Signs of the Times | Present Time

Matthew 16:1-4 part 6 and Matthew 24:1-14

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)

Last week we left off in part 5 of the Matthew 16:1-4 study looking at why it important to study the Signs of the Times in God’s Word. Just like the Pharisees and Sadducees we are really good at studying and paying attention to a prediction about weather but when it comes to recognizing and interpreting the signs of the times which is something that is for sure, not just a prediction, well we are not so good at that. (: Which is kind of sad. Really it is, but again as we saw in the last study we have to be very careful because apart from the illumination of God’s Spirit we can’t recognize the truth so it really isn’t that surprising. The sad part is that by His grace God offers His Holy Spirit to all who have faith in Him and He wants to talk to each of us through His Word, the only thing getting in the way is our own lack of belief and/or spiritual discipline. In fact, God’s talks to us A LOT about the signs of the times in both the Old and New Testament. That is why it is even more troubling that the religious leaders of the synagogues who studied the Old Testament were completely blind to the Messiah. Who are we to think that we may be any less susceptible? Let us then seek Him with our heart until every hindrance is removed! (Joel 2:12-13)

Christ’s Second Coming
Christ first came fulfilling all Old Testament prophecies including the miraculous conception and birth to a virgin. Although fully God He was also fully robed in the flesh of man and yet lived without sin. His mission – to minister to the lost and bring salvation and healing to the sick – aka all humanity. We are all sick in the soul – walking spiritually dead people apart from Christ! However, Revelation 19:11-16 describes His Second Coming like this:

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.

and Matthew 24:30 says that

..the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn and beat their breasts and lament in anguish, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory and He will send out His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from one end of the universe to the other.

Doesn’t sound like something that you don’t want to be prepared for does it?

Some Biblical Context
As Christians however we long for the rapture and for His second coming because we long for Him. We long to be free from these bodies of flesh which is freedom from the battle between His Spirit and our fallen nature. With worshipful reverence we long to see His face and that is not something to be dreaded for those that are covered with His blood because His blood covers and protects us from the wrath of God. It is by the blood of His Son that Christ’s righteousness is imputed on all who believe through the propitiation of our sins (Romans 3:23-26, Hebrews 2:17 and 9:12-28, I John 2:2, I John 4:9-10). We long for and yearn for this day since we are no longer of this earthly kingdom but are adopted children of God (Romans 8:13-17, Romans 9:8).

Even so we solemnly recognize that His patience is salvation (II Peter 3:7-10) and in sorrow we are reminded that it will be a dreadful day for those apart from Christ (Amos 5:18-20). That is why it is God’s calling for all Christians to fulfill the Great Commission (Mark 16:15-20) and to pray (Matthew 9:38) for God to thrust workers out into the harvest for the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few (Matthew 9:26-38). Did you catch that?  Not only are we called to share the gospel with others, but also to get down on our faces and pray earnestly for God to send out workers because today, right this instant, there are people out there who are ready to be harvested into the Kingdom of God! Let us throw off our complacent slumber and become a true disciple of Christ. As He puts in Matthew 16:24 AMP, “if anyone desires to be my disciple let Him deny himself [disregard, lose sight of and forget] himself and his own interests and pick up his cross and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying also]”. Let us literally disregard our own plans, our own desires, ourselves! Let us crucify the flesh and all its desire to that cross and follow Jesus (Galatians 5:24)!

It is in this light that we are going to study the signs of the times, bearing in mind that the reason we are here is because there is a harvest out there. Otherwise we would be taking the sign of the times out of context. We can’t ignore the mission while studying the times, the mission IS the context within which the signs of the times become meaningful!

Observations & Life Application | Matthew 24: 4-14
Since I am a visual learner I laid out my observations in a table while I was reading this portion of scripture. I noticed Jesus not only teaches us some pretty clear signs but He also tells us the “why I’m telling you this” for us to not only meditate on but to spur us into action on behalf of the Kingdom of God. He further brings to light His understanding to us through some illustrative comparisons and parables later on in Matthew 24 and in Matthew 25. I encourage you to take some time to make a table too before reading through the ones below, make two columns – 1 for the signs and 1 for our charge. There are a few time-line indicators that organize the signs as well, I either indicated these in italics or bold lettering.

