THE MINISTRY OF MESSIAH (11)

 

The Sermon on the Mount (contd.)

Matthew chapter 6

In our last study we showed a suggested division of Christ’s words. We sub-divided it into ‘7 qualities’, i.e. blessings, ‘2 Consequences of those blessings which were still blessings, ‘three important factors to remember’, which were very relevant to the Apostles and then ’10 Principles’.  We dealt with five of these last study and propose to continue with the remaining five on this occasion namely the nos: 6-10 on the list.  These latter five seem to concern a reward.  With three of them namely the first, second and third, the words “thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly” are added. Where the word is used elsewhere in this mentioned above it chapter it simply means ‘hire, wages, pay’, but where it is used in the three instances we have means ‘to give away, to give back’ or ‘to give in full’.  Let us note that it does not mean ‘wages’ for we are not justified by works but by faith.  Nevertheless if we walk faithfully our heavenly Father will give away to us in accordance with how we have walked faithfully.  The responsibility is with us, not to do things for wages but in faith.

Jesus says “Take heed”.  The sense of this is to pay attention to, to set one’s mind intently upon.  The word ‘alms’ means ‘compassionateness i.e. (as exercised towards the poor), beneficence’.  Examples are found in Acts 10:2 and 24:17:

“Now after many years I come to bring alms to my nation, and offerings.”

 

The latter being the collection for the saints.  As we saw in our last study, Jesus’s words are directed against the Pharisees (see Matt 6:2).

 
“Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men.  Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.”
 

Jesus said in Matt.23:5 “But all their works they do to be seen of men”. Consequently they had their reward or wages.  They had glory of men.  This must not be so with us brethren and sisters.  Hence Jesus’s words in v.3:

“But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:”
 

Let us turn to Proverbs 4:27:

“Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.”
 

If our eye of faith is looking straight before us then all our alms will be done secretly or in the hidden or secret place.  The sense of the word ‘openly’ is in the visible or manifest or shining place.  If we sound the trumpet now, then the trumpet will not be sounded for us at the resurrection of the dead.  As we said in our last study, there is a distinction between alms and the seeing of your good works in Matt. 5:16:

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
 

This applies to the light of the truth shining from us but even here it should lead to men glorifying God and not themselves.

The same principle is applied to prayer as we see from verse 6:

“But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.”
 

Let us turn to 11 Kings 4:33:

“He went in therefore, and shut the the door upon them twain, and prayed unto the Lord.”
 

We should proclaim the truth, but the things which Jesus is speaking about here have to be done secretly, in the hidden or secret place.  We hope one day to be glorified with Christ and to help him to rule the world.  Then we should be made manifest if we have walked worthily.  As Jesus was not recognized now.  As John says “the world knoweth us not” (1 John 3:1-3).

“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.  Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.  And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.”
 

Jesus teaches us not to use vain repetitions, i.e. babbling or empty words.  There is an example of this in 1 Kings 18:26.

“And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us.  But there was no voice, nor any that answered.  And they leaped upon the altar which was made.”
 

Let us note the simplicity of Elijah’s prayer in v. 36-37.

“And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah came near, and said, Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the Lord God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again”.
 

The words of Ecc. 5:2 are relevant:

“Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter anything before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.”
 

Let us note Jesus’s words in Matt. 6:7:

“When ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.”
 

And compare this with Gen. 24: 15 and 2 Kings 20:4.

Jesus then teaches us the model prayer.  Jesus’s words emphasise the priorities in our prayers.
 
 Our Heavenly Father should come first in our lives.  We should love him with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our mind. His name should come second.  His name is Yahweh, ‘He who will be’ and this should be uppermost in our minds.

We should long for his kingdom to come.

We should desire his will to be done particularly now in our lives by walking according to his word, but also long for that time when it will be done on earth.

 

Even if we work for our daily bread, we recognize that our Father provides it.

In our prayers we should remember our sins and failings and forgive and prayer for others.

Our heavenly Father will try us to refine our characters, but we need his guidance so that we are not led away from the truth.

We have to pass through evil circumstances as Job did but we should still pray to our Father to deliver us from evil.

The figure 9 signifies a finality.  Whatever we pray for and whether the answers to our prayers are what we have hoped for.  We have to recognize that great power of God, which in the finality will be manifested in his kingdom.

