This is the last chapter of teaching in Matthew before Passover comes, Jesus has His “last supper” with His disciples, and He is betrayed by Judas. There are three parables here. All three deal with Christ’s relationship with His people at the end of the age. All three are preparation for the kingdom to come.
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to 10 virgins…” Are we living our lives in preparation for the kingdom to come? Are we ready to work and be prepared for the bridegroom to come any time? Are we pursuing God’s / YHWH’s purposes for us, or are we simply living life as if it doesn’t matter. Christ is returning, and He could return at any time. Are we foolish virgins who have not prepared for a long wait and sudden entrance, or are we the wise virgins who are expecting Him at any time and living life as if it matters?
“For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey.” We have each been given talents and financial provision. What are we doing with those gifts? What is our purpose and what does it mean? Are we investing what we have and helping it to grow, or are we ignoring and burying our gifts and finances using it only for our own good? God is expecting a return on what He has given us. He is expecting us to use what we have for something more than we started with. He has not blessed us for our sake, but rather for the growth of the kingdom. If we are not working towards kingdom growth (not our own), all that we have will be taken away.
“All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left…” The judgment is coming; what’s the difference between the sheep and the goats? Christ says that the difference between the sheep and the goats is that the sheep don’t just sit on what they have been given. The difference between the sheep and the goats is that the sheep have passion / compassion for others (or just obedience towards God). They reach out and help those in need. They step out of their own lives and into the lives of others. They do the opposite of what our culture teaches. They reach out and touch the lives of those around them. Do We?
“Value” is an interesting word. We talk about how valuable something is, or how something has value, or is a value. Yet, that value is not really standard. The saying goes that “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” What is important / significant / valuable to one person is worthless to another. One person sees “high art” another sees “junk”. One sees “junk” and another sees “potential”. Even the value of money is dependent upon the person and situation. To some people, money is everything! They seek after it even at the cost of the people around them. To others, money is nothing but a tool… and not a very good one at that!
So it should be no surprise that what Christ or God values can be very different than what we value. The disciples came to Jesus at one point and asked Him, “Who then is the greatest (has the most value) in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus response is, unexpectedly, a child. One must have faith as a child, and anyone who receives a child in His name, receives Him.
What’s more, anyone who causes a child to stumble (away from God) has done such a grave danger that he may as well have been drowned… not that Christ is condoning murder. This is such an issue that Jesus give His disciples the analogy that if their eye causes them to stumble, they need to pluck it out.
The analogy of value seems to continue with the picture of the flock of sheep. When one sheep wanders off, Christ says that He will leave the entire flock of sheep to seek out the ONE that is lost! He values each person so much, that He would leave everything else behind to rescue one lost soul. If that doesn’t define our value to Him, i don’t know what will.
He goes on even further. We must value others enough to not only discipline them, and kick them out when they refuse to accept the truth, but we must also forgive them as well! So when a man / woman sins against you, hurts you, and your pride, you must be willing to forgive; not just 7 times, but 7, 70 times (or as many as it takes). Yet that forgiveness does not preclude discipline and even to the removal of the offender. Why, because God values His creation, even to the point of understanding the need for discipline and the removal of the cancerous.
Do we value His whole creation? Or do we only care about those who directly affect us?
What makes something clean or unclean? What gives one thing value over another? Is it its color, its shape, its size? How about its purpose, the way it’s used, or how strong it is? What gives you and i value?
We live our lives day after day giving value to one thing over another. We set priorities in our lives. Yes, i will take that call. No, i don’t have time for that meeting. Will i rise early and do my devotions, or will i shut off the alarm and get some much needed extra sleep. In everything we do we are giving things, people, and situations value and purpose in our lives.
In this chapter, YHWH is doing the same thing. God is saying, these kinds of animals have value when it comes to what you eat. These others are not worth keeping around. If you eat these animals it’s alright, if you even touch the carcasses of these you will be unclean. You should definitely not touch them to eat them. They are forbidden.
It’s interesting to me seeing what makes the clean different from the unclean. The clean animals are all herbivores. None of them purposefully eat another living creature. Thus the carrion birds are forbidden. Those who eat unclean things are forbidden. Thus pigs are rejected. Insects that have jointed legs with which to jump are clean. So grasshoppers and locusts are clean, but spiders and ants are not.
One of the things that really interests me is understanding the very nature of these kinds of animals for food. For instance, sheep, the most common animal used for meat for the Israelites, are the healthiest meat there is other than buffalo. Meanwhile, fish with scales and fins are very healthy for you with oils that are very good for you. What YHWH has called the “clean” animals have time and again proven to be the best meats nutritionally and health wise.
It’s almost like God’s rules about food and meats actually work to help keep you healthy! Imagine that! I wonder how many other of His rules and regulations benefit man in the same kinds of ways?
The establishment of religion clause. That is what this government is all about. It is government by YHWH for the people and for His glory. After having come out of Exodus and understanding that one of the primary things that YHWH was giving the Israelite people was a means and way of finally being able to worship Him, we find the first chapter of Leviticus giving instructions on how to offer up an offering from the flock or the herd.
This is the very base and foundation of offerings. It is the very cornerstone of the sacrificial system. The shedding of blood for the remission / covering of sins is what gives the people the ability to come before a holy God without being consumed by YHWH’s holiness in the form of fire. Within the sacrificial system there are three primary sacrificial animals; the bull, the sheep, and the goat. This chapter answers how to properly bring those sacrifices to the temple, priests, and YHWH. Secondarily, it also answers to how to bring the sacrifice of a bird.
This sacrifice is the very core of the sacrificial system. It is a necessary offering and it is complete… or about as complete as an imperfect sacrifice that only covers sin and does not remove them can be. The true and perfect sacrifice… The fulfillment of the sacrificial system, Jesus the Christ, will not come for millenia yet.