May 1 Read Matthew 4:1-11
For our meditations this month we will listen to the words of Jesus that He spoke during His early ministry on earth. One of the first instances is His answers to the devil, who tempted Him in the wilderness. The devil sought to undermine His earthly mission and to cause Him to distrust His heavenly Father. “If thou be the Son of God” was the devil’s challenge, wickedly setting before Jesus a way for Him without suffering. Resolutely, Jesus answers the devil “depart from me, for it is written.” What is your response, young people, as you encounter many temptations in your lives? It is easy to succumb to them and enjoy the pleasures of sin. When wicked thoughts enter your mind, do you dwell on them, or pray that they may be erased from your mind, and say “depart from me, for it is written?” May we all, by grace, follow the example of our Savior “who was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:15, 16) Psalter 249.
May 2 Read Luke 4:16-30
Jesus began His earthly ministry by going to the synagogue in Nazareth where He read from Isaiah and preached the word. The listeners were surprised with His teaching and the gracious words that He spoke. But instead of believing that He Himself was the one of whom Isaiah testified, they said disdainfully “Is not this Joseph’s son?” Jesus pointed out that they were as guilty of unbelief as Israel was in the days of Elijah when he was sent to a widow in the Phoenician town of Zarephath. He also reminded them that despite the fact that there were many lepers in Israel, none were cleansed except Naaman the Syrian. The word of God always has a two-fold effect. It either hardens in unbelief or softens and comforts. Jesus’ audience rejected His word to their own condemnation. What is your reaction to the preaching of the gospel, dear reader? Are you one of the poor who are enriched, the broken-hearted who are comforted, the captive who is set free, the blind who receive sight, and the bruised that is healed? God grant to you in His grace that the preaching of His word may have these positive effects. Psalter 337.
Jesus began His sermon on the mount by pronouncing that the poor in spirit are blessed for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. This is a statement that is incomprehensible to the mind of this world. Doesn’t the natural man crave riches and all that this implies, namely influence, power and luxuries? But the riches of this world and those who imagine they are spiritually rich in themselves have no place in the kingdom of heaven. Only the poor in spirit, those who by grace alone realize that they are naked, and wretched and miserable, and who confess that with true contrition, are the blessed subjects of that kingdom. They are truly blessed already for theirs is the kingdom even now. This is a spiritual kingdom founded in the blood of our Savior, in which God in Christ is the King and all the elect are the willing subjects of that kingdom. It will come to its final glorious manifestation when Christ returns upon the clouds of heaven. Let us confess that we are poor in ourselves but paradoxically rich beyond measure as those who will inherit that blessed kingdom. Psalter 186.
By nature we do not like events or situations that cause us to mourn. The world about us loves gaiety and merriment and superficial laughter. We as God’s people are often prone to follow this course too, but what does God’s word say? “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting.” And “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Surely there is enjoyment in our lives, and we are also told to rejoice. But true rejoicing and true comfort for the child of God comes only in the way of genuine sorrow and mourning because of our sins. In a life of sin there can be found no joy or satisfaction, for then we live apart from God. And to live apart from God is death. When God works in our hearts and makes us see our sins and how corrupt we are, we mourn as the publican who smote his breast with the cry “God be merciful to me, a sinner.” Experiencing forgiveness, we are comforted and blessed. In our imperfect walk on this earth, we daily fall short of our calling to love God and our neighbor with all our heart. But each day anew, our Father hears our prayers for forgiveness, and sends the Comforter to dwell in our hearts, assuring us of pardon. Psalter 144.
A common misconception is that meekness is weakness. Moses was a strong leader who faced many a crisis with courage, led Israel with valor, yet he is described as “very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3). Meekness is a spiritual power, a strength that enables one to endure injury and revilement with patience for Christ’s sake. By nature we are quick to seek revenge and strike back when we are reviled or wrongly treated. Exactly the opposite of that was our Savior Himself Who was the meekest of the meek. He trod a path of suffering, so deep and dark, was reviled and hated, and although He could consume His enemies by the breath of His mouth, yet endured even the cross with meekness for our sakes. What an example for us to emulate! Meekness is a gift of grace. Oh we must fight a battle to be sure, as we live our lives on this earth. But we fight a spiritual battle with spiritual armor and our weapon is the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. The sure victory belongs to the meek and they shall dwell forever in the new earth where only righteousness shall dwell. Psalter 61.
