Tabletalk Devotions with R C Sproul: Jesus Laments Over Jerusalem



Jesus Laments Over Jerusalem

Matthew 23:37–39 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” (v. 37).

Today we return to Matthew’s gospel and resume our study of the last week of Jesus’ life, during which the Jerusalem authorities will crucify the Lord (chap. 27). Passion week, however, is not the first time Jesus’ countrymen reject Him as the Christ. Herod would not tolerate any rival and tried to kill the newborn king (2:16–18). Many Pharisees said He was of the Devil (9:32–34), and the towns of Chorazin, Tyre, and Nazareth did not repent when Jesus preached the Gospel to them (11:20–2413:53–58). Both Sadducee and Pharisee have asked trick questions of Jesus (22:15–40), falsely believing themselves pious when they denied Jesus’ messianic office. Yet those who reject Christ reject God Himself, and they will suffer for their impudence (23:1–36; see Luke 10:16).

Matthew 23:37–39 records Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem after declaring woes on the city’s leaders (vv. 1–36). He expresses sorrow that Israel has continually rejected God’s call for repentance in a metaphor that likens the Godhead to a mother hen, a rare biblical use of a feminine image for deity (see Isa. 42:14). Such imagery reminds us that our Creator is not male, though neither is He female — He is spirit (John 4:24). Nevertheless, we call God “Father,” not “mother,” for that is how He has told us to address Him (Matt. 6:9Rom. 8:15). God is our head and initiates salvation when He pours out His grace; male images for Him remind us of this fact, for men are given headship in the church and the family and thus, the right and duty to initiate (1 Cor. 11:31 Tim. 2:12–15).

Jesus’ lament shows us that human suffering, considered in itself, does not please the Almighty. Although God has ordained Jerusalem’s destruction, His revealed will in Scripture proves He has “no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezek. 33:11). But, as John Calvin writes, “the will of God is exhibited to us in two ways,” and there is a sovereign will, unrevealed to us, that governs all that ever occurs (Deut. 29:29). By this hidden will God may ordain events that by themselves do not please Him but nonetheless contribute to His glory, which is supremely pleasing to Him (Isa. 48:9–11). God finds pleasure not in the suffering, but in the good He works for His glory through the suffering.

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

We are not perfectly holy and have no inherent right to execute wrath. How then can we take pleasure in the death of the sinner if God finds no pleasure in the death of the wicked? Our hearts should be broken, not gleeful, when we see someone destroy himself on account of his evil. As you lament the moral degeneracy of our culture, can others hear sadness in your voice? Are you grieved when the unrighteous remain impenitent?

For further study:

Ezekiel 18:31–32

The Bible in a year:

Isaiah 62–64

INTO the WORD daily Bible studies from TableTalk Magazine, Matthew Studies. Copyright © 2008 by Ligonier Ministries.

Subscribe to Tabletalk magazine and receive daily Bible studies & in depth articles from world class scholars for only $23 per per year! That’s only $1.92 per month. And you can try it out for three months absolutely free! Bringing the best in biblical scholarship together with down-to-earth writing, Tabletalk helps you understand the Bible and apply it to daily living.

RC Sproul: Tabletalk Magazine: Persecutors of the Prophets


Persecutors of the Prophets

Matthew 23:29–36 “On you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah” (v. 35).

Christ’s reference to the scribes and Pharisees being like whitewashed tombs (Matt. 23:27–28) allows for an easy transition to His final woe. Though the religious leaders think they are honoring the prophets when they build and embellish tombs and monuments, they are actually acknowledging themselves as being in league with those who killed the holy men (vv. 29–31).

In Jesus’ day, a period known as Second Temple Judaism, there was a boom in monument construction. These structures were intended to pay tribute to the prophets. They were also supposed to point out the piety of the builders, who in building meant to show that they would have obeyed the prophets their forefathers condemned. Yet in rejecting Jesus, the prophet par excellence, these men allied themselves with their wicked ancestors; in fact, they were worse than their forefathers because in Christ they saw truth more clearly (12:1–6John1:17–18). Jesus’ woe tells us that the scribes and Pharisees would have happily buried the prophets just as they gleefully sought to bury Jesus.

Since they are plainly evil, these enemies might as well get on with it and fill the cup of transgression to overflowing (Matt.23:32), a metaphor for making oneself fit for judgment beyond the shadow of a doubt (Gen. 15:12–16). Basically, Jesus is telling the Pharisees: “God’s wrath is coming on you anyway, why not hurry it along?” Our Savior knows there is more evil for them to do before they are judged. He is going to send them prophets, wise men, and teachers who will also be rejected, as if rejecting Christ is not enough (Matt. 23:33–34). Apostles, evangelists, prophets, and teachers will come to this evil generation and offer one more opportunity for repentance, but just like the Master, the bearers of good news will also be killed (Luke 21:17Acts 12:1–2).

Jesus’ foes will not miss a chance to spurn God’s grace; thus, on them will fall the blood of all the saints from Abel to Zechariah (Matt. 23:35–36). Abel is the first martyr (Gen. 4:1–8) in Old Testament history; Zechariah is the last (2 Chron. 24:20–21). Those who kill the Messiah and His apostles will feel the anger the Creator has stored up against all those who have hated His own.

