They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

What Jesus Was Saying in Matthew 11:28-30

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
– Matthew 11:28-30

I’m learning more about this well-known quote from Jesus as I study more closely the Old Testament and culture of the time. I used to think that in this verse he only meant that he felt sorry for me and that he would give me rest if I was tired and burdened by my heavy load. As it turns out there is a bit more here to learn about what Jesus was saying in this often quoted scripture.



First of all in Jesus day, the main rabbis all had a system or set of beliefs that allowed you to interpret God’s word through their system. Each one’s system was a liitle different than the others. This system was called their “yoke of Torah”. Jesus’ “yoke” or way of interpreting scripture was the Shema, “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Jesus said this in Matthew 22:37-40 when asked what the most important commandments were. Every situation in life was to be looked at through that filter. Jesus is saying in the Matthew 11 passage, “I have a new way to look at keeping the Torah and it won’t be as burdensome as what the Pharisees teach. It may be hard to do, but it is simple to understand.” Secondly, he is making some new profound messianic claims in this passage. These claims can only be seen if you had an intricate knowledge of the Hebrew Bible like they did Let’s look at some of those.

  1. “I will give you rest” – look at Exodus 33:14 when God told Moses – “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” The Jews would have known and picked up on that verse from the Torah instantly. He will give us rest?, is he claiming to be God?
  2. “You will find rest for your souls.” – look at Jeremiah 6:16 – when the Lord says,”look for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” Jesus was claiming to be the ancient paths to God and if they would walk that ancient path, they would find rest for their souls. This was another obvious messianic claim.
  3. For “I am gentle and humble in heart” – look at Numbers 12:3. “Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.” The Jews knew the words of the Torah in Deuteronomy 18:15 and 18 where God says to Moses, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him… I will put my words in his mouth”. Philip told Nathanael in John 1:45 – “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote.” And Jesus said in John 5:46, “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me.” So, again, Jesus was claiming to be God by quoting Old Testament passages that hinted at his deity. He was the prophet like Moses.

If you knew your Hebrew Bible, when you heard Jesus make the statement he made that is recordedin Matthew, you knew he was saying. “I am the one who was foretold about, I am the Messiah, God’s son that you have been looking for .”

Learning these few cultural facts and studying the scriptures that Jesus would have memorized gives us a much fuller meaning of the words he spoke in Matthew. Now, I am looking at everything Jesus said and trying to trace it back to the Old Testament roots. Amen.

Don’t Cut the Corners of Your Field

Fields” ‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God….”
— Leviticus 19:9-10
See also:
Deuteronomy 24:19-21, Luke 12:13-21, Ruth Ch. 2

I wanted to write down some thoughts on giving based on some Scripture that you might not have been aware of in the past, and ones that aren’t normally used whenever we talk about God’s commands to give. In Leviticus 19:9-10, right in the middle of a bunch of sacrificial, dietary and personal conduct laws, God tells the Israelites not to cut the corners of their fields. They were also not to pick all their grapes when they harvested, but were to leave some for the poor and alien. In both cases, they were to leave some of the excess for the poor, aliens, and the widows. The people who had more would take care of the people who had less.

If you read the story of Ruth, especially chapter two, you will see how this plays out in real life in Israel. Those that had nothing were allowed to go in behind the harvesters and pick up what they could to help them through their lean times.

"I am the vine; you are the branches"

If you closely read the Leviticus and Deuteronomy passages, you will notice that God didn’t specify how much of their corners to leave or how many grapes to not pick up. He didn’t give an exact size or amount. He just said, “don’t cut the corners”. You could tell how generous a man was by the size of the corners of his field. You could leave little corners and still be in compliance with the law or you could round them off big and wide and leave a huge amount in the field. The size of a man’s heart was determined by the size of his corners. A person’s generosity was very public and was on display for the whole community to see. Big field, little corners, “he’s stingy”; little field, big corners, “he’s a generous man”. You can tell from the Ruth story that Boaz was a generous man. He was willing to share his plenty with the aliens and widows.

