Week 1: Getting Started

Day 3: Asshur Revisited

Matthew 4:12-17

As we went through the Old Testament we saw not only the Lord’s desires toward the fatherless, but also towards several other groups, specifically, strangers, widows, the oppressed and the poor and needy. These groups are found in the New Testament as well. In fact, most of them are found in the New Testament more often than the fatherless. They are also joined by other groups, such as the sick. As we looked at all of these groups we found that often the principles of ministering to one, applied to ministering to most, if not all, of the other groups. One of those principles, perhaps the most important, is what I call the “Asshur Principle”. (Check out this post!) We find a path back to this principle from Matthew 4:16.

In Matthew 4:12-17 we are given the account of Jesus going into Galilee after John the Baptist’s imprisonment. In doing so, He was fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah:

“Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee; and leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zebulun and Naphtali: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying, The land of Zebulun, and the land of Naphtali, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up. From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:12-17

“I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house. I am the Lord: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images. Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them.” Isaiah 42:6-9

When I first read these passages together as part of this study, I almost left it right there, without pursuing it any further. The fatherless were not mentioned in either verse, and, while the prisoners could certainly fall in the category of the oppressed, it didn’t seem to be a clear link. Then I read it again. Isaiah 42:8 stopped me dead in my tracks.

“I am the Lord: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.” That principle was incredibly familiar. I quickly flipped over to Hosea 14:1-3, “O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity. Take with you words, and turn to the Lord: say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously: so will we render the calves of our lips. Asshur shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses: neither will we say anymore to the work of our hands, Ye are our gods, for in thee the fatherless findeth mercy.

God is a jealous god. As he made clear in Isaiah, He will not give His glory to someone else. Caring for the fatherless, the oppressed, the sick and the needy, widows and strangers is an area that He claims for Himself and His people. His care for the fatherless was proof enough of His power to be reason for the Israelites to turn away from their false gods, their idols.

Now we see the New Testament linking specifically back to this passage in Isaiah, reminding us of the purpose of Christ’s work – to bring glory to the Father. He had come to bring light into a dark world, and as the rest of the gospel of Matthew unfolds we find that He often does it through meeting the needs around Him. The “Asshur Principle” has not changed or gone away simply because we are entering the period of a new covenant. God still wants to receive the glory due Him as the One in whom the fatherless find mercy.

As His agents here on earth, we have the opportunity to allow Him to work that out through our lives. The question is, Will we let Him? Will we surrender our will to His in the area of ministering to the fatherless, the widow, the stranger, the oppressed, the prisoner, the sick and the needy? Will we allow Him to work through us to meet not only the physical and material needs of each of these, but more importantly the spiritual needs?

Maybe you don’t know how to reach all of these, or are overwhelmed at the enormity of the need. Ask the Lord to help you to know where to start. Is there someone on your street in need of help? What about in your church? Someone from your child’s school, 4-H club or sports team? Ask the Lord to give you specific direction and then seek to follow it with the purpose of bringing glory to His name and seeing others turned to Him for salvation. You won’t regret it.

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