In this fourth beatitude, Jesus describes for us a certain spiritual quality of the citizens of the kingdom of heaven. He tells us it is blessed to be hungry and thirsty for righteousness. Righteousness, as we saw in earlier meditations literally means to be right, or straight, as a straight line. God, Who loves Himself as the highest good, is the absolute standard of righteousness and what is just and good in harmony with His holiness. And in His merciful electing love, He gave His Son to obtain righteousness for us. In II Corinthians 5:21 we read, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” Only those who are made spiritually alive by regenerating grace can hunger and thirst after righteousness. Dear reader, can it be said of you that you hunger and thirst after righteousness? Then you will not seek after the carnal pleasures of this world. This hunger and thirst will cause you to attend the worship services faithfully on the Lord’s Day. It will cause you to pray daily and seek God’s guidance through His word. Then you will be filled, now in principle, and one day fully and completely. Psalter 32.
To receive mercy from God is a wonderful gift. Mercy can be compared to a flowing stream of water that is not plugged up or stopped, but receives continuously from its source only when it constantly gives. In the way of our showing mercy to others does God’s mercy flow to us. This cannot possibly mean that our showing mercy is first, and that then we are rewarded with God’s mercy. The very opposite is true. By nature we are not merciful, but selfish and hard-hearted. Only because God, Who is rich in mercy, loved us in Christ, and determined to lift us out of our misery unto eternal glory, can we in turn be merciful. The wicked may think that their programs of welfare and philanthropy are works of mercy, but the Bible tells us that the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel. Only those who have tasted the riches of God’s mercy bestowed in their hearts are the merciful that shall in turn receive mercy themselves. Let us then “be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32). Psalter 228.
How is it possible to obtain purity of heart? Our heart, according to Jer. 17:9, “is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” Out of the heart are the issues of life and from it spring forth all our plans, thoughts and aspirations. If something is to be pure, it must be chaste and genuine and free from moral fault or guilt or anything that would pollute it. This purity of heart is not something to which natural man can ever attain apart from the sovereign work of God based on the death and resurrection of Christ. When the Spirit enters our polluted heart and cleanses it from sin and corruption and breathes into it new life, it is principally pure. In this present life we see through a glass darkly, but one day we will see God face to face and know Him even as we are known. That will indeed be a most blessed prospect imaginable. The pure in heart in this life have not attained to perfection by any means, but they are pure in heart nevertheless because Christ lives in them and they have the desire to walk according to all of God’s commandments. Do you find this desire in your heart, dear reader? Then you are truly blessed. Psalter 204.
In the previous beatitudes, we have seen various descriptions of the children of God in the world and this seventh and last beatitude fittingly calls those blessed who are peacemakers. As we pointed out last month, Scripture declares that there is no peace to the wicked for they are likened to the troubled sea that cannot rest. Even when the wicked sit at their peace tables, they cannot find peace for they seek it without the cross of Christ. God alone is the original peacemaker. He lives a life of perfect peace in Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in covenant relationship. And Ephesians 2 tells us that Christ is our peace, for we were strangers from the covenant promises, but He has reconciled us to God by the cross. Then we have peace in our hearts and it will be reflected in our thoughts and actions. As we bear the image of the true Peacemaker, we will be scorned by the world, for when we preach and witness to that way of peace and obedience to God, they will hate us. But they cannot separate us from our Father in heaven, for even as we are now His children by the Spirit of adoption, we shall, in the last day, be revealed to all the world as His own dear children, to live with Him forever in glory. Psalter 232.
