Genesis 37-38, Matthew 19

The Providence of God.

Genesis 37-38, Matthew 19

 Meanwhile the Midianites had sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard.  – Genesis 37:36 ESV

We don’t always get what God is doing in and around us. Sometimes it even appears as if He is nowhere to be found. Yet the Bible is filled with timely reminders of God’s sovereignty over mankind. We read account after account of His providential role in the lives of men, working behind the scenes, orchestrating events and individuals in order to accomplish His divine will. And the story of Joseph is one of the premier illustrations of God’s providential participation in the affairs of men. To those who find themselves cast members of God’s story, His involvement is not always apparent. Could we have talked to Joseph as he sat in the pit or while he was on his way to Egypt in chains, he probably would have told us that God had turned His back on him. But the story of Joseph’s life is provided to remind us of God’s unwavering, unstoppable control over the affairs of men. When it comes to His divine will and sovereign plan, there is nothing and no one who can stand in His way or prevent what He has predetermined. And while we may not understand what God is doing, we must rest in the fact that He most certainly KNOWS what He is doing at all time. God reminds us, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about God?

Joseph’s dreams were clearly from God. They were a glimpse into the future, providing Joseph and his family with a somewhat fuzzy view of things to come. God was providing a partial look into what was going to happen in the years to come. But we see God’s plan mixed in with man’s sin-prone response. Joseph’s brothers can’t stand him and his dreams only add fuel to the fire of their hatred and jealousy. So they concoct a plan to murder him, but calmer heads prevail, and so instead, they decide to sell him as a slave to some Midianite traders. Their goal was to get this dreamer out of their lives forever. But God had other plans. Sometimes it is hard for us to see God at work in these stories. We have to look closely at the words that are used by the author in describing the events. After covering their sin by convincing their father that Joseph had been mauled and killed by a wild animal, it would appear that the story of Joseph is over. But Moses writes, “Meanwhile the Midianites had sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard” (Genesis 37:36 ESV). God was not done and Joseph’s story was far from over. He was sold as a slave, but not to just any owner. No, he was sold to an officer of Pharaoh. Joseph could have been sold to anyone, but God had something else in mind. In His providence, Joseph’s destiny was irrevocably tied to that of Pharaoh.

Even in the story of Judah, recorded in chapter 38, we see the hand of God. It is hidden from plain sight, but it’s there. Once again, we get a view of the sinfulness of man. Judah, the brother who came up with the idea to sell Joseph as a slave, gets special emphasis from Moses in chapter 38. The story of Joseph is interrupted by the somewhat sad and depressing account of Judah and Tamar, his daughter-in-law. It is a story filled with sin and shame, immorality and human depravity. God is hardly even mentioned, except in two cases where He put to death two of the sons of Judah because of their extreme wickedness. The entire story revolves around Judah’s unfair treatment of his daughter-in-law and culminates is her deceptive plan to force Judah to give her what she wants. It all ends up in the two of them having sexual relations together and the births of two sons.

And yet, God was there. In spite of the immorality and depravity, God was going to use their sinful, selfish acts to accomplish His will for mankind. And we see it in the birth of the two sons, Zerah and Perez. You have to go all the way to the gospel of Matthew to find out how God was at work in this story. There you will find the name of Perez listed in the lineage of Jesus. “Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron…” (Matthew 1:2-3 ESV). Just a few verses later we read, “…and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ” (Matthew 1:16 ESV). God would use one of the sons born from this illicit, immoral relationship to bring about the birth of Mary, the mother of Jesus. God was in control all the time – in the life of Joseph and in the life of Judah. Even the sins of man cannot stop the sovereign will of God.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Apart from God, we are sin-prone and destined to destroy what God has given us. Given enough time, man has a unique knack for destroying not only creation, but virtually every relationship in his life. Left to his own devices, man would make a mess out of just about everything. But thankfully, God is still in control. He has given us a degree of autonomy and freedom, but never completely takes His hands off the wheel. He allows us to believe we are in control, running the affairs of our own lives and determining our own destinies. But God is in full control. Joseph’s brothers fully thought they were taking matters into their own hands. Judah was under the false impression that he was large and in charge of the affairs of his life. You can see these men acting as if God does not exist, and in some cases, acting as if they are God themselves. They attempt to determine the fate of others, making decisions that are not theirs to make. They don’t consult God. They don’t even act as if He exists, showing no remorse or regret for their actions.

