Genesis 21, Matthew 20, Nehemiah 10, Acts 20

DateVersionReading Plan
@January 20, 2024ESV (2016)M’Cheyne Plan 2024

Genesis 21

Genesis 21:10–13 (ESV) 10 So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son, for the son of this slave woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac.” 11 And the thing was very displeasing to Abraham on account of his son. 12 But God said to Abraham, “Be not displeased because of the boy and because of your slave woman. Whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for through Isaac shall your offspring be named. 13 And I will make a nation of the son of the slave woman also, because he is your offspring.”

Abraham was greatly displeased at Sarah’s attitude toward Hagar and his son. Ishmael was not the son from whom all of Abraham’s offspring was to be named, but he was still his son and possessed a share of Abraham’s estate. However, God steps in and reassures Abraham that He will protect Hagar and Ismael and also make a nation of them. It is a beautiful example of God’s gracious intercession and provision.

Matthew 20

Matthew 20:8–10 (ESV) 8 And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ 9 And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. 10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. 11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’

Jesus’ parable of the vineyard laborers is powerful and possesses an incredibly wide application. So often we see ourselves as deserving or entitled to certain treatment, compensation or consideration. This transactional mentality can have detrimental effect not only in our workplaces but in all of our relationships. We feel it only “fair” that we receive due reciprocation, but if we truly understood what we deserve—death and eternal separation from our Creator—our approach would be much different. The truth is we are owed nothing. It is by God’s grace alone that we exist and are sustained.

Nehemiah 10

Nehemiah 10:28–29 (ESV) 28 “The rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the temple servants, and all who have separated themselves from the peoples of the lands to the Law of God, their wives, their sons, their daughters, all who have knowledge and understanding, 29 join with their brothers, their nobles, and enter into a curse and an oath to walk in God’s Law that was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the LORD our Lord and his rules and his statutes.

That the people entered “into a curse and an oath to walk in God’s Law” seemed worthy to unpack. It seems strange to us (or to me, at least) that one would willingly enter into a “curse” with God. Interestingly, some translations do not use the word “curse” alongside “oath”, but instead use verbiage of “commit themselves” (CSB) or “bound themselves” (NLT). However, the word “curse” carries more weight and speaks to the gravity of the agreement into which they were entering and that there would be serious repercussions for non-compliance. It is no small thing to take an oath with God and Jesus Himself advised against it entirely in Matt: 5:33-34.

Acts 20

Acts 20:9–12 (ESV) 9 And a young man named Eutychus, sitting at the window, sank into a deep sleep as Paul talked still longer. And being overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. 10 But Paul went down and bent over him, and taking him in his arms, said, “Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.” 11 And when Paul had gone up and had broken bread and eaten, he conversed with them a long while, until daybreak, and so departed. 12 And they took the youth away alive, and were not a little comforted.

This is such an amazing string of events. A man, Eutychus, falls from the third story and is taken up dead but Paul takes him in his arms, declares that life is still in him and then proceeds to break bread and talk until daybreak. It seems commentators are torn on whether Paul’s words of assurance follows his bringing Eutychus back from the dead or if the fall did not actually kill him but that he was merely unconscious. Whatever may be the case, the swiftness with which Paul deals with the situation and then keeps going in discourse seems to illuminate Paul’s kingdom-centered perspective on physical death. This is further reinforced in his own epistles where he says such things as, “we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (1 Cor. 5:8)

Carson on Matthew 20

Christian leadership is profoundly self-denying for the sake of others, like Christ’s ultimate example of self-denial for the sake of others. So the church must not elevate people to places of leadership who have many of the gifts necessary to high office, but who lack this one. To lead or teach, for example, you must have the gift of leadership or teaching (Rom. 12:6–8). But you must also be profoundly committed to principled self-denial for the sake of brothers and sisters in Christ, or you are disqualified.

An important point made here by Carson on leadership in the church. The quality of self-denial and self-sacrifice must be palpably present not only word but also in conduct among pastors, elders and overseers.