Matthew 6:1-8 Part 2

“The Kingdom is here,” says Jesus.  And He says, “My Kingdom disciples hunger and thirst for righteousness.”  They know the deep and powerful depravity that is the nature of man.  And they mourn that.  And they seek to see God with purity of heart.  They are merciful and non-retaliatory.  By living in their High Priest and King, they are able to be savour and light to a perverse generation.

And because of Him their righteousness exceeds, in full measure, that of the Pharisees.

The leadership of Israel, full of themselves, had twisted and distorted God’s holy Law to serve themselves; and, by doing so, proved that they were not “of” His Kingdom, but retained a righteousness of their own.  After distorting God’s Law they then held to their distortions – their hope being completely misplaced.

Rather than seeing their own deep, inherent depravity, and fleeing to the Incarnate Word when He came, there was no poverty of spirit – but only a preoccupation with self-distinction, self-esteem, and rank.  Since the nature of depravity looks inward, the Pharisees’ focus was the self.  They were pro-self and anti-Law, twisting the words and meaning of God’s Law to serve their own ends.

Last Lord’s Day we saw that Jesus now turns from the outward manifestations of lawlessness to personal impiety – in verse one of our text.  He says for His disciples to beware doing righteousness before men in order to be seen by them!  In other words do not be hypocritically pious in order to please other people, which in turn builds your own self-esteem, or self-worth.  This is the inward looking depravity of human nature – to ultimately please and honor self.  And the more praise and honor and glory other people give you, the more self feels good about self!

And Jesus says that those that seek the glory have their reward in full.  Because they are not going to get any reward from God.  God is the One Who is Good, and Just and Pure and Faithful – man is full of iniquity and worthy of nothing.  And if man seeks the glory which is due only to God, then why should God reward him for that?

A minister who craves the honor of men so he can be great in the Kingdom has no part in the Kingdom.  A man who wants to do well in his profession so that others will admire him has no place in the Kingdom.  A child whose sole purpose in life is to be liked by his peers has no place in the Kingdom.  A woman who has to have the honor and attention of others in order to have self-esteem has no place in the Kingdom.  “They have their reward in full,” Jesus says.

“The chief end of man is to glorify God,” says the catechism – paraphrasing the Scriptures.  And to glorify the self is the exact opposite!  To glorify God is the good – to glorify the self is the evil!  If there is a central core of depravity, it is self-esteem!!  Sin has turned the eyes of man from God to self - that is the height and width and depth of depravity.  That is the essence of it.

God created the universe for His Own glory.  He created this world, and the sun and moon, and the stars, and the oceans and the mountains and the animals and the trees and flowers – and man – in order to attest to His Own glory.  But man has turned from the sole purpose of his being created, and he has turned the truth into a lie!

Man, by the inward concentration of self, has turned being, and life, and purpose – upside down, inside out, and backwards!  He has forsaken the one interpretation of his existence, and he lives in total distortion of the truth!  His goal is self realization rather than God realization.

And that complete distortion of reality is conspicuous in societal chaos.  You can read it in the philosophies and theologies of chance and human determination.  You can read it in the science of evolution.  You can see it in the canvasses and sculptures of surrealism and random happening.  And music conveys mass decadence like no other form of communication.

The Biblical definition of man in relation to God has been turned, by psychology, into man in relation to self – and the entire concept of man is inverted!  Self-esteem is the goal of school counselors and social engineers and government programs and pastors and parents!  And if it cannot be attained, there is nothing else but drugs and suicide!

You see, the concentration on self is the exact opposite of the Biblical goal of man – which is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever!  To concentrate on self and self-glory obviates man’s purpose for existence!  And it only ends in self-degradation, corruption and disintegration!

And that is what Jesus means in verse one, when He says, “Beware practicing your righteousness before men, with a purpose to be observed by them, for, indeed, you have no reward with your Father in the heavens.”

And then He gives His disciples three examples of impious self-attestation and self-glory which they are to avoid, and to which the Pharisees had dedicated themselves!  And these three examples serve to cover the entire range of personal piety:  our works of charity, the high honor of speaking to God in prayer, and the mortification of the flesh – signified by fasting.

            Now, one of the things that is so striking about this text, and it does not show up in the English translation, is the abrupt movement from the public plural, in verse one, to the personal singular beginning in verse two.  The overall principle is stated in verse one, as Jesus speaks to all men concerning their depraved self-interest.  “You (plural) have no reward with your Father….”  And then, when He begins verse two, He begins to speak to individual disciples about their piety.  Each of us, alone, our personal, or in secret, piety.  “Whenever, therefore, you (singular) do alms, do not sound a trumpet in front of you as those hypocrite Pharisees are doing in the synagogues and in the streets that they might be extolled by men.  Amen I say to you they have their reward in full.”  Verse two.