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

Matthew Henry says it is easy for us to assume that we would be unlike the scribes and Pharisees and follow Jesus willingly. Yet even centuries later, he writes, “Christ in his Spirit, in his word, in his ministers, is still no better treated.” Are we quick to follow the Lord as He presents Himself today through the preaching of the Word? We have no right to think ourselves better than Pharisees if we are not quick to obey His Word this day.

For further study:

Isaiah 63:1–6

The Bible in a year:

Isaiah 41–42

INTO the WORD daily Bible studies from TableTalk Magazine, Matthew Studies. Copyright © 2008 by Ligonier Ministries.

Subscribe to Tabletalk magazine and receive daily Bible studies & in depth articles from world class scholars for only $23 per per year! That’s only $1.92 per month. And you can try it out for three months absolutely free! Bringing the best in biblical scholarship together with down-to-earth writing, Tabletalk helps you understand the Bible and apply it to daily living.

Women’s Devotions: Humble Competence

Humble Competence

2 Corinthians 3:4–18

You probably know someone who overestimates her competence. She might be a member of your Bible study who has a subtle way of telling others how to run their lives. Maybe it’s a coworker who takes control of everything around her.

On the other end of the scale are those (often women) who revel in false humility. They tell themselves and everyone else how incapable of anything they are.

In contrast, there are those who understand that their abilities are God-given. They realize that their talents are gifts, recognize their limitations and welcome others’ input. They don’t think of themselves as superior but consider others’ needs before their own. Being around these people frees others to be the best they can be.

True competence begins with humility, recognizing our natural abilities but acknowledging that they can only carry us so far. With that knowledge, we begin to realize that our incompetence is merely a starting point. We don’t have to be perfect; we have the freedom to be the uniquely gifted, talented and competent women God created.

Elisa Morgan, president of MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International, wrote:

>“I’m probably the least likely person to head a mothering organization. I grew up in a broken home. My parents were divorced when I was 5. My older sister, younger brother, and I were raised by my alcoholic mother.

>“While my mother meant well—truly she did—most of my memories are of me mothering her rather than her mothering me. Alcohol altered her love, turning it into something that wasn’t love.

>“Ten years ago, when I was asked to consider leading MOPS International, a vital ministry that nurtures mothers, I went straight to my knees—and then to the therapist’s office. How could God use me—who had never been mothered—to nurture other mothers?

>“The answer came as I gazed into the eyes of other moms around me and saw their needs mirroring my own. God seemed to take my deficits and make them my offering.”


  1. How have you found your natural abilities insufficient?
  2. How does knowing that you can rely on God’s competence give you confidence?
  3. What might you try to do for God’s kingdom if you knew you could not fail?

2 Corinthians 3:4–5
Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.

Related Readings

Exodus 4:10–122 Corinthians 12:7–10James 1:16–18

Tozer on Christian Leadership: Failure and Success



Failure and Success: Stop Tinkering

Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees; for she said, ‘Have I also here seen Him who sees me?’ —Genesis 16:13

Faith is the least self-regarding of the virtues. It is by its very nature scarcely conscious of its own existence. Like the eye which sees everything in front of it and never sees itself, faith is occupied with the Object upon which it rests and pays no attention to itself at all. While we are looking at God we do not see ourselves— blessed riddance. The man who has struggled to purify himself and has had nothing but repeated failures will experience real relief when he stops tinkering with his soul and looks away to the perfect One. While he looks at Christ, the very things he has so long been trying to do will be getting done within him. It will be God working in him to will and to do. . . .

When we lift our inward eyes to gaze upon God we are sure to meet friendly eyes gazing back at us, for it is written that the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout all the earth. The sweet language of experience is “Thou God seest me.” When the eyes of the soul looking out meet the eyes of God looking in, heaven has begun right here on this earth. The Pursuit of God, 84-86.

“Keep my eyes fixed on You, Lord. Help me to stop tinkering and realize my total inability to change. I look to You to change me and give me victory as I focus on Your friendly eyes looking lovingly at me. Amen.”


About the Church of God, Cleveland TN


“Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners?” (Song of Solomon 6:10).

In a world of religious confusion and chaos, it is often difficult to find absolute truth and genuine Christian love. Nevertheless, the Word of God promises a haven of safety from the erroneous teachings of the world and a beacon of light to shine in the darkness. Christ spoke concerning His Church, “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid” (Matthew 5:14).

Who is She?

“My dove, my undefiled is but one; she is the only one of her mother, she is the choice one of her that bare her” (Song of Solomon 6:9)

In the midst of the great apostasy of the last days, God has a true Bride. She is “called, chosen, and faithful.” The Church of God is the worldwide, divine institution of believers committed to accepting the whole Bible rightly divided as their rule of faith, practice, government, and discipline, as the Holy Ghost has revealed it in the Scripture. Established by Christ in 28 A.D. and arising from the Dark Ages in 1903, The Church of God is committed to fulfilling the four-fold purpose of Her divine creation.

