What! No Wedding Garment?

1Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 2“The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. 4“Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’ 5“But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. 6The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. 7The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. 11“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless. 13“Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14“For many are invited, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:1-14).

In this parable of Jesus, the Lord tells us of a time that is soon coming, when the King of the Universe will gather together His people to Himself, everyone who has entered into covenant relationship with God through the substitutionary death of His Son. He Himself will be at the wedding banquet. We are told of the His coming into the midst of the wedding celebration and seeing a man wearing no wedding clothes. In the story of Samson’s wedding in Philistine country we are told of the custom of supplying the wedding guests with linen garments (Judges 14:10-13). In Samson’s case he tried to get out of the custom by posing a riddle.

This custom is alluded to in the Parable of the Marriage Feast, the passage above. The king in the parable is a picture of God who supplies all of His wedding guests with a robe of righteousness. There will be none at the wedding feast better dressed than others—we will all be one in Christ Jesus and be clothed in God’s righteousness:

I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels (Isaiah 61:10).

This man’s lack of the proper garment shows that he has purposely rejected the king’s provision for him. This is a greater insult than those who refused to come to the wedding. This man chose to affront the king in the presence of all His guests. He is a picture of those who refuse to wear God’s provision of the garment of righteousness that God has given (Isaiah 61:10). This part of the parable is spoken to those who were standing around Christ as He spoke, those who were acting as believers but trying to trap Him in His words (Matthew 22:15). This is also a picture of those who think they are believers; however, they have never truly submitted their lives to the Son and been born again of the Spirit (John 3:3). Sadly, they will find out too late that the only way to come to the Wedding Feast in the Kingdom of God is to wear the Kings provision of His righteousness in Christ. Clothe yourself with Christ! Keith Thomas

Who Killed Jesus?

What a big question! Like an Agatha Christie murder mystery, there are a number of individuals who are to blame. Firstly, there was the Jewish ruling religious elite. They certainly had a hand in conspiring against Jesus because of jealousy. Jesus had upset the ruling religious leaders when He rebuked them for making the holy place a market for their unscrupulous money exchange and the ripping off of the poor by making them pay exorbitant prices for the sacrificial lambs. Certainly, they were the ones that sent the Temple guard to arrest Jesus on trumped up charges of blasphemy:

“Then the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of the people assembled at the palace of the High Priest, who was called Caiphas, and plotted to take Jesus by trickery and kill Him” (Matthew 26:4).

What about the Roman procurator, Pilate? When the religious leaders had pronounced a guilty verdict on Jesus, even though their witnesses did not agree as to their testimony, they handed Christ over to Pilate, who not only had the power to crucify Jesus, but also gave Him up to the will of the Jewish elite class. He said to Jesus:

“Do you not know that I have power to crucify You and power to release You” (John 19:10). “When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: you see to it” (Matthew 27:24).

Then there was one of the twelve disciples, Judas, the traitor and thief. He also was guilty and deserving blame. As the group of disciples’ treasurer, Judas had been stealing money out of the moneybag. When a woman anointed Jesus with her very expensive ointment, Judas was unhappy at the act of devotion and saw the cost of the ointment as something that had slipped through his hand. When Jesus backed up the beautiful act that the woman had done, Judas didn’t like it and went and sold his master for thirty silver coins, the price paid for a slave (Exodus 21:32).

“What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you? So they counted out for him thirty silver coins. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over (Matthew 26:15-16).

Who else could be blamed for the death of Jesus? What about those that every Christian is at war with—the unseen ruling evil spirits that are manipulating people on the planet for their own evil ends.

“For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places” (Ephesian 6:12). Of course, when these unseen evil spirits used Judas, Pilate, and the religious elite, they did not realize the end result of Christ being crucified, and the damage it would bring to Satan and his ruling evil angels and demons.

We declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory (1 Corinthians 2:7-8).

Each of those mentioned above are fully to blame and will be brought to judgment in the age to come, when Jesus returns to set up His kingdom. But also, we sinful human beings are each to blame for our own sin. God had placed a penalty on the rebellion against Him in the Garden of Eden. Death would be a consequence of sin. That is not just physical death but spiritual death, which is separation from God. This is why Jesus deliberately allowed Himself to be crucified. It was His life for your life. God came in the person of Christ to be the Substitute for you and me and all those who would accept the terms of the New Covenant of God (Jeremiah 31:31). He would give new life to all who accept His death in payment for their sin. The evil unseen spirits did not realize that God would use His Son’s death as a means of deliverance for you and me from our sins:

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit (1 Peter 3:18).

