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Isaiah 55:6-12 1
6 Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. 8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. 9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. 10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. 12 You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. 13 Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the LORD’s renown, for an everlasting sign,

img190Background 2

Isaiah prophesied in the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. He has been well called the evangelical prophet, on account of his numerous and full prophesies concerning the coming and character, the ministry and preaching, the sufferings and death of the Messiah, and the extent and continuance of his kingdom. Under the veil of the deliverance from Babylon, Isaiah points to a much greater deliverance, which was to be effected by the Messiah; and seldom does he mention the one, without alluding at the same time to the other; no, he is often so much enraptured with the prospect of the more distant deliverance, as to lose sight of that which was nearer, and to dwell on the Messiah’s person, office, character, and kingdom.

Biblical Truths 3

Here is a gracious offer of pardon, and peace, and of all happiness. Is not in vain to seek God, now his word is calling to us, and his Spirit is striving with us. But there is a day coming when he will not be found. There may come such a time in this life; it is certain that at death and judgment the door will be shut. There must be not only a change of our ways, but a change of our minds. We must alter our judgments about persons and things. It is not enough to break off from evil practices, we must strive against evil thoughts. To repent is to return to our Lord, against whom we have rebelled. If we do so, God will multiply to pardon, as we have multiplied to offend. But let none trifle with this plenteous mercy, or use it as an occasion to sin. Men’s thoughts concerning sin, Christ, and holiness, concerning this world and the other, vastly differ from God’s; but in nothing more than in the matter of pardon. We forgive, and cannot forget; but when God forgives sin, he remembers it no more. The power of his word in the kingdoms of providence and grace, is as certain as in that of nature. Sacred truth produces a spiritual change in the mind of men, which neither rain nor snow can make on the earth. It shall not return to the Lord without producing important effects. If we take a special view of the church, we shall find what great things God has done, and will do for it. The Jews shall come to their own land; this shall represent the blessings promised. Gospel grace will make a great change in men. Delivered from the wrath to come, the converted sinner finds peace in his conscience; and love constrains him to devote himself to the service of his Redeemer. Instead of being profane, contentious, selfish, or sensual, behold him patient, humble, kind, and peaceable. The hope of helping in such a work should urge us to spread the gospel of salvation. And do thou help us, O Spirit of all truth, to have such views of the fullness, freeness, and greatness of the rich mercy in Christ, as may remove from us all narrow views of sovereign grace.

Items for Discussion

  • Isaiah is telling us clearly that we are not as great as God, just look around and see; we cannot make it rain, snow, etc. Yet all of these things are good and generate good things like crops. Why, then with so much evidence are people so reluctant to believe that God has a hand in these things when they cannot do them?
  • God is calling for results – What would the results of a successful Christian life include?
  • Where in these verses is the folly of mankind brought out most clearly?
  • God describes the concept of “purpose.” – How would you describe God’s purpose for the Christian church, the family and for yourself?
  • If mankind listens to God, what does God promise? Why should we care about this?

 

Matthew 26:1-13
1 When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, 2 “As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.” 3 Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, 4 and they schemed to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. 5 “But not during the festival,” they said, “or there may be a riot among the people.” 6 While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, 7 a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. 8 When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. 9 “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” 10 Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. 12 When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. 13 Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Background

The extravagant anointing at Bethany (vv. 6-13) is framed by a plot to arrest Jesus (vv. 3-5, 14-16). The disciples, who can appear less wise than the women they seek to silence in the Gospels (as in 15:23; compare Lk 24:11), protest this extravagance. One disciple, Judas, who realizes that Jesus is a martyr messiah, decides that following Jesus will not be profitable and determines to gain at least some profit. Jesus Faces God’s Calling Obediently (26:1-2) By adding another passion announcement here (contrast Mk 14:1-2), Matthew reminds us that whatever the power of those who plotted against Jesus, Jesus moved according to his Father’s plan and not theirs. No matter how strong the forces arrayed against God’s servants, God will ultimately fulfill his purposes.

Bible Truth

Some modern readers take Jesus’ reproof in 26:9-11 as playing down the priority of the poor, and then they inexplicably apply the example of this woman’s extravagance to their church building programs or other projects. (That the disciples would have thought of the needs of the poor shortly before Passover fit their culture’s custom) The needs of human beings always remain closer to Jesus’ heart than most other monetary agendas (as in 5:42), and his very words about the poor remaining with them allude to Deuteronomy 15:11, where the context demands caring for the poor (Deuteronomy 15:1-10). This woman supplied something for Jesus shortly before his death that none of the rest of us can repeat (hence Matthew 26:13), but she provides a model of sacrificial love. We show that sacrificial love to Jesus now by using all our resources for the work of his kingdom (13:44-46), including serving the poor (6:2, 19-24; compare Lk 12:33-34).Judas Follows Jesus for What He Can Get out of Him (26:14-16) Ancient narrators sometimes contrasted positive and negative moral examples; as Judas contrasts with Peter in 26:69–27:10, he contrasts here with the extravagant love of the woman in 26:6-13. Jesus has continued to discuss his death (vv. 2, 12), and perhaps at least Judas has now caught on. But when Judas finds that Jesus’ kingdom will not profit him materially (and may even cost him his life), he chooses to get what he still can from his lengthy investment in Jesus: he sells him for the price of a slave (v. 15; Ex 21:32). Like another disciple of old (2 Kings 5:26-27), Judas abandoned his spiritual birthright for better material conditions, and in saving his own life lost it for eternity (Matthew 16:24-27; 27:1-10). Judas represents all those who follow Jesus only for what they can get from him, not for how they can serve him: eventually they may decide that the cost of serving him is higher than it is worth.

Items for Discussion

  • The woman is admonished for not thinking about profit – in what ways does this same admonishment permeate our society today?
  • How do you interpret Jesus’ statement about the poor?
  • What is the correct balance between a church’s pursuit of money and funding and services to its congregation?
  • When are the times in our society today that generosity like the woman in this story are needed?
  • Judas followed Jesus for commercial reasons – what are the modern day reasons that people follow Jesus for material gain?
  • Does this story mean more because a woman was the more generous party and the man was not?
  • What attributes about women lend themselves toward generosity?
  • What attributes about men lend themselves toward pursuing the commercial side of a relationship?
  • What lessons from these passages should we be passing on to our children?

Discussion Challenge

  • What is the test that a church can make to assure itself that generosity is balanced by prudent growth and services? 
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