Covenants – Matthew in Advent day 3

In the Bible a covenant is given and there are a series of blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. This was as true for business agreements as it was for religious laws. Moses on Deuteronomy 28. An example from thet is this:

The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.

18 The fruit of your womb will be cursed, and the crops of your land, and the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.

Deuteronomy 28:4 & 18

In the Sermon on the plain in Luke’s Gospel, the beatitudes are contrasted there is a blessing and a curse; blessed are the poor, cursed are the rich. Matthew also has that contrast; but is not as obvious, the blessings are given in the Sermon on the mount in chapter 5, the first of the teaching passages. The curses are given much later, in chapter 23 at the bedinning of the last teaching section, and are directed at the teachers of the law and to the Pharissees.

A handshake to seal a business deal.
Photo by fauxels on Pexels.com

The Gospel of Matthew is written as a series of six narrative sections, telling the story of Jesus’ life, interspersed with five sections of teaching. The beginning of the Gospel links back into the past of the Old Testament. This, the last of the teaching sections, links forward to the future. Advent is a time when we look forward to the return of Christ.

Woe 1.5 – Bias to the rich

[How terrible it will be for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You devour widows’ houses and say long prayers to cover it up. Therefore, you will receive greater condemnation!]

Matthew 23:14 ISV

Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted

Matthew 5:4 NIV

Matthew 23:14 does not exist in most modern translations of the Bible. The problem is with the Textus receptus, an ancient translation of all the available versions of the Bible. If a verse was in any of the ancient manuscripts, it made it to the Textus receptus. Modern scholarship is to translate the oldest version alone, unless there is good reason to. As this verse is in the Bible elsewhere, in Mark 12:40 and Luke 20:47, I am looking at it here. These are still the words of Jesus. Despite modern scholars disputing the verse, because of the symmetry in Mathews Gospel and the symmetry between the woes here and the Beatitudes in Matthew 5, this verse feels authentic to me.

This verse was probably added to the text so that the woes correspond to the eight soundbites in Matthew 5 that we call the beatitudes, and I can’t help myself that God is biased towards widows and orphans, because of the number of times that occurs in scripture. Instead of mourning over their own sin and mourning with widows they were using their authority to land grab. In the 15th Century the church in Italy would be competing to grab as much of the unowned land because of Bubonic Plague as they could. How far from Jesus can a church get?

Woe 3 – They entrapped converts

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.

Matthew 23:15

Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.

Matthew 5:5 NIV

God wants a relationship with people, including you and me, then he wants us to mirror that relationship in our dealing with others. Obsevance of rules is away not of coming to God but of avoiding God. A God of rigid rules is a tyrant, the God of love want to be in a relationship with people with all the give and take that involves.

The pharisees were out to convert people to their legalistic system, instead of saving souls they condemned them. People can be sure that they are going to heaven and be wrong, they are in fact going to Hell.


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