Bethel Baptist Church
Worship Service @ Home
7 February 2021
Service available on Youtube, or as text (below), or for audio see the Podcasts page.
Hilary, my sister, receives a leaflet from her church every couple of weeks … She read to me what was on the last leaflet: ‘A lady, who has since died, was told to pray for someone called Hilary, who was having a bad year and was living in a small village (this was 2018 when Hilary’s son-in-law died, her daughter committed suicide, and our mum died). This lady did not know anyone called Hilary nor did the people she asked. Even so, this lady faithfully prayed for six months for someone called Hilary. Then the church felt that they should deliver leaflets … into a nearby village which had been laid very strongly on the heart of one of the members. So this leaflet came through Hilary’s door at that time and Hilary got in touch and has been going for about two years now’.
As a background to this … she had spoken to my brother about church and he had sent her details of two churches she could try. One she had no idea where it was but the other was in Elland, the nearest town. This was the church that the leaflet came from. So yes, she was the Hilary in a village who was having a bad time. She thanks God for His provision and for the faithfulness of that lady who prayed for her. God just wants us to be faithful to His leading. Let us pray and listen to what He says. I think we are very good at praying, but not necessarily what He wants and we certainly are not always listening.
Matthew 9:9-13; (see also Mark 2:13-17; Luke 5:27-32).
“I desire compassion rather than sacrifice …”Matt. 9:13 NASB
Interestingly, the two occasions when these words (from Hosea 6:6) are quoted by Jesus, are in contexts of Him being confronted by the Pharisees. Firstly, here in Matthew 9:13, after He has called Matthew, the tax collector, to follow Him. Secondly, when His disciples picked some ears of corn and ate them … on a Sabbath (of course!). In the first incident the Pharisees ask Jesus’ disciples why He eats with tax-collectors and sinners. In the second, they ask Jesus Himself, why His disciples were doing that which was unlawful to do on the Sabbath.
Jesus’ reply on both occasions includes the words, “I desire compassion not sacrifice.” He is here stating that God desires compassionate hearts of love, rather than hard hearts that are far away from Him and are satisfied to perform some outward religious ritual. This was the main message of Hosea, God wanted first and foremost, His people to have compassionate hearts full of steadfast love and faithfulness, rather than thinking the main priority was simply to bring a sacrifice to God:
“In God’s scale of priorities a positive concern for the good of others … takes precedence over formal compliance with ritual regulations”
It can be likened to a person who is satisfied because he has gone to church, taken communion and done his religious duty whilst hardening his heart to his next door neighbour who he knows is nearly starving to death and going through great hardship (cf. Matt. 5:23-24).
Compassionate hearts love Jesus
Jesus and compassionate hearts go together. Jesus said,
“If you love me you will keep my commands”John 14:15
Matthew shows his love for Jesus by obeying Him and following Him. This connection between love for Him and obeying Him is an important theme in Jesus’ teachings, especially brought out in John’s gospel. Such obedience also leads to a development in our relationship with Jesus. e.g. here John 14:15 is followed by a promise
“And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper to be with you for ever – the Spirit of truth.”John 14:16
Obey Jesus and He will ask the Father to give you the Holy Spirit to be with you for ever! The whole Trinity is involved and ultimately anticipates the end of all things, the great consummation when God will live with His people,
Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them”.John 14:23
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling-place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.”Rev. 21:3
We must pray to be strengthened by the Spirit so that Christ will more fully dwell in our hearts in love,
I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.Ephesians 3:16-17
And note again the progression, the development, the maturing in the faith, that the apostle longs for in those who follow Jesus,
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.Ephesians 3:17-19
Matthew has just begun one glorious, amazing, wonderful, beautiful, and also one testing and refining journey in life, as he begins to follow Jesus. He hardly knows even a small part of what is to come, but will learn more and more as he walks obediently with Jesus,
What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived’ – the things God has prepared for those who love Him – these are the things God has revealed to us by His Spirit.1 Cor. 2:9-10
Compassionate hearts love the most hated people
“Of all people in Palestine the tax-collectors were the most hated”
In the words of John the Baptist: “I must decrease and He must increase” and part of that increase must be the love and compassion of Christ in our hearts, love for one another, love for our neighbour, love for enemies, love for anyone and everyone. Yes, even love for tax-collectors and sinners, some of the most despised people of Jesus’s time. In Jewish literature of the time they are grouped invariably with dice-players, Sabbath-breakers, murderers, robbers, and of course as here, notorious alongside sinners. It was held that a tax-collector who enters a house makes it unclean, and regarded as a trade that no observant Jew should pursue.