Matthew 24:4-14 | Signs of the Times
Present time & history since time of Christ
What is our Charge from God?
  • Many will come falsely in Christ’s name and lead many astray.
  • You will hear of wars and rumors of wars
  • Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom
  • There will be famines and earthquakes in place after place.
Be Careful that no one misleads you.

 

See that you are not frightened or troubled for this must take place, the end is not yet


These are the beginning of the birth pangs (early contractions)

  • Then they will hand you over to suffer affliction and tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake
  • And many will be offended and repelled and will begin to distrust and desert and will stumble and fall away and betray one another and pursue one another in hatred.
  • And many false prophets will rise up and deceive and lead many into error
  • And the love of the great body of people will grow cold because of the multiplied lawlessness and iniquity.
  • And this good news of the kingdom (the Gospel) will be preached throughout the whole world as a testimony to all the nations.
 

 

 

 

But the one who endures to the end will be saved

Then will Come the End

The period between Chris’s first and second coming is known as the last days (II Peter 3:2-4, II Timothy 3:1-8, Hebrew 1:1-3, Acts 2:16-18, Joel 2:28-29). How can we tell? By looking at the signs! We know we are still part of the last days described in Matthew 24:1-14 because the gospel has not yet been preached throughout the whole world as a testimony to all the nations.  We are getting closer and closer however as Christians go out in obedience spreading the gospel to the ends of the earth. Also there is still some love left in the great body of people, it has not yet completely fizzled out although you do hear news reports of people dying on sidewalks, people ignoring others in peril and the distrust/lack of love for others is on the rise in regards to the general population due to lawlessness and iniquity multiplying. Christ compares the signs of the times to the contractions a woman has who is going into labor. As we know the contractions can start out weeks before the actual labor takes place and start out faint and far between growing a little bit strong and closer together until the actual birth. What does Jesus tell us to do as we recognize them taking place?

  1. Be careful that no one misleads you.
  2. See that you are not frightened or troubled for this must take place, the end is not yet.
  3. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

Praise the Lord for His clarity and truth. By Him who gives us strength we can endure, steadfast in the faith till the end even as the lawlessness of humanity multiplies and even as the persecution, betrayal and desertion of the church grows! Oh and we must be careful! That word careful doesn’t annotate carelessness or lack of attention, mediate on that word…to be careful that no one misleads you! How? By reading and studying God’s Word, seeking to be filled with His Holy Spirit, praying for wisdom, discernment and understanding. Praying for Christian friends and meeting with them on a regular basis, praying for and actively listening to sound Biblical teaching – doing all of this with care and paying attention to the details of His Word and commandments in all applications of life. Things will go from bad to worse as the “contractions” increase in intensity and grow closer together but God has warned us about all of this not so that we will be afraid but so we can trust in Him. We have the true hope that He is with us even after death and that He is sufficient in all suffering, he is our Provider in all situations. Praise the Lord for the hope we have in Him!

“Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. 8You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.” James 5:7-9

For More:
To dive deeper into scripture study in regards to the Last Days I recommend Using Bible Gateway’s Dictionary of Bible Themes as a starting point: http://www.biblegateway.com/resources/9000-Last-things/dictionary-of-bible-themes . This dictionary provides you with scriptures to look up in order to be able to study God’s Word directly and to provide you a resource for study in context as opposed isolating scriptures which leads to out of context misinterpretation.

How’s the Weather? (Matthew 16:1-4 study part 5)

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.

