Missing the mark

Jesus made it clear to his disciples that it was God’s will for him to be crucified. Not long before he was arrested Jesus said, “You know that after two days the Passover is coming and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified” (Matthew 26:2). Romans 8:31-32 tells us that God was the one that delivered Jesus up to be crucified. It states, “What then shall we we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” God’s plan of salvation required that Jesus pay the penalty for all sins through his death on the cross. When Jesus said, “you know that,” he was emphasizing the predetermined course that his life must follow in order to fulfill his mission of saving the world. After Jesus acknowledged his imminent crucifixion, Matthew recorded, “Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him” (Matthew 26:3-4).

The chief priests and the elders of the people thought they were in control of the situation. They wanted to get rid of Jesus as quickly and quietly as possible. They agreed that it shouldn’t be done, “during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people” (Matthew 26:5). Matthew tells us, “Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, ‘What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?’ And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him” (Matthew 26:14-16). The opportunity that Judas was looking for had to do with the timing, not the inevitability of Jesus’ death. The Greek word kairos (kahee-ros’) refers to a “set or proper time” (G2540). It might be that Judas thought he could catch Jesus off guard or would be able to surprise everyone with a midnight raid so to speak, but Jesus knew about everything that was going on and willingly surrendered himself to the Jewish authorities. Jesus instructed his disciples, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples'” (Matthew 26:18).

Jesus indicated that his death was linked to a specific time and place. One way of thinking about the prophecies that were associated with Jesus’ death would be to see them as a bullseye or a mark that he was aiming toward. The Apostle Paul said in his letter to the Philippians, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). The Greek word that is translated mark, skopos (skop-os’) refers to a watcher and denotes “a mark on which to fix the eye” (G4649). The Greek word hamartano (ham-ar-tan’-o) which is translated sin in Matthew 18:21 “means literally ‘to miss the mark’ and is used of ‘sinning’ against God” (G264). Matthew 18:21 states, “Then Peter came up and said to him, ‘Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?'”

The Old Testament of the Bible views sin in a similar manner. The Hebrew word chata’ (khaw-taw’) is properly translated as “to miss” and causatively refers to being lead astray. “The basic nuance of chata’ is sin conceived as missing the road or mark…From this basic meaning comes the word’s chief usage to indicate moral failure toward both God and men, and certain results of such wrongs…It also connotes the guilt or condition of sin” (H2398). Sin and evil often appear together in the Old Testament as in the account of Pharaoh’s decision to withhold straw from the children of Israel as punishment for the LORD’s demand that he let his people go from their bondage. In Exodus 5:15-19, Chata’ is translated as “fault” and the Hebrew word for evil, ra’ is translated as “trouble.” Exodus 5:15-19 states:

Then the foremen of the people of Israel came and cried to Pharaoh, “Why do you treat your servants like this? No straw is given to your servants, yet they say to us, ‘Make bricks!’ And behold, your servants are beaten; but the fault is in your own people.” But he said, “You are idle, you are idle; that is why you say, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to the Lord.’ Go now and work. No straw will be given you, but you must still deliver the same number of bricks.” The foremen of the people of Israel saw that they were in trouble when they said, “You shall by no means reduce your number of bricks, your daily task each day.”

The Hebrew word ra’, which is translated trouble in Exodus 5:19, “combines together in one the wicked deed and its consequences. It generally indicates the rough exterior of wrongdoing as a breach of harmony, and as breaking up of what is good and desirable in man and in society. While the prominent characteristic of the godly is lovingkindness, one of the most marked features of the ungodly man is that his course is an injury both to himself and to everyone around him” (H7451).

Judas Iscariot’s inclination toward evil was evident in his rebuke of Mary when she anointed the feet of Jesus. John’s gospel states, “Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it” (John 12:1-6). Jesus responded to Judas’ accusation by stating, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me” (Matthew 26:10-11).

Jesus’ rebuke of Judas may have been what triggered him to cross over the boundary of right and enter the forbidden land of the wrong. Luke’s record of the Passover celebration indicated that Satan entered Judas just before he consulted with the chief priests and officers about betraying Jesus. Luke said, “Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death, for they feared the people. Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd” (Luke 22:1-6). Matthew indicated that Jesus confronted Judas about what he intended to do during their Passover meal. He said:

When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.” (Matthew 26:20-25

Judas’ question, “Is it I, Rabbi?” (Matthew 26:25) revealed his lack of spiritual discernment. Whereas the other disciples had asked the question, “Is it I, Lord?,” acknowledging Jesus’ supreme deity, Judas used the Hebrew word rab or rhabbi (hrab-bee’) in the Greek to address Jesus. This seems to suggest that Judas was either unaware or unconvinced that Jesus was who he claimed to be, the Son of God.

Jesus’ institution of the Lord’s Supper made it clear to all of his disciples what the purpose of his death was, to expiate or atone for the sins of mankind. Matthew said, “Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to his disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26;26-28). The Greek word that is translated sins, harmartia (har-ar-tee’-ah), “as a verb, is literally ‘a missing of the mark’ but this etymological meaning is largely lost sight of in the New Testament. It is the most comprehensive term for moral deviations. It is used of ‘sin’ as a principle source of action, or an inward element producing acts” (G266). From this standpoint, the forgiveness of sins might be viewed as an adjustment to the sinful human nature that guides our day to day behavior. Jesus was essentially saying that his blood would neutralize the effect of sin in our lives.

After sharing the good news about his death, Jesus gave his disciples the bad news. He said, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered” (Matthew 26:31). Falling away is what happens when our faith is challenged and we renege on our commitment to the Lord. The Greek word skandalizo (skan-dal-id’-zo) is where the English word scandalize comes from. “Skandalizo means to put a stumbling block or impediment in the way, upon which another may trip and fall; metaphorically to offend; to entice to sin; to cause a person to begin to distrust and desert one whom he ought to trust and obey” (G4624). Jesus indicated that all of his disciples would fall away that night, but he went even farther to say that Peter would flat out deny him three times. “Peter answered him, ‘Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times” (Matthew 26:33-34). The Greek word that is translated deny, aparneomai (ap-ar-neh’-om-ahee) means “to affirm that one has no connection with a person” (G533). In other words, Peter was not only going to deny being a Christian, but would also swear that he had never even met Jesus (Matthew 26:72).

