Friday, December 30, 2016

Jesus Selects the Apostles

Mark 3:7-21

“But Jesus withdrew himself with his disciples to the sea: and a great multitude from Galilee followed him, and from Judaea,  And from Jerusalem, and from Idumaea, and from beyond Jordan; and they about Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they had heard what great things he did, came unto him.” (Mark 3:7-8)

While the Pharisees were plotting with the Herodians, Jesus simply left the cities, going back to the less populated areas around the Sea of Galilee.  Thousands of people flocked to hear him, not only from Galilee, but from all of the Jewish territory, from the Northern coasts near Tyre and Sidon, to the border of Egypt and east of the Jordan River, The entire area once ruled by Herod the Great. 

“And he spake to his disciples, that a small ship should wait on him because of the multitude, lest they should throng him.  For he had healed many; insomuch that they pressed upon him for to touch him, as many as had plagues.  And unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God.  And he straitly charged them that they should not make him known. “ (Mark 3:9-12)

Because the crowds were so large, with people trying to just touch him so they would be healed, there was danger of people being hurt in the crush, so Jesus had his disciples get a small boat so that he could speak to the crowds from out in the water.   He healed people with various common diseases.  T%hose who were controlled by demonic spirits recognized him as the Son of God, but again he forbid them to tell who he was, in an effort to prevent Satan playing on their recognition to mislead people by implying they believed the same things and worshipped the same god.    

“And he goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto him whom he would: and they came unto him.  And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach, And to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils: And Simon he surnamed Peter; And James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James; and he surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder: And Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Canaanite, And Judas Iscariot, which also betrayed him: and they went into an house.” (Mark 3:13-19)

Jesus selected the twelve apostles out of the crowds to go and preach around Israel, giving them special powers to heal sickness and cast out demons.  In II Corinthians 12:12 Paul describes these gifts as the signs of an apostle.  “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.”  As he explains in I Corinthians 13:8-10, those gifts or signs would disappear when they were no longer needed.  “Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.  For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.  But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.”    

“And the multitude cometh together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread.  And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself.” (Mark 3:20-21)

While it is exciting to have a crowd, the bigger the crowd, the less concern there is for individuals.  People get trampled or crushed and go unnoticed as the crowd gets larger. . Even Jesus and his disciples were unable to even eat.  Jesus’ friends were concerned that he was getting in over his head and would burn out because of the frantic activity.  

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Plotting to Destroy Jesus

Mark 3:1-6

“And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand.  And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him.” (Mark 3:1-2)

Jesus had challenged the Pharisee’s interpretation of the law about picking the grain on the Sabbath day to eat, and they had been unable to show he was wrong.  When the man with the withered hand came into the synagogue, they were hoping it give them an opportunity to get even and contradict his teaching., regaining their prestige.   

“And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth.  And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace.” (Mark 3:3-4)

Knowing what they were thinking, Jesus asked them about the intent of the law, whether it was permitted to do something good, such as caring for a sick person or and animal.  They all knew that the law permitted such actions, but they were not willing to admit they had distorted the law or were doing wrong, so they refused to answer. 

“And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other. “ (Mark 3:5)

Jesus was frustrated that they were more concerned with their own rules and reputations than with a person’s health.  He told the man to stretch out his hand, and when he did his hand became just as healthy as his other one.  Since he had not done any physical work, they couldn’t really accuse him or working on the Sabbath. 

“And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him.” (Mark 3:6)

Determined to regain their prestige, the Pharisees went and contacted the Herodians in an effort to destroy him.  Because of the constant rebellions of the Jews in Jerusalem against Rome, when Archelaus was removed from power, instead of turning Judea over to Herod, the Emperor had placed it under a governor, Pontius Pilate.  The Herodians were a group who were trying to get Pilate removed and Herod given the province, in the belief that since Herod was part Jewish, he would be more sympathetic to their demands.   The Pharisees hoped to enlist Herod’s support in getting rid of Jesus since he had already had John the Baptist killed.  It is hard to realize how jealous some people are of their prestige and influence.  

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Distorting The Law

Mark 2:23-28

“And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn.   And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful?” (Mark 2:23-24)

Deuteronomy 23:24-25 specifically gave permission to pick and eat some of th4e crop when one passed through a field.  “When thou comest into thy neighbour's vineyard, then thou mayest eat grapes thy fill at thine own pleasure; but thou shalt not put any in thy vessel.  When thou comest into the standing corn of thy neighbour, then thou mayest pluck the ears with thine hand; but thou shalt not move a sickle unto thy neighbour's standing corn.”   As they walked through the field, the disciples were hungry, and they began to pick some of the grain, just as they would any other day.  It was no different than if they had been walking through an orchard and picked up an apple to eat.  While it was true that the Jews were not to build a fire to cook on the Sabbath, they were allowed to eat things that were already at hand.   Thanks to the various schools of interpretation, even such things were condemned. 

