RCL and Remembrance Sunday readings for Nov 11, 2018
Theme: God hates falsehood, but honours authenticity and trust
Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17 — Ruth shows her need of a kinsman redeemer. Boaz marries the young Moabite widow and their son is an ancestor of King David.
Jonah 3:1-5, 10 — Jonah obeys the Lord and preaches repentance to Nineveh. On overcoming his fears and misgivings and obeying the Lord, he sees Ninevites respond and God’s judgment averted.
Mark 12:38-44 — Jesus condemns the falsehood of the scribes. The teachers of the law lived by show and exploited others, while the powerless widow is seen to honour God in her giving.
Hebrews 9:24-28 — Christ enters the ‘real tabernacle’ of heaven to appear for us. His first appearance was to sacrifice Himself for the sins of many and He will come again to gather others.
Also: Psalm 127
Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17 — Ruth shows her need of a kinsman redeemer
Boaz marries a young Moabite widow and their son is an ancestor of King David
1-2 One day Ruth’s mother-in-law Naomi said to her, “My daughter, I must find a home for you, where you will be well provided for. Now Boaz, with whose women you have worked, is a relative of ours. Tonight he will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor.
“Find a home” – literally, resting place, or permanent home. As a close relative, Boaz might act as a kinsman-redeemer for Ruth and Naomi.
Winnowing…threshing floor” – separating the chaff from the grain. It was also customary for the landowner and men to sleep nearby and prevent theft of the grain.
“Uncover his feet” – however it sounds, folding back his long tunic so that he wakes with cold feet, so she can speak privately with him, is not pushing the boundary of moral integrity. Ruth’s action, dressed as a bride, rather than a widow, amounts to a request for marriage. The story of Tamar, Genesis 38:13-30, is another example of appealing to the guardian-redeemer law.
5 “I will do whatever you say,” Ruth answered.
“Whatever you say” – Ruth was a Moabite, unfamiliar with Jewish law and custom.
4:13-15 So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When he made love to her, the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.”
“Gave birth to a son” – the story concludes with the ten generations from Perez, the son of Judah (Jacob’s son) to David, grandson of Obed. Ruth and Boaz were ancestors of Israel’s greatest king (and Joseph, husband of Mary, mother of Jesus).
16-17 Then Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him. The women living there said, “Naomi has a son!” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.
“Obed… father of Jesse” – Ruth and Boaz were ancestors of Israel’s greatest king (and Joseph, husband of Mary, mother of Jesus).
The conclusion balances the introduction, Ruth 1:1-5, Ruth 4:13-17. Both focus on Naomi, her former emptiness and reliance on the Lord, now reversed by His provision for her. Both passages are similar in being compressed and having the same number of words in Hebrew.
Jonah 3:1-5, 10 — Jonah obeys the Lord and preaches repentance to Nineveh
On overcoming his fears and misgivings and obeying the Lord, he sees Ninevites respond and God’s judgment averted
1-2 Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”
“The message I give you” – a prophet is to proclaim a message from God, not necessarily a foretelling one.
3 Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it.
“Great city” – it was a sizeable place, about three miles across, not a journey of days, except that it took Jonah time to preach his message, street corner by street corner.
4-5 Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.
“Nineveh… overthrown” – Jonah’s message did not include an “unless” clause even though he knew God wanted their repentance rather than their destruction, Jonah 3:10, 4:2.
10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, He relented and did not bring on them the destruction He had threatened.
IN PRACTICE The Book of Ruth begins and ends with the Lord’s provision – He “had come to the aid of His people by providing food for them”, “the Lord enabled [Ruth] to conceive” and the Bethlehem women agreed with Naomi, “The Lord… has not left you without a guardian-redeemer”. It was a big issue of trust for them; for Ruth, trusting God who she hardly knew, doing the right thing when it also seemed a wrong thing and for them both, being real about their situation and their need of God’s intervention in providing an unwed and land-owning relative keen to marry Ruth and continue the family line… which reached forward to King David. Jonah’s version of being real before God and trusting Him in a difficult call needed some time to mature, but eventually he found himself preaching to the streets of this notorious pagan capital of the Assyrian empire, for the people to turn from their wickedness to the living God – and they did. God blessed the two women in their plight and their need, and He blessed run-away Jonah back to obedience, who then saw an extraordinary revival unfold.
QUESTION Worshipping as one of a congregation that is led from the front, we can all wear a mask but we need to get real with the Lord about how we are. What other ways of gathering help us to do this?
Mark 12:38-44 — Jesus condemns the falsehood of the scribes
The teachers of the law lived by show and exploited others, while the powerless widow is seen to honour God in her giving
38-40 As He taught, Jesus said, “Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.”
“Teachers of the law” – also called ‘scribes’, were notorious for breaking the law they sought to impose by failing to love God and have His love for people. Jesus names six examples of their self-promoting desire for recognition: wearing long festive garments inappropriate for everyday wear; expecting people to rise and greet them; assuming the right to the prominent places in synagogues, and at banquets; making ‘grandstanding’ prayers; and preying on vulnerable widows.
Devour widows’ houses’ – teachers of the law relied on the generosity of patrons, and widows were vulnerable to exploitation which eventually left them homeless. Defrauding someone else’s mother, Mark 7:11-13, was a denial of loving either God or people, with a lack of mercy that rendered their lengthy prayers empty.
For further study – God’s concern for widows, Deut. 14:29; Ps. 68:5; Ps. 146:9; Isa. 1:17; Jer. 7:6; Jer. 49:11; and condemnation of those who abuse them, Isa. 1:23, Ezek. 22:7, Zech. 7:10; Mal. 3:5.
41-42 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.
“The temple treasury” – a number of trumpet-like receptacles to catch money, in the Court of Women, accessible to men and women. Women were barred from going in further.
