Psalm 16 Utmost confidence in my Safe Place!

Where do you find confidence?  When everything around is in turmoil, when life gets, overwhelmingly, loud and there is a constant demand for your attention where can you find some peace?

Do you have a safe place?   This is a question those who are on the spectrum need to have an answer to.  They need a safe place to regain confidence when melt down is imminent.  A safe place to go when the stims of life have turned an otherwise healthy environment toxic.  But they surely aren’t the only ones who need to know where their safe place is.  Even King David the writer of this Psalm spoke of his safe place.  The place where he turned and found renewed confidence and inner peace to carry on.

This Psalm of David has no specific point in history for us to look up.  No heroic battles won, or near death escapes for the King of Israel.  It is simply a declaration of what David knew to be true.  So, if you have your Bible or app along you might want to turn there and follow along.  Each version has its nuances so follow along in which ever version you prefer.  We’ll look at each verse this morning out of the NIV and the NLT and see if we too have discovered David’s safe place.

Psalm 16 (NLT)

David begins,(1)   Keep me safe, O God, for I have come to you for refuge.”   You and I know that God is a person not a place.  So clearly David isn’t suggesting otherwise here?  Yet repeatedly David has taken refuge in His God.  Psalm 7:1, “O LORD my God, I take refuge in you; save and deliver me from all who pursue me…” (NIV).   Psalm 11:1, “In the LORD I take refuge. How then can you say to me: “Flee like a bird to your mountain” (Psalm 11:1 (NIV).  David’s confidence was clearly in the Lord, he rejected the idea that refuge was to be found elsewhere.

As I wrote that, I suddenly found myself thinking of the refugees out in Summerland that Sylvia and Renee mentioned a while ago.  If you remember, after escaping war-torn Syria, enduring horrendous living conditions, they sought refugee status in Canada.  And like winning the lottery they were granted visas and sponsored by caring Canadians.  Then they traveled to the other side of the earth, looking for a safe place to raise their family. Looking for a refuge.

And as they settled in Summerland it surely looked like safe refuge for them.  But then, as we have often seen as of late; when the vacancy rate of rental properties dips below 1%, and prices of those few remaining rentals increase with demand, these refugees had the house sold from under them.  At the point S&R asked us to pray for them, they had two months to move and it was causing great inner turmoil for them.

They thought they had found refuge in a house but it was sadly temporary.  Yet David clearly expressed much confidence in his Refuge, his safe place.  A confidence that seemed unmoved by circumstances.  David, “(2) …said to the LORD, “You are my Master! Every good thing I have comes from you.”   David’s Refuge was found in the same place that S&R asked us to pray for those refugees.  In fact, God was the source of everything good in David’s life.  Can we pray for better refuge than that for them?

In verse 3 David thanks God for that which God has blessed him with.  (3) The godly people in the land are my true heroes! I take pleasure in them!”

The Godly ones!  Did you notice that?  Psalm 84:10 says, A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else! I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God than live the good life in the homes of the wicked” (NLT)

The day I began to write this message Rika went home to her Refuge.  She had lived a long and sometimes difficult life but in the end, there was no doubt how godly she had grown.  Like some versions of your bibles, the word godly and saint were interchangeable.  Rika was a delight to be around even though she was feisty at 97, there was no doubt that Jesus was her Refuge!

David delighted in the saints because of Who their refuge was.  He didn’t worship them, but he sure admired them.  Called them heroes!  They were the people he enjoyed being around the most.

I hear sad things at times out of the mouths of people who call themselves Christians.  Like when they say they prefer the company of the ungodly.  In fact, they’d rather be out with the ungodly than be with the godly at church.   I just shake my head.

How is that possible I wonder?  How is it that a professing Christian finds more in common with the people who find nothing in common with the one whom they profess to be their Refuge?  What does this really say?  Are they truly whom they claim to be?  Or have they never actually met those “godly people” …David’s “true heroes”?

Seriously if you would rather keep the company of the ungodly that says more about you than you think.  I know you will likely come back with “but Jesus hung around with “tax collectors and sinners”, “prostitutes” and shady characters”.  “And He was God in the flesh. If it was good enough for Him it is good enough for me”

But really?  Did he hang out and party, cursing and carrying on like them?  Enjoying what they enjoyed and doing what they did?  Worshipping what they worshipped?   And did those people carry on doing the ungodly things they had always done once they had been with Jesus for a time?    His record is spotless how about yours?

Delitzsch writes, “The expression of his abhorrence attains its climax: even their names… he shuns taking upon his lips” (1:224: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary – Volume 5: Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs.)

David said, Troubles multiply for those who chase after other gods. I will not take part in their sacrifices of blood or even speak the names of their gods” (Psalm 16:4 (NLT).   Basically, he said, “I’m not with them, I’m with the godly ones.” He taken a stand.  Which doesn’t mean he thought he was perfect like you and me!   Clearly there is a line that you and I ought not cross even as we try to bring the ungodly folks that come into our lives to further a relationship with our Lord.  But it does mean he’s all in.

 “LORD, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing. You guard all that is mine” Psalm 16:5 (NLT) David has things that are dear to him.  He’s not some ascetic monk living in the wilderness.  The truth is God has given that once shepherd boy a kingdom full of things that his heart desired.  Fancy clothes, horses and chariots and clubs and swords….  Gold and silver and precious stones, even land!   “The land you have given me is a pleasant land. What a wonderful inheritance!” (Psalm 16:6 (NLT).  He possesses much but it doesn’t possess him.  He doesn’t worry about leaving it to go and do what God is calling him to because he knows that God gave it to him and will keep what he needs for him.

How does he know this?  Well, David gives us a clue in verse 7.   “I will bless the LORD who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me” (Psalm 16:7 (NLT).  That’s a personal relationship with the almighty that David is getting at.  A relationship that he clearly cherishes.  His counselor is the creator of everything and he acknowledges his reliance on the God who guides.

I don’t know about you but I know I have times when my days are hectic and so full that time to think things through just doesn’t happen.  And Like David I have experienced those times when I finally go to sleep and sure enough in the middle of the night the answer suddenly comes.  I try to get up and write it down.  Or I’ll make a note beside my bed on the tablet.  Cause sure enough I’ll forget it by morning.

Now I can ask other Pastors, and talk with smart people, even Google answers when I need to know something but trusting God as your counsellor – is the safest place to go to and the safest to listen to.

David was that confident.  He was so confident in his safe place that he wrote, I know the LORD is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me”
Psalm 16:8 (NLT).   Put your confidence in man, and even the most loyal one will eventually fail you or not be there when you need him.  Trust in technology and you’ll find out quickly when the power fades how poor a safe place that is.  But when you have a friend who sticks closer than a brother, now you’re in your safe zone.   Now your confidence has a resting place.

I think David surprised himself with his declaration in verse 7 because in verse 8 he writes, “No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice. My body rests in safety”
Psalm 16:9 (NLT).   With God, right beside you, what have you to fear?  Yet I find, as I wander at times, that the assurance the David proclaims doesn’t hit home.  And in those times, I don’t sleep so well.  I may toss and turn all night long…ever been there?  David is doing more than instructing us and giving God praise in these verses.  These things he writes are for instructing his own heart, telling it what the truth is.  Not accepting the counsel of the wicked, or giving into fear and superstition. He reminds himself where His refuge is found and he instructs his heart to go to his Safe place when even death threatens to rob him of his peace.

He thanks God that,God will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave” Psalm 16:10 (NLT).     David didn’t want death to be the end of it all.  And now he knows that the best is yet to come! But at the time he wrote this do you think he understood the resurrection?

I’m aware that the Apostle Peter used these very verses in Acts 2:23-25 as he spoke of Christ’s resurrection from the dead, our Safe Place confirmed according to Paul.  Peter looking back confirms what David spoke in faith, looking ahead.

