Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Wednesday, 18 January 2023:
2 Chronicles 16:2-6 – Then Asa took silver and gold from the treasures of the house of the Lord and the king’s house and sent them to Ben-hadad king of Syria….
Don’t rob God to appease men. Financial debt to ungodly institutions takes resources from Kingdom and gives them to the kingdoms of men.
2 Chronicles 16:7-9 — Because you relied on the king of Syria, and did not rely on the Lord your God, the army of the king of Syria has escaped you….
You have no idea what you are giving up when you compromise your fidelity to God. God wants so much more from you that you cannot see with your own wisdom.
2 Chronicles 16:9 — For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. You have done foolishly in this, for from now on you will have wars.
When you turn to substitutes for God to solve your problems, you will always suffer greatly. Trust in the Lord, not your own understanding, with all of your heart, and He will take care of you.
2 Chronicles 16:10 — Then Asa was angry with the seer and put him in the stocks in prison, for he was in a rage with him because of this. And Asa inflicted cruelties upon some of the people at the same time.
People tend to blame the God’s messengers for the truth, but the messengers are accountable to God for delivery of the message. God’s messengers are often persecuted by the rebellious for delivering God’s message. Jesus warned that His disciples would be persecuted by those who reject Him.
2 Chronicles 16:12 — Yet even in his disease he did not seek the Lord, but sought help from physicians.
Asa did not finish well. Don’t lose the race on the final lap. Resolve to make your last day your best day.
Matthew 13:10-13 – “Then the disciples came and said to him, ‘Why do you speak to them in parables?’ And he answered them, ‘To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.’”
Today, Jesus delivers one of His most well-known parables, The Parable of the Sower. Matthew 13 opens with, “That same day Jesus went out of the house….” The same day as what? This was the same day as the events recorded in Matthew 12. This was the Sabbath day when Jesus and the disciples were chastised by the Pharisees for plucking heads of grain to eat. Then, Jesus was further criticized for breaking the Sabbath again by healing a man in the synagogue, and the Pharisees further accused Jesus of doing His work through the power of Satan. In response, Jesus calls His skeptics “an evil and adulterous generation.”
After the confrontation described in Matthew 12, Jesus walks outside and a crowd gathers around Him, standing (not sitting) to hear His words. (Matthew 13:1, 2) Then He delivers The Parable of the Sower. After Jesus addressed the crowd, “the disciples” (His followers) separately asked Him about the parable. Since Jesus explains the meaning of the parable, I won’t focus on that today (though we should all consider which seed/soil combination represents our lives), rather I would like to consider Jesus’ response to their question, “Why do you speak to them in parables?”
Jesus said, “This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” You see, many people ‘heard’ Jesus speak, but in their hearts, they really didn’t want to listen, understand, and accept what He was saying. Many people saw Jesus, the Son of God, face to face and saw Him perform many miracles, but they didn’t want to follow Him and accept Him as Lord and Savior, leaving their old lifestyles behind. Few ‘held fast to God’s word with an honest and good heart.’ (Luke 8:15) Few truly hungered and thirsted for righteousness. (Matthew 5:6)
When Jesus “went out of the house” after teaching and rebuking the Pharisees, I wonder how many followed Him because they wanted to hear more and commit to what they had learned? How many people were willing to stand there on the beach and really listen?
When Jesus spoke in parables, no one, not even the disciples, understood what the parables meant. But, in contrast to the ‘crowd’, the disciples stuck around and asked Jesus to explain the parables, and He did. Why did the disciples ask? Because they really wanted to understand, because they were honest enough, humble enough, and willing to ask, and because they trusted Jesus to answer. At the end of the day, most people simply didn’t understand because they really didn’t care to know the Teacher or His teachings and, therefore, didn’t ask Jesus to reveal more to them.
