Becoming Little Children

To Be Like Yeshua Means – To Understand Who Is the Greatest in The Kingdom

We are continuing to unpack the Christian Torah as contained in the Gospel of Matthew.  In this post, we begin a new mini-series entitled: “To Be Like Yeshua Means – To Understand Who Is the Greatest in The Kingdom.” 

Introduction to Mini-Series

A poem I once heard states the problem perfectly:

To live above, with saints we love will certainly be glory.  To live below, with saints we know – well, that’s another story!

With so much division and dissension among professing Believers these days, we desperately need what Matthew 18 has to teach.  Yeshua rebuked His talmidim for their pride and desire for worldly greatness, and He taught them the three essentials for unity and harmony among God’s people, i.e. humility, honesty and forgiveness.

Someone has accurately defined humility as “that grace that, when you know you have it, you’ve lost it!”  It has also been well said, “True humility is not thinking ill of yourself; it is simply not thinking of yourself at all.”

We just completed a mini-series on Yeshua’s teaching in parables about the Kingdom of Heaven.  We find here at the beginning of Matthew 18:1 – “… the talmidim came to Yeshua and asked, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?”

“Who is the greatest?” was a repeated topic of discussion among the talmidim, for we find it mentioned often in the Gospel records.

The talmidim wondered about this coming Kingdom of which Yeshua would be the King.  In Jewish culture, a person’s rank was of considerable importance (see Luke 14:7-11 for an example); thus, the talmidim were naturally curious about their position in the coming Kingdom.  Yeshua’s teaching in Matthew 5:19 had indicated that there would be distinctions (least and great) in the Kingdom of Heaven.  This question had caused an argument among the talmidim (see Mark 9:33-34).  This question may have been fueled by the special privileges given to Peter, James, and John at various times, most recently their trip with Yeshua to the Mount of Transfiguration and then their silence about what had happened there (Matthew 17:1-9).  Matthew characteristically abbreviates the story in order to focus on the teaching.  The situation became an occasion for Yeshua to teach about true greatness and the role of competition in the coming Kingdom.

So absorbed were the talmidim in this matter that they actually argued with each other! (Luke 9:46).  The selfishness and disunity of God’s people is a scandal to our faith.  What causes these problems?  Pride – thinking ourselves more important than we really are.  It was pride that led man into sin from the beginning (Genesis 3:5).  When Believers are living for themselves and not for others, then there is bound to be conflict and division (Philippians 2:1ff).

At first glance, the answer to the talmidim’ question “Who is the greatest?” is easy:  God.  But that answer misses their point, which was:  Among those who can compete for greatness (God and angels being above competition), who takes the top spot in heaven’s all-star rankings?  Now the question becomes much more complicated, since it involves motives contrary to heaven’s interests.

Becoming Little Children

“He called a child to him, stood him among them, and said, “Yes! I tell you that unless you change and become like little children, you won’t even enter the Kingdom of Heaven! So the greatest in the Kingdom is whoever makes himself as humble as this child.  Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me; and whoever ensnares one of these little ones who trust me, it would be better for him to have a millstone hung around his neck and be drowned in the open sea!  Woe to the world because of snares! For there must be snares, but woe to the person who sets the snare!” ~ Matthew 18:2-7

The talmidim waited breathlessly for Yeshua to name the greatest man among them.  But He bypassed them completely and called a little child into their midst.  This child was the example of true greatness.  True humility means knowing yourself, accepting yourself, and being yourself – your best self – to the glory of God.  It means avoiding two extremes: thinking less of yourself than you ought to (as did Moshe when God called him, Exodus 3:11ff), or thinking more of yourself than you ought to (Romans 12:3).  The truly humble person does not deny the gifts God has given him, but uses them to the glory of God.

Yeshua called a childThe Aramaic language uses the same word for “child” and “servant.” Thus, when Yeshua took a little child into his arms, he made the explanation of greatness even more distinct – to be great, one must serve.  The talmidim needed to change and become like childrenWhat did Yeshua want them to change?  In this instance, it was their attitude toward greatness.  The talmidim had become so preoccupied with the organization of Yeshua’s earthly Kingdom that they had lost sight of its divine purpose.  Instead of seeking a place of service, they were seeking positions of advantage.

