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Now when the Pharisees and Sadducees came to test Jesus, they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. He said, “When evening comes you say, ‘It will be fair weather, because the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, because the sky is red and darkening.’ You know how to judge correctly the appearance of the sky, but you cannot evaluate the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” Then he left them and went away.
Matthew 12:40-42 provides a bit more context, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here.” The Pharisees want a sign because, in part, they want Jesus to be what they need Him to be to justify what they believe and what they teach. They seek only what Jesus can do for them, rather than seeing Jesus as the bread of life. He is the life, not the signs.
“Son of man, say to the prince of Tyre, ‘This is what the sovereign Lord says:“ ‘Your heart is proud and you said, “I am a god; I sit in the seat of gods, in the heart of the seas”—yet you are a man and not a god, though you think you are godlike.
The prince of Tyre might as well have said, “The world revolves around me.” It’s clear who sits on the throne of his heart, and it is not the Lord God. Each day we all face different variations of temptation and evil, but all of it is bent on placing someone other than God on the throne of our hearts. Perhaps it is entertainment or technology, pride or achievement, or even friends or family. Good things are sometimes the best pretenders, and can hold the throne without us even recognizing it. Exodus 34:14 says, “Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” Deuteronomy 6:5 says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” You can’t love Him with everything until your “everything” is loving Him.
You must recognize the authority of the Lord who commands armies. He is the one you must respect; he is the one you must fear. He will become a sanctuary, but a stone that makes a person trip, and a rock that makes one stumble—to the two houses of Israel. He will become a trap and a snare to the residents of Jerusalem. Many will stumble over the stone and the rock, and will fall and be seriously injured, and will be ensnared and captured.”
The Pharisees and teachers of the law stumbled and fell because of the rock that is Jesus Christ. Psalm 118:22-23 says, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.” Acts 4:11-12 says, “Jesus is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” We find these words in the midst of instruction for the nation of Israel that the Lord is Holy, and He is to be feared. They come through Isaiah for Israel as a nation, and also come to us through scripture to show that God’s redemptive plan has always been Jesus.
Because of this I remind you to rekindle God’s gift that you possess through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me, a prisoner for his sake, but by God’s power accept your share of suffering for the gospel.
Today is a reminder to us all that we are not powerless victims of self, of the powers of this world, or of Satan. The Spirit of God comes with power, He comes with love (which casts out all fear), and also self-control. Have you ever tried to stop something - perhaps a bad habit or destructive pattern, only to find yourself right back where you started a few weeks later? Lasting self-control is a work of the Spirit of God in our lives. Our flesh and will alone are insufficient to stand firm against the influences of that which God detests. Spiritual wars wage in us all the time battling for the throne of our hearts. We must look to the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, for a sufficient portion. Paul is reminding Timothy that he is equipped with the Holy Spirit, a gift that is far greater than any adversary he will face.
The Lord watches from heaven; he sees all people. From the place where he lives he looks carefully at all the earth’s inhabitants. He is the one who forms every human heart, and takes note of all their actions.
Knowing our own hearts isn’t really our strong suit, though we often think that it is. In fact, there are those who take pride in the fact that they know themselves well, some even reject counsel because they conclude that others cannot possibly know them well enough to give sound advice. Apart from God, we cannot possibly know our own hearts well enough to make choices that reflect our faith. Part of the process is learning how to accept that He knows better, will always know better, and to trust Him completely. If we are willing to face that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, our challenge becomes surrender. We are met with forgiveness, and empowered by grace to see our world differently, and cast aside the idols of our heart. Life cannot be more than when Jesus, the Master, is at the helm.