Tabletalk Devotions with R C Sproul: Jesus Laments Over Jerusalem

 

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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.

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RC Sproul: Tabletalk Magazine: Persecutors of the Prophets

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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.