We are held in awe of God, who is so much greater than our opinions and whose purpose and kingdom is of a higher order than anything we know
The Living Word for Sunday, October 17, 2021, is a non-denominational Bible study which relies on the Bible explaining the Bible, uninfluenced by any church’s traditions or preferences, and following the Bible’s sequence of progressive revelation. Read the whole passage first and let the Holy Spirit begin speaking to you through it, then go deeper with the verse by verse commentary and reflections. The week’s readings are as set by the Revised Common Lectionary, an inter-denominational resource shared by many different churches and chapels. The Bible version, widely used in contemporary churches, is the NIV © Biblica. Ref TLW41B
Job 38:1-7 —Now Job hears Yahweh, Lord God Almighty, whose higher perspectiveshows how limited are Job’s opinions
Mark 10:35-45 — The kingdom of God, with its value of greatness through serving, is a far higher order than any status in the world
Hebrews 5:1-10 — The Lord who suffered and bore our sins is uniquely qualified to represent us to God
And also read: Psalm 104:1-9, 24, 35c
• See also this week’s linked article The Call to Kingdom Life and Values
Job 38:1-7 — God’s perspective is far higher than Job’s opinions
Now Yahweh, Lord God Almighty, announces His presence and cross-examines Job
1 Then the LORD spoke to Job out of the storm. He said:
“The the Lord spoke” — following Elihu’s speech, the Lord, Yahweh, spoke, the first mention of His name since the prologue, Job 1:8; 2:3. Significant because His covenant name is also His character and His promise, Exodus 34:5-7. Yahweh’s voice, unlike the long speeches, has the tone of truth, not speculation.
• For further study, Elihu’s speech, Job 32:6-37:24
“Out of the storm” — now God announces His presence in a covenantal gesture, not a destructive whirlwind as earlier, Job 1:18-19.
2 “Who is this that obscures My plans with words without knowledge?
“Words without knowledge” — Job’s complaining against God, from his human perspective, has shown up his inadequate knowledge of who God is. He is about to be lovingly ‘put right’ and helped to turn to repentance from his earlier assumptions.
3 “Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me.
4 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell Me, if you understand.
“I will question you… where were you…” — rhetorical questions create tightening circles for Job, who must confess ignorance. God says nothing about Job’s suffering. The issue Job has about divine justice is left unanswered. But God does not put Job down or condemn him, as surely would have been the case if the counsellors in their earlier speeches were right.
“Tell Me” – whether rhetorical or demanding a response from Job, he is unable to answer.
5 “Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?
6-7 “On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone — while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?
“Who laid its cornerstone” — these two encounters with the Lord succeed in bringing Job to a better understanding and faith in God’s goodness and wisdom, while leaving his earlier questions hanging.
• For further study, Job’s encounters Job 38:1-40:2 and 40:6-41:34.
SUMMARY Job was entitled to try to work out what was happening to him and defend himself from his friends well-meaning but flawed attempts to blame him for his downfall. Now at last he hears from God that God has a higher purpose for His creation including mankind. Who is Job to argue?
APPLICATION We take from this, two lessons of everyday life, (1) our need to hold our opinions lightly because God is likely to show how flawed they are, and (2) learning to see God’s higher purpose in the struggles we find ourselves in.
QUESTION Have you held an opinion which you sensed God challenging and then showing you it was unfounded?
Mark 10:35-45 — The kingdom of God is a higher order than any status
The lesson is repeated: who Jesus is and His example of greatness by serving
35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want You to do for us whatever we ask.”
“James and John” — following on from Peter’s outburst, Mark 8:32-33, the two other members of Jesus’ inner circle show that they still haven’t grasped Jesus’ essential teaching about who He is and His impending death, and what greatness and leadership in the kingdom of God is all about.
36 “What do you want Me to do for you?” He asked.
37 They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”
“In Your glory” — the part they had understood is that Jesus was the Messiah; “sit at Your right…” — but they associated it, wrongly, with rank and status.
38 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptised with the baptism I am baptised with?”
“You don’t know” — the part they didn’t understand was about sharing in Jesus suffering, and the servant nature of leadership in His kingdom.
39-40 “We can,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptised with the baptism I am baptised with, but to sit at My right or left is not for Me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.”
“Not for Me to grant” — Jesus would not usurp His Father’s authority.
41 When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John.
“Indignant” – and not in a righteous way; they felt James and John had tried to steal a march on them, and wanted prestige and power for themselves. All the disciples needed a different understanding of what the leadership of God’s kingdom entails. Jesus now spells it out.
42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.
43-44 “Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.
“Not so with you” — the values of the kingdom of God turn the values of the world upside down.
45 “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”
“To serve, and… give His life” – a climax. This is one of the most important passages in Mark, emphasising that Jesus’ death as a suffering servant is central to the values of His kingdom.
