Skip to content
Mar 23 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

March 19, 2017 – Luke 18:18-23

Is There Still Something Missing?

A ruler questioned Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.'”
And he said, “All these things I have kept from my youth.”
When Jesus heard this, He said to him, “One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. Luke 18:18-23

Intro: Today it will be easy for you to get what I have to say

My goal is that you remember only one line
– I will let you know what that line is when we come to it
• first, we are introduced to a ruler who came with a question
• there is no reason to think he was not sincere
◦ we can assume he really wanted eternal life,
◦ he was willing to do anything to have it, and he believed Jesus had the answer
– but what did he expect Jesus to give him?
• something not already taught by the Rabbis?
◦ a secret known only to enlightened masters?
• did he have any idea Lord’s answer would not be safe?
◦ or gentle? that it would shake the foundation of his blessed life?
◦ that Jesus was about to ruin him?

Jesus’ initial response probably sounded too easy

You know the commandment . . .

In fact, reading this passage I imagine the disappointment in the ruler’s response
– “Is that all there is to it? I’ve done all that stuff since I was a kid”
• but so far, he had only come to the first test – the basics
• just as he was feeling that he may have asked the wrong person,
◦ the easy road disappeared
◦ what Jesus said next, he had never even considered

One thing you still lack

– when Jesus tells him what he must do, it doesn’t sound like he lacked one thing
• rather, he already had too many things
◦ He could not fit through the narrow door of the kingdom with all that stuff
• however, his possessions were evidence that something still missing

There is a positive way to interpret what Jesus told him:
– “There’s only one more thing you have to do”
• but stated either way–negative or positive–God and wealth are two things
◦ he had to choose only one
◦ this was not the only place Jesus stressed the crossroads

No one can serve two master; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Mammon (Mt. 6:24)

• there, Jesus used a word that personified wealth, Mammon, the god of money
◦ we make gods of all sorts of things
◦ Jesus also suggested that this tension between God and our gods, is the source of our anxieties (Mt. 6:25-34)
– the ruler would not be able to divide his devotion between both
• if he could not give up his wealth for God, he could not have God

Jesus does not require every wealthy person to make choice

But everyone has to make a similar choice

read more…

Mar 14 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

March 12, 2017 – Matthew 12:1-8, 38-42

Something Greater

But I say unto you that something greater than the temple is here. Matthew 12:6

Intro: We are not quite done with Jonah

Today he will appear in a new light

Vv. 1-8, The Pharisees went at Jesus with an accusation

They claimed that the disciples’ actions were not lawful 
– this is important to remember
• because it is a theme that runs through the first half of the chapter
– Jesus responded to the accusation with two biblical cases
• these examples set a precedent for what he allowed
◦ he introduced both cases with the question, Have you not read?
◦ he assumed a Yes answer, but indicated their interpretation was deficient
• for example, when interpreting the Law, find the spirit of each commandment
◦ a large section of the Sermon On the Mount demonstrates how Jesus did this

You have heard . . . but I say to you (Mt. 5:21-48)

◦ Paul also contrasts adherence to the engraved letter of the law with the ministry of Spirit

. . . for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life (2 Cor. 3:6)

– the Pharisees with their hyper-literalism and attention to detail could not read this way

Percy Dearmer, Neither “history or the New Testament [leads] us to suppose that God shares our human dread of innovation. He makes all things new.”

King David was an innovator–e.g., he added song and musical instruments to temple ritual

Jehoiada placed the offices of the house of the LORD under the authority of the Levitical priests . . . as it is written in the law of Moses–with rejoicing and singing according to the order of David. (2 Chr. 23:18)

– David did something in the house of God that was not lawful
• and the priests in the temple desicrated the Sabbath with work
• the Lord’s point was that special circumstances change the rules regarding the Sabbath
◦ in the first example: human need lifts the ban on Sabbath work
◦ in the second example: sacred service in the temple cancels (or redefines) Sabbath regulations

N. T. Wright, “The temple was, in Jesus’ day, the central symbol of Judaism, the location of Israel’s most characteristic praxis [practice], the topic of some of her most vital stories, the answer to her deepest questions, the subject of some of her most beautiful songs.”

