Pentecost to Advent
Theme: Knowing God is knowing His partnership
Psalm 100 — Praise God who is good and whose love endures
Joyful security comes from knowing God and living as His people
1 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
“All the earth” – the call to worship starts off wider than the people of Israel, or (we might say today) the Church. It is a call to all mankind, and even all creation. The focus from v.3 becomes more specific.
2 Worship the LORD with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs.
“Gladness… joyful songs” – characterises worshippers of the living God who respond to His goodness, v.5, in praise and joy.
3 Know that the LORD is God. It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.
“Know” – acknowledging that Israel’s covenant God, Yahweh, is the one true God, and being completely assured of this truth.
4 Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.
Enter… with praise” – coming into God’s presence in praise and joy were two conditions for entering the sanctuary.
• For further study, compare Psalm 40:8, 42:2, 43:4, 66:13, 86:9, 118:19-20.
5 For the LORD is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.
“For the LORD is good” – full of generosity, Ps. 23:6, 25:7-8. Here, “good” is supported by His merciful love and faithfulness, emunah, which NKJ renders as “truth”. The root meaning is about being established or confirmed and this is where our word “Amen” comes from.
Exodus 19:2-8 — Israel will be God’s special possession and witness
Moses hears God speak words of covenant on the mountain where he first met God
2 After they set out from Rephidim, they entered the Desert of Sinai, and Israel camped there in the desert in front of the mountain.
“Desert of Sinai” – in the south-east of the peninsula and the setting for the rest of the events of Exodus, Leviticus and the first ten chapter of Numbers. This was about seven weeks after the exodus and later this was the time of the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost. So Pentecost also celebrated the Giving of the Law.
3 Then Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel:
“The LORD called to him from the mountain” – fulfilling the promise made to Moses here, at the burning bush, that he would bring the people out of Egypt and serve God on this mountain, Exodus 3:12.
4 ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself.
“Carried you on eagle’s wings” – as eagles carry their young on their back, a picture of God’s care in the rescue.
5-6 Now if you obey Me fully and keep My covenant, then out of all nations you will be My treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.””Now if you… keep My covenant” – the covenant with Abraham 600 years before is to be amplified and extended, but whereas that covenant was an unconditional promise to an individual, this will be conditional on the nation’s continuing relationship with God.
“A kingdom of priests and a holy nation” – unlike the surrounding nations and their kings, Israel was to look to the LORD as their ruler and be a nation set apart for Him, and a model of having Him as their king. As a priest stands between God and people, representing one to the other, Israel would represent God, and be channels of grace to nations that did not know Him. Following the resurrection and Pentecost, every believer in Jesus would take on this role in the redefined new covenant priesthood, 1 Peter 2:5, 9.
“Set before them all the words” – the covenant that Moses was given to convey had three main emphases: (1) the commandments to govern their personal lives, (2) the law for their social lives and way of relating; and (3) ordinances for knowing how to approach God in their religious lives.
• For further study, see Exodus 20:1-26; Exodus 21:1-24:11; Exodus 24:12-31:18.
8 The people all responded together, “We will do everything the LORD has said.” So Moses brought their answer back to the LORD.
Moses had encountered the Lord on the slopes of this mountain when he was drawn by the sight of a burning bush, years before. Now the Lord had called him again and was telling him how the relationship would work — ‘relationship’ being an important word.
Everything about God is about relationship, from the oneness of the Father, Son, Holy Spirit relationship of the Trinity, down to the way He hears and speaks to us in the activity of the day – and the way He sets out for His church to love and respect each other.
His desire for the nation of Israel is a protective and providing partnership, exactly what’s needed in difficult terrain with hostile onlookers.
The way this works is in the words “Keep My covenant”, or in our language, “Guard the relationship”.
What does keeping covenant with God mean to us? What is the balance between our actions and our attitudes?
Matthew 9:35-10:8 — Jesus sends the twelve with His authority to proclaim the kingdom
This mission is to heal, deliver and free Jewish inhabitants of Galilee
9:35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.
“Jesus went through” – Galilee, in the preceding section which is bracketed by this verse and similarly-worded Matthew 4:23. Now He is sending the Twelve to proclaim the arrival of the domain of God over sickness.
36 When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Sheep without a shepherd” – Jesus’ compassion is expressed in pointing out the failure of spiritual leadership that has left the people bereft, Ezekiel 34:5; Zechariah 10:2, 13:7; Mark 6:34.
• For further study, Jesus’ compassion noted: Matthew 14:14, 15:22, 20:34; Mark 1:41, 6:34, 8:2.
37 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.”
• For further study, see Isaiah 18:4-5, 27:12, Hosea 6:11.
10:1 Jesus called His twelve disciples to Him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.
“Gave them authority” – also implied in “apostles” in the next verse; the word conveys the sense of an envoy sent to bring an area into line with a new rule. Jesus delegating His power in this way was remarkable and without precedent, and underlined His deity.
2-4 These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him.
“These are the names” – the lists of apostles always start with Peter but the differences are slight, except ‘the other’ Judas, son of James, called here Thaddeus.
• For further study: Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6:14-16; Acts 1:13.
5-6 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.
“Go… to the lost sheep of Israel” – the priority for the good news of the kingdom was the people of the covenant, staying within Galilee for this mission. After His death and resurrection Jesus commanded the kingdom message to be taken to all nations, Matthew 28:19.
7-8 “As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.”
“Proclaim this message” – by speaking and acting in the name of Jesus, the disciples also confirmed His Messiahship, see Matt. 11:2-6.
The headline to this story is Jesus’ memorable statement – which is about partnership: “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few… ask the Lord of the harvest… to send out workers…“
The ones that were already committed to that partnership as apprentices of Jesus are the Twelve (soon to be joined by others – Luke describes the sending out of seventy-two). At this point they are taking instruction to carry on the work they have already observed the Master doing; now He will observe them doing it.
