Hellish haze blankets Moscow, Eight women die after sterilization surgery in India, Ebola: hospitals struggle to stem the tide, Kwek family scion dies in KL car crash, Legionnaires kill five in Portugal were some of the world news in one day in November. What is happening? Chaos in the world? Is anyone in control? Let us take a leaf from the first book of the New Testament and see what the message is for us today.
Many of us would have read Matthew. Though I have read it before, I have not read it in a sitting or two. It is an interesting experience as I read and allowed God’s Word to wash over me and pondered on what God is saying to me.
What is the distinctive message of Matthew?
Matthew begins with the genealogy, thus providing a link between the Old Testament (OT) and the New Testament (NT). I asked myself, ‘Why?’ What can I learn? Then a thought came to mind: there is an explicit connection between the OT Messianic prophecies as being fulfilled by Jesus in the New Testament. We see God’s plan (mentioned in OT) fulfilled, for example, Jesus as servant is a fulfillment of Isa 42:1-4. This is what is distinctive about Matthew as I read it in two sittings. God is in control and He is the God of History, the present and the future. In Matthew, we have details of John the Baptist, the baptism of Jesus, Jesus’ being tested in the wilderness, Jesus going to Jerusalem, the sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ teaching and ministry, the parables, Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, interwoven with the cost of discipleship and ending with the Great Commission to go, teach and make disciples (Mt 28:19-20).
There is the repetition of ‘the kingdom of heaven has come’ (Mt 10:7; 13:11), perhaps indicating the fulfillment nature of Jesus’ ministry. There were also many references to OT, for example, Elijah (Mt 11:14), Jesus using Scripture (from OT) to counter the devil’s attack in the temptation scene (Mt 3:4).
How does this affect us and the church?
First, it reaffirms in a refreshing way the fact that God is in control, as compared to the uncertainty in the present world. God’s plan of salvation is fulfilled in the coming of Jesus (Christmas) and that Jesus is with us.
As I read, I thought of someone, a senior executive with leadership responsibilities in a leading global investment and private banking, who after a first visit to a church where there was a Bible study on what Jesus said about money, giving and accountability, came to know Christ. On his first mission trip to a remote, poor village devastated by a typhoon, he saw the village folk taking the challenges in stride, with a faith that gave selflessly to make them (mission-trippers) comfortable. He said that he learnt about trusting that God will provide when he saw the peaceful countenance of the simple village folk because of their trust that Jesus is with them.
As the year draws to a close, may we continue to have faith in Jesus, just like the faith of the Carmelite woman (Mt 15:22), and may you be filled with a deep sense of peace with the fresh realization that God is always in control.
Thank you, dear God, for the distinct message in Matthew for us at this time. We can always trust in you, who is our King and who is always in control.
Deaconess Dr Ler Soon Lay