Moses and Aaron’s initial encounter with Pharaoh resulted in a similar denial of the existence of God. Exodus 5:1-2 states, “Afterward Moses and Aaron went and said to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God Israel, “Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness.”‘ But Pharaoh said, ‘Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.'” Pharaoh’s argument that he was not obligated to do what Moses and Aaron asked him to because he didn’t “know the LORD” was based on the assumption that only the children of Israel had to obey God’s commands. Pharaoh retaliated against Moses and Aaron’s request by stating, “Let heavier work be laid on the men that they may labor at it and pay no regard to lying words” (Exodus 5:9). The phrase “pay no regard to lying words” had to do with Pharaoh’s disrespect for God’s authority. Essentially, what Pharaoh was saying was that Moses and Aaron had lied to him about God saying, “Let my people go” (Exodus 5:1), but Pharaoh’s resistance was actually based on him having an unrepentant attitude toward God (Exodus 4:21).

The foremen of the people of Israel blamed Moses and Aaron for the trouble they were in. They said, “‘The LORD look on you and judge, because you have made us stink in the sight of Pharaoh and his servants, and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.’ Then Moses turned to the LORD and said, ‘O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all'” (Exodus 5:22-23). Moses shifted the blame off of himself and onto the LORD by asking “why have you done evil to this people?,” implying that the LORD had intentionally set him up for failure. The Hebrew word that is translated evil in this instance isn’t ra’, but ra’a’ (raw-ah’) which literally means to spoil something by breaking it to pieces (H7489). Moses seemed to be saying that the situation in Egypt had been fine until he came along and ruined everything. In actuality, the foremen of the people of Israel were the ones that were making the people miserable because they were partnering with Pharaoh’s taskmasters to get the Israelites to do what Pharaoh wanted them to, which was to make their quota of bricks each day regardless of their ability to do so (Exodus 5:10-11).

Even Jesus became discouraged on the eve of his crucifixion. Matthew tells us, “Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here, while I go over there and pray.’ And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me. And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me, nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:36-39). Jesus was experiencing an extreme amount of external pressure to give up on his mission. In a moment of frustration, after finding Peter, James, and John asleep instead of praying for him as he had asked them to, Jesus said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:40-41). Jesus was referring to Peter’s promise to not deny him when he said, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” What Jesus meant was that Peter wouldn’t be able to resist the temptation to abandon him if he was sleeping rather than being actively engaged in spiritual warfare.

After the chief priests and the elders of the people came to arrest Jesus, Matthew said, “Then all the disciples left him and fled” (Matthew 26:56). The Greek word that is translated left, aphieme (af-ee’-ay-mee) means “to depart from one and leave him to himself so that all mutual claims are abandoned” (G863). One of the uses of aphieme is of a husband divorcing his wife. Aphieme appears in Matthew 4:20 and 4:22 where it says about Peter, Andrew, James, and John that they left their occupation as fishermen in order to follow Jesus. In seems that when these men left Jesus in the garden of Gethsemene, they no longer intended to be his disciples. Peter’s denial of his Lord and Savior was the ultimate betrayal that Jesus experienced from the standpoint of his influence and investment in his disciples being negated. After denying that he had been with Jesus (Matthew 26:70) and taking an oath that he didn’t even know the man (Matthew 26:72), it says in Matthew 26:73-75, “After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, ‘Certainly you are one of them, for your accent betrays you.’ Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, ‘I do not know the man.’ And immediately the rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, ‘Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times. And he went out and wept bitterly.”

Psalm 41 is considered to be a Messianic psalm because it contains statements that clearly pertain to Jesus Christ. Verse 9 states, “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.” This passage appears to be connected to God’s condemnation of the serpent that tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Genesis 3:15 states, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Genesis 3:15 depicts Christ lifting his heel against Satan and bruising his head, but Psalm 41:9 indicates a close friend would lift his heel against Jesus. It seems that Peter could be the close friend that lifted his heel against Jesus because his denial of Christ must have felt like a crushing blow to the man that was about to die for the sins of the world. The fact that Peter was fully restored in his faith and relationship with the Lord may explain why Psalm 41:9 states that his close friend lifted his heel against him, but did not bruise Jesus as Christ did Satan when he rose from the dead.

Forgiveness

Jesus warned his disciples of a future day of judgment and said, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36-37). The Greek word that is translated give account, logos (log’-os) refers to something said including the thought, “also reasoning (the mental faculty) or motive; by extension a computation” (G3056). What this seems to suggest is that everything we say is somehow being recorded and when we stand before God to be judged he will use our own statements to determine our innocence or guilt in the things we have done during our lifetimes.

Jesus indicated that people who are bound in sin are loosed by the preaching of the gospel (Matthew 16:16-19) and said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done” (Matthew 16:24-27). The Greek word that is translated save, sozo (sode’-zo) speaks “specifically of salvation from eternal death, sin, and the punishment and misery consequent to sin” (G4982). The point Jesus was making was that it is impossible for someone to save himself. Our sins must be forgiven or we will be separated from God for eternity.

Jesus taught his followers to ask God for forgiveness (Matthew 6:12) and promised them, “If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15). Peter asked Jesus, “how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times? Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:21-22). Jesus’ response was meant to indicate that there is no limit to the amount of forgiveness that we can give or receive because God’s grace is sufficient to cover all sins. Jesus used the parable of the unforgiving servant to illustrate his point. He said:

“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

Jesus explained that forgiveness was not based on the amount of debt one owed, but the creditor’s willingness to show compassion to another human being. Jesus said that we must forgive our brother from the heart. In other words, we need to be a compassionate person in order to express compassion to others.

Joseph’s encounter with his brothers when they came to Egypt to buy food during the famine showed that he was initially hard hearted toward them and treated them cruelly (Genesis 42:7-17), but his attitude changed when he saw their remorse. Genesis 21-22 states:

Then they said to one another, “In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen. That is why this distress has some upon us.” And Reuben answered them, “Did I not tell you not to sin against the boy? But you did not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood.”

Reuben and the others realized they were guilty of a sin against their brother and they believed God was holding them accountable for it, but they didn’t know that Joseph was the Egyptian governor they were talking to and that he understood everything they were saying because he was using an interpreter to speak to them (Genesis 42:23). After hearing their confession of guilt, it says in Genesis 42:24 that Joseph “turned away from them and wept.”

Joseph’s lamentation for his brothers demonstrated that he felt compassion for them. Instead of making them all stay in prison until their brother Benjamin was brought to Egypt, Joseph only took one of the brothers. “And Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain, and to replace every man’s money in his sack, and to give them provisions for the journey” (Genesis 42:25). Joseph’s change of heart was a result of him seeing and hearing the misery of his brothers’ guilt. In his parable of the unforgiving servant, Jesus said, “out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt” (Matthew 18:27). The Greek word that is translated pity, splagchnizomai (splangkh-nid’-zom-ahee) means to feel sympathy (G4697). “Splagchnon are the bowels which were regarded by the Hebrews as the seat of tender affections” (G4698).

