3. Dinner Invitation

Do you recall getting an unexpected invitation to some special celebration dinner?


This photo was taken here in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, during an unexpected bonus when our daughter and son-in-law came to visit all the way from Montenegro, and our niece, nephew, and lovely great-nieces were on holiday from Northern Ireland. What a special moment!

Our passage of scripture is all about an unexpected dinner invitation.

Reading: Matthew 9:1-13


When Jesus’ hometown, Nazareth, rejected his ministry, He moved to Capernaum where he made his home base. (Matthew 4:13-16)

One day, some men brought a paralysed man on a mat to Jesus.  Jesus assured the paralysed man, “Take heart your sins are forgiven.

Some teachers of the law immediately accused Jesus of blasphemy. Jesus asked them if it was easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven” than to say, “Get up and walk.” Then He went on to make an amazing claim, “the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.

Jesus has God-given authority to forgive your sins and mine.


The Rev Peter Marshall a Presbyterian minister, during the early part of the last century had the honour of being chaplain to the President of the United States.

“One night a friend questioned Peter Marshall about whether he really thought we shall ever have to stand before God on Judgement Day and hear the roll call of our sins.

“Yes!” the Bible makes it quite clear.” Peter answered promptly. “Someday, somewhere, somehow, there will be an accounting for each of us.”

He paused and seemed lost in thought as he stirred his third cup of tea. “I think I may have to go through the agony of hearing all my sins recited in the presence of God.”

But I believe it will be like this – Jesus will come over and lay His hand across my shoulder and say to God, “Yes! All these things are true, but I am here to cover up for Peter. He is sorry for all his sins, and by a transaction made between us, I am now solely responsible for them.” (‘A Man called Peter.’ – Catherine Marshall)

Doesn’t that sound amazing?


As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Capernaum they encountered a tax collector at his booth. Several of the older bible translations such as the American Standard Version and King James Version, label him as a publican.

A publican is generally a ‘keeper of a public house’ (Collins English Dictionary). We may regard a public house as a pub or tavern. But in biblical terms, it referred to someone fulfilling a public office such as that of a tax collector.

Though a Jew, he had a Greek name: Matthew. The gospel writer Mark calls him Levi son of Alphaeus (Mark 2:13). So it is possible that he was a brother to James son of Alphaeus who became one of the 12 apostles. (Matthew 10:3)


Jesus simply said, Follow me and Matthew got up and followed him.

  • What do you think were the implications of his decision to follow Christ?

Matthew had a lucrative job. Employed by the Roman authorities to collect taxes from the people—his own people—you can count on it that he submitted a certain amount regularly to his bosses. But you can also be sure that he took his own cut.

Yet when Jesus invited him to become a follower, he didn’t hesitate. He left his tax booth immediately. Perhaps more than any of the other disciples, Matthew had a better grasp of the cost of following Jesus. Yet he did not hesitate. 

The disciples’ Peter, Thomas, Nathaniel, James, and John could go back to fishing, (John 21:2) as they did after Jesus’ resurrection, but Matthew burnt his bridges. There was no way he would get his job back.


  • Are you a follower of Jesus?
  • What has it cost you to become a follower of Jesus?

Some who have taken that step have been cut off from family and regarded as dead. Others have lost their lives.

I recently read a novel that deals with this very thing. A Muslim converted to Christianity who dared not return to his hometown for fear of being murdered by his own family. And this is not unique.

In my ministry, I witnessed the opposite. The son of a couple in one of my congregations fell for a Jehovah’s Witness lass. Leaders of that sect ordered him to become a member before their marriage and to have nothing more to do with his family. He refused to even chat with me. His family was devastated.

Initially, the other disciples would probably have been wary of Matthew. Jews who served the Roman authorities were generally despised by their fellow Jews.


Matthew was so excited about becoming a follower that he did an amazing thing. He set up a dinner at his home, to which he invited Jesus. He also invited his fellow tax collectors, and many others who had a bad reputation, to dinner to meet Jesus.

Not the kind of thing that I would have done. I think I would want to allow my associates and friends to gradually get the message that I had become a Jesus follower.

  • How about you? When you opened your life to Jesus did you make sure your friends, your family, your schoolmates or workmates know what you had done?


There are always troublemakers around, no matter what group you may be part of. Unfortunately even in Christian circles.

Somehow, the Pharisees soon got wind of this gathering and confronted Jesus’ disciples, Why, does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?

