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A prophet's reward

20th April 2013

In Matthew 10, when Jesus first sent His followers out to preach the Good News, He told them that some people would welcome them and some wouldn't. He warned them that they would face serious opposition; some would be beaten and some would die. And he told them that that was no reason to shrink back from proclaiming the wonderful truth of God's kingdom, whatever the cost. As He approached the end of his speech, He said:

Matthew 10v40
"He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me".

Jesus is saying that those who receive us will also receive Him. They'll become His disciples. And they'll receive God the Father, and will be born again as children of God. And that makes all the disappointment and opposition worthwhile. If we’ve truly become Christians and know the forgiveness of sins and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, then our greatest desire is for others to know the same amazing joy.

The word receives here seems a bit vague. It could mean simply “offers you food or accommodation or lets you speak in their town” but Jesus means much more than that. He makes this clear by continuing:

Matthew 10v41a
"Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward”.

It can be a bit scary to receive a prophet; a prophet is a person with the gift of speaking out the word of God, and we don’t know what he’s going to say. And sometimes we won't like what he says. Many of the Old Testament prophets were rejected and killed by the Israelites (see Matthew 23:37, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you"). If anyone receives a prophet because he is a prophet, their motivation is to hear the word of God, whatever it is. And anybody who genuinely wants to hear the word of God will hear it:

Matthew 7:7-8
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”

If a Christian hears the prophetic word of God and receives it (believes it and apply it to his life) then his discipleship and his relationship with God will grow. And he will receive a prophet’s reward.

Similarly, if a non-Christian hears the Good News of the kingdom of God and receives it (believes it and applies it to his life) he will be born again. And he will receive a prophet’s reward.

What is a prophet’s reward? Well I think it must include:

  • God calls (true) prophets “my servants” (2 Kings 9:7 and elsewhere)
  • A (true) prophet gets to stand in God’s council (Jeremiah 23:22)
  • A (true) prophet gets to turn His people from their evil ways and their evil deeds (also Jeremiah 23:22)

And Jesus says:

Matthew 10v41b
"and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward."

I think Jesus means that the same principle applies when receiving a righteous man as when receiving a prophet. Not all Christians are prophets but, in one sense, all Christians are righteous people; God imputes righteousness to us because of our faith in Him:

Romans 4:3b-5
Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness. Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.

Those who receive a righteous man because he is a righteous man, that is, those who receive us because we're Christians, do so because they hunger and thirst for righteousness. And:

Matthew 5:6
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Those who receive us because we're righteous people will receive a righteous man’s reward". A righteous man’s reward is righteousness. Righteousness is a good relationship with God, where sin doesn't spoil the intimacy between Him and us. They'll receive peace - we're instructed to pray for the peace of every home that receives us (Matthew 10v13, Luke 10v5). And they'll receive the Kingdom of God (Matthew 25v34-35).

All Christians live imperfect lives and our flawed practical righteousness can cover up our imputed righteousness so that no-one sees it. But if our righteousness is visible to others, and if they welcome us because of it, they will come to share our beautiful relationship with God.

We will encounter many who don't want to hear the word of God, many who don't hunger for righteousness. But we will also encounter some who long for God, for His word and for His righteousness. If our lives reflect His righteousness, these people will receive us. And in doing so, they'll receive Him and so receive God the Father. And they'll be born again to eternal life. And that makes all that we do, and all that we suffer, in Jesus Christ’s name worthwhile.

Doesn't it?

Perhaps a prophet's reward - and a righteous man's reward - is that, sooner or later, he will see the fruits of his service to God.