SUMMARY The path to sharing the spiritual authority of Jesus is to be a disciple of Jesus, with an emphasis on serving and an active disinterest in status. Like James and John, and the other ten who at this point were not grasping this vital lesson, this is the part we are prone to misunderstand. The values of the kingdom of God clash with the world and its concepts of merit and status.
APPLICATION The point is this: knowing Jesus, personally and intimately, brings a quite different kind of authority. What Jesus wants to share with us is a spiritual authority which can bring His light and presence into our sin-darkened world. So there is a sense that we do get what James and John asked for, but not in the way that they imagined.
QUESTION What for you is the hardest part of the “Not so for you” (verse 43)?
Hebrews 5:1-10 — Jesus is uniquely qualified to represent us to God
The Lord who suffered and bore our sins now fulfils the high priestly role
Context: the background text to this is Psalm 110:4 in which is God’s stated intention that His Son is to be a priest for ever in the order of Melchizedek. The author expands on this, showing points of comparison between the familiar priesthood of Aaron’s descendants (vv. 1-4) and Jesus, the ultimate high priest (vv. 5-10).
1 Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.
“From among the people” — the high priest had first to be able to relate to people and their lives, in order to represent them before God.
2-3 He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since He himself is subject to weakness. This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people.
“Weakness… his own sins” — the high priest, subject to human sinfulness, sacrifices first for his own sins, Lev. 16:6,11. By contrast Christ, who was sinless, Hebrews 4:15; 7:27, exercises a unique high priesthood of a quite different order and extent.
4 And no one takes this honour on himself, but he receives it when called by God, just as Aaron was.
“Called by God” — the Aaronic high priest must not be self-appointed but has to have recognition of a call to the office. In Jesus’ lifetime the system had become corrupt and the high-priestly office – and the power and control that went with it – was in the hands of the family who had bought the privilege.
5 In the same way, Christ did not take on Himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to Him, “You are My Son; today I have become Your Father.”
“You are My Son” – or “Today I reveal You as My Son”, quoted from Psalm 2:7. A turning point in the comparison.
For further study: read Psalm 2:7-9, Romans 1:4.
6 And He says in another place, “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”
“Priest… in the order of Melchizedek” — quoted from Psalm 110:4. This is the first of 10 times this verse is quoted in Hebrews.
• For further study, see Hebrews 5:6,10; 6:20; 7:3,11,15,17,21,24,28.
7 During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, He offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the One who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverent submission.
“Heard… because of His reverent submission” — Jesus did not shrink from the indescribable agony of bearing mankind’s sins in a suffering of spirit, soul and body. He asked that the ‘cup of suffering’ might be taken from Him, but He went through with it in full obedience to His Father.
“Save Him from death” — by resurrection.
8-10 Son though He was, He learned obedience from what He suffered and, once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.
“Learned obedience… once made perfect” – or ‘complete, qualified’ from teleios meaning ‘having reached its end’. Christ was without sin, but proved His humanity through the cost of obedience, walking the path of human experience all the way to death on the Cross, in complete submission to the Father’s will. This finally qualified Christ to represent us by His unique and ultimate high priesthood.
SUMMARY Jesus is the only person who, having lived our life with its trials and temptations — without sin— can represent us before the Father. This highest of high priests, who has conquered death, and broken the grip of everything which contends with God’s design and purpose for our lives, is the one who takes our supplication prayer.
APPLICATION This passage reminds us that we can positionally share His exalted place — in particular, His spiritual authority. This enables us to move from asking God through Him, to declaring in faith what He has done. With the backing of the great high priest, we can pray with authority —His authority.
QUESTION What in church or Christian life are we inclined to put our faith in, rather than going to the only person qualified to represent us?
PRAYER Father God, as I come to You in Jesus I am overwhelmed.
It is not just Your greatness and higher purpose that I revere, but I am held in awe of Your goodness and generosity beyond anything I could deserve.
Help me to hold on to this great truth, not just for myself, but also to share with others who need a touch from You.
1 Praise the Lord, my soul. Lord my God, you are very great; You are clothed with splendour and majesty.
2-3 The Lord wraps Himself in light as with a garment; He stretches out the heavens like a tent, and lays the beams of His upper chambers on their waters. He makes the clouds His chariot and rides on the wings of the wind.
4 He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire His servants.
5 He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved.
6 You covered it with the watery depths as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains.
7 But at your rebuke the waters fled, at the sound of Your thunder they took to flight;
8 they flowed over the mountains, they went down into the valleys, to the place You assigned for them.
9 You set a boundary they cannot cross; never again will they cover the earth.
24 How many are Your works, Lord! In wisdom You made them all; the earth is full of Your creatures.
35c Praise the Lord, my soul.
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