The Wheat and the Weeds.
Genesis 25-26, Matthew 13
Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn. – Matthew 13:30 ESV
As you make your way through the book of Genesis, you can’t help but notice that there are two primary casts of characters. There are the descendants of Abraham through whom God has chosen to fulfill His promise; and then there are the rest, which includes some who are also descendants of Abraham. We have already seen the contrast between Abraham and Lot. We know that Canaan, the land which God had promised to give to Abraham, contained various people groups who were not followers of God. There has been the sending away of Ishmael, the son of Abraham born to him by Hagar, the maid servant of Sarah. And now we read of the births of Jacob and Esau. Once again we see a contrast which will result in a conflict. There is a pattern of separation and divine selection going on, and it tends to produce in us an uncomfortable tension. And yet, this is the way in which God has chosen to fulfill His covenant to Abraham and, ultimately, to all mankind.
What does this passage reveal about God?
Chapter 25 opens with a record of Abraham’s “other” children born to him by his second wife, Keturah. These children are listed, but are in stark contrast to the story that immediately follows. Moses tells us that “Abraham gave all he had to Isaac” (Genesis 25:5 ESV). In other words, these children were not considered his true heirs. He knew that only one son was to be designated as the heir of all that he had. Isaac had been given to him by God and was to be the one through whom the promises of God would be fulfilled. God had set Isaac apart for a special purpose and would bestow His blessings on him. Abraham even sent his other children away to the east in order to separate them from Isaac.
And then we read of the births of Jacob and Esau. Rebekah, the wife of Isaac, was barren. So “Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren. And the Lord granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived” (Genesis 25:21 ESV). God intervened once again. Just as in the case of the birth of Isaac, God miraculously bestows on Rebekah the ability to conceive. But this time, there are two children in her womb, twin boys who will be a different as night and day. And only one will be able to become the heir to the inheritance of Abraham and the promises of God. And while Esau would be the likely candidate, as the firstborn, God had other plans in mind. Through a series of bizarre circumstances, Jacob would end up with the birthright. God had told Rebekah, even while the boys were still unborn, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within youshall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger” (Genesis 25:23 ESV). Later on, when they were grown men, Esau, in a fit of uncontrolled physical lust, would sell his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of stew. But these events were not just blind luck or the results of fate. They were part of the plan of God and intended to fulfill His promise on His terms. Two times in these two chapters, God reconfirms His covenant with Abraham saying, “I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 26:4 ESV). God was going to be faithful to do what He had promised to do, but it was going to entail conflict. Isaac and Ishmael would become enemies, and the their descendants remain so to this day. Jacob and Esau would develop an unhealthy hatred for one another. There would be tension between the two of them that would last for years. But God would use that tension to separate and seclude one from the other.
All throughout the story of Genesis, you see a pruning and a separating going on. And it is interesting to remember that God had said He would bless ALL the nations through the “seed” or offspring of Abraham. But before that could happen, there had to be a separating and a setting apart. The promise to come was going to have to happen in a specific way and through a specific people group. Not only that, it was going to have to happen as the result of a specific individual, a descendant of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. The setting apart was going to make the fulfillment of the promise possible. But it was also going to make the distinction between God’s chosen people and everybody else more pronounced and confrontational.
What does this passage reveal about man?
By the time Jesus arrived on the planet, the Israelites, the people of God, had become a distinct group with their own city, their own place of worship, and a history of success as a nation. They had been blessed by God and allowed to experience generations of success under the leadership of David and Solomon. But they had rebelled against God and they had failed to live distinctively and differently among the other nations of the world, choosing instead to become like all the nations around them. So God punished them, sending them into exile and destroying the city of Jerusalem where the Temple of God was found. Their disobedience had brought divine discipline and ended in devastating destruction of all that they held dear. But God would restore them to the land and allow them to rebuilt the Temple and the city. He would keep His promise and faithfully fulfill His plan to bring blessing to the nations through them. And it into this situation that Jesus was born. It was among these people He was called to minister. And yet, you see from the very onset of His ministry a continued process of separation and a growing contrast and conflict.
While Jesus was born a Jew, and was a descendant of Abraham, He was different. He lived differently. He called all those who followed Him to live to a different standard. His life was in stark contrast to that of the Pharisees and other religious leaders of His day. He called out the twelve disciples and spend three years indoctrinating them into the ways of His Kingdom. He set them apart and separated them from not only the world around them, but the Jewish people among whom they had lived all their lives. Jesus told His disciples, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given” (Matthew 13:11 ESV). He explained to them that He used parables “because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand” (Matthew 13:13 ESV). What He had to share was not for everyone. There were those who would reject His words and refuse His offer of eternal life. “For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed” (Matthew 13:15 ESV). They were descendants of Abraham, but like Ishmael and Esau, they were not going to inherit the blessings promised to Abraham.
The Jews of Jesus day put a great deal of stock in their heritage as descendants of Abraham, and Jesus would confront them about that very thing. “They answered him, ‘Abraham is our father.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did'” (John 8:39-40 EVS). He went on to accuse them of having Satan as their father, not Abraham. For them, their righteousness or right standing with God was solely based on their rights as descendants of Abraham. But Jesus made it clear that their sins separated them from God and they were in need of a Savior, just as the Gentiles were. He came to offer forgiveness of sin as well as payment for the penalty that those sins required. Jesus would paint the picture of the world as containing two kinds of people: The wheat and the weeds. Those who have accepted the promise of new life through Jesus Christ and those who have refused it. And these two groups must coexist on the earth until God brings an end to it all. Then at the judgment, there will be a true separating between the two. “Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn” (Matthew 13:30 ESV).
There are two distinctively different groups of people living in the world. There are those who are the true descendants of Abraham and those who are not. There are those who are the spiritual heirs of the blessings of God and those who are not. There are the righteous and the unrighteous, the people of God and the people of this world. And the greater the contrast, the greater the conflict. The more distinctive and different we become, the more intense the struggle will be. Jesus told His disciples that the world would hate them just as it had hated Him. But they were to remain distinctive and different, living as salt and light in a dark and decaying world. Wheat among the weeds.
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
As an heir of the promises of God, I have been called to live differently. I am part of a unique group of individuals who have been chosen by God to inherit His Kingdom and to enjoy full rights as His child. But I live among those who are children of this world and who serve a different father. I should not be surprised at the conflict that arises when I choose to live in contrast to the world around me.
Father, help me live as Your child. Don’t let me be overwhelmed by the conflict that takes place as I attempt to live as wheat among the weeds. May my life become increasingly more distinctive and different. May I reflect that character of You, my heavenly Father. My I live more and more like Jesus Himself, and may my life produce an ever-increasing contrast with the world around me. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men