Matthew 18:10 MEANING

Matthew 18:10
(10) Take heed that ye despise not.--The words remind us of what we are apt to forget in the wider range of the preceding verses. The child was still there, perhaps still folded in the arms of Jesus, still the object of His care, even while He spake of the wider offences that "must needs come" upon the world at large. Looking to the frequency with which our Lord's words were addressed to the thoughts of His hearers, it seems likely that the faces of some at least of the disciples betrayed, as they looked on the child, some touch of half-contemptuous wonder, that called for this prompt rebuke. The words have, however, as interpreted by what follows, a wider range, and include among the "little ones," the child-like as well as children--all, indeed, whom Christ came to save.

In heaven their angels.--The words distinctly recognise the belief in guardian angels, entrusted each with a definite and special work. That guardianship is asserted in general terms in Psalm 34:7; Psalm 91:11, Hebrews 1:14, and elsewhere. What is added to the general fact here is, that those who have the guardianship of the little ones assigned to them are among the most noble of the heavenly host, and are as the angels of the Presence, who, like Gabriel, stand before the face of God, and rejoice in the beatific vision (Luke 1:19). The words "I say unto you" clothe what follows with the character of a new truth, as they do the like utterances of Luke 15:7; Luke 15:10. Whatever difficulties may connect themselves with the whole range of questions connected with the ministry of angels, they lie outside the work of the interpreter. There can be no question that our Lord adopts as His own the belief in the reality of that ministry, and this at a time when the Sadducees, as a leading sect, were calling it in question (Acts 23:8). The words are indirectly important as a witness to the fact that the Lord Jesus, while He proclaimed the universal Fatherhood of God as it had never been proclaimed before, also (almost, as it were, unconsciously, and when the assertion of the claim was not in view) claims a sonship nearer and higher than could have been claimed by any child of man.

Verse 10. - From this verse to the end of the chapter we find no parallel in the other evangelists. The Saviour here returns to the subject of children, whether literally or metaphorically so called, and proclaims the high appreciation which is their due. Take heed (ὁρᾶτε, see) that ye despise not one (ἑνὸς) of these little ones. God's care is minute; it extends to each individual of the class. The contempt denounced might arise in various ways and from various considerations. The advanced believer might despise children as hot competent to enter into covenant with God or fit to receive Church privileges, whereas circumcision under the old dispensation and infant baptism under the gospel afford a very different view. Again, to say or do unseemly things in the presence of children is a mode of" despising" which may prove a deadly offence. Or the contempt may be on the side of the ambitious and self-seeking, who cannot understand the simple and childlike spirit which seeketh not its own. The Lord gives two proofs of the high consideration due to his little ones. The first proof is that which follows; the second is given in vers. 11-14. Their angels. Not "their spirits after death," as some commentators erroneously interpret (for the term "angel" is not so used, and Christ speaks in the present tense, do always behold), but the angels especially appointed to watch and protect them - their guardian angels. This doctrine (which, as of very solemn import, the Lord introduces with his usual formula, I say unto you), that each soul has assigned to it by God a special angel is grounded on this, and supported by many other passages of Scripture (comp. Hebrews 1:14; Psalm 34:7; Psalm 91:11; Luke 15:7, 10). It has been questioned how angels can be said to succour us on earth, while in heaven they are always looking on the face of the Father. The difficulty has been answered, among others, by St. Gregory, who writes, "They never so go forth apart from the vision of God, as to be deprived of the joys of interior contemplation. They are both sent from him, and stand by him too, since both in that they are circumscribed, they go forth, and in this that they are also entirely present, they never go away. Thus they at the same time always behold the Father's face, and yet come to us; because they both go forth to us in a spiritual presence, and yet keep themselves there, whence they had gone out, by virtue of interior contemplation" ('Moral.,' 2:3). It is probable that the highest order of angels is here signified, such as among the Jews was called, "the angels of the presence, or of the face." To behold the king's face means, in Eastern parlance, to be admitted to his immediate presence - to enjoy his special favour and confidence (see 2 Kings 25:19; Esther 1:14; Jeremiah 52:25). It is to these supreme beings, who draw their knowledge and love directly from Almighty God, and receive their commands from his mouth, that the tender lambs of Christ's flock are committed. This fact demonstrates their dignity and the great heinousness of setting a stumbling block in their way.