These verses deal with the persecution that not only the disciples must anticipate, but also all who are faithful witnesses in the world of God’s word and of His righteousness. The history of God’s people and of the faithful prophets proves that according to the measure that they were faithful, the world revealed its hatred of them. As long as you tone down the antithesis, speak of a God who loves all men, refrain from reproving those who sin, the world will tolerate you, for you speak their language. But when in the name of Christ you speak out for the truth, defend His holy name, and show by word and deed that your allegiance is to Him alone, you will experience persecution. The blessedness of which these texts speak does not find its cause in the suffering, for suffering of itself is not a reason for rejoicing. But the persecutions are unmistakable signs of God’s work in us, of His love and grace. It takes grace to suffer for His name’s sake. Without grace we would not be able to bear it. In that knowledge we have joy now, and we look forward to our eternal reward of grace in heaven where our rejoicing will be exceedingly great. Psalter 188.
In this text Jesus proclaimed to the disciples and the people who were gathered to hear Him “Ye are the salt of the earth.” It is an admonition to the citizens of the heavenly kingdom regarding their exalted position on the earth. Salt had various uses in Bible times including that of a preservative, medicinal purposes, or for seasoning food. Because Jesus spoke of salt losing its savor or flavor, He points out that it is that aspect of salt, namely its tastefulness, to which He refers. Just as salt enhances the flavor of food, so is the church called to be the salt of the earth, and through their presence, the earth in all its fullness is made palatable to God’s taste. This implies a calling for us, dear readers, to be pleasing to God as we walk in obedience to Him on this earth. When we allow our sinful natures to influence our lives in the service of sin rather than God, we become distasteful as salt that has lost its savor. God never casts His children away, but through the hard way of chastisement restores us to usefulness again. Only through the power of Christ can we truly be the salt of the earth that is pleasing to God. Let us strive each day by His grace to fulfill that calling. Psalter 328.
This is the second description of the church in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount. “Ye are the light of the world,” He exclaims, and compares her to a city set on a hill that cannot be hid. Some would say that we must be conspicuous in the world by seeking political office and striving to make this world a better place. But this is not the calling of the church. By emitting the true light of the word and testifying to all about them by an antithetical walk, the church will not fail to draw attention to itself. When their light shines, the world that loves darkness rather than the light becomes enraged and seeks to snuff out that light. How the world hated the prophets who shone their light, and look what they did to Christ, the Light of the world. However, the church may never hide that light for it attracts as well as it repels. All for whom Christ died will be drawn irresistibly by that light to Him, and they alone will glorify God. Each of us personally is called to let our light shine and the world will watch us intently. Let it never be said of us that we brought shame to the cause of Christ by our actions, but rather walk in humble obedience. Then our light will shine and the holy name of God will be glorified. Psalter 71.
With these words Jesus speaks a word of admonition and warning to those who were the church of His day. They must not have the mistaken idea that He came to make the law of none effect. The law and the prophets of which He speaks had reference to all that is written in the Old Testament Scriptures concerning the law of God in our lives including the moral, civil and ceremonial laws. The law of liberty that Jesus preached did not suggest that He came to disannul the law, as some might conclude, but to fulfill every aspect of it. Every prophecy concerning Him, down to the last judgment and final glory of His kingdom will be fulfilled to the letter. He further warns us against not taking seriously the breaking of these commandments, and especially directs this word to every preacher and teacher. In their professional capacity they are called not to break even the least of these commandments or teach others to do so. The positive aspect of keeping God’s law and teaching others to do so is the promise that those will be great in the kingdom of heaven. May we by grace strive to keep God’s commandments and “stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free.” (Gal. 5:1). Psalter 41.
What a shocking statement this was when Jesus announced that except the righteousness of the people exceeded the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees; they could in no wise enter the kingdom of heaven. The Pharisees and scribes were highly esteemed in Israel, the Pharisees as those who diligently kept all the Mosaic laws plus the traditions of the fathers, and the scribes who were the theologians of the day by studying and interpreting the law. However, their so-called righteousness was completely void of love towards God and the neighbor. Theirs was a self-serving righteousness to gain the praise of men and to promote their own selfish goals. They even believed that by this outward keeping of the law, they would be rewarded with eternal life. But Jesus called them whited sepulchers, attractive on the outside, but rotten within. True righteousness must be grounded in love, love toward God and love toward the neighbor. This is our calling, dear reader, as citizens of the kingdom of heaven. We must first of all honor and obey God rather than be concerned with our own desires. When we seek God’s glory, then we will also be concerned for the welfare of our neighbor. Only this genuine righteousness, based on the righteousness of Christ alone and imparted to us by grace, is acceptable to God. May God be pleased to grant that to us. Psalter 385.