Weather Prediction
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:

  1. Christ the Messiah has come
  2. Christ has made atonement for the sins of the world
  3. Christ rose from the dead conquering death once and for all
  4. 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:

  1. Seek Him first and foremost with all of our hearts on a daily basis
  2. 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

The Response (Matthew 16:1-4 study part 4)

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)

How did they ask for a sign, how did Jesus respond, how does this apply to us?
In part 3 of this study we looked at the motive behind the Pharisees & Sadducees request, they came in a spirit of argument to test him. Jesus’ response is twofold. Since we’ve been studying up on the sign of Jonah let’s examine that part of the response first and then we’ll delve into the first part of His answer. Quite simply Jesus refuses saying that no sign will be given to an evil and adulterous generation seeking one except for the sign of Jonah. What does he mean by evil and adulterous? Let’s look at a translation comparison for some insight:

Matthew 16:4 ESV
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.

Matthew 16:4 AMP
4A wicked and morally unfaithful generation craves a sign, but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. Then He left them and went away.

Here we see that evil and wicked are used interchangeably as well as adulterous and morally unfaithful.
Scripture teaches that apart from Jesus Christ we have no righteousness, we all fall into the wicked and morally unfaithful category initially but those who believe in Jesus Christ and repent/turn away from their wickedness/the flesh will be saved (Romans 3:10-26, John 3:16, I John 1:9).  We see examples throughout the New Testament where people who humbly believed in Jesus were healed from all sorts of physical and spiritual ailments miraculously through the power of God.  Jesus did not perform these signs and miracles for the sake of performance but to save the lost, to bring in the ready harvest…let me say that again…

Jesus did not perform these signs and miracles for the sake of performance but to save the lost, to bring in the ready harvest.

As we studied, the sign of Jonah (the miracle of Christ’s resurrection from death and his warning/calling to believe and repent) has and is in the process of being proclaimed. Some respond in unbelief and yet still demand a sign…have you ever heard anything along the lines of, “so you believe Jesus is God or so you believe God is real – PROVE IT!”? Even if that isn’t said audibly that spirit of unbelief mixed with rebellion and irreverent questioning of God’s power and/or existence plagues our generation as it has from the generations before us.

Even when God does perform a miracle not all who are witness or hear testimony of it will always believe. Going back to the sign of Jonah, when people do respond to this sign and are saved and share the miraculous propitiation of sin that has taken place not all who hear their testimony or see their transformed life will respond to the Holy Spirit’s invitation. Going back to the Pharisees & Sadducees, Jesus had already performed miracles in their sight. The men who were testing him in Matthew 16:1-4 had either been eye witnesses or privy to testimony that Christ had healed a man’s withered hand, making it whole. What was their immediate response? Belief? No – death! They responded by plotting to put Jesus to death! (Mark 3:1-6) When the Pharisees heard testimony of a blind, dumb, demon possessed man receiving vision, speech and freedom from demonic possession what was their response? Belief? No – they accused Jesus the Messiah of receiving power from the devil! (Matt 12:22-29) When the Pharisees and chief priests heard eye-witness testimony of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead how did they respond? Belief? No – they not only plotted to put Jesus to death but get this – Lazarus also…!! (John 11:45-48 and 53, John 12:10-11)

This leaves a bit of astonishment doesn’t it to say the least. To better understand, lets turn to Luke 16, in verses 19-31 there is a parable about a rich man and a poor man named Lazarus (not the same one that was raised from the dead). They both die and since this is before Jesus came, died and rose again the unrighteous one (rich guy) went to the place of torment and the righteous man (Lazarus) went to Abraham’s side. A dialogue unfolds where the rich man is at first pleading for some relief but when he sees there is no hope for him turns his concern to his five brothers that have not yet died:

Luke 16:27-31
27And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.'”

The Pharisees & Sadducees could not recognize the sign of the times, the Messiah was staring them in the face, they hardened their hearts against Christ’s message and rejected God’s purpose for them (Mark 3:5, Mark 7:6-9, Luke 7:29-30). If they do not hear the prophets they will not be convinced with the resurrection of the dead – not Lazarus – not Jesus.

Salvation is made possible through faith in Jesus Christ and His grace lavished upon us. Demanding a sign, testing God, questioning Him out of a spirit of unbelief – that gets us no where. What did Jesus do when the Pharisees & Sadducees approached Him that way? He said lookie here, you will receive the sign of Jonah and then what? He left them and departed.

Next Time: How’s the weather?

