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altruistico:

its really hard, but through my own life, ive had to let go of things or i would go mad. Quoting the Minstrel’s Wife.  And, I believe we all have had to let go of something in our lives……….. to make room in our hearts for goodness, love and happiness.

Originally posted on A Small Act Of Kindness Can Bring Smile On Million Faces:

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All that God deemed essential knowledge for His children is found in His Word—the Bible. Beyond that, all truth is God’s. God has, however, revealed His truth to all humans in the things created (Romans 1:20) called general revelation, and in His written Word called special revelation (1 Corinthians 2:6–10).

There is a difference between “earthly wisdom” and the “wisdom that comes from above” (James 3:14–18). To tap into God’s wisdom, we must, first of all, desire it and ask God for it. “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5). The next verse specifies that we must “ask in faith, nothing wavering” (verse 6).

We acknowledge that true wisdom comes from God and that Jesus Christ is the embodiment of that wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:30). To trust in Christ and yield to His Holy Spirit is to walk in wisdom; as Christians, “we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).

Love of God, the greatest commandment, is also required. “As it is written: ‘What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived’—the things God has prepared for those who love him—these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:9–10; cf. Isaiah 64:4).

To have knowledge is to have understanding or information about something. To have wisdom is to have the ability to apply knowledge to everyday life. It is in the reading and understanding of God’s Word that we obtain knowledge, and meditating upon that knowledge brings wisdom. The longest chapter in the Bible is Psalm 119, which is all about gaining understanding and wisdom from God’s Word. Just a few verses are “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long.” (verse 97). “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” (verse 105). “I will meditate in your precepts, and have respect to your ways. I will delight myself in your statutes: I will not forget your word” (verses 15–16). The word meditate is used five times in Psalm 119 and in various forms another fifteen times in the book of Psalms. Meditation is required to fully consider how to apply God’s Word in everyday life.

The book of Proverbs is full of wisdom. In that book, Wisdom calls for a hearing: “How long will you who are simple love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge? Repent at my rebuke! Then I will pour out my thoughts to you, I will make known to you my teachings” (Proverbs 1:22–23). The promise of Wisdom is that those who desire God’s truth can have it, but it requires giving up the world’s foolish mockery of the truth. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7).

To have the “fear of the LORD” is to have an awed respect of who God is and a reverential trust in His Word and His character, and to live accordingly. When one is walking in the fear of the Lord, he or she is relying on God’s wisdom in the matters of everyday life and making whatever changes need to be made in light of God’s Word.

Those who have God’s wisdom will show it in how they live: “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom” (James 3:13).

In summary, to tap into God’s wisdom, we must diligently study God’s Word (2 Timothy 2:15), meditate on the Word, pray for wisdom, seek it with all our hearts, and walk in the Spirit. God desires to give His wisdom to His children. Are we willing to be led by that wisdom?

Everyone knows that God exists. “God has made it plain” that He is real, “for since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20). Some try to suppress the knowledge of God; most try to add to it. The Christian has a deep desire to know God better (Psalm 25:4).

In John 3 we read about a man who clearly wanted to know God better and who became more studied than most in the things of God. His name was Nicodemus, and he was a Pharisee, a ruler of the Jews. This Nicodemus knew that Jesus had come from God, and he was truly curious to learn more about Jesus. Jesus patiently explained to Nicodemus how he must be born again (verses 3-15). In order to know God better, Nicodemus had come to the right person—“In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9). Jesus is indeed the Word of God made flesh (John 1:14). Jesus revealed God through His words and works. He even said that no one comes to the Father but by Him (John 14:6). If you want to know who God is, look at Jesus.

So, we must start with faith. The first step in knowing God better is to know Jesus Christ, who was sent from God (John 6:38). Once we are born again by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can truly begin to learn about God, His character, and His will. “The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10). By contrast, “the person without the Spirit . . . cannot understand [the things of God] because they are discerned only through the Spirit” (verse 14). There is a difference between the “natural” man and the “spiritual” man.

Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ.” It cannot be emphasized enough how the study of God’s Word, the Bible, is paramount to knowing God better. We must, “like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it [we] may grow up in [our] salvation, now that [we] have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 2:2-3). God’s Word should be our “delight” (Psalm 119:16, 24).

