But the Father is More Faithful When We Ask Him Purposely

imagesJesus said, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him” (Matt. 7:11)! Note the words, “you are evil.” The pronoun, “you,” is plural—all of you. The adjective, “evil” (Gk. poneros), means, “in the ethical sense wicked, evil, bad, vicious, degenerate.” (Gingrich) It simply means, “sinful.” Jesus said you all are evil, sinful, and bad inside. But you know how to give good gifts to your children.

Yes, sinful, bad people know how to give good gifts to their children. We’ve heard of corrupt politicians who provide for their children. Janet Napoles, the queen of PDAF, provided for her children well. It was reported that her youngest daughter lived in posh Ritz Carlon in Los Angeles during her college years. She also drove a Porsche in Manila.[1]

We’ve heard of immoral actors who provide well for their children well. There was a well-known comedian who sired many children with many women. He has a grandson from a woman who is older than his son from another woman. But he provides well for his children.

Jesus said you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your kids. But your Father in heaven knows more about how to give good gifts to those who ask Him. You sinful people know how to take care of your kids. Your Father in heaven knows better how to take care of His children.

We have to ask the question. What are the “good things” that God shall give to those who ask Him? God shall give us many good things. Let me cite just a few of them. First, God shall give us bread and fish—our basic needs in life. These are the good things.

But the words, “good things,” indicate a broader, bigger idea. Jesus is also talking about the kingdom of God. Second, therefore, the good things are the blessings of the kingdom. Ask for the blessings of the kingdom.

Third, praying for the salvation of people is a good thing to God. Peter says God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9).

More than half a century ago, George Mueller, that prince of intercessors with God, began to pray for a group of five personal friends. After five years one of them came to Christ. In ten years, two more of them found peace in the same Saviour. He prayed on for twenty-five years, and the fourth man was saved.

For the fifth he prayed until the time of his death, and this friend, too, came to Christ a few months afterwards. For this latter friend, Mr. Mueller had prayed almost fifty-two years!                                    (Earnest Worker, 7700 Illustrations)

Until today, I’m asking God for the salvation of my father. Ask God for the salvation of people. God shall answer it.

Fourth, Jesus said that we should ask for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matt. 6:10). Thus, the good things include the will of God for our lives.

The good things are not everything that we ask from God. You ask God for a stone to eat. Instead, God gives you sliced bread. You keep asking God for a stone. But God gives you something better. Stop asking God for things that are good to you, but not good to God.

The good things are good according to God, not according to you. They are the things that align with God’s will for you. Ask for the good things according to God’s will. God will give it to you.

Fifth, Jesus has been talking about the new lifestyle of the kingdom. Ask God to give you the power of the Spirit to live according to His will. Ask and it shall be given to you.

Luke 11:13 says, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Matthew writes about “good things.” But Luke replaces the words, “good things,” with the words, “Holy Spirit.” God has given us the best gift—the gift of the Holy Spirit. Ask for the power of the Holy Spirit in your life.

You badly need the power of the Spirit. Your friends tell you to go drinking with them. Ask for the power of the Spirit to say no to them. Some people irritate you. Ask for the power of the Spirit to be patient with them. You are ashamed to share Jesus to your friends. Ask for the power of the Spirit to tell the Gospel to them. Your children are giving you a headache. Ask for the power of the Spirit to deal with them the right way.

Jesus said, “Those who ask Him.” Who are those who ask Him? They are those who have trusted Christ as their Savior. They are those who seek His kingdom and His righteousness.

CONCLUSION

This is how God treats you. He treats you according to His faithfulness. He gives you good things because He is faithful. The Father is faithful when we ask Him persistently. Parents are faithful when we ask them particularly. But the Father is more faithful when we ask Him purposely.

[1] Natashya Gutierrez, “Napoles’ daughter blogs about lavish lifestyle,” Rappler. Cited June 21, 2015. Online: http://www.rappler.com/nation/34895-napoles-daughter-blogs-lavish-lifestyle

A Parent is Faithful When We Ask Particularly

indexThe question in v. 9 gives the same meaning as that of v. 10.

   A     Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread,

          B     will give him a stone? (v. 9)

   A1   Or if he asks for a fish,

          B1   will give him a serpent? (v. 10)

Note that Jesus cites the basic foods in their time—bread and fish. In the Philippines, it is rice and fish. But in Jesus’ time, it is bread and fish. It tells us that Jesus is focused on our basic needs. Ask for your bread and fish, and you shall receive it. Seek for bread and fish, and you shall find. Knock for bread and fish, and it will be opened to you.

The two questions are rhetorical. A rhetorical question is asked to produce an effect. In this case, the effect is a negative answer—“No.” Jesus asked, “Which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?” The obvious answer is, No, of course not. When a son asks his dad for bread, his dad will not give him a stone. When a son asks his dad for fish, he would not give him a snake.

But the point is not about asking bread and fish. It is not even about bread and fish. The point is about a faithful father that provides the needs of his son.

Jesus uses the example of a human parent that provides faithfully. But in the next verse, v. 11, Jesus uses the example of a divine parent, the Father in heaven, that provides more faithfully.