He was told by the prophet Nathaniel; the account is found in 2 Samuel 7:12-16, that David’s legacy would live on through his children.  But was it more than a spiritual resurrection as they call that?

Nathaniel said to him, “(12) When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, (euphemism for dying or death.  David did know that like his fathers he would die.)  Nathaniel goes on to say, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, (this would be a physical, blood line descendant) and I will establish his kingdom.  (And we know that Solomon, David’s son did carry on as King of Israel).  Nathaniel goes on to say, (13) “He shall build a house for My name,  (Still speaking of Solomon.   Solomon’s Temple is a historical, traceable fact of history…you can read all about it.  It happened as the prophet predicted.) Nathaniel predicted, “He shall build a house for My name,  and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever”. (David was told about a throne that will last longer than a man lives.  Forever. One of David’s descendants’, Jesus Christ, His Kingdom would last forever.   Jesus – the son of David, the Son of God whose body never saw decay nor did it stay in the ground!  Because on the tird day He rose from the dead in accordance to the scriptures.  Jesus would literally live forever! )   But wait for it…).     Nathaniel speaking for God goes on to say, (14)  “I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men, (15)  but My lovingkindness shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you”
2 Samuel 7:12-15 (NASB).   This king would suffer taking on the sins of the world, being corrected by man’s devices, beaten and hung on a cross to die, but unlike Saul who went to the grave, whose body did decay this son of David would continue to reign under God’s protection and refuge and history confirms this too.  But wait for it… Nathaniel then says, “Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever’2 Samuel 7:16 (NASB).  Jesus rose bodily from the dead, “did not see decay” ascended to the right hand of God, the place of absolute authority and reigns forever.

So when David said confidently, For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave.  You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever (Psalm 16:10-11 (NLT).  If this was written after Nathaniel’s prophecy, David already understood that he was of the lineage of the coming Messiah and spoke of the joy of being in God’s presence with his son forever.   Is that cool or what!  No wonder he had such confidence!

Romans 8:10-11 says, “(10)  And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. (11)  The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you” (Romans 8:10-11 (NLT).

Make this your safe place and you can never be shaken!  Amen?

Mark 1:40-45 The Least of These?

To see all of today’s study questions, click here.

That passage in Matthew has always caused me great concern.  I’ve wrestled with it for years now.  Especially every time I walk by a street person or drunk out begging or get accosted by the guy who stands at the corner of Channel Parkway and Eckhardt Avenue.  Lately though I’ve wondered are these the least of these that Jesus is speaking of?

So tell me.  Are people like the ones pictured here the ones that Christ was talking about in Matthew 25? Why or why not?  Are these the least of these?  What do you think?

(Zach wrote down the answers on the screen.   See the video above if interested in how we grappled with this question.)

Slide1
As I came to this morning’s passage I chewed on this story in Mark for more than a week before sitting down to write out my thoughts. And as I did my mind would keep coming back to that passage in Matthew 25, back to “in as much as you have done it to the least of these you have done it unto me” (40).   Are these stories intertwined?  Do they complement or antagonize each other as it seems.

I looked at all my commentaries and many different versions of the Bible itself to see if I could better grasp why this story is included and what practical applications I can draw from it.  But every time I started to write I kept coming back to just a few questions.

  1. Are there people you find particularly uncomfortable to be around?

I don’t know about you but I find those who are physically disfigured be it through disease or accident at least somewhat uncomfortable to be around.    Now I’m not exactly sure why.  But I think it may stems from my morbid curiosity.

I find I want to really take a good look and examine what has happened that caused this disfigurement.  I want to look at  them from different angles and get right up close.  In fact I find some things fascinating that way.  But I also know, that more often than not, that starring would make the person really uncomfortable to be around me.  So for the main part I restrain my curiosity at least until I can get to know the person and hear their story.

Slide2I found that getting to know part particularly difficult when I was in Kenya though.  Since I did not know the native tongue it was often hard to even begin a relationship.  Never mind getting to know someone well enough to ask those awkward questions that would allow me to satisfy that curiosity.

And there were a few totally cool looking people that I would have been interested in finding out what happened.   I so wanted to hear their story.  Like my friend Pastor Wyjonji the bigger man pictured here.  His head and hands were truly amazing to see.  As I talked with him I found out that it was some sort of heart defect that caused some hormonal imbalance which in turn caused this wavy growth on his head and unusually big hands and body size.

When I first met him in 2011 I wasn’t sure I’d get to see him again as the heart issue seemed of major concern to him and those around him.  We prayed together and God saw fit to keep him around and a part of every visit to Fafarol since.   He is a truly amazing man, gentle and very loving!

The man next to him, pictured here, is a stock photo I got of what leprosy looks like according to some info I found.   I’ve never met him but again I’d love to hear his story.  I can’t begin to imagine what life has been like for him, can you?

Leprosy is a disease mentioned often in the bible.  In fact leprosy would from a biblical sense actually describes both of these men.  It was  used to describe many skin ailments from severe rashes to unusual deformities.  So it was not limited the same definition as Leprosy today is.

Today’s leprosy has much fewer strains and scientists now believe it all started in East Africa and spread throughout the centuries and across the continents following trade routes.

The characteristic loss of fingers and toes, facial deformity and even blindness is due to the nerve damage that the disease inflicts on its victims.  Since the nerves no longer send pain impulses to the brain, those with leprosy often don’t know that they burned or cut a finger or toe which eventually becomes infected and if left untreated falls off or requires amputation.  And though leprosy was fairly common in Biblical times this disease is still very active in our world today.  In fact in the last year or so 121 countries reported new instances of this terrible disease which is caused by a germ, or bacteria, called Mycobacterium leprae.

Even in Canada 2-10 new cases are found each year.  It is treated quite effectively today with multi-drug-therapy that takes from six months to a year to complete.  But once started this therapy quickly makes the person no longer contagious.  So Isolation is no longer necessary as it was practiced Biblically and especially practiced throughout the middle ages until about 1960.

Slide4This Island was once connected to Crete but according to historians it was dug around and eventually fortified in the 1500’s.  Being well fortified and separated from the peninsula  made this the perfect place to put people, to isolate them from the rest of the population.  And in the early 1900s to 1953 the island was used as a leper colony having housed many people with leprosy at times.

In Biblical times often the leper was simply put out of the camp, town or city and forced to live away from family and friends.  In fact it wasn’t unusual for these poor souls to lose all human physical contact if the disease was not cured.

Once the priest pronounced the person unclean, according to Leviticus 13:45-46, “Anyone with such a defiling disease must wear torn clothes, let their hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of their face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ As long as they have the disease they remain unclean. They must live alone; they must live outside the camp.” 

So not only was the deformity debilitating but depression must have been rampant for these social outcasts.

Which makes our Bible story today all the more miraculous and touching once you realize what this poor man had been going through.

So if you have a Bible with you open it to Mark 1:40-45 and let’s look at this passage together this morning.

 “A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”  Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!”  Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.  Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning:  “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.”  Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere” (Mark 1:40-45 (NIV).

 “If you are willing you can make me clean!” – As this man comes and kneels before the Lord the one thing that is not said by him is “I’m not sure if you can help me but give it a go”.

Slide6There was no doubt that Jesus had within him the power to heal this deadly, deforming, disease, called leprosy!

Where did this man get such faith?  How did he know that Jesus could heal?  Had he heard about all the people outside of Peter’s house that found that Jesus not only heals the sick but casts out demons?  We can only assume he did because his earnest plea was full of faith!  you can make me clean” (40).

And yet having been subjected to isolation for who knows how long, and having not had the simple pleasure of a hug in ages this dejected man did express some doubt.  Didn’t he?