Why Did they Want a Sign? (Matthew 16:1-4 study part 3)

Today’s study shifts focus onto our why questions, the first off being, why did the Pharisees & Sadducees want a sign from Jesus?

After doing the study on these men we can begin to draw up some conclusions…but while it is important for us to understand who these men where when asking why we are going to start by finding keywords in the text itself to draw out their motive in the moment. In the following scriptures I will bold italicize the keywords:

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)

Mark 8:11-13:
11The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. 12And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” 13And he left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side. (ESV)

Well there we go, the reason why the Pharisees & Sadducees were asking Jesus for a sign was out of an argumentative spirit and in order to test him. This confirms what we learned from our profile study on these men.

Testing God
It is common to hear that we should not test God and we know that Jesus was God in the flesh so what the Pharisees and Sadducees were doing was wrong…but what does that mean, to test God? Let’s find out so we can better understand this sin and be able to recognize any markers of it in our own life! Again, let’s turn to the concordance and look up the word “test”. This takes us all the way back to Exodus!

Exodus 17:2-7:
All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the LORD, and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?” 3But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” 4So Moses cried to the LORD, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” 5And the LORD said to Moses, “Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7And he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the quarreling of the people of Israel, and because they tested the LORD by saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?” (ESV)

Amplified Bible Comparison
Exodus 17:2:
Therefore, the people contended with Moses, and said, Give us water that we may drink. And Moses said to them, Why do you find fault with me? Why do you tempt the Lord and try His patience?

Exodus 17:7
He called the place Massah [proof ] and Meribah [contention] because of the faultfinding of the Israelites and because they tempted and tried the patience of the Lord, saying, Is the Lord among us or not?

Well here is the first record of people testing God, they did not trust Jehovah Jireh (The Lord will Provide) for their provision of water even though he had just miraculously provided manna from heaven for them in chapter 16! Instead of humbly seeking His provision and trusting him they broke out in fights with Moses, contending with him, ready to even stone him and most seriously they questioned God.

Key “take aways” the Israelites testing of God was accompanied by:

  • a lack of reverence
  • a lack of humility
  • a lack of trust in God as their provider
  • a lack of faith in God to provide
These heart issues led to them:
  • complaining/grumbling
  • quarreling/contention/faultfinding
    – quarreling: have an angry argument or disagreement
    – contention: a heated disagreement
  • questioning God

Pause and meditate on that, are there any areas in your life where any of these characteristics show up?

As we continue diving into scripture we find our selves in the book of Deuteronomy, one of my favorite books of the Bible! Deuteronomy is an account of Moses reminding the Israelites about their history after leaving Egypt and telling the Israelites God’s law before he dies and the Israelites pass into the Promise Land with Joshua. He warns them to carefully heed God’s law and to not add to it or to diminish it. When we get to chapter 6 something familiar pops up having just read the first part of Exodus chapter 17.

Deuteronomy 6:16
You shall not put the LORD your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah.

Pretty black and white huh. Take a moment to read all of Deuteronomy 6 and jot down some take aways from this chapter as well. Isn’t it beautiful?

Some key “take aways” for learning what we should do (opposites from what we just saw in Exodus 2:2-7):

  • Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
  • Keep God’s Word on your heart.
  • Teach God’s Word diligently to your children and talk about His Word all the time and meditate on It.
  • Fear the Lord your God.
  • Serve only Him, no other gods.
  • Diligently keep God’s commandments and do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord.

Oh and remember from part two of the Matthew 16:1-4 study we learned how we can truly worship and obey God keeping His Word at the forefront of our heart and minds in Romans 12-13 and Galatians 5!

Our last stop in studying what it means to test God brings us to a treasure in the book of Psalms. This chapter provides great descriptors and keywords which confirm and further specify for us the nature of a heart that tests the Lord.

Psalm 78:15-22
15He split rocks in the wilderness
and gave them drink abundantly as from the deep.
16He made streams come out of the rock
and caused waters to flow down like rivers.