However the call to partnership for us, as disciples has an important difference. There’s the work that God does, and the work that He assigns for us to do. In our time, we are the only ones who can tell people who Jesus is, proclaim the kingdom of God He came to inaugurate, and be the connection for people for the works of the kingdom.
What heaven desires and plans, has us as a vital link in the chain – it depends on our willingness to exercise our faith. Jesus didn’t come to start another world religion, He came to call disciples – and that is the kingdom partnership.
How do we see ourselves as the same as, or different from, the first disciples?
Romans 5:1-8 — Our faith through Jesus has brought us close to God
Therefore we can praise Him in difficult times as He strengthens us through them
1-2 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.
“Justified by faith” – summarises the teaching of the first part of the letter, c. The believer in Christ has, by God’s grace and Jesus’ action, been pronounced to now have right standing with God. It is a legal status of having been absolved from judgment, and therefore having (not just feeling) peace with God. God confers worth on us, through our faith in Him.
3-5 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
“Glory in our sufferings” – the path to eternal glory has rock falls and other difficulties which God uses to grow our Christian resilience and trust in Him, as we are held by His love. This is not a morbid view of God’s glory because of sufferings, but a joyful one of experiencing God’s majestic, overwhelming presence coming into difficult experiences.
6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.
“Just at the right time” – it is when we acknowledge our powerlessness and our need of Him, that Christ is revealed to us as our Saviour.
7-8 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
“Rarely will anyone die for a righteous person” – it is not unknown for someone to prefer another person’s life over their own, but the point is that Jesus went to His horrific death for us, while we were still in sin’s grip and therefore His enemies.
In the words of an old saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” It helps (a lot) if we know we are not alone, but held by God’s faithful love, while we wait for Him to break through with His glory.
This is hope, the confident expectation that God has our backs, and has ways and indeed purposes beyond our imagination. As The Passion Translation puts it, “…This hope is not a disappointing fantasy, because we can now experience the endless love of God cascading into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who lives in us!“
When life’s road is smooth and we feel in control, the partnership is not as evident as when we find ourselves almost upended by the potholes and finding ourselves relying on His saving hand again.
How much are you influenced by the world system we live in where favour has to be earned? If Jesus died for us while we still in independence and rebellion against Him, how does that knowledge influence how we pray now?
LORD, in the words of the psalmist, we worship You with gladness, joyfully thankful that we have been chosen to know You and to daily experience Your enduring love.
Whenever we rise to the call to be workers in Your harvest field, or we are challenged to persevere in hope when the field gate seems locked, we know that we belong to You, and that You are committed to us.
Thank You for the new and better covenant we have with You through Jesus, and for the practical helping partnership of Your Holy Spirit.
May we know where You are directing us, so we can partner with You and see Your kingdom come, for Your glory. Amen.
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Theme for Trinity Sunday: The three Persons of the One God at work in creation, mission and fellowship
See also page on Explaining the Trinity
Genesis 1:1-2:4 — God speaks into existence the world, its rhythms and also man in His image
Matthew 28:16-20 — Apprentices of Jesus are drawn from all kinds of people who become filled with Father, Son and Holy Spirit
2 Corinthians 13:11-14 — Christians carry with them the grace of Jesus, the love of the Father and the belonging of the Holy Spirit.
Genesis 1:1-2:4 — God speaks into existence the world and its rhythms
Everything created was good, and also man in God’s image
1-2 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
“In the beginning God” – God exists, and existed before creating the universe.
“God created” – God is the plural subject of a singular verb, a mysterious twist which could allude to the Trinity. The word bara used for “created”, literally ‘fashion anew’, is only ever used of God.
3-5 And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness. God called the light ‘day’, and the darkness He called ‘night’. And there was evening, and there was morning – the first day.
“And God said… and there was” – the absolute power of God, creating in His very words.
“Let there be light” – one of the principal themes of the Bible is that God puts light into darkness and confusion, here in the creation of the daily and weekly cycle.
“The light was good”– everything God does or creates comes out of His innate goodness, also vv. 10, 12, 18, 21, 25.
6-8 And God said, ‘Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.’ So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. God called the vault ‘sky’. And there was evening, and there was morning – the second day.
“Vault” – expanse; the root meaning is a beaten metal covering or dome.
• For further study, “hard as a mirror” and “like a canopy”, Job 37:18, Isaiah 40:22.
9-10 And God said, ‘Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.’ And it was so. God called the dry ground ‘land’, and the gathered waters He called ‘seas’. And God saw that it was good.
“Gathered” – God brings order out of chaos with the three domains of sky, sea and earth. The flood of Genesis 6 reverted to the previous chaos for that time.
11-13 Then God said, ‘Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.’ And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning – the third day.
“Plants bearing seed… trees bearing fruit – creation, fruitfulness and reproduction are set in place for human and animal life to come.
14-19 And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.’ And it was so. God made two great lights – the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning – the fourth day.
“He also made the stars” – Neighbouring cultures worshipped the stars but in God’s creation, He made them.
20-23 And God said, ‘Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.’ So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them and said, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.’ And there was evening, and there was morning – the fifth day.
“God created the great creatures of the sea” – which pagan cultures held to be co-eternal with their gods. Hebrew tanninim, creatures, elsewhere refers to crocodiles, powerful monsters or Leviathan – created by God and subject to His sovereignty.
24-25 And God said, ‘Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.’ And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.
26 Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’
“Let us make” – God speaks for His heavenly court of angels, with language that foreshadows the Trinity, an understanding that came much later in God’s progressive revelation.
27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.
