Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Matthew 10:16-23


REMEMBER, this is a special time in history in which you have the long-awaited presence of Messiah Jesus, filled with the Spirit, approved by the Father, bearing direct witness to the people of Israel. The Messiah was being presented to the Jewish people as the One Who was promised. They only had a prophecy and a promise before (Sodom and Gomorrah), but now is the real deal.

The ancient Jewish writings about the time of the Messiah all included this thinking of difficult times-persecution, division of friends and family-all over a person's response to this powerful, personal witness. Jesus warns this first round of direct witnesses what they will face and what they must do. [I personally believe that this same context of trouble and therefore the same required response from His disciples will happen again just prior to the Messiah's return.]

16 ``Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 ``But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; 18 and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. 19 ``But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. 20 ``For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.

We are to be as "shrewd as serpents and harmless as doves". "Shrewd" has the idea of a wisdom that sees through all that might be deceptive. "Harmless" is a unique word meaning to be unmixed, pure as with metal or wine-no mixture of deviousness. This is the same term Paul uses in his letter to the Philippians.

Philippians 2:12-16 - Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which works in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither labored in vain.

I love the balance! We are to "work out our salvation with fear and trembling"-work out into your behavior the salvation that is in your heart. But he doesn't leave you all on your own. "For it is God which is at work in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure." So, be "harmless", unmixed, pure and single-minded as you can be as you walk among the people who respond poorly or negatively to the presence of Messiah Jesus. "Shine as lights in the world" of darkness, "holding forth the word of life".

NOTE that Jesus says not to worry about what you will say when dragged into a difficult situation, but the Spirit of your Father will give you what you must say, when you need it. I am finding this to be a more useful principle than I had thought. I think I have prepared too much many times what I am going to say and not relied upon the Spirit of my Father to "speak in me." And as I have been practicing this principle, the words that I have been speaking are so powerful, appropriate, timely and pointed at the need of the moment!

21 ``Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 22 ``You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved. 23 ``But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes.

You may not have experienced a great physical persecution, but there will be a sorts of verbal persecution and false accusations against you. This will be found among those who are followers of the Messiah to discredit the witness of His existence and presence.

The intent here is that all of Israel will be faced with the witness of the longed-for Messiah by the time He would be clearly revealed to them. This is why Jesus sent these disciples only to the house of Israel in this opening mission. All others will come later, as we will see.

Salvation is not seen as a one-time, fix and you're in! Although I believe that your salvation is secure, I also know that there are situations where people turn away from God, never to return to Him. This is not a fear tactic, but a proof of genuineness. Salvation does not come to you so much because of your faith, but because of His grace-undeserved favor from God. No one will get into heaven except through the grace of God. Jesus wants us to be faithful in our response to this great grace.