17Yet they sinned still more against him,
rebelling against the Most High in the desert.
18 They tested God in their heart
by demanding the food they craved.
19They spoke against God, saying,
Can God spread a table in the wilderness?
20 He struck the rock so that water gushed out
and streams overflowed.
Can he also give bread
or provide meat for his people?

21Therefore, when the LORD heard, he was full of wrath;
a fire was kindled against Jacob;
his anger rose against Israel,
22because they did not believe in God
and did not trust his saving power.

Just like the Pharisees and Sadducees, the Israelites were eye witnesses to the manifestation of God’s glory and power in the forms of miracles here on earth. The Israelites saw the plagues in Egypt, they walked on dry land through the parted Red Sea, God fed them manna from heaven yet they still questioned God, “rebelling against the Most High in the desert”. Sad as it is, humanity is capable of witness signs and miracles and still lack faith and reverence towards God. We are capable of this, that is why it should be a habit to ask God to reveal to us our own faults, to recognize the seedlings and sprouts of sin and to be cleansed the power of His Word and Spirit on a daily basis!

From this chapter we can see from verse 22 that the underlying heart issue causing them to test God in their hearts was that they did not believe in God and did not trust in his saving power. This resulted in them rebelling against God, questioning His provision and His power, questioning Him. Speaking out against Him, demanding from God instead of humbly seeking Him as Jehovah Jireh. Again, we see  the Pharisees and Sadducees rejecting Christ (not believing in God) and his saving power. The religious leaders then questioned Christ by demanding from Him a sign instead of humbly repenting and trusting Jesus to be the Messiah.

Well we can clearly see this sin in the lives of the Old Testament Israelites in the lives of the Pharisees and Sadducees, but remember Christs’s warning to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees…let’s end today with a prayer:

dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for your mercy and thank you for your provision. You are Jehovah Jireh – the self existing one – the Lord will provide. Please forgive us heavenly Father for when we do not trust in your provision or lack faith in You. Lord please create a desire in our hearts to meditate on your word and please open our eyes to recognize any lack of belief, any irreverence or rebellion that exists in our heart. Please convict us when we are tempted to demand instead of trusting in You. Heavenly Father please burden our hearts in any areas that we need to surrender to you. Lord thank you for Your truth. Thank You that you are the Light and that You illuminate our hearts and minds. Please transform us by the entire renewal of our minds and please help us to give up, to crucify the desires of our flesh today as a spiritual act of worship. Saturate us with your Spirit and humble us before you and before others.
in Jesus’ Name we pray amen

Next Time: Why did Jesus say No Except for the Sign of Jonah?

The Pharisees & Sadducees (Matthew 16:1-4 study part 2)

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)

Who: Pharisees and Sadducees
Who were the Pharisees and Sadducees? We know from scripture that they were religious leaders however there was an important difference between them, the Pharisees believed in the resurrection of the dead and in angels and spirits while the Sadducees incorrectly did not (Matt 22:23, Mark 12:18 & 24 & 27, Luke 20:27, Acts 23:7-8).

What else can we glean from scripture? Gathering a description of these men will help us understand the context of their question to Jesus for a sign as well as His response to them. To do this open up a Bible concordance and look up the word Pharisee as well as Sadducee to check out the various scriptures about them. After doing this I came up with a list of Biblical descriptors about them, this list is not exhaustive and is a general profile:

  1. They were hypocrites
    (Matthew 23, Mark 7:6-9, Luke 11:38-44)
  2. They hardened their hearts against Christ’s message and rejected God’s purpose for them.
    (Mark 3:5, Mark 7:6-9, Luke 7:29-30)
  3. The Pharisees were covetous and lovers of money
    (Luke 16:14-15 AMP)
  4. They plotted to test Jesus and watched Him hoping to find an opportunity for accusation.
    (Matt 22:15-18 & 34-35, Mark 3:2, Mark 10:2, Mark 12:13, Luke 6:7, Luke 11:53-54)
  5. They were envious/jealous of the attention Christ and His apostles got from the people.
    (Matt 27:17-18, Mark 15:9-10, Acts 5:16-17)
  6. They started to have problems with Jesus when:
    a. He ate with sinners.
    (Matt 9:9-12, Mark 2:14-17, Luke 5:27-31)
    b. He healed the sick on the Sabbath.
    (Mark 3:1-5, Luke 6:6-10)
    c. When His disciples picked some heads of grain to eat on the Sabbath.
    (Mark 2:23-24, Luke 6:1-2)
  7. Plotted to arrest Jesus and to kill Him.
    (Matthew 26:1-4, Mark 3:5-6,  Mark 14:1, John 7)
  8. Christ warned His followers to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees/Sadducees.
    (Matt 16:6-12, Mark 8:15, Luke 12:1)
  9. Jesus was vexed, angered and grieved at the hardening of their hearts.
    (Mark 3:5, Mark 8:12 AMP)

Well there we have a better picture of who these guys were. I paused frequently as I read these scriptures about them and humbled myself before God, we are all susceptible to the leaven of the Pharisees that Jesus warns us about. Like I Corinthians 10:12 says “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”

Some (yes just some, there is a whole lot there!) Life Application from Pharisee & Sadducee Study
Although I face temptation in several areas of the “leaven of Pharisees” a couple areas stood out to me during this study. First off in Mark 7:9 where Jesus says “…You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!’” How many of us are guilty of setting aside obedience to God in order to satisfy the desires of the flesh? I think we all are! The Pharisees were professionals at it and today we are pretty good at being guilty of disregarding God’s spirit and justifying sin too. Maybe not the same exact way that the Pharisees were justifying their sins but justification of sin is wrong either way! How can we pick and choose which commandments of God to obey and which ones to ignore?!

We are all susceptible to sin so like Romans 13:14 says, we should “…put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” This isn’t just a recommendation or a nice idea, it is absolutely necessary! It is necessary for us to offer up or flesh as a living sacrifice each day to God (Romans 12:1-2) in order to operate in a spirit filled walk of obedience towards God. As Galatians 5:16-17 and 24-26 say:

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do…And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

Pharisee-itis
The second thing that stuck out to me was that you could be right but still be wrong. The Pharisees were right about the resurrection and spirit beings and so what? It didn’t matter because although they had interpreted a few scriptures correctly they were hypocrites, lovers of money, envious and hardened their hearts towards God’s purpose for their life as we saw above…This is humbling because sometimes we might feel like the goal is to “get it right” and although that IS really important when it comes to scripture, the knowledge of scripture void of the spirit and power of Christ equals “Pharisee-itis”.  So while studying scripture carefully is important just remember you could be right and still be so very wrong. Instead of falling into the role of “a-ha! I’m right and your wrong” person let us seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness here on earth:

“ …The harvest is indeed plentiful, but the laborers are few. So pray to the Lord of the harvest to force out and thrust laborers into His harvest…”  Matthew 9:37.

“…Those who are strong and well have no need of a physician, but those who are weak and sick. Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I came not to call and invite the righteous but sinners.” Matthew 9: 12

Next time Why

The Sign of Jonah (Matthew 16:1-4 study part 1)

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)

Method of Study
When studying scripture it is super important to not just pull something inspirational from the text using our own hearts and understanding. Even our own hearts are deceitful as Jeremiah 17:9 shows us! Rather we should observe the text first, interpret it by exploring it in comparison to other Biblical scripture. Let’s gather some context and cross reference for the purpose of study. It is so worth it in the end, every scripture is God breathed and useful for learning, and the meal is so satisfying and life transforming!

The first step is to observe the text and ask questions as well as gather some scripture reference to further understand the passage. I’m going to use some of the inductive Bible study questions I recently learned in Lord, Teach me to Study the Bible in 28 Days by Kay Arthur to unlock the text.

“What”
Observations:

  • The Pharisees and Sadducees are looking for Jesus to perform a sign from heaven at their request.
  • Jesus points out that they can predict weather but they can’t interpret the signs of the times
  • Jesus does not give them a sign and says a wicked generation seeks a sign but only the sign of Jonah will be given to them.