Only in the life of Joseph do we see someone who seems to have a right relationship with God. He appears to walk with God and clearly has the blessing of God on his life. Everywhere he goes, regardless of the circumstance, God’s hand is on him. God prospers him. Joseph does his part, working hard and remaining faithful to God, regardless of what kinds of circumstances happen to him. Joseph stands out as an anomaly. He is not the norm. He breaks the pattern of sin and selfishness that has been set by his peers. And God has great plans for him. God can and does use the Judahs and the Josephs of the world. He is not limited by man’s faithfulness or faithlessness.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Through Perez would come the Messiah, Jesus Christ. God would ultimately redeem the sinful affairs of men to accomplish His righteous will for mankind. When I read the stories of Jacob, Joseph, and Judah, it can be so easy to lose heart, thinking that mankind is beyond saving. We are too far gone. I find myself asking the same question the disciples did of Jesus, “Who then can be saved?” (Matthew 19:24 ESV). And Jesus lovingly reminds me as He did them, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26 ESV). God is the God of the impossible. He provided a way for sinful man to made right with Him. He did for us what we could not do for ourselves. He miraculously sent His Son, born into a family line marred by sin, but born without sin. God made the impossible possible. He redeems and restores. He uses our worst to accomplish His best for us. He used the hatred of the Jews and their ultimate murder of His Son to accomplish His will regarding the salvation of mankind. And ultimately, all the stories recorded in Scripture are about that one divine act: the salvation and redemption of man. The story of Joseph is a small chapter in the bigger story of Jesus and His coming to earth as the Savior of the world. I have to constantly remind myself that my story and the events of my life are only significant in that they are part of a much greater, more important story of God’s ultimate restoration of all things. Nothing is impossible for Him.

Father, thank You for being the God of the impossible. You did for me what I could never have done for myself. Your plan is perfect and You are working it to perfection. Help me rest in that reality each and every day of my life. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Day 94 – Matthew 19:16-30; Mark 10:17-31; Luke 18:18-30

Everything Is Possible.

Matthew 19:16-30; Mark 10:17-31; Luke 18:18-30

Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” – Matthew 19:26 NLT

If we keep the verse above within its context, Jesus is addressing the issue of salvation. Of course, we could easily say that it could apply to just about anything. With God, everything really is possible. But Jesus made this statement in answer to a question from His disciples. They had asked, “Then who in the world can be saved?” They were confused over an exchange between Jesus and a young man who had come asking what he must do to have eternal life. His exact question was, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16 NLT). In other words, he was looking for a task to perform or a deed to do. His was a performance-based mindset where actions resulted in rewards. We learn a little later that he is a wealthy young man “for he had many possession” (Matthew 19:22 NLT). His life had been a testament to earning through effort. Sure, he could have inherited all that he had, but he somehow knew that if he wanted something of even greater value – eternal life – he was going to have to DO something to earn it.