The Greek word that is translated mercy in Matthew 18:33, eleeo (el-eh-eh’-o) “means to feel sympathy with the misery of another, especially such sympathy as manifests itself in act (G1653). Eleeo is derived from the word eleos (el’-eh-os). “Eleos is the free gift for the forgiveness of sins and is related to the misery that sin brings. God’s tender sense of our misery displays itself in His efforts to lessen and entirely remove it…It is used of men; for since God is merciful to them, He would have them show mercy to one another” (G1656). After the servant who owed ten thousand talents refused to forgive his fellow servant, Jesus said, “Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should you not have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailors, until he should pay all his debt” (Matthew 18:32-34).

Jesus talked about forgiveness in the context of salvation. The Greek word eleos “is used of God, who is rich in mercy, Ephesians 2:4, and who has provided salvation for all men” (G1656). The act of salvation is sometimes described as being converted. Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). The Greek word that is translated turn, strepho (stref’-o) means to turn quite around or reverse (G4762) and is similar to the Hebrew word shuwb (shoob). The basic meaning of the verb shuwb is movement back to the point of departure. “The process called conversion or turning to God is in reality a re-turning or a turning back again to Him from whom sin has separated us, but whose we are by virtue of creation, preservation and redemption” (H7725).

The Hebrew word shuwb is used in Genesis 42:24 where it says of Joseph, “Then he turned away from them and wept. And he returned to them and spoke to them.” It seems likely that when Joseph turned away from his brothers and wept he was converted; his heart was changed and he was able to forgive his brothers. After that, Joseph showed his brothers mercy by letting them go back home, returning the money they paid for their grain, and giving them provisions for their journey (Genesis 42:25-26). Joseph’s merciful actions prompted his brothers to fear that God’s involvement in their situation would lead to their undoing. When one of the brothers saw that his money was in the mouth of his sack, “He said to his brothers, ‘My money has been put back; here it is in the mouth of my sack!’ At this their hearts failed them, and they turned trembling to one another, saying, ‘What is this that God has done to us?'”

Joseph’s brothers were fearful because they knew they were not being treated the way they should have been. The unusual circumstances of their attempt to buy food in Egypt caused these men’s hearts to fail them. In other words, Joseph’s brothers were caught off guard or you might say tripped up by what was happening to them. Joseph’s course treatment and then his reversal by sending them back home with their money hidden in their bags was not only confusing, but also detrimental to his brothers’ spiritual well-being because they were unaware of what was going on and didn’t know why the Egyptian governor (Joseph) was treating them the way he did.

Jesus warned his disciples about causing others to sin. He said, “whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6). One of the definitions of the Greek word that is translated sin in this verse is “to cause a person to begin to distrust and desert one whom he ought to trust and obey” (G4624). Joseph’s brothers and their families were suffering because of the famine in the land of Canaan and needed food to sustain their lives. Joseph’s harsh treatment of his brothers and his demand that they bring their brother Benjamin to Egypt to prove they weren’t lying to him made it more difficult for them to return to Egypt when their food ran out a second time (Genesis 42:38).

Jesus’ reference to little ones who believe in him in Matthew 18:6 was meant to point out that any person who has faith in God is considered to be just as important and valuable to God as Jesus is. Even though Jesus used the example of a child when he talked about little ones who believe in him (Matthew 18:2, 5), it’s possible he was talking about new or immature believers. He said, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 18:10-11) and then he went on to say:

What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish. (Matthew 18_12-14)

Jesus instructed his disciples to not go among the Gentiles, “but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:5-6) and told the Canaanite woman, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24). Therefore, it seems likely that the little ones Jesus was talking about when he warned his disciples not to cause them to sin were the Jews that were supposed to inherit God’s kingdom.

In his parable of the lost sheep, Jesus asked, “If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them had gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray?” (Matthew 18:12). The Greek word that is translated gone astray, planao (plan-ah’-o) has to do with deception and is used in Revelation 12:9 with a definite article “as a title of the Devil” (G4105). One of the reasons believers go astray is because the devil deceives them and makes them believe a lie (Ephesians 4:14). Paul instructed the Ephesians, “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil…Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:25-32).

Joseph’s harsh treatment of his brothers may have been warranted, but it wasn’t helpful and caused a situation that was already difficult to become even worse. Joseph could have revealed his identity to his brothers when he first saw them and let them know that he was put in his position to take care of their physical needs, but instead Joseph took advantage of his brother’s guilty consciences and tortured them into thinking they were unworthy of God’s mercy. Jesus told his disciples, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother” (Matthew 18:15). Gaining your brother meant that you had won him to Christ or that he had been saved (G2770). Jesus went on to say, “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 18:18).

Spiritual bondage seems to be associated with a lack of forgiveness, except that the person that suffers is not the one who has committed the sin, but the one who was sinned against. Like the unforgiving servant in Jesus’ parable, Joseph was unwilling to forgive his brothers after God delivered him from prison and placed him a powerful position in Egypt. Instead of forgiving them, Joseph used the position God gave him to torment his brothers and to capitalize on their guilty consciences. Even though he didn’t change his behavior immediately, Joseph did begin to show signs of tenderheartedness when he “turned away from them and wept” (Genesis 42:24) after he overheard his brothers admitting, “In truth we are guilty concerning our brother” (Genesis 42:21).

The wicked

Jacob’s departure from his father Isaac’s home was prompted by a threat to his life. Jacob’s mother Rebekah took the initiative to send Jacob away after he deceived Isaac into blessing him instead of his twin brother Esau (Genesis 27:19). Genesis 27:41-45 states, “Now Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him, and Esau said to himself, ‘The days of mourning for my father are approaching; then I will kill my brother Jacob.’ But the words of Esau her older son were told to Rebekah. So she sent and called Jacob her younger son and said to him. ‘Behold your brother Esau comforts himself about you by planning to kill you. Now therefore, my son, obey my voice. Arise, flee to Laban my brother in Haran and stay with him a while until your brother’s fury turns away — until your brother’s anger turns away from you, and he forgets what you have done to him.'”

It appears that 20 years later, Esau was still carrying a grudge against Jacob. After he had fled from his uncle Laban’s home, Jacob sent messengers to Esau to let him know he was on his way home. “And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, ‘We came to your brother Esau, and he is coming to meet you, and there are four hundred men with him.’ Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed” (Genesis 32:6-7). Jacob’s conclusion that Esau intended to harm him was a reasonable one considering that Esau had no reason to bring such a large number of men with him unless he intended to fight or defend himself against his brother. As a result of his distressful situation, Jacob repented of his sin and asked God to show him mercy. Jacob openly admitted, “I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant” (Genesis 32:10).