Those who are learning more about God are also those who obey the command to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Born-again believers always have the Holy Spirit, but Ephesians 5:15-21 teaches us to walk in the Spirit and surrender to His will.

Prayer is also an important part of knowing God better. As we pray, we praise God for His character and for what He has done. We spend time with Him, relying on His power and allowing the Spirit to intercede for us “through wordless groans” (Romans 8:26).

Also consider that one can get to know God better by fellowshipping with other believers. The Christian life was not meant to be lived alone. We learn more about God through the preaching of God’s Word and the godly counsel of those who walk with Him. Make the most of your church experience, get involved, do small-group Bible study, go witnessing with fellow believers. Just like a log ablaze on the hearth soon goes out when it is removed and placed aside, so we will lose our fervor for God if we do not fellowship with other believers. But put the log back into the fire with the other logs, and it will burn brightly again.

To summarize how to get to know God better: 1) Accept Christ as your Savior. 2) Read His Word…it is alive (Hebrews 4:12). 3) On an on-going basis, be filled with the Holy Spirit. 4) Seek the Lord through prayer. 5) Fellowship and live out your life with the saints (Hebrews 10:25).

Within all of us there exists a strong desire to be known and to know others. More importantly, all people desire to know their Creator, even if they are not professed believers in God. Today we are bombarded with advertising that promises many ways to satisfy our cravings to know more, have more, be more. However, the empty promises that come from the world will never satisfy in the way that knowing God will satisfy. Jesus said, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3).

So, “what is the key to truly knowing God?” First, it is imperative to understand that man, on his own, is incapable of truly knowing God because of man’s sinfulness. The Scriptures reveal to us that we are all sinful (Romans 3) and that we fall well short of the standard of holiness required to commune with God. We are also told that the consequence of our sin is death (Romans 6:23) and that we will perish eternally without God unless we accept and receive the promise of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. So, in order to truly know God, we must first receive Him into our lives. “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12). Nothing is of greater importance than understanding this truth when it comes to knowing God. Jesus makes it clear that He alone is the way to heaven and to a personal knowledge of God: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6).

There is no requirement to begin this journey besides accepting and receiving the promises mentioned above. Jesus came to breathe life into us by offering Himself as a sacrifice so our sins will not prevent us from knowing God. Once we have received this truth, we can begin the journey of knowing God in a personal way. One of the key ingredients in this journey is understanding that the Bible is God’s Word and is His revelation of Himself, His promises, His will. The Bible is essentially a love letter written to us from a loving God who created us to know Him intimately. What better way to learn about our Creator than to immerse ourselves in His Word, revealed to us for this very reason? And it is important to continue this process throughout the entire journey. Paul writes to Timothy, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:14-16).

Finally, truly knowing God involves our commitment to obey what we read in the Scriptures. After all, we were created to do good works (Ephesians 2:10) in order to be part of God’s plan of continuing to reveal Himself to the world. We carry the responsibility to live out the very faith that is required to know God. We are salt and light on this earth (Matthew 5:13-14), designed to bring God’s flavor to the world and to serve as a shining light in the midst of darkness. Not only must we read and understand God’s Word, we must apply it obediently and remain faithful (Hebrews 12). Jesus Himself placed the greatest importance on loving God with all we are and loving our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22). This command is impossible to keep without the commitment to reading and applying His truth revealed in His Word.

These are the keys to truly knowing God. Of course, our lives will involve much more, such as commitment to prayer, devotion, fellowship, and worship. But those can only follow making a decision to receive Jesus and His promises into our lives and accepting that we, on our own, cannot truly know God. Then our lives can be filled with God, and we can experience knowing Him intimately and personally.

The ancient Hebrew language that the Hebrew Scriptures were written in did not have vowels. In the original Hebrew, God’s name is given as “YHWH.” This is known as the tetragrammaton. Because of the lack of vowels, Bible scholars debate how the tetragrammaton “YHWH” was pronounced.

Contrary to what some Christians (and at least one cult that uses this name) believe, “Jehovah” is probably not the Divine Name revealed to Israel. Due to the Jewish fear of accidentally taking God’s Name in vain (Leviticus 24:16), they basically quit saying it out-loud altogether. Instead, when reading, they substituted the actual tetragrammaton (which is only the consonants of the Divine Name “YHWH” since Hebrew is not usually written with vowels included) with the word Adonai (Lord). Even in the Septuagint (the Greek version of the Old Testament) the translators substituted Kurios (Lord) for the Divine Name. Eventually the vowels from Adonai (“Lord”) or Elohim (“God”) found their way into the consonants YHWH, thus forming “YaHWeH.” But this does not mean that was how God’s Name was originally pronounced.

