Church calendar readings for the week leading up to Sunday, April 22
MONDAY Genesis 7:1-5 and 11-18, Gen. 8:6-18, Gen. 9:8-13 – Saved from the flood of judgment
TUESDAY Psalm 23 – Saved in the valley of the shadow of death
WEDNESDAY John 10:11-18 – Saved as part of the flock of the Good Shepherd
THURSDAY Acts 4:5-12 – Ministering in the only name under heaven by whom salvation comes
FRIDAY 1 John 3:16-24 – Demonstrating the authentic character of the saved
This week’s theme is clearly around God’s gracious salvation
MONDAY, APRIL 16
Genesis 7:1-5 and 11-18, Gen. 8:6-18, Gen. 9:8-13
Noah, who God found to be righteous in an evil generation, takes his family, livestock and other animals into a huge ark he had obediently constructed.
7:1-3 The Lord then said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation. Take with you seven pairs of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and one pair of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, and also seven pairs of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth.
“Clean animal” – There was awareness of the correct animals for sacrifices long before the law concerning clean and unclean animals was given, Leviticus 11, Deuteronomy 14.
4 Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made.”
“Seven days” – seven is sometimes used for a closing period, so there is a degree of urgency expressed here.
“Forty days” – The number 40 is used in Scripture for receiving the law, Deut. 9:11 and the temptation of Jesus, Matt. 4:2. The wilderness wandering and King David’s reign over Israel are both stated as 40 years. This is a significant event and a significant time period.
5 And Noah did all that the Lord commanded him.
= = =
11-12 In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, on the seventeenth day of the second month – on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened. And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights.
“Springs of the great deep… floodgates of the heavens” – evokes the creation and a reversing of the appearance of the land. The precise giving of the date is not symbolic, but evidence of an important fact well remembered by oral tradition.
13-16 On that very day Noah and his sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, together with his wife and the wives of his three sons, entered the ark. They had with them every wild animal according to its kind, all livestock according to their kinds, every creature that moves along the ground according to its kind and every bird according to its kind, everything with wings. Pairs of all creatures that have the breath of life in them came to Noah and entered the ark. The animals going in were male and female of every living thing, as God had commanded Noah. Then the Lord shut him in.
Noah and his family were monogamous, and numbered eight in all, 1 Peter 3:20.
“As God had commanded Noah” – also v.5. At this early point of salvation history, righteousness is equated with obedience, and leads to salvation. Just when they could have been wiped out by judgment, God shows a fatherly touch by shutting them in.
17-18 For forty days the flood kept coming on the earth, and as the waters increased they lifted the ark high above the earth. The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water.
= = =
8:6-12 After forty days Noah opened a window he had made in the ark and sent out a raven, and it kept flying back and forth until the water had dried up from the earth. Then he sent out a dove to see if the water had receded from the surface of the ground. But the dove could find nowhere to perch because there was water over all the surface of the earth; so it returned to Noah in the ark. He reached out his hand and took the dove and brought it back to himself in the ark. He waited seven more days and again sent out the dove from the ark. When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth. He waited seven more days and sent the dove out again, but this time it did not return to him.
The raven and the dove are something of a parable. The raven is a patrolling presence, like a harbinger, whereas the dove flies out and comes back to Noah as his dove, and in its way communicates with him. Much later on, the Holy Spirit chooses to be seen as a dove, Matt 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 1:32
13-14 By the first day of the first month of Noah’s six hundred and first year, the water had dried up from the earth. Noah then removed the covering from the ark and saw that the surface of the ground was dry. By the twenty-seventh day of the second month, the earth was completely dry.
Noah looked for signs of dry land from 40 days onwards. And looked, and waited. Land appeared and the dove did not return a year and 10 days after the rain started; read together Genesis 7:6, 11 and 8:13-14.
15-17 Then God said to Noah, “Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives. Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you – the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground – so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number on it.”
Noah waited for God’s command before leaving the ark.
18 So Noah came out, together with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives.
There are parallels here with the Creation story in Genesis 1, a picture of returning to “in the beginning”, but this time on the basis of covenant between God and man which is described at length, Gen. 8:20-9:17.
= = =
9:8-11 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”
This covenant is a unilateral promise, established by God without any particular participation, not just to Noah and his descendants, but to “every living creature”. This is the forerunner to later covenants, which by contrast are mutual and relational.
12-13 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.
The geological data confirms a flood of the proportions described, over a large but limited area centred on Mesopotamia. However the account should be read and understood in its own terms – a judgment in which the entire living scene is destroyed. This informs the N.T. teaching of an impending greater judgment of the universe itself, 2 Peter 3:5-7.
This is a remarkable account of one stubbornly righteous man, Noah, who obeyed God and not the cultural pressures of his generation, and it speaks down the millennia.
God wants us for Himself, and wants us to to be right with Him in our attitudes and intentions. Every conflict recorded in the Bible and in church history and every contemporary tension turns on this truth.
