EXPLORING THE WORD
God's InvitationDenise M. Kohlmeyer
Several years ago, I hosted a jewelry party for a consultant-friend. I sent out 40 invitations to everyone I could think of: friends, family, co-workers, neighbors. As I waited for the RSVPs to come in, I planned a menu of tasty hors d'oeuvres, desserts, and drinks. And I cleaned my house top to bottom.
One by one, the RSVPs arrived. "Sorry, I already have a commitment that night." "I'd love to come, but that's Sarah's birthday." "I don't really wear a lot of jewelry, but thanks for the invite anyway." And so on.
But the party was already planned and my friend and I decided to move forward with it. On the appointed night, there ended up being only seven of us...and that included me and the consultant. For you mathematicians, that's a 17.5 percent turnout.
But the seven of us thoroughly enjoyed all the delicious food I had prepared and reveled in the fun game the consultant had us play. Oh, and best of all, we all went home with some very pretty and sparkly jewelry, to boot.
Invitation Issued (Matthew 22:1-3a, 4)
In Scripture, Jesus often used well-appointed parables to illustrate deeper spiritual truths, and the Parable of the Wedding Feast in Matthew 22:1-14 is no exception. But it's not just a quaint story illustrating the Kingdom of Heaven; it's actually a cryptic indictment on God's people, Israel — for their repeated refusal to accept His invitation to salvation.
Israel, in Old Testament times, consistently fell into rebellious ways and idolatry, intermarrying with enemy nations and acting out in abominable behavior. It grieved God to see His "treasured possession" (Deuteronomy 7:6) soil itself with such sordid living. He made valiant attempts to win them back by repeatedly sending out messengers, the prophets, with this message: Repent! Turn away! Come back to Me! (see Jeremiah 3:12, Ezekiel 14:6, and Isaiah 2:5, to name a few).
Invitation after invitation was issued. And not just two, like in the parable. But likely hundreds. Does this not speak of God's inexhaustible, fatherly love towards His precious — albeit stubborn and stiff-necked — children? He never gave up. He relentlessly pursued them because He desperately loved them. He did not want any of them to perish, but that each one should live eternally in heaven with Him.
Invitation Ignored (Matthew 22:3b, 5-7)
But Israel would not accept the invitations. They "paid no attention and went off." They simply rebelled by ignoring them and went about their lives, too caught up in the here-and-now to give any thought or care about the hereafter. "Multitudes perish forever through mere carelessness, who show no direct aversion, but are careless as to their souls," writes Matthew Henry in his commentary on this parable. "The reason why sinners come not to Christ and salvation, is, not because they cannot, but because they will not."
And, as if ignoring the invitations wasn't bad enough, Israel "shamelessly mistreated" God's emissaries. Further adding insult to injury. Hebrews 11:36-37 delineates the deplorable ways in which the prophets suffered. They were continually mocked, flogged, bound in chains, imprisoned, sawn in two, killed by the sword, and more.
Worse still, Israel criminally-executed the greatest Prophet ever sent to them: Jesus Christ.
No, Israel did not accept the gracious invitations, nor did they appreciate the God-sent inviters.
Invitation Extended (Matthew 22:8-10)
And it is those two counts that made Israel "unworthy" to attend the feast. So, God extended His invitation elsewhere: to the highways and byways, to "both good and bad." To the Gentiles (non-Jews). In this way, the invitation became non-discriminatory and all-inclusive. Everyone — regardless of their ethnicity, race, gender, intellect, social or economic status — was now invited to the feast.
But, while the invitation was indeed all-inclusive, there was an exclusivity postscript.
Invitation Exclusive (Matthew 22:11-14)
All who wanted to attend the royal son's wedding feast must, without exception, 1) accept the invitation and 2) wear the white wedding robe the king provided. Without an affirmative "RSVP" and being dressed appropriately, no one — absolutely no one! — gained entrance. It was that exclusive of an event! In fact, anyone caught sneaking in "through the back door," so to speak, would be summarily escorted out, as one attendee sadly found out.
How are we to interpret this personal and powerful indictment on Israel today? Does it still have relevance in the 21st century?
Yes! The invitation which God extended centuries ago remains open today. Anyone and everyone — both Jew and Gentile — is welcome to attend the Feast, as long as they willingly repent of their sins and appropriate the free gift of grace through faith in Jesus Christ and the work He did on the Cross (Ephesians 2:8-9). Upon receiving Christ as Savior and Lord, each believer is then "clothed in salvation...draped in the robe of righteousness," which is symbolic of Christ's righteousness (Isaiah 61:10). And being clothed in Christ's righteousness is what makes each one of us "worthy" to attend the Wedding Supper of the Lamb.
But sadly, like Israel, most people today ignore God's gracious and open invitation. They pay no more heed to the Good News of Jesus Christ than the Israelites did to the message of the prophets. Why? Because they, too, are captivated by this temporal world; it still holds more sway over societies worldwide than all of heaven's glorious realities.
Furthermore, people today still mock God's Gospel messengers, just as Israel did. And worse. The Christian Post (December 30, 2016) reports that more than 90,000 Christ-followers were killed last year. Many missionaries and lay believers worldwide were tortured, beaten, even beheaded for their faith.
The percentage of those who accept the invitation, like my jewelry party, is small. Too small! But, then, Scripture confirms that this would be the case: "Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many" (Matthew 7:13).
Indeed, our Heavenly Father still does not "wish that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance" (2 Peter 3:9, emphasis added). But the truth is that not "all" want to repent and thus be saved.
God is still sending out invitations through His faithful Christ-ambassadors — you and me! The invitations now come in many and varied forms, given our individual and unique giftedness: through our verbal witness (our preaching, teaching, evangelism, testimonies) and our silent witness (our changed lifestyles and godly choices).
We can't know what God, in His sovereignty, will do with each recipient's response to the invitations. They may ignore them, reject them. Throw them away! We cannot concern ourselves with that, though. Rather, we must be faithful to do our part and extend them regardless of the response, and pray that those who hear won't harden their hearts as "[Israel] did in the rebellion" (Hebrews 3:15). We must pray, pray, pray that each recipient opens their heart to the invitation and allows the Holy Spirit to do His supernatural work in their sin-sick souls and cause them to repent.
And when some do — those precious few — we'll rejoice exceedingly and celebrate wildly at the most sumptuous Feast ever, each of us wearing our white wedding robe and the most precious piece of jewelry: the crown of life (James 1:12).
Image Credit: Idespierres; untitled; Creative Commons
Tags: Biblical-Salvation | Biblical-Truth | God-Father | Witnessing-Evangelism
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