Then I will restore your judges as at the first, And your counselors as at the beginning; After that you will be called the city of righteousness, A faithful city. Zion will be redeemed with justice, And her repentant ones with righteousness. But transgressors and sinners will be crushed together, And those who forsake the LORD shall come to an end.
“These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them, saying, ‘Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. ‘And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons; freely you received, freely give. Do not acquire gold, or silver, or copper for your money belts, or a bag for your journey, or even two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for the worker is worthy of his support. And into whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it; and abide there until you go away. And as you enter the house, give it your greeting. And if the house is worthy, let your greeting of peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your greeting of peace return to you. And whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake off the dust of your feet. Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city.'”
Here we find one of the greatest examples of why we need to consider the context and not rip verses out of their context. If one were to read, “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, [Lit. ethnic groups] and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” by itself, one would assume Jesus is prejudice against all other ethnic groups other than his own. We know that is not the case based on the context of the Bible as a whole–Jesus himself goes to the Samaritans in John 4. And in Revelation John says that in heaven, he saw the ethnic groups. Jesus came to save from every tribe, tongue and nation, not just the Jews. The questions that hover heavily as the ocean fog, are why did he say this and what did he mean?
Enter the CAGED method of Biblical hermeneutics; where context is king, the author’s aspiration to his audience is apex, genre is the general, expository exegesis of examples enlightens and explains, and dividing rightly the word of truth confirms or cancels the reader’s thoughts. Context is listed first because it is superlative–it is of the greatest importance. All of the others follow the context. Therefore we must consider the context, and sometimes a proper exegesis of examples is the best way to begin. Also, in order to narrow down the Bible into bite sized bits, we will first stay within the genre–being Gospel. Do the other gospel writers record this version in their accounts? No, only Luke, chapter six, conveys the same scene minus the “house of Israel.” Well that was easy. Though it may make our mission more difficult. Nevertheless, we have not yet employed our Vitamin A in the CAGED method, the author’s aspiration to his audience.
Did Jesus literally say that they were to “go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel?” Yes, and he meant it. Yet we have to wonder–why is Matthew the only writer to include it in his Gospel? It goes to his aspiration of showing Jesus as the long-awaited Jewish Messiah. Not that Jesus was the Messiah to the Jews as a whole and no one else, but that Jesus was Jewish. This is where I see some sort of sense in the thoughts of hyper-dispensational holders. That is that the Lord works differently at different times; many different times. Nevertheless, there has been only one covenant, believe God–from Eden to eternity. The risen Jesus, later on in Matthew, tells the disciples to baptize all the nations. Why then does he tell the disciples to only go to the lost sheep of Israel in this epoch of time? My answer probably differs greatly from most. We need to take our vitamins. We need to consult our Old Testament tutor and remember Matthew’s aspiration to his audience. Matthew is steeped in Old Testament Law and prophecies, one must be a student of the Old Testament in order to best understand Matthew. After all, the people who are portrayed in the Old Testament, are the primary people to which Matthew writes and to whom the disciples are first sent. Think about the number of the disciples, could there be a bigger harkening back to the twelve tribes?
Before we go to the east side of the cross, let’s look at what Paul wrote about Israel on the west side of the cross because he constantly quotes and interprets, with integrity and inspiration, the east side of the cross. “Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them. For if their rejection be the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? And if the first piece of dough be holy, the lump is also; and if the root be holy, the branches are too. But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you.”