Jesus knew his heart. He knew him to be a type-A, driven individual who would take seriously any word of advice or five-step formula Jesus might give him. So Jesus simply answered, “Keep the commandments.” Being a cut-to-the-chase kind of a guy, the young man asks, “Which ones?” He didn’t want to waste time with any commandments that weren’t going to count in his quest for eternal life. So Jesus lays out a few. “You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. Honor your father and mother. Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 19:18-19 NLT). To which the man proudly replied, “Done that! What else?” Now, let’s be honest. Do we really think this young man had kept all these commandments? I’ll spot him the first two, but I can’t believe he never stole or testified falsely, or that he always honored his father and mother and loved his neighbor selflessly. He may have thought he had kept these commandments, based on his own criteria or standard, but the chances are high that he had not. Jesus’ response to his question, “What else?” is very interesting. “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Matthew 19:21 NLT). Notice the word, “perfect.” In the Greek it is the word teleios and it means “wanting nothing necessary to completeness.” It is the same word used by Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount when He said, “But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48 NLT). The idea is to be complete, lacking nothing. God is perfect, whole, complete, and lacks nothing. This man had it all from a worldly perspective, but was lacking one thing: Eternal life. He was not perfect. And interestingly, Jesus told him to sell all that he had and give the money to the poor. Jesus challenges him to let go of all the things he had pursued in search of the perfect, complete, whole life and give it away. And He follows that up with an invitation to follow Him. Perfection, completeness and wholeness will never be found in this life short of selling out to follow Jesus. Now, this is not a universal teaching truth from Jesus that every single individual must sell all their possessions and give away their money before they can follow Him. He knew this man’s real problem. He was in love with the world and his wealth. He had spent years seeking perfection and completeness in material things. Giving all that up was not a possibility for this man, and so we’re told “he went away sad.”

Then Jesus makes a statement that shocked the disciples, because it went against all that they had been taught. It contradicted their view of life in the Kingdom of God. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, it is very hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 19:23 NLT). They believed wealth was a sign of God’s blessing. Now Jesus was telling them that wealth was actually a deterrent to eternal life. Why? Because wealth or material things can easily become a means by which we seek perfection or completeness. Just one more thing. Just a little bit more money. Just a slightly bigger house in a slightly better neighborhood. Just a little bit newer and nicer car. Just a few more additions to the wardrobe. But back in His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus had taught, “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need” (Matthew 6:31-33 NLT). Jesus was inviting this man to do this same thing. He was challenging him to stop worrying about money and stuff, and to start truly seeking God’s Kingdom, instead of his own.

But when the disciples ask who in the world can be saved, Jesus tells them the most important truth in this entire conversation: “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible” (Matthew 19:26 NLT). Salvation is a work of God, not man. We can’t save ourselves. It is an act of God made possible through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. This man couldn’t earn it or perform some take to merit it. He was going to have to give up all his self-effort and throw aside all that he put his hope in and had based his future on, and turn to Jesus as the only way to eternal life. From a human perspective, salvation is impossible. It is out of our hands and beyond our reach. But God has made it possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, His Son.

Father, thank You that You don’t require us to earn our salvation, because none of us could pull it off. We are incapable of living sinless, perfect lives apart from the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. But Father, there are still so many things that distract us from leaning completely on You. We can still put way too much hope in the things of this world and forget that the most important objective of our lives is holiness, not happiness. Keep us focused on building Your kingdom, not our own. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Day 93 – Matthew 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16; Luke 18:15-17

Child-Like Faith.

Matthew 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16; Luke 18:15-17

“I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” – Luke 18:17 NLT

Innocence. Vulnerability. Need. Dependence. Honesty. Helplessness. Trust. Those are just a few of the characteristics of most little children. They are inherently trustworthy. They take us at our word. Some would call them gullible and naive, but there is an innocence about them that is refreshing. They are honest, sometimes painfully so. I remember the time I was standing in yet another long grocery store line. I had one of my kids with me. He was sitting contentedly in the seat in the grocery cart, when all of the sudden he blurted out, “Daddy, that lady is really fat!” I was suddenly shocked out of my fascination with the assortment of candy bars in the nearby rack, to see my son pointing at the rather large woman standing right in front of is the line. She was staring angrily back at me. While I didn’t fully appreciate my son’s timing, I had to agree with his assessment. I just wish he would have kept it to himself or shared it with me in the car later. Kids are honest. They say what they think. My son meant no harm and didn’t know he was saying something hurtful. He simply saw, assessed and spoke what was on his mind.

