Matthew 3:1-6

Please open your Bibles to Matthew 3:1-6

Having testified concerning Jesus’ fulfillment of prophecy in his birth, Matthew now moves on to Jesus years of ministry. Matthew begins at this point in the history of Jesus life because the critical years of Jesus life were from the time of his baptism to the time of his ascension. It was these years that the apostles required one to witness in order for Judas successor to be named (Acts 1:22). These were the years in which Jesus ministry began, in which he taught the gospel, and in which he gave his life to redeem the sins of man. Jesus’ teaching and actions in those years were the things the apostles were to pass on to others in their work and ministry.

In chapter two, Matthew introduces us to the herald of the King and the coming kingdom. Matthew then shows that the herald recognized his King and that God also testified that Jesus was the King upon the occasion of Jesus’ baptism.

Vs. 1 – What are “those days?” Likely the days in which Jesus was still living in the city of Nazareth. Matthew fast forwards through time here in order to bring us past the intervening years of Jesus’ life to begin discussion of Jesus’ ministry. We have no reason to believe that beyond the events that surrounded his birth that Jesus had a childhood unlike any other, saving that he committed no sin.

John the Baptizer is more accurate than John the Baptist. John was not a “Baptist” or a member of any other denomination for that matter. He was described as “a baptizer” because that is what he did. He baptized. Modern day Baptists (the denomination) gain no credibility by pointing to John’s description here and claiming it as their title. The church that belongs to Christ ought to have that right and proper name by which her Lord and Savior would be honored (Matthew 16:18, Romans 16:16, Ephesians 5:23) and so ought her members to carry the name of Christ, Christian (Acts 11:26).

Luke tells us that John was Jesus’ cousin by birth of Mary’s sister, Elizabeth. John’s father, Zacharias, was a priest and John’s birth was surrounded by unusual events as was Jesus’. One may read Luke 1 to learn of those things. John was approximately six months older than Jesus, at least, in human age.

Matthew tells us that John “came preaching.” The word for “preaching” here is from the Greek word kerusso and signifies ringing out a message so that all may hear. John was the first to herald forth the message that God’s kingdom was soon coming.

John preached this message in the desert area of Judea somewhere near where the Jordan comes into the Dead Sea. This area, while not completely devoid of human life, was, and is fairly barren. That’s not to say that it was a desert of sand, but a wilderness of scrub brush, boulders, and wild animals (Mark 1:13).

Vs. 2 – Here is the message that John preached. Repentance is a change of mind that results in reformation of life. Repentance is not a mere acknowledgment of sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:9,10), but a willingness to make permanent change in one’s life. John’s message was that the Jewish people needed to change from their sinful ways because the kingdom of heaven was coming. The kingdom of heaven does not admit those who revel in sin (Galatians 5:19-21). One must repent of sin and be forgiven before becoming one of its citizens (Acts 2:38).

Vs. 3 -The Jewish people knew of John and his ministry. They all went out to hear him (Matthew 3:5). The Jewish leaders recognized that the people believed John to be a prophet (Matthew 11:32). However, there was some confusion as to what John’s purpose as a prophet was among them. Some even went so far as to confuse him with Jesus (Matthew 16:14). Here, Matthew makes it plain that John was Jesus herald as predicted by Isaiah. The prophecy is found in Isaiah 40:3-5. Not only then did John’s ministry bear record of his divine approval, but also the prophetic record.

In Matthew’s day and age, a herald was one who would go ahead of the king to whatever city or town the king was about to enter and proclaim that the king was coming and for the city to make everything ready for his arrival. The herald would also ensure that appropriate engineering was accomplished to level the hills and fill in the ditches so that the king would have a smooth and easy journey to conduct his business. In parallel, then, this was John’s great work; to prepare the people for the coming of Jesus as Messiah; to tear down the hills of impenitence and disobedience, to fill in the valleys of indifference and apathy, to call the people back to considering the right ways of the Lord. And so John did indeed prepare and when the Lord appeared, he testified as to His presence. The King is here!

Vs. 4 – John wore a coat of crude camel’s hair, but not the fine hairs used in today’s manufacture. He wore a leathern girdle. The same was said of Elijah (2 Kings 1:8). This was fitting for the one who came in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:17). He ate locusts which were more similar to our modern day grasshoppers than to what we in the United States style as locusts. Honey also was his food. He gleaned it from wild bees.

