Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.

—Matthew 11:26

A determination to know what cannot be known always works harm to the Christian heart.

Ignorance in matters on our human level is never to be excused if there has been opportunity to correct it. But there are matters which are obviously “too high for us.” These we should meet in trusting faith and say as Jesus said, “Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.”…

Human curiosity and pride often combine to drive us to try to understand acts of God which are plainly outside the field of human understanding. We dislike to admit that we do not know what is going on, so we torture our minds trying to fathom the mysterious ways of the Omniscient One. It’s hard to conceive of a more fruitless task….

Under such circumstances the Christian thing to do is to say, “That thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest…. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight” (Psalm 51:4, Matthew 11:26). A blind confidence which trusts without seeing is far dearer to God than any fancied knowledge that can explain everything….

To the adoring heart, the best and most satisfying explanation for anything always will be, “It seemed good in thy sight.” NCA057-058

Lord, whatever comes my way today, I’ll accept it gratefully, for I’ll know it is good in Your eyes. Amen. [1]

11:25, 26 The three cities of Galilee had neither eyes to see nor heart to love the Christ of God. He knew their attitude was but a foretaste of rejection on a wider scale. How did He react to their impenitance? Not with bitterness, cynicism, or vindictiveness. Rather He lifted His voice in thanks to God that nothing could frustrate His sovereign purposes. “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.”

We should avoid two possible misunderstandings. First, Jesus was not expressing pleasure in the inevitable judgment of the Galilean cities. Secondly, He did not imply that God had high-handedly withheld the light from the wise and prudent.

The cities had every chance to welcome the Lord Jesus. They deliberately refused to submit to Him. When they refused the light, God withheld the light from them. But God’s plans will not fail. If the intelligentsia will not believe, then God will reveal Him to humble hearts. He fills the hungry with good things and sends the rich away empty (Luke 1:53).

Those who consider themselves too wise and understanding to need Christ become afflicted with judicial blindness. But those who admit their lack of wisdom receive a revelation of Him “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). Jesus thanked the Father for ordaining that if some would not have Him, others would. In the face of titanic unbelief He found consolation in the overruling plan and purpose of God.[2]

Humility and Dependence

that Thou didst hide these things from the wise and intelligent and didst reveal them to babes. Yes, Father, for thus it was well-pleasing in Thy sight. (11:25b-26)

Jesus’ specific cause for praise is God’s sovereign wisdom in hiding these things from the wise and intelligent and instead revealing them to babes. He thanks His Father that the first step to salvation is humility, coming to God in utter despair of one’s own merit or resources. It is not by accident that the first beatitude is “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3). The kingdom belongs only to the humble.

These things refers to the kingdom, on which Jesus’ entire ministry focused. Even during the forty days between His resurrection and ascension Jesus was “speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). His teachings about His messiahship, lordship, and saviorhood, and about salvation, submission, and discipleship all centered in the kingdom of God-the realm where He is sovereign, where His people dwell by grace through faith, and where His righteous will is done.

The wise and intelligent sarcastically refers to those who are intelligent in their own eyes and who rely on human wisdom and disregard God’s. The Lord does not exclude smart people from His kingdom but rather those who trust in their smartness. Paul was a brilliant, highly educated scholar, and he did not forsake his intelligence when he became a Christian. But he stopped relying on his intelligence to discern and understand spiritual and divine matters. It is not intelligence but intellectual pride that shuts people out of the kingdom. Intelligence is a gift of God, but when it is perverted by pride it becomes a barrier to God, because trust is in the gift rather than in the Giver. “For though the Lord is exalted, yet He regards the lowly; but the haughty He knows from afar” (Ps. 138:6).

The wise and intelligent include both religious and nonreligious people, who in their love of human wisdom are much more alike than different. Whether religious or irreligious, the proud person will not submit to God’s wisdom and truth and therefore excludes himself from the kingdom. The religious man who relies on tradition or good works to please God is just as far from God as the atheist.

The means God uses to hide these things from such people is the darkness of their proud, unregenerate hearts, which prevent them from seeing what God desires them to know and to accept. Paul said, “Just as it is written, ‘Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.’ For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God” (1 Cor. 2:9–10). God’s spiritual truth is not empirically, objectively knowable. It cannot be externally discovered, but must be willingly received through man’s heart as God reveals it. As someone has said, “The heart and not the head is the home of the gospel.” No amount of human reasoning or speculation can discover or explain God’s saving truth, because, as Paul continues to say, “a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (v. 14).

No amount of evidence is sufficient to convince the confirmed unbeliever. John says of such people that, though Jesus “had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him; that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke, ‘Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’ For this cause they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, ‘He has blinded their eyes, and He hardened their heart; lest they see with their eyes, and perceive with their heart, and be converted, and I heal them’ ” (John 12:37–40). Those who hear God’s Word and refuse to receive it are subject to God’s judicial confirmation of that choice.