Any number of vowel combinations are possible, and the Jews are as uncertain of the real pronunciation as are Christians. “Jehovah” is actually a much later (probably 16th century) variant in Latin. Here, the “Y” is substituted with a “J” (Hebrew does not even have a “J” sound), and the “W” with a “V,” plus another vowel combination, resulting in “JeHoVaH.” This vowel combination is composed of the abbreviated forms of the imperfect, the participle, and the perfect of the Hebrew being verb (English “is”) – thus the meaning of Jehovah could be said to be “he who will be, is, and has been.”

So, what is God’s name and what does it mean? The most likely choice for how the tetragrammaton was pronounced is “Yahweh” or something very similar to that. The name “Yahweh” refers to God’s self-existence. “Yahweh” is linked with how God described Himself in Exodus 3:14, “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” God’s name is a reflection of His being. God is the only self-existent / self-sufficient Being in the universe. Only God has life in and of Himself. That is the essential meaning of the tetragrammaton / YHWH / Yahweh.

The first thing we notice about this parable is its similarity to the Parable of the Sower in Mark 4:2-9. In some ways, this parable expands on Jesus’ teaching of how the “good soil” (a receptive heart) receives the “seed” (the Word of God).

In the Parable of the Growing Seed, Jesus tells of a man who scatters seed on the ground and then allows nature to take its course. As the man who sowed the seed goes about his business day by day, the seed begins to have an effect. First, the seed sprouts; then it produces a stalk and leaves, then a head of grain, and, finally, fully developed kernels in the head. Jesus emphasizes that all of this happens without the man’s help. The man who scattered the seed cannot even fully understand how it happens—it is simply the work of nature. “All by itself the soil produces” (verse 28).

The parable ends with a harvest. As soon as the grain is ripe, the sickle is employed, and the seed is harvested. This happens at just the right time.

Jesus did not explain this parable, as He did some others. Instead, He left it to us to understand its meaning. Taking the seed to be the Word of God, as in Mark 4:14, we can interpret the growth of the plants as the working of God’s Word in individual hearts. The fact that the crop grows without the farmer’s intervention means that can God accomplish His purposes even when we are absent or unaware of what He’s doing. The goal is the ripened grain. At the proper time, the Word will bring forth its fruit, and the Lord of the harvest (Luke 10:2) will be glorified.

The truth of this parable is well illustrated in the growth of the early church: “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow” (1 Corinthians 3:6). Just like a farmer cannot force a crop to grow, an evangelist cannot force spiritual life or growth on others.

To summarize the point of the Parable of the Growing Seed: “The way God uses His Word in the heart of an individual is mysterious and completely independent of human effort.” May we be faithful in “sowing the seed,” praying for a harvest, and leaving the results to the Lord!

This statement is the conclusion to the Parable of the Wedding Feast. Jesus spoke this parable to show what the kingdom of heaven will be like when the end of the age comes. In the parable, the king sends his servants out to gather the wedding guests to the wedding feast. But those invited refused to come, some because they were too busy with their own worldly pursuits and some because they were positively hostile toward the king. So the king commands his servants to go out and invite anyone they find, and many come and fill the wedding hall. But the king sees one man without wedding clothes, and he sends him away. Jesus concludes by saying that many are called/invited to the kingdom, but only those who have been “chosen” and have received Christ will come. Those who try to come without the covering of the blood of Christ for their sins are inadequately clothed and will be sent into “outer darkness,” (v. 13) i.e., hell.

Many people hear the call of God which comes through His revelation of Himself through two things—the creation and the conscience within us. But only the “few” will respond because they are the ones who are truly hearing. Jesus said many times, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Matthew 11:15; Mark 4:9; Luke 8:8, 14:35). The point is that everyone has ears, but only a few are listening and responding. Not everyone who hears the gospel receives it but only the “few” who have ears to hear. The “many” hear, but there is no interest or there is outright antagonism toward God. Many are called or invited into the kingdom, but none are able to come on their own. God must draw the hearts of those who come; otherwise they will not (John 6:44).