John wore only the essential things that he needed to wear; no fancy fineries of which the Sanhedrin afforded themselves (Matthew 23:5). He ate only what he needed to sustain his life. What privations John endured to serve his God! His sacrifice reminds us of those great heroes of faith discussed in Hebrews 11:32-40. Here is a great lesson to us all regarding self-sacrifice for the sake of God’s kingdom.

Vs. 5-6 – Certainly thousands, perhaps millions, came to hear John preach, even publicans (Luke 3:12) soldiers (Luke 3:14) and the religious leaders of the day (Matthew 3:7). Even so, we should regard these verses as an example of hyperbole because not all of these were baptized of John. The Pharisees were not (Luke 7:30). Verses five and six comprise one sentence the subject of which is Jerusalem, Judea, and the region. Additionally, this is a compound sentence with two predicates. The subject of the first sentence acts as both the subject of the first and second predicate. Hence, since we know that not everyone was baptized of John, we ought not to interpret these verses literally, but as an example of hyperbole. Luke 7:29 tells us what category of listeners were obedient to John’s message of baptism, namely, the common people. John’s words were God’s counsel (Luke 7:30). Rejection of God’s counsel only served to condemn one’s self. Would the situation be any different today in regard to Christian baptism?

The apostle John tells us that John baptized in the river Jordan because there was “much water” (John 3:23). The Greek word baptizo means to dip or to plunge. The verb is in the imperfect tense here indicating repetition of the act among all of the numerous people who came. “Confessing” is also in the imperfect tense indicating the near simultaneous occurrence of these two actions. They would confess and be baptized, confess and be baptized, confess and be baptized, one after the other.

This was no mere sprinkling or pouring of water upon the heads of those who came. They were submerged beneath the Jordan and subsequently came up “out of the water” (Matthew 3:16). They confessed their sins because it was a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins (Luke 3:3). Thus, it required fruits that were suitable for repentance (Luke 3:8). Hence John required them to confess their sins prior to their being baptized to show their repentance and make them proper candidates for baptism. John’s baptism is similar to Christian baptism in this regard, but not the same in that it looked forward to the coming Messiah. Christian baptism looks back. See Acts 19:1-7.

This is the second time we have come across the word “sin” in our study. The first was in Matthew 1:21 in reference to Jesus’ mission. Here we find it in reference to confession and the act of baptism. It is no coincidence. Both the shedding of Christ blood (Matthew 26:28) and baptism (Acts 2:38) are said to be “for the remission of sins.” It is appropriate that Matthew so associate the two early in his account.

Sin is the problem with which Jesus dealt. It is here represented as prohibiting those who have it in their lives from entering the coming kingdom (Matthew 3:2). Jesus solves the problem of man’s sin through forgiveness and instruction. Jesus purchased the opportunity for all men to be forgiven when he gave his blood on the cross (Matthew 26:28). Forgiveness is then offered to the sinner based upon the sinner’s repentance and obedience (Acts 5:31,32). Instruction then takes over in the life of the Christian in an effort to prevent him from continuing in a life of sin (Romans 6:1,12,13). This is not to say that the Christian won’t ever sin (1 John 1:8-10). It is, however, to say that God intends to reduce the amount of sin a Christian may commit through teaching him not to sin and to warn the Christian regarding the dangers of deliberately committed sin (Hebrews 10:26). Why is sin so terrible? Because it is that which separates man from God (Isaiah 59:2) and which will ultimately condemn man to a Devil’s hell (Romans 6:23). How fortunate we are to have a High Priest who has been touched with the feeling of our infirmities, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15)! He has thus architected our salvation, but not without our own obedience (Hebrews 5:9).

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Job 2:7-13

Please open your Bibles to Job 2:7-13.

