Welcome to The Living Word Bible study for Sunday, June 6, TLW22B. This is a non-denominational study which lets the Bible explain the Bible, without leaning to any church’s practice or preferences. We recommend that you read the whole passage first and let the Holy Spirit begin speaking to you about it, then go deeper with the verse by verse commentary and reflections. Bible readings from the Revised Common Lectionary used by many different churches and chapels.
OT: 1 Samuel 8:4-20, 11:14-15 — The people ask Samuel for a king like the surrounding nations
NT gospel: Mark 3:20-35 — The Lord links the power to bind the strong man with close fellowship with Him
NT letter: 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1 — The power that raised Jesus from the dead is also renewing us
And also read: Psalm 138
Theme: Choosing God’s way is what empowers us in life
• See also the linked article for this week which explores further the theme Choosing God’s Way
• There is also a VIDEO which tells the story of Right and Wrong Expectations based on these Bible readings.
1 Samuel 8:4-20, 11:14-15 — The people ask Samuel for a king
The Israelites seek security in a visible ruler like the surrounding nations
8:4-5 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”
“A king to lead us” – rather than a judge directing them to Yahweh; Samuel’s sons had taken bribes, and there were continual threats from the Ammonites and Philistines.
6-7 But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected Me as their king.
“They have rejected Me” — the Nation of Israel was intended to be distinct from the surrounding nations in doing things differently, with the Lord as their king and prophet/judges to remind them of that. Wanting a king was not wrong in itself. The sin was wanting only the rule of a king, and not being reliant on God and His provision.
• For further study, read Acts 3:13-15, 7:51-53.
8-9 “As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking Me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”
“Let them know what the king… will claim” — with the example of the Canaanite kings surrounding them, it would be a costly move.
10-12 Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: he will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plough his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots.
“He will take your sons and make them… run in front of his chariots” — solely for pomp and circumstance. Both Absalom and Adonijah secured chariots and horses and had “fifty men” to run ahead of them, 2 Samuel 15:1; 1 Kings 1:5.
13 “He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use.
“He will take a tenth” — so doubling the tenth the Israelites were already instructed to devote to the Lord. The word “take” is used repeatedly, in contrast to the emphasis on the Lord’s covenant of generosity.
“Best of your cattle” — Saul would give his officials land and military commands, 1 Samuel 22:7.
17 “He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”
“You… will become his slaves” — conscripted labour, later used widely by Solomon.
19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. Then we shall be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”
“The people refused to listen” — while God wanted them to be spiritually-led and dependent on Him, as in the Exodus, the people wanted a king as a figurehead to lead them in battle, a visible match for the surrounding nations.
11:14-15 Then Samuel said to the people, “Come, let us go to Gilgal and there renew the kingship.” So all the people went to Gilgal and made Saul king in the presence of the Lord. There they sacrificed fellowship offerings before the Lord, and Saul and all the Israelites held a great celebration.
“The people went to Gilgal and made Saul king” —kingship was allowed (but not required) by the law, Deut. 17:14-20. The sin is not the request for a king but the attitude behind the request, seeking security other than in God and the covenant with Him. It is the start of 40 difficult years of independence from God.
SUMMARY Samuel is getting on in years and his sons, appointed as provincial judges, have shown lack of integrity. A successor is needed — and the word that Samuel brings is that choosing the authoritarian rule of a king will be a costly change.
APPLICATION This looks forward to Jesus and the kingdom of God. Living under the rule of God and relying on Him is the best choice but not the easiest. The temptation of the world’s kind of security is always present.
QUESTION What does this teach us about the kind of leadership God wants in His church?
Mark 3:20-35 — Jesus’ family and teachers of the law accuse Him
The Lord links the power to bind the strong man with close fellowship with Him
20-21 Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that He and His disciples were not even able to eat. When His family heard about this, they went to take charge of Him, for they said, “He is out of His mind.”
“Out of His mind” – to His family, Jesus is now acting strangely; they were familiar with the ‘previous’ Jesus, the carpenter, and were still seeing Him in a worldly way. However, the evil spirits He confronted knew exactly who He was: the Son of God, Mark 3:11.