It appears from what he said that he wasn’t so sure that Jesus would chose to help him.  That’s what this “if” is about.  Why is it that,  It is sometimes easier to believe in God’s power than in his mercy ?(Frank E. Gaebelein, ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary – Volume 8: Matthew, Mark, Luke, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 630) 

Have you found yourself there?   You believe that God can do what you need Him to do but you just aren’t sure He’ll do it for you?

Why is it that we can believe in His power but not His mercy and grace?

Slide7Somehow this man had faith that healing was in the realms of possibility.  And he certainly knew there was nothing he himself could do to get rid of leprosy.  But I believe he also knew that emotional sting along with the stench of this disease.  The sting of isolation had created doubt.  And that isolation caused him to doubt that anyone cared enough to help him at all.  But that doubt was short lived.

You got to love our Saviour’s response!  And His compassion even at a time when Jesus was trying to avoid the crowds… it speaks volumes about our wonderful saviour.

If you look back just a couple of verses (Mark 1:30-39) you’ll see that Jesus had tried to escape the growing crowds of people wanting miraculous healings.  He even snuck out under cloak of darkness to a secluded place so he could have a talk with His father uninterrupted (cf. Mark 1:36).   And when the disciples finally found him and told him everyone is looking for you he said “let’s go somewhere else!” (Mark 1:38)  But when this poor dejected man knelt before Him compassion welled up inside of Jesus.

And then He did the remarkable.  He did what no one else had done since the day the man was sent away from that town.  Jesus actually reached out …and touched the man!  That’s the miracle here.  He reached beyond his comfort zone, beyond the cultural taboos and touched a disease ridden man.

 

Now, scientists today are pretty sure that leprosy spreads through contact.  Particularly through sneezing and coughing because of direct bodily fluid contact like most infectious diseases.   And I’m sure when Moses, who was inspired by the Holy Spirit, set forth the laws concerning leprosy, God already knew it spread by contact.  So there was good reason for social isolation.  So when Jesus reached out and touched this man it was not the thing to do humanly speaking.   It was the beginning of a miracle!

The fact is most of us might even find being in this man’s presence uncomfortable, never mind actually reaching beyond that discomfort and touching him.  Even though today we know that the chances of actually getting leprosy from casual limited contact are slim indeed.   And yet the stigma is still there big time.

But can you imagine for a moment the eyes of the disciples?  Of Peter, James and John as they watched what Jesus just did?  It would have been priceless to see their expressions as Jesus hand actually made contact.  Since anyone who touches something unclean becomes unclean until evening at minimum according to the laws of Moses they would have been aghast!  The Law which guided their thoughts and at convenient times even their actions was in them from childhood.   They knew that no one was to touch a leprous man!

Yet that didn’t stop Jesus, he not only reached out, touched the man but answered that man’s question, “I am willing!  Be clean!” (41).

Slide8Alexander MacLaren writes,  “People tell us that to believe in sudden conversion is fanatical. This is not the place to argue that question.” (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture – St. Mark 1-8, (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1906), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 48).

Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured!(42)  It was over in an instant!  A few words of instruction and the Master was on his way.  It has taken me much longer this morning to speak about this event then the event itself took!

But do you think, even for a moment, that this man, once the leprosy was gone, wanted to do what Jesus asked of him next?

We read in verses 43-44, “Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning:  “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them” Mark 1:43-44 (NIV).

Funny isn’t it?  He told that man, don’t tell a soul!  And the man immediately told everyone he came in contact with.  Warren Wiersbe so eloquently puts it,

“Jesus told this man to keep quiet, and yet he told everybody. Jesus commands us to tell everybody—and we keep quiet! (Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary – New Testament, Volume 1, (Colorado Springs, CO: Victor, 2001), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 114).

Jesus specially said to you and I, “… as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give…Go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you until the end of the age…(Mat. 10:8, 28:19)…

But know this!  “…whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.”(Matthew 12:50). 

Those who go and tell the Good News, who make disciples…those are Jesus’s brother’s, and sisters…  You mean like some poor leprous man who was healed but couldn’t follow the Master’s immediate orders?

But wait, doesn’t that make him one of the least of these?  As well as one of Jesus brothers? Hmmm?

Slide9

Why do you suppose Jesus said, “don’t tell anyone” to this once leprous man?  Especially if He knew that the man wasn’t capable of keeping this secret between them?   Why was that included in this passage?

Well some say that Jesus was using reverse psychology on him.  You know, if you tell someone they can’t touch something they will likely prove you wrong quite quickly.

But other scholars seem to think it was because Jesus didn’t want that kind of publicity.  He wasn’t looking to become the best magic show in town.  Jesus had come to bring salvation from God, to restore wholeness to broken humanity not just heal disease, but something far more important.

But to this man who was isolated and hurting physically, emotionally and spiritually, the sudden release from the prison he was in was overwhelming good news!  There was no keeping that a secret!

That kind of good news is just too much to keep inside!   So that man “went out and began to talk freely, spreading the good news.

There were consequences to his actions though!  It’s right there in the text.  Verse 45.

As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere”  Mark 1:45 (NIV).   

“Surely you can see how Jesus took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows …” Isaiah 53:4 (NIV)?

Slide10Did you notice?  Did you notice Who was then the one on the outside looking in?  Did you notice Who was now in a sense the outcast, the one in forced isolation?

Mark says,  “Jesus could no longer enter a town openly…he had to stay outside in lonely places!”  Could that be why He asked the man to keep it to himself?  To do as Moses commanded, and give glory to God the old fashioned way?

And yet that’s our Saviour!  He was willing to trade places so that the very illness that separated us from God could be remove once for all.  And it cost Him His very life on the cross.  And that was only the beginning as we saw last week.  He has risen!

Jesus still answers our prayers of desperation with those words that brought healing and comfort to that leprous man.  “I am willing, Be Clean!” (41).

And that kind of takes us full circle to where we started today.  Back to Matthew 25.  Back to the least of these.  Who are the least of these?  Is it the poor, the imprisoned, the outcasts?  Well, actually the answer is right there in what Jesus said.

Slide11I don’t know how I missed it for so long.  It’s not talking about those who are goats, who Christ said, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ …they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” Matthew 25:46 (NIV).  They are the ones who mocked the Master and persecuted His brothers, and sisters and even His mother!    These goats are NOT “the least of these”.

The least of these are you and I and everyone who, having been set free by the master and having gone out and, talked freely, spreading the good news, even if it meant we went hungry, thirsty, or naked!  And trust me there are plenty in foreign lands who fit those descriptions.   Many who are forced into isolation or imprisoned or beaten and murdered because of Christ’s name on their lips.   Jesus says to them as well as you and I:

 “… ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’  “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’  “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Matthew 25:34-40 (NIV)

They are the ones that Christ said is our brothers and sisters to whom we had the privilege of feeding and clothing, visiting and even giving a cup of water in His name!  AMEN?


 

Read Mark 1:40-45 in several versions. Then read Matthew 25:31-46 and begin the lesson.
1.  Are there people you find uncomfortable to be around? Why is that? What makes you or them uncomfortable to be around?
2.  Who is Jesus referring to in the Matthew 25 passage as “the least of these”?
3.  What do we immediately find out about the man in Mark 1:40?
4.  What do you know about his infirmity?
5.  How would you define his disease Biblically? What does the Bible say about it?(see also Lev. 13:1-46; Num 12:10-15; Deut 24:8-9; 2 Samuel 3:29; 2 Kings 5:27; 2 Kings 7:3-4; 2 Kings 15:5; Luke 17:12-19)
6.  Do people today still suffer from that disease? (Ask mr. google for statistics, you may be surprised!)
7.  What did the man do when he met Jesus? (Mark 1:40) Why is it easier for us to believe in God’s power than in His mercy and Grace?
8.  How did Jesus respond to the man’s faith and doubt? (see also Mark 6:34; Luke 7:12-13; Heb 1:3; Heb 4:15; Ps. 33:9)
9.  There was more than one miracle mentioned in verses 41 and 42 what were they?
10.  Why did Jesus strongly warn the man in verse 43? (Mark 7:36; Matthew 9:30; Luke 8:56)
11.  What did Jesus tell the man to do? (Mark 1:44; see also Lev. 14:2-32)
12.  What did the man actually do? (Mark 1:45) What is so funny about that? (See comment in my notes)
13.  Who actually are “the least of these” according to Matthew 25:40?
14.   Is there a person that makes you uncomfortable that you need to help this week? Who should you see in them?