“Small…coins” – ‘two lepta, which is a quadrans’ – a Roman measure, because Mark wrote his gospel for the church in Rome. It was equivalent to a sixty-fourth of a basic day’s pay.
43-44 Calling His disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on.”
“She… put in everything” – the widow did exactly what Jesus had told the influential young man and His disciples to do, Mark 10:21, Mark 8:34-37, Mark 10:28-29.
IN PRACTICE There are times and situations where distinctive uniforms are helpful – we immediately think of peacekeeping and emergency services – and job titles are helpful for recognising people’s roles, from the Queen and Prime Minister to the customer service person. The point in this passage is about those who are in a position to represent God to others failing to demonstrate His mercy, but rather assuming an entitlement to position and distinction and the right to bully others – which Jesus denounces as warranting severe punishment. The lesson here is that God may hear quite short and simple prayers from regular people who have no pretension and nothing to prove, but give themselves to God in authenticity and reliance on Him.
QUESTION Do you have a title or a position that you rather like? What will it cost you to let it go?
Hebrews 9:24-28 — Christ enters the ‘real tabernacle’ of heaven to appear for us
His first appearance was to sacrifice Himself for the sins of many and He will come again to gather others
24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that
“Sanctuary… a copy of the true one” – the regulations for ministry given under the old covenant were for a sanctuary on earth that represented God’s transcendent ‘otherness’ with the holy place that people other than the high priest could not enter. Now Christ enters into the very presence of God in heaven.
25 Nor did He enter heaven to offer Himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own.
“Blood not his own” – pointing out the difference between a priest sacrificing unwilling animals, and Jesus offering Himself.
26 Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But He has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of Himself.
“Many times… once for all” – the animal sacrifice had to be made again and again on the Day of Atonement, Leviticus 16:29-34. Christ’s far superior sacrifice was final, for all time.
“Since the creation of the world” – or since the fall of humanity in the Garden of Eden, Genesis 3, Hebrews 4:3 there has been the need for a complete and lasting, rather than provisional, remedy.
27-28 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.
“He will appear a second time” – but not to deal with sin, because that has already been accomplished. “Those who are waiting for Him” – believers are to live in expectation of Christ’s return at any time, remaining faithful and ready however long the wait.
IN PRACTICE The writer of Hebrews (possibly Apollos and almost certainly not Paul) addresses Jewish-background believers. This gives them a sharply-drawn comparison between the rituals of temple and synagogue (as it was then) and the worship in heaven with Father, Son and Holy Spirit and the adoration of the heavenly throng. One is an earthly imitation, of sorts, and the other is the real thing. Is what we do a pale imitation, or the real thing, albeit scaled down and humanised to make it accessible for us? We can go through the familiar routines – liturgy or not, every church tradition has them – or we can be intentional about inviting the presence of God, asking the Holy Spirit to presence Himself, giving Him permission to upset our carefully prepared order of service. To the extent that we do this (probably little steps at first) we notice the difference. We can’t always define it. But there’s a sense of God’s close presence. We know ‘the real thing’ when we experience it. And Christ has performed the perfect ritual, once and for all, so that we can be free to encounter the Lord and experience a little bit of heaven as we gather and submit to Him.
QUESTION Honest answer, on a postcard… would you rather know the exact order of worship, or know that you have met with the Lord in a way special and personal to you?
PRAYER Father God, I receive Your love afresh and thank You that You know me inside out. You know the ways I am an open book to You, and also where I cling to some life position for my identity. Help me to renounce all that is false, proud or self-sufficient — and offensive to You. I pray this in and through Jesus. Amen.
Scriptures to read in preparation for Sunday, October 28
Theme: God and His purposes are good, all the time
Job 42:1-6, 10-17 – Job’s encounter with God opens his eyes. He repents of his earlier poor understanding of God and His ways.
Jeremiah 31:7-9 – Distraught Israel is promised a new relationship with God. The remnant, exiled people without rights in a foreign land, will return rejoicing.
Mark 10:46-52 – Blind Bartimaeus implores Jesus to heal him. A man without physical sight sees Jesus and His kingdom purpose more clearly than the disciples.
Hebrews 7:23-28 – priests could sacrifice for sins, but only Jesus can save completely. Jewish Christians brought up under priesthood are taught about Jesus’ unique position as the only intermediary we ever need.
Also: Psalm 34:1-8, 19-22
Job 42:1-6, 10-17 – Job’s encounter with God opens his eyes
He repents of his earlier poor understanding of God and His ways
1-2 Then Job replied to the Lord: “I know that You can do all things; no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.
“I know…” Job has realised two things from what the Lord has said to all of them, in His summing-up speech: (1) how unlike God he is, and (2) the message that God is both loving and all-powerful.
3 “You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures My plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.
4 “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer Me.’
“You asked…You said” – Job quotes, with humility, what God had said at the beginning of His first speech. He is seeing God in a new way.
“Things I did not understand” – Job has spoken about God with accuracy and integrity, even if his understanding was now shown to have been limited. His friends had not, and their spokesman Eliphaz, Job 4:12-16, 42:7, had implied that his advice came from prophetic insight. God affirmed Job but not Eliphaz and his friends in their superficial doctrine about God who they clearly did not know.
5 “My ears had heard of You but now my eyes have seen You.
“My eyes have seen you” – a deep encounter with God. Up until now, Job had not seen God, Job 23:8, but now, like Isaiah, He had known God’s close presence and holiness, a massive leap in his relationship with God
6 “Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”
“I despise myself…I repent…” – Job is saying that he recognises the ignorance behind his words earlier and he repents of having such a weak understanding of God; not as his friends had urged, of moral issues.
10-11 After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before. All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the Lord had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring.
“The Lord restored… him” – The last words we heard from Job are repentance (v.6). Now we hear of Job’s restoration and the extent to which God blessed him. The two are linked.
