Tag Archives: scripture
On social media these days, not a day passes that someone doesn’t post how they have received insight from God either through prayer or through reading the Bible. These revelations by others can sometimes send us reeling with feelings of unworthiness, inferiority, and even frustration. We feel unworthy because God hasn’t chosen to reveal something extra special only to us. We feel inferior because others appear to have received something we must not be important enough to have. And perhaps secretly, we feel frustration because we can’t or won’t admit even to ourselves that God hasn’t really communicated with us in a really long time. We become discouraged and depressed because EVERYONE ELSE appears to have their life pulled together and God is in the house rocking their spiritual lives. Can I get a hallelujah, amen?!
So what are we to do?
If you are like me, you decide to immerse yourself in acts of service or you pray harder or you begin to read copious amounts of scripture because you know that is what a spiritual person should do. After all, the more I do for God, the more He definitely will listen. This concept is unscriptural. We aren’t saved by works, people. We are saved by grace, through Jesus Christ alone.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8,9 New International Version
I’ve found, when our heavenly conduit falls silent, several reasons contribute to why we don’t hear from God. Although said many times, the truth is sin keeps us from hearing or feeling God’s direction in our lives. In the movie Serenity, when responding to the question of what his sin was, Captain Malcolm Reynolds responds “Ah Hell… I’m a fan of all seven.” I personally rather like pride, sloth, and hey – gluttony is not bad either. In fact by my actions at times, I shamefully show that I’m a fan of all seven of the deadly sins. But I know that repentance and confession are like Drano in the conduit pipe to God. We’ve got to remove all of the junk in order to obtain the guidance, direction, or insight we seek.
“So get rid of your old self, which made you live as you used to – the old self that was being destroyed by its deceitful desires. Your hearts and minds must be made completely new, and you must put on the new self, which is created in God’s likeness and reveals itself in the true life that is upright and holy. No more lying, then! Each of you must tell the truth to the other believer, because we are all members together in the body of Christ. If you become angry, do not let your anger lead you into sin, and do not stay angry all day. Don’t give the Devil a chance. If you used to rob, you must stop robbing and start working, in order to earn an honest living for yourself and to be able to help the poor. Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you. And do not make God’s Holy Spirit sad; for the Spirit is God’s mark of ownership on you, a guarantee that the Day will come when God will set you free. Get rid of all bitterness, passion, and anger. No more shouting or insults, no more hateful feelings of any sort. Instead, be kind and tender-hearted to one another, and forgive one another, as God has forgiven you through Christ.” Ephesians 4:22-32 Good News Translation
Another barrier to being receptive to God’s urging is not listening. This barrier is the quickest to correct. Two words. Slow. Down. During prayer and scripture reading time, pause and take time to listen, just a minute won’t do. To approach God in that way is like a kid rushing home from school, throwing his backpack on the counter with a “Hi Mom!,” and then headed out the door to play. Mom is left dazed and wondering about the day. God wants some time with us. An occasional order at God’s fast food counter is okay, but He really wants you to have a home cooked meal of time with Him.
“Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:9 New International Version
The last and maybe my favorite of why we don’t hear from God is because He Already Told Us And We Aren’t Doing It. Always the perfect parent who gives a direction once and expects it to be carried out, God tells us what to do. Period. And He expects us to do it. We can’t still continue wondering about what to do or whining for Him to answer. The proverbial neon sign rarely appears blinking with the instructions previously given. God, in His grace and mercy, might tenderly remind us once or twice but after that silence often comes. He already told you. So, after you have double checked the first two barriers, consider the third. Did God already give you a direction? Are you stalling? Wallowing? Do the thing He last told you to do until you have direction for the next.
This summer series is almost over. Next week, we’ll take a look at Judas Iscariot. If you’d like to start from the beginning of the series or simply learn about one of the apostles, all of the posts covered in this series can be found under the tab, People of the Bible or by clicking here.
“One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.” Luke 6:12-16
In Matthew 10:4 and Mark 3:18 of the King James Version of the Bible, Simon is introduced as Simon the Canaanite. The Greek word for Canaanite is Kananaios and means “zealous.” In Luke 6:15 and Acts 1:13 of the same version of the Bible, Simon is introduced as Simon Zelotes. This Greek word, Zelotes, means “one burning with zeal, a zealot.” Nothing more is said in scripture regarding Simon. This description might imply that Simon was given the term as a nickname for his temperament or that he was part of a political and religious sect called the Zealots.
The Jews had three major factions: the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes. The Zealots were a smaller faction founded by Judas the Galilean. Firstly, they were modeled after Phinehas, the son of the high priest, who set an example of zeal for God, during a time of apostasy and testing in the wilderness.
