and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable to you,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer
When Joseph's family arrived in Egypt, they moved to Goshen because Egyptians found shepherds abhorrent. As Joseph had interpreted Pharaoh's dream, Egypt suffered a severe famine. Joseph used the tragedy to acquire for Pharaoh the people's land. Egyptians were turned into something like tenant farmers. Joseph's family became prosperous.
Matthew is not telling us how superior we Christians are to Jews. He's telling us how to be better Christians. "You're worrying too much about the unimportant and not enough about the important."
Long before, Hosea had called Israel to repentance by voicing this word of God, "For I desire love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings" (6:6)
Try not to think of all those cartoons you have seen of St. Peter at heaven's gate, letting some in and excluding others. For one thing, Matthew does not restrict the term, heaven, to mean a place somewhere else, at a time only after death. Rather, the kingdom of heaven is a more pious way of saying kingdom of God; that is, a place here and now, where God is in charge.
Peter has the keys; that is, Peter understand and can convey what kingdom life is like, what kingdom residents are like. Jesus built this church and entrusted Peter with it. (with thanks to Boring & Craddock's The People's New Testament Commentary)
Jesus had called himself the Son of Man (verse 13), but Peter called him the Son of the living God (16). I'm saving discussion of "Son of Man" for another time, and right now looking at the "Son of God" designation. Since Jesus is the Son of God, then God is his father. Jesus assents to this relationship when he says "....my Father in heaven."
I've been reading Julian Sheffield's essay, "The Father in the Gospel of Matthew," in A Feminist Companion to Matthew, edited by Amy-Jill Levine: The term, father, is used for God 65 times in the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). 44 of those are in Matthew. God the father is identified as "heavenly" or "in heaven" 20 times in Matthew. Sheffield instructs us that this interpretation of God as heavenly father comes from the context of Rabbinic prayer language. This language emphasizes who is in charge--God, not Caesar.
"Where did you see God?" our small group asks us at the beginning of each meeting. I don't think I have ever answered by quoting the first verses of Psalm 19, but I may remember to next time.
"Look at the sky," the psalmist says. "Notice that it's day. Notice that it's night. Where do you think the sun came from? Why do you think it moves?"
God has so ordered the universe that the sun rises and sets, the sun provides light and warmth for us.
If only we humans could respond affirmatively to God's intentions.
The commands of God are intended to help us live good lives, orderly lives, joyful lives.
And they are intended to help us avoid behavior that would harm us and others. God's law provides rewards and boundaries (are these always opposites?)
Although we may want to behave wisely, we may fail at times. And we live among people who don't seem to care about doing right at all. Protect us from them, and protect us from failing to live up to God's wishes for us.
We may have difficulty in discerning who is speaking for the Lord.
Or, we still have difficulty in accepting that someone who isn't part of our own congregation can be connected with the Lord.
As a help, we could remember the words of Psalm 19--the judgments of the Lord are true, righteous, desirable. We should pay heed to them.
If we do pay attention to God's words and wisdom, then we can evaluate human words and wisdom. We can even pray the psalmist's prayer to be cleared of any movement away from those words and wisdom in our own ways.
Prayer for Today: God, keep us faithful to the intent of your will.