“In our image” – each living part of creation is designed to reproduce “according to their kinds” and God’s supreme act of creation is creating mankind to share His attributes and qualities, including the rule of His creation, vv.28-29.
28 God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’
“Rule over… every living creature” – In ESV, “subdue… and have dominion”. The idea is investigating and finding the earth’s resources, a mandate for responsible scientific and technological development that respects God’s intentions. The strong term “subdue” (compare Zech. 9:15, Micah 7:19) conveys managing with God’s authority, perhaps foreshadowing sin and Satan’s attempts to gain control, which will need determined stewardship. Jesus’ saying about “violence” coming on God’s good order may reflect this, Matt. 11:12.
29-30 Then God said, ‘I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground – everything that has the breath of life in it – I give every green plant for food.’ And it was so.
“I give you every…” – repeating “every” and “all” emphasises the abundance of God’s provision.
31 God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning – the sixth day.
2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.
“Completed” – and perfect, needing no further work or revision, therefore “rest”, vv.2-3.
2-4 By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the seventh day He rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating that He had done. This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.
“He rested” – the basis for the word Sabbath although that observance did not come until the giving of the Law, Exodus 20:8-11.
Our first picture of the Trinity is of God the creator of the universe, with the creative Spirit of God present and active over the formless waters. Where is Jesus the Son of God? Also present, although not mentioned in the Genesis account.
John tells us in the opening words of his gospel that Jesus, the Word – or fundamental purpose of God – was with Him in the beginning and instrumental in the creation, John 1:1-3.
The climax of this part of the story is the creation of man as thinking and feeling and caring like God, and given authority to manage earth’s resources well.
How might we seek answers from the Creator to climax change and pollution and energy management?
Matthew 28:16-20 — Disciples of Jesus are drawn from all kinds of people
Full of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, they will continue Jesus’ work
16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go.
“Eleven disciples” – following Judas’ suicide, Matt. 27:5.
17 When they saw Him, they worshipped Him; but some doubted.
“But some doubted – The eleven believed but this tells us that others accompanied them, possibly the appearance to more than 500 mentioned by Paul, 1 Cor. 15:6.
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.
“All authority… has been given” – confirming Jesus’ deity and return to His exalted position as divine Son of God, connecting heaven and earth by His universal lordship.
19-20 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’
“Make disciples” – apprentices of Jesus who would learn to follow and do (better than obey) what Jesus taught and did helped by the Holy Spirit, like Jesus coaching them in person.
“The name” – singular, not names. This earliest Trinitarian verse means there is one true and undivided God who exists as the distinct persons of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The call to be a disciple of Jesus is spelt out in this passage – it is about making other disciples who learn to carry on the ministry of Jesus, who themselves encourage further disciples, and so on. How do we do that?
Those who come to a decision to trust what Jesus has done for them and invite Him to be the influencer of their lives will want to enter the water of baptism to celebrate their new life. That, says Jesus, is a transaction of all three Persons of the one God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
It is not a ritual but a transformation from the old life to the new, empowered to live it for Jesus, receiving the Father’s love, knowing the reality of Jesus in their lives, and being spiritually renewed.
Despite cruel persecution, the early church grew very rapidly – because this is the way it is designed to work.
How might grow more aware of the slightly different relationships we enjoy with Father, Son and Holy Spirit?
2 Corinthians 13:11-13 — Christians carry blessings of the three persons of God
Through Jesus we find God’s love and the oneness of the Holy Spirit
11 Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.
“Finally” – Paul’s concluding words in a letter about resolving relational difficulties urge living the life of the Spirit joyfully. The Holy Spirit leads into unity with generosity of attitude and a disposition to build others up, and bring out what God has put in them.
12-13 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All God’s people here send their greetings.
“Holy kiss… God’s people”– literally the hagio kiss of the hagioi, the welcome of the saints. The custom for family reunions was, uniquely in the church, a way of showing acceptance, love and freedom from judgment, bridging differences of race, social standing and gender.
14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
“Grace… love… fellowship” – Paul varies the more familiar order to show that through the grace of Jesus, we come to experience the love of God, and receive the Holy Spirit. At the end of a letter dealing with conflicts at Corinth, he gives a succinct formula for the solution.
The special sense of belonging and oneness with other Christians creates a feeling of family that includes all the rich diversity that we bring as varied individuals. And so family-style greetings need no encouragement.
But that togetherness and affinity is the very area the devil will try to damage, and the as-yet-unrenewed carnality and competitiveness of the Corinth Christians opened that door to trouble.
We can read all about it in Paul’s letters, but the end of his final letter summarises with the remedy: grace towards others, like Jesus, with unconditional love, like the Father, is what releases the genuine fellowship that only the Holy Spirit brings, and leaves little room for the enemy to sow strife.
What does it look like to follow Paul’s instruction to “encourage one another”?
Father, I can draw near to You through knowing what Jesus has done for me, and my halting utterances become prayers of praise and joy and every other expression as I allow Your Holy Spirit to lead me.
May I grow in Your kind of unconditional love, and learn to treat others preferentially as Jesus does — and be a disciple who is always learning the trade with Jesus and encouraging others to be on His team.
Your kingdom come! Amen.
See also page on Explaining the Trinity
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TLW21a May 31, 2020 Pentecost
Pentecost: All are on the team in the power of the Spirit
Psalm 104:24-34, 35 — All of God’s creation is sustained and renewed by Him
John 20:19-23 — The disciples receive from Jesus an initial impartation of the Spirit in preparation for Pentecost
Acts 2:1-21 — The outpouring of the Spirit empowers everyone to speak out God’s purposes and be part of the mission
1 Corinthians 12:3-13 — The Holy Spirit bestows a diversity of gifts but they all complement one another for one purpose
Psalm 104:24-34, 35b – All of God’s creation is subject to Him
Everything that lives is sustained by God’s breath
24 How many are Your works, LORD! In wisdom You made them all; the earth is full of Your creatures.
“Your words, LORD” – this is the end part of the psalm which praises God for His creation and continuing lifegiving involvement which later references the Holy Spirit.
