VIDEO Seek ye first the Kingdom of God

MT 6 33 seek ye first
Sept 9, 2011

Matthew 6:32-34 New King James Version (NKJV)

32) For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33) But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34) Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

The Greatest Thing – The Greatest Source of Power

The Greatest Thing
baby dad
Mary . . . sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. —Luke 10:39

During a church service I spotted an infant several rows ahead. As the baby peeked over his father’s shoulder, his eyes were wide with wonder as he looked at the members of the congregation. He grinned at some people, drooled, and chewed his chunky fingers, but never quite found his thumb. The pastor’s words grew distant as my eyes kept sliding back to that sweet baby.

Distractions come in all shapes and sizes. For Martha, distraction took the form of cooking and cleaning—trying to serve Christ instead of listening to Him and talking with Him. Mary refused to be sidetracked. “Mary . . . sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word” (Luke 10:39). When Martha grumbled because Mary wasn’t helping her, Jesus said, “Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (v. 42 niv).

Jesus’ words remind us that our relationship with Him is more important than any of the good things that might temporarily capture our attention. It has been said that good things are the enemies of great things. For followers of Jesus, the greatest thing in this life is to know Him and to walk with Him.

What do you think Martha’s distractions were? Was she wanting to be seen as a good host? Or was she jealous of her sister? What attitudes cause you not to make Jesus your top priority? By Jennifer Benson Schuldt

Teach me, Lord, to get to know You, for that’s when I’ll learn to love You more than anything.

The “certain village” mentioned in Luke 10:38 is Bethany, a small village on the eastern slopes of the Mount of Olives (Mark 11:1), about 2 miles from Jerusalem (John 11:18). It was home to three siblings, Martha, Mary, and Lazarus (Luke 10:38; John 11), and Jesus probably stayed at their home when He was in Jerusalem (Matt. 21:17; 26:6; Mark 11:11; 14:3; John 11:1; 12:1). Bethany was where Lazarus was raised from the dead (John 11) and where Simon the leper held a feast to honor Jesus (Mark 14:3). It is also where Mary anointed Jesus with an expensive perfume to prepare Him for His death (vv. 3-8). Jesus’ ascension, it is believed, also took place in Bethany (Luke 24:50-52).

The Greatest Source of Power

Whatever you ask in My name, that I will do… —John 14:13

Am I fulfilling this ministry of intercession deep within the hidden recesses of my life? There is no trap nor any danger at all of being deceived or of showing pride in true intercession. It is a hidden ministry that brings forth fruit through which the Father is glorified. Am I allowing my spiritual life to waste away, or am I focused, bringing everything to one central point— the atonement of my Lord? Is Jesus Christ more and more dominating every interest of my life? If the central point, or the most powerful influence, of my life is the atonement of the Lord, then every aspect of my life will bear fruit for Him.

However, I must take the time to realize what this central point of power is. Am I willing to give one minute out of every hour to concentrate on it? “If you abide in Me…”— that is, if you continue to act, and think, and work from that central point— “you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7). Am I abiding? Am I taking the time to abide? What is the greatest source of power in my life? Is it my work, service, and sacrifice for others, or is it my striving to work for God? It should be none of these— what ought to exert the greatest power in my life is the atonement of the Lord. It is not on what we spend the greatest amount of time that molds us the most, but whatever exerts the most power over us. We must make a determination to limit and concentrate our desires and interests on the atonement by the Cross of Christ.

“Whatever you ask in My name, that I will do….” The disciple who abides in Jesus is the will of God, and what appears to be his free choices are actually God’s foreordained decrees. Is this mysterious? Does it appear to contradict sound logic or seem totally absurd? Yes, but what a glorious truth it is to a saint of God.

by Oswald Chambers

In the ancient Near East, kingship and temple-building went hand in hand

Solomon's Temple

Divine and Political Favor

It was customary for a newly crowned king, especially a usurper, to celebrate his ascension by building or refurbishing a temple for the deity who had helped him acquire his throne. According to Assyriologist Thorkild Jacobsen, building a temple was partly intended to ensure the deity’s continued presence:

Like a human dwelling, the temple was the place where the owner could be found. Its presence among the houses of the human community was a visible assurance that the god was present and available.**

The presence of the divine guaranteed the king’s throne as well as his political security. A king who could boast that he had the favor of the gods was a king to whom allegiance was due. Israelite participation in this cultural phenomenon is evident in 2 Samuel 7:1–2:

Now it came about when the king lived in his house, and Yahweh had given him rest on every side from all his enemies, that the king said to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells within tent curtains.”

