Introduction: As we progress through Psalms full of instruction from the very lips of our Lord, it should encourage us to no end to realize that Jesus self-consciously adopts such a personal and gentle teaching ministry – not only on earth during the incarnation, but even now by his Holy Spirit. To put it in terms of Matthew 13:34-35, words written to fulfill Psalm 78:1-2:
34 Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. 35 So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet:
“I will open my mouth in parables,
I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.”
May we realize once again how privileged we are to have the treasures of the Kingdom of God unveiled to us, and may we resolve anew to transfer these truths to our children.
Monday: read Matthew 13:34-35. Beyond the judgment of the parables, whereby the hardened souls of those who reject Christ are given over to unbelief, becoming “those who hear but don’t understand, and who see but do not perceive” (Matthew 13:14), there is a wonderfully revelatory purpose in these sayings. The parables are to reveal long-hidden secrets about God and His Kingdom. In fact, Jesus celebrates these “secrets” in Matthew 11:25-26, where He thanks His Father for revealing them to spiritual babes, while hiding them from the proud and self-righteous.
Such is the purpose of the parables, as Matthew himself points out in Matthew 13:35. They are meant to be a conduit for the refreshing water of God’s truth as it flows into the hearts of the disciples, even while their meaning remains hidden from the unbeliever. But why such a water analogy? Because that very word, “utter” in Matthew 13:35, is actually the word for the bubbling up of a spring. As scholars point out, it is a verb for a fountain which pours forth abundantly; gushing and bubbling up. What attractiveness is thus ascribed to the truths of God’s Kingdom. They are meant to refresh, like a refreshing pool in the heat of summer, and to cleanse as a fountain set up in a hot, dry and dusty place.
Meditate and Pray: Is God’s truth refreshing to you like that? Do you long to slake your thirst at the fountain of the truth of God’s word? Ask the Lord always to bestow on the preaching and teaching of our church such a refreshing power to draw sinners. May many come to our church like the woman at the well in Samaria, asking Jesus to give them “of the water of life”!
Tuesday: read Matthew 13:34-35 and Psalm 78:2. Matthew sees the parables as fulfilling the promise of Psalm 78:2. There the Psalmist (Asaph) declares that he will “utter dark or hidden things” of God’s Kingdom – the word “utter” literally meaning, “to gush forth” – the same idea as Mt. 13:35!
That is Asaph’s goal as he penned Psalm 78, to reveal the deep truths of God’s Kingdom. How wonderful, then, that Jesus was able to answer the longing of Old Testament writers like Asaph. When He came uttering His parables, Jesus was stepping into an old stream of Divine truth, “hidden from of old” but now revealed in His Person and Work.
Meditate and Pray: Let us give thanks that the Gospel of the Kingdom is not some new-fangled, “johnny come lately” teaching. It is as old as God Himself. Let us treasure this Gospel, whether we sing of it in the Psalms, or study it in the Gospels. Use hymn # 364 (taken from Psalm 78:1-4) to help you do so:
Let children hear the mighty deeds
Which God performed of old,
Which in our younger days we saw,
And which our fathers told.
He bids us make his glories known,
His works of power and grace;
And we’ll convey his wonders down
Through every rising race.
Our lips shall tell them to our sons,
And they again to theirs
That generations yet unborn
May teach them to their heirs.
Oh, teach them with all diligence
The truths of God’s own Word,
To place in him their confidence,
To fear and trust their Lord.
Thus shall they learn in God alone
Their hope securely stands,
That they may ne’er forget His works,
But walk in his commands.
Wednesday: read Matthew 13:34-35, Psalm 78:1-2 and 1 Chronicles 16:4-6. As we consider Asaph’s words quoted in Matthew 13:35, we do well to ponder the Psalmist’s identity. Who was Asaph?
Well, close study of 1 Chronicles 16 will help us here. Asaph was an inspired servant of God, who, under David’s leadership, led the worship of God’s people. 1 Chronicles 16:4-5 identifies him as a chief choir director who led Israel in “petition, giving thanks, and praising the Lord God of Israel”. What a mandate! Praise was to be central to his calling, as the verbs to “give thanks” and “praise” make clear. But what about “making petition”? How would that fit into Asaph’s calling? Well, alongside the NIV’s to “make petition”, there are many other translations of this verb, e.g.: “to record”, (KJV); “to invoke”, (ESV); “to celebrate”, (ASV), or “to have in mind the works of the Lord”, (Wycliffe). The basic root is “to remember”, but with a special emphasis in the Psalms on recounting from history the praise-worthy deeds of the LORD. This is what Asaph wrote in the Psalms which bear his name: demonstrations of how God had indeed “been good to Israel”, so that the teaching about God’s goodness would come alive and its memory never fade.