12 The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys.
13-15 And he also had seven sons and three daughters. The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch. Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers.
“He had…” – wealth was counted in head of livestock as much if not more than possession of silver. The tally is twice the number of animals, but not children – Job already had seven sons and three daughters waiting for him in heaven.
16-17 After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. And so Job died, an old man and full of years.
“Full of years” – ripe old age, like Abraham and Isaac, Gen. 25:8; 35:29, being a sign of God’s blessing.
Who was Job?
Job’s friends seem to have come from the Edom or south Euphrates region. If Job is an abbreviation of Jobab, he was
Jeremiah 31:7-9 – Distraught Israel is promised a new relationship with God.
The remnant, exiled people without rights in a foreign land, will return rejoicing
God promises Israel that “I will be … God … , and they shall be my people,” Jer. 31:1-14 and in a number of other places in Jeremiah
7 This is what the Lord says: “Sing with joy for Jacob; shout for the foremost of the nations. Make your praises heard, and say, ‘Lord, save your people, the remnant of Israel.’
“The foremost” – because they are God’s elect. “Lord, save…” – the Hebrew for this word is the basis of Hosanna, the cries of people outside Jerusalem at the triumphal entry (Palm Sunday), Matt. 21:9.
“The remnant” – those who have survived exile, to be called back.
8 See, I will bring them from the land of the north and gather them from the ends of the earth. Among them will be the blind and the lame, expectant mothers and women in labour; a great throng will return.
“North… and from the ends of the earth” – Assyria and Babylon and the remoter parts of the then known world. A regathering with all included. About 50,000 returned between 538-536 BC.
9 They will come with weeping; they will pray as I bring them back. I will lead them beside streams of water on a level path where they will not stumble, because I am Israel’s father, and Ephraim is My firstborn son.
“Weeping… they will pray” – with joy and praise, verse 7 above
For further study, see Ps. 125:5-6, Isaiah 55:12, Psalm 23:1-3, Isaiah 49:10, Isaiah 40:3-4.
“Ephraim is My firstborn” – meaning first in rank and priority, Exod. 4:22. David, eighth son of Jesse, is referred to in this way, Psalm 89:27 and Jesus is called the firstborn over all creation, Col. 1:15; Rev. 1:5. The prophets referred to Ephraim and Judah as a shorthand for the nation of Israel.
IN PRACTICE Job made mistakes in his attitude to God whole he suffered, and the nation of Israel made mistakes in their attitude to God, rejecting the appeals of the prophets and suffering the calamities of two successive deportations, first the northern kingdom and then the fall of Judah and Jerusalem. However, Job was honest in his attempts to challenge God, while his counsellors gave him theological-sounding statements but without demonstrating that they actually knew God who they were claiming to honour. Job got right with God, admitting that his relationship was more knowledge than
QUESTION Are you giving God a faithful one morning a week but sensing that He wants something different – your heart? Who do you know who could help you in praying this kind of prayer?
Mark 10:46-52 – Blind Bartimaeus implores Jesus to heal him
A man without physical sight sees Jesus and His kingdom purpose more clearly than the disciples
46-47 Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and His disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
“Jericho” – the new city built by Herod the Great, to the south of the site of the ancient and abandoned one.
“By the roadside begging” – on the pilgrim route to Jerusalem, where Jesus and those with Him were going.
“Bartimaeus” – Son of Impurity, a derisory name reflecting Jewish tradition that blindness resulted from sin, John 9:1-3.
“Jesus, Son of David” – prepares the hearer or reader for the “Hosanna” shouts of the crowd at Jerusalem, Jer. 31:7 and note, above.
“Mercy” – undeserved kindness, which Scripture repeatedly ascribes to God. Bartimaeus, blind in one sense, is seeing something clearly – Jesus is the Messiah but also personifies God’s merciful character in bringing the kingdom to poor, maimed and blind people like him. This was Jesus’ own understanding, Luke 4:18-19.
48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
“Many rebuked him” – regarding him of no status and no account, as they had earlier with children, and doing what He had taught was wrong then, Mark 10:13-14.
49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.”
50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.
51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”
“What do you want…” – Jesus’ ‘unnecessary’ question drew out the blind man’s faith as he then spoke out his expectation. Jesus gives the blind man what he asks for in faith. There is a parallel with the spiritual blindness and slow learning of James and John earlier, to whom he put the same question – probably Mark’s intention.
52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
“Your faith has healed you” – this time without touch unlike the previous occasion when a blind man was healed, Mark 8:22-26.
For further study on faith and healing (
IN PRACTICE God’s higher purpose becomes, with Jesus, the realisation of His kingdom purpose and order. True personal faith in Jesus, who he is and what He stands for, is a connection with His rule and order which overturns the devil’s predatory activities. In this case the blind man’s humble acclamation of who Jesus is – Son of David, the embodiment of God’s mercy without condition – leads to an astounding healing miracle. At the same time the disciples, who in another way were somewhat blind to who Jesus was and what his earthly life was about, start to see their world through God’s eyes.
We, too, are short-sighted, seeing our world with us at the centre and a lack of distant perspective. God has a higher purpose and an eternal timescale and wants us to join Him in it, even if it continually challenges our limited understanding.
QUESTION Does God do these kinds of signs and wonders today? How could we put aside doubts to reach higher in asking Jesus to heal, deliver or save – all the same thing to Him?
Hebrews 7:23-28 – priests could sacrifice for sins, but only Jesus can save completely
Jewish Christians brought up under priesthood are taught about Jesus’ unique position as the only intermediary we ever need
23-25 Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, He has a permanent priesthood. Therefore He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them.
