Fearless Followers

Finishing off Matthew 10, Jesus is still talking to the twelve:

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. “For I came to SET A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, AND A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW; and A MAN’S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD. “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. “He who has found his life shall lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake shall find it. “He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. “He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. “And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you he shall not lose his reward.”

Matthew, writing to a first century, Jewish audience, uses the law and prophets to not only prove Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah but also, painstakingly paints the picture of Jesus as the true Israel. From genealogy to Joseph and Mary leaving Nazareth so that Jesus is born in Bethlehem, fleeing to Egypt, calling out of Egypt, baptism, temptation in the wilderness, law giving on the mountain and now the sending of the twelve into the land of Israel. Matthew harkens back to some of the most well-known and prominent prophets and the law of Moses to prove his point. Yet he also, as in today’s text, references some of the more obscure prophets. And probably not ironically, these obscure prophets describe darkness becoming light. Let’s dig in, remembering to take our vitamins, c, a, g, e and d. Context, aspiration, genre, examples, divide.

The context is Jesus prepping his disciples to be sent out on a mission trip. The aspiration of Matthew seems to be to prove Jesus as the Messiah (we’ll watch for that and rightly divide, God willing). The genre is gospel, which is predominantly historical but we must also see sub-genres and watch for fulfilled prophecy. That leads us to expository exegesis of examples; search the scripture, especially when it is quoted in the context. When we do these things, we should be able to divide rightly the word of truth.

We sing songs, especially at “Christmas time” (I believe Jesus was born in late September), that contain the refrain, “peace on earth.” We romanticize, especially at Christmas, the phrase from the King James Bible, “glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will to man.” “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “Angels from the Realms of Glory,” and my personal favorite, “Angels We Have Heard on High” all mention peace on earth. Problem; Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. “For I came to SET A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, AND A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW; and A MAN’S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD.” There is an apparent contradiction.

One must not take these words of Jesus to literal extremes but one must also understand that although Jesus is not wielding a literal sword, he is serious about his not bringing peace to earth. How can I say this when hundreds of hymns harken heavily to “peace on earth, good will to man?” Context and concepts; look at the context. I go between quoting the NASB and ESV based on which version that, in my opinion, is most easily understood and accurate pertaining to the present passage. Neither the NASB, ESV or any other translation read, on earth peace,  good will to men. Now, when the Old Testament is quoted, I tend to use the NASB because it quotes in capital letters, making the quote clear. Having now seen that there is an Old Testament quote, we must search the scripture and find the quote in our Old Testament tutor. Jesus is quoting Micah chapter seven.

The context of Micah seven is therefore important, notice a few highlights: “The godly has perished from the earth,
and there is no one upright among mankind; they all lie in wait for blood,
and each hunts the other with a net.
Their hands are on what is evil, to do it well; the prince and the judge ask for a bribe, and the great man utters the evil desire of his soul; thus they weave it together. The best of them is like a brier,
the most upright of them a thorn hedge.
The day of your watchmen, of your punishment, has come; now their confusion is at hand. Put no trust in a neighbor; have no confidence in a friend; guard the doors of your mouth from her who lies in your arms; for the son treats the father with contempt, the daughter rises up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; a man’s enemies are the men of his own house.
But as for me, I will look to the LORD;
I will wait for the God of my salvation;
my God will hear me. Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me.
I will bear the indignation of the LORD
because I have sinned against him,
until he pleads my cause
and executes judgment for me.
He will bring me out to the light;
I shall look upon his vindication.
Then my enemy will see,
and shame will cover her who said to me, ‘Where is the LORD your God?’
My eyes will look upon her;
now she will be trampled down
like the mire of the streets.” 

This is not the first time Micah has been quoted in the book of Matthew. The Pharisees and scribes quoted Micah five to Herod (see Born? In Bethlehem; Back to Burn Incense) to tell him where the messiah was to be born. The context and the concepts continue. Briefly, men are evil, God is good. Jesus didn’t come to bring peace on earth he came to divide it in two (see “Tale of Two Cities”). There are only two types of people in the world, disciples of Jesus and enemies of Jesus, and everyone begins as an enemy, therefore Jesus comes to separate the sheep from the goats, and he came with the proverbial sword.

With all of the Old Testament at his disposal, why did Jesus choose this passage from Micah to inspire his disciples? Surely Psalms or Proverbs, Isaiah or Ezekiel have content commensurate with their calling–why Micah? The answer is, we don’t know but he did. We therefore must closely examine the concepts and context. We also consider what Luke wrote about this scriptural scenario. Luke doesn’t divulge as much depth as Matthew does. Nevertheless, Luke adds the familiar phrase, “And as for those who do not receive you, as you go out from that city, shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.”

We can reasonably, therefore, assume that Matthew’s account is not exhaustive. Why then did Matthew include the quote from Micah? Because God said so. We need the caged method, we need to see what we are intended to see. [As an aside, as I write this, I am myself wondering where this is going. That’s what is exciting to me, I am learning too. I don’t know the answer yet–this is how to study the Bible. Using the Caged method, we learn by studying.] It is imperative the we look at the broader context of the Scriptures, attempting to understand the “why?”

For time’s sake I can’t write out all of the scriptures but you can read them. Matthew 10, Luke 9, and the book of Micah. We also consider the author’s aspirations to his audience. We clearly see Matthew presenting Christ as true Israel–we keep this in the back of our minds. We consider the genre, remembering the historicity of the text and the fulfillment of prophecies, as we also consider the context of other examples. We see the similarities between Matthew and Micah, but also take on faith, the connections and concepts Matthew makes.

In Micah we read, “the day of your watchmen, of your punishment, has come; now their confusion is at hand. Put no trust in a neighbor; have no confidence in a friend; guard the doors of your mouth from her who lies in your arms.” When we juxtapose this context with the context of Matthew 10, where Jesus is warning his disciples of the rough road ahead of them, we begin to make connections. This is especially true when we add Luke’s account to the mix. The disciples are fulfilling prophecy. A time, predicted in Micah, has come. The more we read it, the more we’ll see the similarities. It will also develop more as we continue to consider coming context in Matthew. The more of Matthew we read, the more we understand that the Old Testament is the foundation firmly focused on Jesus, the coming Messiah–who is here now, the true Israel, speaking to the true twelve. Also notice in Micah, “Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me.” Remember, there are two types of people, and one nation, one tribe, one community, one family can be divided because of Christ. We have all seen it and the Bible bears witnesses.

Continuing in the context of Matthew, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. “He who has found his life shall lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake shall find it.” How does Jesus divide, and how does this fit the scenario seen in Micah?

It’s sublimely simple, Jesus tells the disciples, as does Micah, that Jesus is deserving of love and reverence. He is the Lord and he is the Creator and Redeemer. Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah, not one’s brother or sister or mother in law. It’s no accident that Jesus places his relationship with the disciples above all other close relationships. Fear God, love God, more than anyone else, including sons and daughters. Simply stated, Jesus is above all.

I will give Jesus the last words; “He who has found his life shall lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake shall find it. “He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. “He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. “And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you he shall not lose his reward.”

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