Jan 15, 2022

(Genesis 16, Matthew 15; Optional Psalm 14, Proverbs 3:33-35)

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GENESIS 16 – In both our OT and NT readings today, we’re reminded that God cares for ALL people. We’ve seen such a focus on Abram’s line (Hebrews, who will eventually be called Jews), and since Jesus’ earthly ministry was mostly focused on Jewish folk that we might forget this important truth. And, while many of our texts so far have focused on MEN that God dealt with, both today highlight WOMEN.

Gen 16:1-6 – In Gen 15:2-4, Abram had tried to “help God out” with God’s promise in Gen 12:2. Abram and his wife (Sarai) weren’t young when he got this call from God, and Sarai was barren (Gen 11:30). Time has passed, and STILL no child. Now Sarai makes a fleshly attempt to “help God”. Just as Abram turned to a common custom of that time in Gen 15:2-4, now Sarai turns to another accepted custom of that time/culture – use a surrogate woman to bear your husband’s child. This is another very low point in the faith of Abram and Sarai, and ANOTHER reminder that even the heroes of the Bible still needed grace / salvation. This is also one of MANY glimpses we get in the Bible of how painful it is for ALL involved when God’s Genesis 2:24-25 ideal of marriage is violated. But also don’t miss the GRACE and TENDERNESS God shows – we’re reminded that God HEARS and SEES the hurting!

Gen 16:6-9 – In Deut 23:15-16 God commands that a slave that has run away NOT be returned to the master (likely to discourage mistreatment like Sarai did). But here God requires Hagar to return and submit to Sarai (also see 1 Pet 2:15). Clearly, God’s good and wise goal is NOT our short-term comfort or happiness. See 1 Pet 2:21-23 for Christ’s example of how to suffer well, by continually entrusting ourselves and our cause to “Him who judges justly.” In Gen 16:13, Hagar comes to a similar point with her awareness that God really SEES her (“Beer-lahai-roi” in Gen 16:13 means “well of the Living One who sees”) and will look after her. Don’t miss that this is the FIRST lady since Eve where it’s recorded that God spoke with her. God SEES and cares about oppressed people.

Gen 16:10-12 – This fleshly attempt to “help God out” by Abram sleeping with Hagar will have consequences through the rest of history, prophesying the Arab-Israeli conflicts that have regularly sprung up. “Ishmael” (Gen 16:11) means “God hears”. And in Gen 16:13 Hagar is also reminded that “God sees.” How precious that God HEARS and SEES us in our hard times!

MATTHEW 15 – There are similarities between Matt 15, Mark 7-8, and Acts 10-11. In all three of these Scriptures, there’s surprising (especially for the first Jewish audience) teaching about OT commands about food / cleanliness laws. Then there is a widening of ministry to Gentiles (see also 1 Cor 9:19-22).

Matt 15:1-9 – The Pharisees took God’s cleanliness laws to OT Israel and had expanded them with long-standing traditions. These had likely STARTED out of a desire to honor God but had wrongly taken on the authority of Biblical commands.

Matt 15:4-6, Jesus temporarily sidelines the eating / cleanliness issues and takes up a second illustration of how the Pharisees actually UNDERMINED God’s commands with their human traditions. God’s command to honor parents had been twisted in a similar way. Bible study tip: In every Biblical issue, there’s a narrow road of grace and truth and a ditch on either side of that narrow road that’s so easy to drift into. I’m always on the lookout for a section of Scripture that BALANCES (never contradicts – if it SEEMS that way, I haven’t understood yet) my understanding of another Scripture. So beside Matt 15:4 I’ve written: “BALANCE to Matt 10:34-37.”

If you’re someone who doesn’t get along well with your physical family, you may be tempted to use Matt 10:34-37, 12:46-50 to justify yourself (and you’d need the balance of today’s Scripture). BUT… if you find yourself overly enmeshed with your physical family, then YOU need to remember today’s Scripture is not ALL Jesus taught about how His followers relate to their physical family.