What does God want us to learn from this command not to cut the corners of our fields? How does this corner cutting apply to us city dwellers and non-farmers? First, listen to 1 Timothy 6:17-19. Then listen to II Corinthians 9:6-7 (and read the rest of chapter 9, and read also chapter 8 where generosity is encouraged). If you examine these verses and all the cross-references that go with them, you start to realize that God has established a very important concept here that plays a huge part in our Christian walk. It is obvious that he wants us to be generous, but why and how?

The first part of the why is answered by Deuteronomy 8:10-18 and Deuteronomy 26:1-12. He wants us to be constantly reminded that it is God who provides all our needs and not our power or the strength of our hands. God is the source of our blessings, not our hard work (Psalm 127:1-3). We are taught in America to be rugged individualists, self-sufficient, self-made men. This is a tough concept for us to realize that it is not ours to keep and hold on to. We are taught to “get all you can, can all you get, and sit on the lid and poison the rest”. The Bible teaches the opposite; not to put our hope in our wealth, our possessions, our retirement plan etc. , “but to put our hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (1 Timothy 6:17).

The second part of the why is found in Malachi 3:6-12. Being generous in giving is God’s plan to take care of the less fortunate. If we are not giving and being generous, we are keeping God’s plan from working. We’re not supposed to hold on to it! We are robbing God if we don’t give generously. To sum up why God wants to give; 1)we need to be constantly reminded that he is providing for us and it’s not ours to keep and 2) the less fortunate need what we are supposed to give because that’s how his system works. If we don’t give we are keeping the system from working.

How do we apply “cutting the corners of our field” to our everyday life? In your business, make your corners big. Share with the people who work with you. Realize that God has allowed you to make a profit and the people who work with you are counting on your generosity to survive and also be blessed. Another avenue to having big corners is in the area of tipping. Be generous as you recognize the need in the people that serve you and wait on you in your daily life.

Another way to apply this principle is to tell your children how much you give and what you give to. If you want to teach them to be generous, show them how generous you are. If you want to raise stingy kids, be stingy yourself. Teaching your children well is a huge part of making sure God’s principles are kept in motion.

What an exciting lesson to learn! To learn to be a cheerful giver (II Corinthians 9:6-13) is one of life’s greatest blessings! Make the corners of your field big! Your gift will return to you in full and overflowing measure (Luke 6:38). You will be a huge blessing and will be hugely blessed in the process. God has made us a deal we can’t refuse. In Malachi 3:10 God says try me and see if I won’t throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you won’t have enough room for it! Today would be a great day to start leaving those big corners! Are you ready for the blessing? Amen!

Health & Wealth: The Test We Never Pass

When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. He led you through the vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you. You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.

If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed.

— Deuteronomy 8:10-19

Of all the tests that God gave the Israelites, and of all our tests in life, the one we have the toughest time with here in w:st=”on”America is what is said in Deut 8:10-19. When you get there and you have all you want, you’ll forget me for sure, is what God is saying.

In the West we always assume that pain and suffering are the only tests. Our test is affluence! We live this wonderful lifestyle where we have so much food in the cupboard that we have to decide which style or flavor that we want tonight (Chinese, Italian, Mexican.) Not exactly a manna type situation is it? We have 2 cars in the garage, which if you have one you are richer than 80% of people in the world, with 2, richer than 99% of world. A lot of us not only have our own home but a vacation home, or at least we think we are entitled to a 2 wk luxury vacation home somewhere.

Tell me, that in our affluence, we don’t forget God. We don’t need Him for our daily sustenance – our power, and the strength of our hand produce it for us, says Deuteronomy.