Exodus 4:10-17 Reach Beyond Your Comfort Zone! He did!

To see all of today’s study questions, click here.

Slide1I like this picture!  The cross is empty!  The tomb vacated! He has Risen! He has Risen indeed!  It is such Good News.  Especially when you know the risen Lord.   And know the power of His word to heal the broken hearted and set captives free from the power of sin and of death itself!  If only the good news would reach beyond the faithful on Sunday mornings it would so impact the society we live in and make it even a better place to live.

But being Christ’s hands and feet and especially giving voice to the Gospel message seems like a daunting task even as Harold’s video put it.  It’s hard enough to do it in our own neighborhood and to the people we love and care for but to reach beyond to the places where people have never heard the good news takes special determination and even the occasional miracle.

Yet the message of the resurrection and the hope it brings is needed throughout our world more today than when the good news first went forth.  In so many ways this message has been lost in the myriad of competing voices we are constantly bombarded with.  That’s why God still calls and send out His messengers to reach beyond the noise and deception.

Have you ever noticed that God has always used a partnership model with humanity when it comes to sharing the Good News?  Seriously, He invites us to come and join with Him in spreading the good news that there is freedom in Christ.  And God enables those who answer the call to step out in faith and to do things they never thought possible.

For 2016 we have been doing a survey of the Bible that shows how Christ is found from Genesis to Revelations.  Each week we look at one story found either in the New Testament or the Old and it’s been quite a journey.  Today’s Bible Lesson from HIStory comes from a time when a messenger was reluctant to deliver the message and shows us how far God’s grace reaches out to enable Moses to fulfill his destiny.

If you have a Bible along turn with me to Exodus 4:10-17.

“Moses said to the LORD, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”  The LORD said to him, “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD?  Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”  But Moses said, “O Lord, please send someone else to do it.”  Then the LORD’s anger burned against Moses and he said, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and his heart will be glad when he sees you.  You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do.  He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him.  But take this staff in your hand so you can perform miraculous signs with it.”  Exodus 4:10-17 (NIV)

Slide3Rented lips…that’s what I call them.  Those times when you are nervous and you know what you’d like to say but the words just come out in the wrong order or too jumbled up to make any sense.

It’s sooooo frustrating at times.  I can empathize fully the words of Paul as he writes, “For some say, “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.” (2 Cor. 10:10).

No one ever said that about Jesus!  He spoke with such amazing authority and words that would cut to the heart of the matter and yet were so full of grace.  He is a natural communicator!  But I know what Paul’s talking about here.  Rented lips!

That’s not to say I don’t try hard to speak in a way that rightly conveys the gospel message, I just often suffer from rented lips.  These things get in my way!

I know good preaching when I hear it and aspire to be a good communicator but after preaching close to a thousand times…when compared to those silver tongued preachers we all have heard on radio and TV, I still suck at it!

Slide4As Paul said in 2 Cor. 11:6, “But even if I am unskilled in speech, yet I am not so in knowledge…”  And like Timothy I do my best to, “Be diligent to present myself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).  And so should we all for that matter for the stakes are higher than we may think.

So if Moses was nervous about being called out to bring God’s message I think I could understand his hesitation on those grounds alone.

“Moses said to the LORD, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue” (10).  Can you hear the reluctance?   And yet doesn’t he express it so eloquently?  I’m not sure where that apprehension is coming from or who it was that he compared himself to but knowing his past something had to have set it off.  Did it stem from being heckled or mocked? I’ve experienced that enough to know it has effect on future performance.  But I don’t see anywhere in the Scriptures before Exodus 4 that tells of a time when Moses was public speaking and it embarrassed him or got him into trouble.

Slide5Some scholars say he may have had a speech impediment or some sort of a disability that caused him some grief when speaking.  But again there is no proof of that in the Bible.  In fact just the opposite!

From Acts 7:22 we learn that,  “Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds.  Mighty in words!  In fact he was a diplomat in Pharaoh’s court so he would have dealt with citizens and foreigners and likely in more than one language.  Sure that was more than forty years prior to our passage today but true all the same.  And even in the forty years outside of Egypt Moses would have had to learn and speak the language of the Midianites in this his new homeland.   He was one smart cookie — very knowledgeable!

Perhaps his reluctance to speak stems from being not so fluent in his mother tongue?  I read one Rabbi who said it was because Moses was not fluent in Egyptian language.  Though I find that a little hard to comprehend since that would have been his mother tongue as an adopted Egyptian.  But either way having to speak and lead a people in a language that no longer flowed from your lips would certainly cause some anxiety.

Remember he was taken as a baby into Pharaoh’s court and though he was still nursed and looked after by a Hebrew slave the time eventually came for him to be schooled.  And that schooling would have all been in the written and spoken languages of the Egyptians.  In fact for the first almost forty years of his life pretty well all he knew was Egyptian culture, customs and language.

Slide6So Moses might have felt like the current Syrian refugees feel here in Canada.  Many of them know a bit of English and may even read it but almost everything has to be filtered through their mother tongue and many dialects.   It’s like a big fence to break through.  And that truly causes one to be slow of speech for quite some time.  Don’t expect them to be here a year and be fully conversant nor even understanding of our ways.  It just not likely to happen.

Just ask my father-in-law!  Peter does very well now but when he first moved to Canada he would have agreed with Moses about being slow of speech and tongue.  German still comes easier for him even after 50 plus years in Canada!  But English took real determination and lots of frustration before he felt comfortable speaking in public.  I suspect Moses and my father-in-law had much in common that way.

But did God buy Moses excuse or his reluctance to obey?  Sure doesn’t seem like God’s about to let Moses of the hook does it? Just look at verses 11-12.   “The LORD said to him, “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD?  Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” Exodus 4:11-12 (NIV)

Nope Moses had to make a choice not an excuse.  Just like we’ll need to reach beyond those language barriers to show Christian hospitality to refugees in our land if the Gospel is going to continue to impact them.

God was reminding Moses that for Him language is never an issue.  Moses would simply have to obey and trust that the God who made him knows what it will take to accomplish His purpose.  And God made him a marvelous promise:  “I will help you speak and will teach you what to say” (12).

Moses wouldn’t have to rely on his own rather amazing intellect to see him through, as God would be with him.

Jesus promised pretty much the same for you and I, “…do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defense, or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say” (Luke 12:11-12).

Remember the same power that was able to raise Christ from the dead is the one that can teach you to do exceedingly abundantly more than you can ever imagine or hope.  But it still takes guts!  You actually have to step out of your comfort zone and start in the direction He gives you.

Just reach beyond your comfort zone…just like Moses did, right?Slide9

God said, “go!”

“But Moses said, “O Lord, please send someone else to do it.” Ex. 4:13 (NIV).  Moses said, “NO!”  Now that took guts!  Did he forget to Whom he had been speaking?  Was he nuts?!

I’ve seen what God can do.  A little smack down from God comes with thunder and shakes the whole earth!

And yet Moses says, “…please send someone else” (13). A little gutzy, don’t you agree?  Moses came up with:

EXCUSES!  

Truth be known I’ve been there too.  Overwhelmed and lacking in confidence I’ve declined God’s direction on more than one occasion.   And even when I think I can do the job, I’ve been known to plead with him to send someone else.  Haven’t you?