– so the Pharisees had to be shocked by Jesus’ next statement,

read more…

Mar 6 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

March 5, 2017 – Jonah 4:9-11

The Unfinished Conversation

Then Jonah went out from the city and sat east of it. There he made a shelter for himself and sat under it in the shade until he could see what would happen in the city. So the LORD God appointed a plant and it grew up over Jonah to be a shade over his head to deliver him from his discomfort. And Jonah was extremely happy about the plant. But God appointed a worm when dawn came the next day and it attacked the plant and it withered. When the sun came up God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah’s head so that he became faint and begged with all his soul to die, saying, “Death is better to me than life.”
Then God said to Jonah, “Do you have good reason to be angry about the plant?” And he said, “I have good reason to be angry, even to death.” Jonah 4:5-9

Intro: This morning we come to end of our journey with Jonah

But I am warning you in advance, with God every ending is a new beginning
– please notice when we revisit some key words–e.g., great, know, compassion, perish
• God’s will for Nineveh has been achieved and now he goes to work on Jonah
◦ which has been the actual message of the story from the start
– Jonah has stood out from all other characters in every respect
• everyone else in the story is Gentile
◦ everyone else has been responsive to God
◦ everyone else has demonstrated a true fear of God
• Jonah alone was unresponsive to God (even rebellious)
◦ Jonah alone feared God in word only (cf. Jonah 1:9)

God resumes his conversation with Jonah

Here in verse 9 it is “God” (Elohim) who speaks to Jonah — the generic reference to the deity
– the Creator who is God of both the people of Israel and Gentiles

In Romans 3, Paul asks, . . . is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also . . . (Ro. 3:29). It may be an eye-opener to read the verse again, substituting “Christians” for “Jews” and “non-Christians” for “Gentiles.”

Do you have good reason to be angry . . . ? — this is the same questionGod asked before
◦ but now the subject is specified; namely, the withered plant
◦ hopefully Jonah will be able to show more objectivity toward the plant than Nineveh
• God is coaxing him out of hyper-emotional state
◦ he wants Jonah to focus awareness on his anger, as if looking at it from the outside
◦ being conscious of what we are feeling is a move toward rational thinking
– Jonah’s answer was affirmative and intensely passionate

Leslie Allen says that the Hebrew construction of Jonah’s reply “partly has the force of an expletive” and Phillip Cary translates it, “Damned right I’m angry!”

• Jonah’s vexations had been piling up and now he snaps
◦ why does he choose death? Why not say instead, “Here, God, is my resignation. I quit!”?
• because he had already tried to flee God’s jurisdiction and found it was impossible
◦ so the only option that remained was death

Then the LORD said, “You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished over night. Jonah 4:10

God (Yahweh) begins to present his argument

First, we can see that there are missing pieces in God’s argument
(I have included a handout to illustrate how the argument would look with the blanks filled in–see footnote below)
– the effect of leaving out one side of the comparison forces us to stop and think
• for Jonah, it meant he had to fill in the blanks
• and to successfully do this requires a calmer mind
– God’s logic here is not that of Greek philosophers
• rather, it reasons from the lesser to the greater — “How much more?”
• this form of logic is typical of the Old Testament’s wisdom literature
◦ it is also considered a rabbinic form of argument
◦ we see examples of it in the teaching of both Jesus and Paul

Secondly, God is incredibly generous with Jonah

read more…

Feb 27 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

February 26, 2017 – Jonah 4:5-8

Giving Up, So Soon?

Then Jonah went out from the city and sat east of it. There he made a shelter for himself and sat under it in the shade until he could see what would happen in the city. Jonah 4:5

Intro: Years ago, friends introduced me to Dr. John Southwell

He had been a medical missionary in India before returning to the States and private practice
– he was a creative and brilliant man–and something of a character
• the last time I visited him was shortly before his death from pancreatic cancer
• a hospital bed had been placed in his living room facing a picture window
◦ the view was a panorama of Pacific Ocean near the San Clemente pier
– standing beside his bed, we spoke quietly and I prayed over him
• then very thoughtfully, as though he had just made a discovery in a lab,
◦ he said, “I did not know that it would hurt this much
• his medical knowledge of the pain of this type of cancer was sound
◦ but he had no experiential conception of it
◦ he did not really know the pain — until he felt it