25 There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number — living things both large and small.
26 There the ships go to and fro, and Leviathan, which You formed to frolic there.
“Leviathan, which You formed” – a huge, overpowering and fear-inducing sea monster, also the identity of a demonic principality. Man cannot overpower the monster, but God, who created it, can.
27 All creatures look to You to give them their food at the proper time.
28 When You give it to them, they gather it up; when you open Your hand, they are satisfied with good things.
29 When You hide Your face, they are terrified; when You take away their breath, they die and return to the dust.
“Breath” – linked to “Spirit” in the next verse. The idea is that God both gives and withdraws, life and renewal.
30 When You send Your Spirit, they are created, and You renew the face of the ground.
“When You send Your Spirit” – but in the context of an anointing that can be applied, or lifted. In another Psalm David pleads with God not to take away His Spirit and hence equipping for his royal task. Ezekiel and Jeremiah both prophesied about God giving His people and new heart (motivation) to live according to His will.
• For further study, read Ezekiel 36:26-27, Jeremiah 24:7, 32:39, Ezekiel 11:19.”
31-32 May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in His works — He who looks at the earth, and it trembles, who touches the mountains, and they smoke.
33 I will sing to the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
34 May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the LORD. But may sinners vanish from the earth and the wicked be no more. Praise the LORD, my soul. Praise the LORD.
“May my meditation be pleasing” – the poet recognises that sin pollutes God’s creation, and ends with invoking a blessing to be the opposite i.e. “pleasing to Him”.
God’s creation is diverse but it all works together, sustained by Him and under His control. God’s breath or Spirit is the life-breath of everything created, and it is also the renewing force that living organisms rely on. This points to the move of renewal that is Pentecost.
The Holy Spirit’s renewing work brings change – how much do you want to preserve how things are?
John 20: 19-23 — The disciples receive a foretaste of Pentecost
Jesus’ initial impartation prepares them to receive more
19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”
“Jesus came and stood” – the doors were shut and Jesus was resurrected with a real physical body, so this was one of a series of miraculous, but not ghostly, appearances.
20 After He said this, He showed them His hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
“His hands and side” – John does not mention feet. Jesus identifies Himself, showing that He did not feign death, but conquered it.
21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you.”
22 And with that He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
“He breathed on them” – a foretaste of what was to happen, an initial impartation preparing the way for the great outpouring at Pentecost. Baptism in the Spirit is often repeated.
23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
“Their sins are forgiven” – by God, not by this action. The apostles (now all believers) become involved in God’s plan of salvation by declaring the truth that God is ready to forgive those that repent and believe.
This is not unlike our experience of receiving Jesus into our hearts and being born again.
As we come to a decision for Him, there is the sense of Jesus revealing Himself to us, and an impartation of the Holy Spirit which changes us from the inside. We know we are now part of God’s plan for salvation, with an important message for others.
This may be the most memorable step, but there will be others. Any encounter with Jesus and the Holy Spirit gives us a thirst for more, and makes us more receptive — just the preparation the disciples needed.
How much do you need the impartation this passage describes? Might you be limiting, what God wants to give you?
Acts 2: 1-21 – The outpouring of the Spirit that moves all into mission
The prophecy is fulfilled: all are empowered to speak out God’s purposes
1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.
“Day of Pentecost” – the 50th day after the Sabbath of Passover and therefore the first day of the week. Pentecost (also called Weeks, Harvest and Firstfruits in Judaism) was by tradition when Moses received the Law, or Old Covenant. Now the Spirit is outpoured to fulfil the promise of the law and prophets and inaugurate the New Covenant.
• For further study, see Leviticus 23:15-16; Deuteronomy 16:10; Exodus 23:16, Numbers 28:26.
2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.
3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.
“Sound… of a violent wind… tongues of fire” – wind and fire are both signs of the intense presence of God. John the Baptist proclaimed that the Messiah would baptise “with the Holy Spirit and fire”, Luke 3:16.
4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
“All of them” – probably the 120, not just the 12, including women as in Joel’s prophecy vv.17-18. Spiritual leadership under the Old Covenant was restricted to Aaron’s family. The New Covenant starts by overturning that restriction in an empowering shared by all.
5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.
6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken.
“Heard their own language” – here the sign of tongues results in those in the very mixed festival crowd hearing their own dialects and languages. Later the gift of tongues would be a heavenly praise and prayer language not generally understood by others, unless (today’s experience) as a faith-raising sign to them.
7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans?
Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?
9-11 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs — we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”
12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
“What does this mean?” – the sign to them was hearing the wonders of God spoken in a way unmistakably personal to them.
13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”
14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say.
“Peter… addressed the crowd” – emerging as a leader able to speak with gravity and explain to the Jews gathered there, “This is that…” and taking them back to words they would know from Joel, v.16
15 “These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning!
16-17 “No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
“ ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.
“In the last days” – or “afterward” in Hebrew, making a contrast with the Old Covenant. Peter grasps that the New Covenant time has started, perhaps remembering the sign of the temple curtain being torn, opening up to all, the old restricted access to God.
18 ‘Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.
“They will prophesy” – inspired to declare God’s purposes as a “now”word, not just in the future.
9 ‘I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20 ‘The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
21 ‘And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ “
“Everyone who calls… will be saved” – a revolutionary idea by the general understandings of Judaism. The Holy Spirit was released to the whole world of men, women, son, daughters, Jews and Gentiles — all could turn to Jesus and receive the Spirit.
