Friday, November 5, 2010

Who Is First?

More questions from Matthew Chapter 2

5. How many verses refer to the Child and His mother and why is the reference to Jesus first?

The Child and His mother is referenced four times in this chapter. This phrase is not repeated anywhere else. As we look at the events that are occurring, this is a reminder that this is all about Jesus and not about Herod, the Magi or even Jesus’ mother. Jesus is the central figure of all history and even when the world appears to be at its best (the Magi coming to worship Jesus) or at its worst (Herod killing all the children,) Jesus is the most important.

Twice Joseph was commanded to get up and take the Child. Both times, he got up and took the Child. Joseph didn’t hesitate to obey God’s command whether it was to flee or return. There is no indication of urgency to the return from Egypt but his response was the same.

When everything is going well with us, how often do we make sure that Jesus is still first in our lives? When things get tough are we also prone to forget about or even blame God? The writer of this proverb knew exactly how weak we are. Prov 30:8-9 Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the Lord?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God. (NIV)

The writer was so concerned that he would wander from the Lord if he had wealth that he even prayed that the Lord would not bless him with riches. Doesn’t this just fly in the face of what is taught in many churches today? Many people believe that if they are “good Christians” with enough faith, then they will be prosperous and healthy. However, the truth is that God knows that wealth is a huge stumbling block that keeps people from the Lord. The rich young ruler that approached Jesus to find out how he could have eternal life had been blessed with riches. They were more important to him than was eternity with God.

Mark 10:22-23 At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!" (NIV) Rather than telling this man that his riches were a sign that he pleased God, Jesus told him to get rid of them and give them to the poor. This man would rather have worldly riches than please God.

1 Tim 6:6-10 But godliness actually is a means of great gain, when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. And if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang. (NASB) One of the things that helps keep Jesus first in our lives is being content with what we have as long as it springs from godliness. Many people are content with what they have, but they don’t have godliness. So don’t be fooled by those who have achieved some contentment in their lives but don’t have Jesus. They are only fooling themselves into thinking all is well. The key thing to consider in these verses is discontent. Note, that those who want to get rich, those who love money, and those longing for money are the ones that are going to run into spiritual trouble.

Want, love and long are all words that should be reserved for the worship of our Lord, not the worship of money. Ps 63:1 O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. (NIV) Do we long for a relationship with Jesus as a person who is dying of thirst longs for water? Do we long for Jesus as much as we long for riches? Or would we rewrite the verses so that the angles would tell Joseph to save his own skin – oh, yes take the child with you also.

How do we respond to the opposite of riches? When we are facing poverty, a daily lack of food, clothing, and shelter, how do we handle these? Are we willing in these cases to also put Jesus first? The author of the proverb was very concerned that he would steal if he were tempted by a lack in his life. Note however, that his primary concern was that stealing would dishonor the name of God. When Christians respond to adversity sinfully, they are witnessing to the world that being a Christian doesn’t make a difference. Why would a non-Christian want to become a Christian if we complain, are angry, bitter and even steal when things get tough?

Look at what Paul said. He had more adversity in his life than most people. Phil 4:10-13 I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. (NIV) Paul had taken a remarkable step in his Christian life. He knew how to be content regardless of the outward circumstances. It hast to come back to the same thing as with not falling into traps because of riches. The Child, Jesus, has to be first in our lives.

Jesus put it this way, Matt 6:31-33 “So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (NIV) The only way Paul could make his claim to be content in every situation was to put Jesus and His kingdom first in his life. He knew that as long as we focus our lives on things here, we will be subject to discontentment. Col 3:1-4 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (NIV) Paul knew that the only way to overcome the hardships of this life was to focus on Jesus and the eventuality of being with Him in heaven. There is nothing in this world that we can trust that won’t disappoint us. The world is corrupt and we can easily end up being in desperate need. Calamity can strike quickly and remove everything we’ve trusted. Car accidents, floods, earthquakes, fire, persecution, random killings, or illnesses all can leave us destitute. Only focusing on Jesus and eternity can get us through the worst of these without succumbing to sin to alleviate our problems.

Remember that the angel told Joseph to take the Child and his mother. Mary was very important to Joseph, but he had to make sure that Jesus was first. We need to put Jesus first.

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