Children are naturally dependent. From the moment they are born, they are reliant on others for their care, feeding, support and protection. They cannot fend for themselves. Unlike most other mammals, whose offspring are up and running in a matter of days, human newborn are totally defenseless for years. They can’t walk, talk, feed themselves, or do anything to meet their own needs. They must depend on others for everything. Even as they grow older, they recognize that mom and dad are there to provide for them. They understand that, when in trouble, they are to run to their parents for help. When they’re scared, they seek out someone bigger and stronger to protect them. They seem to sense their own limitations and are not afraid to turn to others for help.

And children are trusting. At least when they are young. That’s why we have to warn them about strangers. Left to themselves, they would follow anyone just about anywhere. Those who choose to harm children know this fact and use it to their advantage. Children are susceptible to being deceived because they are prone to trust others. The sad fact is that it doesn’t take long for them to lose this attribute. Before we know it, they begin to question everything and everyone. They quickly become distrustful. Their natural curiosity and inquisitiveness can easily turn into doubt and distrust. Some of that is necessary for them to survive in the world, but it is still sad to watch children lose their innocence and trust.

In these three Gospel accounts, we are given a glimpse of Jesus as He interfaces with some little children. Their parents had brought them to Jesus to be blessed by Him. The disciples, illustrating the value that their society put on children, tried to quickly usher them away. They saw no value in them. They even scolded the parents for daring to bother Jesus with such trivial matters. After all, He was the Messiah. He didn’t have time to waste blessing children. But Jesus shocked the disciples by demanding that they let the children come to Him. He placed them on His lap and said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children” (Luke 18:16 NLT). There was something about those children that resonated with Jesus and represented what He was looking for in His followers. Unlike the religious leaders, the children didn’t doubt and cast dispersions on Jesus’ identity. They simply ran to Him and jumped into His lap. They embraced Him. They viewed Him as someone they could trust. Their parents brought them to Jesus, so they saw no reason NOT to trust Him. These children did not come expecting or demanding anything from Jesus. Their needs were simple. They didn’t come to be blessed, but simply enjoyed being noticed, loved, and cared for. In a society that shunned children and placed little to no value in them, to have Jesus show them love and attention was more than enough for them.

Jesus saw in these children the attitude of dependence He longed for in all His disciples. He wanted those who follow Him to truly recognize their need for Him. He wanted them to trust Him, rely on Him, turn to Him, listen to Him, and rest in Him. While the adults were busy evaluating what they might get out of a relationship with Jesus, these children simply enjoyed the attention and love He showed them. That is what Jesus is looking for in all of us. Do we enjoy spending time with Him? Do we look forward to the attention He wants to show us? The Kingdom of God will not be made up of arrogant, egotistical, self-centered, self-reliant individuals. The self-made man need not apply. But the helpless, hopeless, innocent, defenseless, weak, and willing will always be welcome. A big part of coming to faith in Christ is giving up all faith in yourself. It is recognizing your own insufficiencies and trusting in His all-sufficiency instead. I can’t help but think about the words of Paul when I read these passages. “Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29 NLT). The unwise, the powerless, the poor, the foolish, the despised – these are the ones that God calls and Christ redeems. These are the citizens of God’s Kingdom. Totally dependent. Completely satisfied to rely on God to meet all their needs. Trusting in Jesus to provide for them what they could have never provided for themselves. Willing to rest in the arms of God, benefiting from His grace and His goodness.

Father, thank You for including me in Your Kingdom. And thank You that it wasn’t based on my ability to impress You or accomplish great things for You. But when I was ready to stop trusting in me and start trusting in You, that’s when You included me in Your family. And I am grateful.  Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Day 92 – Matthew 19:1-12; Mark 10:1-12

Jesus Said It, Not Me.