A characteristic of certain types of personality disorders:
– the person is oblivious to the feelings of others
• they cannot imagine the pain, fear, sadness, or misery of another person
– God’s special challenge with Jonah was to work empathy into him
• bare information was insufficient to enable Jonah to feel for Nineveh
◦ Jonah already “knew” the important information

for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness . . . (v. 2)

• God to let Jonah experience for himself the feelings of another person
◦ that other person was not citizen, but God himself

We can title verse 5, “The city and the shelter”

We are suppose to visualize these two settings
– the magnificent city teeming with life and the lean-to in an uninhabited area of the desert
• the words, the city, appear three times in verse 5
◦ was this a reminder of its size? (a three days’ walk)
◦ or was it meant to leave an impression of the city on our mind?
• Jonah left the city, but he was not quite ready to leave the area
◦ perhaps hoping God’s mercy would backfire, he sat and watched
– however, he was not going to wait it out under the desert sun
• he needed shade, though there were not many materials for a makeshift shelter
◦ if he was lucky, he found enough sticks to make something he could sit under
◦ gaps between the sticks would still allow rays of sunlight to stream in
• perhaps shamefully, Jonah wanted shelter from sun for himself,
◦ but he wanted no protection for Nineveh from God’s burning anger (3:9)
◦ Jonah had a box seat for the main event

So the LORD God appointed a plant and it grew up over Jonah to be a shade over his head to deliver him from his discomfort. And Jonah was extremely happy about the plant. Jonah 4:6

God upgrades Jonah’s accommodations

read more…

Feb 23 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

February 19, 2017 – Jonah 4:1-4

Anger Mismanagement

But it greatly displeased Jonah and the became angry. Jonah 4:1

Intro: The story of Jonah has harbored a mystery from the start

Jonah received his assignment from God
– and then he did what no prophet had ever done; he tried to run from God
• but this entire time we have not been told why
◦ it was, in fact, one of the questions the sailors asked that Jonah dodged (1:10)
• now the mystery will be revealed and we will finally know his reason
– the very thing he feared has now happened
• although his mood is darker than ever, there is more light in his words than ever

Jonah’s emotional state takes center stage

Displeased translates a word that means it was “evil to”–i.e., upsetting

Phillip Cary, “At this point two words that recur throughout the text come together for the first and only time in the story: ‘great’ and ‘evil.’”

– the first four verses form a unit, enclosed within Jonah’s anger
• God’s question in verse 4 rephrases the storyteller’s statement in verse 1
◦ rather than, It was a great evil to Jonah and he became angry, God turns this around
◦ he asks Jonah, Is it good to you to be angry–i.e., Does it seem right to you?
• What God is doing is creating a context for Jonah’s thoughts and feelings
– one of the ironies in this story:
• God could turn from his anger, but his servant, Jonah, could not
• Jonah had cried to God from inside the fish and God rescued him
◦ then he did as he was told — but he had not changed!
◦ now his tension with God’s will was so great, it reached the breaking point

Jonah was angry at God, angry at the world, angry at life
– angry enough to beg for death

read more…

Feb 13 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

February 12, 2017 – Jonah 3:4-10

Second Chances

Then Jonah began to go through the city one day’s walk; and he cried out and said, “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown. Jonah 3:4 

Intro: In scripture and world history, critical moments have occurred

When either an individual or a nation teetered on the edge of the abyss
– at times, people have been rescued from going over the edge
• more than once, God has postponed his judgment for a generation

It came about when Ahab heard these words, that he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and fasted, and he lay in sackcloth and went about despondently. Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah . . ., saying, “Do you see how Ahab has humbled himself before Me? Because he has humbled himself before Me, I will not bring the evil in his days, but I will bring the evil upon his house in his son’s days.” (1 Ki. 21:27 and cf. 2 Ki. 22:11-20, Josiah)

• today’s story provides another example
– however, to be clear, God’s sentence against Nineveh was postponed, not taken off the books

Jonah did as he was told (sort of)