“Permanent priesthood” – the language is that of something which cannot be changed. Now people will (1) never be without a priest to represent them to God, and (2) one who lives forever and therefore saves forever, (3) in a way which is now fully effective, unlike the old order of priests, expanded in Heb. 10:1-4;10-14.
26 Such a high priest truly meets our need – one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.
“Holy, blameless, pure, set apart” – contrasting the high priesthood of Jesus, who had no sin nature, with the morality of the Levitical priesthood which by comparison was weak, earthly and with the flaws of unredeemed human nature.
27 Unlike the other high priests, He does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when He offered himself.
“He does not need to offer sacrifices” – from a different starting point, Jesus represents a completely different order of priesthood “unlike the other high priests” who sacrificed only animals, an imperfect substitute. Our high priest offered Himself.
28 For the law appoints as high priests men in all their weakness; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.
“The oath… after the law” – a verse which echoes Heb. 5:1-3 and sums up the whole discussion of Heb. 5:1-10; 7:1-28 of Christ’s appointment from perfect (complete) qualification, to a far superior high priesthood that the Levitical priesthood could never achieve. The oath refers to Psalm 110:4, a declaration of God’s promise of an eternal priest, over and above the earlier giving of the law and establishment of temporal priests and high priests.
IN PRACTICE Jews who were now part of the Christian church, worshipping God through their own relationship with Him enabled both by Jesus and the Holy Spirit, thought they had a problem. For some years after the Resurrection, in fact up to the sacking of Jerusalem in 70 AD, the Levitical priesthood and temple sacrifice system continued. This is what they had been brought up with. It was important to them. But now they have become aware, as 1 Peter 2:9, Rev 1:6 teaches, that believers are their own priesthood with royal privileges, as sons and daughters of the king! The writer of Hebrews seeks to explain this transition in terms these Jewish believers could relate to. But there’s a message for all of us. The only priestly intermediary any of us
QUESTION If you know Jesus, and are part of this new royal priesthood, how confident are you about representing before God someone with a need who has asked you to pray for them?
PRAYER Father God, so many things that we think we see clearly have a greater purpose or different timescale or way of working out
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Image credit: http://riveroflifetheriverwalk.org
TLW31 using the Revised Common Lectionary readings for Sunday, August 5.
Theme: Lifegiving gift of God, freely given
2 Samuel 11:26 – 12:13a – a ‘gift’ violated in immaturity
John 6:24-35 – Jesus’ gift to us of eternal lifegiving food
Ephesians 4:1-16 – Maturity grows through Christ’s gifts to His church
To read additionally: Psalm 51:1-12
SUMMARY THIS WEEK David knew about relying on God’s provision yet He was tempted to seize what was not his in a shameful episode. Jesus multiplied food in a miracle for His listening crowd and then explained that the true eternal sustenance was He Himself. They didn’t get it. Paul, writing to Spirit-filled Christians in Ephesus, urges them to keep hold of the unity the Holy Spirit has given them and to keep on growing and seeking spiritual maturity.
2 Samuel 11:26 – 12:13a » A ‘gift’ violated in immaturity
David becomes convicted of his sin on hearing a story told to him by the court prophet, Nathan.
26-27 When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him. After the time of mourning was over, David had her brought to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing David had done displeased the Lord.
12:1-3 The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.
“The Lord sent Nathan” – Nathan, a court prophet, was acting as the Lord’s emissary sent with the Lord’s message. He had spoken before prophetically, 2 Sam. 7:2.
4 “Now a traveller came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveller who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”
5-6 David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”
“As surely as…” – David’s exclamation is in the form of an oath.
“Four times over” – the customary restitution. David later lost four of his sons, three of whom died violently.
7-8 Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more.
“Gave your master’s house…” – meaning the throne and its benefits being conferred on David.
9-10 ‘Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised Me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’
“You struck down…you killed…” – A figure of speech; David was responsible for Uriah falling in battle.
11-12 “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’ ”
“In broad daylight” – foretelling Absalom rebelling and sleeping with the royal concubines on the palace rooftop, 2 Sam. 16:22.
13 David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”
The story continues with David’s wholehearted repentance, and being met by God’s grace in it despite the seriousness of his offences.
IN PRACTICE From a plain reading of the story, David is in denial of his wrongdoing until nine months or more after the affair with Bathsheba and the birth of his son, when Nathan the court prophet comes to him with a story. At this point, the enormity of his sin impacts David – the adultery, deception of Uriah and his constructive murder – and blatant disregard for God’s order. David immediately repents in a wholehearted way. However, sin sets in train consequences. To do what we know not to do, is costly for us as it was for David.
QUESTION ‘Repent’ is a word we shy away from, yet David turned to God from the most serious sin, and received grace. How ready are you to admit to God where you have been wrong?
John 6:24-35 » The gift of Jesus, bread of life from heaven
The bread that never spoils is to believe in the One that God sent
24 Once the crowd realised that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus.
“Capernaum” – Jesus had been seen to leave the scene of the miracle of the feeding of the crowd alone, and the crowd went to search for him in the most likely place.
25 When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked Him, “Rabbi, when did You get here?”
26-27 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for Me, not because you saw the signs I performed, but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on Him God the Father has placed His seal of approval.”
They saw the sign but regarded Jesus as a miracle worker. Like the 12 disciples, Mark 6:53, they needed Jesus to teach them further, to grasp the fuller meaning.
“Food that endures to eternal life” – Jesus’ miracle with ordinary bread is a sign of who He is, uniquely authorised by the Father as His giver of spiritual, eternal ‘food’ that gives life.
28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one He has sent.”
“What must we do…” – The crowd followed the merit-based Jewish religion and misses the point that eternal life is not earned, but God’s gift simply received, Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5. These two verses make a succinct statement of the gospel. The one and indispensable ‘work’ is to exercise faith and believe in Jesus Christ. See Paul’s explanation in Romans 3:20-28.
