GENESIS 49:1 – 50:26 and MATTHEW 13:1–23
Jacob now gathers his sons and prays over them. The ranges of implication are broad as some of the prophetic declarations had temporal fulfillment as opposed to others that were spiritual in nature, having come to pass throughout various portions of Israel’s history. Another prayer over the tribes will take place at the end of Moses life as they are being prepared to enter Canaan land under the leadership of Joshua. Each tribe could be examined in detail and traced through the generations for greater understanding regarding their significance. We will only highlight a few here.
We see that there are consequences for certain transgressions. Reuben, who was the eldest, was not disinherited in spite of his transgressions (vs 3-4). He did however forfeit the birthright and lost out on the double portion. Another judgment that relates to Reuben is that he had no judge, no prophet nor any ruler in his progeny. Do you recall the transgression of Simeon and Levi regarding the matter of the Schechemites (Gen 34)? In verses 5-7 the Word over them was that they would be divided. Levi, because of their future zeal against sin and idolatry would be allotted cities. Simeon was to go into obscurity. Both were given a severe verdict in Jacob’s prophecy but Levi later would prevail due to their response to sin when Moses cried out “Who is on the Lord’s side? (Exo 32:26) As a result the Old Testament priesthood would be allotted to Levites.
Again, we may wonder here as to whether God is fair. He seemed to render a mutual verdict to both Levi and Simeon but later Levi seems to be able to change the course of the prophecy Jacob delivered. God shows mercy on whom He wills (Exo 33:19, Rom 9:15). The Bible also makes clear that God shows mercy on those who are merciful (2 Sam 22:26). Perhaps this is the takeaway we need to focus on. Never forget, God is just. There are times when God can forgive heinous crimes such as Manasseh when he became king. He certainly paid a price however there are other times when God will not grant repentance such as was the case with Esau. We want to position ourselves as those who find mercy and forgiveness in God. It really comes down to the heart.
Speaking of Esau, it was due to his having no appetite for God that sealed his fate. Cain was likewise, serving God out of convenience and without a true heart resulting in his offering being rejected. I would like to comment briefly on Naphtali (vs 21). It says of him that he speaketh goodly words. Oh how important our words are and the spirit in which they are conveyed. Our words are powerful. I often cite this verse when recounting an event in my life as a 13 year old. At the end of our street was a playground where the older boys would often gather to play soccer (football). On a particular occasion these older boys needed another player. Though only 13 they let me play. (The older boys were around 16-18). There was a portion in the game when the ball came to me and I was able to get a shot on goal. It was an easy save for the goalkeeper but for a 13 year old it was a decent shot being put on goal. Before putting the ball back in play the goal keeper (Fran Kroboth) yelled across the field for all to hear and said these words that I have never forgotten: “Hey Timmy, that was a really good shot”. Do you know what those words did for me as a 13 year old. Those few words still resonate 46 years later. The power of words must never be minimized. How do we speak to our spouses, our children or to colleagues and friends? I am not speaking of flattery. Flattery speaks good words with the intention of gaining something in return. Goodly words are meant for the benefit of another. Our words, our confession, carry far more power and weight than we realize. This point is driven home when contrasting these two verses from Num 13:30-31. Caleb spoke “we are well able to go up and possess the land” in verse 30. The men of Israel said “We be not able to go up against the people…”. Here you have two men speaking about the same thing but speaking two very different confessions. Stop for a moment and consider the consequence of both confessions. May we be those who speak goodly words. Finally, we have the prayer over Judah in verses 8-12. We see that the scepter is going to come forth through Judah. This points to Christ as the King of Kings. This also refers to the line of Kings that will have rule over the southern kingdom at the time of the reign of kings.