“And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him?  How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the showbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him?” (Mark 2:25-26)

Jesus reminded them how that David, when fleeing from Saul, in I Samuel 21, had been given the shew bread even though it was reserved for the priests and was not to be eaten by anyone else.  The Jews held David in extremely hih regard, so in essence he was asking if David was sinning when he ate it. 

“And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.” (Mark 2:27-28)

As Jesus pointed out, the Sabbath was made to give man a chance to rest and recuperate, not to be a burden on mankind.  Man’s needs take precedence over the rules of the Sabbath, and God’ own son has the right to ignore them to provide for people, just as the Jews would not have hesitated to save one of their animals.   The Pharisees were distorting the law with their overly strict interpretation.   The disciples were not harvesting the crop or gathering extra food for later.  

Monday, December 26, 2016

Matthew’s Call

Mark 2:13-22

“And he went forth again by the sea side; and all the multitude resorted unto him, and he taught them.  And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the receipt of custom, and said unto him, Follow me. And he arose and followed him.” (Mark 2:13-14)

After healing the man with the palsy, Jesus went back to the sea shore.  Along the way he passed Levi, also known as Matthew collecting taxes, and called him to be a disciple.  This was several months after Jesus had begun his ministry, and Matthew knew a lot about what he had done.  He had no problem committing to follow Christ.  He describes the same events in Matthew 9.

“And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and his disciples: for there were many, and they followed him.  And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners?” (Mark 2:15-16)

As a tax collector, Matthew was a public employee or publican, and probably had few friends among the more religious Jews.  When he invited Jesus to his home. He also invited his friends, people the Jews considered as inferior.  The religious leaders then tried to use his association with them to cast aspersions against Jesus. 

“When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Mark 2:17)

Jesus used the Religious leader’s elite attitude against them, pointing out that since they considered themselves to as so much better, they didn’t need his help as bad as those they considered publicans and sinners. 

“And the disciples of John and of the Pharisees used to fast: and they come and say unto him, Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but thy disciples fast not?

And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? as long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.  But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.  No man also seweth a piece of new cloth on an old garment: else the new piece that filled it up taketh away from the old, and the rent is made worse.  And no man putteth new wine into old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles.” (Mark 2:18-22)

John’s followers practiced many of the same things the Scribes and Pharisees did, including frequent fasting.  They questioned why Jesus’ disciples did not place the same emphasis on fasting as they did.  The Pharisees viewed fasting as a way to get God to do what they wanted.  Isaiah 58 tells us such a fast is wrong.  Fasting is supposed to be for the purpose of developing a close relationship with God.  For Jesus’ disciples to be fasting while he was there with them would have been like a newly married couple sitting at the breakfast table and texting each other rather than talking together.  Fasting, like texting was for when they were apart.

Jesus then went on to explain that Christianity was not just a patch on Judaism or attempt to rebuild the traditional religion.  It was a whole different system, although it had some similarities.  Paul addresses this at length in Galatians.   

Friday, December 23, 2016

Jesus' Power To Forgive Sin

Mark 2:1-12

“And again he entered into Capernaum after some days; and it was noised that he was in the house.  And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and he preached the word unto them.” (Mark2:1-2)

When Jesus returned to Capernaum after a few days, some of the furor had died down, and he was able to come into the town.  Even then the house where he went to teach was filled to capacity.  Jesus’ focus was on teaching them God’s word.    

“And they come unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four.  And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay.” (Mark 2:3-4)

The crowd was so large that it created a problem for the men who brought their friend with the palsy to him.  They were forced to climb onto the roof of the house and pull away the roofing and decking materials in order to get him to Christ so he could be helped.   Unfortunately, in the modern church with our focus on having a big church we seldom realize how easily the size can become a problem, drawing so many who are only there for entertainment or excitement, that sincere seekers are turned away.  Fortunately the friends were not deterred by the crowd. 
“When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.

But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts, Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only?” (Mark 2:5-7)

When Jesus saw the friends’ faith he told the man that his sins were forgiven.  The larger the crowd, the more there will be who are only there because of the excitement the crowd generates and don’t really believe.  Some of those began to challenge what Jesus said, accusing him of blasphemy for implying he had the power to forgive sin. 