30-31 So they asked him, “What sign then will You give that we may see it and believe you? What will You do? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
“What sign will You give” – there was a popular expectation that the Messiah would be known in the provision of manna again. The crowd had witnessed a single miracle with ordinary bread; Moses (in their perception) had fed a whole nation with heavenly bread for a generation.
32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.
“Bread from heaven” – far more than manna, the significance emphasised by a seven-fold repetition, here and vv. 38,41,50-51,58.
33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
Jesus gently corrects them. God gave the manna in the past, but what is important is the “true bread”, life through the Son, which God is giving now.
34 “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”
35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to Me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty.
“Jesus declared, “I am…” – in Greek the tone is solemn and emphatic, echoing God’s words in Exodus 3:12-15.
For further study: This is the first of seven key “I am” sayings in John’s gospel, John 6:35, 8:12, 10:7,9; 10:11,14; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1,5.
IN PRACTICE The people who had received the miraculous provision of bread to eat on the remote hillside wanted more of the same. They had met Jesus, the provider, but had not yet properly met with Jesus the Son of God – and so didn’t understand the real gift of Jesus to them. The disciples weren’t getting it easily, either. It’s the same today. We are so indoctrinated with the idea of working for a reward, and of achieving preference on the basis of merit, that we baulk at the idea of simply believing and receiving. The bread, or food, that Jesus offers us, which is lifegiving in an eternal way and which never spoils or runs out, is Himself. We create all kinds of substitutes: church heritage and religious observance and good deeds add up in our minds to a completely false sense of our entitlement. This is the barrier and the reason why we find it hard to turn to Jesus as Saviour and as Lord, and to simply and humbly receive what He has done for us.
QUESTION Everyone has struggled with this and everyone has a story… How would you explain how you received Jesus’ life-giving gift to someone exploring Christian faith?
Ephesians 4:1-16 » Maturity grows through Christ’s gifts to His church
Spiritual maturity and unity are a priority for the church to thrive
1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
“Worthy of the calling” – The kind of life that demonstrates following Christ’s call will have hallmarks apparent to others
For further study, see 1 Thess. 2:12; Romans 12:1; Col. 1:10.
2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
Freedom from needing to prove oneself and being free to absorb tensions and show grace to others, is part of growing in Christian maturity, vv. 13-16. It is a call to the corporate humility and forgiving love that emphasises reconciliation, Col. 3:12-13. This is attractive to people looking from the outside in. Where those claiming to be Christians are seen to be harsh, arrogant and judgmental, it sends out a mixed message, which is damaging.
3-5 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
“Make every effort” – words of urgent priority, to maintain the unity that the Holy Spirit brings. The experience of baptism of the Spirit is to be one with others in that common experience – but it must be defended from the enemy’s attempts to bring division.
“One body and one Spirit” – seven foundational facets of this spiritual unity, expressed in the form of a prayer declaration.
7-8 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says:
“When He ascended on high, He took many captives and gave gifts to His people.”
Paul loosely quotes Psalm 68:18, which itself refers to the victory song of Deborah in Judges 5:12, lit. “He took captivity captive”. Christ took captive the bondage imposed by Satan, for all who would turn to Him. The psalm refers to taking gifts; Paul changes that around. Ancient kings would *take* tribute as part of victory, but sometimes *share* booty and show generosity in acts of clemency – the Hebrew words sound similar, hence the word play. Paul here emphasises the goodness of God in giving victory gifts, so it is fitting that He gives victory gifts to His church, in particular the gifts of specific and valuable leadership qualities.
9-10 (What does “He ascended” mean except that He also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)
“He also descended” – in this passage, to earth, rather than Hades. The One who ascended and now fills the earth with His graces and presence is none other than the one who descended to become incarnate to live in humble circumstances, and then to be put to death for us.
11-12 So Christ Himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip His people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up…
Christ’s gifts to the church are seen as five defined kinds of ministry working through church leadership functions of overseers, also called elders who pastor the flock, Acts 20:17,28. The point of this whole passage is encouraging spiritual maturity which will maintain unity, through these five strands in concert.
- An apostle type of leader may be sent out to pioneer a new work;
- a prophetic leader may be gifted in knowing and encouraging in God’s present purposes and praying them in;
- the evangelist kind of leader is adept at communicating the Good News simply and engagingly;
- another different gifting is the shepherd who cares for the flock, most likely also…
- a teacher who has the gift of explaining the Bible’s stories and message simply and clearly.
These gifts are not mutually exclusive, but the picture is of a team where all the gifts are represented.
13 ...until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
“Fullness of Christ” – the full expression of what Christ is like, Eph. 1:23. People who are filled with Christ are by definition not filled with their own sense of importance, and will be builders of faith and unity, both within the congregation and (vitally in our day and age) between churches and congregations of other streams.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.
“Infants” – small children are suggestible, and prone to squabbling. By contrast, maturity means growing up into Christ, knowing Him and becoming like Him. Unity is not mere tolerance, but a one-ness in Christ and His values. The Holy Spirit always works for unity (why wouldn’t He?) but it is man’s stubborn and arrogant unredeemed attitudes which create disunity.
15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the Head, that is, Christ.
“The mature body” – Christ’s people, in all their diversity, working together, supporting each other and growing together in Him, v.16 below.
16 From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
IN PRACTICE Turning to Jesus and receiving His gift of new life is a vital and life-changing decision. But we’re not supposed to live that time over and over. We don’t find a signpost and then camp there! As we know, the real formation of the church took place with the general bestowing of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. This was an empowering time when the continuing presence of Jesus became real for all of them and they grew in this new life of the Spirit. Paul writes to the believers in Ephesus, urging them to keep on growing true, humble and loving – and together. With an enemy whose tactic is to spoil and cause division in the body, unity is of paramount importance. Of course there will be tensions, but it’s too easy to divide over them – maturity demands that we have the character to absorb tensions and stay focused on Christ and stay together in Him.
