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)
Just as Paul desired to visit his fellow-believers in the faith…I pray you have someone just as special in your life. Someone, that despite the time that may go by, or the many miles between you, the minute you begin to talk, inspiration, hope, comfort, and exhortation will flow freely as you both give and receive encouragement. For our Spiritual gifts are for the edification and common good of others. And you’ll find that as you share this mutual encouragement, you both can’t help but be strengthened in your collective faith.
The concept is simple but the ramifications are profound. If we belong to God we listen to what He says, and are then able to recognize between the Spirit of Truth and the spirit of falsehood. (I John 4:6) But what does listening to God encompass? We need to first receive it and receive Jesus to become children of God.( John 1:12) We need to then acknowledge that only God’s Ways are right. (Luke 7:29) We need to accept these Words planted in us, (James 1:21) and understand what they mean. (Psalm 119:125) And finally, we need to obey what we hear. For, “Whoever has My commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves Me. He who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I too will love him and show Myself to him.” (John 14:21)
When I moved back to the Midwest I was immediately reacquainted with the severe thunderstorms and tornadoes that happen very frequently in the area. I had forgotten just how powerful, and overwhelming…not to mention how unpredictable and extreme these storms can be. You only have to ride out one tornado to understand the feelings of total helplessness and vulnerability as the fierce winds whirl outside. These verses compare God’s anger to these violent and destructive winds…but unlike the tornado that dissipates…God’s wrath does not cease until His plans and purposes are fully established and accomplished, according to His divine wisdom and understanding.