Today’s readings are Genesis 26, Matthew 25, Esther 2 and Acts 25.
Like father, like son. A famine in the land (Genesis 26) causes Isaac to go to Gerar, to king Abimelech. Sound familiar?? Isaac tried the same trick, passing off Rebekah as his sister (v. 7). The only problem was, Isaac couldn’t resist enjoying time with her–Gotcha!
Isaac was blessed by God (vv. 12-14) causing Abimilech to say to Isaac, “Git!” (v. 16). After moving away to the Valley of Gerar, Isaac had disputes over wells just like his father had experienced (vv. 18-22). From there, Isaac moved to Beersheba (v. 23), where God renewed the covenant with him (v. 24) and Isaac worshiped (v. 25). Abimilech was concerned about conflicts between him and Isaac so they covenanted together to live peacefully (vv. 26-33).
God’s blessing of Isaac, in a similar way to how He blessed Abraham, shows the continuation of the covenant and how God can be counted on from generation to generation.
A concluding note is Esau’s marriage to Judith and Basemath, daughters of Hittites, which caused pain to his father and mother.
Matthew 25 consists of three parables–the parable of the virgins, emphasizing the need for preparation for Christ’s return (25:1-13), the parable of the talents, emphasizing the need to use what God has given you (25:14-30), and the parable of the sheep and goats, emphasizing the need to treat Israel well (25:31-46).
From the parable of the ten virgins, we see that disciples need to prepare for Messiah’s appearing as well as to anticipate that event. Jesus was not calling for alertness in this parable, remaining awake when others sleep, as important as that is. He was calling for preparation. Preparing involves trusting in Jesus as the Messiah. Many Jews in Jesus’ day were anticipating the appearance of Messiah and the inauguration of the kingdom. However, they did not prepare, even though John the Baptist, Jesus, and Jesus’ disciples urged them to. Those who did, became believing disciples of Jesus.
The same two types of Jews will exist during the Tribulation, before Messiah appears the second time. The prudent disciple will be the one who makes the necessary preparation by trusting in Jesus.
The parable of the talents teaches us to be faithful stewards of all that God has given us. Thus, the point of the parable of the 10 virgins, and the parable of the talents, is the same. The difference is a matter of emphasis. The emphasis of the first one is the importance of spiritual preparation, whereas the emphasis of the second is the importance of spiritual service.
The willingness to faithfully use those gifts proves whether or not one is a genuine believer.
All of us desire to hear Christ say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Here are some ideas from an article “What Can I Do to One Day Hear: ‘Well Done, Thou Good and Faithful Servant’ When I Get to Heaven?” from compellingtruth.org:
- Study God’s truth. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”Put God’s truth into action. Tell others the Good News. Jesus left His disciples with a command to tell others about His saving grace and goodness and to make disciples of them (Matt. 28:18-20).
Offer assistance to those less fortunate (1 John 3:17; James 1:27; 2:14-17).
Forgive those who harm you. This instruction can be found in the Lord’s prayer (Matt. 6:12) and elsewhere (Matt. 18:21-22; Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13).
Help those around you. Paul wrote the Galatians that to “fulfill the law of Christ” Christians should “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2). He also wrote, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).
Fellowship with other Christians and encourage one another in the faith ((Hebrews 10:24-25).
Set your mind and heart on God. Rather than seeking earthly treasures, pursue that which has eternal value and store up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21).
Remember that everything that is good that happens to you or comes your way, is due to God and His blessing (James 1:17). Give Him continual praise and thanks (Phil. 4:4-7; 1 Thess. 5:18).
Obey. God desires you to follow Him. He has communicated with you through the Bible, His Word, and by the Holy Spirit. “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). The New Testament is replete with practical instructions for living the Christian life—ways to love and honor God and ways to love and honor others. As we abide in Christ and learn to listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can be fruitful (John 10:1-11; 16:7-15; 1 Thess. 5:19)
To please God and hear these words from Him, you must know Him. The best ways to know Him better are to read and study the Bible (both alone and with others), worship Him in community, spend time with Him in prayer, and ask Him for guidance.
2 Peter 1:3-8 reminds us that God equips us to be faithful servants and gives us instructions for how to live a life that is fruitful for Him: “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The parable of the sheep and goats is a parable of the judgment of the nations, which will occur at the end of the tribulation. Those people who survived the tribulation will be distinguished on the basis of how they treated “the least of these,” which seems to be the beleaguered Jews during the days leading up to the return of Christ.