18:7-14 Considering the cunning and malice of Satan, and the weakness and depravity of men's hearts, it is not possible but that there should be offences. God permits them for wise and holy ends, that those who are sincere, and those who are not, may be made known. Being told before, that there will be seducers, tempters, persecutors, and bad examples, let us stand on our guard. We must, as far as lawfully we may, part with what we cannot keep without being entangled by it in sin. The outward occasions of sin must be avoided. If we live after the flesh, we must die. If we, through the Spirit, mortify the deeds of the body, we shall live. Christ came into the world to save souls, and he will reckon severely with those who hinder the progress of others who are setting their faces heavenward. And shall any of us refuse attention to those whom the Son of God came to seek and to save? A father takes care of all his children, but is particularly tender of the little ones.Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones,.... That is, one of those little ones that believed in Christ; for he is not speaking of infants in age, but of those who might be compared to such, for their humility and modesty; who were little in their own eyes, and mean and despicable in the eyes of the world, as well as appeared but little in the eyes of their fellow disciples and brethren; for our Lord returns and addresses himself to his disciples, who had been contending among themselves who should be greatest in the kingdom of heaven; and so were striving to lessen one another, each looking upon himself as the greater, and every other as little. Wherefore Christ cautions them against such a spirit, and bids them beware of despising their fellow disciples, as little, and below them; especially since so much notice and care were taken of them, both in heaven, and in earth:

for I say unto you, that in heaven: the phrase, "in heaven", is omitted in the Syriac and Persic versions, perhaps because it might be looked upon as unnecessary, since it afterwards appears; but is very proper, or pertinent, whether it be considered as descriptive of the angels, who have their habitation there, in distinction from the evil angels, who are cast down from thence; or as pointing out the place where the angels behold the face of God, and who are styled "their angels"; the angels of the little ones, that believe in Christ, who are ministering spirits unto them, the guardians of them, who encamp about them, and do many good offices for them. Some have thought from hence, that every good man has his peculiar angel that waits upon him, and cares for him; but this does not necessarily follow from, these words, only that they all have an interest in angels, and in their good services. This seems indeed to have been a notion that prevailed among the Jews, not only that there were angels which presided over particular nations, but who also had the care of particular persons; so they speak of an angel that was particularly appointed for Abraham (f). Nor will they allow, that one angel does two messages, nor two angels one (g) message: but that everyone has his particular place, person, and work; of whom it is further said, that they

do always behold the face of my father which is in heaven: which is not so much to be understood of their intellectual knowledge, and apprehension of the divine being, of their beholding the glory of his nature, and essence, and of their contemplating and applauding his perfections; as of their ministering before him, waiting, as servants, upon him, watching to receive his orders, and ready to obey his commands. And our Lord's argument is, that if such excellent creatures as the angels in heaven, who are continually favoured with being in the presence of Christ's heavenly father, honoured with so high a station, as always to stand before him, as ministers of his; if these are the guardians of these little ones, if they are committed to their care, and they have the oversight of them, then they ought not to be despised: and besides, since the angels that have the care of them are so near the throne, it should deter everyone from having their charge in contempt, or doing any injury to them; since they arc capable of lodging accusations and complaints against them; and, when leave is given, have power of executing the sorest judgments upon men. This description of angels agrees with what the Jews say of them, especially of the chief of them. Michael, they say (h), is the first and principal of the chief princes, "that behold the face of the king"; that is, the King of kings, the Lord of hosts. Suriel, which, with them, is another name of an angel, is called (i), , "the prince of faces", who is always in the presence of God; and, as the gloss says, is "an angel that is counted worthy to come before the king."

(f) T. Bab. Sanhedrim, fol. 96. 1.((g) Bereshit Rabba, sect. 50. fol. 44. 4. (h) Jacchiades in Dan. x. 13. (i) T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 51. 1.

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