And you know what?  It doesn’t even take Him by surprise but according to what comes next in this story it may just rise His anger a bit!

Slide10I know it’s Easter and we should be talking about the loving God who when told He would have to lay down his life, said, “not my will but thy!”  And then Jesus actually went and laid down his life!  But Moses is only a type of deliverer, a foreshadowing of Jesus.

Jesus loves you so much that he’s willing to take your sins and toss them in the deepest ocean and not let you go fish for them.  His grace is so great that there is only one sin that stops Him from saving you from your stupidity and stubbornness.  But I think that sometimes even Jesus gets angry!  He still loves us but shows that love through disciplining us when we need it.

Slide11I know this because God is the same yesterday today and forever.  And verse 14 says, “Then the LORD’s anger burned against Moses and he said, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and his heart will be glad when he sees you” (Exodus 4:14 (NIV).

Moses knew God’s anger.  Which, by the way, is why I believe that Moses didn’t have a disability or impairment of speech.  I don’t think that God would get angry at someone for having a speech impediment and being worried about stumbling over his words as a result of the impediment.  But God was clearly angry at Moses.

Remember this part of HIStory was written by Moses himself.  So when he says, “the Lord’s anger burned against Moses”,  you know he’s really saying he felt the Lord’s anger that day.

But Moses also learned something else about God in that moment.  Though God’s anger burned against Moses, this did not become a lightning bolt education for him.  In fact there is much grace to be found in this passage.

GRACE & MERCY!

God had already arranged that Moses brother, whom we presume he has not seen in forty years, was on his way for a family reunion.  And God having given every man his speech, knew that Moses would pull the slow to speech card and say “send someone else”.   So Aaron…his brother, who also was clearly hearing from God, set out to be with Moses.  Is that not grace and mercy?  Is that not cool!

Aaron unlike Moses had grown up with the Hebrew slaves and was likely still one at the time, so he would have been fluent in the Hebrew culture and language of the day.

So why not simply send Aaron and leave old reluctant Moses on the top of the mountain talking to bushes?  After all God already knew Aaron could speak well.  And clearly Aaron was not only ready to follow God but was already going where directed.  Why not just take His burning anger out on Moses and make him a little pile of ashes on the mountaintop?

Because God is slow to anger, compassionate and merciful, abounding in love he does not treat us as our sin deserves, He does not want us to perish in our sins (cf. Exodus 34:6, 2 Peter 3:9).

The Bible says, “Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.  But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,  made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:3-5 (NIV).

But does that mean we can tell God where to go without feeling His anger?  I don’t think that would be wise to try that!  Our passage shows us that God in His great mercy taught Moses about thinking he knew better than God.

God said to Moses, “You shall speak to him (Aaron) and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do.  He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him” Exodus 4:15-16 (NIV).

Slide13Men, anybody here got brothers?  Ladies, do you have sisters?  How well do you get along with them?  Do they already think you act as if you were God to them?   How’s that work for you?

I’ve got two older brothers and I can assure you it would take a miracle to have them speak for me and I can also assure you they wouldn’t treat me as if I was God to them.  Maybe the other way around… they certainly have at times Lorded over me.

The moral of that part of the story is be careful what you ask God for….in fact its likely better to listen and just go where he sends you!

Moses got what he asked for.  God would send someone else to speak for him.  But God certainly wasn’t letting him off the hook.  God tells him, “… take this staff in your hand so you can perform miraculous signs with it.” (Exodus 4:17 (NIV)).

The EBC says,  “There is a risk in declining the call of God; it may be a forfeiture of divine blessing even though there is grace and mercy for the obstinate (so Bush, Exodus 1:60)” (Expositor’s Bible Commentary).

Aaron’s family would receive the Priesthood.  And Moses would back Aaron’s words with God’s provision through that staff.  It was the power he needed to reach beyond his comfort zone and do far beyond what he thought he would be capable of.   And it was also a promise that God, can and, would do miracles to set His people free.

Fortunately for us Christ rose from the dead and is seated with the Almighty in heavenly realms.  Where He constantly intercedes on our behalf.

Hebrews 6:18-20 says, “God can’t break his word. And because his word cannot change, the promise is likewise unchangeable. We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go.  It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God  where Jesus, running on ahead of us, has taken up his permanent post as high priest for us…” (Hebrews 6:18-20 (MSG).

Slide14And Jesus gave us the Great Commission, to go and tell people that there is deliverance and freedom to be found in His name.  And instead of a stick He has sent us the Holy Spirit to do miracles through us.

And Jesus even knows that our natural inclination may be to ask Him to send someone else to go in our place.  So Christ has brought brothers and sisters like the Goerzens and sent them to go and be His voice and hands and enable us to Reach Beyond our fears and help those who need to be set free.

In this next video we get a glimpse of how the risen Lord continues to perform miracles and transform lives when some modern day Disciples of Christ set out to inspire a new generation through music and lyrics.  After the video Harold & Linda will come and share more stories of how Christ continues to use their organization called Reach Beyond to touches lives around the World.

 



Read: Exodus 4:10-17 in several versions.

  1. When was the last time you shared your faith with someone?
  2. Do you tend to make excuses or do you boldly share your faith?
  3. Where was Moses when this dialog took place? (Ex. 3:1-4)
  4. Who was Moses talking to? (Exodus 4:10; Exodus 3:4)
  5. What was asked of Moses? (Exodus 3:10; 4:12)
  6. What reason did Moses give for not wanting to go? (Ex. 3:11; Exodus 4:10; see also 1 Cor. 2:1-4; 2 Cor. 10:10; 2 Cor. 11:6)
  7.  Was it a genuine reason or simply an excuse?  Why do you say that?  What Bible verses can you point to to defend your answer?  (See also Acts 7:22)
  8.  What was God’s response to Moses reluctance?  (Exodus 4:11;  Gen. 18:14;  Psalm 51:15; Psalm 146:8;  Isa 6:7; Isa 42:7; Jer. 1:9; Eze. 3:27; Eze 33:22)
  9. How does God show much Grace and mercy to Moses?  (Exodus 4:12; Psalm 25:4-5; Psalm 32:9;  Psalm 143:10; Isa 50:4; )
  10. How does Christ help believers share the good news? (Matt 10:19-20; Luke 11:1;  Luke 21:14-15; Jn. 14:26; Eph. 6:19)
  11. Who is God prompting you to share your faith with this week?

 

Week 8 – Matthew 17:1-9 Context In HIStory is HIS Glory

To see all of today’s study questions, click here.

One of the passages in HIStory that is often told around Lent is found in Matthew 17:1-9.  The story of that amazing day when three disciples were treated to a mountaintop experience that stuck with them long after Jesus Ascended to heaven.

So if you have your Bibles with you lets read that passage.  Matthew 17:1-9.

Slide6

How can we get the most out of the familiar passages that we have read and heard so very often?  I don’t know about you but personally I’m not into repeats.  So how can we read something old with fresh eyes so that we don’t risk losing a blessing from the LORD?

When you figure that out let me know.

Slide7In the meantime, like exercising muscles I think it is best to be repetitive in our studies.   After-all who exercises just once and expects to see glorious results?  But in time with repetitive exercise there is always gain so even that first time has some value.

Slide8 So we continue to read and ask the Lord to bring to us what it is we need to know and understand about the passage we are going through no matter how many times we come to it.

Take for instance the passage at hand.   What is its context?  When did it take place and with whom?  These are part of the spiritual disciplines we must exercise with our brains to get the most out of the passage at hand.

Slide10Matthew begins our passage with a time reference.  It’s been six days.  Six days from when?  What happened six days earlier that Matthew wants to draw our attention to?