This judgment happens at the end of the tribulation before the millennial reign of Christ.
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.
Jesus clarified the basis for judgment in vv. 25-40. It would be the reception or rejection of the “King” as divinely seen in people’s reception or rejection of the King’s “brothers.” The King’s “brothers” are probably His faithful disciples who fulfill His will by preaching the gospel of the kingdom during the Tribulation (cf. 12:48-49; 28:10; Isa. 58:7). Most of these will be Jews, including the 144,000, though some may be Gentile converts as well (cf. Rev. 7:1-8; 14:1-5). They will have become believers following the Rapture, since all believers alive on earth just before the Rapture will have already gone to be with Jesus.
The fact that God placed Esther in a position so she could deliver her people—even before they were in danger—shows His far-reaching providence at work for His chosen people.
The plan to replace Vashti is put in place (2:1-4)–a beauty pageant. Esther gets involved, likely not realizing the danger it would put her in (2:5-11). If successful, she would become the wife of a Gentile king; if not, she would be added to his harem.
Someone has said that “God permits what He hates, to accomplish what He loves.”
Esther is chosen as queen (2:12-20). At Mordecai’s earlier command (2:10), she did not reveal her nationality. Esther became queen in the winter of 479–478 B.C., four years after Vashti’s deposition (v. 16).
The final verses of this chapter (2:21-23), happens as the prologue to Haman’s plot to kill the Jews. God made sure that Mordecai was recorded in Ahasuerus’ book of chronicles as a person who “saved” the king by exposing a plot to kill him.
Festus arrives in Jerusalem and is accosted by the Jews there, asking him to deliver Paul to Jerusalem for trial (vv. 2-3). They were intending to assassinate Paul (v. 3). But Festus planned to hear Paul in Caesarea Maritima and offered to take “leading men” there to try Paul (vv. 4-5).
As soon as Paul was brought out (v. 7), the Jews shouted out their charges against him. When he finally had a chance to talk he re-emphasized…
“Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I committed any offense.”
When Festus asked if he would like to present his case in Jerusalem (v. 9), Paul appealed to Caesar (v. 11). So Festus concluded, “To Caesar you have appealed; to Caesar you shall go” (v. 8).
When King Agrippa and Bernice came to Caesarea, Felix explained what was going on with Paul, and that he had appealed to Caesar. He wasn’t sure what to do with Paul, so he brought him before Agrippa and Bernice so that maybe they could figure out how to charge Paul.
Thomas Constable has these notes about Agrippa, Bernice and Festus.
This “King Agrippa” was Marcus Julius Agrippa II, the son of Herod Agrippa I (12:1-11), the grandson of Aristobulus, and the great grandson of Herod the Great (Matt. 2:1). Herod the Great had tried to destroy the infant Jesus. One of his sons, Antipas, Agrippa II’s great uncle, beheaded John the Baptist and tried our Lord. Agrippa II’s father, Agrippa I, had executed James, the son of Zebedee and brother of John. He had also imprisoned Peter and died in Caesarea (ch. 12). His son, Agrippa II, is the man Paul now faced.
Agrippa II had grown up in Rome, and was a favorite of Emperor Claudius. He was the last in the Herodian dynasty, and has been considered the best of the Herods. He was also a friend to Flavius Josephus, who served as governor of Galilee and a Roman general about this time. Among his other powers, Agrippa II was superintendent of the Jerusalem temple, and he had the power to appoint Israel’s high priests.
At the time he visited Festus, “Agrippa” (II) was the king whom Rome had appointed over the territory northeast of the Judean province. He lived in Caesarea Philippi (Dan of the Old Testament), which he renamed “Neronias” in honor of Nero. Agrippa was about 30 years old at this time, and his sister, “Bernice” (Lat. Veronica), was one year younger. He ruled this region from A.D. 50 to 70. Drusilla, Felix’s wife, was Agrippa and Bernice’s younger sister. Bernice was first married to her uncle Herod, King of Chalcis, and after he died, she lived with her brother, Agrippa, in a suspicious relationship. She concluded her profligate life by a criminal connection with Titus, the conqueror of Jerusalem.
Agrippa and Bernice evidently visited Festus on this occasion to “pay their respects” to the new governor of their neighboring province. Agrippa and Bernice were essentially favorable to the Jews. They both tried to avert the Roman massacre of the Jews in A.D. 66-70.