Wanton independence from God’s way does carry penalties – the severest penalties imaginable in this instance. On the other hand, the account demonstrates that keeping God’s way brings salvation, in the broadest sense.
For Noah, it is simply about obedience to God. For us the relationship is more nuanced; it would be better expressed in our knowing God in such a way that, what we want to do most, is to please Him by walking closely with Him.
There is also an early lesson here about waiting for God, and doing what He says, in His timing and not ours. Noah waited the best part of a year after the water started going down, before he knew – he heard from God – that it was time for him to lead the way out of the grounded ark, which had served its purpose.
For reflection and discussion
Think about an area of your life where you can see a way to move forward but you are still awaiting God’s release.
p class=”p1″>When you see a rainbow, what do you sense God is saying to you or reminding you?
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 14
Mark 1: 9-15
Jesus demonstrates the way of dependence on God as a key to a Holy Spirit empowered life.
|9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.||At this point, Jesus had grown up in Nazareth and stayed in the area, as people did. Galilee is the area on the west (Mediterranean side) of the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan, and north of Samaria. People from there had a distinctive accent that stood out in Judea or Jerusalem.|
|10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, He saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on Him like a dove.||This is the Son of God, the sinless Saviour who lined up for baptism to identify with sinners needing a fresh start, and receives an impartation of the Holy Spirit, identifying with all of us who are powerless without Him.
In the believers’ baptism practised by many contemporary churches, including these days some Anglicans, it is the practice to hear a brief testimony story of how the person came to know Jesus, and in their story, people often make reference to their former independence and perhaps waywardness. Going down into the water is symbolic of a spiritual death and rebirth in coming out again. Often pastor and friends will pray for the person to receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit while they are in the water and prophetic words may be given.
|11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with You I am well pleased.”||There are not many passages in Scripture which are clearly Trinitarian, but this is one of them. Jesus is the centre of the story, the Holy Spirit is visibly involved, and the voice of affirmation is of course the Father’s.|
|12 At once the Spirit sent Him out into the wilderness,||“At once”, euthys, is a word characteristic of Mark, used nearly 50 times in his fast-paced narrative.|
|13 and He was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.||
Forty days recalls Israel’s 40 years of testing in the wilderness. Israel failed at several points, but Jesus was victorious.
Wild animals, which would have included dogs, wolves, jackals, leopards and bears, are only mentioned in Mark’s gospel, which emphasises the protection of angels in this sinister, desolate place.
“Tempted (or tested) by Satan”. Not an impersonal evil, or a figure of speech for a difficult thought – although the difficult or condemning or fear-provoking thoughts we struggle with are put there by the enemy until we decide to put them out. The other gospel accounts have the detail of how Jesus countered the plausible but dangerous lies of Satan with Scripture truth. At this time Jesus is being confronted by a powerful, personal and persuasive deceiver and enemy, not three questions but a 40-days long power struggle.
Who is Satan? For further study see Genesis 3:1; Job 1:6,9; Zechariah 3:1; Rev 2:9-10; Rev 12:9-10.
14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God.
15 “The time has come,” He said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
Three short sentences here succinctly sum up Jesus’ whole proclamation:
• This is the time
The kingdom was the banner over everything that Jesus taught and demonstrated. It means, simply, that God’s rule and order over people’s hearts and lives is being established. This shows up where God’s rule and order has been lacking – which is a strong incentive to repent (turn and put right) and believe
This is a thought-provoking story, and a challenging one, for at least two reasons: (1) The person in the whole of history with the least need for baptism leads the way of those seeking baptism, and (2) He says it is to do what is right in the sight of God, Matthew 3:15 “…to fulfill all righteousness.”
As John asks “Why?” Jesus’ words of reply are paraphrased helpfully in The Message as: “God’s work, putting things right all these centuries, is coming together right now in this baptism.”
So Jesus was doing something that from man’s perspective that seemed unnecessary, because it was very necessary to fulfill God’s higher plan and purpose.
This challenges us to always look above our situation and our perspective, to discern God’s higher and more enduring purpose. The challenge that goes with that, is how we will join Him in that purpose? Are we ready? Are we ready, in God’s sight? The call for repentance, and for an act of repentance especially, makes our flesh nature rebel in anger. Yet this may be necessary, if only for us to pledge our dependence on God and invite the empowering of the Holy Spirit once again. There are also times it is necessary for us to go into repentance on behalf of people and situations that have nothing to do with us, as Daniel and Nehemiah did, “to fulfill all righteousness”. Jesus had no personal repentance to make; a repentance and redemption for all who would turn to Him, from the sins of the whole world, was His life’s work.
We don’t seek to be baptised more than once. However, the Bible tells us to be seeking to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and to open to confess sin in repentance, as a means of constant readiness. The two go together, as at Jesus’ baptism.
For reflection and discussion
How ready are we to join God in what He may show us next that He is already doing?
How ready are we to get before God in repentance and seek His further infilling and empowering of His Spirit, in the face of the resistance of the flesh?