QUESTION When someone, perhaps a leader, says or does something that you find difficult, what are the two or three responses you can choose to make?
PRAYER Father God, You are good all the time, gracious when like David we recognise our mistakes and giving beyond anything we could earn or deserve. Help me to love You by being trusting and open to simply receive from You. Amen.
Theme: Good and bad sources of power
2 Samuel 11:1-15 – Folly: power from position
John 6:1-21 – Provision: power that comes by faith
Ephesians 3:14-21 – Revelation: the power of the Holy Spirit
2 Samuel 11:1-15 » Folly – power from position
David falls into the trap of submitting to his lust rather than God’s word and order.
The story of David’s multifaceted, serious sin: coveting another man’s wife, adultery, cover-up and deceit and constructive murder – ultimately the sin of despising the word of the Lord (2 Sam. 12:9-10). Later, 12:13, 16-17, David comes under conviction, admits his guilt and repents.
1 In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.
“Rabbah” – in modern Amman. David is complacent in sending Joab to lead the army and take on the Ammonites.
2-3 One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.”
“Beautiful” – it is rare for someone to be described this way in the Bible.
“From the roof” – a terraced structure several storeys high from this period has been excavated, on which perhaps David’s palace was built to overlook the entire city.
“Eliam and… Uriah” – listed as among David’s elite and most trusted warriors, 2 Sam. 23:34, 39.
4-5 Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (Now she was purifying herself from her monthly uncleanness.) Then she went back home. The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant.”
This tells us that she could not have been pregnant already. We cannot tell how compliant she was in the adultery.
6-7 So David sent this word to Joab: “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent him to David. When Uriah came to him, David asked him how Joab was, how the soldiers were and how the war was going.
“David asked him” – a pretence. David would have received regular reports.
“Uriah” – the name, ‘The Lord is my light’, tells us he was a Hittite, from the kingdom to the north of Canaan, who had adopted the Israelite faith.
8-9 Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.” So Uriah left the palace, and a gift from the king was sent after him. But Uriah slept at the entrance to the palace with all his master’s servants and did not go down to his house.
“Wash your feet” – go home and relax with your wife. Uriah understood what was implied, v.11.
10 David was told, “Uriah did not go home.” So he asked Uriah, “Haven’t you just come from a military campaign? Why didn’t you go home?”
11 Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my commander Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open country. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and make love to my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!”
“Staying in tents” – the Ark was with the army in field camp, for worship and to seek guidance in the war. This makes David’s dereliction, contrasted with Uriah’s sense of duty, all the more damning.
“Such a thing” – to have had sexual relations would have gone against the rule of abstinence when on duty, 1 Samuel 21:5, Exodus 19:15.
12-13 Then David said to him, “Stay here one more day, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. At David’s invitation, he ate and drank with him, and David made him drunk. But in the evening Uriah went out to sleep on his mat among his master’s servants; he did not go home.
14-15 In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. In it he wrote, “Put Uriah out in front where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die.”
David failed to make it appear that Uriah was the father of Bathsheba’s child, and plots Uriah’s death so he could marry Bathsheba quickly and disguise his sin.
IN PRACTICE The story this week is about right and wrong sources of power, and it starts with an embarrassing human failure by a popular figurehead. Perhaps this highlights the danger of success. When we think ‘we can do it’, we are already moving away from trusting and obeying God. David’s success had also given him a lot of power – if he sent for someone, they came, and he could do what he liked. Or so he thought. This was David’s most serious mistake, and also his most profound lesson, in which he discovered another power – the power of repentance, and the power of God’s love shown in undeserved forgiveness and grace.
QUESTION What do you take for granted is your area of decision in life, and how might God be challenging that for you?
John 6:1-21 » Provision – power that comes by faith
Jesus tests His disciples, who are facing an immense crowd with nothing to eat
1-4 Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed Him because they saw the signs He had performed by healing the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with His disciples. The Jewish Passover Festival was near.
“Some time after” – six months or more after the end of chapter 5. Jesus and His disciples have proclaimed the Good News throughout Galilee. Herod, having killed John the Baptist, is after them. They move their pitch.
“Far shore” – north-east shore, probably near Philip’s home area of Bethsaida, Luke 9:10.
“Jewish Passover…near” – and there were many pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem in the crowd. The context of the Passover remembrance gives deeper meaning to what happens next. The first Passover, when the Israelites left Egypt, they entered the desert relying on God’s provision of food and water, Exodus 15:22-16:3.
5-6 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for He already had in mind what He was going to do.
This was a deliberate test of Philip’s faith. The more we get to know the Lord, the more we understand apparent ‘annoyances’ as being about His purpose for us: growing our faith.
7 Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”
“Half a year’s wages” – literally 200 denarii. A denarius was a labourer’s daily rate.
8-9 Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
“Loaves” – like small, coarse pita breads. With the salted fish, making one meal.
10-11 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.
“Five thousand” – with women and children the crowd could have been three or four times greater.
“Distributed” – miraculously, the food multiplied, and everyone ate as much as they wanted. Luke’s gospel account brings out the food multiplying in the hands of the disciples as they gave it out, Luke 9:13,16.
12-13 When they had all had enough to eat, He said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.
“Wasted” – in the Graeco-Roman and Jewish world, it was taught that waste was immoral; at the same time, the Roman custom at a gathering was always to have food left over to show that the provision was more than enough.
“Twelve baskets” – may symbolise meeting the needs of the 12 tribes of Israel.
14-15 After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by Himself.
“The prophet” – like Elijah, or like Moses, as foretold in Deut. 18:15. The background here is the needy widow’s oil multiplying in 2 Kings 4, and the abundant provision of manna in Exodus 16, stories well known to the crowd.
