The kingdom of heaven is a major theme of Matthew’s gospel, including most of the parables in Matthew 13. The chapter begins with the parable of the sower (or the four soils) and its explanation. All the other parables in the chapter compare the kingdom of heaven to something or someone. Four other chapters include parables that illustrate what the kingdom of heaven is like.
This post will examine the short parables at the end of Matthew 13. He spoke these parables to the disciples alone, not to a crowd.
The first time recorded in Scripture that John the Baptist ever saw Jesus, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29, CSB). The next day, he said the same thing to two of his disciples, Andrew and John, when Jesus passed by them. The two left him to follow Jesus.
The scene has become so familiar that it’s easy to fail to notice how little John’s society was prepared to hear it. Not to mention ours.
Have you ever noticed that the Bible attributes all the building blocks of civilization to rebels against God? Ungodly men started the world system.
Cain founded the first city. His descendants invented agriculture, music, and metal work. After the flood, Nimrod invented architecture, government, war, and religion.
We like to talk about the rise of civilization, but it all began as a consequence of the fall. Surely unfallen humans would have eventually invented all the best parts of it. But given its ungodly start, civilization hasn’t needed to rise. It has needed to be redeemed. God’s redemption of civilization started with Abraham. … Read the rest
Christians have been awaiting the return of Jesus Christ since the very beginning of the church. In fact, as early as Amos (almost 800 years before Christ), people were looking forward to the Day of the Lord. And beginning with Amos, the prophets and apostles have warned us it won’t be a pleasant time.
The coming wrath of God is not a pleasant thought. Many Christians recoil because they can’t reconcile it with his love. But we must remember that every syllable of the Bible perfectly describes God’s love. Even the parts we don’t like. With that in mind, let’s take a careful look at 2 Peter 3.… Read the rest
Christians can probably quote some Bible verses about how Christ has redeemed us. Otherwise, we don’t use “redeem” much anymore these days. When we do use it, it has two basic meanings.
It used to be that we could take books of stamps to a redemption center and exchange them for a toaster. That is, we redeemed the toaster by presenting the stamps. We can still redeem something we’ve taken to a pawn shop. And we talk about redeeming a coupon, although we don’t say we redeem our discount by presenting the coupon.
Or second, when we fail somehow, we can do something to redeem ourselves.… Read the rest
Some people might be thinking, “No. The serpent tempted Eve.” Not quite. Adam and Eve in Genesis represent the entire human race. They started in a perfect place, the Garden of Eden. It took both the man and the woman to forfeit that position in what we know as the fall of man.
Genesis begins with three momentous events:
God created the heavens and the heavens and the earth, culminating with the creation of a man.
God planted the Garden of Eden, and while it grew, he gave the man the dignity of naming the beasts and looking for a suitable helper.
Someone in my Sunday school class suggested studying the book of Revelation. Someone else immediately vetoed the idea. She didn’t want to spend much time being scared.
Lots of people apparently think Revelation is scary and that therefore they shouldn’t read it. Actually, it’s the only book in the Bible that promises a special blessing for anyone who does read it (Revelation 1:3). In fact, the only people who ought to be afraid of it are the scoffers who won’t bother to look at it.
When the book of Revelation is explained, we can face it calmly and hopefully
This season of Lent invites us to contemplate our sin in order to prepare for Easter, a time of new beginnings. The story of the waters of Jericho illustrates God’s role in new beginnings.
When Israel entered the land of Canaan, it immediately sacked and destroyed the fortified city of Jericho after God collapsed the walls.
In Joshua 6:26, Joshua pronounced a curse on anyone who would rebuild the city. It would cost the lives of his eldest and youngest sons. 1 Kings 16:34 tells us that, in Ahab’s time, someone named Hiel rebuilt Jericho. The curse occurred just as Joshua had prophesied.… Read the rest
Rahab the harlot, or prostitute, dominates Joshua 2. Such a woman would hardly seem worth mentioning. Indeed, the whole story hardly seems necessary to the overall plot of the book.
Jump directly from the end of chapter 1 to the beginning of chapter 3. Then continue reading the rest of the book, skipping some verses in chapter 6. Doesn’t the narrative make perfect sense without Rahab?
If she doesn’t matter to the narrative of Joshua, she matters a great deal in the narrative of grace. For one thing, the outcome of her story fulfills the blessing of Abraham that in him all nations would be blessed.… Read the rest
Fire serves as a powerful symbol in the Bible. Most people probably think first of hell. Probably everyone knows about the fire that consumed Sodom and the lake of fire in Revelation. But it means so much more besides.
Even in everyday life, fire destroys, but it’s also a useful tool. Think of a campfire. It destroys firewood. We use it for cooking, for warmth, to draw close to one another, to keep wild beasts away, and more.
Jeremiah 23:29 (NKJV) says, “Is not my word like fire,” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?”… Read the rest