Just as wise and intelligent does not refer to mental ability but to a proud spiritual attitude, babes does not refer to physical age or capability but to a humble spiritual attitude.

A baby is totally dependent on others to provide everything it needs. It has no abilities, no knowledge, no skills, no resources at all to help itself. Nēpios (babes) is used in 1 Corinthians 3:1 and Hebrews 5:13 of infants who cannot eat solid food but only milk. In 1 Corinthians 13:11 it is used of those who have not yet learned to speak and in Ephesians 4:14 of those who are helpless.

During a question and answer period in a meeting one time, a young girl, perhaps 9 or 10 years old, came up to me and asked, “What happens to babies and retarded children when they die?” She was obviously very serious, and I did my best to answer her from Scripture. Beginning with David’s comment about his infant son who had died, “I shall go to him, but he will not return to me” (2 Sam. 12:23), I explained that God takes to Himself all of those, such as babies and retarded people, who are not able to choose Him. Afterward her mother explained that a younger brother was seriously retarded and understood almost nothing of what went on around him. His sister, young as she was, knew, the way of salvation and was deeply concerned that her little brother might not go to heaven because he was not able to understand how to receive Christ as Savior. I reminded her that Jesus said, “Unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3). She was greatly relieved when I said that her little brother was a living illustration of the kind of person Jesus came to save and to receive into heaven-the utterly helpless.

It is to spiritual babes, those who acknowledge their utter helplessness in themselves, to whom God has sovereignly chosen to reveal the truths of His kingdom. It is to the “poor in spirit” who humbly confess their dependency that God makes the way of salvation clear and understandable. By the Holy Spirit they recognize they are spiritually empty and bankrupt and they abandon all dependence on their own resources. They are the cringing spiritual beggars to whom Jesus refers in the first beatitude-the absolutely destitute who are ashamed to lift up their head as they hold out their hands for help.

Babes are the exact opposite of the kind of person the scribes, Pharisees, and rabbis taught was pleasing to God. They are also the exact opposite of the imagined ideal Christian touted by many popular preachers and writers who glorify self-assertion and self-worth.

The contrast between wise and intelligent and babes is not between the knowledgeable and the ignorant, the educated and the uneducated, the brilliant and the simpleminded. It is a contrast between those who think they can save themselves by their own human wisdom, resources, and achievement and those who know they cannot. It is a comparison between those who rely on themselves and those who rely on God.

People who are famous, highly educated, wealthy, powerful, or talented are often difficult to reach for Christ, simply because human accomplishments easily lead to pride and pride leads to self-sufficiency and self-satisfaction.

Yes, Father, Jesus continues, for thus it was well-pleasing in Thy sight. God is well-pleased with the gospel of grace because it brings glory to Him, which is the supreme purpose in the universe. “For thus says the high and exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy, ‘I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite’ ” (Isa. 57:15). God loves to help the humble and the repentant, because they know they are helpless. He is pleased when they come to Him for help, because that honors His grace and gives Him glory (cf. Luke 18:9–14).

Still to the lowly soul

He doth Himself depart,

And for His dwelling and His throne

He chooses the humble heart.

(Author unknown)

“For consider your calling, brethren” Paul reminded the Corinthian believers, “that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong” (1 Cor. 1:26–27).

Jesus referred to Nicodemus as the “teacher of Israel,” suggesting that he was perhaps the most highly respected rabbi in the land. He was a student of the Old Testament and of the many traditional writings of Judaism. Yet with all his religious training and knowledge he could not grasp Jesus’ teaching that “unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Even after Jesus explained, Nicodemus did not understand, and Jesus said to him: “Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak that which we know, and bear witness of that which we have seen; and you do not receive our witness. If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how shall you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” (John 3:3–12). Before he could comprehend or receive the gospel, Nicodemus had to go all the way back and start over as a spiritual babe, putting aside his human knowledge and achievements and coming to Christ with no merit of his own.[3]

26 Far from bemoaning or finding fault with his Father’s revealing and concealing, Jesus delighted in it. The conjunction hoti is best understood as “because” or “for” (NIV): I thank you because this was your good pleasure; and that is what Jesus “acknowledges” or “praises.” Whatever pleases his Father pleases him. “It is often in a person’s prayers that his truest thoughts about himself come to the surface. For this reason, the thanksgiving of Jesus here recorded is one of the most precious pieces of spiritual autobiography found in the Synoptic Gospels” (Tasker, 121). Jesus’ balance mirrored the balance of Scripture: he could simultaneously denounce the cities that did not repent and praise the God who does not reveal, for God’s sovereignty in election is not mitigated by man’s stubbornness and sin, while man’s responsibility is in no way diminished by God’s “good pleasure” that sovereignly reveals and conceals (cf. Carson, Divine Sovereignty, 205ff.).[4]

[1] Tozer, A. W., & Eggert, R. (2015). Tozer on the almighty god: a 365-day devotional. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1245). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (Mt 11:25). Chicago: Moody Press.

[4] Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, pp. 318–319). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

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