It struck me this morning that the fifth chapter of Matthew is not a bunch of disconnected admonishments. Rather, it is all about the Sovereignty of God. He is the One who chooses His people and ordains their circumstances. He wants them to walk humbly before Him, letting their light shine to a cursed and shining world, and making a difference. He wants them to be the salt of the earth. Salt is used to enhance the taste of food. Christians are supposed to enhance the lives of others!
Christ came to fulfill the law, and in this passage He makes it clear that the Pharisees' re-interpretation has been wrong. I imagine Jesus gazing at the Pharisees while He reminds them that they are not quite as holy as they think they are.
God Sees Our Anger
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. (Matthew 5:21-26 ESV)The Pharisees were proud that they'd kept the law, but Jesus pointed out their error. Even anger deserved judgment, and insults deserved the fire of hell. Jesus was teaching them that it was the internal sins that matter. The Sovereign God sees the heart, the broken relationships, the pride. He blesses the humble, the meek, the peacemaker, not the arrogant, angry and proud.
God Sees Our Lust
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. (Matthew 5:27-30 ESV)
Jesus wants us to know how serious it is to look with lustful intent. It's another mark of pride to think that you can lust, and nobody knows. God sees. He knows. The Sovereign God provides everything we need for life and godliness. He is able to provide a spouse for you. Humbly wait for His timing.
God Sees Our Relationships
“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
God wants us to remain faithful in our marriages. The Sovereign God has given you a spouse, and you ought to be faithful. Yet the Sovereign God also sees when there is abuse and immorality, and He compassionately provides an escape for some.
God Sees our Hearts
Do not ever be flippant about the things you say, for God is Omniscient and hears it all. All of our speech should be made as if we were under oath to tell the truth. The earth is God's footstool and heaven is His throne. He is Sovereign over all. Humble yourself before Him. Watch your mouth!
“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.
God Sees our Desire for Vengeance
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.The Old Testament was limiting retaliation for a wrong to what was just and fair, but it was never meant to sanction acts of personal retaliation. Jesus is asking the hearers to surrender all personal rights.
- Do you believe God is Sovereign?
- Is He able to judge fairly?
- Does He provide, as He promised?
- Can He use our losses to further His Kingdom?
Our Sovereign God is a Righteous Judge, with all the resources of the universe, and all the wisdom. As we humble ourselves and surrender our rights, He can use our circumstances to accomplish His great will.
God wants us to Love our Enemies
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:31-48 ESV)
God is Sovereign over all, and He is kind and good to all, sending rain on the just and the unjust. I love how Jesus uses the tax collector as an example - I imagine Matthew was sitting there with a wry smile on his face. Even the hated tax collectors, like Matthew, love their friends. Jesus wants us to love our enemies, and to be perfect, just like Him.
God is Sovereign. Look at all the ways we see God's Sovereignty in this passage.
God chooses the elect and ordains their steps. He knows which ones will be peacemakers, and which will be reviled. Great will be their reward in Heaven, and God is the One who will give it.
God works in all of our relationships, in marriages and divorces, in strained relationships and legal battles. He is Sovereign over all relationships, over our friends and our enemies, our workmates and our relatives.
God is Sovereign over all that happens in our lives - the things that might puff us up, and the things that might trip us. We must walk humbly before Him all the days of our life.
God is the Sovereign Judge of all the earth. There is no need to take vengeance on our enemies, for God will set all things right in the end.
Take comfort in His Sovereignty!
Heavenly Father, Your Sovereignty over all is such a comfort to me. I know that all things work together for good to those who love You, who are called according to Your purpose. Even tragedies such as death or a battle with debilitating disease, even trials that break our bones or our hearts or our banks… all things are under Your control.
Nothing is ever a surprise to You. Your love never fails. Help us, Lord, to walk humbly before you always.