Matthew 23:37b-38
Hawks And Hens
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall

Matt. 23:37b The city who kills the prophets and stones those who are
sent to her.

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem!” We can feel the agony in Jesus’ voice. Jerusalem was the capital—heart, soul, and center—of all Israel. The city Jesus loved had rejected Jesus; now He, deeply troubled, rejected Jerusalem.
Jerusalem was the Royal City, built by King David; Jesus came to be its King, but the leaders said, “Be gone!” Jerusalem housed the Temple of God’s presence; Jesus came to be its High Priest, but the people said, “No!”
Jerusalem was the city of prophets, where Isaiah and Jeremiah had walked. Jesus came to be its greatest Prophet, but the people cried, “Crucify Him!” Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, the anointed one—prophet, priest, and King in one Person—yet He was rejected in His own capital city.
Jesus’ grieving over His beloved Jerusalem resembled what happens when a thundercloud discharges lightning and thunder, only to be followed by a healing rain and cloudburst. The “woes” of Matthew 23 were the lightning and thunder; the grief in our text was healing rain and cloudburst.
Jesus reminded some of Jeremiah; some thought He was the prophet returned (MT 16:14). No one more forcefully denounced Judah than did Jeremiah, yet he sobbed in secret, and tears rolled down his cheek (13:17). He and Jesus are great examples for any who seek a tender shepherd heart. Never compromise Bible truth, and never forsake over-the-top compassion.
Though favored, Jerusalem was not exempt from God’s just judgment. I fear some unconsciously feel they can escape the consequences of sin. They think they will be able to outsmart the system. This never happens.
Be assured; sin nullifies any hint of favoritism. I can’t help but think of the advantages enjoyed by the USA for four centuries. I fear we are in danger of doing what Israel did. They cast off and wasted their privileges.
Do not begrudge the Lord’s messengers. They may have an unpopular message to deliver, but they are the good guys. This was Jerusalem’s worst, most grievous, sin, the evil that made the loudest cry in Heaven, and made angels want to cover their ears. They were about to crucify God’s Son, and had abused God’s messengers, which were among those crying out from under Heaven’s altar, “O Lord, holy and true, how long until You judge and avenge our blood from those who live on the earth?” (Revelation 6:9b).

Matt. 23:37c How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a
hen gathers her chicks under her wings,. . .

“How often”—Jesus did not use a specific number; we can’t quantify His love with arithmetic. It is an object of infinite wonder and amazement. We cannot destroy His love. Learn to measure grace with an awed heart.
“I wanted to gather your children together.” Together entails unity. It’s hard for believers to thrive alone. We need each other, to share life, and interact with others. This keeps us from facing a dangerous world alone. We all spiritually need people helping us, and we need to be helping people.
Apart from Jesus, Israel was fragmented. When Titus saw the human carnage and barbarism that had been done by the people in Jerusalem against each other before his troops entered the city, he called on his pagan gods to tell them he had not done this, and not to punish him for their butchery.
“As a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.” A simple striking simile. A hawk is circling in the sky above the farmyard, eyeing the chicken coop. Suddenly seeing its shadow, the hen gathers her chicks to shield them.
Jesus saw the ominous deadly Roman Eagle circling over Jerusalem. He wanted to gather His people to Himself. He knew their only hope was the Gospel of peace, a conversion, a turning from political to spiritual emphases.
Jesus wanted to make His people safe in a place of comfort. Reminds us of Charles Wesley’s song, ‘Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to thy bosom fly. Hide me till the storm of life is past. Other refuge have I none. Leave me not alone. Cover my defenseless head with the shadow of Thy wing.’
Jesus was pleading with them, “Get in here; be safe; find security.” I urge us all to always be running to Jesus as fast as we can. If saved and in trouble or difficulty, flee quickly. If lost, fly to Jesus. “Run to Him. Bring Him nothing but your need of everything He can give you” (Spurgeon).

Matt. 23:37d . . .yet you were not willing!

Humans have been granted a frightening freedom. Human will can affront God’s will, flaunt itself in God’s face, and refuse to conform its mind to God’s mind. It is sad to see people to whom the invisible does not matter.
Free will is a scary gift, a terrible liberty. “If there were no free will, there would be no hell” (Trapp). God wants our love, but forced love is a contradiction, and not love. Being created in God’s image implies free will.
This brings us to what theologians call the doctrine of concurrence. In the Bible, God and humans are sometimes said to be doing opposing things: predestination vs. repentance; sovereignty vs. free will, etc. Opposite deeds accomplish the same ends, and each party is fully responsible for their acts.
The problem in salvation is always us, never God. God wants people saved; people choose to be lost. God wants no one to perish (2 P 3:9). His purpose is not to curse, but to bless, to “joy over thee with singing” (Zeph. 3:17b). God wants to save even those He died for, yet who reject Him. In our text, He was grieving over people who were saying no to His invitation.
God is always more willing to save us than we are to be saved. No unbeliever has ever had to wait for Jesus. Long before we come to Him, He comes to us. In the parable of the Prodigal Son, it is the Father who ran.
God’s enthusiasm for us is boundless. If we can eke out only a spark of interest in Jesus, He has a blazing furnace of interest in us. “The gate of salvation is flung wide open. The door is taken off the hinges” (Spurgeon).
Some taunt God, saying they plan to come someday, but not right now. Whoa! Is Jesus to wait for our convenience? Is He our lackey, a servant having to wait for our pleasure and timing? Do we really want an extension of our time to rebel, and more time to risk everlasting perdition?
People can be obstinate. They do not like God’s terms. They love their sins, and don’t want to give them up. They also love their good works, and want to trust in their own righteousness. This puts them in double jeopardy. Since they will not yield to God’s governance and grace, the deal is off.

Matt. 23:38 See, your house is left to you desolate.

The temple, symbol of the city and nation, will be left desolate. Rather than be humbled in this building by the awesome fact God was among them in flesh, they had let the temple make them haughty, unwilling to hear God.
Jesus had called it the Father’s House, but now called it “your house”. The house was made desolate because the Master of the house left it. Jesus was standing in the temple complex, but after His words here, He left and never came back. It was their house now. They had it all to themselves.
Jesus cleansed the temple twice. He drove out the moneychangers (JN 2:15), saying they had made it a den of thieves (MK 11:17). He wanted the temple to be a house of prayer, but now felt He had to abandon it to its ruin.
God’s presence was gone from Israel. He would no longer be a wall of fire outside them, nor ever again be ultimate beauty inside them. God alone is our inner peace and outer protection. The nations that forget God shall be turned into Hell. When He turns His back, perdition is let loose in the land.