Second Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.” God creates life, grants repentance and gives faith. Man is totally unable by himself to do these things which are necessary to enter the kingdom of heaven. Ephesians 1:4-6: “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” Salvation is by God’s will and pleasure for His glory. John 6:37-39, 44-45: “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day…No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me.”

So, all of God’s “chosen” will be saved without exception; they will hear and respond because they have spiritual ears to hear the truth. God’s power makes this certain. Romans 8:28-30: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew (loved) he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.”

How do we know if we are among the few that have ears to hear? By responding to the call. Assurance of this certain call, this chosen call, is from the Holy Spirit. Consider Philippians 1:6, which says, “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12-13.) If we listen with our spiritual ears and respond to the invitation, there will be fear and trembling in our souls as we recognize that it was God’s work in us that caused our salvation.

Jesus told the Parable of the Wedding Feast in Matthew 22:1-14. This parable is similar in some ways to the Parable of the Great Banquet (Luke 14:15-24), but the occasion is different, and it has some important distinctions. To better understand the context of this story, it is important to know some basic facts about weddings in Jesus’ day.

In Jewish society, the parents of the betrothed generally drew up the marriage contract. The bride and groom would meet, perhaps for the first time, when this contract was signed. The couple was considered married at this point, but they would separate until the actual time of the ceremony. The bride would remain with her parents, and the groom would leave to prepare their home. This could take quite a while. When the home was all was ready, the groom would return for his bride without notice. The marriage ceremony would then take place, and the wedding banquet would follow.

The wedding banquet was one of the most joyous occasions in Jewish life and could last for up to a week. In His parable, Jesus compares heaven to a wedding banquet that a king had prepared for his son (Matthew 22:2). Many people had been invited, but when the time for the banquet came and the table was set, those invited refused to come (verses 4-5). In fact, the king’s servants who brought the joyful message were mistreated and even killed (verse 6).

The king, enraged at the response of those who had been invited, sent his army to avenge the death of his servants (verse 7). He then sent invitations to anyone his servants could find, with the result that the wedding hall was filed (verses 8-10).

During the feast the king noticed a man “who was not wearing wedding clothes” (verse 11). When asked how he came to be there without the furnished attire, the man had no answer and was promptly ejected from the feast “outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (verses 12-13). Jesus then ends the parable with this statement: “For many are invited, but few are chosen” (verse 14).

The king is God the Father, and the son who is being honored at the banquet is Jesus Christ, who “came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him” (John 1:11). Israel held the invitation to the kingdom, but when the time actually came for the kingdom to appear (see Matthew 3:1), they refused to believe it. Many prophets, including John the Baptist, had been murdered (Matthew 14:10). The king’s reprisal against the murderers can be interpreted as a prophecy of Jerusalem’s destruction in A.D. 70 at the hands of the Romans (cf. Luke 21:5). More broadly, the king’s vengeance speaks of the desolation mentioned in the book of Revelation. God is patient, but He will not tolerate wickedness forever (Obadiah 1:15). His judgment will come upon those who reject His offer of salvation. Considering what that salvation cost Jesus, is not this judgment well deserved (see Hebrews 10:29-31)?

Note that it is not because the invited guests could not come to the wedding feast, but that they would not come (see Luke 13:34). Everyone had an excuse. How tragic, and how indicative of human nature, to be offered the blessings of God and to refuse them because of the draw of mundane things!

The wedding invitation is extended to anyone and everyone, total strangers, both good and bad. This refers to the gospel being taken to the Gentiles. This portion of the parable is a foreshadowing of the Jews’ rejection of the gospel in Acts 13. Paul and Barnabas were in Pisidian Antioch, where the Jewish leaders strongly opposed them. The apostle’s words echo the king’s estimation that those invited to the wedding “did not deserve to come”: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles” (Acts 13:46). The gospel message, Jesus taught, would be made available to everyone.

The matter of the wedding garment is instructive. It would be a gross insult to the king to refuse to wear the garment provided to the guests. The man who was caught wearing his old clothing learned what an offense it was as he was removed from the celebration.