Yet this temple-building paradigm seen throughout the ancient Near East is somewhat altered for Israel. God refused to give David permission to build a temple—a response that in the surrounding cultures would have undermined the king’s legitimacy. But Yahweh did promise David the security he sought. Indeed, God assured David that he would protect him, his people, and his dynasty (7:8–16). In fact, Yahweh pledged security to David in an irrevocable oath: a covenant of “royal grant.”*** How should we interpret Yahweh’s seemingly contradictory response—first refusing to allow David to secure power by building a temple, and then confirming by an oath and grant that David was his chosen king?

The Name and the House

To understand the message of this narrative, we need to pay attention to the author’s wordplay. David claimed to be concerned that Yahweh’s reputation (literally his “name”) was being damaged because he didn’t have a temple (literally “house”). Yahweh’s response, however, makes it clear that David was really concerned for his own reputation (“name”), which was being damaged because David lacked a “house” (or “dynasty”). Both the biblical text and ancient Near Eastern custom demonstrate that David was really asking for permission to secure his own throne by building a temple for Yahweh. The temple would testify to everyone far and near that Yahweh’s presence dwelled in Jerusalem—David’s capital city. In other words, David likely planned to advance his career as king of Israel by building Yahweh’s temple.

Yahweh’s response to David’s request cuts to the heart of the matter.

“Are you the one who should build Me a house to dwell in? Indeed I have not dwelt in a house since the day I brought up the sons of Israel from Egypt, even to this day! Rather I have been moving about in a tent, even in a tabernacle! Wherever I have gone with all the sons of Israel, did I ever speak a word with one of the tribes of Israel, which I commanded to shepherd My people Israel, saying, ‘Why have you not built Me a house of cedar?’ But now, this is what you will say to my servant, to David, ‘Thus says Yahweh of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, to become ruler over My people Israel’ ” (2 Sam 7:5–8).

Yahweh’s response demonstrates that David had misunderstood his steward-like relationship with Yahweh. Operating under cultural assumptions regarding kingship, David mistakenly thought he was the decision-maker and that Yahweh could be manipulated. Yahweh rebuked David for overstepping his bounds, yet he affirmed him as well, promising David, “Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever” (7:16). The wordplay between “name” and “house” in this text conveys an ironic reversal that cuts David’s legs out from under him (“I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep”; 7:8 ESV) only to set his feet on higher ground (“Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me”; 7:16 ESV).

Kings and the Kingdom

Yahweh addressed both David’s ego and his insecurities. Like the kings of his era, David seemed to believe that he had to pacify God with a temple in order to maintain God’s favor, and he was driven by that anxious impulse. David’s prayer of thanksgiving in 2 Samuel 7:18–29 makes it clear that Yahweh recognized David’s fear, exposed it, and redeemed it. David says, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far? … And who is like your people Israel, the one nation on earth whom God went to redeem to be his people, making himself a name and doing for them great and awesome things by driving out before your people, whom you redeemed for yourself from Egypt, a nation and its gods?” (2 Sam 7:18, 23 ESV).

The ultimate message of this text is that neither Israel nor its king would operate “like all the nations” (1 Sam 8:5), manipulating their God and their futures by means of their own ambitions. Rather, the human kings of Israel would stand forever under the authority of the true king, and this kingdom would be built God’s way.

by Sandra Richter

Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are the author’s translation.
Sandra Richter is Professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College. She received her MA from Gordon-Conwell and her PhD in Hebrew Bible from Harvard University’s Near Eastern Language and Civilizations department.

* This is regularly illustrated in the royal monumental inscriptions of Mesopotamia. H. W. Saggs summarizes, “[P]rominent amongst the consequent duties of the king was, therefore, his responsibility for the house of the god.” The Greatness That Was Babylon (New York: Hawthorn Books, 1962), 361–63. See also Sandra Richter’s introduction to the royal monumental corpus in The Deuteronomistic History and the Name Theology: lešakkēn šemô šām in the Bible and the Ancient Near East (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2002), 130–53.

**Thorkild Jacobsen, The Treasures of Darkness: A History of Mesopotamian Religion (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1976), 14–16.

*** See Sandra Richter, “The Concept of Covenant,” in The Epic of Eden: A Christian Entry into the Old Testament (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2008), 69–91.