“And immediately when Jesus perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, he said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts?  Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk?  But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house.” (Mark 2:8-11)

Every sickness and psychological problem is a result of sin, starting with Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden.  That we still deal with them today only emphasizes man’s sinful nature.  Many of the religious Jews were like the Pharisee in Luke 18:1-12, who thought of himself as above sin.  “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.   I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.”  They resented the idea that they had diseases because they were sinners just like other people. 

Jesus said what he did to show that he was God and had the power to take away the consequences of sin.  As he pointed out, it didn’t really matter whether he said the sins were forgiven or told the man to pick up his bed, he was still alleviating some of the consequences of sin, as was demonstrated by the man’s healing.  Every time a person is cured of a disease, it is a reminder that God has the power to forgive sin. 

“And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion.” (Mark 2:12)

When Jesus told him to take up his bed the man arose and left carrying his bed the people were amazed, commenting that they had never understood it that way before.  They glorified God for what had happened.  

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Keeping Sight of Our Purpose

Mark 1:35-45

“And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.” (Mark 1:35)

The night before, Jesus had healed a number of people.  the next morning he got up long before daylight and went out to spend time alone with God in prayer.  He realized that even he as a human being could not continue to be a light unto the world without being spiritually refilled, just a s lamp needs to be refilled with oil if it is continue to give light.  Unfortunately, many religious leaders become wrapped up in ministry they neglect their own spiritual health, believing they can glean enough from the time they spend in teaching and praying with others. 

In Matthew 6:5-6, Jesus commanded, “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.  But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.”  Just as it is impossible to maintain a strong marital relationship without spending time alone with our mate, it is impossible to maintain a strong spiritual relationship with God without spending time alone, talking with him.  If Jesus found it necessary, it is pretty arrogant for us to think we don’t need to spend time with God. 

“And Simon and they that were with him followed after him.  And when they had found him, they said unto him, All men seek for thee.

And he said unto them, Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth.  And he preached in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and cast out devils.” (Mark 1:36-39)

Peter and the others were concerned that everyone was looking for Jesus.  Jesus pointed out that he had other aspects of ministry to deal with as well.  He needed to go into the surrounding towns to preach as well.  His ministry was not limited to healing the people in Bethsaida or Capernaum who were wanting his attention.   He was sent out to reach out to all of Israel, and demonstrate the power of God. 

And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.

And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean.  And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed.  And he straitly charged him, and forthwith sent him away; And saith unto him, See thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, show thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.” (Mark 1:40-44)

One of the most common mistakes in Christianity today is the focus on relieving physical suffering.  While Jesus healed many sick, including the leper in this story, the healing was secondary.  The primary purpose was and is to make people understand that Christ is the Messiah, the Savior who can take away our sin.  Jesus specifically instructed the Leper not to talk about his healing, but to go and follow the instructions in the law.  Those who knew the man would soon see the physical results. 

“But he went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter, insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places: and they came to him from every quarter.” (Mark 1:45)

Unfortunately, the man focused on the physical results, calling so much attention to the physical healing Jesus could no longer come into the city and focus their attention on the spiritual needs of the people.  He was forced to go into the desert, far enough away that many of the sick could not come in order to teach them the more important things.  While our work should have a positive impact on people’s earthly life, we must never forget our primary focus is preparing people for eternity.  Feeding the home-less, healing the sick, or helping alcoholics and drug addicts to escape addiction won’t count for much if they spend eternity in hell.  It is easy to get so caught up in doing good things we neglect the most important ones.  

Monday, December 19, 2016

Jesus Displays his Power

Mark 1:21-34

“And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught.  And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes.” (Mark 1:21-22)

Shortly after calling his first disciples, and turning the water into wine at Cana, Jesus went into Capernaum, and went into the synagogue, where he began to teach.  The people were amazed because he taught as one who actually understood what he was saying from personal experience.  The scribes based their teaching on what others had told them, or what they had read.  It made a great deal of difference in Christ’s presentation and credibility.

“And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.

And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him.  And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him. ” (Mark 1:23-26)

The demonic spirit spoke through the man, stating clearly that he knew Jesus was the messiah and that his intent was to destroy Satan’s power.   Satan, and his spirits know who are on God’s side, and are terrified that they will be destroyed.  When Jesus commanded him to come out, he had no choice but to do so, although he did everything in his power to resist, physically injuring the man in his efforts.    Satan doesn’t care who is hurt as long in his efforts to retain his power.  It is why dictators and criminal organizations turn on innocent people in an effort to retain their power.

