Today’s reading is Genesis 5, Matthew 5, Ezra 5 and Acts 5.
Death, death, death, that’s what Genesis 5 is about. Truly, “in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (2:17). Death is as certain as taxes. These people lived long lives, but eventually they died.
It ” is appointed for man to die once” (Hebrews 9:27). Our life is in God’s book (Psalm 139:16b) and “the end” will come. This reminds me of a story, this version retold by W. Somerset Maugham, and then a couple of slight changes by me. It is called “Appointment in Samarra.”
There was a merchant in Bagdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, ‘Master, just now when I was in the marketplace I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me. She looked at me and made a threatening gesture, now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate. I will go to Samarra and there Death will not find me.” The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went. Then the merchant went down to the marketplace and saw the woman standing in the crowd and he came to her and said, “Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning?” “That was not a threatening gesture,” she said, “it was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Bagdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.”
Adam was the only ancestor who did not see Enoch taken up to heaven. Adam died around 57 years before Enoch was taken up to heaven.
Methuselah is the person with the longest life in the Old Testament. Note that his death correspond exactly to the date of the flood. God used Methuselah to warn the generations before him that God will judge the people for their sins. And note that God gave the warning 687 years after his creation, while giving them over 900 years to repent.
The promises given in Matthew 5:1-12 are kingdom related. Notice that Jesus doesn’t talk about “eternal life,” what we would regard is the primary promise of salvation.
Note that four beatitudes speak of emptiness (poor in spirit, mourn, meek, hungering and thirsting), but once filled the next four beatitudes speak of a life that is filled. All good, except the inevitability of being persecuted.
We live out our new identities (salt, light) in the world, not in the cloisters of the church. People need to see our new and different lives to give God the glory.
Jesus came to “fulfill” the law. His perfect life and substitutionary death means that when I trust in Christ, the righteous requirements of the law are fully met in my stead. His righteousness is credited to me. He fulfilled the law by keeping it perfectly and by dying, the just for the unjust, on the cross.
Jesus then turns right around and says that his disciples must have a righteousness that surpasses that of the Pharisees (Matthew 5:19-20). He then goes on to give several examples of how the law is meant to deal not only with external behaviors, but with inward motives and desires. That makes keeping the law all the more difficult. In v. 48 we are told that we must be “perfect as our heavenly father is perfect.”
How is this even possible? It goes back to the reality that we cannot keep the law, as Romans 8 says…
7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Only Jesus Christ lived a perfect life. One function of the law is to reveal to us just how impossible it is for us to fully and consistently obey it. An unbeliever “cannot” (Romans 8:7) keep it. But Jesus Christ did, and offered his life as a sin offering. Go back to Romans 8:3-4, one of my favorite passages…
3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled [NIV, fully met] in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
And 2 Corinthians 5:21
21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Ezra 5. Remember that the policy of the Assyrians had been to sow conquered Gentile peoples among the Israelites of the northern kingdom, conquered in 722 B.C. These people were the opponents of Zerubabbel and Shealtiel, causing them problems, spying on them and “tattling” on them. So they wrote a letter to the king (Darius I). We will find out in Ezra 6 what happened.
PERSIAN KINGS OF THE RESTORATION PERIOD
|Cyrus II (the Great)
||Ezra 1:1; 4:5
||Ezra 5—6; Haggai; Zechariah
||Ezra 4:6; Esther
|Artaxerxes I (Artashasta)
||Ezra 4:7-23; chs. 7—10; Nehemiah; Malachi
Acts 5 starts with the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira after bringing their offering to the apostles. We are told in vv. 1-2 that they kept back a part of it for themselves. They must have presented it, promoting that it was the full amount.
So, you don’t have to be afraid of presenting your offerings to God, just be honest about it.
Ananias and Sapphira presented an appearance of commitment to God that was not true of them. They were insincere, appearing to be one way but really not being that way. Had Ananias and Sapphira never professed to be as committed as they claimed when they brought their gift, God probably would not have judged them as He did. They lacked personal integrity. (Thomas Constable)
I love this “cheerful giver”
The result of this is that “great fear came upon the whole church” (Acts 5:11) and “more than ever believers were added to the Lord” (Acts 5:14).
Even when brought to court, Peter preached Jesus! (vv. 29-32). After being beaten, they went out “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name” (Acts 5:41). And they kept doing (Acts 5:42) what they were told not to do (Acts 5:40).