King David prayed a similar prayer when he was betrayed by one of his counselors. David said, “Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint; preserve my life from dread of the enemy. Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked, from the throng of evildoers, who whet their tongues like swords, who aim bitter words like arrows, shooting from ambush at the blameless, shooting at him suddenly and without fear” (Psalm 64:1-4). The Hebrew word that is translated wicked, ra’a’ is properly translated as “to spoil (literally, by breaking to pieces)” (H7489). Figuratively, ra’a’ can mean “to make (or be) good for nothing.” David referred to his enemies as evildoers, people that make an effort to practice wickedness on a regular basis and think it is their job to make others suffer (H6466/H205). David said the evildoers whet their tongues like swords and aimed bitter words like arrows (Psalm 64:3), indicating the primary weapons of evildoers are rumors and lies.

David described the ammunition that was used against him as “bitter words” (Psalm 64:3). The Hebrew word that David used, marah (maw-raw’) likened bitterness to a trickle or the slow drop by drop collection of liquid in the distillation process (H4843/H4752) which often takes long periods of time to accumulate fluid. The Hebrew term dabar (daw-baw’) means a word and by implication “a matter (as spoken of)” (H1697), suggesting that the bitter words that were being shot at David had to to with something that had happened in the past that had never been forgotten or forgiven. Likewise, in the situation with Jacob and Esau, many years had passed since Jacob had stolen his brother’s birthright and yet, there was no lessening of Esau’s anger, only what seemed to be a determined effort on his part to settle the score by annihilating his brother’s family. As Esau approached, Jacob quickly divided up his family and prepared himself for the worst (Genesis 33:2-3).

One of the reasons David thought he was justified in asking for God’s help was that his enemy was “shooting from ambush at the blameless” (Psalm 64:4). The Hebrew word that is translated blameless, tam (tawm) means complete (H8535). Tam is derived from the word tamam (taw-mam’). “The basic meaning of this word is that of being complete or finished, with nothing else expected or intended” (H8552). David may have been thinking of himself as having completed the assignment that God had given him as the king of Israel which was to conquer the foreign nations that occupied the Promised Land (2 Samuel 8:14). David credited God with delivering him from all his enemies (2 Samuel 22:1) and said, “For I have kept the ways of the LORD and have not wickedly departed from my God. For all his rules were before me, and from his statutes I did not turn aside. I was blameless before him, and I kept myself from guilt” (2 Samuel 22:22-24).

David’s claim of being blameless wasn’t based on him never having broken any of God’s rules because we know that David committed adultery and murder (2 Samuel 12:9). Jesus explained that David was innocent because of God’s mercy, his free gift for the forgiveness of sins. When the Pharisees accused his disciples of breaking the law because they plucked heads of grain to eat on the Sabbath, Jesus told them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which is not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless?” (Matthew 12:3-5). The Greek word that is translated profane, bebelos (beb’-ay-los) means to cross a threshold and by implication according to Jewish notions to be heathenish or wicked (G952).

David said that he had not wickedly departed from his God (2 Samuel 22:22). David compared himself with the wicked in order to point out that his relationship with the LORD was what had kept him from becoming a bad person, someone that was hostile toward God and deserved to be punished (H7561). In his psalm, David said of the wicked, “They hold fast to their evil purpose; they talk of laying snares secretly, thinking, ‘Who can see them?’ They search out injustice, saying, ‘We have accomplished a diligent search.’ For the inward mind and heart of a man are deep” (Psalm 64:5-6). To hold fast to something in the sense that David was talking about meant that the person was bracing up or strengthening himself in order to act in defiance against God (H2388). The person’s heart was hardened to the point that he would not let go of his evil purpose or “the wicked deed and its consequences” (H7451). “While the prominent characteristic of the godly is lovingkindness (H2617), one of the most marked features of the ungodly man is that his course is an injury both to himself and to everyone around him.”

David’s comment that “the inward mind and heart of a man are deep” (Psalm 64:6) was meant to draw attention to the fact that it’s very difficult for a person’s behavior to be changed once he has made up his mind to do something. The immaterial inner self is where conscious decisions are made and the heart is often guided by long patterns of thoughts and emotions that eventually come to fruition, rather than being influenced by single events. Jesus said, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil” (Matthew 12:34-35). The Greek word that is translated treasure, thesauros (thay-sow-ros’) means a deposit and suggests Jesus was saying that the only words that come out of our mouths are those that have been stored up in our hearts for some length of time. Jesus said, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36-37).

A careless word is one that proves to be useless in the sense of accomplishing a task or you might say settling a matter (G692/G4487). When God created the world, “God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light” (Genesis 1:3). If God had said, “Let there be light” and he was not able to create light, then his command would have been a useless one. Jesus wanted his disciples to understand that their words had power, just like God’s and were intended to be used in a productive way. David said of the wicked, “They hold fast to their evil purpose; they talk of laying snares secretly, thinking, ‘Who can see them?’ They search out injustice, saying, ‘We have accomplished a diligent search'” (Psalm 64:5-6). The Hebrew terms that are translated diligent search have to do with concealing one’s identity in order to trick someone (H2664/H2665). You might say a diligent search is a covert operation, the objective being in David’s case to damage his reputation.

When Jacob saw his brother Esau approaching him in the distance, he divided up his wives and children, “And he put the servants with their children in front, then Leah with her children, and Rachel and Joseph last of all. He himself went on before them, bowing himself to the ground seven times, until he come near to his brother” (Genesis 33:2-3). Jacob’s action of bowing demonstrated his submission to Esau’s authority. Jacob was sending Esau a definite message that he no longer wanted to supplant him as the eldest of Isaac’s twin sons. Genesis 33:4 states, “But Esau ran to meet him and embraced him and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.” Jacob realized that his brother no longer intended to kill him and said, “For I have seen your face, which is like seeing the face of God, and you have accepted me” (Genesis 33:10). The Hebrew word that is translated accepted, ratsah (raw-tsaw’) means specifically to satisfy a debt and indicates that Jacob felt he and his brother were friends again (H7521).

In spite of their renewed affection, when Esau offered to travel with Jacob and have his men protect his family, Jacob declined Esau’s offer (Genesis 33:15). “So Esau returned that day on his way to Seir. But Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built himself a house and made booths for his livestock” (Genesis 33:16-17). Jacob was being disobedient when he decided to settle down in Succoth because God had instructed him to “return to the land of your fathers and to your kindred” (Genesis 31:3). It was also contrary to what Jacob had told Esau he intended to do, which was to travel at a slower pace and eventually meet him in Seir (Genesis 33:14). It is likely that Jacob lived in Succoth for at least 5 years and perhaps as many as ten years until his daughter Dinah reached the age of maturity. Genesis 34:1-2 tells us that she “went out to see the women of the land. And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her, he seized her and lay with her and humiliated her.”