Matthew 19:1-12; Mark 10:1-12

He told them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries someone else, she commits adultery.” – Mark 10:11-12 NLT

I’ll be honest. This is not my favorite topic. But if you’re going to read through the Gospels and have committed to blog your thoughts on a daily basis, it was inevitable that I would have to deal with this passage. It comes straight from the lips of Jesus Himself, and so we have to deal with it – like it or not. Jesus was making His way down from the region of Galilee in the north and heading toward Judea. He ended up in the region known as Perea, just east of the Jordan. Jesus’ earthly ministry is quickly coming to an end as He begins to focus His attention on Jerusalem and the coming Passover celebration, when He would be betrayed, tried, and crucified. During these final days, His enemies, the religious leaders would ramp up their efforts to expose Him as a fraud. A steady stream of Pharisees, Saduccees, and other leaders would make their way to Jesus, equipped with questions designed to trap Him and reveal that He was just a common peasant, not the Messiah.

On this occasion, they asked Him a controversial question – even for their day. It involved divorce. “Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife for just any reason?” they asked. There were two schools of thought at the time. One group held a more liberal view that said divorce was permissible for any reason whatsoever, at least from the male perspective. The other group were the traditionalists who held that divorce was only allowed when the other spouse had been unfaithful. As usual, these men wanted Jesus to choose a side, in order that He might alienate a portion of the crowds that were following Him. But in His typical style, Jesus does not answer their question directly. Instead of talking about divorce, He addresses the issue of marriage, because that is the real heart of the matter. People were not taking marriage seriously. They did not view it with the same intensity and holiness that God did. Instead, they treated their commitments and covenants lightly and flippantly. Divorce had become a quick and easy way to nullify a God-sanctioned covenant, with little or no regret or remorse. Women were treated like property. If a man tired of his wife, he could simply divorce her. He could hand her a piece of paper and send her packing. No stigma involved. No guilt necessary. But Jesus reminds them that marriage was God’s idea, not man’s. It was a God-ordained institution that was based on a concept of unity and oneness. “This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one. Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together” (Matthew 19:5-6 NLT). Ah, there’s the key phrase: “what God has joined together.” From Jesus’ point of view, marriage was a work of God. God made man as male and female, and He intended for them to be joined together as a single unit. Those two individuals were to become a single unit comprised of two united souls. And NO ONE was to split them apart for any reason. That was God’s original intention.

But the Pharisees brought up a problem passage found in Deuteronomy 24:1-4. This involved instructions from Moses to the people of Israel as they wandered in the wilderness. He had seemingly given them the right to divorce their wives by simply handing them a “written notice of divorce.” Moses wrote, “Suppose a man marries a woman but she does not please him. Having discovered something wrong with her, he writes her a letter of divorce, hands it to her, and sends her away from his house” (Deuteronomy 24:1 NLT). If you look closely, Moses is NOT justifying or sanctioning divorce. He is not providing an outlet from marriage by suggesting that all that is required is a piece of paper. And Jesus makes the meaning of this passage clear when He says, “Moses permitted divorce only as a concession to your hard hearts, but it was not what God had originally intended” (Matthew 19:8 NLT). Moses was dealing with a predominantly pagan people who had spent their entire lives growing up in the confines of Egypt. They had adapted themselves to the Egyptian culture and had adopted their false gods. Much of Moses’ time was spent attempting to get these people to understand the ways of Yahweh, their true God. Men were treating marriage flippantly, divorcing their wives at the drop of a hat, simply because they didn’t please them. They were free to find anything wrong with their wives. It had become ridiculous. The idea of oneness and unity had been forsaken altogether. Moses knew there was no stopping these people, so he tried to get them to understand the gravity of their decision. In the next three verses, he tells them the ramifications for their choosing to divorce their wives. As soon as a man handed his wife her walking papers, she was free to marry another man. If that man tired of her or found fault with her and divorced her, the first husband was not free to take her back. That door was closed to him. The same was true even if her second husband died. Moses wanted them to understand that divorce was final. He uses a very strong term to make his point. He tells them that “the first husband may not marry her again, for she has been defiled” (Deuteronomy 24:4 NLT). The word he uses meant “to become impure or unclean.” Once the decision was made to divorce, there was no going back. This is not a passage that is commending or sanctioning divorce. It is illustrating its devastating repercussions. Moses closes his statement on the subject by saying, “That would be detestable to the Lord. You must not bring guilt upon the land the Lord your God is giving you as a special possession” (Deuteronomy 24:4 NLT).

