Isaiah 19-21; Matthew 15-16

Isaiah 19: Threats concerning Egypt. So God strikes down Egypt because of what the people there are doing. We then see at the end of this chapter that the people turn (back?) to God and worship him again. As in, if you hold to a literal interpretation of the Bible, then you believe that the Egyptians followed God out of fear.

Again, strange way to view things. Doesn’t make any sense to me. It seems limiting.

Isaiah 20: A lesson from the past. This chapter doesn’t make a lot of sense. God tells Isaiah to get naked and walk around. He then uses this to tell people that they shouldn’t rely on Egypt anymore and that Assyria will conquer them.

Isaiah 21: Prophecies concerning Babylon, Edom, and the southern desert lands. The first part is a prophecy of the fall of Babylon. The next two parts are prophecies of the fall of Dumah and a tribe in the desert.

I think I said this earlier, but I do need to look at the dates this book was written again. I’m hopeful I can find specific dates and compare that to these different events.

Matthew 15: When I first started to read this chapter I didn’t get it. The Pharisees were angry with Jesus because his disciples weren’t following their rules and purifying their hands before they ate. Jesus turned this back on them and said that they (the Pharisees) weren’t honoring God and instead honoring man. Now all of this does make sense to me. What didn’t make sense was why did Jesus respond in this way. And then we see this:

10 Jesus called the crowd near and said to them, “Listen and understand. 11  It’s not what goes into the mouth that contaminates a person in God’s sight. It’s what comes out of the mouth that contaminates the person.”

And later we see this in his response to Peter:

16 Jesus said, “Don’t you understand yet? 17  Don’t you know that everything that goes into the mouth enters the stomach and goes out into the sewer? 18  But what goes out of the mouth comes from the heart. And that’s what contaminates a person in God’s sight. 19  Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adultery, sexual sins, thefts, false testimonies, and insults. 20  These contaminate a person in God’s sight. But eating without washing hands doesn’t contaminate in God’s sight.”

And now I get it. Jesus is arguing that not washing our hands before we eat (man’s law) does not upset God. Instead, what we say and do upsets God. Because those actions reveal our true selves.

And just an additional note here: WASHING HANDS IS STILL VERY IMPORTANT!

This next part is short. It’s when the Canaanite woman approached Jesus asking him to heal her daughter. After a back and forth exchange, Jesus says she is healed. It’s the part of the exchange that I want to focus on:

26 He replied, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and toss it to dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord. But even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall off their masters’ table.”

A little backstory here. As I’ve already addressed in earlier posts, a clear division emerges after Jesus’s death. Peter represents the people who believe that in order to accept Jesus as their savior, Gentiles need to conform to Jewish customs first and then they can be Christian. Paul represents the people who say you don’t have to do that, you can just become a Christian. According to the Bible, Paul reached out to the Gentiles much more than Peter and thus was largely responsible for the spread of Christianity. Earlier in Matthew we see Jesus say some disparaging about the Gentiles. I asked Gene about this and he reminded me to look at the context and the author. What were their motives?

I’m saying all of this because of what I read in three different study Bibles on this above passage (15:26-27). Here’s what I read in the NRSV version (p. 1769):

27: Dogs, “little dogs” or household pets as metaphors for Gentiles.

This from the NIV study bible on Bible Gateway:

dogs. Gentiles. Jesus’ point was that the gospel was to be given first to Jews. The woman understood Jesus’ implication and was willing to settle for “crumbs” (v. 27). Jesus rewarded her “great faith” (v. 28).

And finally, this from the CEB study bible (p. 35 NT):

Dogs. No evidence from the ancient world supports the often-repeated view that “dogs” was a label used by Jews to belittle Gentiles. Jesus’ words and the woman’s reply should be taken at face value, as references to what actually happens when dogs are present at meals.

So, which one is right? Based on my backstory, it would seem that Matthew was intolerant towards Gentiles and thus what the NRSV and NIV study bibles said makes sense. That being said, I’m intrigued by what the CEB study bible has an explanation. This definitely leads me to want to ask more questions, remain curious, and do more research on this. Kinda reminds me of what science does. Hmmm.

Next part is about Jesus healing a bunch of people who suffered from a variety of ailments. The last section focuses on Jesus feeding 4,000 men, women, and children with 7 loaves and a few fish, similar to what he did in Matthew 14.

Matthew 16: This chapter starts with the Pharisees and the Sadducees testing Jesus, asking him for a sign that he is who he says he is. Jesus responds like this:

2 But he replied, “At evening you say, ‘It will be nice weather because the sky is bright red.’ 3  And in the morning you say, ‘There will be bad weather today because the sky is cloudy.’ You know how to make sense of the sky’s appearance. But you are unable to recognize the signs that point to what the time is. 4  An evil and unfaithful generation searches for a sign. But it won’t receive any sign except Jonah’s sign.” Then he left them and went away.

I like his use of science here with reference to the weather. Well, not science in today’s terms, but at least nature in some way. Nevertheless, he pretty much tells them to get lost because no matter what he does, they won’t believe in him.

Here’s a sidebar about the Pharisees and Sadducees from the CEB study bible (p. 37 NT):

Nice little historical context there for these two groups of people, who clearly aren’t fans of Jesus.

Jesus then warns his disciples to beware of the yeast from the Pharisees and Sadducees. They take this literally and discuss the fact that they don’t any bread with them. Jesus seems to get angry with them because they don’t understand what he actually means, saying “You people of weak faith!” Kinda harsh. Jesus constantly speaks in parables, to the point that his closest followers seem to have trouble understanding his message. Clearly this happened here and Jesus admonishes them for it. C’mon man!

Next Jesus asks his disciples who the people think the “Human One” is. They give a variety of responses. He knows that his disciples understand that Jesus is the “Human One” and tells them not to tell anyone.

Jesus then foretells his torture and death. This greatly upsets Peter. When Peter questions Jesus about this, Jesus calls him Satan and tells him that he is thinking more as a human and less in the divine sense. The chapter ends with Jesus somewhat explaining what discipleship means, saying this:

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. 25  All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me will find them. 26 Why would people gain the whole world but lose their lives? What will people give in exchange for their lives? 27  For the Human One is about to come with the majesty of his Father with his angels. And then he will repay each one for what that person has done. 28 I assure you that some standing here won’t die before they see the Human One coming in his kingdom.”

This passage makes me think back to parts I read in Luke when Jesus tells people that they have to give up everything, including their family, in order to follow him. I also remember writing that this wouldn’t work for me. The notes in the CEB study bible include the following for verse 27 (p. 37 NT):

In the ancient world, people didn’t separate a person’s character and commitments from that person’s behavior. For this reason, when Jesus speaks of reward and punishment on the basis of one’s words and deeds, he is referring to the way one’s faith is expressed through one’s faithfulness.

I have a feeling there’s a good chance I’m misinterpreting this and perhaps I misinterpreted the similar passage in Luke. Need to talk to someone about all of this stuff.

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