A Lover of Hospitality

Be a lover of hospitality. Titus 1:8.
Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 1 Peter 4:9.

For many people the mention of hospitality calls to mind Martha Stewart more than the gospels. While it is worthy to mention the value of opening your home to others, there is a bit more being conveyed in these words. The word being translated hospitality actually means loving kindness to strangers. And the word strangers refers to resident aliens, minorities, and sojourners in the land. In other words, these scriptures are dealing with the age old problem of ethnicity, prejudice and racism. Do you really think that will ever be properly dealt with outside of Christ?

To demonstrate this truth, let’s start with a narrative from Luke 17 where Jesus is met by 10 lepers seeking their healing. He orders them to go show themselves to the priests. As they departed they discover that they have been cleansed and one of them returns to glorify God in giving thanks before the Lord’s feet, and he was a Samaritan.
Jesus comments “there are none found that returned to give glory to God, besides this stranger.”  Luke 17:18.

The Samaritans were the despised people living among the most despised people in history, and are enshrined in the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ by the words “Good Samaritan”. These strangers stand out among the members of society by whose treatment the Lord will judge the nations. Matthew 25:31-46.

So what does the Law and the Prophets have to say about this thorny topic? Let’s consider this survey:

You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.   Exodus 22:21.
Also you shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger, because you were strangers in the land of Egypt.    Exodus 23:9.
The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.          Leviticus 19:34.
One ordinance shall be for you of the assembly and for the stranger who dwells with you, an ordinance forever throughout your generations; as you are, so shall the stranger be before the Lord. One law and one custom shall be for you and for the stranger who dwells with you.    Numbers 15:14, 15.
He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.          Deuteronomy 10:18, 19.
Do not let the son of the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord speak saying “The Lord has utterly separated me from His people”. Also the sons of the foreigner who join themselves to the Lord, to serve Him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants. Even them I will bring to My holy mountain and make them joyful in My house of prayer. For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations. The Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, says, “Yet I will gather to him others besides those who are gathered to him.”       Isaiah 56:1-8.
Thus says the Lord: “Execute judgment and righteousness, and deliver the plundered out of the hand of the oppressor. Do no wrong and do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, or the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.  Jeremiah 22:3.
The people of the land have used oppression, committed robbery, and mistreated the poor and needy; and they wrongfully oppress the stranger.      Ezekiel 22:29.                        And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the Lord of hosts.  Malachi 3:5.

So we see beyond the prophets condemning society’s injustice, a Law given to Moses that was acutely concerned for the rights of strangers. How then did this wall of separation come to exist that Paul speaks of in his letter to the Ephesians?
At that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. Ephesians  2:12.

How could this be true when the Law of Moses had made every accommodation for the foreigner who desired to seek the Lord? In verse 15 he says that the enmity was created by the law of commandments in ordinances: nomos entole en dogma. This expression refers to what Jesus referred to as the traditions and rules of men undermining the Word of God. Because of the mutual hatred and distrust that existed between the Jew and all of
the neighboring societies, no Jew would even sit at a table and eat a meal with a gentile. This is something that even the apostle Peter was called out on by Paul, the apostle for the gentiles. In contrast, Jesus always ate with publicans and sinners.

Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was  to be blamed; before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?”      Galatians 2:11-1.

Even though he had fully embraced the gentile as a fellow believer when the Lord had given him a vision that corrected his views in Acts chapter 10, his fear of men resulted in hypocrisy.
Then he said to them, “You know how unlawful (Pharisee) it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean. Acts 10:28.
And finally he concludes: Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation he that fears Him, and works righteousness, is accepted with him. Acts 10:34, 35.
As an elder of the first church in Jerusalem, Peter was very familiar with the complications of a Jewish/gentile fellowship. When he wrote in his letter to show hospitality without grumbling, the word used is more often translated murmuring. This grumbling or murmuring began early on in the church.
And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. Acts 6:1.
Note the clear racial overtones to the situation at hand. The solution the apostles came up with to deal with the problem was to have the congregation choose for themselves seven men to appoint over the administrative duties.
The apostle Paul recalls for us in 1 Corinthians 10 how murmuring and complaining was the “original sin” of the congregation in the wilderness. The people had just passed through the Red Sea and witnessed a great deliverance when they soon were murmuring against God and Moses.
And the people murmured against Moses, saying, what shall we drink? Exodus 15:24.
And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness: Exodus 16:2.
Now in their defense I would point out that they had traveled three days in the wilderness and not found any fresh water. Most Christians have murmured and complained about far less. The point is that this is far more serious than most give consideration.
Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. 1 Corinthians 10:11.
When Paul says that this is the issue where the ends of the ages meet, he was ushering in the end of the age of justification by works of the Law and bringing in the age of justification by grace.
For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:17.
But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. 1 Corinthians 10:5, 6.
For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end; While it is said, today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. But with whom was he grieved forty years? Was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcasses fell in the wilderness? And to whom He swore that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. Hebrews 3:14-19.