Yeshua used a child to help his self-centered talmidim get the point.  They were to have servant attitudes, not being “childish” (arguing over petty issues) but “childlike,” with humble and sincere hearts.  As children depend on their parents, so people who come to God must be willing to wholly depend on him.  The kind of people whom Yeshua described as “blessed” in the first four beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-6) picture the complete dependence upon God that is needed in order to come to faith.

That Yeshua called a child as his example of greatness in His Kingdom reveals the nature of this Kingdom.  God’s people are called to humility and unconcern for social status.  Those who persist in pride and “ladder climbing” for the sake of status in this world won’t even enter the Kingdom of HeavenBy contrast, those who, in humility, realize their need of a Savior, accept him, and move into the world to serve, not only enter the Kingdom but will be greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. 

Yeshua would later explain in Chapter 20: “Among you, it must not be like that. On the contrary, whoever among you wants to be a leader must become your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave!  For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve — and to give his life as a ransom for many” (20:26-28).  True humility means to deny oneself, to accept a position of servanthood, and to completely follow the Master.  To be like Yeshua means to serve others.

Yeshua taught the talmidim to welcome children.  This was a new approach in a society where children were usually treated as second-class citizens.  Yeshua equated the attitude of welcoming children with a willingness to receive Him.  The principle, as often seen in Matthew, is that God and Yeshua will consider the way one treats others to be equal to (1) the way one will be treated, or (2) the way one treats Yeshua (for example, see 6:14-15; 25:31-46).

But the meaning here goes deeper, beyond simply welcoming children, as important as that is.  An attitude that whoever welcomes one such child in my name, readily welcomes and embraces Believers of little worldly importance and low status.  This shows an attitude that also welcomes the Savior, for He too was of little worldly importance and of low status.  In God’s Kingdom, greatness lies in acceptance of and dependence upon the Savior.  Together, Believers are to welcome and love one another, encourage one another, allow everyone a place to shine according to their gifts, and appreciate one another.

As in verse 5, these little ones refers not just to children but to Yeshua’s “little ones” – the talmidim.  Children are trusting by nature.  They trust adults; and because of that trust, their capacity to trust in God grows.  God holds parents and other adults who influence young children accountable for how they affect these little ones’ ability to trust God.  To cause a child or any fellow talmid to sin or fall away from the faith means to purposely put a “snare or stumbling block” in the way to make him or her trip and fall.  Yeshua warned that anyone who turns believers away from him will receive severe punishment.  Yeshua’s words warn believers that they must not only teach the truth, but live it.  If anyone causes young people or new Believers to doubt or fall back into sin, commits a grievous sin with terrible consequences.  If they stumble because of wrong teaching, that is a stumbling block as well.

Yeshua graphically described the harsh consequences of such sin.  A millstone was a heavy, flat stone used to grind grain.  There were two common kinds of millstones in use at this time.  One was relatively small and was operated by a person.  One was large and was connected to an ox or donkey that would walk in a circle, causing the stone to roll and crush the grain.  The Gospel writers used the word for the huge animal-operated millstone.  To have a millstone tied around one’s neck and then be dumped into the sea meant certain death by drowning.  Even the horror of such a death was minor compared to what this person would face in eternity.

The talmidim wanted to know who was greatest in the Kingdom.  But Yeshua warned them that, apart from humility, they could not even enter the Kingdom!  They had to be converted – turned around in their thinking – or they would never make it.  It seems that Yeshua is, in these verses, blending two concepts: the human child as an example of humility, and the child of God no matter what his age might be.  As Believers, we must not only accept the little children for Yeshua’s sake; but we must also receive all of God’s children and seek to minister to them (Romans 14:1ff).

Snares will always be a danger to Yeshua’s talmidim in their time on earth – whether they come from the fellowship (18:6), the world (18:7), or – as we will see in verses 8 – 9 the sinful nature itself (18:8-9).  As Yeshua had explained in the parable of the wheat and the weeds, the weeds will exist until the end of the age, so evil and its accompanying temptation to sin will be ever-present problems for Yeshua’s followers.

In my next post, we’ll look at some of the snares in life and the Parable of the Lost Sheep.

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Yeshua Wraps Up His Teaching In Parables

To Be Like Yeshua Means – To Understand the Parables of the Kingdom

In my last post, we completed Yeshua’s teaching in parables.  In this post, we look at His concern about if His talmidim understood them.  of the Kingdom.  Understanding also involves responsibility.