I like the way Eugene Peterson puts it in The Message,

“What kind of example is this from your Teacher, acting cozy, with crooks and riff-raff?” (Matthew 9:11b The Message)

Jesus overheard and responded, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick?” (Matthew 9:11b The Message) He added “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9;13b NIV)

So Matthew responded unhesitatingly to Jesus’ invitation and held a dinner to give his colleagues and cronies an opportunity to hear Jesus.

  • Ever considered inviting unsaved friends to dinner?


  • What major changes do you think happened in his life as a result of his decision?

I can think of two significant changes.

  1. He received a new life. Not only did he join a particular group of people. He belonged to a person – the Son of God. The despised tax collector had become an accepted person. Initially a follower of Jesus, later one of the 12 apostles.

When you opened your life to Jesus and decided to follow Him, you became a new person – one of His disciples.

  1. Matthew had a new purpose in life. The only tool from his old way of life that he was able to use for Jesus, was his pen. God appointed him as one of the record keepers of the group. Matthew was a keen observer throughout Jesus’ ministry and kept a record of the wonderful events of that ministry, which subsequently became the Gospel of Matthew.


Each of us is a work in progress. At the time of our birth, God gave us certain characteristics and abilities. When we put our trust in Jesus we received the Holy Spirit into our lives.  As we allow the Spirit to have greater control He uses those very God-given characteristics and capabilities for the work of Christ’s kingdom.

  • How are you using your God-given characteristic and capabilities to the glory of God? Are you using them?

In the eyes of many, Matthew was a nobody, a traitor to his own, but then he met Jesus, and his life was entirely transformed. You may feel like a nobody. You may feel that your life is going nowhere. But Jesus wants to make a difference in your life.

Jesus wants to use whatever you are prepared to offer him to make a difference in your life and in the lives of those you come into contact with.

You may not be able to invite unsaved friends to dinner, but what can you do to bridge the gap between them and Jesus?

As you listen to this beautiful song, identify with the words sung by Bill Gaither and the congregation, “I have decided to follow Jesus.”

If you haven’t yet read the Introduction to Encounters with Jesus, please do. It will benefit you throughout this series of studies.


Rejoice always?

As we follow the news broadcasts we are fed with so many negative stories. There appears to be very little to rejoice in these days. There is a very old song that tells us we have to accentuate the positive, and eliminate the negative. 


This seems to be what Habakkuk is telling us today.

Photo by Andre Furtado:

‘…yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.’ Habakkuk 3:18 NIV

As we noted in our last study, despite the list of possible calamities that Habakkuk envisaged, he made a determined decision not to focus on the negatives but rather to set his sights on the eternal God. “I will rejoice in the Lord.”

Matthew Henry says, ‘Praising and blessing God is work that is never out of season… Fears are silenced, sorrows sweetened, and hopes kept up.’ (Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible – Sourcebook for Speakers – Eleanor Doan – Pg. 292.)


A Christian lady felt dejected because of her overwhelming troubles. As she walked along the street one day she met her pastor. He asked her how she was doing spiritually.

She replied, “Oh, not too bad, under the circumstances.”

The pastor responded, “So why are you under the circumstances? Get above the circumstances, sister – Get where Jesus is!”

  • On what have you set your sights? – The circumstances? – The troubles in life – or Jesus”?

It’s not easy to rise above one’s circumstances. Like the prophet Habakkuk, we seem to have an endless list of problems to deal with.


There are three possible reactions to the troubles life hands us:

  •         you can rebel against them
  •         you can resign yourself to them
  •         Or you can rejoice in them

The choice is yours.

How do you generally react to troubling circumstances?

  • Do you rebel?
  • Do you resign yourself to them?
  • Or do you look for a reason to rejoice in them?


David experienced more than a fair share of hardship, despite being God’s chosen king of Israel.

a) Shepherd to giant killer

King Saul Israel’s first king started out well, but then his position of power went to his head and he chose to disobey God’s very clear instruction. Therefore God instructed the priest Samuel to anoint the shepherd David as the future king of Israel (1 Samuel 16:13).

During periods of deep depression, David who was also a talented musician was called upon to play soothing music to calm the king. (1 Samuel 16:21,22)

War broke out against the Philistines who had Goliath a giant of a man as their champion. The Israelites had none brave enough to take on Goliath until David volunteered and slew the giant. (1 Samuel 17)

b) Commander to fugitive

King Saul then made David his commander-in-chief of the army (1 Samuel 18:13).