“Make Him king by force” – the people misunderstood the promised Messiah to be a political saviour of the nation after the manner of King David, not Lord and Saviour of the world.
16-17 When evening came, His disciples went down to the lake, where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them.
18-21 A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were frightened. But He said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” Then they were willing to take Him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.
“Don’t be afraid” – turbulent storms sometimes occur the Sea of Galilee late in the day. The disciples’ greater fear was seeing a ghost-like Jesus walking out to help them, recalling Moses leading Israel through the water, Exodus 14, Ps. 77:19-20.
IN PRACTICE The disciples were looking at a stadium-sized crowd and no doubt there were children crying and others showing their need of something to eat. And they were completely powerless to provide anything! Later on, they were rowing hard against the wind and seemed powerless to reach the far shore, until Jesus arrived like a ghost and suddenly they had reached land. This story of reliance on God to provide is a better place to start than King David, who could snap his fingers for action without seeking God at all. The boy’s pickled pilchards and pita bread became the ‘gift that goes on giving’ in the astonished disciples’ hands. There are well-attested stories of multiplication that have happened in our time. It takes a stretch of faith – but nothing is impossible for God.
QUESTION Do you have a story, or know someone with a story, of a ‘desperate prayer’ that resulted in a lack being turned into more than enough?
Ephesians 3:14-21 » Revelation – the power of the Holy Spirit
Paul explains how the Holy Spirit reveals the immensity of God’s love when we give our hearts to Jesus
Paul’s prayer for the Ephesus church starts and ends with submission, praise and adoration, vv.14-15 and 20-21. This sandwiches his three appeals, vv.16-19. A good pattern for our prayer.
14-15 For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.
“I kneel” – expresses deep reverence. Most people stood to pray.
“Father… family” – related words in Greek where God is shown as Father to angelic beings “in heaven” and humanity “on earth”, giving both a shared identity as His creation and in His care.
16-17 I pray that out of his glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love…
“Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” – or ‘make His home in your hearts…’ (NLT). This is what happens at conversion, an act of our will in which we invite Christ, by His Spirit, to come into our hearts. It is both a decision and an event, but also as Paul sets out here, an ongoing process of further ‘little conversions’ and encounters in which we grow in spiritual maturity.
18-19 …may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Paul prays for his Ephesian friends to have spiritual power and spiritual revelation of Christlike sacrificial love, together with spiritual maturity, to show what God is like to others.
20-21 Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
God is glorified in Christ, whose sacrificial death brought the church into existence. God is glorified in the Church – the body of believers – as it shows His power and compassion.
IN PRACTICE This is one of the key Bible passages that explain the new birth and new awareness of God that comes through our conversion from a religious knowledge of God, to a heart-changing personal relationship in which God becomes real to us as Father, as Son and as Holy Spirit. What is difficult to explain in words becomes disarmingly straightforward in experience, as we ask Christ to take up residence in our hearts. The power of the Holy Spirit is God’s gift to those who are truly His, to live for Him and to become aware of His love which touches everyone and everything. With the Holy Spirit’s eyes, we begin to see where heaven connects with earth, where we thought they were quite separate.
QUESTION Is “being strengthened with power in your inner being” an aspiration you look forward to? A story of an event that you can tell? Or your ongoing experience of growing in faith and Christlikeness?
PRAYER Lord, I realise that man’s power corrupts but Your power provides and reveals and releases love. I am sorry for the times I have relied on my influence or ability, instead of turning to You. Help me to know You better, and trust You more as I grow in awareness of Your Holy Spirit in my life and world. Amen.
TLW 27. Readings set for Sunday, July 8 (Revised Common Lectionary).
2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10 – After years of dishonour, David is crowned
Mark 6:1-13 – Jesus faces dishonour in his hometown
2 Corinthians 12:2-10 – Paul says public dishonour helps to reveal Christ’s power
2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10 » After dishonouring delay, David is anointed king
The northern tribes seek unity under one monarch
1-2 All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, “We are your own flesh and blood. In the past, while Saul was king over us, you were the one who led Israel on their military campaigns. And the Lord said to you, ‘You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler.’ ”
“Your own flesh and blood” – Despite a separation between Judah and the northern tribes, they still had a strong sense of kinship. Under David, they came together.
3 When all the elders of Israel had come to King David at Hebron, the king made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel.
David had been made king over Judah by his tribe, and over Jerusalem by conquest. His kingship over the northern tribes came by covenant, or treaty. This was the third time David was anointed.
4-5 David was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned forty years. In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and in Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years.
“When he became king” – David had been anointed by the prophet Samuel as a youngster, 15-20 years earlier. His God-fearing leadership had been seen by all. The tribal elders had been very slow to recognise the working out of the Lord’s ‘shepherd of Israel’ word, when the crowning actually took place.
9-10 David then took up residence in the fortress and called it the City of David. He built up the area around it, from the terraces inward. And he became more and more powerful, because the Lord God Almighty was with him.
David has gone north to Jebus which was a terraced area south-east of the modern city and below the rock, or stronghold that became the rebuilt City of David, Jerusalem. It was a strategic move: central, naturally fortified and between Judah and the northern territories.
In practice David was anointed for high office as a teenager – and then had to live with that call on his life, being faithful to God in the face of much public dishonour, even being treated as an outlaw. It was about 20 years many years before even his own tribe recognised his leadership in Judah, and then another wait before he could bring the northern tribes on board. Later he was to write, Psalm 18:25, “To the faithful you show yourself faithful…” Was he faithful? He made mistakes, even serious mistakes like sending Uriah to his death, but he recognised his faults and learned from them, and was revered as a good and godly king who established just rule, the way God wanted. The lesson for us is that our loyalty and trust of God will be tested, and He allows this testing to be like a blacksmith’s heating and hammering, to forge strength and relience.