This was Jesus’ way of teaching the inadequacy of self-righteousness. From the very beginning, God has provided a “covering” for our sin. To insist on covering ourselves is to be clad in “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). Adam and Eve tried to cover their shame, but they found their fig leaves to be woefully scant. God took away their handmade clothes and replaced them with skins of (sacrificed) animals (Genesis 3:7, 21). In the book of Revelation, we see those in heaven wearing “white robes” (Revelation 7:9), and we learn that the whiteness of the robes is due to their being washed in the blood of the Lamb (verse 14). We trust in God’s righteousness, not our own (Philippians 3:9).

Just as the king provided wedding garments for his guests, God provides salvation for mankind. Our wedding garment is the righteousness of Christ, and unless we have it, we will miss the wedding feast. When the religions of the world are stripped down to their basic tenets, we either find man working his way toward God, or we find the cross of Christ. The cross is the only way to salvation (John 14:6).

For his crime against the king, the improperly attired guest is thrown out into the darkness. For their crimes against God, there will be many who will be consigned to “outer darkness”—existence without God for eternity. Christ concludes the parable with the sad fact that “many are invited, but few are chosen.” In other words, many people hear the call of God, but only a few heed it.

To summarize the point of the Parable of the Wedding Feast, God sent His Son into the world, and the very people who should have celebrated His coming rejected Him, bringing judgment upon themselves. As a result, the kingdom of heaven was opened up to anyone who will set aside his own righteousness and by faith accept the righteousness God provides in Christ. Those who spurn the gift of salvation and cling instead to their own “good” works will spend eternity in hell.

The self-righteous Pharisees who heard this parable did not miss Jesus’ point. In the very next verse, “the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words” (Matthew 22:15). The Parable of the Wedding Feast is also a warning to us, to make sure we are relying on God’s provision of salvation, not on our own good works or religious service.

The Parable of the Great Banquet is found in Luke 14:15-24. It is similar to the Parable of the Wedding Feast (Matthew 22:1-14), but with some significant differences. The story in Luke’s Gospel was told at a dinner that Jesus attended. Jesus had just healed a man with dropsy and taught a brief lesson on serving others. Jesus then says that those who serve others “will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:14). At the mention of the resurrection, someone at the table with Jesus said, “Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God” (verse 15). In reply, Jesus tells the Parable of the Great Banquet.

In the parable, a man planned a large banquet and sent out invitations. When the banquet was ready, he sent his servant to contact each of the invited guests, telling them that all was ready and the meal was about to start (verses 16-17). One after another, the guests made excuses for not coming. One had just bought a piece of land and said he had to go see it (verse 18). Another had purchased some oxen and said he was on the way to yoke them up and try them out (verse 19). Another gave the excuse that he was newly married and therefore could not come (verse 20).

When the master of the house heard these flimsy excuses, he was angry. He told his servant to forget the guest list and go into the back streets and alleyways of the town and invite “the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame” (verse 21). The servant had already brought in the down-and-out townspeople, and still there was room in the banquet hall. So the master sent his servant on a broader search: “Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full” (verses 22-23).

Jesus ends the parable by relating the master’s determination that “not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet” (verse 24).

The statement that prompted the parable is key. The man who, in verse 15, looks forward to dining in the Messianic kingdom probably subscribed to the popular notion that only Jews would be part of that kingdom. The parable Jesus tells is aimed at debunking that notion, as the following explanation makes clear:

The master of the house is God, and the great banquet is the kingdom, a metaphor that was suggested by the speaker at the table. The invited guests picture the Jewish nation. The kingdom was prepared for them, but when Jesus came preaching that “the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 4:17), He was rejected. “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him” (John 1:11).

The excuses for skipping the banquet are laughably bad. No one buys land without seeing it first, and the same can be said for buying oxen. And what, exactly, would keep a newly married couple from attending a social event? All three excuses in the parable reveal insincerity on the part of those invited. The interpretation is that the Jews of Jesus’ day had no valid excuse for spurning Jesus’ message; in fact, they had every reason to accept Him as their Messiah.

The detail that the invitation is opened up to society’s maimed and downtrodden is important. These were the types of people that the Pharisees considered “unclean” and under God’s curse (cf. John 9:1-2, 34). Jesus, however, taught that the kingdom was available even to those considered “unclean” (cf. Acts 10). His involvement with tax collectors and sinners brought condemnation from the Pharisees, yet it showed the extent of God’s grace (Matthew 9:10-11). The fact that the master in the parable sends the servant far afield to persuade everyone to come indicates that the offer of salvation would be extended to the Gentiles and “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people” (Romans 15:10).

