Life-Study of Matthewby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
The Lord’s word in Matthew 10 is a word spoken to the sent ones. In 10:16—11:1 many things are brought to the surface. By seeing these things, we shall be able to understand the situation in which we find ourselves today.
In verses 16 and 17 the Lord predicted the persecution that would come from Judaism upon His apostles. The heavenly King’s prediction here concerning the persecution of His apostles by Judaism indicated that the kingdom He was establishing through His apostles’ preaching would be rejected by Judaism. This also proves that His kingdom is not earthly but heavenly.
Verse 16 says, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves; become therefore prudent as serpents and guileless as doves.” The Lord’s apostles, as sheep, not as serpents, in the midst of wolves, need to be prudent as serpents to escape the hurt of the wolves, but guileless as doves not to hurt others.
The Lord’s word reveals that the whole world is under the usurping hand of the enemy and thus opposes God’s economy. The entire world, whether the Jewish world or the Gentile world, opposes God’s kingdom. Verse 17 says, “But beware of men; for they will deliver you up to Sanhedrins, and in their synagogues they will scourge you.” This verse indicates that even the Jewish nation had been fully taken over by God’s enemy. When the Lord Jesus was on earth, this nation belonged to God in name, but not in actuality. Therefore, in verse 17 the Lord spoke of persecution coming from the Sanhedrin and the synagogues. The Sanhedrin was the highest council among the children of Israel. The Sanhedrin’s function was to see that the Jews followed the law of the Old Testament. The synagogue was a place where the Word of God was taught to the children of Israel. It is very significant that the Lord exposed the Sanhedrin and the synagogues as being opposed to God’s economy. He said that His apostles, His sent ones, would be delivered up to Sanhedrins and scourged in the synagogues. A synagogue is obviously not a theater, a casino, or an idol temple. In a sense, it was a holy place, a place where the holy Word of God was taught to God’s people. Nevertheless, the Lord said that the apostles of the King of the heavens would be scourged even in the synagogues. By this we see what an evil thing the synagogue had become. Although the Jews went there to learn the Word of God, those in the synagogues persecuted the apostles of the heavenly King. Furthermore, the Sanhedrin, organized with the intention of overseeing the children of Israel in the matter of keeping the Scriptures, was a place that would also oppose the apostles of the heavenly King.
The situation is the same today. If the ancient Sanhedrin and synagogues opposed the King’s sent ones, then how about the system of today’s religion? If we are truly the ones sent by the heavenly King, we shall be opposed by today’s religious organizations just as the apostles were opposed by Judaism. In ancient times the apostles were persecuted not primarily by the Gentiles, but by the so-called holy people in the Sanhedrin and in the synagogues. In our experience throughout the years, nearly all the persecution, rumors, opposition, and attack have come from the religious organizations, not from the Gentiles.
According to verse 16, the Lord Jesus likened those in the Sanhedrin and in the synagogues to wolves, saying that He was sending out His apostles “as sheep in the midst of wolves.” Can you believe that those in the Sanhedrin and in the synagogues, the ones who expounded and taught the holy Word of God and exhorted others to obey it, were wolves? If the Lord Jesus had not said this Himself, I certainly would not believe it. Rather, I would say, “Those in the Sanhedrin and in the synagogues may have made some mistakes, but they are certainly God’s people, for daily they talk about the Scriptures and teach people to fear God, to worship God, to honor God, and to glorify God. They’re not that bad. How can you say that they are wolves?” But the Lord Jesus called them wolves. At that time, the wolves spoken of in verse 16 were those in the Sanhedrins and in the synagogues mentioned in verse 17.
Saul of Tarsus studied at the feet of Gamaliel, a great Bible teacher, “a teacher of the law, honored by all the people” (Acts 22:3; 5:34). Gamaliel was one of the leaders in the Sanhedrin. Was Gamaliel for God? Yes, he was. He feared God and he was for God, but he was in an environment that was absolutely against God’s economy. He was part of a system, the Sanhedrin, that opposed God. It has been the same down through the centuries until today. No matter how much certain ones are for God, they are in a system, an organization, which is against God’s economy. In Revelation 2:9 and 3:9 the Lord Jesus spoke of “the synagogue of Satan.” In Matthew 10 the Lord indicated that there were wolves in the synagogues, and in Revelation He spoke of the synagogue of Satan. This indicated that the synagogues had become satanic.
The Lord Jesus did not come firstly to the Gentile world. He came to a nation that was supposed to be the holy people of God. This nation had the holy Scriptures, the holy city, the holy temple, the holy priesthood, and the holy sacrifices. He came to this nation with the purpose of establishing the kingdom of the heavens. It seems that there should have been no difficulty whatever. But when this heavenly King was sending out His apostles for the spread of His ministry, He warned them that He was sending them out as sheep in the midst of wolves. The Lord seemed to be saying, “Those in the Sanhedrin, the ones who care for the holy Scriptures, will persecute you, and those in the synagogue, the ones who teach the Word of God, will scourge you. Be careful! They are not the holy people of God—they are wolves. They are not for God; they are against Him.” Suppose you were among those Jews sent out by the heavenly King and you heard that those in the Sanhedrin and in the synagogues were wolves. Would you not be shocked? Nevertheless, this is exactly what the Lord was saying here. The Lord did not say that the soldiers in the Roman army were wolves, but that those in the Sanhedrin and in the synagogues, those handling the Word of God and teaching it to God’s people, were wolves. Throughout the centuries, the situation has been the same in principle.
In 9:36 the Lord likened the people to sheep. Among the children of Israel, there were both sheep and wolves. These wolves were in the Sanhedrin and in the synagogues. They were cultured wolves, civilized wolves, religious wolves. Those wolves knew the Bible rather well. Although they could quote verses and worship God according to the Scriptures, the Lord Jesus did not consider them as sheep, but as wolves. Therefore, at the time of Matthew 10, there was a complicated situation among the children of Israel, for the sheep and the wolves were mixed together. There was no problem as long as the sheep went along with the wolves. However, the Shepherd came and sent out the undershepherds to collect the sheep. If we read these chapters carefully, we shall see that the gathering of the sheep is the reaping of the harvest. All the sheep, the harvest, were scattered among the wolves and mixed in with the wolves. When the sheep desired to go with the undershepherds sent by the Shepherd, the wolves would rise up and say, “What! You are proselytizing. You are stirring up the sheep!” In this way the wolf nature is exposed, and the wolves attack the undershepherds. Hence, the Lord said that, as sheep in the midst of wolves, His sent ones must be prudent as serpents and guileless as doves. When the wolves attack, the sent ones must be prudent as serpents to escape. At the same time, they should also be as harmless as doves.
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