Question When you feel you are being dishonoured, where are you between blaming God for not standing by you, or accepting the test that strengthens, knowing that God is faithful?
Mark 6:1-13 » Jesus faces dishonour in his hometown
The Twelve are empowered and sent out in twos to minister in the villages.
1-3 Jesus left there and went to His hometown, accompanied by His disciples. When the Sabbath came, He began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard Him were amazed.
Probably the same event as Luke 4:16-30 where Jesus reads the beginning of Isaiah 61: “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to proclaim good news to the poor…” (etc).
“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given Him? What are these remarkable miracles He is performing?
“Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t His sisters here with us?” And they took offence at Him.
“Isn’t this the carpenter?” – people had known Jesus in His ‘ordinary life’ prior to His baptism. To them, He is ‘just a carpenter’ and, implied in “Mary’s son”, of illegitimate birth, unlike his brothers and sisters.
“Took offence” – in Luke’s account, serious offence, as the crowd hustled him to the brow of the town hill and tried to push him over the edge.
4-6 Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honour except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay His hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.
Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village.
“Without honour” – this rejection in Nazareth (the last time in the Gospel where Jesus is associated with a synagogue) is a small version of the much greater rejection to come in Jerusalem. The dishonour shown to him results in a lack of fruit there.
7 Calling the Twelve to him, He began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits.
“Two by two” — the OT requirement for ‘authority’ was two witnesses, Numbers 35:30, Deut. 17:6, 19:15, Matt. 18:16. Spiritual authority over spiritual iniquity or “impure spirits” would be needed on the mission.
“Authority over impure spirits” – the proclamation of God’s kingdom comes in actions and deliverance, including healing, not just words (vv.12-13).
For further study see Matthew 10:1, 5-15; Luke 9:1-6
8-11 These were His instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff – no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”
Nazareth had proved to be hard-hearted and scornful with only a “few sick people” healed. This was a lesson to the disciples, to discern which people were open to God by seeing who would welcome them and by receiving their hospitality.
12-13 They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.
“That people should repent” – not so much a ‘hard message’ as God working through the disciples. Proclaiming and showing the goodness and grace of God results in willing change of hearts and lives – repentance – among those who receive the Good News.
In practice With the revelatory insights that Jesus possessed, the “wisdom that had been given Him”, it is hard to imagine Jesus being amazed at the rejection and lack of faith he experienced in his hometown. He both demonstrated and explained who He was – the signs of the kingdom in His ministry left little doubt of that – but those who had known him as a carpenter/builder were scornful, asking him who He, just a regular working man like them, thought He was.
Often it is those near and dear to us, and those who we would naturally expect to be affirming us, who can present the most difficult opposition. Becoming a Christian by asking Jesus into our lives does change us and does make us seem different – progressively more like Him! And that can be threatening to others. But if Jesus was so dishonoured and rejected, should we be upset if we experience a little of the same?
Question If Jesus gave His first disciples authority over evil spirits, how are we to view a life made miserable with a spiritual dimension to it?
2 Corinthians 12:2-10 « Paul says public dishonour simply reveals Christ’s power more
His testimony of a heavenly encounter which God initiated has made him especially aware of his reliance on God
2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know – God knows.
“Third heaven” – not the atmosphere where birds fly, and not the higher ‘heaven’ of sun, moon and stars, but the unseen realm of God’s uncontested presence, the place of blessedness where God dwells, referred to in the NT as paradise, Luke 23:43, Rev. 2:7. Jesus is “exalted above the heavens”, Hebrews 7:26.
3-4 And I know that this man – whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows – was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.
Paul had a vision or visions of such unusual intensity he was reluctant to talk about his experience, using the third person as a way of avoiding appearing boastful about something that was God’s initiative.
5-7a I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, or because of these surpassingly great revelations.
87b-9a Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.”
“Thorn in the flesh” – the meaning of this is disputed. Many commentators explain this by a physical affliction like malaria or migraine attacks. However, the phrase is used in the OT of a personal enemy, Numbers 33:55, Ezek. 28:24 and Paul had persistent opponents – and often quoted the Hebrew Scriptures (or OT to us).
“Three times” – like Jesus’ threefold prayer, Mark 14:32-41, a way of saying that he has prayed to completion and received his answer.
9b-10 Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
The Corinth church had a problem with self-appointed and self-congratulatory leaders, who considered themselves more polished speakers than the small, bald Jewish man who had introduced them to Christ. Paul, by contrast, wouldn’t let anything, any ‘success’ of man, get in the way of his utter focus on Jesus as Lord. Divine power only finds its expression in our human weakness and recognition of the need of the Lord’s empowerment — Paul is forthright about his need of help.
In practice This passage can present difficulties in reading it, because Paul uses an elaborate language and style to try to insulate the person, Paul, from being defined by an astounding and life-changing spiritual experience. As if the blinding vision on the Damascus road wasn’t enough… Paul’s point is that it is all about God and not about him, all about what God does, not what he does, and all the dishonour and difficulties simply serve to beat down any sense of human pride and self-sufficiency. Boasting about our weaknesses doesn’t seem so counter-intuitive in the context of God needing a clear and therefore humble channel for His grace to flow. And God’s way of clearing the channel seems a little less unreasonable!
Question Could you give an example of God’s strength being able to work, as a result of your own obvious absence of strength?
p class=”p6″>Prayer Lord, I hate being mocked and dishonoured, not to mention all the other kinds of spiritual opposition. But I want to learn to pray with authority, to minister to others You may send me to and to bless others with a growing sense of Your kingdom order and peace in their lives. Help me to trust You more, and become more resilient and Jesus-like, as I learn to see the tests of life from Your perspective. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.