No Other Gods

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3)

This first commandment, written by the finger of God Himself on Mount Sinai—twice (Exodus 31:18; 34:1)—contains a very intriguing choice of words.

“Thou shalt have no” is rendered from the Hebrew word lo, which is an emphatic negative: “never,” “neither,” “not,” etc. The word “other” translates the Hebrew word acher, which is derived from another word meaning “behind” or “less.” This word is also translated “following,” “next,” “[an]other,” or “strange”—in the sense of being less than the previous object. Elohim is the Hebrew word for “gods,” the term for “powerful ones.”

The Holy Spirit’s most unusual choice of words is the phrase ‘al paniym at the end of the sentence, translated “before me.” That phrase literally means “against the faces” or in the sense of “on top of.” So, a direct translation of the command would be, “Never place a less powerful being on top of my faces.” It can also be rendered, “Don’t ever let any other god get between your face and my face.”

Moses gave several instructions on how we are to observe the command. We are not to worship (prostrate, bow down to) any other god (Exodus 34:14), or mention (call to memory) the name of other gods (Exodus 23:13), or walk behind other gods (Deuteronomy 6:14). We are not to forget (mislay, be oblivious of) YAHWEH and in so doing serve other gods (Deuteronomy 8:18-19). We must not allow our hearts to be deceived (become broad, liberal, “open”-minded) and worship other gods (Deuteronomy 11:16). And we are not to go aside (turn off, withdraw) from the words of God and by doing so serve other gods (Deuteronomy 28:14).

No wonder our Lord Jesus called this the “first and great commandment” and insisted that we must “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart” (Matthew 22:37-38). HMM III

Humbled Before God

For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word. —Isaiah 66:2

Worship also means to “express in some appropriate manner” what you feel…. And what will be expressed? “A humbling but delightful sense of admiring awe and astonished wonder.” It is delightful to worship God, but it is also a humbling thing; and the man who has not been humbled in the presence of God will never be a worshiper of God at all. He may be a church member who keeps the rules and obeys the discipline, and who tithes and goes to conference, but he’ll never be a worshiper unless he is deeply humbled. “A humbling but delightful sense of admiring awe.” There’s an awesomeness about God which is missing in our day altogether; there’s little sense of admiring awe in the Church of Christ these days.

I kneel before You this morning, Lord, with “a humbling but delightful sense of admiring awe and astonished wonder.” Use me today, Lord, to stimulate within others some of this much-missing sense of “admiring awe.” Amen.

True Faith Must Influence Our Daily Living

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me…. Galatians 2:20

“Things have come to a pretty pass,” said a famous Englishman testily, “when religion is permitted to interfere with our private lives.”

To which we may reply that things have come to a worse pass when an intelligent man living in a Protestant country could make such a remark. Had this man never read the New Testament? Had he never heard of Stephen? or Paul? or Peter? Had he never thought about the millions who followed Christ cheerfully to violent death, sudden or lingering, because they did allow their religion to interfere with their private lives?

But we must leave this man to his conscience and his Judge and look into our own hearts. Maybe he but expressed openly what some of us feel secretly. Just how radically has our religion interfered with the neat pattern of our own lives? Perhaps we had better answer that question first.

One picture of a Christian is a man carrying a cross: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”

The man with the cross no longer controls his destiny; he lost control when he picked up his cross. That cross immediately became to him an all-absorbing interest, an overwhelming interference. There is but one thing he can do; that is, move on toward the place of crucifixion!

Who Is Your Example?

Be thou an example… in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. 1 TIMOTHY 4:12

The Christian churches of our day have suffered a great loss in rejecting the example of good men, choosing instead the “celebrity of the hour” for their pattern.

We must agree that it is altogether unlikely that we know who our “greatest” men are.

One thing is sure, however—the greatest man alive today is the best man alive today. That is not open to debate.

Spiritual virtues run deep and silent. The holy and humble man will not advertise himself nor allow others to do it for him.

The Christian who is zealous to promote the cause of Christ can begin by living in the power of God’s Spirit, and so reproducing the life of Christ in the sight of men. In deep humility and without ostentation, he can let his light shine. To sum it all up: The most effective argument for Christianity is still the good lives of those who profess it!

Lord, I pray that You will enable me to be an example of Your love and humility in every situation today, tomorrow and the weeks that follow.