Last Put First

What would it look like today for the LORD to take those who are ‘last’ and make them ‘first?’ Perhaps the answer might surprise us because nothing is too hard for God.

One Word –

“So the last will be first, and the first last.” Matthew 20:16

Daily Bible Reading: Exodus 27, 28, 29; Matthew 20, 21

Big Idea –

Jesus makes this statement following the parable of the landowner who hires workers throughout the day, yet when the work is done they are all paid the same. Those who worked only an hour received the same as those who worked a full day. What a deal! Sign me up for an hours work for a full day’s pay too.

But wait a minute – chapter divisions get in our way often causing us to miss the greater context. Chapter 19 end with Jesus saying virtually the same words, “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” (v, 30). Here Jesus is talking with His disciples after the rich young ruler had went away sad and discouraged by the great cost he would have to give up to follow Jesus. The disciples wondered who could be saved after Jesus told them how difficult it would be for the rich to be saved; Jesus answered, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (v. 26).

Peter then said what I’m sure I would have been thinking if I were there; “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” (v. 27). Jesus assured them that they would sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel, and that all who likewise had forsaken all would receive one hundred fold together with the inheritance of eternal life. But then the word of warning followed by the parable of the landowner in which Jesus repeats His warning; many among the first will be last, and the last will be made first.

I’ve read this many times; I think I might have it all wrong. I have often let others go ahead of me; you’ve done the same haven’t you? I must confess that in my pride I’ve thought that now I am in a position to receive even more of a reward from God because I was willing to be last. Oh goody I get to move to the front of the line in heaven right? Umm, I don’t think so.

Don’t get me wrong I don’t think there is anything bad about being kind and letting others go ahead of you, but I better not do it thinking that somehow I will increase my reward. Jesus knows the motivation within our hearts, and pride always brings about a working of humility into our lives because, “God opposes the proud” (Jm. 4:6).

I think there are several reasons Jesus repeated this warning. First, I think Jesus wanted His disciples to guard against spiritual pride in their judgement of others. They may have been quick to judge the young rich man as beyond hope of salvation, but Jesus love him. While this young man may have struggled with selling all and giving to the poor to come and follow Jesus, the LORD would still accept him whenever hew was ready to put his hope in God rather than his wealth. Even if it were the last thing he did as an old man, nothing is too hard for God to generously give salvation to anyone who calls upon Him.

Most likely some Pharisees and other religious leaders may have overheard this conversation. They always seem to be snooping around looking for some reason to accuse Jesus. The Jews rightly understood that they were God’s treasured possession, the first to receive the LORD’S steadfast love. But God had also said they would be a light to bring salvation even to the Gentiles. And so there would be many among those Jews who thought they were first, but discover God had been gracious to the Gentiles making them first.

Anyway you look at this, I think we find lots of application for our lives today. Even if you’re like me, a Gentile believer, we need to understand God’s generosity and grace. Many Christians today mistakenly think the Jews have not only been put in last place, but some even think they have been cut off from the LROD.

Let’s not forget the mystery of God’s salvation for the Jew. Paul said that for a time a partial hardening would be upon Israel until the full number of the Gentiles had been brought into salvation. Then “all Israel will be saved” for the LORD has promised to send His Deliverer, Jesus, upholding His covenant to forgive all their sins (see Rom. 11:25-27).

Exemplify –

I need to continue to believe God will work salvation in the lives of those within our community, but I also need to pray and believe that now is the time when God begins to work salvation for those who have been last – the Jew.

Yes to Yield –

LORD Jesus, I’m thankful for your salvation. Forgive me of the spiritual pride your disciples had being quick to judge others as beyond the reach of Your saving grace. Use me to bring Your generosity into their lives. Yet I pray too for the salvation of Israel, not just a nation but the Jewish people who have hardened their hearts against You. Bring those from among Your chosen people across my path. Holy Spirit give me a love for them to pray and be a light that they too might be saved. May these be the days in which You fulfill Your promise of salvation to the Jew moving them to the front of the line – even ahead of me.

If you’re new to Living It Now, you can find an explanation of the O-B-E-Y journal on the Hearing and Doing page, or the sample post Guard Duty.

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