“’Have you understood all these things?’ ‘Yes,’ they answered.  He said to them, ‘So then, every Torah-teacher who has been made into a talmid for the Kingdom of Heaven is like the owner of a home who brings out of his storage room both new things and old.’” ~ Matthew 13:51-52

After Yeshua had given the parable of the weeds in the field, the talmidim came asking Yeshua to explain what He had told them (Matthew 13:36).  They did not understand.  After giving an explanation, Yeshua asked if they understood.  They answered “Yes.”

Understanding is the core of discipleship, for only Yeshua’s true followers are given the ability to understand, as Yeshua had explained earlier (Matthew 13:13-15, 19, 23).  Because the talmidim understood, so then, Yeshua said, they were the Torah-teachers in His Kingdom.  In other words, the current teachers of religious law did not understand, so their teaching was invalid.  The talmidim had been made into a talmid for the Kingdom of Heaven.  They understood God’s real purpose in the law as revealed in the Tanakh; therefore, they had a real treasure.

The talmidim would bring this treasure out of his storage room in that their responsibility would be to share what they had learned with others.  The talmidim had gained this treasure through Yeshua’s instruction, so they were able to understand and use the best of older wisdom as well as the new insights that Yeshua brought to them.  True teachers see the value of both old and new.  The Tanakh points the way to Yeshua, the Messiah.  Yeshua always upheld the authority and relevance of the Scriptures.  Those who understand Yeshua’s teaching about the Kingdom of Heaven receive a double benefit.  This was a new treasure that Yeshua was revealing.  Both the old and new teachings give practical guidelines for faith and for living in the world.  The religious leaders, however, were trapped in the old and blind to the new.  They were looking for a future kingdom preceded by judgment.  Yeshua, however, taught that the Kingdom was now and the judgment was future.  The religious leaders were looking for a physical and temporal kingdom (brought on by military strength and physical rule), but they were blind to the spiritual significance of the kingdom that Yeshua had brought.

Yeshua wants us to understand God’s truth, and that is not easily or quickly done.  Learning about God’s truth in all its richness and diversity is a lifelong process.

The Lord Added These Final Two Verses to Remind Us of Our Responsibilities

Some of us must be scribes who discover the truth.  The scribes began as a noble group under the leadership of Ezra.  Their purpose was to preserve the Law, study it, and apply its truths to daily life.  Over the years, their noble cause degenerated into a routine task of preserving traditions and man-made interpretations, and adding burdens to the lives of the people (Luke 11:46-52).  They were so wrapped up in the past that they ignored the present!  Instead of sharing living truth from God’s Word, they merchandised dead doctrines and embalmed traditions that could not help the people.

As Believers, we do not search after truth, because we have truth in God’s Son (John 14:6) and God’s Word (John 17:17).  We are taught by the Spirit of Truth (John 16:13) who is truth (1 John 5:6).  We search into truth that we might discover more truth.  We are scribes – students – who sit at the feet of Yeshua and listen to His words.  One joy of the Believer’s life is the privilege of learning God’s truth from God’s Word.  But we must not stop there.

We must be talmidim who do the truth.  The scribe emphasizes learning, but the talmid emphasizes living.  Talmidim are doers of the Word (James 1:22ff), and they learn by doing.  It is difficult to keep our lives balanced.  We often emphasize learning at the expense of living.  Or, we may get so busy serving God that we do not take time to listen to His Word.  Every scribe must be a talmid, and every talmid must be a scribe.

We must also be stewards who dispense the truth.  The scribes preserved the Law but did not invest it in the lives of the people.  The treasure of the Law was encrusted by man’s traditions.  The seed was not planted so it could bear fruit.  The spiritual gold and silver was not put to work so it could produce dividends.  As Believers we should be conservative but not preservative.  The steward guards the treasure, but he also dispenses it as it is needed.  He dispenses both the old and the new.  New principles and insights are based on old truths.  The new cannot contradict the old because the old comes out of the new (Leviticus 26:10).  The new without the old is mere novelty and will not last.  But the old does no good unless it is given new applications in life today.

Did you ever imagine that learning is also a way to serve God?  Let your life be full of inquiry, and let each step you take be a means of deepening your faith and love for God.

In my next post, we will begin to look at some instructions on being a Messianic community that Yeshua gave to His talmidim in chapter 18 of Matthew.