It hit me as I was thinking about this, what does this say about the “Health and Wealth gospel” that so many churches are promoting. This can be one of the worst things that can happen to you and one of the hardest tests to pass. We are asking God for affluence and that is the very thing that leads to our downfall! The tests in the desert are easier than this because with nothing it is a lot easier to be dependent on God. I was just wondering if you had ever thought of your life style as a test, a test that is just as difficult, just as tough to overcome as some of the other things that we think of as God testing us. Food for thought and no pun intended.

More on the Third Test

Water from the Rock

Water from the Rock

The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. So they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.”
Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the LORD to the test?”

But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?”

Then Moses cried out to the LORD, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.”

The LORD answered Moses, “Walk on ahead of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the LORD saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?”

— Exodus 17:1-7

I have previously written two lessons on the test at Rephidim so I will try not to duplicate the thoughts here. But, we learned more and more about this third test, so I wanted to write it down.

The Israelites, led by the cloud and pillar, set out from the wilderness of Sin and traveled from place to place. They camped at Rephidim; means “place of rest,” where I’m sure they expected to find water, but there was none. So, they got mad and grumbled (Kaveched) against Moses and said “Give us water to drink”! They had some pretty strong words against Moses and God, here. They stepped over the line into a much more delicate situation because now they are testing God! Unless you give us water, we want out! We don’t believe you, anymore. Vs. 7 says they said “Is the Lord among us or not?” We saw the cloud, we saw what you did in Egypt and the Red Sea and you said you’d go with us,” but now they are saying, we don’t believe you unless you show us! They are telling God, we won’t do our part unless you do yours and they raised their arm against God.

This obviously doesn’t sit well with God, but surprisingly, He doesn’t hit them with a lightning bolt! He has surprising patience with them, and does an amazing thing for them. He sends Moses on ahead to Mt. Sinai, which was probably at least a day’s walk and tells him to hit the mountain of God with his stick. He did not hit just some ordinary rock, he hit the mountain of God, as if God was saying, I’ll take the blow, I’ll take the hit for this one.” I’ll go ahead and send them water. The water ran down the ravine, a day or day and 1/2; back to the Israelite camp.

Some metaphors to apply to this story are:

  1. Life is moving from test to test
  2. Not every painful situation is a test
  3. In ea. test, seize the opportunity to show God how committed you are to Him. How deep is your commitment? Will you only commit, if he does His part first?
  4. Three times, He put Israel to the Test. Each time, some didn’t match up but for the most part they learned and grew.
  5. Testing has a purpose – like the birth of a child , or like an athlete training for a race or match-no pain, no gain.
  6. God seemed to punish the Hebrews for saying is God among us or not? , because the next story he lets the Amalekites attack them at Rephidim.

Test at Marah

Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah. [a] ) So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?”

Then Moses cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.

There the LORD made a decree and a law for them, and there he tested them. He said, “If you listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you.”

Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water.
–Exodus 15:22-27

Oasis Well

Oasis Well

From the mountain top experience at the Red Sea, Moses and the pillar of cloud led the Israelites into the desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. Then they came to Marah, but could not drink the water because it was bitter. This was the first test the Israelites faced after putting their trust in God completely at the Red Sea, Ch 14:31. Here are a few things we learned while studying this wilderness test. First of all, this was a test that God deliberately brought them to. It’s not that they went there by mistake or deliberately went to the wrong place. God brought them to a well that wasn’t fit to drink after giving them no water for three days. In the desert, about two days worth of water is the most a person can carry. So, they were at the end of their rope when they got to this place. God was testing them, so they could have the experiential knowing of what was in their heart .How were they going to do on the test? He wanted them to see in action, what was in their heart; did they have the right attitude or not?

The Shepherd

The Shepherd

Also, it’s important to talk about the shepherd – sheep relationship here. “Like a flock”, He leads us. Sheep don’t have fanny packs on where they can be self-sufficient. They are counting on the shepherd to take them to the right spot, until He says, this is where you can graze; this is what you should eat. At times, God may want you to get hungrier and hungrier and not complain. The were counting on God to lead them and he did, just not in the way that they thought or wanted.