If we were in a gathering of other nationalities and heard English words praising God, we’d know that He wanted our attention, and we would “listen carefully” to what God wanted for our lives.
The explanation was a challenge: women, and young people would be God’s spokespersons, equal with men, and anyone, not just Jews, could come to God by calling on Jesus to be saved. The salvation and relationship with God won by Jesus is for anyone who will turn to Him. Who is tasked with making this known? We are, but we have to learn God’s ways to do it.
Pentecost changed everything, for ever – but the danger is that we would rather maintain the old ways.
How much do we reflect Pentecost in our lives and gatherings? What might God be saying about that?
1 Corinthians 12: 3-13 – The Spirit confers different gifts which all work together
The creative diversity is like the different parts which comprise one body
3 Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.
“Speaking by the Spirit of God” – what we say comes out of what is in the heart, which is either renewed by the Spirit of God, or not. Jews who did not believe Jesus was the Messiah condemned Him as cursed by God because He died on a ‘tree’, Deut. 21:23. He did die a cursed, shameful death, but it was to release all who believe in Him from shame and the law’s curse into the original blessing of Abraham, Gal. 3:13-14.
4-6 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.
“Different… gifts, but…. the same God at work” – an explanation that reflects the Trinity, of how the diversity of gifting that believers carry, all represents a single purpose as God works through them in different ways.
7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
“To each one… for the common good – those made alive in the Spirit all contribute a particular essential gift or gifts which build up the fellowship and bring God’s presence to the wider world.”
8-10 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.
“To one… to another” – not a prescriptive list or a single-label definition of what is organic and situational. Many will experience all of these gifts at different times, but may have greater facility in one or two. These gifts are commonly experienced more in prayer meetings, home groups and personal ministry than in contemporary front-led congregational worship, a pattern that the Early Church might not recognise.
11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and He distributes them to each one, just as He determines.
“The work of… the same Spirit” – together with v.7 “the manifestation of the Spirit” the repetition forms a literary bracket, used by writers of this era to convey emphasis. Gifts were to be seen as God working in partnership, not any individual’s enhanced spirituality.
12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.
13 For we were all baptised by one Spirit so as to form one body — whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free — and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
Many parts… form one body” – an important theme which Paul develops further and often returns to. The Holy Spirit confers revelation, or spiritual insight, and an empowering to bring God’s purposes to earthly situations, but in a way which calls for humble inter-dependence. The body needs every part, and no part defines the body, but Christ does.
Half a century ago the present experience of the gifts of the Spirit was held to be more controversial than today, when we know we need all the supernatural help we can get, to reach an increasingly distant world.
God-given insights, wisdom and faith for what God wants to do, help us to show people that God loves them and understands their situations, and bring the team dynamic of ‘every member ministry’ that changes our outlook.
The expectation of the human authors inspired to write what we call the NT, was that hearers would have a post-resurrection and post-Pentecost perspective of being empowered to live and witness for Jesus.
That is the nature of the mission partnership we are all called into.
Pentecost has happened – and the Holy Spirit and His gifts have been given to the church. Where and when do we make room for them and expect them to help us?
Lord God Almighty, from the beginning You planned to send Your Son to be our way of salvation.
You always intended to send Your Spirit for the whole church everywhere, that we might know the close presence of Jesus and share in His continuing ministry and mission.
May we catch a fresh excitement about what You are doing, and calling us into, at the present time.
With many asking spiritual questions and turning to find hope, peace and meaning in You, empower us all to speak out and explain what You are doing at this time and what Your good plans and purposes are.
Out of crisis, bring revival in the new life of Jesus! Amen.
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Theme: Who exactly is Jesus and what is the source of His authority? (Christ the King)
To read in the week of Nov 18, to prepare for Sunday, November 25 (TLW 47)
2 Samuel 23:1-7 — Final words from a renowned and godly ruler of Israel. David recalls God’s covenant with him and looks forward to a promised royal descendant
Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14 — the majesty of the Ancient of Days. A glimpse of heaven for Daniel who sees amid a myriad angels attending the throne of God the honouring of “one like a son of man”.
John 18:33-37 — Jesus is questioned by Pilate about who He is. Jesus explains that He is no political figurehead but His kind of kingdom is rooted elsewhere.
Revelation 1:4b-8 — The freedom to serve God as His priests now. Jesus, present from the beginning will return as the completion of truth
Also: Psalm 132:1-18
2 Samuel 23:1-7 — Final words from a renowned and godly ruler of Israel
David recalls God’s covenant with him and looks forward to a promised royal descendant
23 These are the last words of David:
‘The inspired utterance of David son of Jesse, the utterance of the man exalted by the Most High, the man anointed by the God of Jacob, the hero of Israel’s songs:
“The utterance of the man exalted” – testimony to God’s work through his life, having been raised up as king of Israel, from shepherd to ruler, 2 Samuel 7ff; like the Bible’s wisdom literature, what follows contrasts just rule in the fear of God with
2 ‘The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me; His word was on my tongue.
“Spoke through me” – not presumptuous, but in awe at God using Him prophetically.
3 The God of Israel spoke, the Rock of Israel said to me:
“When one rules over people in righteousness, when he rules in the fear of God,
4 he is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after rain that brings grass from the earth.”
“When one rules… in righteousness… in the fear of God” – in the style of a prophet, David sets out in bold strokes a picture of a God-centred ruler – unmistakably alluding to the One he foreshadowed, Jesus Christ.
5 ‘If my house were not right with God, surely He would not have made with me an everlasting covenant, arranged and secured in every part;
surely He would not bring to fruition my salvation and grant me my every desire.