Back to Jesus. He closes His remarks by saying, “And I tell you this, whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery – unless his wife has been unfaithful” (Matthew 19:9 NLT). Mark adds, “And if a woman divorces her husband and marries someone else, she commits adultery” (Mark 10:12 NLT). These were powerful, shocking words coming from the lips of Jesus. There were people standing in the crowd that day who had been through divorce, including some of the religious leaders, more than likely. It was a common practice because it had become so easy to do. Jesus, like Moses, is trying to remind them of the sanctity and holiness of marriage. It is not something to enter into lightly. Even the disciples get that point, because they respond, “If this is the case, it is better not to marry!” (Matthew 19:10 NLT). In other words, if you can’t divorce your wife for any reason without being guilty of adultery, then why get married at all? You can hear in their statement just how easy divorce had become and just how difficult they viewed marriage to be. The truth is, marriage is difficult. God is bringing together two individuals with two sin natures and asking them to spend the rest of their lives together. He is asking them to love one another unconditionally. He is demanding that they sacrifice their rights for the good of the other – regardless of each others’ fault and failings. In any marriage, there will always be plenty of things not to like about the other person. Husbands and wives tend to irritate, disappoint, anger, and even embarrass one another. Finding fault in one another is not a problem. Remaining faithful and committed to loving one another through it all is a problem. And only God can make it possible. God never said marriage would be easy. He never promised it would be a bed of roses. The miracle of marriage is that God takes two extremely selfish, self-centered, sinful people and molds them into a single unit. He makes two into one. Bad math, but great theology. Only God can do that kind of math.

I know there are those reading this blog who have been through divorce. In no way do I want to heap guilt on you. That is not my intent. God is forgiving and gracious. He allows new beginnings. He is a God of grace, not guilt. But it is important that we all deal with the holiness of marriage. We must recognize that divorce grieves God. It was never His intent. Divorce is a vivid illustration of the hardness of man’s heart and the devastating presence of sin in our lives. Those who have been through divorce and don’t recognize that reality, run the very real risk of repeating their mistake all over again. The real issue here is marriage, not divorce. If you have been divorced and are now remarried to a wonderful individual, will you make that new marriage a godly marriage? Will you view it through His eyes and not the world’s? Will you remain committed to that new spouse regardless of any and all circumstances? Will you forgive regularly, love unconditionally, sacrifice willingly, die to self daily, and commit to one another permanently? Will you agree with Jesus that the two of you are no longer two, but one, and that you will not allow anyone or anything to split apart what God has joined together?

Father, we talk more about divorce than we do about marriage. We don’t understand or appreciate just how precious marriage is to You. We treat it flippantly and frivolously. We enter into marriage lightly, not weighing the commitment it requires. We don’t value the covenant it requires and the holiness it should represent. We forget that You invented it and that You highly regard it. Give us a new view on marriage. Help us to see it through Your eyes and to value it the way You do.  Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Day 73 – Matthew 19:1; Luke 9:51; John 7:10

A Determination to Reach His Destination.