What is the sign of Jonah?
Jonah, is one of the Old Testament prophets and there is a book of the Bible relating an account from His earthly ministry. Many of us are pretty familiar with Jonah and the whale. If we were just to reason through this we might be able to see a parallel between Jonah being in the belly of the whale for 3 days before being vomited onto the beach and Jesus being dead it the tomb for 3 days before rising from the dead. But we shouldn’t hastily stop here and “check the box” saying that we found out what Jesus meant when He was addressing the Pharisees. To make sure we understand what He is saying we have to seek out the context of God’s Word. If you look up “Jonah” in a concordance you will notice that “the sign of Jonah” is mentioned more than once in the New Testament. Good thing I looked it up! There is some more revealed in these other verses as to what the “sign of Jonah” encompasses! (:

Matthew 12:38-41 confirms our hunch that part of the sign is Christ being in the earth 3 days before rising from the dead but it doesn’t stop there! “But He replied to them, an evil and adulterous generation seeks and demands a sign; but no sign shall be given except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For even as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, Someone more and greater than Jonah is here!”

Luke 11:29-32 is even more explicit referring to the word “sign” “For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so will also the Son of Man be a sign to this age and generation.”

We learn from these verses that the 3 days and nights in the belly of the whale is only part of the sign, the repentance of Nineveh is also part of it! This has big implication. To fully understand its weight let’s go check out the book of Jonah found in the Old Testament.

No matter how seasoned we are with Bible knowledge it is always best to humbly read through God’s Word, looking up text and reading it to thoroughly seek out God’s truth and to never assume based on a familiarity with a certain text. Christ is God’s Word incarnate, the Word is living and sharper than a two edged sword. Get this, Luke 16:17 says it is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law. The LEAST stroke…pause and chew on that. We should handle God’s word as such, the gist just won’t do.

So to the Old Testament we go! (: I highly recommend spending time to study the book of Jonah in depth, just like with any other book of the Bible it is so awesome to learn and be transformed by the cleansing power of His Word! I just happened to get done studying it with group of women so I’m extra jazzed up about it! (:

We find the first part of the sign in Jonah 1:17 “Now the Lord had prepared and appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. then Jonah prayed to the Lord, and He heard…” (after being in that pitch black, smelly wet environment for 3 days and 3 nights, you should study His prayer! (: )  and when Jonah was done praying Jonah 2:10 “And the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.”

To find the second part of the sign we need to check out what happened with Nineveh which is found in Jonah chapter 3. Jonah cried out the preaching God told Him to deliver “Yet forty day’s journey and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” He literally only went a third of the way through the city and the people of Nineveh believed in God, proclaimed a fast and repented in sack cloth crying out mightily to God and they turned away from their wicked ways. Oh and by the way we know from Jonah 1:2 that Nineveh’s wickedness was so great that it had come up before God. So even a very wicked city confessed their sins, repented with fasting and mourning, turned away from their wicked ways and cried out to God to have mercy on them (which He did). Even the King and animals fasted! (a cross reference: Joel 2:12-14-one of my favorite verses!) Isn’t this an awesome illustration of salvation? Hear, believe, confess, repent (turn away from) and seek.

Now we can get a better picture of the “Sign of Jonah”. Someone greater than Jonah was staring the Pharisees in the face. He was going to die, be buried in the heart of the earth for 3 days and nights and then rise from the dead, conquering death once and for all and He warns us, calling us all to repent. (I John 1:9, John 3:16.) Yet since the time of Christ’s ministry on earth to today there are those who choose to be stiff necked scoffers, refusing to believe and repent just like the Pharisees and Sadducees. Acts 7:51 speaks to this: “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit!”

The sign of Jonah is huge, there could be no “bigger”, more wondrous sign…no physical healing or miraculous sign can compare to God taking on flesh bearing/suffering the punishment for every human in death and rise from the dead for good, opening the veil, making a way for salvation to all who confess with their mouth and believe in the heart that Jesus is Lord.

Someone greater than the prophet Jonah has come, calling us to repent, will you answer the call?

Next time: Why & Who