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:
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).
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:
Let us turn to Proverbs 4:27:
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:
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:
Let us turn to 11 Kings 4:33:
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).
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.
Let us note the simplicity of Elijah’s prayer in v. 36-37.
The words of Ecc. 5:2 are relevant:
Let us note Jesus’s words in Matt. 6:7:
And compare this with Gen. 24: 15 and 2 Kings 20:4.
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.
A different word is used in Matt.18:15:
Namely ‘harmatano’, which means ‘to miss the mark, to err’. This word is also used in Luke 17:3-4:
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:
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.
Helpful scriptures are Col.3:1-4, 1 Tim.6:19
There is a place however for providing for needs of our house as we see from Gen.30:30, 1 Tim.5:8.
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:
Jesus continues “Therefore”, conveying the reason for an action as a result as what has gone before. Let us read v.25-32.
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.
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.
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.