The Hebrew word that is translated humiliated in Genesis 34:2, ‘anah (aw-naw’) indicates that Shechem raped Dinah (H6031), but it says in Genesis 34:3 that Shechem’s soul was drawn to Dinah, that he loved her and spoke tenderly to her. Frequently the verb ‘anah “expresses the idea that God sends affliction for disciplinary purposes.” The situation was a very difficult one because Shechem had clearly done something wicked and yet, Shechem’s motive was honorable. Shechem’s father came to speak to Jacob (Genesis 34:6) and indicated that Shechem wanted to marry Dinah (Genesis 34:8), but Jacob’s sons wanted revenge. “The sons of Jacob had come in from the field as soon as they heard of it, and the men were indignant and very angry, because he had done an outrageous thing in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter, for such a thing must not be done” (Genesis 34:7).

The way that Jacob and his sons handled the situation showed that they were more interested in settling the score with Shechem than they were finding a solution to their problem. When Jacob found out what happened to Dinah, Genesis 34:5 says that he held his peace until his sons came in from the field. The Hebrew word that is translated held his peace, charash (khaw-rash’) means to scratch and by implication to engrave or fabricate something. In a bad sense, charash is used figuratively with regard to secretly devising a plan (H2790). It could be that during the time while Jacob was waiting for his sons to return from the field, the event was being replayed and engraved in Jacob’s mind and the horror of what took place caused him to become numb with shock. The figurative use of charash implies the mistreatment of others and is used to express the plotting of evil against a friend. Perhaps, Jacob was overcome with rage and could think of nothing else, but to kill the man that had raped his daughter.

Shechem came to Jacob and his sons and offered to make things right. He suggested that the two families could live peaceably with each other. “Shechem also said to her father and to her brothers, ‘Let me find favor in your eyes, and whatever you say to me I will give. Ask me for as great a bride price and gift as you will, and I will give whatever you say to me. Only give me the young woman to be my wife” (Genesis 34:11-12). Shechem’s plea for reconciliation fell on deaf ears. Genesis 34:13 states, “The sons of Jacob answered Shechem and his father Hamor deceitfully, because he had defiled their sister Dinah.” Dinah’s brothers led Shechem to believe that he could marry Dinah if every male in his city was circumcised. “On the third day, when they were sore, two sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and came against the city while it felt secure and killed all the males. They killed Hamor and his son Shechem with the sword and took Dinah out of Shechem’s house and went away” (Genesis 34:26).

Simeon and Levi’s murder of every male in the city of Shechem was compounded by the fact that the sons of Jacob plundered the city and “they took their flocks and their herds, their donkeys, and whatever was in the city and in the field. All the wealth, all their little ones and their wives, all that was in the houses, they captured and plundered” (Genesis 34:27-29). Jacob’s expression of displeasure afterward didn’t carry much weight since he had essentially endorsed his son’s behavior by standing by and allowing them to ransack a city that was in the process of dedicating themselves to God (Genesis 17:10-13). Ultimately, the impression that Jacob’s sons gave was that they would destroy anyone that dared to cross them.

Jesus said that his disciples should “either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit” (Matthew 12:33). On the surface, this seems to suggest that Jesus wanted his disciples to label people according to their actions, but the Greek word Jesus used that is translated known, ginosko (ghin-oce’-ko) means “to understand completely” (G1097). “In the New Testament ginosko frequently indicates a relation between the person ‘knowing’ and the object known; in this respect, what is ‘known’ is of value or importance to the one who knows, and hence the establishment of the relationship.” Jesus made it clear that the overall behavior of a person needed to be considered, not just a single action or an isolated event. From that standpoint, the fruit of a tree is an ongoing testament to its inner workings and a person’s actions the evidence that he has been converted or born again.

Jesus admonished the scribes and Pharisees that wanted him to perform a miracle in order to prove he was Israel’s Messiah. He told them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Johan, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here” (Matthew 12:39-41). The point that Jesus wanted to make was that it didn’t take a miracle to know that he had come into the world to help people, not hurt them. The reason why the scribes and Pharisees didn’t want anything to do with Jesus was because he kept exposing their hypocrisy. In order to emphasize the wicked state of the Jewish nation, Jesus said, “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation” (Matthew 12:43-45).

If you would like to have a relationship with God, you can do so by simply praying this prayer and meaning it in your heart:

Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for your forgiveness. I believe you died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite you to come into my heart and life. I want to trust you and follow you as my Lord and Savior.

If you prayed this prayer, please take a moment and write me at calleen0381@gmail.com and let me know about your decision.

God bless you!

Compassion

One of the essential characteristics of God’s plan of salvation is its impartial treatment of sinners. God’s word makes it clear that every person has sinned and fallen short of God’s standard of living and that we are all “justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith” (Romans 3:23). Beginning with Abraham, God counted righteousness to mankind based on each individual’s belief in his ability to take away the effects of sin. Through justification, God declares believers to be innocent of all charges that are brought against them in his heavenly court of law (G1344).

The life of Jacob clearly portrays justification by faith. You might conclude that Jacob did everything wrong and yet, he ended up on the right side of God’s concern for the suffering and misfortune of others. God helped Jacob to overcome the circumstances that threatened to ruin his life. Jacob was the younger and weaker of Isaac’s twin sons, but he managed to steal his brother’s birthright and tricked his father into blessing him. Jacob also obtained the blessing of Abraham which entitled him to possession of the Promised Land (Genesis 28:13-14). With all of these advantages going for him, you would think Jacob would be content, but he continued to pursue prosperity and wound up with two wives that were just as discontent with the status quo as he was.

Jacob’s uncle Laban had two daughters. “The name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful in form and appearance” (Genesis 29:16-17). Both of these women became Jacob’s wives, but Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah (Genesis 29:30). “When the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren” (Genesis 29:31). The Hebrew word that is translated hated, sane (saw-nay’) is an antonym of the Hebrew verb ‘ahab (H157), meaning to love. The reason why Jacob hated Leah may have been because she reminded him of the sin he committed against his father Isaac (Genesis 27:19). Jacob had to serve Laban for seven years in order to get Rachel as his wife, but on the evening of his wedding, Laban deceived Jacob and substituted his daughter Leah for Rachel in the consummation of their marriage (Genesis 29:25).

Leah may not have had the affection of her husband, but she gained an initial advantage over her sister Rachel by giving Jacob four sons to carry on his legacy. After Leah’s fourth son was born, Rachel envied her sister and decided to give her servant Bilhah to Jacob as a wife so that she could give birth on her behalf (Genesis 30:3). “And Bilhah conceived and bore Jacob a son. Then Rachel said, ‘God has judged me, and has also heard my voice and given me a son” (Genesis 30:5-6). God’s vindication of Rachel showed that he was being impartial toward each of Jacob’s wives. God could see that both Rachel and Leah were suffering from the disadvantage of having to share their husband. Rachel said God had heard her voice, in other words God understood Rachel’s situation and showed her compassion.