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The Parable of the Four Soils

To Be Like Yeshua Means – To Understand the Parables of the Kingdom

We have spent a good deal of time in the Gospel of Matthew sitting at the feet of Yeshua to learn directly from Him what it means to be His talmidim.   We have learned that we have to serve and affirm others.  In this post, we will continue to learn about the Christian Torah as we explore To Be like Yeshua Means to Understand the Parables of the Kingdom.

Yeshua captivated His listeners by presenting the truth in terms that they could understand.  In Matthew 13 we find no less than eight different images from the work world.  Clearly, Yeshua knew how to relate to the world in which everyday people lived and worked.  Using parables, Yeshua frequently spoke about the nature of His Kingdom.

Our Lord’s use of parables puzzled the disciples.  He had used some parables in His teaching already, but on the day long ago that we will spend the next several weeks exploring, He gave a series of seven interrelated parables, then added an eighth.  The word parable means “to cast alongside.”  It is a story, or comparison, that is put alongside something else to help make the lesson clear.  But these are not ordinary parables; Yeshua called them “secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 13:11).  In this series of parables, Yeshua explained the course of the Gospel in the world.  If Israel had received Him as King, the blessings would have flowed out from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth.  But the nation rejected Him, and God had to institute a new program on earth.  During this present age, “the kingdom of heaven” is a mixture of true and false, good and bad, as pictured in these parables.

Why did Yeshua teach in parables? Two reasons were given: because of the sluggishness of the people (Matthew13:10-17); and because it was prophesied in Psalm 78:2 (Matthew 13:34-35).  Yeshua did not teach in parables to confuse or condemn the people.  Rather, He sought to excite their interest and arouse their curiosity.  These parables would give light to those with trusting and searching hearts.  But they would bring darkness to the unconcerned and unrepentant.

We learn at the end of chapter 12 that Yeshua left the synagogue and began to teach outdoors.  He left those opposed to him and reached out to the responsive people.  Yeshua had already made unmistakable claims about his true identity, and there was increasing division between those who accepted and those who rejected.  The religious leaders had already decided that Yeshua was not the Messiah.  The crowds who followed Yeshua, listening to his teaching and observing his miracles, wondered if this could be the “Son of David” (12:23), but their leaders told them he was not.  So “that same day” (13:1), Yeshua began teaching a series of parables about the kingdom of heaven.

“That same day, Yeshua went out of the house and sat down by the lake; but such a large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there while the crowd stood on the shore.  He told them many things in parables: ‘A farmer went out to sow his seed.  As he sowed, some seed fell alongside the path; and the birds came and ate it up.  Other seed fell on rocky patches where there was not much soil. It sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow; but when the sun had risen, the young plants were scorched; and since their roots were not deep, they dried up.  Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.  But others fell into rich soil and produced grain, a hundred or sixty or thirty times as much as had been sown.  Those who have ears, let them hear!’” ~ Matthew 13:1-9

Continue reading “The Parable of the Four Soils”

It’s Dangerous to Be A Judge ~ Part 4

Sitting at the Feet of Yeshua

We have been examining Yeshua’s instruction regarding being judgmental.  In this post, we finish His instructions from Matthew 7 concerning God’s judgment of us.

God’s Judgment of Us (Matthew 7:21-29)

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, ! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, only those who do what my Father in heaven wants.  On that Day, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord!  Didn’t we prophesy in your name?  Didn’t we expel demons in your name?  Didn’t we perform many miracles in your name?’  Then I will tell them to their faces, ‘I never knew you!  Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness!’  So, everyone who hears these works of mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on bedrock.  The rain fell, the rivers flooded, the winds blew, and beat against that house, but it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on rock.  But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a stupid man who built his house on sand.  The rain fell, the rivers flooded, the wind blew and beat against that house, and it collapsed – and its collapse was horrendous!”  When Yeshua had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at the way He taught, for He was not instructing them like their Torah-teachers but as one who had authority himself.”      (Mathew 7:21-29)

From picturing two gates and two types of prophets, our Lord closed His message by picturing two builders and their houses.  The two gates illustrate the start of the life of faith; the two prophets illustrate the growth and results of the life of faith here and now; and the two houses illustrate the end of this life of faith, when God shall call everything to judgment.  There are false prophets at the gate that leads to the broad way, making it easy for people to enter.  But at the end of the way, there is destruction.  The final test is not what we think of ourselves, or what others may think.  The final test is: What will God say? Continue reading “It’s Dangerous to Be A Judge ~ Part 4”

What, Me Worry?