“And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? what new doctrine is this? for with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him.  And immediately his fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee.” (Mark 1:27-28)

The Jews were amazed that Jesus could order the demonic spirits to come out, when the their peiests and prophets could do nothing to about them, even though they claimed to get their authority and powers directly from God.  It was clear he had powers and authority the Jewish leaders did not have.   Word spread rapidly throughout northern Israel. 

“And forthwith, when they were come out of the synagogue, they entered into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.” (Mark 1:29)

When Jesus finished teaching in the Synagogue, he went to the home of Simon Peter and Andrew, in Bethsaida.  He was accompanied by James and John as well, while Philip and Nathaniel went to their own home, in the city. 

Mr 1:30 But Simon's wife's mother lay sick of a fever, and anon they tell him of her.  And he came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up; and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered unto them.” (Mark 1:30-31”

Peter’s mother-in-law was sick and Jesus healed her, by just taking her hand and helping her get up.  She proceeded to cook for them and make them welcome.    

“And at even, when the sun did set, they brought unto him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils.  And all the city was gathered together at the door.  And he healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils; and suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew him.” (Mark 1:32-34)

Late that evening, after sunset, the people of the city gathered around the house and brought many sick or demonically possessed people to Jesus for healing.  He healed the sick, and cast out the devils, but forbid them to speak because they knew who he was.   He didn’t want Satan to have anything that could possibly be construed as an influence over him.    

Friday, December 16, 2016

Jesus Calls His First Disciples

Mark 1:12-20

“And immediately the Spirit driveth him into the wilderness.  And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him.” (Mark 1:12-13)

Immediately after his baptism, the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the desert for a time of testing and strengthening his faith.   Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13 give far greater detail about the time in the wilderness.  Mark confirms their accounts. 

“Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,  And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.” (Mark 1:14-15)

Later, in Mark 6, the arrest and imprisonment of John the will be described, showing what Pappias meant when he said John the Apostle said Mark had gotten things out of order, writing about twenty five years after the fact.  Matthew 4:12-17 describes the same events and Jesus message on his return.  Once again, Mark confirms what Matthew had written twenty years before.    

“Now as he walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.  And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.  And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him.  And when he had gone a little farther thence, he saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the ship mending their nets.  And straightway he called them: and they left their father Zebedee in the ship with the hired servants, and went after him.” (Mark 1:16-20)

Matthew 4:18-22 gives a very similar account, while Luke 5:1-11 gives far more detail about the calling of these four apostles.  “And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret, And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets.  And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon's, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship.

 Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.

And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.

And when they had this done, they enclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake.  And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink.

When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.  For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken: And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon.

And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men.  And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.”

After having heard John the Baptist’s testimony, as described in John 1:40-42 then seeing Jesus’ miracles as described by Luke, Peter, Andrew, James, and John had no hesitation about following Christ.  Theirs was not a blind, faith, they had reason to believe he was the Messiah.  They could commit wholly to him even though others would hesitate. 

Having either seen or heard about the miracle, Philip was prepared to follow Christ when he was called, and brought his brother Nathaniel, as described in John 1:43-51.  

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Intro to Mark

Mark 1:1-11

According to the ancient writer, Papias, mark was written by the John Mark who was mentioned in Acts 12 and 13.  Papias wrote from about 90 to 130 AD.  He was taught by one of the Apostle John’s students and was personally acquainted with the apostle.   He said that John said Mark served as a translator for Peter between the time of his return to Jerusalem in Acts 13:13 and his joining Barnabas in Acts 15:39, and the book was based on the accounts of the gospel he had heard Peter give.   This indicates that Mark was probably written around 50-55 AD.  According to Papias, John said Mark got the stories correct but not always in order.   Mark is valuable in that it confirms the accounts given in Matthew and John, and also provides additional insights into some of the events they describe, but we need to look to Matthew and John for the timing of the different events, as they were actually present to observe them.  

“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.  The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” (Mark 1:1-3)

Mark introduces the book with a quote from Malachi 3:1.  “Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me…”   He couples that prophecy with one from Isaiah 40:3.  “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”  Mark wants it understood that Jesus’ coming was fulfillment of the scriptures about the coming Messiah.  He then proceeded to shoe John the Baptist as the forerunner of  for the Messiah. 

“John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.  And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.