In this passage, Jesus instructs us as well as the people who were present as to the correct meaning of the law in general, and of the sixth commandment in particular. The Jews interpreted the law in a catalogued fashion with greater and lesser and least commandments, but were blind to the real essence of the law, namely, “Thou shalt not covet,” which stresses that not the least thought contrary to any of God’s commandments ever rise in our hearts. Jesus points out the absurdity of their approach to the law when He cites the three examples of hatred and curses hurled at a brother and the accompanying punishments. Against their perversion of the law, Jesus makes plain that the very thought of hatred and revenge is already murder. He further points out how impossible it is to truly worship God at His altar or in His sanctuary, especially in prayer when we have offended a brother or harbor unconfessed sins in our heart. No rest and peace will be truly ours until we reconcile with our brother and have our slate of sins wiped clean by humble confession and repentance. May each of us by the grace and mercy of God in Christ strive to keep this commandment, as well as all of them, motivated by loving our God and our neighbor with all our heart. Psalter 24.
Jesus is speaking to His hearers regarding the proper understanding of the seventh commandment. Notice that He lets the text of Ex. 20:14 stand just as it was given on Mt. Sinai, however, He gives a very different interpretation of this commandment from what the Jews practiced. They simply made this commandment refer to the physical act of adultery. Jesus points out that this commandment is broken already when sinful desires arise in our eyes and hearts. Lust is powerful and appealing. Her victims are many. Giving in to lust can cost one his self-respect, his family, his relationship to God, and even his life. Jesus addresses this admonition to the man, as a representative head, but it does not exclude women as participants of these desires. Is the remedy to be taken in the literal sense, namely the actual plucking out of the eye and the cutting off of the hand? No, but we believe that the eye and hand are the instruments that the heart employs in this sin. We must turn to the Lord in sincerity and ask Him to remove these sins from our heart and make it pure. Jesus then emphasizes the principle of life-long holy wedlock. The Jews interpreted the words of Moses in such a way that it gave them much room for divorce and sinful practices. Jesus points out that one may put away his or her mate only for the case of fornication, and any remarriage of either party is adulterous. May we by God’s grace live chaste and pure lives and pray that we may not succumb to the lust of the flesh which is so prevalent in the world today. Psalter 384.
Jesus addresses another perversion of the law on the part of the Jews and that has to do with the swearing of oaths. Jesus is not contending with Moses’ statement in Number 30:2, but points to the evil practice of the Jews who saw in these words a general permission to use all sorts of oaths, concluding that those which did not directly name God had no binding force. Here again they corrupt and distort the oath to their own destruction, not seeing the spiritual meaning that we “perform our oaths unto the Lord.” To do that implies that the truth dwells in our hearts and that we hate the lie. Jesus goes on to explain that the oaths of the Jews, regardless whether they swore by heaven, or earth, or Jerusalem, or their own heads, were true oaths even though they used them with the understanding that they were not binding. Behind everything stands the Creator, and all things live, move, and have their being in Him, so it is folly to swear by the creature as they did. We, as God’s people who live from the principle of the new life in our hearts, need not swear at all, but with hearts pledged to truth, our lips will find no need to add anything to our “yea” and “nay.” Psalter 68.
Jesus is establishing a principle in this passage that we are not to live by the motive of retaliation or revenge for wrongs that are done to us. He refers to the teaching of Moses that “if a man cause a blemish in his neighbor; as he hath done, so shall it be done to him; …eye for eye, tooth for tooth…” (Lev. 24:19, 20). Does this pose a contradiction when Jesus places His teaching over against Moses? On the contrary, for Jesus is not talking about the execution of justice by the proper authorities, but a personal revenge by the Jews against those who may have wronged them. We must not do to others as they have done to us, but rather treat them as we would have them do to us. To illustrate His point, Jesus gives four examples by which He would show us proper conduct over against them who do evil to us. By turning the other cheek when smitten, the other man is put to shame; by giving up our cloak in addition to our coat, we are calling attention to his evil but not adding another evil over against it; by going the extra mile, we endure hardship and give full measure; and when one comes to borrow from us, we show liberality and mercy. These are the principles that must guide us as children of the kingdom who are meek, merciful and peacemakers. Let us strive to so live that these virtues may be displayed in our lives. Psalter 24.