As Matthew chapter 16 finishes we see a rather strange argument between Peter and the LORD.  Peter is at first praised by Jesus for correctly identifying HIM as the Son of the Most High God.  But then only moments later he is rebuked by Jesus for his selfish motives.

“Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men” Matthew 16:23 (NIV).   Ouch!  That had to hurt! One moment Peter’s got it right the next he’s acting on behalf of Satan?  That had to hurt a bit!  And it’s not like this was a private little whisper in the ear sort of rebuke.  Jesus did it right there in front of all the other disciples.

Slide11“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.  What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 

For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.  I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom” Matthew 16:24-28 (NIV).

OK so now we have the context.  Peter and the disciples got both their marching orders and a promise from the LORD.

By show of hands how many of you think or hope you are the ones that Jesus referred to as some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom”(Mat 16:28)?  

Anyone here voting for the rapture from that verse?

Ok…let’s return to chapter 17 verse 1.

Slide12What does Mathew say there?

How long has it been since Jesus said, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom”(Mat 16:28)?   Six days right? That is what Matthew has said is it not?

And who was it that went up the mountain with Jesus? Was it all the disciples?

Verse one says,  “After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves” (Matthew 17:1 (NIV).   Peter?  The “get behind me Satan”, Peter?  Right?  He and James and John.  So are they not the ones that Jesus was referring to when He said some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom” (Mat 16:28)?

And what was it that happened in verse 2?   “There Jesus was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light” Matthew 17:2 (NIV).

You see when we take time to read the context we likely won’t use verses as proof texts for some pretext that doesn’t fit the context.   Unless of course we are doing it for selfish reasons.   And I’m not talking about robbing widows or to cover up crimes.

What was Peter’s selfishness back in chapter sixteen?

Was it not that he was worried that his friend was speaking curses into his own life?  Or perhaps more so that Peter was not ready to listen to what Jesus had just finished telling him about having to be put to death?    Peter just couldn’t stand the thought of it. So he blurted out those fearful but heartfelt words of losing a friend.

But six days later look what the LORD has done!  He has taken those closest to Him up the mountain and given them a glimpse into heaven.  Jesus has given them something to look forward to.  To hang on to as the turbulent days that were about to begin would surely cause them much grief.

That’s our LORD.  He rebukes, and corrects those He loves, He exercises discipline but doesn’t condemn us in our fears.  Over and over again He tells the disciples “do not fear”.  Don’t lose hope!  Behold I have overcome the world!

As they gaze upon this magnificent sight trying to comprehend why their best friend is glowing Matthew adds…“Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus” Matthew 17:3 (NIV).

Like, how did they know?  It’s not like they had facial recognition software back in those days?  So how could they know it was Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus?

Nelly one of our Bible Study Leaders in Kenya received that sort of question to: “How do you know its God speaking?”  This was a question from their study on Peter when he asked the LORD “if it’s really you, tell me to come?”  Peter didn’t seem 100% sure it was Jesus even after the LORD said, “It is I, do not be afraid”.   So how do you know?   How did the three disciples know this was Moses and Elijah?  Did they demand credentials?

Come to the mid-week study and we’ll exercise some more spiritual muscles and search HIStory for answers to that question.   And we’ll also look at verse 2 where Mathew said Jesus was transfigured.  What does it mean that Jesus was transfigured? What had happened to their friend?

Is it as Paul says,  “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18 (NIV).  Does it have to do with a transformation that is taking place in all who have the Spirit of God in them?

Paul was perhaps referring to Moses and his glowing face that happened every time he went up the mountain and was in God’s presence.

Exodus 34:35 says, “But whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with Him, he would take off the veil until he came out; and whenever he came out and spoke to the sons of Israel what he had been commanded, the sons of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone. So Moses would replace the veil over his face until he went in to speak with Him”.  He put the veil back on because the visible presence of the Lord would fade as he encountered more of man’s sinful presence and Moses didn’t want the people to see it fade.  But Paul said our glow is growing as we get closer to the Lord and we need not veil it.

In fact Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in Heaven” (Matthew 5:16)

Well we could get hooked up on the transformation and miss out on Peter’s next well intention blunder. “Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters–one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” Matthew 17:4 (NIV).    Yup he’s up the spiritual mountain but still looking though eyes of clay. Planning a new camping resort where they can dwell in the glow together.  And who can blame him?

Wouldn’t you love to dwell twenty four seven in God’s presence?  I know I would.

But is there a deeper significance to who showed up on the mountain top? The Bible Knowledge Commentary states, “Perhaps these two men and the disciples suggest all the categories of people who will be in Jesus’ coming kingdom. The disciples represent individuals who will be present in physical bodies. Moses represents saved individuals who have died or will die. Elijah represents saved individuals who will not experience death, but will be caught up to heaven alive (1 Thes. 4:17). These three groups will be present when Christ institutes His kingdom on earth. Furthermore the Lord will be in His glory as He was at the transfiguration, and the kingdom will take place on earth, as this obviously did. The disciples were thus enjoying a foretaste of the kingdom the Lord promised (Matt. 16:28)” (BKC:Matthew 17:4).

Well, before Peter could lay out the construction schedule God interrupted him with what Matthew describes as the shekinah glory of the LORD.  It was a bright cloud not a damp towel to put Peter’s passionate fire out.

God, the Maker of the Universe, spoke to the disciples and said, “…This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” Matthew 17:5 (NIV).   Why was it that Peter was rebuked at the end of the last chapter?  Was it that he refused to listen to what Jesus was saying because he found it so painful to think that his friend would die?  And now God says, quit flapping your jaw and listen to Jesus.  His ways are not our ways, or even Peter’s ways.

Yes it is true that one day we all get to dwell in His presence but that particular moment in HIStory was not yet the time.

Well when God speaks from a cloud that envelops you I suspect you too would respond in the same way those three disciples did.  They hit the deck!  Face first to the ground.  They were terrified.

But did you notice what Jesus immediately did when he saw his friends frightened?  “Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” Matthew 17:7 (NIV).

Say have you noticed that every time the LORD or one of His messengers appears to man their first response is usually fear and did you also notice that God’s immediate response is to calm their fears?   Jesus touched them.  There is something calming about a hug or a gentle well placed hand that says, this is real empathy not just empty words.

Jesus is so compassionate!  Who wouldn’t want to dwell in His presence?  Can you blame Peter for wanting to build a shack so they could stay there?

But when mortal man encounters the glory of God in HIS fullness suddenly the idea that Peter had was not as palatable to him was it?

In fact even with the Jesus right there in HIS glory it was still a fearful place to be.  So Jesus in His great mercy ends the show.  The cloud dissipates, Moses and Elijah return to wherever they came from and only Jesus and the three disciples remain on that mountain top.  And only for a few minutes more until they head back to join the rest of the family below.  But before they reach the others Jesus says to them “this one was for you and you alone until I have returned from the dead” (bw. 9).

Sometimes you and I are blessed by God with something that is just for us for a time.  A special treat from our heavenly Father.  For example I am often given verses or special insight when I’m praying that would not be helpful to you if I just blurted it out.  I of course had to learn that the hard way.  But think of it for a moment, if those disciples had come back with such a story what would the outcome have been?  Guess we’ll never know.

Fortunately they obeyed Him and later on they did let everyone know as we shall see at Easter.



So what are you supposed to get from this passage in HIStory?  We’d love to hear it at the mid-week, come and share what God’s Word revealed to you.  Or ask to be added to our Whatsapp group and join the discussion there.