But then out of this prayer, Jesus emphasizes the importance of forgiveness.  Our heavenly Father will only forgive us if we forgive others.  ‘Trespass’ has the meaning of ‘a falling aside from right, truth or duty’, also ‘unintentional error’.  The same word is used in the parable of the unmerciful servant in Matt.18:35.

“So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if you from your hearts forgive not everyone his brother their trespasses.”
 

A different word is used in Matt.18:15:

“Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.”

& 21-22:

“Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?  Till seven times?  Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.”

 

Namely ‘harmatano’, which means ‘to miss the mark, to err’.  This word is also used in Luke 17:3-4:

“It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.  Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.”

 

Here Jesus adds the words “if he repent, which surely is important if forgiveness is to take place.  Clearly then when one has trespassed or sinned against another, repentance should be shown on the part of the one who has trespassed or sinned and forgiveness should be granted from the heart seventy times seven.

Jesus then speaks concerning fasting which means ‘to abstain from food religiously’.  Jesus knew what it was to fast.  He had done so for forty days and forty nights.  The same principle applies as with alms and prayer.  Where Jesus refers to hypocrites he may have been referring to the formal feasts under the law and as a consequence of Jewish tradition.  It appears that only one fast was originally namely the one on the day of Atonement.  Further ones were added as a result of the traditions of the Jews.  There were voluntary fasts such as that of Daniel in Dan .10:3:

“I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.”
 

Which possibly not a complete fast our mind becomes very clear.  However if we choose to fast, perhaps so that we may meditate upon God’s word, then we should do so secretly so that what is done is before ourselves and our heavenly Father.

Next Jesus deals with laying up treasures.  ‘Treasure’ means ‘a deposit, i.e. wealth’.  There are several scriptures which are helpful in this respect namely: Prov.23:4, 15:27, 28:20.  We should rather lay up treasure in heaven, an example of which is found in ch.5:12.

“Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets before you.”
 

Helpful scriptures are Col.3:1-4, 1 Tim.6:19

“Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”
 

There is a place however for providing for needs of our house as we see from Gen.30:30, 1 Tim.5:8.

“But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.”
 

What does Jesus mean by v.22-24?  Jesus as it appears to me is using the literal eye as a figure for the eye of faith or the mind.  The word ‘single’ has the meaning of ‘folded together i.e. single’.  Perhaps folded together indicates not being affected by others.  The word is also rendered ‘liberal’ in connection with giving.  But Jesus is teaching here single-mindedness.  It goes back to laying up treasure in heaven and is emphasised by his words in v.24:

“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.  Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”
 

Jesus continues “Therefore”, conveying the reason for an action as a result as what has gone before.  Let us read v.25-32.

“Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on.  Is not the life more than meat, and the body more than raiment?  Behold the fowls of the year: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them.  Are ye not much better than they?  Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?  And why take ye thought for raiment?  Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:  And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  Wherefore, if God so clothed the grass of the field. Which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much clothe ye of little faith?  Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we drink? Or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do these do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.”
 

The words ‘take no thought’ mean to be full of anxiety which divides up and distracts the mind, to be full of cares, anxious; be full of anxious or distracting care’.  Jesus is not teaching self neglect for this would not be in harmony with other Scriptures.  Nehemiah removed his clothes daily for bodily washing even when he was engaged in building and warfare.  Neither is Jesus teaching that we should be anxious to follow the latest fashion.  Even if we follow the latest fashion we shall not be arrayed like the lilies of the field which “toil not, neither do they spin”.  If we are single-minded, if we are laying up for ourselves treasure in heaven, we shall not be anxious about these things.  Elijah and John are monumental examples of these.

 Jesus concludes in v.33-34.

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.  Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”
 

We should seek first in our lives THE KINGDOM OF GOD AND HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS.  Again the following scriptures are very helpful: Col.3:1-3, Rom.2:7, Phil.3:7-10, Prov.21:21.

“He that followeth after righteousness and mercy findeth life, righteousness and honour.”

As we read these very heartsearching, yet uplifting words of our master brethren and sisters, words which he perfectly fulfilled in his life, that make us feel how far short we fall below the the high calling to which we have been called,  As the day of that kingdom draws nigh for which we seek may we strive in the days that remain to prepare ourselves for his coming.  Quote Matt.24:42-44.

“Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.  But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.  Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.”

 

Carlo Barberesi