it seems like the topic has switched to marriage and divorce, Jesus is still addressing the command not to commit adultery. In addressing each of the commandments, He gives multiple levels of information, because He knows the human heart and our tendency to ask, But what if…? scenarios.
The sin of adultery starts with lustful eyes. It continues with the hands and the rest of the physical body following suit. And the struggle with this unchecked sin continues through the rest of adult life.
There were those who wanted to walk the spiritual line. They wanted God’s blessing, or at least not not to be punished by Him, so they tried to cover their adultering ways within legal limits.
Marriage and divorce.
If they were married to the woman they lusted after, then their actions weren’t breaking the law. And, if they were free to divorce the woman whenever they felt like it and marry someone else–and repeat the process over and over again–then they would never be considered adulterers in human terms because they were keeping the law.
But Jesus lets them know that no such loophole existed. God still saw this practice as full-fledged adultery. In fact, the divorce certificate was never God’s idea to begin with. Moses allowed the people to divorce because their hearts were too hard to accept God’s design of one man and one woman for life [Deuteronomy 24:1-4; Matthew 19:8].
So why the harsh warnings about the divorced woman being labelled an adulteress and becoming off-limits? Aren’t both the man and the woman who divorce in the wrong?
But the woman didn’t have any say in this cultural climate. The men made all the decisions–except, of course, if the wife herself was the one who chose to be unfaithful to the marriage. So Jesus is bringing marriage back to the foundation that it was always meant to be built on–love.
Number one: no one should marry unless they can commit to live with their chosen spouse for the rest of their lives.
Number two: no one should divorce, because they should so love God and each other as human beings that they don’t want any harm to come to the other person [Malachi 2:16; Matthew 1:19].
As it was, men were running around marrying for sport, and women were being treated like legal prostitutes. And Jesus told them to stop. God saw their hearts. He knew their sinful ways. And now He was trying to tighten their understanding of the intent of the law so that people would stop sinning against one another through the holy covenant of marriage.
Our world today doesn’t even bat an eye at marriage of all kinds and divorce for any reason. But God’s Word never changes [Numbers 23:10; Isaiah 40:8; Matthew 24:35; Hebrews 13:8; 1 Peter 1:25; James 1:17]. It’s still just as wrong today as it was from the beginning.
As Christians, we need to steel our marital resolve with the commitment to love for life. A commitment that starts with guarding our eyes, minds and dating practices right now.
Are you committed to love one spouse for life? Are you praying for this future-someone even now? Are you guarding yourself out of your love and respect for the man or woman that God has for you?
“John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.” Matthew 3:4-6
John was an ordinary guy. He wore commoner’s clothes and ate desert forage–locusts and wild honey. While his father ministered in the temple, and these foods were in keeping with Jewish dietary law, John was introducing baptism in a whole new way.
The Pharisees of his day immersed themselves in water to remove ritual impurity [Matthew 15:2; John 2:6]. The Old Testament did in fact set this precedent, especially for priests [Leviticus 15, 16:4 & 24]. All Jews had to observe these ritual baths to be pure so that they could enter the temple and participate in its services during major festivals [Numbers 9:10; John 11:55; Acts 21:24-27]. But the Pharisees practiced regular immersion out of religiosity–following the rules to look good to men, rather than living from a heart for God.
John took baptism out of the temple. But just like the temple, people came from all over Israel to be ministered to. They came from Jerusalem where the temple was. From Judea, the whole region surrounding the city of Jerusalem and the temple of God. From the whole Jordan river region which extends north to south through the land of Israel.
John took baptism into the Jordan. This was the river that God parted so that the Hebrews could pass through on dry land and enter the Promised Land [Joshua 3-4]. A river analogous to the river of life that flows through the New Jerusalem in heaven [Revelation 22:1-2].
John baptized without priestly garments. But he led people to recognize and confess their sins to God. In effect, John launched the self-as-priest-without-need-of-a-Levitical-mediator ministry, preparing hearts for Jesus’ ministry, and people responded to it in droves!
And John baptized by immersion, which meant that a person’s whole body passed through the water. This is symbolic of the days of Noah. Before the flood, people did not confess their sins to God, many no longer even recognized right from wrong. Everyone just did as they saw fit. The floodwaters purified the world of the sin that had grown so rampant, wiping the proverbial slate clean for righteousness to start again.
Noah’s ark is an archetype for Jesus. By faith, Noah and his family were saved in the ark. By grace, we are saved through faith in Christ. When we confess our sins and are baptized, it should come from a heart to live for God. It should truly represent a change from living however we want to wiping our hearts clean, clothing us with Christ Himself, so that we can start anew and live righteously.
Have you confessed your sins to God? Have you been baptized by immersion in the name of Jesus? Is your faith purifying your heart?
“Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: ‘He will be called a Nazarene.” Matthew 2:22b-23
There is a bit of a mystery surrounding what Matthew means by the prophetic fulfillment here. These exact words do not appear in the Old Testament. One idea is that Matthew is echoing John’s sentiment that Jesus was the Messiah foretold by Moses in the Law and is identifying him as hailing from Nazareth [John 1:45]. Another is that Nazareth shares the same word root–netser–as branch [Isaiah 11:1] or that it is similar in sound to Nazirite, which is someone consecrated to God’s service [Numbers 6:1-21; Judges 13].
Whatever the case may be, Nazareth was a super tiny town in Galilee. And by super tiny, I mean about sixty acres–the size of my mother’s family farm–with about five hundred people packed into it.
During the Israelite exile to Assyria, pagan–or Gentile–peoples moved into this northern area that was previously allotted to the tribe of Naphtali. When the exiles returned, the Gentiles remained among them and some intermarried as well. Southern Jews looked down on their mixed race, Gentile-Jewish, northern neighbors.
