Saturday, April 19, 2008

Matthew 4:23-25 The Lord our Healer

Jesus came as the sacrificial Lamb who died to take away our sins. However, while He was on Earth, He showed us the compassion of our Father in heaven. One of the ways He demonstrated this was by healing people who were ill. These healings did more that just demonstrate the mighty power of God, but also showed Jesus cared about people physically as well as spiritually.

We read in verse 23 that Jesus went about teaching, proclaiming, and “healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people.” He didn’t just instruct them in truth (teach), and He didn’t just proclaim the good news of His Kingdom (proclaiming) but He also saw people with real needs and He, because of His love and compassion, met those needs. We know, according to John 14:11, that the miracles served as a proof of His divinity. I mean, you couldn’t look at a man who was blind from birth who now was able to see and conclude anything other than something supernatural had happened to him. Someone hearing Jesus’ message and seeing the miracles would have proof that He was who He said He was. However, as recorded in Matthew 14:14, Jesus also healed because He was compassionate.

He healed a variety of sicknesses in His ministry here. He healed chronic, possibly life-threatening illnesses (dieases=Greek “nosos”). These were probably severe cases which doctors may have tried to treat to no avail. I can imagine some of these people being at the end of their rope with all hope gone. What a relief they must have felt when they were freed from their debilitating condition and made whole. It wasn’t just serious conditions like this that Jesus healed though. The verse records that He also healed “every kind of sickness (Greek “malkia”) among the people”. This referred to less serious ailments that people suffered from. While these people might not have had the kind of relief that those with serious illnesses did, certainly they were thankful and amazed.

As we note in verse 24, news began to spread about the miracles that Jesus performed. I find it interesting to notice that word spread “throughout all Syria”. He had come to Galilee to begin His ministry. Galilee was what we would probably call on the wrong side of the tracks. People there were considered backwards, uneducated hicks. However, Syria was even more despised because it was Gentile territory. There were some Jews who lived in Galilee, but those from Syria were known by the Jews as dogs just as all other Gentiles. However, what we see is that these people are the first to respond to the miracles. Of course, some of them were curious I’m sure and came just to satisfy that curiosity. We can also be sure there were many who came because they wanted to be healed. Regardless of the reason for coming, however, a huge crowd began to follow Jesus. Matthew describes the diversity of sicknesses that were healed by Jesus as this crowd followed. There were people who were “ill (literally having it bad), those suffering with various diseases and pains (literally tortured or tested), demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics” and Matthew records that “He healed them”. There was no case of anyone having a sickness too great or too small for Him to not be willing or able to heal them. We find in Scripture that healings were not common. In fact, they are pretty unusual. Therefore, to have this explosion of healing in this area of the world during His brief ministry (3 years) is one of the many proofs that God spoke through Jesus. As His reputation grew, the entourage grew in size. In fact, Matthew records that “[l]arge crowds” or crowds of crowds followed Him from all over the area. Of course, not everyone who followed was there because they were drawn by the Holy Spirit nor were they all converted from their sins by His preaching. However, we can know that as He preached and healed people were presented with the evidence of who He was. The Holy Spirit worked in the hearts of those God had elected for salvation. Those who rejected the evidence of Jesus as Messiah did so to their own doom.

What do you say today? We have read evidence of the supernatural power of Jesus and heard His words “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”. Have you repented and placed your faith in Christ to save you? How do you respond to this scripture that you have now read and studied?

Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible Copyright 1960, 1962, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Psalm 23:3b The Glory of God

The ultimate purpose of everything in creation is to glorify God. In the first commandment, in fact, the Israelites are told that God is a jealous God. He is the only one in the whole universe who deserves our praise, honor, and loyalty as our first priority. Because God is holy and righteous, He rightfully expects us to be holy and righteous as well. Luckily for you and I, we are not responsible for living a holy life under our own power. As we read in the second part of verse 3 of this psalm, we are led by a loving Shepherd.

As we read this, we need to step into the sandals, as it were, of a shepherd. During part of the year, the shepherd and the sheep live at the ranch. However, the shepherd later takes the sheep out from the pasture near the home through the valley to the mountain plateau or “table land”. It is this part of the year that I think David has in mind as he writes this verse.

Remember, as we’ve observed before, sheep are not the brightest bulbs on the Christmas tree. They get themselves in trouble if left to themselves and make poor choices about what to do or where to go. Actually, that’s not too dissimilar to you and me, is it? Therefore, they need someone to show them where to go.

David declares here that God provides that direction for him just as He does for us. David writes “He guides me”. David doesn’t have to figure the way out for himself. He doesn’t need a GPS or mapquest. God guides His sheep. Notice that God leads the sheep—He doesn’t drive them. The word “guides” is a translation of the Hebrew word “nachah” which is normally used in the Old Testament to indicate someone going ahead or infront of someone to lead them. God has given us His word and His Holy Spirit to let us know the path we should take. We don’t have to use our intuition or reasoning to figure things out. We can trust God because just like He guided David, He will also guide us.

Further, notice that David knew that God guided him in “paths of righteousness”. We are told in Psalm 1 not to walk in the council of the ungodly. Also, in Colossians, Paul admonishes us to walk in a worthy manner. Therefore, it seems evident that where we walk is pretty important. Therefore, God not only leads us but He leads in what are literally “right paths”. These paths are safe. These paths lead us to where we need to go. When God tells us to abstain from sexual immorality, He is leading us down the right path. He isn’t a killjoy who wants to take all the fun out of life. He knows we can get hurt and hurt others if we take the wrong path. He knows that sheep are prone not only to go astray but lead others astray. Therefore, He leads in the right paths so that we can safely reach our destination. Jesus spoke of this path in Matthew 7 when He said there were two roads. The Lord, as our Shepherd, will never lead us down the path of destruction, but rather down the path that leads to eternal life.

He leads us down the right paths, as David notes, “for His names sake”. As Albert Barnes observes in his Notes on the Bible:

“It is not primarily on their account; it is not solely that they may be saved. It is that He may be honored:
(a) in their being saved at all;
(b) in the manner in which it is done;
(c) in the influence of their whole life, under His guidance, as making known His own character and perfections.”

As I stated in the initial paragraph of this post, the ultimate goal of all creation is to bring glory to God. Therefore, God leads us as a Shepherd in the right paths in order that we might bring glory and honor to His name. As Peter wrote in 1 Peter 2:9, we should proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Let our lives reflect that kind of change—darkness to light. Let us always be humble to follow the leading of our kind Shepherd who leads us in the right paths.

Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible Copyright 1960, 1962, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.