Jan 20, 2022

(Genesis 21, Matthew 20; Optional Psalm 18:6, 16-34, Proverbs 4:20-22)

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GENESIS 21 – Just after reading about a very low point in the Abraham’s faith (Gen 20), we’re reminded that God is PERFECTLY FAITHFUL to keep His word, exactly as He promised (Gen 21:1-2). Another opportunity in our Bible reading to be both humbled AND encouraged. Humbled that even the heroes of the faith are so prone to wander. Encouraged that God is still completely faithful!

Gen 21:3 – “Isaac” – Means “laughter”. God had said to give this name to the child of promise (Gen 17:19), and there was laughter surrounding his birth. 1) Laughter of struggling to believe (Gen 17:17, 18:9-15).  2) Laughter of surprising joy (Gen 21:6-7).  3) Mocking laughter (Gen 21:8-9 – the Hebrew word for this mocking is an intense form of “Isaac”).

Gen 21:8-16 – A heart-wrenching glimpse of the pain for EVERYONE when God’s plan for marriage (one man and one woman for life – Gen 2:24) is violated. But don’t miss the grace of God! He will watch out for Ishmael, and make a great nation of his descendants (Gen 21:12-13, 17-20).

Gen 21:17 – “God heard” – The Hebrew here is “Ishmael,” meaning “God hears” (see Gen 16:11).

Gen 21:22 – “God is WITH you…” – Also see Gen 21:20, where God being WITH Ishmael is the explanation for why things went well. God HIMSELF is the greatest gift He gives! Compare Hebrews 13:5-6 (written to suffering believers): “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 6 So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’” (Heb 13:5-6, ESV)

MATTHEW 20 – At the end of Matt 19, the rich man made a sad choice: he left Jesus, unwilling to leave his riches (Matt 19:21-23). Peter’s response: “See, we HAVE left everything and followed You. What then will WE have?” Jesus reminded the disciples of the end times, where Jesus will sit on His glorious throne and the disciples will rule with Him (so He reminds them of the END of the story). And Jesus reminds the disciples that in HIS kingdom, the values are COMPLETELY DIFFERENT from the world’s: “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” (Matt 19:30) That is the introduction to the parable Jesus tells in Matt 20…

Matt 20:1-7 – The master of the vineyard calls different groups of workers to go labor in his vineyard all throughout the workday. Those called to work early in the day agreed to a fair wage (Matt 20:2). Those who got called later in the day surely thought they’d get less but agreed to what the master said: “whatever is right I will give you.” (Matt 20:4)

Matt 20:14-15 – Notice the focus on the master’s right to administer what is his as HE chooses (also see Matt 20:21-23). Jesus’ followers often get jealous of one another and how God sovereignly chooses to dispense His gifts (again, see Matt 20:20-24).

Matt 20:16 – “So the last will be first, and the first last.” The ESV Study Bible has a helpful note here: “A disciple of Jesus should not measure his or her worth by comparing it with the accomplishments and sacrifices of others, but should focus on serving from a heart of gratitude in response to God’s grace. Jesus is not denying degrees of reward in heaven (see note on 1 Cor. 3:14–15) but is affirming that God’s generosity is more abundant than anyone would expect: all the laborers except the very first got more than they deserved.”

Matt 20:17-19 – Part of the FULL picture of the Messiah. In Matt 19:28 Jesus talks about the END of the story where everyone recognizes His rightful rule. But many Jews had ONLY focused on prophecies like THAT from the OT, and ignored prophecies like Isaiah 53 about the Suffering Servant.

Matt 20:20-21 – How jarring, just after we read Jesus prophesying His death! James and John (“sons of Zebedee” – Matt 4:18-22) and their mom were likely so excited about Matt 19:28 that they ignored Matt 20:17-19.

Matt 20:24-27 – Jesus does NOT squash ambition in His kingdom, but He DOES teach and re-direct. In His kingdom, greatness is linked with humble service. This issue about “greatness” keeps coming up with the disciples – also see Matt 18:1-4.

Matt 20:28 – Jesus highlights: 1) the UNIQUE way HE came to serve (by laying down His life as a substitutionary sacrifice).  And 2) that His unique service is the pre-eminent example of how ALL believers are to serve one another (including the jerks they’re offended at – see Matt 20:24).

Optional Psalm 18:6, 16-34 – You’ll get very confused if you read Ps 18:20-26 out of context. But David knows full well he’s a sinner (see his Psalm 51). He’s saying that the enemy has unjustly accused and attacked him, and God the righteous Judge is vindicating him (the END of the story for EVERY believer). And see Ps 18:27, where David says that God brings down pride. Ps 18:20-25 is not David’s pride, because in Ps 18:27-36 GOD gets all the credit. But we’re still vitally INVOLVED (see Ps 18:34 for example – “HE trains my hands for war, so that MY ARMS can bend a bow of bronze.”) In other words, God is absolutely sovereign and gets all the credit / glory AND our human involvement matters.

Optional Proverbs 4:20-22  – Notice the intensity and intentionality to getting and keeping wisdom. Why? “For they are LIFE to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh.” (Prov 4:22)