Jonathan, one of King Saul’s sons, became David’s best friend. They entered into a friendship pact. (1 Samuel 20)

David’s success as a soldier and his relationship with Jonathan was the source of intense jealousy on Saul’s part. As a result, David had to flee for his life. He had to constantly change his hiding place because informers disclosed his hiding place to Saul.

On several occasions, David actually had Saul at his mercy but refused to harm God’s chosen king. (1 Samuel 24).

Samuel, the prophet, died. After his death, Saul consulted a witch to call up Samuel from the dead for advice on how to defeat the Philistines. Although the spirit of Samuel did appear he predicted Saul’s death the following day. (1 Samuel 28:3-7)

c) Chosen king but challenged

David was then anointed king of Judah and he chose Hebron as his capital. However, the nation was still divided between Israel and Judah. Israel in the north was led by Ishbosheth one of Saul’s surviving sons. (2 Samuel 2:7-12)

One of David’s generals killed Abner the general of Ishbosheth’s army (2 Samuel 3) and David was finally able to reign over all of Israel and Judah. (2 Samuel 5; 1 Chronicles 11)

However, that was not the end of David’s problems. One of his own sons, Absalom, conspired against his father. He tried to get the people to revolt against his father. (2 Samuel 14,15) During a battle against David’s forces, Absalom got caught up in a tree by his long hair. He was then killed by Joab, David’s general.

Finally, David is able to rule as God’s chosen king.

  • How do you react when you know you are in the right but your actions are being challenged?

What really amazes me about this story is David’s reaction to Absalom’s death. When he was informed of his son’s death ‘David started trembling. Then he went up to the room above the city gate to cry. As he went, he kept saying, “My son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! I wish I could have died instead of you! Absalom, my son, my son!”‘ (2 Samuel 18:33 CEV).

  • How ready are you to forgive when someone has caused you deepfelt hurt?


This same David, who experienced such unwarranted opposition, encourages us to rejoice regardless of our circumstances.

‘God Most High, I will rejoice; I will celebrate and sing because of you.’ (Psalm 9:2 CEV)

‘May all who come to you be glad and joyful. May all who are thankful for your salvation always say, “How great is the LORD!”‘ (Psalm 40:16 GNB)


When one gives serious thought to Paul’s letters they reveal that he experienced numerous circumstances which would have really overwhelmed most of us.

“Five times the Jews gave me thirty-nine lashes with a whip. Three times the Romans beat me with a big stick, and once my enemies stoned me. I have been shipwrecked three times, and I even had to spend a night and a day in the sea. During my many travels, I have been in danger from rivers, robbers, my own people, and foreigners. My life has been in danger in cities, in deserts, at sea, and with people who only pretended to be the Lord’s followers. I have worked and struggled and spent many sleepless nights. I have gone hungry and thirsty and often had nothing to eat. I have been cold from not having enough clothes to keep me warm.” (2 Corinthians 11:24-27 CEV).

Wow! This man had every reason to give up on his missionary calling. He could easily have adopted the attitude, “No Lord this is too big a burden for me to carry.”

Yet he moved above the circumstances to Jesus. He goes on to encourage all believers to ‘Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!’ (Philippians 4:4 NIV)

Whateve trying situation you may be facting right now, take to heart the encouragement of Habakkuk, David and Paul. Decide here and now that you will ‘Rejoice in the Lord.‘ That you will ‘be joyful in God [your] Saviour.’

And now, how about clicking on the link below and join Bing Crosby and the Andrew Sisters as they encourage you to

Ac-cent-tchu-ate the positive
E-lim-i-nate the negative
And latch on to the affirmative.

N.B. Scroll down to follow the words and sing along!

Have a blessed, and positive week my friends!


If you haven’t yet read the background to the prophecy, please do. It will benefit you throughout this series of studies.


How does Habakkuk react to devastating news?

Let’s start off today by thinking about how we react in the face of any devastating news or calamity.

What is your first reaction? Now let’s see Habakkuk react to God’s devastating news.

Habakkuk 1:12 CEV

“Holy LORD God, mighty rock, you are eternal, and we are safe from death. You are using those Babylonians to judge and punish others.”

These words remind me of the solid rock Jesus taught about in this parable: 

They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete” (Luke 6:48-49 NIV).

Photo by Mike from Pexels

How did Habakkuk React? 

As we look at Habakkuk’s reaction, let’s think for a moment about what confusing circumstances are throwing you into turmoil.