To Keep and Guard the Truth

Amidst a world that does not believe in absolute truth, The Church of God has been given the responsibility to keep and guard the pure truth of the Word of God. “Beloved…ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). In his writing to Timothy, Paul reminded him that the Church which Christ established was to be “…the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth…” (1 Timothy 3:15).

In his letter to the Church at Ephesus, Paul acknowledged that it was never the intention of God’s plan for humanity to be “…tossed to and fro, ad carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive”, but the Church is to “…[speak] the truth in love…” (Ephesians 4:14, 15).

Holiness is one of the Church’s distinguishing marks. Those who are determined to serve the flesh have corrupted true holiness in the last days. God’s Church will faithfully demonstrate the truth of true holiness to the world, both in spirit and in lifestyle. “Thus said the LORD; I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth; and the mountain of the LORD of hosts the holy mountain” (Zechariah 8:3).

To Evangelize the World with the Full Gospel

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you…” (Matthew 28:19, 20).

The expression “full gospel” is in common use today. Many church organizations refer to themselves as “full gospel” churches; however, what most mean by this terminology is that they not only preach salvation, but also, a doctrine of Holy Spirit baptism. By definition, the word “full” means “complete or entire; to the utmost extent.” In order to preach the full gospel, the Body of Christ must teach the “all things” which Christ commanded. Among these teachings are repentance and faith in Jesus Christ for salvation, resulting in the born again experience, sanctification as the second definite work of grace, providing deliverance from the sinful Adamic nature, baptism of the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in tongues, biblical holiness without which no man shall see God, restitution, water baptism, the Lord’s Supper and feet washing, the gathering of God’s people into one fold, perfection of the saints, and all of the other Bible truths.

The world must receive the complete message and only the Church is commissioned to provide the full Word of God. God’s Church cannot focus on a few popular teachings, but rather, she is responsible to teach and preach God’s Word — complete, entire, to the utmost extent. Only then can it be said that the “full” gospel has been given to the world.

“And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:14).

To Gather God’s Sheep into One Body

“That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him”(Ephesians 1:10).

To be “in Christ” is to be saved. Evangelism is the Church’s primary commission; however, Christ never intended for His sheep to be divided among man-made institutions. The same Christ who brings salvation established His Church (Mark 3:13-19) and“purchased [Her] with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (John 10:16). This fold is provided for the protection and direction of Christians, for they are His sheep.

“The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him [shall] the gathering of the people [be]” (Genesis 49:10). This passage is the first recorded prophetic word concerning the gathering together of all God’s people. As the coming of the Lord draws nearer, the great inflow of all the other sheep into the fold will continue to increase rapidly. Prophecy states that “They shall ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherward, [saying], Come, and let us join ourselves to the LORD in a perpetual covenant [that] shall not be forgotten” (Jeremiah 50:5).

To Provide Ministry for the Perfection of the Saints

“Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (Col. 1:28).

The Church has been commissioned to continue the work which Jesus began. His analogy in the Gospel of Mark reveals this truth and responsibility. “[For the Son of man is] as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch” (Mark 13:34). He projects the same role in the Gospel of Luke. “He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come” (Luke 19:12, 13). To occupy is more than to fill up space. It also means to fulfill the duties of an office or position. For the Church to occupy until Christ comes, She must do the work which has been assigned to Her.

“For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12).

Perfection has been the goal of The Church of God from the beginning. “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Even the children of Israel were commanded to be perfect. “Thou shalt be perfect with the LORD thy God” (Deut. 18:13). God requires no impossibilities. Perfection carries not only the attribute of holiness, but also, the connotation of maturity and completeness. In his letter to the Church at Ephesus, Paul admonished the Church to lay aside immaturity (Ephesians 4:15), and in the epistle to the Hebrews, the readers were instructed to “…go on unto perfection…” (Hebrews 6:1).

The Church has been given the responsibility to preach and teach until all Christians obtain Christian perfection. There can be no perfection outside of the Church, but only greater and increasing confusion, because there is no government to ensure unity of faith and doctrine outside of God’s organized theocracy.

A Divine Call for the Divinely Established Church

There are many churches in the world today, all of them man-made except one. “My dove, my undefiled…” (Song of Solomon 6:9) is the one that Jesus came to build and purchase with His own blood. She is now on course to finish Her earthly work and prepare for the rapture, after which She will enjoy the marriage supper of the Lamb.

With over twenty-one thousand members, worshipping in over five hundred seventy churches in forty seven nations of the world, The Church of God is committed to fulfilling the divine call which is set before Her. Although, human reasoning may deem the task too great, by the guidance of the Spirit, She will endure and fulfill the commission which He has given to Her.

The Church’s greatest days are just ahead as God fills Her with divine glory. She is gradually moving from glory to glory until She reaches the “…the fulness of Christ…”(Ephesians 4:13). He will grant an anointing and power to take the whole Gospel to the whole world. As His sheepfold, She will serve as the nucleus for the gathering of all of God’s sheep. As His building, She will grow into a holy temple and become the habitation of God through His Spirit. As the Bride of Christ, She will put on robes of pure white and be presented to the Lord without spot or wrinkle. She will be holy and without blemiImageImage