Matthew 16: 1-4
And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. 2He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ 3And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. 4An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed. (ESV)
Today we are going to look at the second part of Jesus’ response, He speaks to them about their ability to predict the weather and inability to interpret the signs of the times. I love this portion of this scripture! In fact it is what God caught my eye with about these verses initially, which started the Matthew 16:1-4 study.
I love it when there is a portion of scripture that I can relate to. I might not be able to fully relate to selling donkeys or I may fall short of fully appreciating subtle messages in Christ’s parables due to my lack of familiarity with Middle Eastern culture…however I can definitely relate to predicting the weather! Can’t we all? It looks like in Jesus’ day they would predict weather by paying attention to the sky at sunset and by simply looking up at the sky. I remember learning about sailors using the sunset to predict the next day’s weather in school when I was young, apparently this type of weather prediction goes back to ancient times. As far as looking up at the sky goes not much has changed, we do that all the time do we not? (: No matter what the weather channel says we still take a peak at the sky throughout the day to determine the course of weather. Just like the Pharisees & Sadducees, if we see a threatening looking sky then we can recognize foul weather is upon us. I bet even weather men and women look up at the sky instead of putting their full faith and confidence in the forecast they delivered that morning. How come? Because as much as we love to check our weather we all know that it is that – a forecast, a prediction – it is not fully guaranteed. You know the expressions; she/he changes <fill in the blank> like the weather? We have those sayings for a reason! (:
Still, with weather being only a prediction we sure do spend a lot of time on it don’t we? We have full time jobs in science and news casting dedicated to it. We have Doppler radar and can track storm systems such as hurricanes or blizzards. We have full time TV networks and websites dedicated to weather prediction 24 hours a day, 7 days a week 365 days a year! Not only that but weather dominates our conversations. From small talk to serious talk our lives and plans often revolve around the weather. Why is that? The weather determines what we can do, so if you think about it our infatuation with the weather is really an infatuation with ourselves. With OUR plans, our days, our activities, with what WE can do…and boy are we good when it comes to that aren’t we!
What is something we are not so good with though?….Oh yeah that is right, the signs of the times:
Why Interpret the Signs of the Times?
Ah, the signs of the times, we can talk about weather with just about anyone but the second you mention the signs of the times the majority of people look at you like you are little off kilter or even if they don’t things get a little uncomfortable don’t they? As a whole our generation tends to scoff, mock, laugh at and ignore the signs of the times. Some do this because all they have seen or heard about the signs of the times are the loony misinterpreting false teachers and cults making headlines. When you open scripture though it doesn’t take long to find out that while we might like to shoot the breeze talking about them storm clouds on the horizon God has a lot to talk about when it comes to the signs of the times. So in reality, making a mockery of the signs of the times or to ignore them altogether is like making a mockery of billowing storm clouds above us in the sky or just ignoring a hurricane warning and going to the beach. Not too smart, who looks like the fool then?
The problem is that as John 1:10 puts it, “He came into the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him.” We cannot properly interpret scripture or the signs of the times without the illumination of the truth of God’s Word through the Holy Spirit of God. This can only happen if you have faith and accept the invitation of salvation as the Spirit of God knocks onto the door to your heart, choosing to believe in Jesus, confessing your sins, repenting from your former ways and accepting Him as your Lord and Savior. Then as you seek Him out through the Word of God the Holy Spirit will open your eyes to see more and more of His truth.
Although these Pharisees and Sadducees in Matt 16:1-4 were eye witnesses to the fulfillment of the Messianic scriptures (that they studied and taught for a living) they hardened their hearts and did not believe in Jesus, as a result they could not interpret the signs of the times. The signs of the times being that the Messiah, the Light of the World, the Son of God was standing in their midst! As I Corinthians 1:22-23 (AMP) puts it:
21For when the world with all its earthly wisdom failed to perceive and recognize and know God by means of its own philosophy, God in His wisdom was pleased through the foolishness of preaching [salvation, procured by Christ and to be had through Him], to save those who believed (who clung to and trusted in and relied on Him).
22For while Jews [demandingly] ask for signs and miracles and Greeks pursue philosophy and wisdom,
23We preach Christ (the Messiah) crucified, [preaching which] to the Jews is a scandal and an offensive stumbling block [that springs a snare or trap], and to the Gentiles it is absurd and utterly unphilosophical nonsense.
24But to those who are called, whether Jew or Greek (Gentile), Christ [is] the Power of God and the Wisdom of God.
Just as John 1:10 and I Cor 1:21 put it, even we fail to recognize and perceive God on our own in the 21st century since the time of Christ. Many follow either the path of the Jews or Gentiles who did not accept Christ: either demanding signs and miracles out of a spirit of unbelief and reacting to the gospel as a scandal or offense or by pursuing earthly wisdom and philosophy and reacting to the gospel as being absurd and illogical nonsense.
So why, as Christians should we still talk about the signs of the times? Because as I Cor 1:21 also says, God in His wisdom has saved those who believe, spreading the gospel across the globe, through the foolishness of preaching. Preaching – foolish? Have you ever tried to preach to someone about something in their life that needs to change, doesn’t work out too good does it?! But preaching the Word of God in a fashion that is led by the Spirit (according to God’s timing and will) sends out His Spirit laced Word which lands on on the soil of the hearts of men and the Word of God has the power to save. It is the Spirit of God accomplishing salvation, not the preacher of God.
It is so important to pray for the hearts of men to be readied for the Word of God and to pray for the preacher not to preach from his own earthly philosophy and motive but to allow the Spirit of God to speak God’s Word through Him…prayer is a vital part of the preaching and teaching process!
So when studying the signs of the times it is really important to stay focused and within context of God’s Good News:
- Christ the Messiah has come
- Christ has made atonement for the sins of the world
- Christ rose from the dead conquering death once and for all
- Everyone who truly believes in Him (which results in repentance and picking up their cross and following Him) shall be saved from eternal damnation.
As a result the most important thing for us to presently do is:
- Seek Him first and foremost with all of our hearts on a daily basis
- Allow Him to use His gifts through us by the power of the Holy Spirit so the gospel may go out to the ends of the earth.
Studying the signs of the times has everything to do with this because it opens our eyes to the reality of the times and creates an urgency in our hearts to live for God and for others to be saved. It is so easy for us to fall into the “slumber trap” where we walk around in a daze just trying to get through each day of work or to deal with family that we forget to bask in the presence of God, meeting Him in the secret place and being in a state of readiness for His will to be done.
21“Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.” II Timothy 2:21
Next time: Signs of the Times