We all experience those times in our lives when we are confronted by situations that we really don’t know how to handle. Sometimes, we question how and why God has allowed these things to touch our lives. Perhaps, we ask “Why did God have to take my spouse/child/sibling?” It’s not wrong to ask those questions. God knows they’re in your mind, so speak them out to Him. Just always remember that He is God … and He does have a plan, and it’s guaranteed to be the best plan.

In this verse, we read how Habakkuk reacts to the perplexing revelations that we read of in verses 5 to 11— “I am going to do something that you will not believe when you hear about it (v5). I am bringing the Babylonians to power, those fierce, restless people (v6). They spread fear and terror (v7). Their horses are faster than leopards…They come swooping down like eagles attacking their prey.(v 8). “Their armies advance in violent conquest,… Their captives are as numerous as grains of sand (v9). No fortress can stop them—they pile up earth against it and capture it (v10) Then they sweep on like the wind and are gone. (v11)”  (Habakkuk 1:5-11 GNB)

Here, the prophet openly declares his confidence in the Lord. “Holy LORD God, mighty rock, you are eternal, and we are safe from death.”

Like Habakkuk, perhaps now is a good time to acknowledge afresh that your future is actually in God’s hands. Take your time. I’ll wait. 

Some men see things as they are and ask 'Why?' I dream of things that never were and ask 'Why not?' George Barnard Shaw Share on X

What caused Habakkuk to react in this way?

Although the prophet could not fully understand God’s thinking, he nevertheless expresses his complete faith and trust in Him. Habakkuk was convinced that although many Judaens would die under Babylonian attack, Judah would not be completely annihilated. God was in control. 

The only certainty we have in life is that we will die physically, whether saints or unrepentant sinners. But, praise God! We who have put our faith in Jesus can be sure that “We are safe from spiritual death.”


Because as we put our trust in Jesus, He assures us that none who have opened their lives to Him will ever experience spiritual death. By God’s Grace, we have been quickened by the Holy Spirit, and upon our physical death, our spirits will be united with our Lord in glory. Praise God indeed!

Under God’s direction, Habakkuk came to see that the Babylonian role was to correct, and not annihilate, God’s people.

Why do the innocent also have to suffer?

In the home:

Those of us who are parents or any who have cared for children, at some stage have probably encountered situations where the kids have gotten up to some form of mischief and we have not been able to pinpoint the real culprit.

  • Have you been there? Done that?
  • How did you deal with such a situation?

When our three were growing up, this happened so often that eventually we devised a scheme whereby we created a fourth “child” code-named “Mr. Nobody”. Each month, we gave each child pocket money which we “banked” in a notebook. All four! Each time none of the three owned up to a crime, we put the blame on Mr. Nobody, and he lost some of his funds. At the end of the month, each of our children received whatever was still in their “bank account” – and all that belonged to Mr. Nobody was split between the three. Suddenly, Mr. Nobody seemed to fade away as the children learned to take responsibility for their actions.

At school:

Unfortunately, that wouldn’t work in a school situation. When children are disobedient at school, and the chief culprit doesn’t own up, the entire class is often kept in or punished. That’s just how it works. Kids react by crying, “That’s not fair!” And no, it’s not fair. But it’s life. 

In a nation:

If it doesn’t work in the classroom, it certainly won’t work for an entire nation. Sadly, sometimes God sees a need to punish His children, and some of those who are innocent also get hurt in the process. There is also the possibility that the problems you are facing are God’s means of getting you to admit your own disobedience. Perhaps they are part of God’s disciplining process to help you fall in line with His plans—His good plans—for your future.

How should God’s children react to discipline?

The writer to the Hebrews has this advice to God’s children, “When the Lord punishes you, don’t make light of it, and when he corrects you, don’t be discouraged. The Lord corrects the people he loves and disciplines those he calls his own.” (Hebrews 12:5b,6 CEV)

Despite the bad news of God’s intention to punish Judah via the Babylonians, Habakkuk still could acknowledge God’s sovereignty:

“…You are eternal, and we are safe from death. You are using those Babylonians to judge and punish others.'”

Is there something happening in your life where you cannot understand what the Lord is up? Perhaps you need to try and look beyond the problem to the rock of ages and give God thanks and praise that He is indeed in control, and is working our your life for good—even if you don’t understand.

Is there a particular problem area that you would like prayer for?

Please share this as a comment so that I may pray for you.


If you haven’t yet read the background to the prophecy, please do. It will benefit you throughout this series of studies.