Today’s readings are from Genesis 7, Matthew 7, Ezra 7 and Acts 7.
Genesis 7 records the flood. That it was global is clear from verse 19, where it says…
19 And the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered.
Noah and his family, and the animals that gathered to the ark, were the only ones who survived. Note in verse 16 that it says that “the LORD shut them in.” God made them safe and secure in the Ark, just as He makes us safe and secure in Jesus Christ.
Matthew 7 finishes Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. It begins with the verse that has superceded John 3:16 as the most well known verse in American society–“Judge not lest ye be judged” (Matthew 7:1). Of course, from the context we know that this was not meant to exclude all judgment, but to be careful in our judgment. To get the speck out of our brother’s eye, we have to judge. There is judgment being made in not casting one’s pearls before swine.
What an encouragement to pray is verse 11, “how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” Since our earthly fathers give us good gifts, “how much more” will our Heavenly Father! All we have to do is ask!
I’ve always thought, when comparing the narrow and broad paths (Matthew 7:13-14), that the narrow path led in one direction and the broad path in the opposite direction. But in reality, the broad path could be all around the narrow path, on every side, since upon the broad path are religious unbelievers who look, act, dress and speak a lot like true believers.
It is scary to think that people in ministry, who do even miraculous things, can be unsaved. It is possible to be deceived about one’s salvation (Matthew 7:21-23).
Ezra 7 speaks of the return of Ezra (and others) to the land of Israel. Even though the book begins with the first return under Zerubbabel, Ezra doesn’t come until 57 years later.
Ezra’s priestly pedigree is first established (Ezra 7:1-6a), then his spiritual credibility (Ezra 6:b, “and the king granted him all that he asked, for the hand of the LORD his God was on him.”), then his teaching pattern (Ezra 7:10). And lastly, a letter of recommendation from the king (7:11-26).
This is a great pattern for any teacher of God’s Word…
10 For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.
“The order is very significant, for you cannot effectively practice what you have not thoroughly learned, and you cannot convincingly teach what you have not practically applied.” [Note: Laney, p52.]
Ezra then gives thanks for all the “loyal love” God had shown to him (Ezra 7:27-28).
Acts 7 is Stephen’s speech before the Sanhedrin. He first recounts Israel’s history. I wonder if his mentioned of Moses (their hero) being rejected (Acts 7:24-28) and then again in the wilderness, was meant to set up a statement about them rejecting their Messiah. But Stephen didn’t get that far. He directed a stinging rebuke against them that they did not even keep their own law (reinforcing the bad news that they were sinners) and they rushed him and stoned him.
51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”
In his death, Stephen imitates our Lord, surrendering his spirit (Acts 7:59) and asking God to forgive his murderers (Acts 7:60).