In other words, regardless of the covenant, grumbling and complaining are an offense to God and will be considered an act of unbelief. And now we can look to Abram to complete the picture and find the purpose.
Paul taught that Abram was the father of justification by faith, for when he was told his offspring would be as the stars of heaven, he believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness. James pointed out that Abraham later proved his faith by offering his son Isaac in obedience to God. But in Hebrews we are reminded that the first great act of faith, without which nothing else would have followed, was his departure from his home land.
By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went…he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country…for he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God… and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city. Hebrews 11:8-16, highlights.

James wrote that true religion is to care for widows and orphans and to keep ourselves unspotted by the world. James 1:27
Why then does he not mention strangers along with widows and orphans as the Law of Moses and the prophets do so often? Because we are called to be the stranger, the pilgrim, the sojourner in this world. We cannot conform to this world and expect to be translated into a heavenly homeland. A community church may compromise to be inoffensive and socially acceptable, but any individual who hopes to go from the called to the chosen, or elect; must be willing to step outside that comfort zone. To set hands on the plow and not look back until you have completed your course and remain faithful.
Here is how:

Do all things without murmuring and disputing, That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life. Philippians 2:14-16.

 

The Memorial of Passover for the strangers and servants

The Lord gave Moses and Aaron further instructions in regard to strangers and servants desiring to keep the Passover, that all the males must be circumcised. This is why circumcision was such a hot topic in the early church discussion in regards to expectations placed upon gentile believers.

Paul resolved the issue:                                                                          for he is not a Jew which is one outwardly, neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew which is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit and not in the letter, whose praise is not of men, but of God.                                                     Romans 2:28 & 29.

Note the clear symmetry between the two verses right up to “in the spirit and not in the letter”. But then Paul adds this final clarification; whose praise is not of men, but of God. When our heart is circumcised, we can say like Paul:

For do I now persuade men or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.                                  Galatians 1:10.

But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men but God, which tries our hearts.                              1 Thessalonians 2:4.

Some translations change this to “God, who tries our hearts”. Granted, He certainly does do this, but the point Paul is making is that the test of a circumcised heart is to put ourselves to this question, am I pleasing men or God. This is the issue which tries our hearts.

Twice Paul makes an interesting statement in 1 Co 1:31 and 2 Co 10:17, “let them that glory, glory in the Lord.” The statement suggests that he is quoting a verse from the Old Testament. In actuality, let them that glory, glory in the Lord is a paraphrase of a passage from the prophet Jeremiah. Paul is not so much attempting to teach a lesson here, but to stir up their minds by way of remembrance.

By mentioning this he is calling to mind something he no doubt taught on extensively while in Corinth. Why do I say this? Paul’s stay in Corinth is chronicled in Acts:                                                                                  he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks. Acts 18:4.

Then he receives from the Lord in a vision by night “be not afraid but speak and hold not thy peace, for I am with you and no man shall set on you to hurt you, for I have much people in this city.”                                                  Acts 18:9 & 10.

And then verse 11 tells us that he continued there for 18 months! “teaching the Word of God among them”.

So let’s look at the text from Jeremiah that Paul would have been teaching from to apply this paraphrase he uses “to glory in the Lord.”

Thus saith the Lord, let not the wise glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty glory in his might, let not the rich glory in his riches: but let him that glories glory in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord which exercise loving-kindness, judgment and righteousness in the earth; for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.                                            Jeremiah 9:23 & 24.

Now let’s jump back over to 1 Corinthians:

for you see your calling brethren how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty, and base things of the world and things which are despised God has chosen, yes and the things which are not to bring to naught things that are; that no flesh shall glory in His presence.                                                                              1 Corinthians 1:26-29.

Try to set aside the obvious inference that the church is made up of foolish, weak, base and despised members and hear the echo of Jeremiah 9 in this passage. So what was Paul teaching on by using Jeremiah 9 as his text?

Let’s continue through the final two verses:

Behold, the days come says the Lord, that I will punish all them which are circumcised with the uncircumcised, and all that are in the utmost corners, that dwell in the wilderness: for all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart.                                    Jeremiah 9:25&26.

In the time of Jeremiah, all the people of Israel had become blind to God’s Word. Even as  Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

even unto this day when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it (the heart) shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away. Now the Lord is that Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.                                                                                              2 Corinthians 3:15-17.

The blindness of the uncircumcised heart is a paramount issue. For the Lord has set a day when the veil will be lifted from the hearts of Israel.

