Knocking on heaven’s door (Matthew 7:7-11)

Jesus said ordinary people like us can invite God’s kingship to earth. Shall we?

Open Matthew 7:7-11.

The first lie ever told about God was that he was holding out on us (Genesis 3:5). The sovereign had honoured his creatures by inviting them into his palace garden, giving them access to everything he provided. He reserved for himself the right to decide good and evil for his creatures. Instead of respecting our sovereign, humans grasped at the power in his hands, acting as if we were gods. All the murder, all the social devastation, all the violence in the world flows from people grasping power that should be in God’s hands.

What difference would it make if people asked God to rule over us again? What would happen if together we sought his kingship? What if we knocked on heaven’s door and invited our sovereign to reign over earth again? Ask. Seek. Knock. According to Jesus, our true ruler would respond to such an invitation (7:7). Continue reading “Knocking on heaven’s door (Matthew 7:7-11)”

Careful how you judge (Matthew 7:1-6)

How you judge Jesus determines how you judge others.

Open Matthew 7:1-6.

Before being judgemental of others, judge yourself. Jesus’ teaching is as relevant as the day he first gave it.

But there’s more going on here. Why did Jesus need to say this? Who did he have in mind? Why did his followers need to be aware of this? And who are the “dogs” and “swine” Jesus warned about?

As always, we need to ask what it meant for them before we ask what it means for us. Otherwise we’re likely to apply this text in inappropriate ways (e.g. to undermine investigative journalists). Continue reading “Careful how you judge (Matthew 7:1-6)”

Final reflections: Israel tour

Ponder what we’ve seen in the last two and a half weeks.

As you read this, the tour group from Riverview are probably on a plane flying back to Australia. We’re reflecting on what it’s meant to visit key places in Israel and Jordan where so many significant events in Biblical narrative played out.

Next week this blog returns to normal — seeking to understand the Gospel of Matthew from the perspective of the kingdom of God, Jesus central lens.

IsraelTour2017_Map

Transjordan and Mount Nebo

Moses was unable to lead Israel into Canaan, but he glimpsed the land from Mount Nebo east of the Jordan River.

Tomorrow we travel through ancient Moab, originally descended from Lot (Genesis 19:37). The Moabites tried to prevent Israel entering the Promised Land. They hired Balaam to curse Israel. When that failed, they beguiled the Israelites to turn from God (Numbers 22 – 25). Nevertheless, Ruth from Moab became David’s great-grandmother (Ruth). Continue reading “Transjordan and Mount Nebo”

Eilat, Wadi Rum

We cross into Jordan to journey northwards on the eastern side of the Salt Sea — the route Moses took when leading Israel to Canaan shortly before his death.

A wadi is a streambed that flows only in the rainy season. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned about the foolish person who built his house on the sand rather than on rocky terrain. Then when the rains came, the house on the sandy floor of the wadi didn’t survive. Jesus’ way isn’t the easiest, but it is the most enduring for those willing to follow (Matthew 5:24-27). Continue reading “Eilat, Wadi Rum”

Qumran, Masada, Dead Sea

The Judean Wilderness beside the Salt Sea reveals how Jews tried to keep their history alive when Rome invaded in AD 70.

In the dry and rugged terrain of the Judean wilderness, it’s not hard to see why David would have taken advantage of the spring at Ein-Gedi while hiding out from Saul (1 Samuel 23:29).

Jesus was baptized by John in “the wilderness of Judea” (Matthew 3:1) at “Bethany beyond Jordan” (John 1:28). While we’re not sure where that was, it sounds like the Jordanian side of the Jordan, opposite the Judean wilderness, perhaps across from Qurman. (Others have wondered if it may have been further north, just a few kilometres south of the Sea of Galilee.)

The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in the caves at Qumran. The Qumran community thought the Jerusalem temple leaders were irredeemably corrupt, so God had called them to be his holy place. Here in the wilderness they saw themselves as a voice calling Israel back to holiness (Isaiah 40:3). They used a miqveh (ritual bath) for cleansing. There are some interesting parallels with John the Baptizer (though there’s no evidence he was an Essene). John used the same text from Isaiah to describe his ministry, and baptized to cleanse people for the Lord’s arrival (Matthew 3 || Mark 1:1-11 || Luke 3:1-22). Offering cleansing in the wilderness apart from the temple was potentially explosive for the son of a priest (Luke 1:5). Continue reading “Qumran, Masada, Dead Sea”

The temple area (Jerusalem)

Half the world’s population consider the temple area in Jerusalem to be of the holiest places on earth.

The old city walls we see in Jerusalem today were built by Sultan Suleiman in the 1500s. The only remains of the temple complex are the foundation stones of the Western Wall (previously the Wailing Wall). Please respect this area as a place of prayer. It’s as close as you can get to what was the Most Holy Place—the place of God’s abode on earth in Old Testament times. Here you will see Jewish people with a wide range of beliefs. Some may wear phylacteries—literally tying Scripture to their foreheads (Deuteronomy 6:8). You will see written prayers pressed into the spaces between the stones. Continue reading “The temple area (Jerusalem)”

Sabbath in Jerusalem

In Hebrew, Friday is called “Preparation.” Jewish families do the necessary preparation to avoid working once Sabbat begins at sunset.

Tomorrow is Sabbath in Jerusalem. Consider taking time to rest, to read, to ponder, discuss, and to assimilate what you have seen and heard in the last ten days. You may like to read some of the Psalms that celebrated Jerusalem as God’s dwelling place in Old Testament times (Psalms 26, 41, 42, 48, 75, 84, 87, 95, 125, 127, 133, 134, 137, 137, 146, 147. 150). Continue reading “Sabbath in Jerusalem”