Sitting at the Feet of Yeshua

 This blog is longer than normal.  You may want to click here for PDF version.

In this post, we will conclude our study of Matthew 6.  In my last post, Yeshua was discussing material possessions.  I closed that teaching by asking, “where is your wealth?  Have you put your faith and trust in your material possessions?  Or, have you laid up your wealth in heaven?  Do you sow your seeds in fertile ground that will lead to a harvest of souls?  Or, have you squandered what God has given you for your own pleasures?  We will not go wrong; if we use our possessions to see how much happiness we can bring to others.”

In this post, Yeshua continues to teach on material possessions, but His emphasis is no longer on where our wealth is; He now tells us not to worry about where our material possessions will come from.

How many of you remember Alfred E. Newman and MAD Magazine?  I used to love to read that as a teen.  In honor of Alfred E., I’ve entitled my message this post, “What, Me Worry?”
Continue reading “What, Me Worry?”

Vision and Money

Sitting at the Feet of Yeshua

We continue exploring the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 6.  Yeshua now continues with instructions on vision and money.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. So if you have a ‘good eye’ [that is, if you are generous] your whole body will be full of light; but if you and an ‘evil eye’ [if you are stingy] your whole body will be full of darkness. If, then the light in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:22-23)

The idea behind this passage is one of childlike simplicity.  The eye is regarded as the window by which the light gets into the whole body.  The state of a window decides what light gets into a room.  If the window is clear, clean and undistorted, the light will come flooding into the room, and will illuminate every corner of it.  If the window is colored or frosted, distorted, dirty, or obscure, the light will be hindered, and the room will not be lit up.  Yeshua says that the light, which gets into any man’s heart and soul, depends on the spiritual state of the eye through which it has to pass.

The view we take of people depends on the kind of eye we have.  There are certain obvious things, which can blind our eyes and distort our vision. Continue reading “Vision and Money”

Fasting and Wealth

Sitting at the Feet of Yeshua

We continue exploring the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 6.  Yeshua has just finished teaching His talmidim how to pray and now continues with instructions on fasting and dealing with material possessions.

Before getting into the subject of material possessions, Yeshua shares His thoughts on fasting.  “Now when you fast, don’t go around looking miserable, like the hypocrites. They make sour faces so that people will know they are fasting. Yes! I tell you, they have their reward already! But you, when you fast, wash your face and groom yourself, so that no one will know you are fasting – except your Father, who is with you in secret. Your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”  (Matthew 6:16-18)

The only fast that God actually required of the Jewish people was on Yom Kippur (see Vayikra 23:27).  However, the P’rushim fasted every Monday and Thursday (see Luke 18:12) and did so in such a way that people knew they were fasting.  Their purpose, of course, was to win the praise of men.  Not good – wrong motive!

It is not wrong to fast, if we do it in the right way and with the right motive.  Matthew records that Yeshua fasted (see Matthew 4:3); so did the members of the early Messianic community (see Acts 13:2).  Fasting helps to discipline the appetites of the body (see Luke 5:34) and keep our spiritual priorities straight.  But fasting must never become an opportunity for temptation (see 1 Corinthians 7:7).

Simply to deprive ourselves of a natural benefit (such as food or sleep) is not of itself fasting.  We must devote ourselves to God and worship Him.  Unless there is the devotion of the heart (see Zechariah 7) there is no lasting spiritual benefit.  In other words, while you are fasting you should be using that time to mediate on the Word of God.

As with giving and praying, true fasting must be done in secret; it is between the believer and God.  To “go around looking miserable” would be to destroy the very purpose of the fast.  Here is a basic principle of spiritual living:  Nothing that is truly spiritual will violate that which God has given us in nature.  God usually does not tear down one good thing in order to build up another.  If we have to look miserable to be considered spiritual, then there is something wrong with our views of spirituality.

In Jewish practice, fasting had three main ideas.