Matthew’s gospel tells us that when some people brought a paralytic to him lying on a bed, “Jesus saw their faith” (Matthew 9:2). Another way of describing what happened would be to say that Jesus was moved with compassion or you might say affected by the people bringing a paralytic to him to be healed. Jesus said, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven” (Matthew 9:2) indicating that he saved the paralytic man. Jesus then explained to the cynics who were watching him that salvation and physical healing were essentially the same thing. Matthew 9:4-7 states:

But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” — he then said to the paralytic — “Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And he rose and went home.

The critical point that Jesus wanted to make clear was that the paralytic’s well-being was dependent on both his physical and spiritual health. The paralytic wouldn’t benefit from being saved if he had to continue living as a cripple and he wouldn’t be satisfied being able to walk if the guilt of his sins continued to torment him.

Jesus asked the question, “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?” (Matthew 9:5). The Greek word that is translated easier, eukopoteros (yoo-kop-o’-ter-os) suggests that it was Jesus’ intention to eliminate the paralytic’s grief or perhaps to improve his mental health (G2123). It seems likely that the paralytic’s situation had caused him to become depressed and he may have even thought about suicide in order to escape his unbearable circumstances. Jesus’ command to “Rise, pick up your bed and go home” (Matthew 9:6) meant that Jesus expected the paralytic to immediately start living a normal life.

Rachel viewed her moral struggle with her sister Leah as being linked to her physical ability to give her husband a son. After Rachel’s servant Bilhah conceived and bore Jacob a second son, “Then Rachel said, ‘With mighty wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister and have prevailed'” (Genesis 30:7-8). The Hebrew word that is translated wrestled, pathal (paw-thal’) means to struggle or figuratively to be morally tortuous (H6617). The Hebrew word Yakowl (yaw-kole’) or prevailed in English refers specifically to physical ability (H3201). Even though Leah had given Jacob four sons and Bilhah had given birth to the two she claimed as her own, Rachel saw herself as having won the moral victory over her sister.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of Rachel and Leah’s battle. Leah’s servant Zilpah bore Jacob two more sons and then Leah herself conceived and bore Jacob two more sons, bringing the total of Jacob’s sons to ten. “Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb. She conceived and bore a son and said, ‘God has taken away my reproach.’ And she called his name Joseph, saying, ‘May the LORD add to me another son!'” (Genesis 30:22-24). The Hebrew word that is translated reproach, cherpah (kher-paw’) denotes a state of disgrace. “The disgrace found in a person or a nation become the occasion for taunting the oppressed. The disgraced received abuse by the words spoken against them and by the rumors which were spread about them” (H2781).

Jesus’ disciple Matthew who had been a tax collector for the Roman government was among the class of citizens that we might refer to today as low life or the scum of the earth. Matthew’s gospel tells us:

And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:10-13)

A sinner is a person that practices sin as a lifestyle. This category of people would most likely include prostitutes, thieves, and murderers. Jesus referred to these people as being sick and in need of a physician. The Greek word that is translated physician, iatros (ee-at-ros’) refers to physical treatment, but figuratively it speaks of spiritual healing (G2395/G2390).

Jesus’ quote, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice” came from the book of Hosea which focused on the unfaithfulness of God’s people. Hosea was instructed to “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the LORD” (Hosea 1:2). Hosea’s message was one of mercy and redemption and indicated that God was “concerned with the attitude of the hearts of men rather than the ritualistic performance of religious acts, and he values a relationship with his people more than outward ceremonies” (note on Hosea 6:6). Hosea 6:6 states, “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” The words steadfast love and mercy are often used interchangeably in the Bible and refer to God’s compassion toward sinners (G1656).

Mercy is God’s attitude toward those who are in distress. The Greek word eleos (el’-eh-os) “is the free gift for the forgiveness of sins and is related to the misery that sins brings. God’s tender sense of our misery displays itself in His efforts to lessen and entirely remove it — efforts that are hindered and defeated only by man’s continued perverseness. Grace removes guilt, mercy removes misery. Eleos is the outward manifestation of pity; it assumes need on the part of him who receives it, and resources adequate to meet the need on the part of him who shows it” (G1656).

Jesus used the example of new wine being put into fresh wineskins to explain how regeneration makes it possible for believers to rejoice in the midst of unpleasant circumstances. He said, “No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. Neither is new wine put into old wine- skins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved” (Matthew 9:16-17). The Greek term that is translated preserved, suntereo (soon-tay-reh’-o) has to do with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and his ability to keep us from being separated from God.

Jesus used the phrase, “take heart” (Matthew 9:2, 22) to signify the effect of being saved. The King James version of the Bible translates the phrase take heart as “be of good cheer.” The Greek word tharseo (thar-seh’-o) means to have courage (G2293) and is derived from the word tharsos (thar’-sos) which means to be daring or to have boldness (G2294). It could be that Jesus used the word tharseo in order to communicate the idea of activating one’s faith by making a bold move or what we might call today taking a leap of faith. Jesus seemed to be encouraging the recipients of his grace to act out the amazing transformation that was taking place inside of them.

Genesis 30:25 indicates that “as soon as Rachel had borne Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, ‘Send me away, that I may go to my own home and country.'” It was somewhat of a daring move for Jacob to attempt to separate himself from Laban when he had 12 children to feed and no means of supporting them. Thus far, the only wages Jacob had received from Laban were his wives Rachel and Leah. When Laban tried to convince him to stay a little longer, “Jacob said to him, ‘You yourself know how I have served you, and how your livestock has fared with me. For you had little before I came, and it has increased abundantly, and the LORD has blessed you wherever I have turned. But now when shall I provide for my own household also?'” (Genesis 30:29-30). Jacob realized that he had been blessed by God, but the benefit had gone to Laban instead of himself because of his agreement to work for Laban in exchange for his wives. Jacob wanted to gain his independence, but he agreed to continue working for Laban, probably because he lacked the courage to try and make it on his own.

After Jacob made a deal to continue serving him, Laban cheated Jacob out of his wages (Genesis 30:35-36), so Jacob resorted to unusual methods of producing speckled and spotted livestock in order to gain an advantage over his adversary (Genesis 30:37-39). It seems likely that Jacob’s tactics were not only unconventional, but also involved some type of sorcery. Jacob may have thought he needed to fight fire with fire so to speak, but the bottom line was that God’s blessing was all that Jacob needed to succeed and yet, he continued to do things his own way and managed to get ahead in spite of his lack of faith (Genesis 30:43).

