Sunday, October 30, 2011

Prophets, Wise Men, and Scribes: Mt 23:34-36

"Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation." (Matthew 23:34-36)
God never leaves Himself without a witness. Jesus is describing, not what has been in the past, but what is about to come to pass. Jesus is testifying against the Jewish nation that He is about to send to them ministries that will testify against them and show them their error that the full weight of all their violence against His kingdom might come upon that generation.

What I find interesting in this scripture is the three types of ministries that Jesus was going to send to the Israelites. I believe that there is a heavenly strategy to testify to the world, and not only the Jewish nations, and that strategy is demonstrated by the enumeration of these three ministries.

Prophet: Most of us are familiar with who the prophets were. They were those whom God sent with a direct message from Him. God spoke to them and they spoke to the people. Perhaps the clearest example of what a prophet is is found in the conversation between God and Moses when Moses was expressing his reluctance to return to Egypt as God's mouthpiece. Because of Moses' reluctance, God let Aaron go with Moses and speak for him, yet God was clear about the proposed arrangement. "Then the Lord said to Moses, 'See, I make you as God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall speak to Pharaoh that he let the sons of Israel go out of his land.'" (Exodus 7:1-2) Aaron was Moses' prophet in that Moses spoke to Aaron and Aaron spoke to Pharaoh. A prophet of God simply speaks what he hears from the mouth of God. What he hears in secret, he speaks openly. What makes the ministry of the prophet important is that he understands the Spirit of God. He knows God and is acquainted with what He is presently speaking to us who are in the world.

Wise Men: The apostle Paul had little regard for the wise men of his day. Speaking of God's election, he reminds the church, "For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong." (1 Corinthians 1:26-27) This in contrast to how God evaluates those who are wise in the world's estimation. "Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?" (1 Corinthians 1:20) God has no need for the wise of this age, yet He has His own wise men. Those who have been educated and trained by the Spirit. Those who have a wisdom, not of this world, but a wisdom that is from God. "Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God's wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." (1 Corinthians 2:6-9) What makes the ministry of wise men important is that they understand the times we live in. "Then the king said to the wise men who understood the times..." (Ester 1:13)

Scribes: Similarly with the wise men, Jesus did not have much positive to say about the Jewish scribes in His day. He often rebuked them as hypocrites and blind guides. He even warned His disciples to beware of them. "Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes, and like respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, who devour widows' houses, and for appearance's sake offer long prayers; these will receive greater condemnation." (Mark 12:38-40) Yet, while the Jewish people had their scribes, Jesus also had His. After teaching His disciples many things, He tells them, "Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings out of his treasure things new and old." (Matthew 13:52) What is important about the ministry of a scribe is that he knows the scriptures and he knows how to use them and to apply them to our present day lives. He knows what God has said, what He is now saying, and how these two work together to train us in the ways of the kingdom.

Jesus said that He was going to send three ministries as a testimony and witness to the world. 1) prophets - those who know and understand the Spirit 2) wise men - those who know and understand the times and 3) scribes - those who know and understand God's word. So which are you?

David Robison

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