This article linked to the TLW Bible study for October 24 is based on the Revised Common Lectionary Bible readings which are used by a wide spectrum of churches and chapels.
Job 42:1-6, 10-17 — Job’s encounter with God opens his eyes
Mark 10:46-52 — Blind Bartimaeus implores Jesus to heal him
Hebrews 7:23-28 — Only Jesus can save from sins completely
And also read: Psalm 34:1-8, 19-22
• Watch a short video telling the story that comes out of the readings about Encountering God for Ourselves
The story that emerges in this article is about encountering God for ourselves, not through the opinions of others or the mediation of priests or church rituals. God loves us, and wants us to love Him in return — and to enjoy fellowship with Him directly.
Through His Son Jesus — and in particular His sacrificial death for our wrongdoings followed by resurrection to new life and ascension to heaven to sit in the place of authority and high priesthood — we CAN know God for ourselves.
Which is what God our loving Father wants!
Let’s follow this through, first sharing Job’s experience way back in the ancient times of the OT, then encountering God through Jesus in the insistence of the blind and despised beggar, Bartimaeus. Then we see encountering God for ourselves in the teaching of Hebrews about the New Covenant we have in Jesus, who is now the only priest we need, holding an eternal heavenly priesthood of a far higher order than any earthly priest of any age.
Job listened patiently to his friends’ homilies on his presumed sinfulness and rebellion before God’s strict requirements. The problem was, like too many today who like the title of and the supposed significance of being a priest who can deliver moral homilies, they did not actually know the God who they claimed to represent.
And Job, like many a church attender today, knew that what he was hearing was not the real deal. His knowledge and understanding of God was also imperfect, but he was humbly aware of that, and ready to admit it in repentance. Job quotes what God has said to Him:
“You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer Me.’
My ears had heard of You, but now my eyes have seen You.Job 42:4-6
Honesty really is the best policy with God, who sees all and knows all. And this was the turning point for Job, who lived on to ripe old age, to have three beautiful daughters and twice as much live stock as the very considerable wealth he had before.
The lesson here, played out with Job in agonising slow motion, is that God wants our hearts, and wants us to to deeper with Him. It’s our devotion and our fellowship in life He wants, not the religious complexities we create that take the place of that personal relationship.
Next we find ourselves on the Pilgrim Way, the road leading south around New Jericho where a local ‘nuisance character’ nicknamed ’Son of Impurity’ had heard that Jesus of Nazareth was passing through. And he started shouting with excitement.
A blind man, Bartimaeus… 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!”
Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”Mark 10:47-48
Bartimaeus was disabled, without physical sight. And he was a nobody, a beggar. His situation showed an absence of God’s blessing — or so people presumed. And he could only get to Jesus through others, and others were not permitting that.
He KNEW who Jesus was. Jesus’ compassion for people like him showed him that God’s mercy and kindness was embodied in this man. That proved that He was the Messiah, even if His own close disciples were conflicted about this.
And Jesus ordered that the crowd make a way for him.
What Jesus asked Him reads like a pantomime question, where everyone knows the answer except the character. But this was the question that released faith and made the connection with what Jesus wanted to do for him.
“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”
“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.Mark 10:51-52
We can learn from this, that the blind man was insistent about who Jesus was, and he wanted to ask Him for His loving mercy, himself.
This is Jesus’ intention for each one of us — to have our own relationship with Him which comes through new spiritual birth when we believe who Jesus is and receive Him personally.
This man used a personal form of the word when he said “Rabbi, I want to see.” He said, “MY rabbi, I want to see”. This rare word is what Mary Magdalene exclaimed when she recognised Jesus on the Rresurrection Day.
Jesus wants us to receive as our own Saviour and Lord, and at this point the new spiritual birth happens and a dormant spiritual dimension in us is kindled into life — and the mystery of heaven and God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit becomes clear. Or, at any rate, a lot more clear and real than it was.
This is not a change that can be achieved through any ordinance of the church. We cannot trust the church to do the spiritual part for us, to provide the necessary faith. We have to believe and trust God ourselves through trusting Jesus for who He is. The blind man who saw clearly who Jesus really was, is a good guide for our faltering steps and a good encourager — if we are humble enough to learn from him.
This is the point of the teaching in Hebrews 7 which consolidates this lesson for us. Jesus, and only Jesus can save us from sins completely .
Those who had been brought up in a complex and hierarchical religious systems of different priests and acolytes offering sacrifices needed some help in seeing their new life framed very differently.
The former priests and high priests needed to sacrifice for their own sins before they could offer sacrifices for the sins of others. They could only sacrifice animals, an imperfect offering which had to be made repeatedly.
But Jesus does not need to offer sacrifices for His own sins; and He sacrificed, not an animals, but Himself, God’s own Son:
He sacrificed for their sins once for all when He offered himself.
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.Hebrews 7:27b-28
This recalls the language of Psalm 110:4:
The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind: You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.Psalm 110:4
It had been decreed that the exalted and eternal order of the heavenly priest, Melchizedek, who mysteriously appeared to Abraham, would be conferred on Jesus Christ. The Old Covenant law appointed men as high priests who were humanly fallible; The heavenly oath was a higher decree which overrules all such appointments
Those brought up under the religious system that existed and operated before Jesus’ death, needed closure on that, as they learned to see their Lord, Jesus, as having made the full and final sacrifice for sins, becoming our sole and unique mediator.
What does this tell us about encountering God for ourselves? Compared with the Old Covenant r religious system and its priests, it is a radical shift. Jesus is all the go-between we need. He is all sufficient.
When we don’t have a sure knowledge of Jesus as Saviour, and we are unsure if faith in Jesus alone is sufficient, we will be tempted to create a version of the OT system, creating a new order of ‘priests’ to act between God and people whose faith is remote and impersonal. That isn’t what Jesus came to earth and died for. It is what He came to earth and died to abolish.
The Bible is clear that there is a “royal priesthood” which is given to everyone who believes and trust in Jesus, who is the High Priest of tHis body on earth. There is no mention or hint of an exalted order of priestly church leaders — in fact, rather a lot of emphasis on the opposite.
Jesus came, showed the way to the Father and died to make it possible, so that those who believed and trusted in Him could experience a new spiritual birth and a personal relationship with Him and the Father. He paid a high price for every believer in Him to have this access. We deny the great freedom He has bought us, if we try to ‘churchify’ it into something more institutional and less organic. There is no substitute for simply turning to Jesus — and believing.