Anytime you choose to forgive rather than take offense, you are refusing to take the bait of Satan. Think about it, it’s not like we don’t know his tactics of taking advantage of and exploiting raw human emotions…especially when we feel we’ve been disrespected, insulted, or attacked verbally by someone else. Satan wants us to react in the moment, and the more undignified and louder the better he likes it. Satan then smiles, for he has sifted us like grain in a sieve, (Amos 9:9) and outwitted us one more time. And for us…we’re left needing to repent once again.
The Psalmist David understood fully the frailty of humans and our need for protection when he wrote, “I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm.” (Psalm 55:8) But this safe haven and place of security he was speaking of wasn’t a physical place at all but rather him seeking refuge in the Lord. Sadly, for many, their living environment is a ongoing war-zone…filled with emotionally draining landmines and rage filled booby-traps hidden everywhere and ready to go off. That’s why seeking solace in God is the only reliable stronghold where we can find shelter from affliction…for He is our hiding place.
In these verses the “subjects of the Kingdom” may refer to unbelieving Jews who thought that their ancestry automatically entitled them entrance into the Kingdom of God. And because they were called God’s “chosen people” they truly believed that they were assured special favor by God. But there was no faith involved…and certainly no acceptance of Jesus Christ as their coming Messiah. Their puffed-up confidence and pride came only from their genealogy and lineage and was manifested in the taking on of a false religious appearance. They had put all their hope in being Children of Abraham, and “family” ties…not Children of God, and becoming part of the “family” of faith.
The priests were using their revered positions to enhance their own power and wealth by oppressing the poor and showing biased partiality in matters of the Law, (especially if their palms were crossed with gold first). They had been called to be Messengers of the Lord, but they had turned from the Way and by their false teaching had caused many to stumble. (Malachi 2:7-9) This was evident in their allowing clean and unclean things to co-mingle as well as turning a blind eye to activities being done by the people on the Sabbath. This defilement of the Sabbath…the covenantal sign of God’s authority… was set apart to be a time of rest, reflection, and refreshment, but it had become like any other day.
Jesus was explaining to His disciples here…and to all Believers, that the world hates us. He made it plain that , “If they persecuted Me, they’ll persecute you also.” (John 15:21) Not only will the world denounce the Gospel Message you share and find fault, it will refuse to accept it as the truth. But the real antithesis of this verse comes from John 16:2, when Jesus warned His disciples, “A time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God.” In other words, a time when crazy, contrary thinking of the world will consider good to be evil, righteousness actually wickedness, and deceit superior to the truth. At this time in a true twist of deception, Believers will be cast out of society…indefinitely banished and viewed as the real wicked ones.
Sooner or later it happens to everyone. The Doctor delivers a life-changing diagnosis…a precious loved one suddenly dies…adversaries rise up to discredit our name and reputation…or our own old and weakened body betrays us. That’s when others start to murmur, “The crisis is too severe, their rescue seems impossible, we can’t imagine how God can help them.” But that’s the time when our righteous, true, and holy God is there for us to give us victory over the impossible. Or as Psalm 121:1-2 tells us, “I lift my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth.” If you are going through tough times right now, I would encourage you to read the entire Chapter of Psalm 121, and in addition, Psalm 91 to gain our covenant-keeping God’s perspective on your troubles.
Earlier in Matthew, it tells us that as Jesus traveled about preaching and teaching the Good News, He also healed every disease and sickness among the people. And as the news spread, people brought to Him all who were ill with various diseases, those who were suffering with severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and He healed them. (Matthew 4:23-24) Now for many in the crowd, they were only there for Dinner and a Show… and Jesus was just an oddity or freak of nature who could provide them with entertainment. But for others who had loved ones suffering and in misery, it was a chance for a miracle. They might not have understood what was happening, or how it was done, or even who this Jesus person was…but here stood their loved one made whole and in sound health and all they could do was praise God for it.
“You were influenced and led astray by mute idols.” (I Corinthians 12:2) That’s because manmade idols…whether made of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood, or stone have no life…no breath within them. They are inanimate objects…lacking in life sustaining breath and spirit. They are worthless for instruction, or as Hosea 4:12 observes, “They consult a wooden idol and are answered by a stick of wood.” And if we go so far as to place our hope in these idols… rather placing our dependence on God alone, we can only be called foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but don’t see, and have ears, but don’t hear. (Jeremiah 10:5)
After Adam and Eve sinned, they hid from God… thinking somehow He wouldn’t be able to find them. But, “The eyes of the Lord are everywhere.” (Proverbs 15:3) So we need to remember that all our actions and misdeeds are not hidden from God’s sight… everything is uncovered and laid bare before His eyes. (Hebrews 4:13) And that even includes our reasoning to do wrong…or as I Corinthians 4:5 tells us, “God will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts.”
Why do we tend to keep secret the mighty strength and deliverance of God? Sure, we may tell a fellow Believer what God’s doing in our life…but when it comes to the rest of the world, we’re quiet. Job tells us here that we are to not hide God’s actions from the world, but to share it openly as a way to guide others to Him. For nothing can compare to the power of God when unleashed in a person’s life…or as Paul so eloquently penned, ” Oh, the depth of the riches of wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him? For from Him and through Him and to Him be the glory forever! Amen.” (Romans 11:33-36)