In this rather well known and controversial passage, we are called upon as citizens of the kingdom of heaven to love our enemies, pray for them, and be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect. This idea of perfection is not that we obtain perfect sinlessness in this life, but as it were a ripe and fully developed fruit. It is not without defects, but it has reached its potential in ripeness, flavor and color. God’s love is perfected in us and fills our minds and wills. Who is our enemy and how must we love him? We all know that loving our neighbor as ourselves is one of the main principles of the law. Our neighbor can be our enemy as well as our friend. So our neighbor is anyone whose life touches ours. And the pattern given for that love is God’s providential dealings in creation with good and evil, and with the righteous and unrighteous; as God deals without discrimination, so too must we deal with the neighbor. The proponents of common grace consider the gifts of rain and sunshine as an attitude of favor and grace toward the reprobate. These gifts are certainly good, and they are blessings for the elect, but are always curses for the reprobate. Loving our enemy means we return blessing for cursing and good for evil. We admonish and reprove him when necessary and seek his salvation. We must not love only our friends as the publicans did. Let us walk in obedience to Christ’s teaching and experience His blessings. Psalter 370.
The opening verses of this chapter describe one instance of the false piety of the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus warns us of their hypocrisy in the matter of alms giving. These men took great pride in their self-righteousness, and as a result chose public places to show off their charities. God’s glory was not their concern. They delighted in the praise of men and that was their reward. Contrasted to this manner of giving must be our motive and method. To be absolutely free from the praise of men, Jesus uses a figure of speech to describe how our giving must take place, namely that what the right hand does in the giving of alms, is to be done so secretly that the left hand may not find out. True giving is a matter of the heart. It must be done to please God and glorify Him. How many of us give to kingdom causes with that attitude? Actually, with respect to God, we are only stewards and that implies much. We don’t possess a hair of our head, not a minute of our time, not a slice of bread, not a drop of water, not a penny of our money. All is God’s and is placed in our trust. We may not do with it as we please, but constantly ask, “What is God’s will with respect to my possessions?” Let us be fully conscious of our duty as faithful stewards who must one day give account to God for the goods entrusted to us. Psalter 97.
This passage relates another example of false piety of the scribes and Pharisees in regard to their prayers. In keeping with their pride and self-righteousness, they found occasion to stand in the synagogues and on busy street corners in order to make a display to men and receive their glory. Now it is not wrong as such to want men to see us worshipping God and calling on His name in sincerity. However, these hypocrites wanted men to see them praying because they were glorying in themselves and not in God. Jesus not only condemned this action, but also the vain babblings which their lips uttered. An example of such praying is the priests of Baal during the time of the prophet Elijah, who from morning to noon repeated over and over “O Baal, hear us.” And Catholics with their rosaries, fall into this same category. In contrast, Jesus instructed them to retreat to a private room and commune with their Father in prayer. Then they must not use vain repetitions or seek the things on earth, but the Father’s glory and honor. They are assured that for the sake of Christ, He will hear them and reward them. That reward is a reward of grace, and will culminate at the appearance of Christ, when openly before the eyes of angels, men and devils, all will see that in their prayers, they gave God all the glory. Psalter 312.