But God held this blended people in the palm of His hand. You see, somewhere along the line in Old Testament history, the Jews forgot that God promised to bless the whole world through them [Genesis 12:3 & 22:18]. It wasn’t just about the Jews–their own religiosity or righteousness or salvation. It was about them living as a light of the truth so that the whole world would come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ [Romans 16:25; 1 Corinthians 2:7; Ephesians 3:6].
The Messiah was not meant for the Jews alone. It is beyond fitting, then, that God chose to send Jesus to a town that was both Jewish and Gentile. He grew up among both people groups. He was the light of eternity to both factions of the world.
And He was, in fact, a fulfillment of Isaiah 11:1 which says, A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The stump of Jesse means the line of King David that was cut off at the exile, while the name Jesse itself means God exists.
When we are rooted with the understanding, the absolute unshakable belief that God exists, we are ingrafted into Jesus’ [Romans 11:17-21]. We become branches extending from His vine of eternal life, a vine which extends from God the Father Himself [John 15:1-17].
God sent His Son so that the whole world might be saved through Him [John 3:16-17]. Israel first guarded that torch of truth, and, today, it has passed to all who believe.
Are you rooted in the faith in the One True God? Does your life hold the torch of God’s truth high for all the world to see?
“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.'” Matthew 2:1-2
Did you know that there were two Bethlehems in Israel? One northwest of Nazareth and this one, south of Jerusalem, where Jesus was born in Judea.
About 540 years after the first exiles returned to Judah in southern Israel and just 40 years since the founding of the Roman Empire, King Herod sits on the throne that rightly belongs to Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph’s, family line. King Herod knows that he doesn’t belong there. His authority is precariously based on human political alliances, including the Jewish religious leaders of his day.
So his panic over the Magi’s news that the real King of Judah has been born is a very real, world-rocking, desperate panic.
But how about those Magi? They came from east of Jerusalem which itself is on the western edge of what is considered the Middle East. So the Magi could have come from several of the other Middle Eastern countries–Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran–or the Far East–India, China, Mongolia, et al.
They were astrologers, men who studied the stars for understanding and for prophetic signs. And God set a very unique star in the sky to commemorate the birth of His Son, Jesus the Messiah [Numbers 24:17; Jeremiah 23:5]. The Magi saw His star while they were yet in their eastern home countries, and they followed it, like a heavenly GPS, right to Jerusalem where Jesus had been born. Sailors have long navigated by starlight, but they relied on star charts of known celestial bodies. Whereas the Magi saw a new astrological phenomena and had to know its significance.
Except they did know its significance. They knew to ask Herod–the usurping King of the Jews–where the new baby, true King of the Jews was. And they knew that they, even being Gentiles, needed and wanted to worship the true King of the Jews.
How can that be? Except for the eternity that is in each of our hearts [Ecclesiastes 3:11] and the witness of the Holy Spirit in our lives drawing us back to our Creator God [John 6:44]. These were not men who grew up in Israel studying the messianic prophecies to recognize His coming. No, those in Israel didn’t recognize their Messiah. These were possibly sorcerers and fortune tellers from pagan societies who still possessed a seed of Godly understanding.
Every culture on the planet has that seed. The Spirit of God has preserved some witness of Himself in every culture in the history of the world–Creation myths, flood legends, dragon tales and belief in an afterlife to name a few. The Creation itself testifies to the truth of God [Acts 14:17; Romans 1:20]. Those who hunger and thirst for the truth will seek God while He may be found and find rest for their souls [Isaiah 55:6-7; Matthew 5:6 & 11:29].
Are you absolutely convince of the truth of God? Seek to understand Him while you have breath. Study His Creation to know Him personally. Find rest for your weary, wayward soul. Then join the proclamation of His truth.
“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?
“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?
“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us…God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them…We love because He first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And He has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” 1 John 4:11-12, 16b & 19-21
God took on flesh so He could lay down His physical life for us [John 1:14]–for our sake and in our place. Jesus made Himself the propitiation–the reparation–for the wrong of our sins that separated us from God [1 John 2:2]. In the infinite love of God, Jesus bridged the gap, lighting the Way, the Truth and the Life for all humankind to see [John 14:6].
As Christians, we are the light of God’s love to a lost and dying world [Matthew 5:13-16]. If we love all others, constantly willing for their good–good as defined by God–then God’s light shines through us. It brings glory and honor to God. It brings understanding, clarity about God, to believers and unbelievers alike.
So many times God takes the fall for being unloving because human beings–His Creation–are unloving. But just as Christ stood in the gap to make things right between God and man, so we as Christians should be stemming the tide of darkness in this life. We should be boldly living as disciples of Christ [John 13:35], loving others as God first loved us [1 John 4:19]. We should be lighting the path of the lost with God’s love so that they see their way to eternal life and joyfully return to their Heavenly Father.
When we don’t love with God’s perfect love, we shadow His true character in the eyes of the world. When we don’t let His infinite love flow through us–whether from pride or sin or selfishness–then the world doesn’t open their ears to hear [Romans 10:14]. When the gospel is not lived in love, its heard message is dismissed as hypocrisy .
If we decide that we just can’t get along with someone, then we are not loving with God’s love. When mistreat us and we let it keep us from loving them anyway, then we are not loving with God’s love. If we hold grudges or allow jealousy to grow into hard feelings, when we judge or gossip, then we are not loving with God’s love. Then we are not a heavenly light guiding others to Christ but a darkened signal willing their condemnation.
God saved us from death. For this reason alone we should love Him enough to love the rest of His Creation to life. Is your life a light of the good news of God’s love?