  1. Fasting was a deliberate attempt to draw the attention of God to the person who fasted.
  2. Fasting was a deliberate attempt to prove that penitence was real. Fasting was a guarantee of the sincerity of words and prayers.
  3. A great deal of fasting was vicarious. It was not designed to save a man’s own soul so much as to move God to liberate the nation from its distresses.

Today, I believe that fasting has gone almost completely out of style.  Yeshua condemned the wrong kind of fasting, but He never meant that fasting should be completely eliminated from life and living.  Remember, He told the talmidim that some spirits were only exorcised after much prayer and fasting. (see Matthew 17:21)   We would do well to practice it in our own way and according to our own need.

Yeshua now directs our attention to material possessions.  “Do not store up for yourselves wealth here on earth, where moths and rust destroy, and burglars break in and steal. Instead, store up for yourselves wealth in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and burglars do not break in or steal. For where your wealth is, there your heart will be also.”  (Matthew 6:19-21)

We are accustomed to dividing life into the “spiritual” and the “material or physical”; but Yeshua made no such distinction.  In many of His parables, He made it clear that a right attitude toward wealth is a mark of true spirituality (see Luke 12:13ff; 16:1-31).  If we have the true righteousness of Messiah in our lives, then we will have a proper attitude toward material wealth.

Nowhere does Yeshua magnify poverty or criticize the legitimate gaining of wealth.  God made all things, including food, clothing and precious metals.  God has declared that all things He made are good (B’resheet 1:31).  God knows that we need certain things in order to live (Matthew 6:32).  In fact, He “richly provides us with all things for our enjoyment.” (1 Timothy 6:17)  It is not wrong to possess things, but it is wrong for things to possess us.  The sin of idolatry is as dangerous as the sin of hypocrisy!  There are many warnings in the Bible against covetousness (Sh’mot 20:17; Psalms 119:36; Mark 7:22; Luke 12:15ff; Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 3:5).

Yeshua warned against the sin of living for the things of this life.  He pointed out the sad consequences of covetousness and idolatry.  Materialism will enslave the heart (Matthew 6:19-21), the mind (Matthew 6:22-23), and the will (Matthew 6:24).  The material things of life can shackle us, but we ought to be liberated and controlled by the Spirit of God.

If the heart loves material things, and puts earthly gain above heavenly investments, then the result can only be a tragic loss.  The treasures of earth may be used for God.  But if we gather material things for ourselves, we will lose them; and we will lose our hearts with them.  Instead of spiritual enrichment, we will experience impoverishment.

It’s difficult to know our own hearts (Jeremiah 17:9; Psalm 119:23-24).  If we examine our treasures, we’ll find out whether our hearts are in spiritual things or in earthly things.

What does it mean to lay up our wealth in heaven?  It means to use all that we have for the glory of God.  It means to “simplify” when it comes to the material things of life.  It also means measuring life by the true riches of the kingdom and not by the false riches of this world.

How do we lay up our wealth in heaven?  In the parable of the unjust steward recorded in Luke 16, Yeshua commended the wisdom of the man who planned for his future by using his position to his advantage (Luke 16:1-12).  In the same way, we should use what God has entrusted to us and the places He has put us in for spiritual enrichment rather than for temporal gain.  We’re not to put our trust and security in our earthly possessions, for they’re so easily lost.  Instead, we’re to trust God to provide for all our needs while we devote ourselves to the things of the world where we’ll spend eternity.

Yeshua gives us three images of wealth in Israel.

  • He tells us to avoid the things that the moth can destroy. In the Middle East, part of a person’s wealth often consisted in fine and elaborate fabrics. When Elisha’s servant, wished to make some forbidden profit out of Na’aman, after his master had cured him, he asked him for a talent of silver and two festal garments (2 Kings 5:22). But such things were foolish things to set the heart upon, for the moths might eat them when they were stored away and all their beauty and their value would be destroyed. There was no permanence about possessions like that.
  • He tells us to avoid the things that rust can destroy.       The word, which is translated ‘rust’, literally means to eat away. In the Middle East, many a man’s wealth consisted in the corn and the grain that he had stored away in his great barns. But into that corn and grain there would come worms, rats and mice, until the store was polluted and destroyed. In all probability, the reference is to the way in which such vermin could get into a granary and eat away the grain.       There was no permanence about possessions like that.
  • He tells us to avoid the treasure that thieves can break in and steal. In Israel, the walls of many of the houses were made of nothing stronger than baked clay; and burglars could gain entry by literally digging through the wall. The reference here is to the man who has stashed a small pouch of gold, only to find when he comes home one day, that thieves have dug through his flimsy walls and that his gold is gone. There is no permanency about a treasure, which is at the mercy of any enterprising thief.