Jesus confronted two blind men when they came to him to be healed. He asked them directly, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” (Matthew 9:28). Jesus wanted to know if these two men were willing to entrust their spiritual well-being to him as their Savior. The two blind men replied, “Yes, Lord” (Matthew 9:28) indicating that they recognized Jesus’ deity (G4962) and wanted to be saved. Jesus responded, “According to your faith be it done to you” (Matthew 9:29). The Greek word that is translated according, kata (kat-ah’) suggests that the blind men’s faith in Christ was necessary for them to be healed. By putting their trust in Jesus, the blind men were giving their Savior permission to do a miracle on their behalf.

Matthew’s gospel tells us that Jesus “went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom” (Matthew 9:35). Proclaiming the gospel meant that Jesus was telling everyone how to be saved. The fact that Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages suggests that he was leaving no stone unturned in his effort to inform the masses that God’s kingdom was open for business. Matthew indicated Jesus was healing every disease and every affliction and “when he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:35-36).

The Greek word that is translated compassion in Matthew 9:36, splagchnizomai (splangkh-nid’-zom-ahee) is derived from the word splagchnon (splangkh’-non). “Splagchnon are the bowels which were regarded by the Hebrews as the seat of the tender affections. It is used always in the plural, and properly denotes ‘the physical organs of the intestines’…the word is rendered ‘tender mercy’ in Luke 1:78…and ‘inward affection’ in 2 Corinthians 7:15” (G4698). The primary connection between compassion and God’s mercy is that compassion expresses the motivation behind God’s plan of salvation. The King James version indicates that Jesus was “moved with compassion” (Matthew 9:36). In other words, the compassion Jesus felt inside himself prompted him to heal the people of their diseases and afflictions.

Jesus used the analogy of sheep without a shepherd to express the unbeliever’s need to be taught the word of God. The Greek definition of a sheep is “something that walks forward (a quadruped)” (G4263). Jesus may have chosen sheep to represent the multitudes that sought his help during his ministry on Earth because sheep were known for their tendency to go astray and had to rely on someone else to guide them to their destination. Jesus described the crowds as helpless and harassed (Matthew 9:36). The King James version indicates that Jesus had compassion “because they fainted, and were scattered abroad.” Another way of saying it might be that Jesus was moved with compassion because he saw that the fabric of the Jews’ society was being torn apart and he knew that they were in jeopardy of losing their political identity.

Jesus told his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but he laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:38). Jesus probably described the salvation of souls as a harvest because it was the result of someone’s intentional effort and occurred at a specific time each year. There was a certain amount of reliability and necessity to the process of agriculture that made it a desirable occupation. Jesus said “the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few” suggesting that there was an abundance of work to be done, even more than the labor market could handle. One of the reasons Jesus instructed his disciples to beg God to send out evangelists to preach the gospel was because there was a lack of faith on the part of the Jewish religious leaders (Matthew 9:34) and if the job was left to them, no one would be saved.

If you would like to have a relationship with God, you can do so by simply praying this prayer and meaning it in your heart:

Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I’m a sinner, and I ask for your forgiveness. I believer you died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite you to come into my heart and life. I want to trust you and follow you as my Lord and Savior.

If you prayed this prayer, please take a moment to write to me at calleen0381@gmail.com and let me know about your decision.

God bless you!

A clear conscience

The Mosaic Law and its corresponding religious system which was put in place when the Israelites were delivered from bondage in Egypt were only meant to be an example of God’s forgiveness of sins. They were a foreshadowing of things that were to take place in the future. The writer of the book of Hebrews pointed out that a physical system of sacrifice was flawed because it could not permanently remove the effects of sin (Hebrews 8:7-9). He explained, “Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: the Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience” (Hebrews 9:6-9)

The ultimate goal of God’s plan of salvation was the perfecting of the human conscience. The Greek word translated conscience in Hebrews 9:9 is suneidesis (soon-i’-day-sis). “Suneidesis literally means ‘a-knowing,’ a co-knowledge with one’s self, the witness borne to one’s conduct by conscience, that faculty by which we apprehend the will of God, as that which is designed to govern our lives. The word is stressing that we receive input from our surroundings [temptations, decision-making events, etc.] and we are driven to make a decision. We compare what we know with our conscience [con — ‘with’ , science — ‘knowledge’], our knowledge base about this input. If we follow our conscience we act according to what we know to be true about the situation and the consequences/blessings of our decision. We can violate our conscience by overriding that knowledge” (G4893). The reason why the New Covenant was a better covenant was because God said that he would “put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts” (Hebrews 8:10). When we are born again, God gives us the ability to discern his will and through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the power to do what our conscience tells us to.

The effect of Jesus’ death on the cross was a complete cleansing or purging of guilt from every believer’s heart. The writer of Hebrews explained that the blood of Jesus was able to do what the blood of animal sacrifices could not. He said, “For if the blood of bulls and goats, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:13-14). Jesus’ sacrifice of himself was able to “remove sin’s defilement from the very core of our beings” (note on Hebrews 9:14). The key to accomplishing this was Jesus’ entrance into heaven and appearance before God as the intercessor for all mankind. It says in Hebrews 9:26-28, “But now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgement: so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.”

Reconciliation

The primary objective of Jesus’ ministry on Earth was to reconcile God to mankind. The Apostle Paul talked about the process of reconciliation from three different perspectives. Paul said the believer receives the righteousness of God and is “being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law” (Romans 3:24, 28). Justification has to do with being innocent, free from guilt (G1344). Paul clarified his statement about being justified by faith by stating that righteousness is reckoned or counted to the believer (Romans 4:5. The Greek word logizomai (log-id’-zom-ahee) means “to take an inventory that is estimate” (G3049). Paul used the word logizomai nineteen times in his letter to the Romans. Logizomai is derived from the word logos which has to do with something being said, but it also includes the thought and the motive behind it that makes it a divine expression (G3056).

Another way that Paul described reconciliation was blessedness. He said, “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin” (Romans 4:7-8). Logizomai is translated “will not impute” in this passage to signify God’s forgiveness of sins. In other words, a believer’s sins are not counted against him with regards to obtaining God’s blessing. Paul said, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into his grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1-2). The access Paul was referring may have been the presence of God which dwelt in the holy place within the veil before the mercy seat in God’s temple. The veil of the temple was torn from top to bottom when Jesus died on the cross (Matthew 27:51). Paul indicated our reconciliation with God gives us access into his grace, or the divine influence upon the heart and its reflection in the life of a believer (G5485).