This will be an opportunity to look at the first of the mysteries of God Paul speaks about:

let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful.                                                                                                          1 Co 4:1&2

In order to be a faithful steward, a saint must know what these mysteries are of which Paul speaks.

For I would not brethren that you should be ignorant of this mystery, less you should be wise in your own conceits, that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.                              Romans 11:25.

 

Remembering Zeal for the House of God

The Gospel of John has a unique account of Jesus overturning tables of the money changers in the temple. After all the animals had been driven away and the money poured out, Jesus says “Take these things away, do not make My Father’s House a place for merchants.” Then His disciples remembered that it was written “zeal for Your House consumes me.”      John 2:17.

The more knowledgeable you become in the Word of God, the more the Holy Spirit is able to speak to you in every situation. Jesus had created a very perilous environment for Himself and the disciples, and most people under these circumstances would be thinking “let’s get out of here, now!” The disciples must have been captivated to see the Word of God being played out before their eyes.

This was not the first time they were witnessing prophecy fulfilled, and their hearts would soon be broken to watch what they refused to accept. Even though Jesus warned them three times, their minds refused to accept that the Christ would soon be crucified. The remembrance of Jesus’s words would have a devastating effect. Put yourself in the shoes of Peter when he was confronted by the crowd and accused of being a follower of Christ. He began to curse and deny knowing the man, until the rooster crowed.

And Peter remembered the word of Jesus which said unto him “before the rooster crows you shall deny me three times”. And he went out and wept bitterly.                                                                                             Matthew 26:75.

Oh that we could remember the Word of the Lord before we speak! This is why we must pray like David; “keep your servant from presumptuous words, let them not have dominion over me. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight O Lord my strength and my Redeemer.                                                                                       Psalms 19:14.

For even the meek Moses failed to enter the Promised Land, because he failed to sanctify the Lord before the people and spoke presumptuously at the waters of Meribah in Numbers 20:10-13.

They angered him also at the waters of strife, so that it went ill for Moses for their sake; because they provoked his spirit, so that he spoke unadvisedly with his lips.                                                                                            Psalm 106:32,33.

The Remembrance the disciples experience at this incident at the temple is found in Psalm 69, which is one of several Messianic visions of David.

God you know my foolishness and my sins are not hid from you. Let not them that wait on you O Lord be ashamed for my sake; let not those that seek you be confounded for my sake God of Israel.                                        Psalm 69:5.

The anointing of Christ must place a burden of responsibility on the stewards of the Gospel to not offend someone to the detriment of their soul. James wrote: “if a man offends not in word, the same is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.”                                                                             James 3:2.

We must discipline our tongue before we can ever discipline our flesh.

For the zeal of your house consumes me, and the reproaches of them that reproached you are fallen upon me.                                                           Psalm 69:9.

The second half of this verse is quoted by Paul:   

Let every one of us please our neighbors for the good of edification. For even Christ did not please Himself but as it is written: the reproaches of them that reproached you are fallen upon me.                                                  Romans 15:2,3.

This is his overriding theme that began in the previous chapter.

Romans 14 is devoted to the exhortation that concern for our brethren must direct our actions. A zeal for God’s House can now only be expressed through our concern for each other.

Therefore let us not judge one another anymore but judge this rather that no one put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in a brother’s way. Romans 14:13.

The other three Gospels give a different rendering of this event.    “It is written: My house shall be called the house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.”                                                                    Matthew 21:13, Isaiah 56:7.

Then a significant event immediately follows the merchants being driven from the Temple.                                                                                                                                                          And the blind and the lame came to Him and he healed them. Matthew 21:14.

The blind and the lame entered the Temple for the first time because the Lord made the way for them. Their exclusion from the Temple was brought about by a curse spoken by David in anger, and is found in 2 Samuel 5. David and his men went to take Jerusalem from the Jebusites and are taunted by them saying “unless you can defeat the blind and the lame you will not come up here.” They considered the stronghold of Zion to be impregnable, but Joab led the men up the sewer and defeated the Jebusites and slew “the blind and the lame whom David’s soul hates.”

Therefore it became a statute at the words of David that the blind and the lame shall not come into The House. Again, words spoken in contempt by an anointed man of God became a curse that Jesus removed with His compassion.

Zeal for the house of God can now only be expressed through compassion and loving kindness.

 

Behave Like a Christian

Let love be without hypocrisy.

Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.

Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love.

In honor, giving preference to one another.

Fervent in spirit, not lagging in diligence; serving the Lord.

Rejoicing in hope.

Patient in tribulation.

Continuing steadfastly in prayer.

Distributing to the needs of the saints.

Given to hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

Repay no one evil for evil.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

Be of the same mind toward one another.

Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble.

Do not be wise in your own opinion.

Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.

If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.

Romans 12:9-18.