Its accounts such as seen in chapter 49 that helps put things into proper perspective. What will be said of me when it is all over? These prophecies were given nearly 4000 years ago yet there words are still recorded. Time is really one of the most precious commodities we possess. Do you think any of the original 12 would like to have a chance to do it all over again? They can’t but we still have opportunity. What we do today, the attitude we possess can truly affect our destiny and eternity. Esau, for a bowl of soup forfeited one of the greatest privileges a man could ever have. Why? It’s because he did not take God seriously. Reuben, as the first born was similar. As long as we have breath we have opportunity. Lord, please teach us to number our days and apply our hearts to wisdom. (Psa 90:12)
The final chapter of Genesis is the account of Jacob’s death and subsequent burial at Hebron. Once again we see the favor that Joseph and Israel had at this time with Pharaoh and Egypt. Joseph was recognized due to being the man of the hour in navigating the nation through Egypt’s crisis. We can say that Joseph is a picture of where the church was being the head and not the tail (Deu 28:13). Can the same scenario play out in our day? Truthfully, the church for the most part reacts to events instead of setting the standard and pointing the way. The high priest Joshua in Zechariah chapter 3 is an example of the type of leader that must emerge in these last days. Here are the qualifications and ramifications of being a Joshua.
“Thus saith the Lord of hosts; If thou wilt walk in my ways, and if thou wilt keep the charge, then thou shalt also judge my house, and shalt also keep my courts, and I will give thee places to walk among these that stand by. Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, thou, and thy fellows that sit before thee: for they are men wondered at: for, behold, I will bring forth my servant the BRANCH (Zech 3:7-8).
Joseph is a type of Christ and his life helps to bring clarity as to what Christ’s life would be like. The price He would pay, the provision and favor that He would bring and the deliverance that would one day come. Joseph presented a picture of the BRANCH, just as Joshua did in the era of the Restoration. What about us? Will be part of the church that becomes the head that sets the standard, which addresses and meets the needs of our day, which in effect makes way for the BRANCH of the 2nd coming? The keys and opportunities are seen throughout the entire thread of Genesis, especially from the time of Noah to Joseph. May we learn its lessons!
An entire book could be devoted to this chapter alone. There are so many messages that can be derived from these 58 verses. Here are a few examples: Let’s take the last verse. (vs 58) Jesus was limited in what he could do in Nazareth due to their unbelief. How is it possible that Jesus could be limited; after all He is the Son of God? God operates through the medium of faith (Heb 11:6). If there is unbelief there is no atmosphere of faith that will enable God to move.
There are seven parables in Matthew 13 that are attributed the title the “parables of the kingdom”. Each parable appears to build upon the other. The seven parables can be linked to the seven primary feasts of Israel as seen in Lev 23. Understanding the feasts helps us to understand the corresponding parable and vice versa. There are many salient truths that can be gleaned from each of these parables. We will develop these parables later on when looking at the other gospels. Let’s begin by zeroing in on the following verses: (Math 13:10-17) This portion is an interlude between the giving of the parable of the sower (vs 3-9) and its interpretation (vs 18-23). It is revelatory in its insights as to how the Lord often communicates and is worthy of a few comments.
In verse 10 the disciples were wondering why Jesus spoke in such a way. The giving of the parable of the sower was childlike and it must have been difficult for them to comprehend His intent. Let’s go back to the beginning of this chapter to discover a key that will help our understanding on this point. We find that there was a great multitude of people that surrounded Him. (Vs 1-2) As the Lord progressed in His ministry we detect concern on His part as to why people followed Him. His heart was constantly moved with compassion towards the people resulting in miracles and demonstration of the power of the kingdom. Still, as we mentioned previously, there was concern on the over-emphasis of signs and wonders. Jesus later speaks concerning this matter in Math 12:39-40. Jesus mentioned that an evil and adulterous generation seeketh after signs but the only sign that Jesus wanted their focus to be upon was that of Jonah. Why the account of Jonah?
It demonstrated the fact that the Son of man would one day be in the belly of the earth for three days and three nights, just as Jonah was in the whale. This is a clear reference to the cross. This is the message, the sign that Jesus wanted their focus to be upon. Actually, the Lord was introducing a parabolic teaching in the account of Jonah. Those who really had a heart for the things he was saying would have “ears to hear” what He was trying to convey.