Another point to make was that the Israelites expected the water at Marah to be good water. They had walked for three days without water and finally found one well. There were hundreds of thousands of people wanting a drink, badly, and then the first person gets a drink and you can’t drink it. How many times in life are we in the same situation? We’re in a tough spot and we finally think something good is going to happen and then we are thrown back down again and we are forced to continue waiting. This is another opportunity to show God what’s in our heart.

The word “mara” is much more than what we have been taught. It is not just grumbling. It is a defiant, disobedient, deliberate, shout to God , shaking your fist at him- “No way! How can you do this to me??” The same word “mara” is used in Deut 21:18-20 – If you have a son who is “mara” (stubborn rebellious), take him to the city gate and stone him. In Ruth Ch. 1, Naomi changes her name to “Mara” and it’s more than just, “I’m sad”. She is defiant against God, she’s mad at him. So when the Israelites were “mara” they were defiant against God. They can’t believe God has put them in this situation.

When we are tested do we get defiant and mad at God or do we show God what’s in our heart? This test was their first learning experience and in a way they didn’t pass- they failed, miserably. But they also must have learned from their experience, because in the next story God leads them to Elim where there are twelve springs and 70 palms. 12 and 70 are numbers of completeness and community. This time they must have handled it the right way.

A p.s. to the Marah story is that in vs. 25-27, it says” He made a law and a decree with them there” and then they went to Elim. It doesn’t say what the law and decree was, so we are left to guess. Perhaps it had to do with community because of the 12 and 70 that they received at Elim.


A lot of the Israelite’s Exodus experience was one of testing. God used trials and testing to get Egypt out of the children of Israel. We talked a lot about testing during the time we spent in the Sinai wilderness on our trip. I learned several things from the trip that I thought might stimulate your thinking on testing.

  1. Should we pray to be tested or not? My first thought was always, No! I was always afraid if I got too serious about religion, God or the devil, one would start testing me. I didn’t want to willingly be asking to put myself in the wringer. I had a wrong concept of testing in the first place.The purpose of testing is to teach obedience. We should pray for obedience – “Lord help me to become more obedient,” and not worry about the rest. If we are serious about becoming a kingdom of priests, whatever God needs to do to accomplish our obedience to him, then let Him do it. Did the test he put me through show me where I need more work? Pain and suffering are not punishment; it is just part of the process of training. We have to change the concept in our mind to not think, “If I get serious, God is going to start testing me.”In conclusion, I am not saying we should pray to be tested, but pray that God would teach us to be obedient. God will do what He will as far as the testing is concerned.
  2. Are the tests we go through pass or fail tests? We may pass or fail, but that is not the important question. It is “How far along in the process are you”? How much progress have we made since we left the Red Sea? Testing is like training an athlete – “No pain, No gain.” When the Hebrew children came to Marah and they complained, did the pass or fail the test? They passed because they learned from the test. That’s testing, not pass or fail, but did you learn? We are to be like an athlete who has been in training in practice and wants to get on the field to see how far we has progressed.
  3. Why did Jesus have to be tested? Was his testing a pass or fail situation? Jesus was pushed to the limit to see if he was ready to go all the way with what God had for Him to accomplish. Heb 5:8 says that Jesus learned obedience from what He suffered. Just like Jesus, we are supposed to learn to be obedient through the tests he puts us through.

To summarize, testing puts you in a position to see how far you will go! The situations we are put in are often illogical, irrational and even unnecessary from our perspective, just to see how far we will go; to see if our heart is in it 100%. God is asking,”Are you ready to go to the wall for me or not”? God walked the Israelites till they were ready to die of thirst and then gave them bitter water. He had them so hungry that they didn’t think they could go any farther, then gave them a subsistence diet of manna – just enough for ever day. He tests our commitment. Are we ready to follow him all the way, even if it’s on a subsistence basis? My question to myself and to you is,” How are you doing on the tests”?