(Genesis 24, Matthew 23; Optional Psalm 19:7-14, Proverbs 5:1-3, 7-14)
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GENESIS 24 – God provides a wife for Isaac. Notice the focus on the covenant name of God all through the chapter. When we see “LORD” or “GOD” in all caps, this refers to God’s name in Hebrew – “Yahweh” (sometimes you’ll hear the more English/German conglomeration “Jehovah”). This refers to the God who IS (no one made Him), who CAUSES all that is (He is Creator of everything), and ALWAYS IS with those that are His (emphasizing His covenant relationship with His people).
Gen 24:1-9 – The promise had two parts: 1) Abraham’s servant would NOT take a wife for Isaac from the Canaanites of the land. Abraham had seen the disastrous results as Lot (Abraham’s nephew) got enmeshed with the wicked people from Sodom and Gomorrah. 2) Abraham’s servant was NOT to bring Isaac back to where God had called Abraham to leave in Gen 12.
Gen 24:12-14 – It’s NOT the normal pattern to pray quite so specifically, BUT God does honor his request and it DOES have the benefit of testing the CHARACTER of a potential spouse for Isaac.
Gen 24:16 – Rebekah’s beauty IS mentioned, but there’s much more focus on her respect even for a stranger, her quick diligence and initiative in cheerfully serving. The husband and wife in Song of Solomon clearly find each other attractive (and are vocal in their appreciation to each other), and the Bible certainly doesn’t shy away from the physical attraction in marriage. But Scripture focuses much more on the inner beauty that should continue to grow even as our external beauty fades: “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” (Prov 31:30, ESV. Also 1 Pet 3:3-4, 1 Tim 4:8)
Gen 24:33, 49, 54-56 – I love the urgent FOCUS on his task! It’s so easy to get distracted from the main mission.
MATTHEW 23 – As Jesus turned over the money changer’s tables early in this week, He continues to upset the status quo among the religious establishment. Someone has wisely said: “Jesus came to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” But there’s nothing new here – all through these WOES of warning, you can hear echoes from His early Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7; Bible students call such a bracket an “inclusio”]. When Jesus gives a WOE of judgment all through Matt 23 because the religious leaders were so focused on how righteous they APPEARED rather than a true internal righteousness, don’t miss echoes from Matt 6:1-18. When the Pharisees bristle with wounded pride because someone didn’t give them a place of honor or use a special title (Matt 23:6-12), hear echoes from Matt 5:3 – “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Matt 23:2 – “scribes and the Pharisees” – The scribes were experts in OT law, and the Pharisees were respected teachers of OT law. Jesus’ harshest warnings were for these groups (see the shocking language in Matt 21:31-32, 43-45). Because of that, WE associate “Pharisee” with “hypocrite.” But people of Jesus’ time often highly RESPECTED the scribes and Pharisees – they LOOKED outwardly so impressive. Moms of that time would have hoped their boys would grow up to be Pharisees.
Matt 23:2 – “Moses’ seat” – From the John MacArthur Study Bible: [“To ‘sit in Moses’ seat’ was to have the highest authority to instruct people in the law. The expression here may be translated, “[they] have seated themselves in Moses’ seat”—stressing the fact that this was an imaginary authority they claimed for themselves. There was a legitimate sense in which the priests and Levites had authority to decide matters of the law (Deut. 17:9), but the scribes and Pharisees had gone beyond any legitimate authority and were adding human tradition to the Word of God (15:3–9). For that Jesus condemned them (vv. 8–36).”]
Matt 23:12 – God uses a variety of motivations through Scripture. Hear the WARNING: “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled” AND the PROMISE: “whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
Matt 23:16-22 – The religious leaders made loopholes with their words so that you couldn’t simply trust what they said. Note how much time Jesus spent on this issue of how important our words are (Matt 23:16-22). Again, this is a bracket (or “inclusion”) to Matt 5:37 – “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’: anything more than this comes from evil.” [Matt 5:37, ESV. Other translations have “anything more than this comes from the evil one.”]
Matt 23:23-28 – The Pharisees were in one ditch – OVER-focused on externals. But don’t go to the other ditch, where you act like the externals don’t matter at all. In Matt 23:23, 26 Jesus is clear that the INSIDE realities matter MOST to God, but the externals shouldn’t be neglected, either. The ORDER matters – FIRST clean the INSIDE, that the outside ALSO may be clean (v 26).
Matt 23:29-36 – Because they wanted to APPEAR righteous, the scribes and Pharisees CLAIMED that they wouldn’t have participated in killing the truly righteous people God had sent through Biblical history. But Jesus summarized from the first killing of a righteous person (Abel, murdered by Cain in Gen 4) to the last recorded in the OT (Zechariah the son of Barachiah). And though the Pharisees SAID they wouldn’t have participated, they were only days later going to participate in the most horrifying killing ever – the perfectly righteous Jesus.
Matt 23:36, 38 – Likely both of these are warnings of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in AD 70 (less than 40 years from Jesus’ death and resurrection) by the Romans.
Matt 23:37-39 – After all the strong warnings through this chapter, don’t miss the tender sadness of Jesus. And the hint of hope in v 39. The quote from Ps 118:26 is the same that so offended the scribes in Matt 21:9-16 (they were so offended because the crowds were calling Jesus the Messiah). But within a few years, God would save Paul (Acts 9) the Pharisee (Acts 26:5, Phil 3:5). He came to repent of his self-righteousness and joyfully recognize Jesus as his Messiah. And tie the hint of hope here in Matt 23:39 to the clear confidence of Rom 11:23-26.
Optional Psalm 19:7-14 – Ps 19:1-6 is how God reveals Himself in His CREATION. Ps 19:7-11 is how God reveals Himself in His WORD (and lots of motivations to regularly study and meditate on His Word). Ps 19:12-14 is a closing prayer asking God to keep His people from sin. When God reveals Himself, His people want to be close to Him and fully acceptable (see v 14) in our deeds, words and thoughts.
Optional Proverbs 5:1-3, 7-14 – We’re only in the 5th chapter of Proverbs, and this is already the second significant section warning about sexual sin (also Prov 2:16-19). Some complain that believers are overly focused on sexual sin, but God Himself keeps bringing it up through Scripture. Prov 5:11-14 – Note the helpful perspective of thinking about the END of your story. In temptation, it’s easy to be distracted by the promise of momentary pleasure. I vividly remember coming home from college to see a couple carcasses of my pastor dad’s beloved fish, taped to the side of the fish tank. He said they kept jumping over the side to “freedom”. For a while, he’d quickly rescue them, putting them back in the safety of the tank. But they jumped over the side one night, and he found them dead the next morning. He taped them to the side of the tank as a shocking reminder to himself of Scriptures like Prov 5:11-14.