“An everlasting covenant… secured in every part” – even though his household had failed God, David believes rightly that God’s promise recorded in 2 Sam. 7:12-16 will hold good with a descendant of David as the Eternal King, fulfilled in Jesus Christ when He
For further study, similar prophecies in Isaiah 11:1-10; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Jer. 33:15-18; Zech.9:9-10. Fulfilled in part, Matt. 4:14-16; Luke 24:25-27,44-49; John 5:45-47; John 8:28-29.
6 But evil men are all to be cast aside like thorns, which are not gathered with the hand.
7 Whoever touches thorns uses a tool of iron or the shaft of a spear; they are burned up where they lie.’
“Thorns” – worthless but also dangerous, needing to be shifted with an weapon or implement. “Burned up”, literally ‘consumed with fire in the sitting’ or as we would say, on the spot. For God’s judgment as fire, see Isaiah 9;18; 10:17. The fate of the rebellious when the Messiah, in fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant finally establishes His rule on earth, Isa. 63:1-6.
Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14 – the majesty of the Ancient of Days
A glimpse of heaven for Daniel who sees amid a myriad angels attending the throne of God the honouring of one like a son of man
9 ‘As I looked, ‘thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took His seat.
His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of His head was white like wool;
His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of His head was white like wool.
His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze.
“The Ancient of Days” – pictures God as a king of great power and immense maturity giving judgment in court. The description symbolises His wisdom in white hair; righteousness by white clothing; and power in judgment, as fire. The description is similar to that of an angel in Matthew 28:3 and Jesus in Revelation 1:14.
10 A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before Him.
Thousands upon thousands attended Him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him
“Thousands attended” – a very great number of angelic beings stood before Him. John also recorded that there ‘thousands and millions”, i.e. too many to count, surrounding God’s throne and ministering to Him. Angels are spiritual beings created by God for worship and for mission (like us) who, largely unseen, help in carrying out God’s work on earth.
13-14 ‘In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, [enash] coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into His presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshipped Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
“One like a son of man” – an Aramaic phrase ‘bar
For further study: Matt. 24:30; Mark 13:26; Mark 14:62; Luke 21:27; Rev. 1:7.
IN PRACTICE The first aspect of who God is comes through David’s final testimony about ruling in the fear of God, and Daniel’s picture of awe as he is
QUESTION Daniel’s vision of thousands and millions in the heavenly court was extraordinary and unrepeatable. What kinds of spiritual practice help us to have some sense of a glimpse of heaven and the majesty of the heavenly court?
John 18:33-37 – Jesus is questioned by Pilate about who He is
Jesus explains that He is no political figurehead, but His kind of kingdom is rooted elsewhere
33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’
34 ‘Is that your own idea,’ Jesus asked, ‘or did others talk to you about Me?’
“Are you…” – Pilate’s first words to Jesus are the same in each of the four gospels. There were two possible questions here with different political overtones – was Jesus a rebel leader in opposition to Roman rule, or was He the Jews’ religious leader, the Messiah?
35 ‘Am I a Jew?’ Pilate replied. ‘Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?’
“Pilate replied” – he is exasperated, despising the Jews and their ways and not wanting to get involved with their affairts, yet seeing no real basis for their extreme animosity. Ironically, he ends up supporting their position in which we see God’s providence in allowing Jesus to be executed by being ‘lifted up’ and not by stoning, as Jews were inclined to do.
36 Jesus said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent My arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now My kingdom is from another place.’
37 ‘You are a king, then!’ said Pilate.
Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to Me.’
“My kingdom is from another place” – heaven is the place of eternal and absolute truth. Jesus came as the Way, the Truth and the Life, John 14:6. Relationship with Him is the only way to God and the only means of that life-bringing truth being revealed – a conundrum for intellectual theologians because it is not logical or understandable. Jesus came as living truth for all who would receive Him. Pilate, a politician, considered all truth relative in the shifting sands of people’s opinions; however Jesus of Nazareth and his philosophical-sounding answer did not present as a threat to law and order.
IN PRACTICE The second aspect of who God is, concerns the Son of Man who Daniel sees in his vision, approaching the Ancient of Days. On earth this picture is recalled, ironically, as Jesus of Nazareth is brought before Pontius Pilate. The Roman governor Pilate was used to factions, pressure-groups and politics in general. Appointed as Prefect of the Roman province of Judea, he encountered the religious politics of Jews and Samaritans, eventually being recalled to Rome after complaints from both. So it is not surprising that when Jesus of Nazareth was brought before him by the Jews, he saw Him at first as yet another political activist. Jesus immediately corrected that perception with His statement: “My kingdom is from another place”. The lesson for us is that human politics on earth and heaven’s purposes follow different agendas. There are spiritual connections – and tensions – between the two. We often pray and expect answers as though the kingdom of God and our world dominated by man’s organisation and control were the same, but the reality is that we pray through Jesus, who is the king of “a kingdom not of this world”. The better we know Jesus, the more we will discern His kingdom, and the more clearly we’ll see the difference — and learn to live and pray in the right alignment with what He is doing.
PRAYER Lord, I say you are a king – the king, King Jesus, to whom all authority is given. Help me to hold less tightly the priorities that seem to apply on earth, and to begin to see matters from a different perspective – Your heavenly perspective.
Revelation 1:4b-8 — The freedom to serve God as His priests now
Jesus, present from the beginning, will return as the completion of truth
4 To the seven churches in the province of Asia:
“The seven churches” – the letters were addressed so they could be sent out and passed on via the Roman road which ran north of Ephesus and then in an arc inland and back towards Ephesus, connecting the Roman province called Asia in modern western Turkey.
Grace and peace to you from Him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne,
“Seven spirits before His throne” – better, ‘sevenfold spirit’ as NIV footnote. The number seven symbolises completeness and perfection. There may also be an allusion to the ‘angels of the seven churches, Rev. 1:20.
