In this chapter we really begin to see a different side of Jesus. So far in Matthew, we have seen Jesus heritage and his ministry. We have seen where He came from, His lineage and his birth, including how the prophecies were coming true. We have also looked at His temptation and His ministry. His message for his disciples and how He responds to the peoples needs. His working of miracles and His compassion are key principles so far, but now we begin to really see a different side of Jesus in this chapter.
It starts out with Jesus and His disciples walking through some fields one Sabbath. The disciples began to pick and eat the grain as they walked. The Pharisees ever watching and lofty eye searching for something, began criticizing the disciples for this. Jesus began to shine the light on the situation reminding the Pharisees that the Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath. In response, Jesus comes into their synagogue and heals a man.
The Pharisees are furious, and seek to destroy Him. They call Him the devil, and criticize all that He does. Yet the people keep coming and Jesus continues to heal and minister. Jesus rebukes the Pharisees and their actions. He defines a tree by its fruit and a man by his actions. Thus He condemns the Pharisees and flips the Israelite society on its head. He shows that it is not about having lofty words and the proper lineage, it’s about obedience to the one to who obedience is due. It’s about pursuing God and the truth, not about following a bunch of rules for the sake of the rules… that’s not to say that the rules are to be rejected. Jesus, the Christ, did not reject the rules. In fact He lived in them and embodied them… but rather pursuing the Father, the creator of the world and the rules.
Jesus goes even further by redefining the very nature of family. He states that those who do his will are His brothers and mother, not those who He is born to / with.
We see in this chapter Jesus going from ministering to the people, to rejecting and correcting the sin and corruption of the leadership. We see an outright attack against the Pharisees: “You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. ” We see a changing of the guard.
The time has come. Everything has been built to specs and the work of the tabernacle is about to begin. Now is one of my favorite times. It’s anointing time! I don’t know why, but i always find this so exciting. It is the dedication of the work for service. It is a time of change and of new work with YHWH.
He is an amazing God, and He works through us, His people. Even though He is the AWEsome, overpowering, holy, creator of the universe; He works in us, but he doesn’t consume us and our personality in the process. In fact, not only does His personality not overpower us; who He is actually strengthens our personality and makes us each more unique and distinctive than we were before.
As a result, when a new work is being done and a new anointing comes, it changes who we are and how we worship HIM! YHWH never changes, yet He is new every morning! His work and ways continually change, but He never does. I think that that is part of why i find this anointing process so exciting. Things are about to change. A man and his sons are about to find their purpose and destiny. YHWH is working anew, and this…THIS is a turning point!
I think we should celebrate turning points more often. I don’t think that we do it like we used to. The turning point from child to adult (rite of passage) has been lost. The celebrations of new roles and purposes has gone to the wayside. This change in life. This change in anointing should be something we embrace and become excited about. It should help to define, and redefine who we are.
Aaron and his sons are about to embark on a whole new journey. They are being anointed by YHWH for His work and purpose! Everything is beginning to change!
The plans are in place! The blueprints are being written up. The details are set. Life as we know it is changing. There are three constants in the world: Death, Taxes, and Change. The people of Israel are used to living surrounded by other gods. Gods of the Egyptians, gods of the Canaanites, and the gods of everyone in between. All of these other gods have temples and alters and rules of worship, but the Israelites seem to not have anything that they can use to identify with their God. The God of the Israelites doesn’t want statues to be made of Him. He hides His name from them. They have no established alter or temple to bring sacrifices to. How do you connect with a God like that?
Well, that’s all changing. God has just given Moses the plans for the tabernacle, and is now giving him the plans and blueprints for the alter and courtyard as well. The people of Israel are well on their way to having a place and way to worship that is all their own. No more having to watch all of these other nations and people worship their gods in all their ways, and not to be able to show their devotion to the God of their fathers. Finally, there is a more complete identity in what it means to be an Israelite and to serve their own God. The people of Israel are starting to become a more cohesive unit with all that YHWH has done for them, and now a way for the circle to be completed… a place to honor and serve Him in return. They are finally able to fulfill their lives and purpose.
We sometimes lose sight of the fact that we have been place on this planet and in this world for a purpose outside of ourselves. Our culture attempts to push us to accept that we are here to serve ourselves, and that other people are here for me. But the reality is that we are here to serve Him. When we are not serving Him, or worshiping Him in what we do and say, we will always have a sense of loss… of being incomplete. It’s only in honoring and worshiping God in our lives, actions, and words that we are able to be complete in who we are. These ancient civilizations had so much of a better grasp of these concepts than we do. We are continually trying to rebel from what some would call “oppression”, but what is in reality a core part of who we are… To serve a greater God. And now, with the plans in place, the Israelites are finally going to get what they need. A place and way to serve the one true God, the alter and court of the tabernacle.
John J. Camiolo Jr.
I am not a Greek, Aramaic, or Hebrew expert. I wish that i was, and someday i may become those, but today is not one of them. The nice thing is though that i have studied under people who are, and i have learned a great deal as a result.
One of the principles that i have learned from and really grasped into my life is a better understanding of this concept of “You shall”: “You shall have no other gods before me.” “You shall not make for yourself an idol…” “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God (YHWH-Elohim) in vain.” When you read those words, “You shall”, what does it mean to you? Chances are, if you are like most people, you see “You shall” as a command. It begins the 10 commandments and it is God telling us that we have to do something. While that is not incorrect, neither is that an accurate understanding.
