Bible reading for weekend June 25-- 27
Jun 25 -- Isaiah 57 and Matthew 5
Jun 26 -- Isaiah 58 and Matthew 6
Jun 27 -- Isaiah 59 and Matthew 7
"For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: 'I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.'" (Isaiah 57:15)
IDOLATRY IS DESTRUCTIVE (ch 57). In contrast with the everlasting covenant of peace that God offers (ch 55-56), the people had been putting their trust in the various false gods and idols worshiped at the high places. The people were involved with ritual sex there, and even child sacrifice. They had deserted the Lord and did not remember him (vv 8, 11). Idols cannot save (v 13). If we do not destroy them, they will destroy us. God looks with favor upon the contrite (v 15), and they will experience his peace. But those who do not forsake wickedness will never know peace. The bumper sticker is true: "Know Jesus, know peace. No Jesus, no peace."
RELIGIOUS FORMALISM (ch 58). This chapter addresses the practice of fasting. People can be outwardly religious, and even dedicated to seeking the Lord, but not walking in righteousness. The Jews' great show of fasting and prayer did not translate into fair treatment of the poor and the vulnerable in their society. It's not enough to be pious in our devotion to the Lord while disregarding justice. Practices such as being a false witness (lying, slander, gossip), having unjust business practices, giving low wages, and having disrespect for the elderly and the poor are important issues to God.
DEPRAVITY OF THE HUMAN HEART (ch 59). This chapter sums up the depraved inclination of our hearts. Idolatry (ch 57) is a violation of the first table of the Law (commandments #1-4 in the Decalogue), and injustice (ch 58) is a violation of the second table (commandments #5-10)(Exodus 20). The Apostle Paul later cites some of these verses (vv 7-8) in his description of the sinfulness of the human heart (Romans 3). It's interesting to note that once sin takes hold in the public square truth and righteousness are censored (v 14). At that point a person who stands for righteousness becomes a public target (v 15). This is true of our society today! But the good news is that, when all men have failed, God himself will accomplish salvation (vv 16-21). Our trust is not in ourselves but in God our Redeemer.
"Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: 'Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.'" (Matthew 5:1-3)
THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT (ch 5-7). Notice first the theme in common between Isaiah 57:15 (from our OT reading) and here in Matthew 5:3, that of being lowly and poor in spirit. God is not impressed with what we think are our great accomplishments, but rather he notices our childlike dependence upon him. Now, the Gospel of Matthew contains several large sections of Jesus' teachings. Chapters 5 through 7 are called "the Sermon on the Mount." His teaching is direct, powerful, convicting, and beautiful. We should not rush through our reading of it. See my comments on interpreting the Sermon on the Mount here.
A PORTRAIT OF JESUS (ch 5). Especially when we consider the Beatitudes we should see these as a kind of portrait of Christ's own holy mind and character. Life in the Kingdom follows the character of the King. By the gracious working of his Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18), this portrait is also the image into which we are being transformed! Today, as believers we live this out imperfectly, but one day we will fulfill it perfectly: "Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we will be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure." (1 John 3:2-3)
ON PRAYER AND ANXIETY (ch 6). This is a most wonderful chapter in the Sermon on the Mount which features the Lord's Prayer and also Christ's words to his followers about dealing with fear and anxiety. Jesus gives us a pattern for prayer. I have come to appreciate and use the Lord's Prayer (vv 9-13) more in my life than ever. Sometimes, when I wake up at night or when I have time to pray, I feel at a loss to know what to pray for. Thinking through these six petitions, a template for prayer, really helps me. Read "a pattern for prayer" here.
ASKING AND RECEIVING (ch 7). The last section of the sermon contains truths about future judgment. It is possible to be a visibly impressive follower of Christ and yet not belong to him (vv 21-23)! How sobering these words are. And we are taught that "...everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it" (vv 26-27). This chapter also contains his gracious promise to provide what we need to live for him: "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you." (7:7) The verbs in verse 7 are present imperatives, which indicate the Lord's desire that we freely and continually be asking -- and keep on asking -- for whatever we need.
Image credit: view of the Sea of Galilee from the Mount of Beatitudes in Israel, photo by Itamar Grinberg on Wikimedia Commons. About this newsletter: I post three times a week on my Bible reading, following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson. Subscribe for email at Buttondown.email/Sandy. Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. A very helpful resource is the NET Bible with its excellent notes at netbible.org.