22 And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.”
“The teachers of the law… from Jerusalem” — news of Jesus’ following reaches Jerusalem and a commission is sent to Galilee to investigate the ‘unauthorised’ rabbi. Threatened by a man who could do in the power of God what they could not do, they accuse Him of the exact opposite of the plain truth. All slander is evil, but this one has grave spiritual consequences, v.28.
23-26 So Jesus called them over to Him and began to speak to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come.
“Jesus called them over” — Mark’s gospel doesn’t mention the blind and dumb demonised man that prompted the accusation that he was in league with Satan, Beelzebub, the prince of demons. With a list of analogies, Jesus teaches the scribes to see how the kingdom of light and Satan’s kingdom of darkness oppose one another.
• For further study, see Matt. 12:22, Luke 11:14, John 10:20.
“If a kingdom is divided” — every revival brings opposition, like this example, and Satan’s oft-repeated strategy is to sow doubts by causing division among believers.
27-29 “In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house. Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”
“Plunder the strong man’s house”— Jesus was telling them that now, Mark 1:1, 7, someone stronger than Satan had come, who was able to rescue people from his power.
“Blasphemes against the Holy Spirit” — Jesus says that the one sin that puts a person beyond forgiveness is to attribute the redemptive work of God to Satan, probably because a person locked in such prejudice is unable to make the turn of repentance. Anyone who fears having committed the unforgivable sin has, by definition, showed that they need forgiveness.
30 He said this because they were saying, “He has an impure spirit.”
31-32 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call Him. A crowd was sitting round him, and they told Him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”
“Your brothers…” — younger half-brothers, not believers at this time, not understanding Jesus’ call and identity and concerned that He was overreaching Himself. Sisters are mentioned in Mark 6:3. Joseph, not mentioned, has probably died by this time.
33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?” He asked.
34-35 Then He looked at those seated in a circle round him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
“Whoever does God’s will” – see James 1:22. Jesus is not rejecting His natural family but teaching the high priority of the spiritual relationship that comes through believing in Him. Compare: “Who is my true mother and my true brothers?” Then looking in the eyes of those who were sitting in a circle around him, He said, “Here are My true family members. For whoever does the will of God is my brother, my sister, and my mother!” (The Passion Translation)
SUMMARY The deliverance of a demonised, handicapped man has provoked some blasphemous slander and a wide disquiet. Jesus uses this to teach about the tension in the opposing realms of truth and lies, and the fellowship that overcomes.
APPLICATION We need to be prayerfully aware that every renewing move of God will bring a counter move of Satan — unless we are proactive in tying up the ‘strong man’ in prayer.
QUESTION What does this teach us about praying for each other and for the outreach of our church?
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1 — The power that raised from dead is also renewing us
While earthly life is tiring the Holy Spirit works His eternal purpose in us
13-15 It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the One who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to Himself. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
“I believed… I have spoken” – from a version of Psalm 116:10, headlining a teaching about the power of exercising faith in all kinds of personal testimony stories. Paul often told the story of being changed from persecutor to missionary by his encounter with Jesus.
“The One who raised… Jesus from the dead” – the Holy Spirit’s extraordinary power that resurrected Jesus, Romans 8:11, 1 Cor. 15:20 is at work in us to transform us and present us, made holy and acceptable, to God. A trinitarian saying.
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
“Being renewed” – the Holy Spirit is not a preserver of our traditions, but always seeking to do His renewing work in us as individuals (and together as church).
17-18 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
“Light and momentary” – outward testing grows our reliance on God. Paul’s irony reminds us to keep an eternal focus, because life is eternal.
5:1 For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.
“Earthly tent” – a tent doesn’t last forever but we look forward to a heavenly life more permanent than a castle.
SUMMARY Paul reflects on the physical cost of beatings and shipwecks he has survived, pointing to God’s eternal kingdom purpose that is so much greater than the pain.
APPLICATION Opposition and some hard knocks are part of the territory that goes with the mission — and we are called to be pioneer explorers of God’s kingdom, which endures, not settlers who enjoy it in the moment.
QUESTION Are we prepared to agree with God about the priority of His mission and accept that it may not be popular or comfortable?
PRAYER Father God, help us to rely on You as our Lord and King and to choose to join You in what You are doing — even if that is uncomfortable at times. Forgive us for too easily reverting to what we want or the path of least resistance. What You have planned is so much greater and more enduiring. Come, Holy Spirit, and revive us again! Amen.
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