In the beginning of Math 13 we again see multitudes surrounding the Lord. I feel he now begins going into parable mode to conceal the true message within the framework of child-like stories. The term “ears to hear” speaks of an ability to discern the true message within a message or story. It is not just relative to the parable here but it is also seen in the message to the seven churches in Revelation. The precious truths of the kingdom are not going to be glibly released to a crowd that is only interested in signs and wonders. If we are truly seeking (as we will see with a future kingdom parable) God will speak and give clarity to a specified truth. In verse 14 the Lord even refers to an Old Testament verse from Isaiah. (Isa 6:9-10)
It all comes down to a heart issue. In fact, the first parable really is about the heart. The heart can become indifferent and calloused prohibiting seed bearing faith from taking root. In verse 16 the Lord cites the disciples as among those who truly see. They paid a price as seen in John 6:67-68. It is the glory of God to function in this way. The Lord can speak one message but have it interpreted differently by the respective heart condition of his audience. The parable of the sower is the best parable to illustrate this point. The parables that will follow will build upon this premise. The following Proverb comes to mind.
“It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter.” Pro 25:2
God hides truth but makes it available to those who have a seeking heart. This is what true kingdom living is all about.
The six remaining parables from this chapter are contained within these verses. The 2nd parable is quite popular and has significant meaning for these last days. We have mentioned on several other occasions that the church of the last days is dividing. The example of Abram and Lot serves as a good example. These were two brethren that walked together for a season (Gen 12) but eventually had to separate. They parted ways over a difference of vision. In the last days the Lord makes clear that He is looking for people who are either on fire for Him or cold against Him (Rev 3:16). The Bible also makes clear that there will be two distinct streams or paths in the last days.
He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. (Rev 22:11)
You see there is no middle ground. In the parable of the wheat and tares we see a season where the wheat and tares can exist together. If the tares are pulled out prematurely it can cause damage to the wheat that is developing. There is another verse that helps reinforce this truth:
Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God. (1Co 4:5)
There is a time when it seems like we can live our lives in the camp of the world and the church. In the last days however the gap between the two paths is widening whereby a choice needing to be made. In the end will we be a tare or wheat? This parable, like the others gets to the heart of the matter. It builds off the first parable of the sower. Remember Demas, who was a faithful follower of Paul during the time of his writing to the Colossian church (Col 4:14) and in his personal letter to Philemon? Yet at the end of Paul’s ministry we see that Demas forsook him due to his love for the world. (2 Tim 4:10) (This is the thorny ground seen in the parable of the sower)
For a time he was faithful but in the end he separated from the work of the kingdom and went after the world. What a tragic end! This is why we must allow the Lord to deal with our hearts in our day to day walk with Him. This helps to ensure that the “tares” that lurk within the fabric of our heart can be exposed and removed. Failure to do this will put us into the position of falling into the wrong harvest. How will the Lord bring about this separation of the wheat from the tares? It says reapers will harvest and separate but how will this be done? I am constantly sobered by these verses from Ezekiel and I feel they need to be weighed carefully.
Eze 14:7 For every one of the house of Israel, or of the stranger that sojourneth in Israel, which separateth himself from me, and setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to a prophet to enquire of him concerning me; I the LORD will answer him by myself:
Eze 14:9 And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the LORD have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand upon him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel.
God will answer people according to what is in their heart. This is why circumcision of heart is so important and why the New Covenant must be understood. (Jer 31:33) This will be one of the primary motivations and ministry of the soon coming antichrist. He will divide the church by speaking a message that will appeal to those of uncircumcised hearts. Those verses in Ezekiel should put the Fear of God in each of us. The following heart cry of David needs to be our own:
“…Search me and see if there be any wicked thing in me”. (Psa 139: 23)
Jesus continues in His mode of speaking in parables by mentioning the mustard seed and leaven. The mustard seed analogy speaks to the potential of faith. That tiny seed has the potential to grow into a huge plant. Once again we need to be reminded as to how one grows in faith and that without faith it is impossible to please God. (Heb 11:6) Faith accomplishes God’s agenda, not mans. How do we come to know God’s agenda? Read the Word of God!
“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom 10:17).
Why do we put a lack of emphasis on the reading and studying of God’s Word? After all It is the medium God uses in allowing faith to come into our hearts. What draws the attention of the Lord? It is faith!