Matt 15:8-9 – Pause and ask the Lord to reveal: 1) Am I trying to APPEAR like I’m honoring God, but my heart is far off?  2) Where does the group you’re part of tend towards over-emphasizing something, so that a tradition may be getting too close to seeming like a command? If you can’t find an area or two where this may be starting to happen, you’re probably not seeing clearly. You can probably spot where OTHER groups tend towards THEIR over-emphases! But we ALL have sinful trends towards judging others by some issue that God hasn’t commanded, but OUR group has emphasized over time.

Matt 15:10-20 – Sections like this (and the parallel in Mark 7:14-23) and Acts 10-11 prepared the early Jewish believers who had grown up with such clear OT laws about clean foods (and other cleanliness rules) for the teaching that these laws are fulfilled in Jesus. Now that Jesus has come, ALL foods can be received with thanksgiving (1 Tim 4:3-5, Col 2:13-23). HOWEVER, if you have convictions that there are certain foods you’re to avoid to glorify God, you SHOULD avoid those foods for now (Rom 14:14). As you continue to study God’s Word, He may change your thinking in this (Rom 14:5-12). The MAIN POINT in this whole section (and in Rom 14, which points out that believers can have differing convictions in areas where NT believers aren’t under clear commands): Make sure you’re not just APPEARING to honor God, but that your HEART is actually with Him (Matt 15:8-9). And the evidence of THAT can be seen by examining ourselves by Matt 15:19-20.

Matt 15:21 – The rest of this chapter takes place in areas where there were mostly GENTILES.

Matt 15:23-26 – Jesus’ 1) silence and 2) response in Matt 15:24-26 would have offended many. The Pharisees were offended at much less in Matt 15:12! But this Canaanite woman was not offended, and the Lord who knows the hearts of all knew exactly the sweet faith response He would get from her!

Matt 15:28 – An exceedingly rare COMMENDATION of faith from Jesus. Compare Jesus’ gentle caution to John (before he was martyred and when he was confused / questioning in prison): “blessed is the one who is not offended by Me.” (Matt 11:6)

Matt 15:31 – “they glorified the God of Israel” (also see Matt 15:24) – This crowd in a Gentile area is thankful to the God of Israel for ministering to them, too.

Matt 15:32-39 – So similar to the feeding of thousands in Matt 14:13-21. But there were more people in that crowd, and they were Jewish, whereas THIS somewhat smaller crowd is in a Gentile area. Same result, though: “they all ate and were SATISFIED / FULL.” (Matt 15:27, Matt 14:20) No matter your background, ONLY JESUS SATISFIES!

Optional Psalm 14 – A psalm about the depravity of people, and the only hope is for Yahweh (“the LORD”) to save.

Ps 14:1-4 – Quoted in Rom 3:9-12. The key point of Rom 1-3 is that ALL of us are depraved, and the only hope is for God to save us through Jesus. Too many in our world think that people are basically good, and think that our main problem is something outside of us, victimizing us. Sadly, because this is a post-Gen 3, fallen world we DO victimize one another. But Ps 14:2-3 (and a recurring theme through the Bible) says that our MAIN problem is OURSELVES.

Ps 14:1 – Key to understanding the “fool” (a key word through Proverbs). “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” He may not say that out LOUD – he may not CALL himself an atheist, but he ACTS like one. He ACTS like he won’t have to stand before God at the judgment someday. Rom 1-3 (and Ps 14:2-3) makes clear that ALL of us come into this world living like this.

Ps 14:5-6 – The END of the story is that the unrepentant will one day be in great fear / terror / dread, because they will realize that the righteous that they’ve oppressed have the living Almighty God as their refuge / shelter! Next to Ps 14:6 I’ve written a capital “S!” (because of the focus on the Sovereignty of God) with the note “GOD WINS!”

Ps 14:7 – Wonderful prayer for God’s people (including Gentiles who are grafted into the line of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob / Israel by faith in Jesus – see Gal 3:14, 26-29) when we feel our overwhelming minority among the unrepentant majority who love to oppress God’s people.

Optional Proverbs 3:33-35 – Again, the common and important theme that keeps recurring in the Bible: there are only TWO PATHS. See notes today at Ps 14:1 and compare to Prov 3:35. Notice the focus of both Psalm 14:5-7 and Prov 3:33-35 on the END of the story. We can get so caught up where we ARE in God’s plan for our lives (and that may be very painful for a while) that we need regular reminders of the END of the story.