Matthew 19:1; Luke 9:51; John 7:10

“As the time drew near for him to ascend to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” – Luke 9:51 NLT

These three simple verses paint a vivid picture that records an important turning point or transition in the life of Jesus. It is here that we see Jesus earthly ministry begin to come to a close as He begins to focus on the true nature of His coming. He had one final assignment to complete for His time on earth to be truly successful and for Him to completely and perfectly fulfill His role as Messiah. The miracles and wonders He performed were simply proofs of who He was. What was to come next would be the reason for which He had come. Luke tells us that Jesus “resolutely set out for Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51 NLT). Jesus knew what was waiting for Him in Jerusalem. He had already told the disciples what fate awaited Him there. He had begun “to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day, he would be raised from the dead” (Matthew 16:21 NLT). Peter rebuked Him when he heard this news. He told Jesus, “This will never happen to you!” (Matthew 16:22 NLT). But Jesus knew better. Not only would it happen, it had to happen. It was essential that it happen and in just the way Jesus had described it. It was all part of God’s grand redemptive plan. And while Jesus knew exactly what was going to take place in the days ahead, He determined to set His sights and His attention on getting to Jerusalem. He would let nothing and no one stand in His way.

The Greek word Luke uses could be translated, “he set his face.” It is a Semitic idiom that speaks of a firm, unshakable resolve to do something. It is very similar to the thought found in the Old Testament book of Isaiah, where the prophet records the words of the Messiah, hundreds of years before Jesus arrived on the scene. This prophetic passage envisions the future Messiah, the Lord’s Servant, and it is a vivid picture of Jesus. In it, the Messiah is recorded as saying, “The Sovereign LORD has spoken to me, and I have listened. I have not rebelled or turned away. I offered my back to those who beat me and my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard. I did not hide my face from mockery and spittly. Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be disgraced. There, I have set my face like a stone, determined to do his will. And I know that I will not be put to shame” (Isaiah 50:5-7 NLT). Written hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, this passage provides a remarkably accurate glimpse into the final days of Jesus’ life on earth. And it tells us that the future Messiah would be determined to do the will of God, refusing to be distracted or deterred from His God-ordained responsibility.

I can’t help but read these words and think about how often I refuse to do those things that I find distasteful or not enjoyable. Even when I know the task at hand is important or even essential, if it is not something I particularly want to do, I will find every excuse in the world NOT to do it. But here was Jesus, facing the most repulsive tasks any man could ever face, and He was determined to do it and do it well. He knew that He was going to be beaten, mocked, spit on, whipped, slapped, ridiculed, betrayed, deserted, and ultimately nailed to a cross where He would be left to die in horrific agony. And yet, He “set His face” to go to Jerusalem. For Jesus, it was all about doing the will of His Father who had sent Him. It was about obedience and faithfulness. It was about the trust He had in His Father because He knew His Father was trustworthy and faithful. “Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be disgraced” (Isaiah 50:7 NLT). Isaiah also records these words from the future Messiah and they are a wonderful encouragement to us when we face difficulties or times when the task at hand seems to much for us to handle. “Who among you fears the LORD and obeys his servant? If you are walking in darkness, without a ray of light, trust in the LORD and rely on your God” (Isaiah 50:10 NLT). Jesus was headed toward Jerusalem. The days ahead would be filled with a gathering gloom as the religious leaders increased their attacks on Him. Satan Himself would be seeking ways to destroy Him. One of Jesus’ own disciples would betray Him. All the rest would end up deserting Him. But He knew He could trust in the LORD and rely on His God. So He set His face like a stone and headed to Jerusalem, determined to finish what He had begun.

Lord Jesus, I have no earthly idea what You were feeling as You made your way to Jerusalem in those days. I don’t know what was going through Your heart and mind. I only know how I would have felt if I had been in Your place. Everything in me would have been scheming and rationalizing ways in which to put off what lay ahead. I would have wanted to avoid the future at all costs. I would have begged my heavenly Father to come up with another plan, another way. I would have had a pity party and become sullen and angry. But yet, You continued to minister, teach, heal, encourage, disciple and love those very same people who would end up rejecting You in the end. You faced Your future with determination and placed Your life in the trustworthy hands of Your Father. Oh, that I might learn to do the same. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men