After warning us in the previous verses that prayer must not consist of outward show, but rather a heartfelt communion with God, Jesus taught His disciples and us how to pray in the words of the beautiful and well known Lord’s Prayer. As we have seen, God is revealed to us by many names that tell us much about Him. Here, Jesus is teaching us that when we pray, we must begin with a form of address. How we address God is important because that will determine our attitude as we pray. Therefore Jesus instructs us to say “Our Father.” Only a true child of God can really address Him as “Father.” This implies a loving relationship, much like the earthly bond between a child and his father or mother. In a godly family there is respect for the authority and position of parents. With childlike faith then, we pray to our Father and add “which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name,” which immediately impresses upon us His glorious majesty and our unworthiness. But because of Christ, we approach this Triune God in confidence for He has made us His children, and although this is a mystery, yet we believe it and are assured of His love and mercy. Let us pray then as children of our heavenly Father with the assurance that He will surely hear us for the sake of Christ. Psalter 278.
In this verse we are taught to pray for the coming of God’s kingdom and for obedience to the will of God. It is only by grace that we can utter these words and truly desire their accomplishment. This kingdom of God is a spiritual commonwealth in which Christ is King. It consists of willing subjects who serve this King and love Him and these subjects experience His dwelling in their hearts. This kingdom will finally be realized in all its perfections when Christ returns in glory. Are we so attached to this world sometimes that we do not long for this Kingdom to come? When life is pleasant and free from problems, we may place this petition in the back of our minds, but when sickness ravages our bodies, or trials overwhelm us, our outlook tends to change. God sometimes uses these means to bring us to our knees in order that we may truly desire His Kingdom to come and also that we may be submissive to His perfect will. May we by grace utter these petitions to our Father in heaven with the confidence that He will hear us for the sake of Christ and give us His peace. Psalter 395.
This petition in the prayer that the Lord gave us is short and simple, yet necessary and instructive for the child of God. What does it mean and why should we pray for daily bread? First of all it shows to us that we are earthly creatures with bodies that must be nourished in order to exist and function. How can we hallow the name of God, or seek His kingdom, or obey His will without a body and all it requires? So this petition certainly includes more than mere bread. It presupposes that we require shelter, clothing, and money for necessities of life. Although in our present day modern life, we have many luxuries, these are not included in this petition. It means exactly what it says, “Give us what we need for this day.” The Lord knows what we need better than we do. It may be that what we think we need, we shouldn’t have, and so the Lord withholds that from us. And sometimes the Lord gives to us in His wisdom what we don’t wish for, but it is good for us nevertheless. Let each of us ask for our daily bread in childlike faith, “Give unto me this day, dear Father, that which Thou knowest is good and necessary for me in order to live my life on this earth in such a way that my trust may be alone in Thee and that Thy holy name is glorified.” Psalter 56.
This petition assumes, and rightly so, that we have acquired debts; and debts require that they either must be paid or canceled. In the gospel of Luke, the word “sin” is used in the place of “debts,” and in the Heidelberg Catechism we read of our transgressions and depravity. That is a picture of our heavy load of guilt as we lift our voices in prayer for pardon to our Father in heaven. We know that He is terribly displeased with all sins and since we are unable of ourselves to pay these debts, we have only one recourse left. That recourse is a sincere petition that God will dismiss these charges and forgive our sins. We must note here that Jesus adds to our prayer for forgiveness a limiting clause, “as we forgive our debtors.” This clause certainly cannot mean that this must be a ground for our plea for forgiveness, but that God grants us the grace of forgiveness as we forgive one another. We must be sure that we hold no unforgiving attitude toward anyone when we ourselves plead for forgiveness. Our Father, Who is rich in mercy, then beholds us in Christ and grants us pardon for His sake. Psalter 83.
As long as we are in the world we are going to be surrounded by temptation. We battle constantly with the old man of sin that dwells in our flesh. We live in a world that always beckons us to join them in their sinful pleasures, and we are enticed by the devil to forsake the difficult way of godliness. Every day we fight this battle in varying degrees. The world readily embraces all sorts of evil and corrupt pleasures on their headlong journey to destruction. Without fervent prayer for divine intervention by the Spirit, we would be overcome by temptations. Only the regenerated child of God by the grace and power of that Spirit is deeply conscious of his weakness to stand firm, so he prays that when he meets temptations, he may not be led into them. People of God let us pray every day “deliver us from evil,” until that blessed day when we and all of God’s people will obtain the final victory over sin through the merits of our Savior Who became sin for us. Psalter 385.