5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
5-6 To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve His God and Father – to Him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.
“Who loves us… has freed us…has made us…” – stated as present-time blessings. There is a dimension of the kingdom of God (God’s reign bringing God’s order) which is not just anticipated when Jesus comes again, but in some measure experienced now.
“A kingdom and priests to serve” – here, clearly and simply, is set out the essential difference between the Old Covenant way of relating to God (rules, hierarchical and formal rituals, led by a special order of priests who make connections by proxy, with God who is holy and remote) and the New Covenant (freed from the burden and guilt of sin by Jesus’ blood and now able to draw close to God as those who know Him and know His love, to serve Him in worship and mission without intermediaries). The human tendency is to revert to what is more ordered and more controlled, requiring less personal investment and responsibility, which is why the New Covenant remains a challenge for much of the Christian church today. As Jesus taught, the ‘taste of the old wine’ seems preferable.
7 ‘Look, He is coming with the clouds,’ and ‘every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him’; and all peoples on earth ‘will mourn because of Him.’ So shall it be! Amen.
8 ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.’
“The Alpha and the Omega” – the alphabet is an ingenious way of representing knowledge through words. Christ, the Living Word, is supreme in this, ruling sovereignly over all human history including the part that for us has not yet unfolded.
“All peoples on earth will mourn” — rejoicing at the return of the Messiah by those that are His, swept up in the air to meet Him, 1 Thess. 4:16-17. Others, the ones still on earth, mourning their sin and judgment. The combined quotation headlines the theme of Revelation, the sweepingly majestic yet human-related Lord, Daniel 7:13 who evokes both the sorrow of sin in the face of One so holy but also finding grace, Zechariah 12:10.
IN PRACTICE The third aspect of who Jesus is, also says a lot about who we are
QUESTION What is meant by priesthood in the post-resurrection New Testament? What should we call those who are set apart and trained as preachers, shepherds and leaders in the church?
PRAYER Lord God Almighty, may we grow in loving You and walking in awe of You, as we seek to represent You to our world, and bring the needs of our world to You.
This post in booklet form to print out for your church, respecting ©2018 The Living Word/Ian Greig
Revised Common Lectionary Bible readings to prepare for Sunday, November 18
Theme: The devil’s destructive works are overturned by faith in God’s purpose
1 Samuel 1:4-20 – God’s answer to a desperate prayer impacts history. Hannah’s failure to conceive does not dampen her trust in God’s goodness.
Daniel 12:1-3 – End-times resurrection: either everlasting life, or shame. The archangel Michael will arise to protect those whose name is written in book of the saved, in the final conflict.
Mark 13:1-8 – Jesus foretells the destruction of the temple. The end-times conflicts will be characterised by wars, disasters and widespread spiritual deception.
Hebrews 10:11-25 – Our confidence is in knowing who we are in Jesus. The Holy Spirit witnesses to us the New Covenant in Jesus blood and the finality of Jesus’ sacrifice for us.
OLD TESTAMENT READING 1
1 Samuel 1:4-20 – God’s answer to a desperate prayer impacts history
Hannah’s failure to conceive does not dampen her trust in God’s goodness
4-8 Whenever the day came for Elkanah to sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters. But to
“But to Hannah” – the name means ‘grace’. The wider story is God’s miraculous intervention with a faithful woman, Hannah, raising up the last of the judges of Israel at a time of crisis for Israel, who will oversee the transition to a monarchy.
“Peninnah… Hannah” – monogamy was the rule, two people becoming one flesh, Gen. 2:24. But there were social pressures through young men being killed in battle and the need to continue the family line – and produce more offspring to help with the work.
9-11 Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up. Now Eli the priest was sitting on his chair by the doorpost of the Lord’s house. In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. And she made a vow, saying, “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”
“Shiloh” – the original settled location of the tabernacle where the land was divided among the tribes, Josh. 18:1-10; modern Khirbet Seilun, about 20 miles north of Jerusalem. It was destroyed, Psalm 78:60; Jer. 7:12-14 perhaps as a result of the mistakes of 1 Sam. 4 when the ark was taken from Shiloh to be with the army, who
“Eli…on his chair by the…Lord’s house” – by this time a building with rooms, not just a tent. The chair (like a vicar’s stall in a C of E church) is the priest’s place and denotes his authority. Rabbis would sit to teach. Jesus is now seated at the right hand of the Father.
“Deep anguish” – barrenness in OT times was considered a failure and a social embarrassment for her husband, on top of the natural disappointment.
12-14 As she kept on praying to the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk and said to her, “How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.”
“Kept on praying” – Hannah had reason to be swamped by discouragement; unable to conceive, mocked by a woman who shared her husband and by the high priest who failed to understand her motives. But she kept praying, kept her focus on God and opened the way for Him to work.
15-16 “Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.”
“Not… a wicked woman” – to drink in the tabernacle precincts would be considered a grave offence; for a priest, a death sentence, Lev. 10:9; Ezek. 44:21.
17 Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.”
18 She said, “May your servant find favour in your eyes.” Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.
19-20 Early the next morning they arose and worshipped before the Lord and then went back to their home at Ramah. Elkanah made love to his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her. So in the course of time, Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, “Because I asked the Lord for him.”
“Samuel” – the literal meaning is ‘name of God’ but it sounded like ‘heard by God’, a double meaning important to Hannah: God had heard her prayer.
OLD TESTAMENT READING 2
Daniel 12:1-3 – End-times resurrection: either to everlasting life, or shame
The archangel Michael will arise to protect those whose name is written in book of the saved, in the final conflict
1 “At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people – everyone whose name is found written in the book – will be delivered.
“At that time” – the events of the previous paragraph detailing the antichrist’s attempt to annihilate the Jewish people, Dan. 11:36-45. It will be a time of unprecedented distress but at the same time, tempered with hope for true believers, who have turned in faith to their Messiah Jesus, Zech. 12:10; Romans 11:25-27.