“The LORD said to Moses, “Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, has turned my anger away from the Israelites; for he was as zealous as I am for my honor among them, so that in my zeal I did not put an end to them. Therefore tell him I am making my covenant of peace with him. He and his descendants will have a covenant of a lasting priesthood because he was zealous for the honor of his God and made atonement for the Israelites.”” Numbers 25:10-13
In addition to Phinehas, this group also modeled themselves after the example of Mattathias and his sons who opposed the Greek king Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-164 BCE). In 6 CE, Judas the Galilaean led a revolt against Rome to oppose the payment of tribute by Israel to the Roman emperor on the grounds that giving tribute to this pagan was treasonous to God. They felt that agreement to the taxation was an acknowledgment of the right of Rome to rule them. What began as a nationalistic movement to defend the life and law of the Jewish people soon became a sect called the Zealots following this revolt. They believed peace would be restored only if the Romans were expelled from their land and the Law of God was adhered to strictly and faithfully. This group even despised their own Jewish brothers and sisters that favored peace and conciliation with Rome. They had no qualms of resorting to aggressive and violent acts to achieve their means. Sometimes, the Zealots allied themselves with a fanatical extremist group known for their terrorism and assassinations called the Sicarii.
A well known story of the Zealots took place at the fortress of Masada. Herod the Great built the fortress at Masada for his winter home and as a southern defense for the kingdom. In 70 CE during the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, a group of 967 men, women, and children fled to Masada. The Roman army pursued these fleeing Zealots all the way to Masada. The fortress was difficult to breach so the Romans, under the command of Flavius Silva, held Masada under siege for three years. With the exception of two older women and five children that hid themselves in a well and lived to tell the story, this entire Zealot community chose suicide rather than slavery to Rome. Their actions stand as a symbol of bravery and freedom from slavery.
In addition to Simon, others are also described in scripture as having a zealous temperament. Paul calls himself a religious zealot for God ( Acts 22:3). While the disciples, perhaps astounded by the clearing of the Temple by Jesus, reflected on a passage from Psalm 69 that they felt Jesus fulfilled.
“His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”” John 2:17
Whether Simon was zealous because of his temperament or a Zealot through affiliation, we don’t know with absolute certainty. He did, however, become zealous about being a follower of Jesus. He transformed and redirected his passion into devotion, dedication, and committed obedience to his Lord.
Questions to Consider
- What can I learn from the life of Simon about faith?
- How zealous is my passion for God?
- What do my nicknames or labels say about me?
- What do my affiliations reveal about me to others?
References: The NIV Study Bible Zondervan Publishing House 1985; Twelve Ordinary Men by John F. MacArthur; The Search for the Twelve Apostles by William S. McBirnie;The Land and the Book by Charles R. Page II and Carl A. Volz; The Daily Study Bible Series on the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John by William Barclay; New Bible Dictionary; Harper’s Bible Commentary; Jesus and the Land by Charles R. Page II; blueletterbible.org
Just like the Apostle Bartholomew/Nathanael we studied last week, this week’s apostle was also called by two names. Matthew, whose name means “gift of Jehovah,” is also referred to as Levi which means “joined”. I will use the most commonly used name, Matthew, throughout this post.
“One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.”Luke 6:12-16
In the ancient world, a man often had two names. Matthew is identified by the name “Matthew” in all of the listings of the twelve apostles (Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18, Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13). But in the passages concerning Jesus’ calling, his name varies among the gospels between Matthew or Levi. No reference singles Matthew out in the gospel of John.
“As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me.” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples.When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means:’I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”” Matthew 9:9-13
“After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, and Levi got up left everything and followed him. Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them.” Luke 5:27-29
Matthew was the son of Alphaeus (Mark 2:14) and a tax collector for the Roman government. Tax collection, as a form of employment, was used as early as 212 B.C.. These men collected legitimate taxes for the government but they also collected extra fees and pocketed a percentage for themselves.They had a bad reputation of being despicable and resorting to any means necessary to achieve the money whether by malpractice, extortion, or abuse. By virtue of his employment, Matthew was grouped with the lowest levels of society. Jesus spoke to the receptiveness of faith by this level of society when he responded to the chief priests and elders that questioned him about his authority to do the things he was doing.
“”I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John [the Baptist] came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.”” Matthew 21:31-32 (brackets mine)
Tax collectors fell into two different categories. The gabbai were general tax collectors who collected property, income and poll taxes. These fees were set so the ability to make extra money was low. The mokhes, on the other hand, collected specific taxes like the duty on goods transported, tolls for roads and bridges, and tariffs. They were able to collect and pocket extra money easily making their jobs more lucrative. The mokhes were divided into two different groups: the great mokhes and the little mokhes. The great mokhes hired others to work for them and the little mokhes were the ones employed to collect the taxes and run the tax booth. Scholars think Matthew was a little mokhes since he was found by Jesus in a tax booth.
“To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14
In his life, Matthew would have found a place to belong difficult. He was a traitor to his own people, the Jews, because he worked for the Romans. He was also a religious outcast because of his continual dealings with Gentiles. Interaction with them made him continuously ceremonially unclean and unfit for worship. Matthew would have also been a social outcast shunned by all of society for being a tax collector with the exception of those among the lowest rungs of society. With Jesus, Matthew found a place of belonging, a purpose, and an entirely different life from any he could have imagined. He left his old life and all it offered behind when he made the decision to follow Jesus. Matthew had a new life found in the life of his Lord.
Tradition holds that the apostle Matthew wrote the gospel that bears his name sometime between 60-90 A.D.. Newer scholarship, however, points to another possibility over which New Testament scholars debate.
Questions to Consider
- What can I learn from the life of Matthew about faith?
- Has my life changed since I became a follower of Jesus Christ?
- Do I view others who are different from me with acceptance or scorn?
- How can I share the message of Jesus with those I consider to be the undesirables of society?