Mostly misunderstood are the words of Paul in Romans chapter nine through eleven. Paul quotes the Old Testament some 25 times in these three chapters alone. We must ask ourselves, what is Paul’s aspiration to his audience? We notice the use of a metaphor–an olive tree. We see this metaphor in Zechariah and Revelation among others. We need to understand the way in which Paul describes the olive tree; the root is holy, therefore the branches are too. Yet some of the branches were broken off, and some, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partakers with them of the “rich root” of the olive tree, “do not be arrogant toward the branches.” First, we see that the rich root is Jesus, for it is holy and rich and it is the root that sustains both believing Israel and believing gentiles. Believing Israel is described as the natural branch and the non-believer of Israel is described as being a branch broken off. The believing gentiles are described as a wild olive branch that has been grafted in and non-believing gentiles are not grafted in, nor mentioned. We must understand that Israel is not the root, Jesus is. Believing Israel are the natural branches. Non-believing Israel are the branches broken off. Many pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers, teach that Israel is the root, but that is not what the context claims. Jesus is the root of Jesse–“the root of Jesse will come.” He is the, “root of David.” He is the root of the olive tree. Isaiah 11:1 says, “Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, And a branch from his roots will bear fruit.” Jesus is the root, all believers are the branches, Israel being natural and the other nations, tribes and tongues being grafted in. Broken off are those natural branches that don’t believe.
Israel being the natural branch, Paul therefore says, “do not be arrogant toward the branches.” There is no call for antisemitism–Paul commands against such things. He reminds us that they were broken off for our benefit. We also see that we who believe, were grafted in as wild olives onto their tree, Jesus being their root, and now he is our root as well. The root being the supply of the nutrients to the branches. Many pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers miss the obvious in this metaphor by thinking Jesus is the shoot or stem of Jesse, not realizing that he is the root. They also misunderstand the meaning of the metaphor, “the root of David.’ Many equate the “son of David,” with the, “root of David.” It’s pretty much the same, all but one tiny word–“root.”
In Revelation 5, Jesus is described to John as the Lion of Judah and the Root of David, but upon looking John sees a the Lamb. Three very different portrayals of Jesus. We don’t think big enough about Jesus. This is one of my greatest apprehensions about the way in which we celebrate Christmas. For a month or more out of the year we place the baby Jesus in a perpetual manger, when in fact he is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. We place the sovereign, risen Savior in our own little caged up box. When we do this, we equate the root of David with the son of David. While they are the same person, they are two entirely different aspects of Christ. He was not only the descendant of David but the father of David, who supplies him with his strength, stamina and song. Who is the royal decedent of David described in the Old Testament? Who formed David in his mother’s womb? Who is the father of us all?
Therefore, when we think big about Jesus and small about ourselves and Israel, we see the sovereignty of the Savior when he commands his disciples to go to the house of Israel first. Notice the context. “As you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons; freely you received, freely give. Do not acquire gold, or silver, or copper for your money belts, or a bag for your journey, or even two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for the worker is worthy of his support. And into whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it; and abide there until you go away. And as you enter the house, give it your greeting. And if the house is worthy, let your greeting of peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your greeting of peace return to you. And whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake off the dust of your feet. Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city.”
The preaching of the Gospel does one of two things, it either consecrates or condemns, “to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Jesus went first to his own blood line, then to the world. Does this remind you of anyone? “Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, ‘It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; (however) since you repudiate it, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For thus the Lord has commanded us, ‘I HAVE PLACED YOU AS A LIGHT FOR THE GENTILES, THAT YOU SHOULD BRING SALVATION TO THE END OF THE EARTH.’” I added the however because they were not preaching to them because they repudiated the words of God but left them because they repudiated the words of God. It’s very easy to misunderstand the scripture sometimes because we don’t understand proper punctuation anymore. I use the following tutorial to teach teenagers proper punctuation: A woman without her man is nothing. I break the class into two groups, male and female and ask them to fill in the proper punctuation. The males add an exclamation point. A woman without her man is nothing! But the females render it in the following fashion; A woman: without her, man is nothing. We bring our preconceptions and preconceived notions to the table of the word of God. Unless you are learning for yourself, you only know what you have been taught. We interject our feelings and traditions on to the text, therefore changing the text, rather than letting the text change us.
I realize that I write in a hybrid fashion, combining the old school with the new. Nevertheless, the tendencies of teenagers not withstanding; I will write old school from now on. Or, I could have saved us all time and quoted an easier to read version; “Then Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and declared, “It was necessary that we first preach the word of God to you Jews. But since you have rejected it and judged yourselves unworthy of eternal life, we will offer it to the Gentiles.'” Like Paul and Barnabas left the Jews for the gentiles, I am leaving behind my hybrid way of writing; no one understands. Understand? People can have the opposite opinion of what the Scripture says, based on something as small as a semicolon.