“Michael” – the name of the archangel Michael who prevailed over a principality demon controlling the Persian empire, after a 21-day struggle.
“Name… written in the book” – the book of the saved, Mal. 3:16-4:3; Luke 10:20; Rev. 13:8
2-3 Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.
“Multitudes who sleep… will awake” – the first reference in the Bible to the physical resurrection of the righteous, and also with a different outcome, of the wicked. The bodily resurrection of both the saved and the lost was a not part of the common belief.
For further study, read Job 19:25-26; Psalm 16:10; Isaiah 26:19; John 5:24-29.
“Everlasting life” – the phrase is unique here in the OT.
IN PRACTICE The story of Hannah speaks loudly of God’s goodness, to all of us who have been misunderstood, disappointed again and again and put down by others. Her self-esteem had been shredded, but not her faith. She knew God is good, even if it didn’t feel that way to her, and she kept on praying. We know that pride and self-sufficiency are a barrier to God working in our lives. And He will root that out, especially if he is about to do something big. His purpose is always to grow us and always has a bigger picture than the one we see.
Hannah’s story reminds us that at times of apparent disaster, God is working for His salvation purposes. For God’s people taking God’s kingdom purpose forward, persecution goes with the territory! Paul reminded Timothy of this (2 Timothy 3:10-13 especially) and it is our encouragement to keep on keeping on, for heaven’s reward in heaven’s time.
PRAYER Lord, open my eyes to the bigger picture that is not just my fight of faith, that I may see and declare that You are good and Your purposes for me are protective.
Mark 13:1-8 – Jesus foretells the destruction of the temple
The end-times conflicts will be characterised by wars, disasters and widespread spiritual deception
1 As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”
“Massive stones” – think of foundation stones on the scale of a double-decker bus. The building project would not be complete for another 30 years.
2 “Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”
“Every one… thrown down’ – the temple was completely destroyed by the Romans in AD70 together with most of the city. The authorities, who sought to murder the Messiah, Mark 11:18, rather than welcome Him, Mark 11:9-11, 27-33, were rebellious tenants marked for destruction, Mark 12:9-10.
3-4 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”
“What will be the sign” — the disciples were expecting the temple destruction to herald the last times. Jesus is speaking of future events and future times but, confusingly for us, free of chronological order. Prophetic foretelling in Scripture often applies to more than one future time.
5-8 Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.
“Watch out… be on your guard” – Jesus’ commanding tone points to deception being a primary danger for the disciples, requiring them (and us) to be skilled in spiritual discernment together with Scriptural principles.
IN PRACTICE Jesus had warned the disciples that there would be consequences for those who rejected their Messiah. The cause and effect relationship would result in the pulling down of the focus of national pride, the new temple and even its massive foundations. Their ‘sign of the end times’ came less than 40 years later with terrible bloodshed as Jerusalem and its revolt was destroyed by the Romans. Jesus’ words point to a greater conflict yet to come, while the end-times seem to us to go on and on. Perhaps the greatest danger is not just hatred and war, but its root causes in satanic deception. The kingdom message of knowing God’s love and loving Him and others is so straightforward we can miss it – but we are to watch for the ways it is twisted into an ugly caricature, and recognise which kingdom is dark, and which is light.
QUESTION Do our attitudes and actions play out with effects now, or effects later, or in eternity – or not at all?
Hebrews 10:11-25 – Knowing who we are in Jesus is our confidence
The Holy Spirit witnesses to us the New Covenant in Jesus blood and the finality of Jesus’ sacrifice for us
11-14 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this Priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time He waits for his enemies to be made His footstool. For by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
“Every priest stands… this Priest… sat down” – Christ is seated because His work is finished, whereas every
15 The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First He says:
16 “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.”
“I will put my laws in their hearts” – as Jeremiah had prophesied, Jer. 31:31-34, seeing a future era of the Holy Spirit leading and guiding believers which, post-Resurrection, should be our experience. These verses explain the apparent conundrum of “being made holy” or sanctified by the Holy Spirit’s influence on us, while being regarded positionally as “made perfect” by the finished work of Christ, v.14. We are seen according to our new nature in Christ, outcome assured, while as we are aware, we remain on earth a ‘work in progress’.
17 Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.”
18 And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.
“Sins…remember no more” – contrasts with “annual reminder of sins”, Heb. 10:3. The religious mindset (as in the Old Covenant) holds on to a false need to confess sins repeatedly. This new spiritual perspective of the New Covenant has the revelation that Christ forgives sins completely, Psalm 40:6-8. Sins we confess and renounce are both forgiven and forgotten.
19-25 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
“Therefore… let us…” – the incredible good news that we are positionally completely forgiven is not a licence for passivity, but rather, the reason to keep on meeting, encouraging one another, going deeper with God and further in faith-prompted love and good deeds.
“Draw near… with…” – it works with certain conditions: sincerity of heart, unhesitating assurance, freedom from guilt, and the impartation of “hearts sprinkled… bodies washed” which points to the value of choosing to declare faith in baptism.
IN PRACTICE A key word in this passage is ‘confidence’ and a key value in living above all that pulls us down as witnesses to the life of the Spirit of Jesus in us, is confidence in who we are, as viewed by heaven. We might not feel it polite in mixed company to speak vehemently of the blood of Jesus and how it has transformed us – but speak it out we
QUESTION What seems to be going badly for you right now? What is God’s good purpose in it, and how do you pray in line with that discernment?
PRAYER Lord, no one knows the time of Your return and all we really understand about the end-times is that at the end of the book, the Lamb wins! Fill me afresh with the Holy Spirit who gives holy confidence and
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