The Father is Faithful When We Ask Him Persistently

imagesMatthew 7:7-8 gives equivalent meanings.

   A     “Ask, and it will be given to you;

          B     seek, and you will find;

                 C     knock, and it will be opened to you. (v. 7)

   A1   For everyone who asks receives, and

          B1   the one who seeks finds, and

                 C1   to the one who knocks it will be opened.” (v. 8)

Jesus gives three commands in v. 7—ask, seek, and knock. He gives three results in v. 7, “it will be given to you,” “you will find,” and “it will be opened to you.”

The verbs are in the passive voice. In the passive voice, someone else is doing the action. “It will be given to you.” God shall give to you what you ask. God shall make you find what you seek. God shall open the door for you. Jesus’ emphasis is on the faithfulness of God in answering our prayers.

    There was a pastor who had a parrot. All the parrot would say was, “Let’s pray. Let’s pray.” The pastor tried to teach him to say other things but to no avail. He learned that one of his deacons had a parrot. That parrot would only say, “Let’s kiss. Let’s kiss.”

So the pastor decided to invite the deacon and his parrot over to his house. When the deacon arrived they put the parrots in the same cage to see what would happen.

The deacon’s parrot said, “Thank you, Lord. My prayers have been answered.”  (Providence Baptist Church)

What do we ask God that He will give to us? Jesus does not tell us in vv. 7-8. But in the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus said, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11). Ask God for your daily bread, and God shall give it to you.

Jesus also said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33). Ask God for your basic needs, seeking His kingdom. God shall provide it. That is the promise of Jesus.

Jesus stresses that God is faithful in providing your needs. Do you believe that? Declare these words, “God is faithful.” Say these words, “God will provide.” You should stop worrying about your needs. God will provide. The word, “worry,” should not even be found in our dictionary.

Now how do you ask? The verb, “ask,” is in the present tense. The present tense indicates a continuing action. Jesus says, “Keep on asking,” “keep on seeking, and “keep on knocking.” It implies persistence. It indicates perseverance. Keep on asking until you receive it. Keep on seeking until you find it. Keep on knocking until it will be opened to you.

The Father is faithful when we ask persistently.

God Gives Good Things When We Ask

imagesThe saying of Jesus in Matthew 7:7-11 is connected with the sayings preceding and succeeding it. First, it is related to the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:10-11. Ask God for His will to be done on earth, and God shall do it. Ask God for our daily bread, and God will provide.

Second, it is also linked to Jesus’ command against worrying over our basic needs in Matthew 6:25-34. If you seek first His kingdom, ask God for your needs and you shall receive it.

Third, Jesus teaches us how we should treat others in Matthew 7:1-6. Now in vv. 7-11, Jesus points out how God treats us when we pray to Him. (Chouinard)

Finally, this saying is tied to the golden rule in Matthew 7:12. We are to do to others as God would do to us. (Garland/Chouinard)

Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given you.” The stress is not so much on our asking, our seeking, and our knocking. The emphasis is on the faithfulness of God when we ask Him. (Hagner) The point is that God answers our prayers because of His faithfulness.

The faithfulness of God is the truthfulness of God. It is the nature of God to be true to those who ask Him.

In this pericope, we see the faithfulness of God in providing for the needs of those who ask Him.

Do not share the Gospel to people who reject it

imagesWhy should we not share God’s Word to people who reject Christ? Jesus said, “Lest they trample them underfoot and attack you” (Matt. 7:6).

There is the story of a mail carrier who, while making his rounds, stopped at a house with a large fence in front. He looked through the fence and saw a woman and a dog.

“Does your dog bite?” he asked the woman.

“No,” she replied, “my dog doesn’t bite.”

Whereupon, the postman walked through the gate and immediately the dog bit him hard on the leg. As the man retreated, limping and moaning in pain, he cried out to the woman, “But you said your dog doesn’t bite!”

To which she replied, “That’s not my dog.[1]

Have you been bitten by dogs? I’m not talking about literal dogs. I’m referring to people who reject Christ. Perhaps you have experienced the bite of people who make fun of you. “There’s that weird born again guy again.”

Have you seen the trampling of your pearls by pigs? Some people reject Christ by rejecting God’s Word. Some reject Him by silence. Some reject Christ by finding fault with your religion. Some people reject the Gospel by vowing loyalty to their religion.

Let us look closer at Jesus’ saying. The first half of v. 6 has two parallel clauses.

A     Do not give dogs what is holy

B     Do not throw your pearls before pigs

These two clauses have parallel meanings. Not giving holy things to the dogs is the same as not throwing pearls to pigs.

The second half of v. 6 has two parallel clauses also.

B1   Lest they trample them underfoot and

A1   turn to attack you [Literally, “having turned – may tear you to pieces”]

Trampling the pearls underfoot is the same as turning and attacking you.