Observe: “Paul went to the Jews first, since they repudiated the word of God; he went to the gentiles.” And, “Paul went to the Jews first; since they repudiated the word of God, he went to the gentiles.” Exact same words, different meanings. Like the translators who had no punctuation to enlighten, we must carefully consider the context and not gloss over it; we must rightly divide the word of truth. Paul and Barnabas did not go to the Jews because of their rejection of the words of Jesus to try to convince them. On the contrary, they left the Jews for the gentiles because of the rejection of the words of God. Paul writes that he wants to make the Jews jealous by God’s work in the nations, which corresponds to prophecy in our Old Testament tutor. Yet some believe along with the gentiles.
We therefore see, Jesus as the root and supply to all that are his, first to the Jew and then to all the nations; and this has happened, so that now we see “all Israel;” the abiding branches made up of Jew and all the nations, “will be saved.” But as always, I am getting way ahead of myself; we must see the salvation of some and the condemnation of others in the house of Israel. But first, notice that the disciples are sent out without food or extra attire.
“Do not acquire gold, or silver, or copper for your money belts, or a bag for your journey, or even two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for the worker is worthy of his support.” This is not only a test of faith for the disciples but also the people to whom they preached. Is there a modern-day application to this passage? I am sure there is, however it is an indication more than a rigid application. Paul writes also that the worker is worthy of his wage. But I don’t think Jesus intends for the missionaries to leave without packing a bag. This was a different epoch of time; the overlapping of epochs as it were. We find ourselves in the midst of the Law and prophets ceasing and the dispensation, for lack of a better term, of the New Covenant increasing. And in this epoch, we see the judgement against Israel.
I start a new paragraph to let the words sink in; we see the judgement against Israel. Don’t be shocked by the statement, we’ve seen it unfold. Those who remain as branches, remain as branches. Those who don’t are cut off from the root of Jesus; Israel has been replaced, not by the church but by Jesus. Those who looked for and abide in Jesus remain part of Israel, for Matthew purposefully presents Jesus as the true Israel. Those who are grafted into the root of Israel, that is Jesus, become part of the true Israel, and therefore all Israel will be saved by the blood of the Lamb, who is the root of David and the Lion of Judah. Replacement theologians have it wrong, the true church is added to true Israel, and Israel, the people, remain if they abide in the root. But if one of Israel doesn’t remain rooted in the Messiah, he is cut off and, “it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city.” As we have seen in Revelation, there are but two cities. Those rooted in the root and those rooted in the earth. Notice:
“And as you enter the house, give it your greeting. And if the house is worthy, let your greeting of peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your greeting of peace return to you. And whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake off the dust of your feet. Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city.” “Shake off the dust of your feet,” literally or figuratively? What about the greeting of peace returning? Do we understand these metaphors? Many pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers, teach traditionally, that we are to shake the dust off of our feet if we preach the gospel to people who don’t repent. But what does that mean in our cultures? We must be mindful of the meaningful metaphor. It is not a small symbolic statement, it is a significant symbolic statement. The disciples were not only given the power to heal, cast out demons and raise the dead. They were also given the authority to judge. The ability to take back one’s greetings of peace and shake the dirt off of their feet from the long road of travel they took, is tantamount to condemnation. Do we really want that kind of responsibility? Look at the context once again. “And whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake off the dust of your feet. Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city.” Do you see it? Jesus says that in the day of judgement, Sodom and Gomorrah will be better off than the people who reject the words of the disciples. It is probably a bit of hyperbole but the fact remains that the disciples are responsible for judgement by shaking off dust and taking back the peace greeting. Those that welcome the disciples and heed their words are rooted. Those that do not are cut off, like Sodom and Gomorrah.
We have seen the coming for a thousand years.