Read Matthew 17:1-9 and answer these questions:

  1. How can we get the most out of the familiar passages that we have read and heard so very often?
  2. How is Studying God’s WORD like doing physical exercise? (see 1 Timothy 4:8-10)
  3. What is the context of today’s passage?  When did it take place and with whom?
  4. What happened six days earlier that Matthew wants to draw our attention to? (Matthew 17:1; Matthew 16)
  5. Are you one of the ones Jesus was referring to in Matthew 16:28? Why? Or Why not?
  6. By Matthew 17:1 how long has it been since Jesus said, “…some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom” (Mat 16:28)? And to who did he say it?
  7. What happened in Matthew 17:2? (see also 2 Cor. 3:18; Exodus 34:35; Acts 9:3-8; ) And how does that relate to Matthew 16:28?
  8. Why is it important to always read the context of the passage you have come to study?
  9. Who showed up in Matthew 17:3? Why is this significant? Who do they represent?  (See my sermon notes, the quote from Bible Knowledge Commentary).
  10. How did the disciple know who Jesus was standing with in verse 3?
  11. What did Peter want to do in verse 4? Why?
  12. Why and by Whom was Peter rebuked in Matthew 16:23?
  13. What happens because of a thoughtless comment? Who rebuked whom in Matthew 17:5 and for what?
  14. What was the disciples’ reaction in Matthew 17:6? What had Peter just finished saying in verse 4?
  15. What did Jesus immediately do when He saw the terrified disciples? (Matthew 17:7-8; Dan 10:10-19) Why?
  16. What did Jesus tell the disciples in Matthew 17:9 and why? (see also Mat. 8:4, Mat. 16:20-21, Mark 9:9-10)
  17. Did the disciples obey? (2 Peter 1:16-18)
  18. Is there something you have heard and rejected from Jesus? How can you make that right?
  19. Have you said things thoughtlessly that you later realized were wrong?  What should you do about it?

 

Psalm 148 B.E.G.I.N. with Praise

 

Ah, it’s summertime in Penticton.  For some that means it is time for golfing, going to the beach, camping, and other adventures with God into the great outdoors.   As I was planning and praying what this summer series should like I thought, hmmm… another summer in the Psalms perhaps?

Truly, the Psalms have become for me much soul care and even more.  I can’t help but commune with God as I read and study this portion of Scripture.   So to spend a quarter of our yearly church calendar preaching and teaching from them seems good to me.  And I especially enjoy when you give me specific Psalms to go through.

So if you have a favorite Psalm that we haven’t gone through in the last couple of years let me know after the service and I’ll work them in over the summer if I possibly can.  You can also email me or put a note in the offering or for those watching online you can use the chat box next to the video.  But feel free to let me know which Psalms have impacted you and maybe even in a sentence or two say why they have.  And together we’ll hear what the Holy Spirit is saying to our church.  So this summer let’s do this journey together.

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As I prayed about what to call this summer series our yearly focus of Give to God the Glory –GtGtG seems fitting but the more time I spent communing with the Lord the more the sub-focus of B.E.G.I.N. seemed to shape my direction.

B.E.G.I.N. with Praise.  Bringing Every Gentile Intimate News with praise.  That’s what the Psalms can do.  Though the various Psalmists have moments of grief and sadness in their lives it seems that they chose to continue to praise God and somehow those heavy burdens seem to get lighter.  And in time as they journeyed down life’s path they grew in wisdom on how to avoid many of the pitfalls found along the way.

Slide3So this year not only will we focus on the Psalms but also some Proverbs during the summer series.  Perhaps we can glean some of that wisdom without having to experience all the pitfalls along the path.   Then we can B.E.G.I.N. with Praise and Wisdom.

I realize the connection may not be immediately evident, yet these two characteristics of the Christian life develop together and often feed off of each other.  And in my observation, God uses both the praises of His people and the wisdom they have been given to draw others into an intimate walk with Him.

Today we’ll begin in praise looking at Psalm 148.  This Psalm is part of the “hallel” collection, which includes the last 5 Psalms in the Bible.  They are labeled so because of the Hebrew word that both begins and ends the passage.  That word is transliterated ‘hallelujah’ in the English and more often than not translated, “praise the Lord”.   So let us B.E.G.I.N. to Praise the Lord as we read this passage and see if we can find some wisdom for our journey.

“Praise the LORD. Praise the LORD from the heavens, praise him in the heights above.  Praise him, all his angels, praise him, all his heavenly hosts.  Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars.  Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies.  Let them praise the name of the LORD, for he commanded and they were created.  He set them in place for ever and ever; he gave a decree that will never pass away.  Praise the LORD from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths,  lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding,  you mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars,  wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds,  kings of the earth and all nations, you princes and all rulers on earth,  young men and maidens, old men and children.  Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.  He has raised up for his people a horn, the praise of all his saints, of Israel, the people close to his heart. Praise the LORD” Psalm 148:1-14 (NIV).

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Hallelujah, Hallelujah! What a magnificent sunset Lord!  And just when I needed it too!  My photo assignment on Facebook for that week was “Sunset”.  And God gave me a beauty to shoot.  The sky erupted into a song of praise for our Lord.  It was a ten minute solo that was sure to make even a pagan go wow!  And then as quick as it came on darkness filled the sky and I waited for a night shot as Gail said there may be aroha borealis that night.    The rest of that week we were sopped in with rain but for that moment it seemed like the clouds and the sun just said ‘hallelujah’.  And so I echoed the sentiment and praised the Lord as a snapped a dozen or so shots.  

Slide6

Lately Lynda and I have been doing more back country road trips.  We hop in the ford head down some dust roads around our area. This shot is from high up the Anarchist, in the new sub division called Sasquatch.    It overlooks the Canadian / US border towns of Osoyoos and Oroville.  You can just see the praises going up to God can’t you?   Ok…so it’s rain coming down but if you use your sanctified imagination you can get the picture. 

I‘ve been struck once again by the amazing beauty that God has placed all around us.  I don’t know about you but I can’t help feeling blessed living in this part of the world. 

Pastor Scott coined a phrase that we use a lot around Grace, he said that we in Canada have “won the birth lottery”.   But did you know as Christians in Canada we have won more than the birth lottery, we have been given a double portion!  We have won the rebirth lottery!   Not only do we live in the greatest place on earth but we have been given grace to live in the present with eternity in our hearts!  God is truly awesome!  Worth of all our praise! Amen? 

The Psalmist, who some scholars attribute to David but most others attribute to anonymous, has narrowed the focus for this Psalm to one purpose.  It is the purpose and calling of every human being and all off creation too.   When we get this one right in our hearts our world with all its foibles fade into their proper places.   

Slide7

The Psalm begins and ends with “Hallelujah” – it’s a command not simply a statement.  A call to the heart to do something it may not at that moment feel like doing.  It insists a firm choice be made and not just thought about. The Psalmists cries, “praise the Lord!”  Make the choice. When you do it’s like rain in the dessert land!  Out of that dry ground will spring even more reasons to continue to praise the Lord.

In Psalms 146-150 the Psalmist is saying look around you!  Look at what God has created and give Him Praise!   Like a conductor leading the choir, the psalmist is purposely calling all of heaven to bear witness by joining their voices together in that song of praise.  It is the highest and holy calling of all of creation. And it gives us a glimpse into what Heaven is all about.

In Isaiah chapter 6 we see another glimpse of heaven.  I should interject that this is one of the few glimpses into heaven that God has given mankind.  Beware of those false images painted by people who supposedly died and came back to tell us what heaven is like.  

Those images are purely imagination and likely not at all reality.  We know this because they seldom make mention of and more often than not conflict with what the Bible has clearly shown that heaven looks like.  So don’t run out and buy the latest ‘true story’ about someone who died and went to heaven and back expecting to find ‘divine revelation’.  Expect imagination and lots of creative license and you won’t be sucked in or disappointed by their biblical misrepresentations.  But know this too, Isaiah, a proven prophet of the Lord, was invited to receive this revelation of what truly happens in heaven. 

Slide8

And he wrote about what he saw in the temple of the Lord: “Above God were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying.  And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”  At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke” (Isaiah 6:2-4).  Seems this praise fest was profoundly loud and apparently had a great bass section that shook the whole temple! 