What about you? Will you accept the free gift of salvation and eternal life that Christ offers you if you give up your life into His hands? Just simply tell Him, wherever you are right now, Lord Jesus, thank you for dying in my place for me and as me. I receive you into my life to cleanse me from all my sin. Forgive me for my sin, Lord Jesus, I want to live for you. Amen. If you sincerely meant that prayer, there is joy in heaven (Luke 15:10) Keith Thomas

Circumcision, the Sign of the Covenant

We are continuing to meditate on the life of Abraham. The people of Israel were required by God to have a sign in their flesh that would remind them of their commitment to the covenant that they had entered into with God. Much as a wedding ring is an outward sign that a person had entered into a covenant with another, so a Hebrew man had a sign on his flesh that was forever with him to remind him of his commitment to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

9Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. 10This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. 12For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring. 13Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant (Genesis 17:9-13).

Commentator R. Kent Hughes says this of the mark of circumcision:

“Significantly, circumcision involved Abraham’s powers of procreation—the area of life in which he had resorted to fleshly expediency—and had so failed. Man’s best plans and strength of will would never bring about the promise. For Abraham circumcision was an act of repentance and a sign of dependence upon God for the promise.”[1]

Abraham had tried to bring about God’s will and purpose through doing what he could do (as in the matter of Sarai’s servant girl, Hagar, giving birth to Ishmael), and had miserably failed. God was now showing that He alone could satisfy their every need and fulfill the vision that He had given them. Only He was God Almighty, the great El Shaddai. Abraham had listened to Sarai and tried to bring about the vision by their own means, but now it was time to listen to the Lord and do things His way. He was finally at rest and waiting for God to fulfill His Word and His promises, by doing things His way and in His timing.

Circumcision is a sign upon the flesh saying that the Jewish people are committed to following God’s way in God’s timing. Later on, in the New Testament, we see that circumcision became a matter of great controversy among believers in the early church. When non-Jews became believers, some argued that they should be circumcised as well. Paul argued that this was no longer necessary. His argument followed the reasoning that believers should be circumcised at the heart level, and not focus on that which is physical.

28A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. 29No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God (Romans 2:28-29).

This is the Sabbath rest of faith. No more do we have to please God by signs on the outward skin of our commitment to keeping the way of the Lord. Now it is a matter of the inward heart. The Spirit leading and guiding us from within, not by a written code of trying to please God by the works of the flesh, but realizing that God has come down from heaven and satisfied all the demands of the Law. We please God from the heart, not from the flesh.  Paul’s teaching at this time was radical. Many who listened to him were offended. After all, had God not given the ritual of circumcision as a sign to them? In this case, the symbol had become all-important. Paul wanted them to see that it was a symbol of the truth that these new believers were already circumcised in their hearts, set apart though faith in Christ.

Thank God that we now have a new covenant, which has been sealed with Messiah’s blood.  He has given us what we need to be perfect and complete. When Christ died for our sanctification, circumcision was no longer required, as He is our sanctification (1 Corinthians 1:30). Paul explained it well when he wrote: “For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Jesus Christ, and who put no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3). Keith Thomas

[1] R. Kent Hughes, Genesis, Beginning and Blessing. Published by Crossway, Page 248.

The Patience Test

We are continuing to think on the testing of Abraham’s faith, and how it relates to all believers being tested in similar ways. In the time of waiting God takes us through a patience test. This test happens to a man or woman of God when their expectations in God are not fulfilled “on schedule.” (Of course, we think in terms of our schedule, not God’s!) Patience is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 6:2). This word comes from a Latin word which means, “to suffer.” To pass the patience test a person has to yield to the Lord for His will to be accomplished His way and in His timing. Men and women of God down through the centuries have been given visions of what God wants them to do, but almost always they have had to wait for God to act. Why is this? God does not want His people to short circuit the process by jumping in and trying to fulfill the vision with their own strength and natural talents. He uses talents and abilities, which He has given to us, but it must be in God’s timing and not ours. Waiting on God’s timing is the hard part.