I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? Luk 18:8
This is what God hungers for; people who have the faith of God and touch Him accordingly. (The woman with the issue of blood is a good example.)
Ok, once we have the faith of God what’s next? This is seen in the parable of the leaven. It must be activated. How do we activate faith? Once again in Romans chapter 10 we see the key.
Rom 10:8 But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach.
Rom 10:9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
Rom 10:10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
It is in the aligning of our confession with what God is saying that allows the fruit of faith to materialize. The classic example of this is the two confessions seen in Numbers 13:30-31. Caleb aligned his words with what God was declaring. He could not have done this sooner but it was at the time when God said to go in and possess the land. The balance of Israel confessed they could not go in. They directly contradicted God’s provision of faith and opportunity to go into the land. The closer we walk with God, the more acquainted we become to His voice. The closer we walk with God the more we come to know His heart. The closer we walk with God the more we come to know His desire.
Psa 37:4 Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.
Psa 37:5 Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.
The closer we walk with God the more inclined we are to the promoting of God’s agenda and pleasure. It is in this atmosphere where faith abounds and it is in this atmosphere where we have opportunity to confess (“activating the leaven”) so that God’s purposes can come to pass.
In verses 34-43 the Lord again explains the reasons for parables. He also then gives the interpretation of the parable of the wheat and tares. I feel this is important because it is something that will be very evident in the days to come. The church is and will further divide. The separation mentioned is not just meaning believers from unbelievers. There will also be a separation within the church itself. Why? God is looking for a bride for His Son. He desires a pure stream that consists of a people who truly long for righteousness and holiness. The parable of the wheat and tares is one of the most well-known parables but sadly one that is least understood from its true meaning.
In verses 44-46 we have two more parables that on the surface seem quite similar. The primary difference is that in the first of these parables the man comes upon a treasure. He recognizes the significance of his discovery and goes about making provision for this gift by selling and letting go of what he has. The second of these parables finds the man seeking, making a diligent search. This man is intentional in his pursuit. There is a big difference between coming across a treasure and deliberately seeking after one. This will be developed further in future. Remember, we likened the 7 kingdom parables of Math 13 to the 7 primary feasts of Israel as seen in Lev 23. The 6th feast is the feast of Atonement. (Lev 23: 27-29) This was a sobering feast due to the fact that God was dealing with sin. This feast gives a vivid picture of the cross and its ability to deal with sin once and for all. A true seeker of the Lord will discover the treasure that lies within the message of what the cross entails. Paul understood its significance.
Cor 1:18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
Gal 6:14 But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
Pro 25:2 It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter.
The final parable of Math 13 is that of the net. (vs 47-50) This last feast can be compared to the last of the feasts in Lev 23 which is that of Tabernacles. (vs 34) It is a picture of what will transpire in these last days. We all look forward to a mighty revival and harvest of souls that needs to come prior to the 2nd coming. The 7th kingdom parable of the great net speaks of such a harvest but it also speaks of a separation. (vs 48-50) Yes, there will be a great revival and great glory but there will be simultaneous judgements as well. (Isa 60:1-5) If nothing else we should be seeking the Lord that we might be of a pure heart. This is only realized in allowing the Word, as a sword to penetrate the inner recesses of our being, separating our soul from our spirit and getting right to the intents and motivations of the heart. (Heb 4:12)
We have heard much of late regarding circumcision of heart. Are we heeding and allowing the Lord to speak to those areas of uncircumcision in our lives? There is such great opportunity being presented before us. We need to pray that the Lord would help make alive the true meaning in each of these kingdom parables. Let us also ask the Lord to help appropriate the step by step progression that are seen in these parables. The coming separation is at hand; will we be a wheat or a tare? Will we be one that is on fire for God or cold against Him? (Rev 3:16) Will be part of the stream that leads from righteousness to holiness or the stream that is unclean leading to utter filthiness? (Rev 22:11) The kingdom parables, if understood, will go a long way in helping to ensure we are in a position to make right choices which results in flowing in the right stream.