            “Don’t sound a trumpet for yourself when you do works of mercy and compassion… do not blow the ram’s horn for yourself when you give to the poor….”  What does all of this mean?

            Some would just understand this as meaning something very simple, like – do not call attention to yourself!  And that is okay, as far as it goes.  But Jesus has used a word here that is very interesting, isn’t it?  You would not ordinarily expect the word “trumpet” to come up in a context like this.  There are so many things that could be used to call attention to oneself – but Jesus has chosen to use a word that seems strangely out of place.  And when we see things like this in Scripture – and they just seem to jump off the page at us, it is a signal that we ought to investigate a little bit!  We ought to see if there is something more, here, than just the surface simplicity – or interpretation.

We have to ask questions, like – is it not odd that Jesus would use the word “trumpet”?   Why would He do that?  Why would He not have said, “Do not call attention to yourselves like the hypocrites in the synagogues and in the streets….”  Why, instead of saying something real simple like that so that everybody can understand it, why would He insert a concept that is seemingly foreign to this kind of situation?  Like a trumpet!  Is this just an anachronistic term – a “the way they said it then” term – which does not have any meaning today?

And, of course, as you have already guessed, the answer to that question is “no”.  It is not anachronistic – it is not strange to this situation – it is not foreign – and it is not simple!  There is a whole Biblical Theology of the trumpet – and it is complicated – and it is there for Christ’s disciples to plumb the height and depth of the richness of God!  Revelation!

It is a thrilling experience, coming across a word like this, knowing that our Lord Jesus never uttered a meaningless word, and stopping to try to find His reason and meaning!  And, then, when finding it, discover that it has, within it, the fullness of the salvation of God, the prophecy of the coming Messiah and His substitutionary sacrifice, and the depraved degeneracy of mankind – all signified in the one concept!  All in the context of giving alms to the poor!

I am only going to skim the surface of it – it is for you to ponder and read and study.  And the foundation for the Theology of the trumpet is found in Genesis chapter twenty-two, where Abraham was told by God to travel to the mountain (Mt. Zion) and sacrifice his only son Isaac.  Abraham did.  And just before he struck the blow, he saw a ram which had been seized by its horns in the briars and brambles.  And that ram became the substitute for Isaac, foreshadowing God’s substitute for all of Abraham’s children – according to promise!

Then we find this in the prophecy of Zechariah, chapter nine: “In every generation thy children shall be seized by sins and snared in affliction, but at the last they shall be redeemed by the horns of this ram.”

And, as Psalm forty-seven says, God mounts His throne of mercy with the sound of the ram’s horn!  The trumpet is a ram’s horn!  The horn of the substitute sacrifice!  And it was used by Israel in war – to signal the troops, and to prophecy the protection of the mercy of God and his salvation in the coming Messiah!  It was used to call the people to worship in the temple, and to signal God’s attention to their worship!

The trumpet is used dozens of times to signal eschatological destruction to the enemies of God’s people and His mercy toward His own people – as, for example, the trumpets in the book of Revelation signal the destruction of old Israel and the sending out of God’s elect into the world – as God shows mercy to all His people in the Gentile nations!  The trumpet of Christ – the substitute sacrifice.

You see, an act of mercy by one of Christ’s disciples, in His Name, is a sign of the mercy of God in Christ!  An act of compassion in the Name Jesus Christ, and for His glory, is a mirror of the mercy of God toward the creation!  Being merciful, the Christian imitates the character of God’s Son!  Compassionate acts are trumpets of mercy!

And for the Pharisees, or anybody else, to call attention to themselves while imitating the Christ – sounding the trump to call God’s attention to His hypocrisy – using the sign of the coming eschatological warfare of God’s elect – hypocritically signaling the covenant mercies of God to His people – and all for his own honor and exaltation – is the ultimate in self-glory and hypocrisy and idolatry, and the recompense from God is exclusion from His Kingdom!

It is upside down, inside out and backwards!  It is depravity and dissipation.  The hypocrites sound the ram’s horn to call the people to worship in the synagogues, verse two, and it is for their own glory!  There was a place in the temple called “silence,” and it was a place where people could come in alone and place money in a collection for the poor.  But the Pharisees, and others, would cause others to see them giving!

And they would go out into the little side streets where the beggars were, and they would sound the trumpet of the mercy of God as they provided for the needs of the poor.  All so they would be seen and glorified – for their own self-esteem!  Using the horn of the ram of mercy they signaled their own honor!  And Jesus says that the honor people receive from others is their full reward, because they will not get a reward from God.