A brief account of Jonah’s visit to Nineveh
– his only appearance in this episode
one day’s walk immediately follows the city’s size as a three day’s walk
◦ so Jonah had completed one-third of his circuit
• either he simply stopped or going further was unnecessary
◦ or he went on preaching though was did not make it into the story
he cried out – here again is a key word and its repetition has a purpose
• we are supposed to notice how it is used in different contexts
◦ this not God’s gentle whisper that we strain to hear
◦ rather, it is his voice of thunder or crashing waves (cf. Ps. 29:3-9)
• the people of Nineveh were to respond with the same intensity
◦ they were to call on God earnestly, (v. 8), mightily, or cry with vehemence
◦ God’s blaring siren was to be answered by their cry for help

Jonah’s incredibly brief prophecy — a one-liner
forty – in scripture, this is the time it takes for something big
• forty days of the flood, forty years in the wilderness
◦ for days for Moses to receive law and another forty to make intercession for Israel
• before Jesus began his ministry, he was tempted for forty days
◦ after he finished his ministry, he spent forty days prepping his disciples (Acts 1:3)
– should we be concerned that Jonah did not mention God?
Yahweh had already proved his superiority over other gods
• but it is as though Jonah obeyed God, yet held back something

Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them. Jonah 3:5

THE PEOPLE were the first to respond

People (Heb. enosh), is humans in their mortality and vulnerability
–  it is same word used of the sailors in the first chapter
• in fact, chapter 3 repeats the drama on the high seas

◦ the sailors and citizens of Nineveh are in mortal danger
◦ the threat to their lives comes from the hand of God
◦ Jonah is the prophet who understands what is happening
◦ the captain and the king step forward to represent their people
◦ both of them call for action–call on God–that could save them
◦ both express this outcome as a possibility: perhaps (1:6) and who knows? (3:9)
◦ both end their speeches with the same phrase, so that we will not perish (1:6 & 3:9)

read more…

Feb 8 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

February 5, 2017 – Jonah 3:1-3

“Once More, From the Top”

Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time . . . Jonah 3:1

Intro: The chapter begins with the word “Now,” which acts like a reset button

The first three verses return to three verses at the beginning of the story
– and there it starts over
• as the plot unfolds, we may get a sense of deja vu
• we revisit elements of chapter 1, but with different characters
– note in verses 1 and 3, the interaction is between Jonah and Yahweh
Yahweh is the name of the God of Israel
◦ for the rest of the chapter, the impersonal, generic title is used Elohim (God)
• this demonstrates the basic difference between Israel and the other nations
• Nineveh responded to a God whose name they did not know

V. 1, God gives Jonah a second chance

The word of the LORD is one of big concepts in Old Testament theology
– it is more than mere speech; it is something living that carries divine energy
• the word of Yahweh communicates more than a message
◦ God’s Spirit accompanies his Word

By the word of the LORD the heavens were made,
And by the breath [ruach, spirit] of His mouth all their host (Ps. 33:6)

• by his Word, God created the universe
◦ and with his word he makes things happen

So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;
It will not return to Me empty,
Without accomplishing what I desire,
And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it (Is. 55:11)

– how did prophets receive God’s Word? Did they hear an audible voice?
• that is never clarified in the Scriptures,
• but when God wanted them to know it was his Word, they they received, they knew

The words are the same in this verse as in verse 1 of chapter 1
– the first deviation is that instead of reading to Jonah the son of Amitai
• we read to Jonah the second time
• but we do not really need the reminder
– what is the purpose for adding the second time?
• it leads our thoughts in a specific direction
◦ we are wondering, What Jonah will do this time?
• it builds suspense as we wait to see if he will run again

Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and proclaim to it the proclamation which I am going to tell you. Jonah 3:2

God’s call is the same as before

Like verse 1, the words that begin this verse are identical to Jonah 1:2

read more…

Feb 2 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Jonah’s Psalm of Praise – Handout

Feb 2 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

January 29, 2017 – Jonah 1:17-2:10

A Song From the Belly of the Beast

And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights. Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the stomach of the fish Jonah 1:17-2:1

Intro: The story of Jonah could have ended when the storm calmed

For example,
“Then the sailors threw Jonah into sea, and the Lord found a replacement”
– but because God had something else in mind, so the story goes on
• today’s episode is a brief narrative with a prayer inserted into it
• the narrative part begins in 1:17-2:1 and introduces Jonah’s prayer
◦ the narrative concludes in 2:10 with Yahweh’s answer
– rather than let Jonah drown, Yahweh appointed a great fish
• not to scare Jonah, but to swallow him
◦ “appointed” will be used three more times
(each time, it refers to a specific action God took with Jonah)
◦ also, like Nineveh, the wind, storm and sailors’ fear, the fish was great
• so now, Jonah was either treading water or sinking
◦ probably thinking, “This is it”– then a huge fish started circling him
◦ but after being swallowed, he still wasn’t dead — he was alive inside the fish!

