They huddled around the hospital bed praying fervently for a miracle.
All desired healing and believed it could happen. But it didn’t come on this side of eternity. Their loved one slipped to the other side while they petitioned. Hearts broken, the mourners grieved and wondered why some scriptures just don’t seem to be true, at least in this day and age.
Is the Bible true? Does it apply across the generations? What do we do when it seems it doesn’t? What do we do when there is discrepancy–our lives don’t match the promises? We study, my friends! When we’ve made it through the sorrow, and we regain strength, we roll up our sleeves and study.What do we do when there is discrepancy--our lives don't match Bible promises? We study!… Click To Tweet
We ask God to show us the truth, and we trust that He is good and His word infallible.
A couple of scriptures that cause confusion and pain are these:
“Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, I am with them.”
Our Bible reading plan on God’s Presence led me to these scriptures this week, and as usual, what seemed to be a simple verse that yielded little to teach, was a verse filled with rich context and Jewish history, and something very different than what I learned in my Sunday School days. It actually helped me navigate my own questions concerning prayer and the inconsistencies I’ve come across in my own life.
Matthew 18:20 must be studied in the context of the chapter. It is framed by teachings on forgiveness and judgment. In verse 15, Jesus teaches how to handle a relationship with a fellow believer who has sinned against them. And in verse 21 Peter asks Jesus how many times he needs to forgive his brother when he sins against him. This is important to remember.
But perhaps verse 18 is the key to the meaning of the verses in question.
“I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth with be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth, will be loosed in heaven.”
Boy, that’s a doozey. There’s no question that we need a little outside help to explain what Jesus was saying.
We need Jewish context on this one. The Jewish New Testament Commentary by David Stern explained that these terms were rabbinical terms used in first century Judaism to mean “prohibit” and “permit.” Rabbis could “bind” a day making it a fasting day. They could also “loose” someone by forgiving a debt.
” Contrary to most Christian interpreters, I take this passage as dealing with making legal judgments and halakhah, (the collective body of Jewish religious laws) not prayer.. . . Yeshua, (Jesus) speaking to those who have authority to regulate Messianic communal life commissions them to establish New Covenant halakhah, that is to make authoritative decisions where there is a question . . . In v. 19 Yeshua is teaching that when an issue is brought formally to a panel of two or three Messianic Community leaders, and they render a halakhah decision here on earth, they can be assured that the authority of God in heaven stands behind them. “
Interestingly, Jewish writings tell of God’s Sh’khinah glory always present in a congregation( ten worshipers), and His glory also always present in the presence of three judges making judgment. Jesus was speaking their language, not ours. As he spoke with their idioms, they understood. He was not cancelling the law, but he was completing it with the new Messianic believers. His presence would be with them as they made there judgments just as God’s glory was with the Old Testament law-makers, and God would ordain it.
“Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done (ordained, be brought to pass, be published, to become) for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name (authority), there am I with them.”
Has a heavy burden been lifted from your shoulders? Are you relieved to know that we’ve simply misinterpreted this scripture? It’s not about prayer!
So, how do we apply this to us? We aren’t making any new church decisions as the apostles would be doing. But I believe that we can apply this to the promise of His presence when we are with other believers and our need to ask, if we are making judgments, “What would Jesus Do?” or “What do you think, Jesus? Holy Spirit give us wisdom. We know you are here.”
Where two or three gather together, He is Present.
And that’s the promise.
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