The Jewish people were very familiar with the phrase ‘wealth in heaven.’  They identified such wealth with two things in particular.

  1. Deeds of kindness (tzedakah) that a person did upon earth became his wealth in heaven. (Mathew 6:1-4)
  2. A person’s character. The only thing that a man can take out of this world is himself; and the better the self he takes, the greater his wealth in heaven will be.

Yeshua ends this section by stating,where your wealth is, there your heart will be also.”  If everything that a man values and sets his heart upon is on earth, then he will have no interest in eternity; if all through his life a man’s eyes are on eternity, then he will evaluate lightly the things of this world.  If everything which a man counts valuable is on this earth, then he will leave this earth reluctantly and grudgingly; if a man’s thoughts have always been on eternity, he will leave this world with gladness, because he goes at last to the Father.

In my next post, we will pick back up on this topic of wealth.

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The Disciple’s Prayer ~ Part 6

Sitting at the Feet of Yeshua

In this post, we wrap up our examination of the Disciple’s Prayer.  In His final petition, Yeshua instructs us to pray: “And do not lead us into hard testing, but keep us safe from the Evil One.” (Matthew 6:13)

I’m extremely gratified that Stern’s uses the word ‘testing’ and not ‘temptation.’  We know that God does not lead us into temptation, but he does allow us to be tempted and tested.

When we read the story of the temptations of Yeshua, it begins: “Then the Spirit led Yeshua up into the wilderness to be tempted by the Adversary” (Matthew 4:1).  If we take the word ‘tempt’ here in the sense of ‘to seduce into sin’, it makes the Ruach HaKodesh a partner in an attempt to compel Yeshua to sin.  That’s a ridiculous interpretation!  Time and again, we find that the word tempt has the idea of testing in it, at least as much as the idea of seeking to lead into sin. Continue reading “The Disciple’s Prayer ~ Part 6”

The Disciple’s Prayer ~ Part 4

Sitting at the Feet of Yeshua

We have been studying the Disciple’s Prayer found in Matthew 6.  We learned that the first three petitions have to do with God and His Glory.  We learned that when we pray, we are to worship Father God for who He is and exalt His name.  We learned to pray for His will to saturate our life, our family, our congregation, our community, our region, our state, our nation, and the world.

The second part of the prayer, which deals with our needs and our necessities, is a marvelous unity.  In these three brief petitions, we are taught to lay the present, the past, and the future before the footstool of the grace of God.

Not only is this a prayer, which brings the whole of life to the presence of God; it is also a prayer, which brings the whole of God to our lives.  When we ask for bread to sustain our earthly lives, that request immediately directs our thoughts to God the Father, the Creator and the Sustainer of all life.  When we ask for forgiveness, that request immediately directs our thoughts to God the Son, Yeshua our Savior and Redeemer.  When we ask for help for future times of testing, that request immediately directs our thoughts to God the Ruach HaKodesh, the Comforter, the Strengthener, the Illuminator, the Guide and the Guardian of our way.

“Give us the food we need today” ~ Matthew 6:11 Continue reading “The Disciple’s Prayer ~ Part 4”

The Disciple’s Prayer ~ Part 2

Sitting at the Feet of Yeshua

We continue in our study of the Disciple’s Prayer by unpacking Matthew 6:9.

The purpose of prayer is to glorify God’s name, and to ask for help to accomplish His will on earth.  This prayer begins with God’s interests, not ours: God’s name, God’s kingdom, and God’s will.

“Our Father in Heaven” ~ Matthew 6:9a

It might well be said that the word Father used of God is a compact summary of the Messianic faith.  The great value of this word Father is that it settles all the relationships of this life.

It settles our relationship to the unseen spiritual world.  Missionaries tell us that one of the greatest reliefs that monotheism brings to the heathen mind and heart is the certainty that there is only one God.  Pagan gods must all be placated, and a person can never be sure that he has not omitted the honor due to some of these gods.  The consequence is that the heathen lives in terror of the gods; he is “haunted and not helped by his religion.” Continue reading “The Disciple’s Prayer ~ Part 2”