Three days . . . the way the Old Testament uses figures is neither technical nor exact
– rather, numbers are frequently used in stories to create a sense of volume
• regarding the three days and three nights,

Uriel Simon observes, “This is a common idiom to denote a period that is long, but not too long”

◦ it can be a period of purification (Ex.19:10-11), restoration (Ho. 6:2), or completing a journey (Ge. 22:3-4)
• being inside the fish could not have been comfortable, or easy to breath, or smelled very good
◦ but that it was three days before Jonah prayed, demonstrates how stubborn he was
Then Jonah prayed to the LORD — what the captain asked him to do, but he had not done
• it was not the prospect of dying that got to him, but being stuck in limbo

. . . and he said,
I called out of my distress to the LORD,
And He answered me.
I cried for help from the depth [belly] of Sheol;
You heard my voice. 
Jonah 2:2

Jonah’s prayer is structures as a psalm of praise

Are we meant to assume he composed this poetic prayer inside the fish?
– possibly – it definitely contains lines from other psalms
• maybe he pieced together stanzas he had sung many times before
◦ many “spontaneous” prayers in our churches are little more than a string of cliches
• one thing that strikes me as odd, is there is no mention if his wrongdoing
◦ the closest he comes to an admission of guilt is in verse 8 — an obscure statement
◦ this not a psalm of confession
– the past tense may suggest this was written after the fact and upon reflection
• poetry recreates experience – and psalms take us inside the heart of prayers
• what we have is an embellished account of what his soul endured

To understand the poem, we have to accept its nonlinear development
– the events are out of sequence

read more…

Jan 24 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

January 22, 2017 – Jonah 1:7-16

A Journey Jinxed by Jonah

Each man said to his [shipmate], “Come, let us cast lots so we may learn on whose account this calamity has struck us.” So they cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. Jonah 1:7

Intro: Remember the theme of this story

From the time that Jonah runs from his divine assignment,
– God works him over, trying to get Jonah to see as he sees and so feel what he feels
• Jonah’s education involves authentic contact with Gentiles
◦ the focus of this episode is on the captain and crew caught in the storm
• the words, Come, let us express a resolve to take action together (cf. Is. 1:18)
mate translates the Hebrew for “neighbor”
◦ their investigation will be a group effort
– the key word in this episode may be learn, which in Hebrew is yada’
yada’ is “know” — the crew needs to know something to help them whether the storm
• like Jonah, they are also receiving an education,
◦ and their education comes in stages

Stage one: to learn on whose account the calamity occurred

The word for calamity is translated wickedness in verse 2
– it is one of two words in today’s story that has dual meanings:
• the moral evil of wrong doing
• the negative experience of circumstances such as trouble, tragedy, and hardship
– the sailors felt they needed to know the cause of the storm
• then they might be able to find a way to counteract it
• as we saw last time, these veteran mariners recognized it supernatural quality

In biblical times, if knowledge was unavailable by ordinary means,
• almost every ancient cultures had means for consulting the gods
◦ casting lots was like rolling dice
• marked stones were thrown and their colors or symbols interpreted
◦ or else they were placed in a pouch and withdrawn at random, one at a time
(like drawing straws to see who draws the shortest one)
◦ Israel observed this practice in a variety of sacred contexts
(for example, Joshua cast lots before the LORD; Jos. 18:8)
– the appeal of a random chance process was that the outcome could not be controlled

Hebrew scholar, Uriel Simon, observed, “No one challenged the validity of the method, because it was viewed as divinely guided . . .”
The lot is cast into the lap,
But its every decision is from the LORD (Pr. 16:33)

• it worked! the lot fell on Jonah
• God made use of all means available; the sea, the wind, the sailors’ fear, and the lots

Then they said to him, “Tell us, now! On whose account has this calamity struck us? What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?” Jonah 1:8-9

Stage two: the sailors were to know specific details

When they said to Jonah, On whose account . . ., it may not have been a question

read more…