Meditate and Pray: Do not the parables also spark in us memories of God’s goodness in past days? Can we not rejoice in harvests past, when the truths of God’s word sprang up and grew so mightily in our hearts? Is there not fruit in our lives from knowing the secrets of God’s Kingdom? Most of all, can we not rejoice that, “at just the right time”, God sent forth His Son to show us the Kingdom in His own person and work? Ask the Lord to renew your thankfulness for God’s Kingdom, using the words of hymn # 353:
I love Thy kingdom, Lord,
The house of Thine abode,
The church our blessed Redeemer saved
With His own precious blood.
I love Thy church, O God.
Her walls before Thee stand,
Dear as the apple of Thine eye,
And written on Thy hand
If e’er to bless Thy sons
My voice or hands deny,
These hands let useful skills forsake,
This voice in silence die.
For her my tears shall fall
For her my prayers ascend,
To her my cares and toils be given
Till toils and cares shall end.
Thursday: read Psalm 78:1-4, Psalm 73:1-3 and Psalm 77:7-11. Continuing our reflection on the author of the words of Matthew 13:35, we return to Asaph, who was a leader of corporate worship, and must have been used to leading huge Levitical choirs. Remember, there were no less than 4,000 Levites who were to “praise the Lord with musical instruments” (1 Chronicles 23:5). Yet in Asaph’s Psalm collection, this great choir director writes honestly about his own struggles. Take for example two of his most bitter struggles, found in Psalm 73 and 77. In Psalm 73:2-3, Asaph confesses that his heart had become envious of the wicked in their prosperity! In the same complaining vein, he goes so far as to allege that God’s unfailing love and faithful promises appear to have failed in Psalm 77:7-9! Yet, what is it that brings Asaph back to the place of renewed faith? It is being reminded in Psalm 73:1 that God has historically established Himself as “good”! Or, in terms of Psalm 77:11, it is Asaph’s repeatedly “keeping in mind the works of the Lord”.
In short, Asaph commits himself to remembering! No wonder one scholar has said that the basic world-view of the Old Testament is approximately the same as a “row-boat”, i.e., pointing our little “life-boat of faith” confidently into an unknown future, as we use the oars of faith, looking ever backwards to the great deeds of God in redemptive history!
Friday: read Psalm 73:1-3, 77:7-11. Asaph may have been the greatest priestly choir director in the history of Israel. Yet – here is a surprising fact about Asaph’s writings in the Psalms: In Asaph’s Psalm collection, this great choir director writes honestly about his own struggles. We have seen in earlier studies, for example, two of his most bitter struggles, found in Psalm 73 and 77. What honesty on the part of this servant of God, to write about his own trouble! Yet, what is it that brings Asaph back to the place of renewed faith? It is being reminded in Psalm 73:1 that God has historically established Himself as “good”! Or, in terms of Psalm 77:11, it is Asaph’s repeatedly “keeping in mind the works of the Lord”.
Meditate and Pray: Yes, Asaph is to be exalted and remembered for declaring to us in Psalm 78 the deepest secrets of the Kingdom of God. But let us never forget that it was not His exalted experiences to do with God’s Kingdom which most marked the man. It was his struggles with discouragement and his questions as to why God allowed the wicked to prosper. Does it not comfort you to realize that this prophet Asaph was a man of real flesh and blood like you?
Sat/Sun: read Matthew 13:35 and Hebrews 11:13-16. Someone reading these notes may object: “Pastor Carl! These notes were to be about the great secrets of the Kingdom of God, revealed by Jesus in His parables! Why so much about Asaph the Old Testament prophet who first penned the prediction of Matthew 13:35, when we have Jesus the greater King of Israel fulfilling Asaph’s words and bringing God’s Kingdom to us in Matthew 13?
The answer is that we easily forget how hard it was for God’s servants of old to hold on in hope when it took so long for the longed-for arrival of what they saw from afar. How does Hebrews 11:13-16 put it?
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
Well then. If God is not ashamed to claim men like Asaph, and own their faith as real, then how we should rejoice that they lived by the truth they wrote, even though they never saw it fulfilled! More than that, how blessed are our ears and eyes to see the arrival of what these old prophets never saw! As Jesus says in Matthew 13:16-17:
But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.
Meditate and Pray: Sing about the thankfulness you should possess as you consider the long-awaited privileges of the Kingdom of God which have been revealed in your day, using hymn # 469:
How sweet and awesome is the place
With Christ within the doors,
While everlasting love displays
The choicest of her stores!
While all our hearts and all our songs
Join to admire the feast,
Each of us cry, with thankful tongues,
“Lord, why was I a guest?
“Why was I made to hear Thy voice,
And enter while there’s room,
When thousands make a wretched choice,
And rather starve than come?”