And people will, for all times and forever and a day, find ways to do the same!  Outside the Church and in it!  And those ways of self-glorification come in all different shapes and sizes – many of which are open and blatant, and some which are very subtle.  But our perverted selves will publish our piety if we can!  We want the publicity, and we want the acclaim.  Even when we give in secret, I suspect that, in most professing Christians, there is a hope that it will eventually come out in the open, and others will know all about it!

But the righteous compassion that Jesus here calls for, in verses three and four, is for the imitation of Christ, and is for His Glory!  It is free of self.  It is turned back around, and right side up and right side out!  The self is put away, and the mercy and compassion of God toward His people is signified!  The compassionate act – for the glory of God alone – is, in itself, the trumpet of the mercy of God!

Jesus says in verse two, “Don’t let your left hand acknowledge what your right hand is doing.”  The hypocrite, the definition of which is an actor hiding behind a mask, appears, on the outside, to be doing a compassionate work, signaling, or trumpeting, the mercy of God.  But on the inside he is feeding his own self-image!  He has a duplicitous mind – a heart that is divided – he is not pure in heart.  He wants the acclaim of men rather than giving glory to God.

But Christ’s disciple is not to let the left hand even acknowledge what the right one is doing!  In other words – keep the self out of the way!  Do not let the self get involved!  Your righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees in full measure, He says!  Do not even allow the self to acknowledge that you are being compassionate after the image of Christ!  Keep what you are doing away from self.  Keep it a secret from self.  It wants to pop up and take a look – it wants to see the circumstances in which it might glorify itself.  If there is a situation where it might lend itself some self-esteem, then it wants to get there and get involved.  It wants to play a part.  “Ahah!  If I just do it this way, then, sooner or later, somebody will notice it, and I will get some glory!”

But Jesus says that will not get you any reward from God.  Do not let the “self” acknowledge your imitation (trumpeting) of the mercy of Christ!  Your righteous act must be a secret from self!  And if it is, then the Almighty, Sovereign God, Who sees the innermost workings of the self, Who secretly sees and knows all that you think or do, will recompense to you!

Now, Jesus does not say specifically what that recompense is, but it is very clear from the whole of Scripture that the mortification of self, and the acknowledgment of the Sovereignty of God, and the attestation of His glory, is recompensed now and into eternity!  Not because of our works, but because of the gracious work of the Spirit of Christ in us!

You see, any mortification of the depraved self – old man – is a gracious act of Christ.  It is by the grace of God alone!  And God loves the work of His Son.  And as we put on the virtues of Christ as adopted sons, God rewards that with both temporal and eternal blessings!  Recompense!

The Scriptures say that God even rewards a cup of cool water in His Name!

Now finally, let me just say one more thing with reference to my opening remarks.  Although there is another reformation coming, much greater than the one before, it seems as if all the branches of society are, right now, moving even further in the direction of disintegration.  And the reason for it is the loss of purpose, the vision – the goal: glory to God.

It looks as if every educational process is moving toward another goal: self-esteem – rather than the true purpose of man, which is to glorify our God and enjoy Him.  God esteem!  Rather than realizing what our existence and purpose is, vis a vis Christ and His Kingdom, this is becoming a “me” society, or a “self” society.

Even churches are preaching a gospel which says, “incorporate God into your life,” or “make God a part of you life” – instead of preaching the Gospel of Christ, which says, “you must lose your life in Me … you must be rebirthed out of your life … you must die to self.”

Kids go to see school counselors and pastoral counselors and psychologists to get help; and what do they get?  They are diagnosed as having “low self-esteem,” which is exactly the opposite of the truth.  And if there are no quick-fix bandaids for the kids’ problems – if they are being pushed further and further down into purposelessness, then the next step is illicit sex, drugs, alcohol, depression, crime and suicide.  It is a vicious and terrifying prospect.

The whole culture is turned upside down.  Except for some left-over covenantal capital from the puritans and a few of our founding forefathers, the society has no root, no goal … no purpose other than what is the exact opposite of what is true.

“The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”  There is the purpose and goal and direction of mankind.  And there is the source of our happiness.  The fact is that we are the only creation of God that does not do what we are created to do!!

God will judge this society; I have no doubt of that.  But He will also blow across it with the breath of His mouth.  Our Lord Jesus Christ is victorious already.  He IS King (whether men acknowledge Him).  So we will see a turnaround – a reformation.  Failure is not the King’s program.  The knowledge of God will cover the earth as the water covers the sea … that is a promise from God.  Maybe not in my generation, but perhaps yours.

But our part in His Kingdom is to hold fast to the Word of Truth and display the righteousness of Christ to the world, sounding the trumpet of His atonement.  As we mortify the lusts of the old “self” and seek His glory and enjoy His glory, then God will bless us with increase.  He will recompense!