Today’s readings are from Genesis 14, Matthew 13, Nehemiah 3 and Acts 13.
In Genesis 14 we have the battle of the 5 kings against 4 from the east. The 5 kings lost and Lot was taken captive. Abram and his 318 men, plus three Amorites (and possibly their men) pursued and defeated the 4 kings as far as Dan. Abram then met the mysterious Melchizedek and paid him tithes, but refused any of the spoils of war from the king of Sodom.
This map comes from information about this battle from the website God’s War Plan.
The blue arrows represent the 4 kings from the east, the green the kings around the Dead Sea area, and Abram in the crimson.
Matthew 13 continues the turning point in this gospel. Jesus begins to speak in parables, giving (Matthew 13:1-9) and interpreting (Matthew 13:18-23) the parable of the soils, explaining why he was speaking in parables now (Matthew 13:10-17). He told them other parables, of the wheat and tares (Matthew 13:24-30), the mustard seed (Matthew 13:31-32), the leaven (Matthew 13:33), a summary (Matthew 13:34-35) and an explanation of the the parable of the wheat and tares (Matthew 13:36-43).
Here is one of my favorite parables:
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. 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.”
These verses show that receiving the “kingdom” or gospel is more than a mere intellectual recognition of facts or even trusting in someone. Genuine conversion involves an affective response of joy. Salvation comes to those who gladly trade all that we have to follow Jesus Christ. We see this joy in the conversion of the Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians 1:6
you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit
Then there is the parable of the net (Matthew 13:47-50), another summary (Matthew 13:51-52) and a reaction to Jesus’ teaching (Matthew 13:53-58).
Nehemiah 3 records those who built the wall. Notice that Nehemiah had them build closest to their homes because it would be important to them.
The Holman Bible Atlas states: “Nehemiah 3 contains numerous references to gates and structures along Jerusalem’s fortifications. Unfortunately, identifying archaeological remains with any of these structures has been difficult, yet archaeologists have provided a clearer picture of Nehemiah’s Jerusalem. After the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C., settlers confined themselves to the eastern ridge, the old City of David and the Temple Mount. There is no evidence of any occupation of the western ridge during the Persian era, although parts of Hezekiah’s walls must have remained in fragmentary condition. Settlement upon the City of David apparently was more constricted than ever before. Much of the eastern slope perhaps was left unprotected, as a new line of defense was established farther up the slope, perhaps built along the line of a much earlier wall. Fragments of a wall built of roughly dressed limestone near the crest have been identified by some archaeologists as ‘Nehemiah’s Wall,’ but others believe the ‘wall’ is actually a quarry line. A few of the domestic structures on the eastern slope were reused, but most buildings were located on the crest of the ridge.
“The fact that Nehemiah completed his initial repairs in fifty-two days [as we will see in 6:15] argues strongly that segments of the earlier defenses must have been still standing; presumably the western line of defense and the walls enclosing the Temple Mount were on the same lines as those prior to 586 B.C. The Valley Gate (Neh. 3:13), along the Tyropoeon Valley [on the west side], has tentatively been identified by some scholars with remains dating from the Iron Age. The location of other gates in Nehemiah 3 are more speculative. It seems reasonable to locate the Water Gate (Neh. 3:26) near the Gihon Spring [on the east side] and the Fountain Gate at the base of the southeastern hill (Neh. 2:14; 3:15). Several towers mentioned in Nehemiah 3 (the Tower of Hananel, the Tower of the Hundred) undoubtedly lay along the northern defenses where Jerusalem was most vulnerable. Jerusalem of Nehemiah’s day was slightly smaller than the city of David and Solomon, perhaps covering thirty-seven to thirty-eight acres” (p. 172).
Finally, we should observe that the work in Jerusalem was done by people from all walks of life—just as it is in the Church of God today. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary notes on verse 32: “We know from chapter 5 that there were deep economic differences in Judean society. With the exception of the nobles of Tekoa (v. 5), everyone pitched in, from the high priest (v. 1) to goldsmiths and perfume makers (vv. 8, 31) and even women (v. 12), to accomplish a common task. Some, like the commoners of Tekoa, even did more than their share (v. 27).
What an inspiring example of what can be done when God’s people work together under dynamic leadership! Viggo Olsen, who helped rebuild ten thousand houses in war-ravaged Bangladesh in 1972, derived unexpected inspiration from reading a chapter ordinarily considered one of the least interesting in the Bible: ‘I was struck…that no expert builders were listed in the “Holy Land brigade.” There were priests, priests’ helpers, goldsmiths, perfume makers, and women, but no expert builders or carpenters were named.'”
Acts 13 shows the church at Antioch being the first missionary sending church. Stephen and Phillip had gone out from the church in Jerusalem, as did Peter, but this church intentionally sent members.
1 Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
The Spirit sent Barnabas and Saul on the first missionary journey.
In the late Spring of 44 A.D. the brethren (Acts 13:1-3) ordain Paul and Barnabas as apostles. From Antioch, the two apostles and John (surnamed Mark) begin Paul’s first missionary journey (Acts 13:4-52, 14:1-25). Apostle Paul and company travel to Seleucia then sail to Salamis, the principle city and seaport of the island of Cyprus. Cyprus is where Barnabas was born and raised (Acts 4:36). In Salamis, they preach the gospel in several synagogues. They then cross the island by foot and arrive at Paphos.
From there they sailed to Perga in Asia Minor (Acts 13:13), where John Mark went AWOL and returned home. They went on to Pisidian Antioch and spent some weeks there preaching the gospel. Paul preached to the Jews first and initially had an audience, but some Jews became jealous and turned against them (Acts 13:44-45). So Paul said…
46 And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. 47 For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'”
The Gentiles responded with joy…
48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.
This verse definitely puts election before belief. Belief isn’t at our initiative, but God’s. Ultimately, however, they were opposed and left the city for Iconium.