Open Matthew 7:7-11.
The first lie ever told about God was that he was holding out on us (Genesis 3:5). The sovereign had honoured his creatures by inviting them into his palace garden, giving them access to everything he provided. He reserved for himself the right to decide good and evil for his creatures. Instead of respecting our sovereign, humans grasped at the power in his hands, acting as if we were gods. All the murder, all the social devastation, all the violence in the world flows from people grasping power that should be in God’s hands.
What difference would it make if people asked God to rule over us again? What would happen if together we sought his kingship? What if we knocked on heaven’s door and invited our sovereign to reign over earth again? Ask. Seek. Knock. According to Jesus, our true ruler would respond to such an invitation (7:7).
The divine sovereign is waiting for the creatures who rebelled against his authority ask him, to seek his kingship (as in 6:33), to acknowledge his authority over the earth by knocking on heaven’s door:
Matthew 7:7-8 (my translation)
7 Ask; it will be given to you.
Seek; you will find.
Knock; it will be opened to you.
8 Each asking person receives.
The seeking person finds.
To the knocking person it’s opened.
Underlying Jesus’ teaching is his conviction about the character of our sovereign. Though we have been unfaithful to him, he remains faithful us. Humans are notoriously self-seeking, but even we care for our children. Even the mafia take care of family! Our perfect Father — the one who gives meaning to “family” — knows how to provide for and manage his family on earth:
9 Which person in this crowd, if your child asked for some bread, would give them a stone? 10 Or if they asked for a fish, would give them a snake?
11 Although you’re twisted, you know to give good gifts to your children. Much more, your heavenly Father will give what’s good to those who ask him.
Yes, Jesus is saying we can bring our needs to God’s attention, to ask from him our daily bread. And yes, Jesus is saying that our heavenly Father treats us as his children, responding to our requests and providing for us. But prayer is not like logging into Amazon to order something. The context in which prayer makes sense is the relationship of dependence between child and parent. God is the sovereign who provides for the people of his kingdom. Prayer assumes that relationship.
That’s why it’s hard for us to ask God for things. Our culture teaches us to be independent and self-sufficient.
When humanity tried to play God, the door to God’s palace was closed. We were driven from the orchid, with guards keeping us from our life-source (Genesis 3:24). Jesus calls us to ask for God to reign over us, to seek his kingship, to knock on the palace door. The character of our sovereign has never changed. He is more than willing to give us what we need, to provide what we seek, to open his door.
What others are saying
Glen H. Stassen, “The Fourteen Triads of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:21–7:12),” Journal of Biblical Literature 122 (2003), 297:
Davies and Allison offer a brilliant proposal that 6:19–24 and 7:1–11 are parallel in structure, based mostly on key words and symmetry.
6:19–21 exhortation 7:1–2 exhortation 6:22–23 parable (on the eye) 7:3–5 parable (on the eye) 6:24 second parable (two masters) 7:6 second parable (dogs, pigs) 6:25–33 the heavenly Father’s care 7:7–11 the heavenly Father’s care (argument a minori ad maius) (argument a minori ad maius)
The parallels between the metaphor of the eye in each case and between the two masters and the two dogs/pigs, and the parallel arguments from human care to the Father’s care, are highly insightful and persuasive.
John Nolland, The Gospel of Matthew: A Commentary on the Greek Text, NIGTC (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2005), 327:
In light of vv. 9–10 and the end of v. 11, these gifts are a relational response by a loving parent to the open vulnerability expressed by a child in the act of asking for something. Given the prayer context, ‘your Father in heaven’ echoes the addressing of God as ‘our Father in heaven’ in the Lord’s Prayer.
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