In chapters five through seven, Matthew records Jesus teachings to the crowd in the Sermon on the Mount. He starts with the beatitudes, compares Christians to salt and light, and tells them that he has come to fulfill the law, not abolish it. He tells them that the law forbids murder and adultery and divorce, but that it needs to actually go further than the acts to the feelings and motivations. He tells them to love their enemies and return good for evil. Chapter six starts with comments about prayer and fasting, a form to follow (The Lord's Prayer), and the proper attitude to take. They should, he tells them, be "stor[ing] up for yourselves treasures in heaven" and not fretting about the day to day needs of life, for "your heavenly Father knows that you need them...do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself." In chapter seven he tells them that they will be judged in the same way they judge others, not focus on others' faults but their own, and to be certain to ask for what they need, for "your Father in heaven [will] give good gifts to those who ask him!" He warns them about false prophets, tells them that not everyone who claims him as Lord will enter the kingdom, and finishes with the parable of the builders who built houses on stone and sand. And "the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority."
Thoughts, questions, issues
- This is the longest extended passage of Jesus teaching in the bible. If you've got a "red-letter" version, virtually this who section is red, between an opening phrase at the beginning of chapter five and a closing phrase at the end of chapter seven.
- It is also the extended passage with which I have the greatest familiarity. Obviously, this is Jesus' teaching, and if the Son of God came to redeeem us, well, we're pretty well obliged to listen to what he has to say to us while he's here. I've read this more than any other section (other than the 23rd Psalm or an occasional verse here and there) of scripture.
- I've also got very little to say about this, simply because there is so much to say. I cannot give you, as I've tried to do, my "layman's first impression" kind of reaction to it, because I can't find that anymore. I know this too well, and I've seen and heard and read too many analyses of it. I've listened, many times, to an eight-sermon series that David Fisher gave on the Beatitudes, and a six-series sermon he gave on being salt and light. Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones' Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, which I've read, consists of 60 sermons, addressing every section of this teaching. My positions and opinions on this section, such as they are, have been deeply influenced in ways that are not true of my positions and opinions on other sections.
- How many sermons have been given, for example, on Matthew 5:3 - "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven"? Many, and that's just the first beatitude.
- Dr. Lloyd-Jones position on the beatitudes influenced Dr. Fisher's. They both look at those descriptions and say, "the is Jesus describing his followers. These are the characteristics that mark a true Christian." But what does it mean to be "poor in spirit?" How does one "hunger and thirst after righteousness?" I know what the word "meek" means, but what does it mean in this context? There have been untold countless hours spent on these questions over the past 2,000 years, and there's no reason to suppose that there won't be far more spent on them in the future.
In this psalm, the psalmist speaks mostly in the voice of God. Like the prophets, he conveys a message from the Lord. There's a brief introductory statement of praise, and then "our God comes and will not be silent." The psalmist then has God telling the people of Israel that they should "sacrifice thank offerings" but also that he has "no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens." In the last few verses, he speaks directly to "the wicked," condemning their sin and telling them that "you hate my instruction and cast my words behind you."
A psalm of Asaph.
1 The Mighty One, God, the LORD,
speaks and summons the earth
from the rising of the sun to the place where it sets.
2 From Zion, perfect in beauty,
God shines forth.
3 Our God comes and will not be silent;
a fire devours before him,
and around him a tempest rages.
4 He summons the heavens above,
and the earth, that he may judge his people:
5 "Gather to me my consecrated ones,
who made a covenant with me by sacrifice."
6 And the heavens proclaim his righteousness,
for God himself is judge.
7 "Hear, O my people, and I will speak,
O Israel, and I will testify against you:
I am God, your God.
8 I do not rebuke you for your sacrifices
or your burnt offerings, which are ever before me.
9 I have no need of a bull from your stall
or of goats from your pens,
10 for every animal of the forest is mine,
and the cattle on a thousand hills.
11 I know every bird in the mountains,
and the creatures of the field are mine.
12 If I were hungry I would not tell you,
for the world is mine, and all that is in it.
13 Do I eat the flesh of bulls
or drink the blood of goats?
14 Sacrifice thank offerings to God,
fulfill your vows to the Most High,
15 and call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you will honor me."
16 But to the wicked, God says:
"What right have you to recite my laws
or take my covenant on your lips?
17 You hate my instruction
and cast my words behind you.
18 When you see a thief, you join with him;
you throw in your lot with adulterers.
19 You use your mouth for evil
and harness your tongue to deceit.
20 You speak continually against your brother
and slander your own mother's son.
21 These things you have done and I kept silent;
you thought I was altogether like you.
But I will rebuke you
and accuse you to your face.
22 "Consider this, you who forget God,
or I will tear you to pieces, with none to rescue:
23 He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me,
and he prepares the way
so that I may show him the salvation of God."