This is one of those easily misunderstood things that once you have a grasp of it, can change your whole outlook on something. The words “You shall have” here is יהיה (hâyâh). Strong’s concordance says, “…to exist, that is, be or become, come to pass…”. So what does that mean for us? It means that this is not simply a command; it is a promise. This WILL come to pass! It is something that we are to do, but when we pursue and surrender to God, this is also a promise to/for us. So this promise is not just “Don’t have any other god’s before me!” It’s also, “Don’t worry, you won’t have any other gods before me.”
Isn’t that beautiful! It’s not only the 10 commands, but it’s also the 10 promises! That’s what our relationship is like with God. Yes, He gives us commands to follow! Yes, we have rules we have to obey; but as time goes by and we pursue Him, these are things that He promises us will no longer be rules and regulations, they will also be a part of who we are. They go from external instruction to internal drives and motivation. We have a promise! …that this is who we are to become! …and i love it!
There are still many times that i struggle and sin. There are still times that i mess up, screw up, and fail. I have struggled with the concept of repentance, and i need God’s help to get to that place. Part of these big 10 promises is learning to accept and acknowledge that we fail and we sin. Understand, i am not some expert in this. I am just as messed up and flawed in this as so many others. I need to repent of my sins and stand on these promises as who i am in the process of becoming. I need the prayer and help.
Rev. John J. Camiolo Jr.
If things weren’t deep and passionate before, there is a whole lot of that going on now! The plagues keep getting more and more intense and powerful, and Pharaoh’s frustration and anger are getting worse and worse.
Pharaoh is doing everything he can to attempt to delay or stop the inevitable, but he just can’t stop YHWH. I kind of feel bad for the guy. But at the same time, i know why this is happening, and his involvement / responsibility in it. It’s kind of like working with troubled youth. Sometimes the only way they learn is to allow them to learn and understand the consequences of their actions. Explaining it to them, processing it with them and protecting them from it can only get you so far. Sometimes you just need to let them see, and until they see they will not understand.
You can see Pharaoh’s will / resolve start to soften in this chapter, but Pharaoh is not a man to change easily or lightly. Nor is he a man likely to accept defeat. God continues to harden an already hard heart. Pharaoh continues to attempt to compromise with God, but the cost of that compromise is much higher than the cost of the original price.
How do you help a man who is so insistent that he wins, that he is willing to destroy himself and everything around him in order to do so? How do you open the eyes of a man so blinded by his own pride and rebellion that he thinks he can stand against God? What drives a man to become what you see before you? Yes, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and yes, God had every right to do that! But the truth is, He didn’t need to. Pharaoh was so intent on doing it to himself that he did not need any real help from God.
How do help a man like that?
You can tell that God has a sense of humor and a thing for irony. You see it throughout the Bible and here especially is no exception. So the magicians and priests have attempted to stand against Moses and God with every new miracle that occurs, but take a look at verse 11; “The magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils, for the boils were on the magicians as well as on all the Egyptians.” Yeah, good luck trying to oppose Moses and God like that. They can’t even show up because of the very miracle they are trying to oppose. So much for that problem. Talk about irony.
This chapter is the first place that we see God hardening Pharaoh’s heart. After each miracle Pharaoh keeps hardening his own heart, but God hardens his heart after the plague of the boils. There are some that say that this is not right; that this shows that Pharaoh is being unjustly treated. I don’t buy that argument on many levels, and i will probably talk about that more in the coming chapters.
In the meantime, there is proof that Pharaoh was not ready to let the people go whether he hardened his heart or God did. Later in the chapter, during the plague of the hail, Pharaoh tells Moses to stop the plague and that he will let the people go. Moses says “But as for you and your servants, I know that you do not yet fear the LORD God.” This is later proven when Moses stops the storm, Pharaoh hardens his heart, and he goes back on his word.
Pharaoh rejects God and what He is doing. He rejects his own responsibility and what needs to be done. He even rejects his own word. He as well is rejected by God. Pharaoh is not the only one that does this. We do this as well. There are times when God commands and directs us, but we reject Him by refusing to trust and obey him. It’s not even a question of do we do it. It’s a question of why do we do it. So why do we do it, and what do we need to know / do to change that?
Well, things changed as a result of God’s referendum to Pharaoh alright. God said, “Let my go!” Pharaoh said, “What? You want me to do what with your people? …you want me to make their work harder? OK, I can arrange that.”
Wow, this overarching concept and idea feels very familiar for some reason. The LORD gives a command to do something. In obedience it is carried out. Life gets harder, not easier as a result of the obedience. You would think that when the God of the universe instructs you to take a stand and obediently place yourself at risk before everyone, He would come through when you expect him to. But, that’s not necessarily how He works. Taking that step of faith sometimes means getting your toes run over by a steamroller.
The question is, knowing that that is the case, are we willing to be obedient? Are we willing to step out in faith? Are we being obedient to get something out of it, or is our obedience because He is LORD of our life? Can He trust us to obey even when it means more trouble for ourselves?
That’s a difficult problem for most of us Americans. Many times our outlook is; “What’s in it for me?” If we aren’t getting something out of it, we aren’t willing to put anything into it. God doesn’t work that way though. He’s not a direct “If…then…” God. “If you do this for Me, then I will do that for you.” If that’s what you are looking for in a god, then you are looking in the wrong place. Yes, God will bless you amazingly and abundantly when you obey Him. Yes, you will find peace in your life. Yes, you can trust Him, but you cannot count on Him to do what you want Him to do, or even anywhere close to when you want Him to do it. He works on His terms not ours. However, we are still responsible for obeying Him. The benefits will be amazing, but so will the troubles.
So what’s the LORD calling YOU to be obedient to today?