Vs. 7-8 – Satan unleashes his second sortie against Job afflicted Job with a terrible disease. From the various descriptions of Job’s condition in the book (Job 2:8; 7:4-5; 13:14; 13:28; 16:16; 16:8; 17:1; 19:20; 19:26; 30:17; 30:30), it has been strongly suggested that this was not “boils” as the Authorized Version renders it, but rather a case of Black Leprosy. The disease produces swelling in the limbs, itching, flaking of the skin, a change in color of the skin and intense pain. Those who have it are described as appearing like Elephants or Lions; hence another name for the disease is Elephantiasis or Leontiasis. We know that this disease changed Job’s physical appearance because his friends were not able to recognize him (Job 2:12). Not a single part of Job’s body was unaffected by this disease. The text says that he was infected from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. Not a single part of him could find rest from this disease (Job 3:26; 30:17).

Job then took a piece of broken pottery (also acting as an instrument for scratching), to scrape away the epidermal remnants of the diseased and infected skin. Job 7:5 describes the condition as a continual cycle of the skins decay, hardening, and then breaking out once again. Sitting in ashes was a common method of mourning whether for others or for one’s self (see 2 Samuel 13:9; Ezekiel 27:30; Jonah 3:6).

Vs. 9-10 – Job’s wife enters the picture and does a little work for Satan. Instead of offering comforts to her husband as a good wife would do, she questions whether he ought to remain faithful and suggest that he simply “curse God and die” instead of enduring through such grief. This, of course, was exactly what Satan wanted Job to do (1:11) and we learn that even unwitting people are often tools of Satan’s evil.

Her question was in regard to Job’s integrity, particularly, the statement that Job had made in 1:21, “blessed be the name of the Lord.” Evidently Job’s wife doesn’t believe that after this second round of affliction that Job need hold fast to such a statement. Her conclusion was that Job should simply curse God and then die. Some have suggested that Job’s wife’s words were uttered in a fit of despair herself having recently lost her children as well as all that her husband had to provide for her comforts. While that was the case, such a loss never justifies blasphemy against God. Job, knowing this, was wise. Job’s wife on the other hand was foolish and so Job charges her as being such. Herein lies one of the great lessons of the book of Job, namely, that regardless what comes our way in life, God is always holy, righteous, and good and never merits curse from His creation but always blessing (Psalm 145:10, 21).

Job’s question regarding receiving “evil” from God doesn’t necessarily imply moral evil (Psalm 5:4), but rather, terrible calamities. Does God bring this kind of evil upon the sinful? Yes, he does; Lamentations 3:38, 39 so states. But while Job recognizes that he hasn’t sinned to the degree that this particular evil should befall him, he doesn’t recognize that this is not God’s doing, but Satan’s. Hence, Job will eventually desire an audience with God for God to hear Job’s plea and for God to take away Job’s afflictions.

Job’s confession here is something to think about. Ought we to expect God to rain down blessings upon us from the day of our birth to the end of our life with no opportunity to experience suffering, toil, anguish, pain, and misery of any kind? No. The world in which we live is not so made. But rather, it is designed to try us and purify us for the purpose of one day living within God’s presence (1 Peter 1:7).

Even with the temptation of Job’s wife coming upon him, Job continued in his integrity and did not sin, at least up to this point. The expression “with his lips” is simply another way of saying that God didn’t commit the sin of blasphemy. This he never does throughout his ordeal. However, the question of whether Job sinned later in his dialogues with his friends and his monologue with God is a question that we will take up later in our study. Suffice it to say that many commentators believe that Job did commit a sin, though not to the degree that Job’s friends sinned.

Vs. 11-13 – Job’s friends hear about his horrible situation and come to give him comfort. Eliphaz means “God is his strength.” Bildad means “son of contention.” Zophar may mean “leap” or “crown” or “rising early;” dictionaries disagree. While Bildad’s name certainly appears to be apropos, we need not suppose that these names have any special significance in relationship to the meaning of the text. Neither do the places from which Job’s friends come play a significant role in the text. They are mentioned in this context primarily to assert the historical nature of Job’s sufferings. Here was a real man who had real friends who came from real places. While the text says that they came to give Job sympathy and comfort, they were ill prepared for what they would find, both from the sight of Job and also for providing words that would soothe his sorrowing spirit. Job later refers to them as “physicians of no value” (13:4) and “miserable comforters” (16:2). Job then says that if he were in their shoes that he wouldn’t behave in the way that they did toward him (16:4,5).