The angels around the throne were doing exactly what the Psalmist was inspired to ask of them.  They were praising God for what He has shown throughout creation.  

Slide9

The moon, shining stars, and those things we see in the upper atmosphere and beyond were all created to show forth the glory of the Lord.  They were not created to be objects of our worship.  But rather to remind us of whom we worship.  In case you missed it week before last Gail caught this meteorite flying through the heavens.  And this spring we saw that the sky was alive with praise.  You can almost see the angels dancing can’t you?  

All this that we can see in the heavens did not happen by chance.  All of it brings praise to God who “commanded and they were created” (5).   It was “He set them in place for ever and ever; he gave a decree that will never pass away” (6).   God the intelligent designer like no other, that’s who we are to “hallel”.   The angels announced to Isaiah “the whole earth is full of His glory” (Isaiah 6:3)

Likewise, in verse 7 the Psalmist said you don’t have to look up to see something to praise God for just look around.  And there too, if we open our eyes, we can see God’s creation waving in praise, and if we listen closely we may even hear their song. 

Slide10

When I was in Hawaii, I swam with the sea monsters.  That’s what the NASB calls them here in Psalm 148.  Sea monsters! Those majestic beasts!  I was diving in about 30 to 60 feet of water off the coast of the Big Island at Kapua Bay.   It was a gloriously beautiful Hawaiian day.  So I was already praising the Lord for this tremendous blessing He provided.  I had much to praise God for in just being there.  But that day was full of so much more to praise the Lord for.    

It was that day I had lead my friend Lynn to know Jesus and frankly I didn’t think that the day could get any better. 

I was so filled with the joy of the Lord as I swam along gazing at the tropical fish and sea turtles around me.   But my heart nearly burst as I heard those sea monsters songs cry out in praise to the Lord.  And I might have soiled myself just a little when I noticed how close they were!  Yikes!  Those whales are huge!  But my God is so big so strong and so mighty…and He created those monsters too!  Their songs from the deep brought even more praise from my lips. I even praise the Lord some more now as I look back and remember that day.

Slide11

But less we think it is only during the mountain top experiences of life that we can praise the Lord the Psalmist in verse 8 also suggests that even the storms in life bring Him praise. 

Now I don’t know about you but I really enjoy a good lightning storm.  I think they are better than the finest fireworks shows man can come up with.  But to be perfectly frank I’m not that fond of cloudy or rainy days! The kid in me wants every day to be suitable for at the beach playing in the water and on the slides.  Hot sunny days with enough cool water to increase the joy…those days I find it easy to praise the Lord. 

Yet if we can learn to praise God throughout the storms in our lives then there is nothing in all of nature that can separate us from God’s love.  However, being able to PTL as we watch a lightning storm or see hail pummel the vineyard maybe easier than when we are standing in the path of the storm and we are witnessing its destructive power especially on the ones we love.

I suspect for Michael Schultz (the Pastor at the Lutheran Church) it is difficult to PTL as he watches his young son battle with cancer, and all the awful treatments that seem to make Davis sicker yet.  But let me read to you just a portion of his blog.  This dated just before Easter 2014.

Michael writes, shortly after his son had an operation to remove cancer from his liver, “… for now I just want to highlight the amazing job the surgical team did, and to point out the extraordinary skill and work the surgeons and all the support team have and do. I wouldn’t wish medical trouble on any child, but if any child has to go through it, BC Children’s Hospital provides the highest level of care. We heard that when we first came down here, and we’ve certainly seen that be true for us.

Slide12

Thanks for making it this far with me …, and Easter blessings to you all. “Christ is risen!” “He is risen indeed!” “Alleluia!”(http://michaelschutz.com/blog/2014-04-22/back-at-the-bedside).   

“Alleluia!” That would be the Greek word for “Hallelujah”.

So Michael, even after months of trials and heart wrenching moments walking along side of his very ill son, is still able to “praise the Lord” to bring “hallel” for what God has blessed him with in this storm of life.  

Perhaps that’s why the Psalmist reminds us that even the storms of nature ring out praises to God. 

In fact it seems as though the Psalmist was reading the creation account found in Genesis 1-2 and realized that every created thing we can gaze upon brings praise to its creator.  

Slide13By Verse 11 the psalmist is bringing it home.  He is calling upon those in authority, “kings, princes and rulers” together with those they lead, “men & maidens, both young and old” (12): “Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens” (13).    

God alone is to be exalted.  Yet somehow we often fail to remember that.  We worship that which is created rather than He who created it.  We give to men praise that is fit for God alone. We honor man’s accomplishment and forget Who it was that inspired them to that greatness.

The Creator is so far above the creation is He not?  God is more valuable than anything we can behold.  Nothing in all of creation compares in value to knowing the Creator.  Without Him is all just passes into obscurity. 

Humanly speaking we get that concept… at least somewhat.  Go to the art gallery and you’ll find that pieces by certain artists are worth infinitely more than by other artists.  But why is that? 

 Slide14What makes a landscape by Ansel Adams any better than a picture I took with my cell phone?  I mean really…is it his full frame camera?  His excellent lens?  Maybe his subject matter or layout that gives is its worth?

Yet his pictures still get more recognition and praise than mine ever will.  Not only that but if you had, by some good grace, in your photo collection an original picture by Ansel, you would have an object valued between $8,000-$50,000 USD. 

As long as provenance can be established; so long as you can prove it was truly a picture by Ansel, you would have something of real monetary value.  And this is simply because of the photographer’s name. Ansel’s reputation and the fact that he pressed the trigger and he produced it or in essence he created it makes the photograph worth something.  So humanly speaking we somewhat get the concept that the creator is above the creation because Ansel’s works regardless of the quality of the individual images are worth something simply because they are Ansel’s.  People in know can tell the difference and can praise the merits of owning an Ansel.  The Psalmists calls upon those who should be in the know, “kings, and leaders”  those who have been blessed with much to lead the praise.

So far, the Psalmist has shown us that all of creation ought to be seen as that which brings praise to its Creator but as he brings this psalm to a close he turns his focus to those that have “won the rebirth lottery”.  Those of us who are double blessed as Christians as I said in the beginning, regardless of where we live or our station in life.

Slide15The Psalmist wrote, “He has raised up for his people a horn, the praise of all his saints, of Israel, the people close to his heart. Praise the LORD” (14).

Not only is God worthy of praise for being higher than His creation but especially because of His covenant relationship with His chosen people.  If you are one of His chosen people you my friend have been given something of infinite value. 

In raising a horn for them, the Psalmist is speaking of a mighty deliverer.  A King, in fact the King of kings.  God has given His chosen people the King of kings to lead them in this song of praise. 

Moses wrote, “What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him?” Deuteronomy 4:7 (NIV). 

We Christians, more than all of creation, have something to give praise for.  We are the people close to his heart.  God has chosen us for intimate relationship with Him through this horn that was raised up. 

In those days when the battle was won the victory was announced with the blast of the horn.  It showed who ultimately had the strength to win. But it was usually followed by loud praises and shouts from all the people.

That horn is Jesus Christ. He became “the praise of all His saints” when he defeated Satan on the cross.   His victory bought us our freedom.

Slide16We can look back through 2000 years of history and actually see that praise well up over and over again. 

The fact is, every new believer gives God praise for Jesus Christ and the forgiveness of their sins that came through His sacrificial love restoring us to a covenant relationship, making us Israel; a people close to the Father. 

We are truly double blessed.  We were not only created to bring God praise but we were chosen to lead the world to do the same.  For we have been chosen by God to Bring Every Gentile Intimate News with Praise so that all of creation can choose to join with us and praise the Lord.    Hallelujah? 

Amen!

Blessings!

Pastor Blake