Let’s put it all together. Jesus is saying:

A     Do not give dogs what is holy

B     Do not throw your pearls before pigs

B1   Lest they trample them underfoot and

A1   [lest they] turn to attack you   (Hagner)

In sum, do not give dogs what is holy. They might turn and tear you to pieces. Do not throw your pearls to pigs. They might trample them underfoot (Prov. 11:22).

CONCLUSION

Matthew’s dogs and pigs are people who reject the kingdom. What is holy signifies God’s Word about the kingdom. The pearls symbolize the Gospel of the kingdom. To give what is holy to the dogs is to preach God’s Word to those who reject it. To throw pearls to pigs is to share the Gospel to those who resist it.

According to Jesus, we should not preach God’s Word to people who reject the kingdom. We should not share the Gospel to people who resist Christ. Of course, we do not know if they will receive or reject Christ. We will know only after they reject Christ.

Jesus commands us to go and make disciples of all nations. But Jesus also says that we should not share the Gospel to people who reject it. We should preach the Gospel to everyone. But if people reject the Gospel, we are to move on and tell others about Christ (Acts 13:46; 18:6; 19:9). (Blomberg) We should not force the issue to the unwilling. Rather, we should give the gift of the Gospel only to those who are willing to receive it. (Keener)

[1] “A Happy Ending,” Sunday Sermons. Cited June 13, 2015. Online: http://www.voicings.com/sermon/118

The Holy Things and Pearls Symbolize the Gospel

imagesJesus said do not give to the dogs “what is holy.” What is holy to the Jews? To the Jews, what is holy is the food offering in the Temple. Exodus 29:33-34 reads,

 33 They shall eat those things with which atonement was made at their ordination and consecration, but an outsider shall not eat of them, because they are holy. 34 And if any of the flesh for the ordination or of the bread remain until the morning, then you shall burn the remainder with fire. It shall not be eaten, because it is holy.

In the Temple, there is food for the priests, Aaron and his sons. Yahweh said that if the food remains till morning, Aaron and his sons shall burn it with fire. They shall not eat it, because it is holy. No priest would take the food offered to God on the altar, and throw it to the dogs.

Jesus said do not give to the dogs what is holy. In the context of the Sermon on the Mount, which speaks of the kingdom, what is holy is God’s Word about the kingdom. Then Jesus said do not throw your pearls to the pigs. A pearl is a priceless thing. But what does a pearl symbolize in Matthew? We see the symbol of a pearl in the Parable of the Priceless Pearl in Matthew 13:45-46.

45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

Jesus says that the kingdom is like the priceless pearl. The merchant wanted to obtain this priceless pearl. He sold everything he owned and bought it. The priceless pearl is a symbol of the kingdom. In the context of Jesus’ teaching, pearls refer to the priceless message of the kingdom, the Gospel of the kingdom. (Constable) Thus, giving what is holy is preaching God’s Word about the kingdom. Throwing pearls is preaching the Gospel of the kingdom.

Let’s reverse it. If throwing pearls is offering the Gospel of the kingdom, then trampling down pearls is rejecting the Gospel. If giving what is holy is sharing God’s Word about the kingdom, then turning and attacking the giver is resisting the kingdom.

This leads us to my third point.

First, the dogs and pigs stand for people who resist the Gospel

Dogs and pigs were disgusting to the Jews of Jesus’ time. There were street imagesdogs in those days. The street dogs are not your pretty, clean, bathed, and shampooed dogs. They are the dirty, ugly, and smelly dogs. These wild dogs go around the city in packs and eat garbage. (MacArthur) They would also growl at people feeding them. (Keener) Also, the pigs are unclean for Jews.

In Matthew, the word, “dogs,” refers to Gentiles. Matthew 15:21-28 reads,

22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.”
26 And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”
27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”
28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

Gentiles are people who are outside the line of Abraham. But this Canaanite woman, believed in Jesus. In her case, there was reception of Christ, not rejection. On this note, Matthew believes that many Gentiles will follow Christ in Gentile nations (Matt. 28:18-20).

But the dogs and pigs of Jesus are anything but receptive. Jesus said, “Lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you” (Matt. 7:6). These dogs turn and attack you. These pigs trample your pearls underfoot. The dogs reject your holy food. The pigs reject your pearls. Thus, one mark of dogs and pigs is rejection of precious things.

Matthew writes more about reception and rejection of the kingdom in Matthew 10:5-6, 11-14.

5 These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
11 And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. 12 As you enter the house, greet it. 13 And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.

Jesus sends the twelve apostles to preach the Gospel of the kingdom to the Jews only, not the Gentiles. But He tells them that there will be rejection. Look at v. 14—“if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words.” There will be people who will not listen to your message of the kingdom, Jesus said. That’s rejection.

How did the Jews reject Jesus? They scorned His teaching. They accused Him of blasphemy. They told lies about Him. They insulted Him, spit on Him, and nailed Him on a cross. Psalm 22:16 reads, “For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet.” In this Messianic Psalm, the Jewish accusers are called dogs.

We go back to our question. Who are the dogs in Matthew that reject the holy food? Who are the pigs in Matthew that reject the pearls? They are Jews that reject Christ. They are people who reject the message of Christ.