Job’s friends don’t recognize him because of his disease (see comments on verse seven above). They too engage in behavior typical of the mourning Arab (see comments on 1:20). They then proceeded to simply sit with Job and not speak a word for a period of seven days and nights. This Job found to be more comforting than when they in fact did speak (see Job 6:14-30 and 13:5). The Proverbs state that even a fool appears wise when he doesn’t speak (Proverbs 17:28). It is good to value this lesson.

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Job 2:1-6

Satan’s Second Strike

Vs. 1 – 3 – The first two verses of this chapter are virtually identical to chapter one verse six, seven, and eight (see comments on those verses). The point of this repetition is to make it clear, once again, that Satan was responsible for Job’s malady. The only difference in these verses and the verses in chapter one is that this time God points out to Satan that Job maintained his integrity under the first sortie of temptation that Satan launched at him. Satan had been proved wrong; God had been proved righteous.

God comments that Satan had “movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause.” We need not suppose that God himself moved directly against Job due to this statement. Rather, since God’s permission was required for Satan to so act against Job, God recognizes that he indeed had a role in allowing Job’s undoing. Again, God remains blameless because He is not the personal agent of these temptations (James 1:13).

Was Job being destroyed “without cause?” That is, for no purpose whatsoever? No. There was a great purpose to this whole exercise, namely, to prove to Satan that some will worship and serve God despite temptations and persecutions that come upon them proving God true and Satan a liar. However, what is meant by “without cause” is that Job had not sinned to the degree that he so merited such physical punishment and torment. This doesn’t mean that Job was sinless, only that his sins were minuscule in relationship to the amount of suffering he was undergoing.

Vs. 4-6 – Satan wastes no time in coming up with a second temptation. He recognizes his defeat in the first sortie, but makes nothing of it. He quickly moves on to the next temptation where he believes he has his best effort at undoing Job. This is a great lesson for us. Satan doesn’t waste time tempting us in areas where we aren’t going to respond to his lures. He will change bait until he finds the one that will cause us to react so he can set his hook. Here is all the more reason why we don’t need to be ignorant of his devices (2 Corinthians 2:11).

This time Satan’s desire is to afflict Job’s flesh. Here Satan believes Job to be the weakest. This, Satan reasons, is surely the area in which Job will fail. Physical afflictions are often areas in which many succumb to temptation. Men will often endure aches and pains in order to earn a living, but at the slightest headache will forsake the assembly of the saints (Hebrews 10:25,26). How much better is it to worship God with his saints than to endure the pain of eternal hell? Jesus said, “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). We would do better to lose some of our physical features than to so be tempted by them that our soul is lost (Matthew 5:29,30, 18:8,9, 19:12).

God places one restriction upon Satan’s torments of Job. Satan is not allowed to take Job’s life. Why such a restriction? I can think of three possible reasons. 1) Diseases that harm the body are not as severe as diseases that destroy life. Hence, God, in this requirement may have mitigated some of Job’s suffering. We should not misunderstand this point, however. Job suffered greatly and Satan chose a method of suffering that is as close to death as one could possibly come and still live, but had Satan been allowed to take Job’s life he likely could have made Job’s suffering worse. 2) God didn’t want to lose Job’s influence in the world. God has precious few servants as it is. If he allowed Satan to take one of His greatest examples and influences out of the world, that would have resulted in the loss of other souls. Instead, God spares Job’s life and gains the souls of his friends. 3) God knew that Job was going to sin during the course of this temptation and did not want Job to be lost eternally to Satan’s clutches. Jesus once intervened for Peter in a similar manner. Luke 22:32 records, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan asked to have you, that he might sift you as wheat: but I made supplication for thee, that thy faith fail not; and do thou, when once thou hast turned again, establish thy brethren.” Satan desired to sift Job so that he could ultimately bring him to hell. God, however, does not allow Satan such opportunities to so conveniently snag Job’s soul as the moment of his sin. In this regard, God, though removing the “hedges” that surrounded Job, continued to protect Job’s most valuable possession, namely, Job’s soul.

Does God so protect us today? Peter tells us that God’s saints “?by the power of God are guarded through faith unto a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:5). How is it that God works today to so protect us? Not through the impossibility of apostasy, as some teach, but by providing us opportunity after opportunity to repent of our sins through obedience to His word (2 Peter 3:9).

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