The testing time is different and unique to each of God’s servants. After all, The Lord knows each one of His children intimately. He knows what we need to experience in order for our character to be shaped so that we are ready for the task. For instance, Joseph was given a vision of his brother’s sheaves bowing down to him (Genesis 37:7). The interpretation was that his brothers would literally bow down before him, but the fulfilling of the vision would be many years in the future. In the waiting period, Joseph’s character had to be changed and made ready for his future as the vice president of the nation of Egypt. He had to endure years as a slave in Potiphar’s house, before being falsely accused and thrown into prison. While in prison, the dreams of two men of pharaoh’s staff were correctly interpreted, but Joseph short-circuited God’s work by pleading with the cupbearer to get him out of jail. God made him wait another two years before Pharaoh’s cupbearer remembered Joseph’s unique talent of dream interpretation to Pharaoh (Genesis 40:23 and 41:1). Sometimes God deliberately makes a man or woman of God wait until things are humanly impossible before He moves in our situation. This is what He did to Abram and Sarai. Fourteen years had gone by and it was now many years since it had ever been naturally possible for Sarai to conceive and bear a child.

Why The Wait?

We know that God was teaching Abram and Sarai valuable lessons in this waiting period. Why did it go on so long? Do we have a part to play and can we delay God’s promise by obedience or disobedience? It is impossible for us to know how long Abram and Sarai would have waited if they had never taken matters into their own hands and used Hagar to bring forth Ishmael. The “waiting time” is also a time of testing. We need to be alert and aware of the part we play in the waiting time.

The Lord shows up after a fourteen year wait, twenty-three years from the initial promise, and tells Abram that from now on he shall no longer be called Abram, which means exalted father, but his name from now is changed to Abraham, which means father of a multitude. The interesting thing about God’s word to Abraham was that the Lord spoke in the present tense and not the future tense. He said, “I have made you a father of many nations (Genesis 17:5). Abraham was asked to believe God’s Word about himself before it became a reality. Imagine what that was like going over to Mamre to see his friends, Eshcol and Aner, his allies in the war against the kings of the north (Genesis 14:13). How does a man tell his friends that his name has changed at ninety-nine years of age into father of a multitude? Do you think that Abraham corrected people every time they called him Abram? I wonder. Don’t you think that Eshcol and Aner would have laughed at him along with many others of his friends? Today we would consider a person like Abraham to be eccentric, but the Bible calls him the Friend of God (James 2:23). My prayer is for you and me to be a Friend of God. Keith Thomas

Sarai and Abram’s Shortcut

1Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; 2so she said to Abram, “The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.” Abram agreed to what Sarai said. 3So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. 4He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress (Genesis 16:1-4).

Have you ever been tempted to take a shortcut to what you believe to be God’s will? Abraham had been promised by the Lord that he would be the father of a multitude, but there was a problem, Sarah (at this point she is still called Sarai) was way past the age of having children. But how does one get to have many descendants if his wife cannot bear children? It was now impossible for it to happen through Abraham’s wife, Sarah. Sometimes we get desperate and look for a logical way around a situation. Sarah thought about her handmaid—Abraham could have a child through Hagar, their maid, and it could be called Sarah’s. The shortcut was at the initiation of Sarai. Maybe God’s way was for their family to be built around Hagar, their servant girl, who had been added to their household while in Egypt.

Sarai’s motive was probably a good one, but a good motive does not make a bad decision right. Sarai loved her husband and trusted him implicitly and was willing to sacrifice even their special intimacy with one another for the sake of his vision and dream to be fulfilled. This says a lot for Sarai’s commitment and character that she would do this for Abram, but there was no evidence that Abram and Sarai stopped to think about the consequences of what they were about to do. This was a life-changing decision and one wonders if they stopped to ask God about it. Certainly there is nothing in scripture that tells us that they did. This seems to be a low point in Abram’s faith walk. For him to go ahead with this shortcut even when he knew in his heart that this was not God’s way was resorting to man’s way of doing things.

Abram is not a picture of a godly husband at this time, ready to protect the intimacy of his marriage. His first response to Sarai’s idea should have been a courageous, “absolutely not!” There was also no seeking after permission of Hagar’s father in Egypt, that we are told about.  We are not even told if Hagar herself had any say in the matter. I’m sure she was asked, but she would have thought to herself that if she didn’t go ahead, it would have meant her job, and another of the slave girls would have been chosen over her. Hagar became a second wife to Abram and, as far as we know, God was not brought into the picture (Verse 3). Of course, God had already revealed His will that a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh (Genesis 2:24). The Lord had not changed His mind and allowed for a threesome!

Things are about to get complicated for Abram and Sarai. It does not take a lot of imagination to see how this could have affected their relationship, their home life, and even their faith. Culture and traditions may change, but there are at least two things that do not, the Word of God, and basic human nature. When we try to do short cuts to our faith walk, it never works out. It honors the worldly way of doing things rather than the ways of honoring the Lord and walking by faith. There are no short cuts to faith and walking in the ways of the Lord. Live your life by being completely devoted to God and His ways, not the ways of this world. Keith Thomas