The end result of our reconciliation is being filled with the Holy Spirit. Paul indicated “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Romans 5:5). The picture Paul painted of God’s love coming to us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit was that of a fountain overflowing or gushing forth with water (G1632). Paul’s intent was likely to show us that God’s love is a constant source of refreshment that can be drawn on at any time. Paul went on to explain that our reconciliation is dependent on a boundless, inexplicable type of love that originates with God. He said, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us … For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. ” (Romans 5:8, 10, NKJV). God demonstrated his love in a very real, tangible way by sending Jesus to Earth to die for everyone’s sins. All we have to do to be reconciled to God is to accept the free gift of salvation that he provided.

The great commission

At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he called four men to be his disciples that were fishermen. Matthew recorded in his gospel that Peter and Andrew were the first two men that Jesus invited to follow him. He said, “And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him” (Matthew 4:18-20). Peter’s enthusiasm to serve the Lord was probably diminished by his realization that death would most likely be the end result of his devotion to Christ. After he denied three times having anything to do with Jesus’ ministry, “Peter went out, and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:62), maybe because he could see the look of disappointment on Jesus’ face when he heard Peter lie about being his disciple (Luke 22:60-61).

It was probably Peter’s denial of him that caused Jesus to go to greater lengths to restore his fellowship with this particular apostle. First on the road to Emmaus, then in a locked room where his disciples were hiding out, Jesus reiterated God’s plan of salvation and explained the important role Peter and the other apostles were to play in his ministry in the coming months and years (Luke 24:25-26, 46-49). Peter’s natural leadership ability and influence on the other apostles was probably what caused him to be singled out by Satan and tempted to forsake his master (Luke 22:31). John reported that Jesus’ final appearance took place at the sea of Tiberias where Peter and some of the other disciples had gone to fish. He said, “There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples. Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing” (John 21:2-3).

Jesus chose this point in time to confront Peter with his responsibility to carry out the great commission of preaching his gospel to the whole world. According to Mark’s gospel, Jesus told his disciples, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:15-16). John’s version of this assignment focused on the forgiveness of sins. He stated, “Then said Jesus to them again, Peace by unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained” (John 20:21-23). Peter’s failed fishing trip may have been Jesus’ way of reminding him that his first priority was to be preaching the gospel. After Jesus enable Peter to catch more fish than he was able to carry in his boat (John 21:11), Jesus asked Peter this question, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?” (John 21:15). Although his meaning wasn’t perfectly clear, Jesus was most likely referring to the 153 fish that Peter was now in possession of. Jesus refocused Peter’s attention on the lost souls that needed God’s word preached to them, whom he referred to as his baby sheep or lambs, and then, Jesus admonished Peter to, “Feed my sheep” (John 21:17).

The physician

In his parables, Jesus often portrayed himself as a person or thing that was necessary for spiritual health. The Pharisees who were identified as separatists, that is exclusively religious (5330), criticized Jesus for associating with people that were notorious sinners (Matthew 9:11). In his response to their criticism, Jesus compared people that were sinful to those that suffered from a physical disease. He said, “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick” (Matthew 9:12). The word Jesus used that is translated whole, ischou (is-khoo’-o) means to have (or exercise) force (2480). Ischou is sometimes translated as “can” or “be able.” On the other hand, the word sick or in the Greek, kakos (kak-oce’) refers to someone that is associated with evil (2560). It could be assumed that a person that was kakos had degenerated to such a low level of bad behavior that her physical health was affected by it. For example, a heroin addict that resorts to prostitution in order to support her habit.

In describing himself as a physician, Jesus was implying that a cure for sin existed. Rather than rewarding those who were able to keep God’s commandments, and for the most part, lived moral lives, Jesus focused his time and energy on the needs of those who were spiritually destitute. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus stated, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). The Greek term translated poor, ptochos (pto-khos’) refers to a beggar, someone that is penniless and solicits in the street for money or food (4434). Perhaps, the reason Jesus used such an extreme example of poverty to identify those that would inherit the kingdom of heaven was so that there would be no mistaking the impossibility of people being able to do it on their own. The spiritual need that existed in those who sought help from Jesus was much greater than anyone could possibly describe in physical terms. It was comparable to a dead person being brought back to life, which is probably why Jesus performed that type of miracle on more than one occasion.

Looking at his healing ministry as an object lesson in the effects of sin, Jesus’ identification of himself as the physician was meant to encourage those that were “sick” (Matthew 9:12) to admit their failures and come to him for help. Jesus explained to the Pharisees, “But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Matthew 9:13). In other words, if everyone was following the Mosaic Law and obtaining God’s forgiveness through the sacrifices that were prescribed, there would have been no need for Jesus’ ministry. It was only because the Mosaic Law failed to reform people that God sent his son, Jesus, to be the propitiation or atonement for the sins of his people. Mercy or compassion (1656) was an earmark of Jesus’ ministry and the defining characteristic of him in his role as the physician that came “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).

Miracles

Jesus’ ministry began with a great display of the power he possessed as the Son of God. This supernatural activity drew a lot of attention to Jesus’ ministry and resulted in both good and bad circumstances that he had to deal with throughout the rest of the three years he ministered to God’s chosen people. Matthew described the start of Jesus’ ministry this way.

And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had palsy; and he healed them. (Matthew 4:23-24)

Jesus’ ability to cure any and every disease by supernatural means was recognized as a sign of his deity. Not since the time of Elijah and Elisha, hundreds of years earlier, had God’s people seen such a display of God’s power. Mark’s account of the launch of Jesus’ ministry focused on the authority with which he worked his miracles. He said,”And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? what new doctrine is this? for with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him” (Mark 1:27).

One of the keys to understanding Jesus’ approach to his ministry was the connection made between sin and disease in the mind of God’s people. The Mosaic Law stated that disease was a consequence of sin. Shortly after the Israelites left Egypt, Moses told them “If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the LORD that healeth thee” (Exodus 15:26).

Perhaps the clearest demonstration of Jesus power, authority, and compassion for the sick was displayed when he healed a paralyzed man who was let down through the rooftop tiling by his friends so that he could get close enough to Jesus to be healed. Luke’s gospel states:

And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee. And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone? But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answering said unto them, What reason he in your hearts? Whether is easier to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk? But that he may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house. And immediately he rose up before them, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, glorifying God. (Luke 5:20-25)

John’s account of the start of Jesus’ ministry provided a timeline of the first three days of his activities and recorded that only a few days into his ministry, Jesus declared his intent to rise from the dead after he was crucified. This final miracle was to be the ultimate sign to the Jews that Jesus was in fact their Messiah. After cleansing God’s temple, the Jews confronted Jesus about his unorthodox behavior. It says in John’s gospel, “Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign showest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things? Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? But he spake of the temple of his body” (John 2:18-21).