As we will see later, the harder Jesus’ teachings get, the fewer people will be willing to follow – “When many of his disciples heard it, they said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?’ … After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the twelve, ‘Do you want to go away as well?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.’” (John 60, 66-69)
So, how intently are you willing to study God’s word to Know Him and His truth? How committed are you obeying God’s word? As you read your Bible this year, what will you do when you read things that are hard to understand or hard to accept? Obviously, we can’t pull Jesus aside and ask Him to simply explain it to us, but Jesus said, “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth…. And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin.” (John 14:16, 17; John 16:7-15) As you read God’s word, do so in the Spirit, and pray to God to reveal His truth to you more and more. And patiently wait upon the Lord to increase your understanding, diligently obey what you do understand – “As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.” (Luke 8:15)
Matthew 13:15 – …understand with their heart.
Understanding comes from the heart, not just from the head. You can have all the Bible ‘knowledge’ in the world but no understanding if God’s word doesn’t change your heart. If God’s word hasn’t transformed your life, if it hasn’t inspired you to fulfill the Great Commandment of love, you don’t really understand and have only empty knowledge that is powerless.
Matthew 13:15 – For this people’s heart has grown dull.
Every time you hear God’s word and neglect it, your heart grows dull, and you lose a bit more of your ability to hear from God in the future. You will still be able to study God’s word, but less and less are you inclined to be changed by it.
Matthew 13:16-17 – But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.
“When you became a Christian, God gave you spiritual sight and hearing so you could begin experiencing His presence and activity all around you. The Holy Spirit helps you to develop these spiritual senses as you walk with Him. Spiritual sensitivity to God is a gift that must be accepted and exercised. Scripture indicates that those who are spiritually dead cannot see or understand spiritual things (Matt. 13:14-15). Without spiritual eyes, you can be right in the midst of a mighty act of God and not recognize it.
There is a radical difference between seeing your surroundings from a human perspective and seeing life through spiritual eyes. Non-Christians will see world events around them and become confused. You will look at the same events, recognize the activity of God, and adjust your life to Him. When you meet a person who is seeking God, you will recognize the convicting work of the Holy Spirit and adjust your life to God’s activity (Rom. 3:11). Someone without spiritual perception will encounter that same person and not grasp the eternal significance of what is happening in that person’s life. Others will hear of new philosophies and trends in society and not know how to discern the truth. You will hear God’s voice over the din of the world’s voices, and you will keep your bearings in the midst of the confusing circumstances.
Sin dulls your senses, ultimately leaving you spiritually blind and deaf. Do not be content with merely seeing with physical eyes and hearing with natural ears but not sensing what God is doing. Ask God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to sensitize you to His activity all around you.” (Henry T. Blackaby)
Matthew 13:18-23 – Which seed are you?
Matthew 13:18-23 – God does not expect all labors for Him to produce similar results or success.
Matthew 13:22 – As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.
Most Christians in America seem to fall into this category. So easily do we replace the Great Commission with the American dream. We are worried about so much, harried, busy, consumed. Too often, our Kingdom mission gets what little is left.
Matthew 13:28-30 – He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”
Don’t waste your time trying to figure out who isn’t saved or really a Christian. Rather, spend your time making more disciples. God will separate the weeds from the flowers in His own time.
Matthew 13:33 — “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”
Your role as yeast is to slowly influence others. Like yeast, we slowly influence others, and eventually the Kingdom grows very large. You have no idea how much your small impact on others will produce tremendous results.
Matthew 13:44 – The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
When we have truly discovered Jesus Christ, our joy is complete and nothing else matters, nothing else gives us greater joy. Our joy in complete in Him.
Matthew 13:46 – …who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
When we truly know Jesus Christ, giving up everything to follow Him is not a difficult thing to do but rather comes naturally. Everything else loses its value, and all that you have is dedicated to drawing closer to Him. If you are still hanging on to something, you need to work on your relationship with Jesus Christ.
Matthew 13:54 – … and coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works?
Amazement is not faith.
Matthew 13:58 – And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.
A lack of faith robs us of God’s blessings in our life. “Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 18 January 2023: “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” Pray that God will increase your passion for His word and further open the eyes of your heart to His truth.