“Judaism reacted with extreme distaste to those who took up this vocation”
Matthew (Levi), responds to Jesus’ love and leaves everything to follow Him:
and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.Luke 5:28
Loving such despised people with the love of Christ can lead to great fruit in the future – cf. the impact of Matthew’s Gospel.
Compassionate hearts love to party
Not a worldly party where people go to get drunk and spend the night in wild debauchery, but a party to introduce their unbelieving friends to Jesus. Matthew makes a brilliant start as a follower of Jesus and invites all his ‘outcast’ friends to a large banquet (cf. the heavenly banquet to come: “the tax-collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you” Matt. 21:31). He is so blessed by being called to follow Jesus that he wants to share it with all his friends, of which he had many. ‘Undesirables’ (in the eyes of the Pharisees and most Jewish people of the time), attend, along with Jesus who is at ease in their company. He longed for them to follow Him also.
Luke frequently mentions spiritually significant happenings at the meal table (e.g. Luke 7:36-50; 9:10-17; 10:38-42; 11:37-54; 14:1-24; 19:1-10; 22:7-38; 24:29-32; 24:41-43):
“The table is a place where spiritual points are made and fellowship occurs. Levi seeks to use his home and resources to bring the message of Jesus to his friends … [and] has gone to great trouble to bring Jesus to many who might not normally be expected to have contact with [Him]”
Note love and kindness was shown first to all these ‘undesirables’ and only later did Jesus mention repentance and that to the Pharisees (Luke 5:32). There is a need to demonstrate God’s free undeserved love, grace and kindness before we start calling people to repent:
God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance.Romans 2:4
When I was a young Christian I was invited by a Christian to an Andrew Supper. It was a great night out with a lovely meal, good music, and a short message about Jesus. What about a “Matthew Meal” where we each invite a ‘sinner or tax-collector’?
Questions for Discussion
- Do we do things the wrong way around expecting people to repent and come to Jesus first and then they can be invited to eat with us?
- Who are the “tax-collectors and sinners” of our time?
- Are we at ease having a meal with the “tax-collectors and sinners” of our time?
- Are we up for having a “Matthew Meal” every so often?
- Has the Church become contented to simply go to worship on a Sunday, meet in mid-week, and keep in touch with one another by phone or messaging? What about reaching out to needy people?
Quote for the Week
“Run after the hurting, go after the broken, the addicted, those that have messed up, that society has written off. Go after them with love, with mercy, with the goodness of God.”
Verse of the week
Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. His love endures for ever.Ps. 136:1
Heavenly Father, we so thank You for sending Your Son Jesus Christ, not only to die for our sins and reconcile us back to Yourself, but also to show us how to live this new life in Him. Thank you Jesus for the way You emphasised love, compassion, grace, and mercy, and demonstrated it in the way You lived. Thank you for Your love and acceptance of sinners and tax-collectors, of outcasts, of the marginalised, and of those who were sick and infirm, of us.
Thank You for the gift of Your Holy Spirit and we pray You will strengthen us in our inner beings that Your Church might demonstrate Your love in action, the fruit of the Holy Spirit, that which sums up all the commandments. Help us to love one another with the love of Christ and to love our neighbours, our friends and family, and especially those who are despised by society as a whole.
Lord build Your Church and may we see many who are prostitutes, alcoholics, drug-addicts, coming into Your Kingdom through the compassion, love, and kindness of Your people, in Jesus Christ, Amen.