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Psalm 127 1
1 Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. 2 In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for he grants sleep to those he loves. 3 Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him. 4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. 5 blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame.

img-130Background 2

Psalm 127 tells people to remember that it was God who saved their city from enemies. God had given them everything that was valuable to them: *safety, houses, food, children and *peace. It was God who let them work hard to build houses. It was God who let them do the other things in the psalm.

Biblical Truths 3

Let us always look to God’s providence. In all the affairs and business of a family we must depend upon his blessing.

  1. For raising a family. If God be not acknowledged, we have no reason to expect his blessing; and the best-laid plans fail, unless he crowns them with success.
  2. For the safety of a family or a city. Except the Lord keep the city, the watchmen, though they neither slumber nor sleep, wake but in vain; mischief may break out, which even early discoveries may not be able to prevent.
  3. For enriching a family. Some are so eager upon the world, that they are continually full of care, which makes their comforts bitter, and their lives a burden.

All this is to get money; but all in vain, except God prosper them: while those who love the Lord, using due diligence in their lawful callings, and casting all their care upon him, have needful success, without uneasiness or vexation. Our care must be to keep ourselves in the love of God; then we may be easy, whether we have little or much of this world. But we must use the proper means very diligently. Children are God’s gifts, a heritage, and a reward; and are to be accounted blessings, and not burdens: he who sends mouths, will send meat, if we trust in him. They are a great support and defense to a family. Children who are young, may be directed aright to the mark, God’s glory, and the service of their generation; but when they are gone into the world, they are arrows out of the hand, it is too late to direct them then. But these arrows in the hand too often prove arrows in the heart, a grief to godly parents. Yet, if trained according to God’s word, they generally prove the best defense in declining years, remembering their obligations to their parents, and taking care of them in old age. All earthly comforts are uncertain, but the Lord will assuredly comfort and bless those who serve him; and those who seek the conversion of sinners, will find that their spiritual children are their joy and crown in the day of Jesus Christ.

Items for Discussion

  • What is divine providence?
  • Where in history have you seen divine providence at work?
  • What is the point of the psalmist in verse 2?
  • Why is the analogy of arrows and a quiver so appropriate for describing children?
  • How does this psalm serve to summarize the essence of a person’s faith?

 

Matthew 21:28:32
28 “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ 29 ” ‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. 30 “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. 31 “Which of the two did what his father wanted?” “The first,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.

Background 4

Jesus chose one of the unlikeliest of men to be his apostle, Matthew the much hated tax-collector who worked for the Roman empire (Matthew 9:9). Unlike most of the other apostles who were skillful fishermen, Matthew was skilled with the pen and with giving an account of facts and figures. Papias, one of the earliest Church historians, records that “Matthew collected the sayings of Jesus in the Hebrew tongue.” Matthew the evangelist wrote some 1068 verses. While the evangelist Mark wrote some 661 verses which focus on the “events” of Jesus’ life and ministry, Matthew focuses on the substance of Jesus’ teaching. When did Matthew write his gospel? Sometime in the last quarter of the first century, likely between 85 and 105 AD.

Matthew was responsible for the first collection or handbook on the teaching of Jesus. His account of Jesus’ teaching is arranged in five sections which focus on the kingdom of God: (1) the Sermon on the Mount or the Law of the Kingdom comprise chapters 5-7; (2) his missionary instructions to his disciples on the duties of the leaders of the kingdom in chapter 10; (3) the Parables of the Kingdom in chapter 13; (4) the themes of “greatness” and “forgiveness” in the kingdom in chapter 18; and (5) the “coming of the King” in chapters 24-25.

Matthew’s gospel is placed first in the canon of the New Testament, not because it was written first, some of Paul’s letter’s and the Gospel of Mark were written before, but because it is a bridge between the Old and New Testament. The main point and argument of Matthew’s 28 chapters is to convince the Jews that Jesus is their Messiah King, the Anointed One, the Christ, the Son of God and founder of the kingdom of God. Matthew’s account uses the word “kingdom” 50 times, and the “kingdom of heaven” 32 times.

Matthew’s account emphasizes Jesus’ kingly rule and divine authority. Jesus says to Peter, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19). Jesus’ last words to his apostles also speak about his kingly authority over all: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.. teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always…” (Matthew 28:18-19) Matthew uses the word “all” four times in this passage alone. Matthew also shows Jesus’ authority over nature by his miracles, his authority over sin by forgiving sins, and his authority over death by his resurrection.

The Gospel of the Jews

Matthew writes as a Jew to his fellow Jews to present to them the evidence for Jesus’ claim to be the King of the Jews. He quotes extensively from the Old Testament prophets to show how Jesus fulfilled all that was spoken about the Messiah who would come to establish the reign [or kingdom] of God. He frequently writes, “as it is written in the prophet…” or “this was done to fulfill what was spoken by the prophets…” Nine times Matthew refers to Jesus as the “son of David”. The prophets had foretold that the Messiah would be a direct descent of David. Matthew’s gospel begins with the genealogy of Jesus, tracing him back to David, King of Israel, and then to Abraham, the first Jew. Matthew traces Jesus’ lineage through Joseph, his foster father, rather than through Mary, his biological mother [as Luke’s account does]. Matthew, the observant Jew, notes that according to Jewish genealogy, the father’s lineage counted legally for royalty.

Biblical Truths

The three parables in 21:28-22:14 together respond to the Jewish leaders, critiquing them harshly. Ancient Mediterranean culture demanded that sons honor and obey their parents, especially when they still lived on the father’s estate. The parable’s point is obvious enough in Matthew’s context: the repentant (3:2) son does the father’s will (7:21; 12:50); the unrepentant son is unfruitful (3:8), claiming to do but not doing (23:3). Thus the latter stands for Israel’s religious leaders, in contrast to the humble who heed John and Jesus. The issue is not that the tax collectors and the prostitutes were good (compare 9:9; 18:17; cf. 19:17); it is that the religious and political elite were worse, being treasonous (22:5-10). Jesus provides a question after a parable (as in Is 5:3-4; Mt 21:40).

The interpretation of this parable follows naturally after 21:23-27: Jesus and John represent the same source of moral authority, and those who rejected John’s way of righteousness showed the hypocrisy of their own claims to be God’s servants. The repentance of more openly sinful people did not provoke them to jealousy for their own spiritual status (compare Rom 11:14).

Items for Discussion

  • How does this parable enter the modern church of today – how are its members like the two sons?
  • If we were to conduct a “self-audit” of our lives, upon what criteria is Jesus establishing his kingdom?
  • Has Jesus placed any value upon the son who’s intent is to serve but does not?
  • To what degree has Jesus devalued the work of the second son who is a reluctant worker?
  • What does Jesus do with sin in this parable?
  • What does this parable say about the modern parable “do as I say, not as I do?”
  • What is the impact of our church’s failure to “do what it says” on those who are observing us?

Discussion Challenge

  • By what criteria should a church measure its impact upon this world and the community of believers?
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