The master is not satisfied with a partially full banquet hall; he wants every place at the table to be filled. John MacArthur’s comment on this fact is that “God is more willing to save sinners than sinners are to be saved.”

Those who ignored the invitation to the banquet chose their own punishment—they missed out. The master respects their choice by making it permanent: they would not “taste of my banquet.” So it will be with God’s judgment on those who choose to reject Christ: they will have their choice confirmed, and they will never taste the joys of heaven.

The basic message of the Parable of the Great Banquet could be stated this way: “The tragedy of the Jewish rejection of Christ has opened the door of salvation to the Gentiles. The blessings of the kingdom are available to all who will come to Christ by faith.”

The inclusion of the Gentiles is a fulfillment of Hosea 2:23, “I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’; and they will say, ‘You are my God.’” God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9), and “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13).

A parable is, literally, something “cast alongside” something else. Jesus’ parables were stories that were “cast alongside” a truth in order to illustrate that truth. His parables were teaching aids and can be thought of as extended analogies or inspired comparisons. A common description of a parable is that it is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.

For a time in His ministry, Jesus relied heavily on parables. He told many of them; in fact, according to Mark 4:34a, “He did not say anything to them without using a parable.” There are about 35 of Jesus’ parables recorded in the Synoptic Gospels.

It had not always been that way. In the early part of His ministry, Jesus had not used parables. Suddenly, He begins telling parables exclusively, much to the surprise of His disciples, who asked Him, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” (Matthew 13:10).

Jesus explained that His use of parables had a two-fold purpose: to reveal the truth to those who wanted to know it and to conceal the truth from those who were indifferent. In the previous chapter (Matthew 12), the Pharisees had publicly rejected their Messiah and blasphemed the Holy Spirit, thus committing the unpardonable sin (Matthew 12:22–32). They fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy of a hardhearted, spiritually blind people (Isaiah 6:9–10). Jesus’ response was to begin teaching in parables. Those who, like the Pharisees, had a preconceived bias against the Lord’s teaching would dismiss the parables as irrelevant nonsense. However, those who truly sought the truth would understand.

Jesus made sure His disciples understood the meaning of the parables: “When he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything” (Mark 4:34b).

Interpreting a parable can present some challenges for the student of the Bible. Sometimes, interpretation is easy because the Lord Himself gave the interpretation—the Parable of the Sower and the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares are both explained in Matthew 13. Here are some principles that help in interpreting the other parables:

1) Determine the scope of the spiritual truth being presented. Sometimes, a parable is preceded by some introductory words that provide a context. For example, often Jesus preceded a parable with the words “this is what the kingdom of heaven is like” (7 times in Matthew 13 alone). Also, before the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, we read this: “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable” (Luke 18:9). This introduction delineates the subject matter being illustrated (self-righteousness and spiritual pride).

2) Distinguish between the “meat” of the story and what is just ornamentation. In other words, not every detail of a parable carries a deep spiritual meaning. Some details are simply there to help the story seem more realistic. For example, in Jesus’ own interpretation of the Parable of the Sower, He does not comment on the fact that there are four (and only four) different types of soil. That detail was meaningless to the overall point Jesus was making.

3) Compare Scripture with Scripture. This basic principle of hermeneutics is invaluable when studying parables. Jesus’ parables will never contradict the rest of the Word of God, which He came to express (John 12:49). The parables are meant to illustrate doctrine, and the teachings Jesus illuminated are found clearly taught elsewhere in the Bible.

There are parables in the Bible other than those found in the Gospels. The book of Proverbs is full of analogies—whenever Solomon used a comparison to teach a truth, especially in emblematic parallelism, the result was a simple parable. For example, Proverbs 20:2 says, “A king’s wrath strikes terror like the roar of a lion.” The roaring of a lion is “cast alongside” the wrath of a king for the purpose of comparison. That is the essence of parabolic language.

After telling some of His parables, Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear” (Mark 4:9, 23). This was a call to listen to the parables, not just as one would listen to an ordinary story but as one who is seeking the truth of God. May God grant us all ears to truly “hear.”