This concluding doxology to the Lord’s Prayer is beautifully expressed in the Heidelberg Catechism as follows: “all these (things) we ask of thee, because thou, being our king and almighty, art willing and able to give us all good; and all this we pray for that thereby not we, but thy holy name may be glorified forever.” (Q.128) This is a fitting exclamation and tribute of praise to God and is closely connected to the last petition. Because God is the supreme and sovereign king, all power and glory belong to Him, and this is the motive and ground for the entire prayer. Not only does the kingdom belong to God now, but it is His forever. The same is true for His power and glory. Let us learn then, to whom we must pray, how we must pray, for what we must pray, and in humble gratitude be assured that our prayers will be heard and answered. Psalter 267.
Fasting in Scripture signified a state of humility before God because of sin. It often accompanied prayer and usually involved abstinence of food. Many instances of fasting are recorded in the Bible, although the observance of this practice is now abolished among us, “yet the truth and substance of them remain with us in Jesus Christ, in whom they have their completion” (Belgic Confession, Article 25). There were private fastings by individuals as well as periods of fasting by the Jewish nation. Jesus in this passage refers to private fasting and condemned the Pharisees who practiced it hypocritically to gain the applause and praise of men for their outward form of piety. Jesus does not introduce a new law regarding fasting, but forbids all outward displays of this practice. True fasting is done in secret before God with a sincere and contrite heart. Have you ever fasted? We aren’t advocating a regular regimen of fasting, but there might be times in our lives when we could profitably abstain from some things for our spiritual benefit and draw ever closer to our God. Psalter 112.
Jesus turns to a subject that is prevalent and in many cases, all consuming throughout the world. In accord with man’s covetous nature, he is obsessed with the gaining and retention of wealth and possessions. Acquiring wealth is in itself not wrong. However, it is a rare person who is not affected in a negative manner when wealth becomes great. Jesus points out that treasures that are stored on this earth are of short duration and subject to corruption and loss. It follows that the happiness that these riches afford the owners is also of uncertain and short duration. In contrast, we must treasure other types of riches that are not subject to destructive forces or loss by thieves. Jesus speaks of these in verse 33, “the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” This is a matter of the heart and the treasures laid up in heaven are secure forever. People of God be good stewards of all that the Lord gives you, but “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth… For when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.” (Col. 3:2, 4) Psalter 135.
What a marvelous organ of the human body is the eye. It is the agent of physical sight that we are endowed with by the Creator. Jesus points out that the light, or lamp of the body is the eye. Without becoming too technical, we might say that a man’s physical or rational eye corresponds to his spiritual eye. The natural man with an unregenerate heart can rationally see the light, but he is spiritually blind. He sees God in creation, can hear His word, and can read it, but he despises God in his heart and holds the truth in unrighteousness. Hence the light in him is darkness, and even more, it is great and absolute darkness. But when God is pleased to transmit to our spiritual eye the radiance of His Being, the wonder of the cross, and the pure and holy light from His throne, then we have a single eye that fills our whole body with true light. Our eyes that once were full of darkness have been healed and we are new creatures in Christ. Let us pray for grace to walk in that light to His glory. Psalter 236.
May 31 Read Matthew 6:24-33
In this passage Jesus points out how various anxieties in life cause unnecessary worries and concerns in the lives of men and that their Heavenly Father knows all of their needs. Then He directs them to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. This kingdom, as we have seen, is a spiritual kingdom realized first of all in the hearts of His people and finally realized in perfection when Christ returns. Seeking the kingdom means we must be members of the true church of Jesus Christ, and confess the truth with fellow believers. We do not relocate to an area where there is no such church despite the allurement of a lucrative job. Young people, bear this in mind when choosing a college or a career. Seeking the kingdom includes purity of life, seeking a godly mate, establishing a Christian home, bringing forth covenant seed with all of its attendant responsibilities. It means fervent in prayer, ready to suffer loss for the cause of the gospel, and maintaining an antithetical walk in the midst of the world. The reward is of grace alone. Of ourselves we are unworthy; but thanks be to God who is faithful, who guides us by His counsel, and will take us to glory. Psalter 203.