In Jesus’ Words: Anger (Matthew 21:12-13)

jesus_and_moneychangers~ Matthew 21:12-13  Cleansing the Temple ~

Jesus went into the temple complex and drove out all those buying and selling in the temple. He overturned the money changers’ tables and the chairs of those selling doves. And He said to them, “It is written, My house will be called a house of prayer. But you are making it a den of thieves!”

Until now in the gospel of Matthew, the disciple and author Matthew has shown us Jesus’ magnificent compassion for the people, his miracles and healing, and has given us his great Sermon on the Mount.  But now we come to a more serious Jesus.  He is angry at what is taking place in God’s temple.  The gospel of John also records another similar event in which Jesus “makes a whip out of cords” and uses it to drive out the money changers.  Can you imagine Jesus quietly but deliberately putting together a whip?  This passage brings up many things to think about – the reverence of God’s temple (church), the authority that Jesus showed in carrying out these things, and the thought of God being angry, as demonstrated through His Son Jesus.  I have chosen to discuss the latter one – God’s anger and what does it mean.

Though this was a small demonstration with Jesus, the idea of God’s anger or wrath is perplexing to many, and sometimes uncomfortable.  But if you read the accounts of evil that took place in the Old Testament, you may ask why God has not done more. The enemies of God during that time were so evil that we can barely imagine it today. They cut off their captives hands and feet, gouged their eyes, filleted them and skinned them alive, sacrificed their own children to the gods, and even cut off the heads of children and made their parents wear their children’s heads on a rope around their necks. Unbelievable evil. The prophet Habakuk gives us a glimpse of this in his prayer in Habakuk chapter 1.

Why do You force me to look at injustice?
Why do You tolerate wrongdoing?
Oppression and violence are right in front of me.
Strife is ongoing, and conflict escalates.

Your eyes are too pure to look on evil,
and You cannot tolerate wrongdoing.

The prophet Nahum also sums it up nicely: “The Lord is slow to anger and great in power.” (Nahum 1:3)

First, we must recognize there is a higher power that created us and we are not of our own to do just anything we please in this world.  Ironically, as much as we might like to think we have control of our own destiny, there is so much more out of our control in this world – sickness, death, injustice.

Secondly, God hates evil and the effect it has had on his beloved creation. Evil (or sin) cannot dwell with God.  It is not who He is.  Otherwise God would be less holy and less trustworthy.

Third, God’s Old Testament wrath or anger is meant as a warning to keep us from falling into a deceitful trap which God knows is not the best for us.

Finally, through these warnings, God is drawing us to Jesus so that we may recognize our need for repentance and a Savior, and not have to experience God’s future judgment on sin and evil. This is why the birth of Jesus was such a celebrated celestial event! God’s promise to the world had finally come. Jesus changed the world. We no longer live in Old Testament times. God’s wrath and anger on evil was directed to the cross, where Jesus took our punishment. God wants to redeem us, to forgive us, and to bring us close to Him. But we cannot do that on our own. It is not a system of tallying up our rights and wrongs, or making sure we never make a mistake. That really would be a terrifying and unfair way to live. But instead God has given us a Savior who can fight the evil for us and fight our battles. With Jesus by our side, we never have to be afraid of anything in this world or the next. We are sealed with God forever. We are forgiven no matter what – past, present and future.

While it may seem scary or uncomfortable to think about hell and therefore how we can avoid it, it is much scarier to not think about it at all and leave our lives up to chance.

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In Jesus’ Words: Dining with sinners and tax collectors (Matthew 9:2-13)

forgiveness

No one else has ever claimed they can forgive sins except Jesus. The concept was incomprehensible at the time. Why did Jesus say this? Not once or twice, but all the time. Jesus’ response to this question was just as unconventional. He asks those that questioned him, Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?  Then even more puzzling, Jesus picks out a tax collector in the crowd and goes to his house to eat with him and other sinners. Tax collectors were so hated at the time that they were called out separately from all the other sinners. They were a special class of sinners. Can you imagine how Matthew the Tax Collector must have felt when Jesus picked him? Elated! He was the kid nobody liked, never got picked for the team, or the bully everyone hated.

The sinners associated with Jesus were probably some of the worst people of that time – thieves, con artists, prostitutes, rapists, the undesirables of society. People could not believe Jesus would associate with them, let alone eat with them! Today this would be equivalent to drug addicts, alcoholics, sex abusers, AIDS patients, the homeless. So while we are trying to be good and do all the right things, or busy taking stands against this sin or that one, hiding our own sin (if we are truly honest), Jesus is over there eating dinner with some of these same people!

~ Matthew 9:2-13  Dining with Sinners and Tax Collectors ~

 Just then some men brought to Him a paralytic lying on a mat. Seeing their faith, Jesus told the paralytic, “Have courage, son, your sins are forgiven.”   At this, some of the scribes said among themselves, “He’s blaspheming!”  But perceiving their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why are you thinking evil things in your hearts?  For which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?   But so you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—then He told the paralytic, “Get up, pick up your mat, and go home.”  And he got up and went home. 

As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office, and He said to him, “Follow Me!” So he got up and followed Him. While He was reclining at the table in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came as guests to eat with Jesus and His disciples.  When the Pharisees saw this, they asked His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  But when He heard this, He said, “Those who are well don’t need a doctor, but the sick do. Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.” 

Mercy not sacrifice says it all. This is how we should live our lives. When Jesus says that he did not come to call the righteous, he is referring to those who pretend to be righteous and therefore are not willing to repent. We must first admit we are sinners before we can repent and accept a Savior. Repentance is not considered a negative thing but a very positive thing!feet with waves cropped

To know God

morning devotion

Muslims say you cannot know God.  He is unknowable and unreachable.  Unlike the Christian God, Allah is a distant supreme being that cannot be known.  At best, all one can do is hope to gain Allah’s mercy when they die.  But it is not a guarantee.  Even then, their paradise is not considered to be a fellowship with God.

But as I was reading in the book of Psalms today, I came across this beautiful poetry from Psalm 139 that describes a very different God.  We can know Him!  Listen to these words…

O Lord, You have searched me and known me.

You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.

You have hedged me behind and before.
And laid Your hand upon me.

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.

If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.

If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,”
Even the night shall be light about me;

Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
But the night shines as the day;
The darkness and the light are both alike to You.

Psalm 139:1-12

There is so much reassurance in these verses.  God knows the light and the dark.  There are no secrets, nowhere we can go without God, and never out of His sight or thoughts.  And yet, God loves us even more.  I like that.

Today, let’s focus on this one wonderful thing that sets God apart from all other religions.  Christianity is the only way of life that speaks of Grace, Forgiveness, and Love, and of a Savior willing to die for our sins.  My prayer as always, is that you will get to know this God.

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