And John was clothed with camel's hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey; And preached, saying, There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose.  I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.” (Mark 1:4-8)

Malachi 4:5 prophesied, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.”   I Kings 1:8 describes Elijah.  “And they answered him, He was an hairy man, and girt with a girdle of leather about his loins. And he said, It is Elijah the Tishbite.”    John the Baptist was dressed similar to the description of Elijah, further indicating that he fulfilled the prophets role in Christ’s coming.   John was careful to make it clear he was not the Messiah, but the messenger preparing Messiah’s way.    Mark’s description is the same as that in Matthew 3:4, while his description of John’s message agrees with that in Matthew 3:11, Luke 3:16-18, and John 1:23-27, clearly indicating that they give an accurate account of what occurred. 

“And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan.  And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him: And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:9-11)

Mark’s account confirms the accounts of Jesus’ baptism found in Matthew 3;13, Luke 3:21, and John 1:31-34, that God was heard to declare Jesus to be the Son of God.  The fact that the accounts differ slightly from that of the others indicates they were not the result of collaboration between

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Instructions For Praising God

Psalm 150:1-6

“Praise ye the LORD.” (Psalm 150:1a)

There has been a lot of emphasis on Praise and Worship music in recent years, as a specific style of music.  In Colossians 3:16, Paul commanded, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”  It appears that many modern musicians do not understand that Psalms are songs of praise and hymns are songs of worship.  It is the message of the song, rather than the style of music that makes it a song of praise or worship or a spiritual song.   The entire book of psalms has been about praising or thanking God for what he has done.  This final psalm focuses on some details about how we should praise God. 

Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power.” (Psalm 150:1b)

We should praise God in the place set aside for worship, but we should also praise him when we go out into the fresh air where we see all the mighty works he has done.    We should be praising God wherever we are.  

“Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness.” (Psalm 150:2)

We need to thank God for the many things he has done, from the creation of the world to providing food for the last meal we ate.  We need to thank him that he is still in control of the world despite the things that are wrong and as a result, “…we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose,” as Romans 8:28 tells us.  Because of his greatness, we have nothing to fear. 

“Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp.  Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs.  Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals.” (Psalm 150:3-5)

Over the years, different groups have considered certain musical instruments such as the piano, the guitar, or drums worldly instruments that should not be used in church. Others have forbidden any kind of dancing.  The psalmist makes it very clear that any musical instrument can be used to praise God, as can dance.  One musician may play and sing a certain song thsat causes us to think about what God has done for us while another musician, singing the same song and playing the same instrument may leave us excited over their rendition of the song.  The first leaves us thinking about God, the second about the song.  When the focus is on anything but God, the praise is not for him.  The problem is not worldly instruments or styles of music, it is worldly attitudes in the musicians. 

“Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD.” (Psalm 150:6)

Finally, every living thing should praise God, because he has given them the ability to praise him by their actions and attitudes, even if they are unable to speak.  Just take the time to praise him with whatever means is available to you and don’t worry that someone else sings or prays more beautifully.  God wants to hear it from you.  Don't settle for letting others sing because they are more skilled or have a better voice.  

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Results of Praise

Psalm 149:1-9

“Praise ye the LORD. Sing unto the LORD a new song, and his praise in the congregation of saints.” (Psalm 149:1)

As we saw in Psalm 148, everything on earth ought to praise God for their very existence and the things he has done for them.   God’s people ought to praise him even more than other people or things, because they have experienced even greater blessings.   They ought to sing about his blessings any time they get together. 

“Let Israel rejoice in him that made him: let the children of Zion be joyful in their King.  Let them praise his name in the dance: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp.  For the LORD taketh pleasure in his people: he will beautify the meek with salvation.” (Psalm 149:2-4)

One of the first things God’s people ought to be thankful for is that God made them and that he is their king.  He will straighten out the injustices they have experienced, because he loves them and has promised them eternal salvation.  They ought to sing songs of thanksgiving to him, dancing and using whatever musical instruments are available. 

“Let the saints be joyful in glory: let them sing aloud upon their beds.  Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a twoedged sword in their hand; To execute vengeance upon the heathen, and punishments upon the people; To bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron; To execute upon them the judgment written: this honour have all his saints. Praise ye the LORD.” (Psalm 149:5-9)

God’s praises should not be limited to when they meet together, however.  They should have an attitude of praise, so that they stop to thank him even while they are lying in bed.  There should be a desire to see that things are done in accordance with God’s commands, so that the wicked are unable to gain power.  When they stand for what is right, even political leaders and business men will be forced to comply with Godly principles, and the punishments determined by the courts will be according to what is right because of respect for God’s people. 

Israel repeatedly forgot about God’s blessings and went into sin, resulting in defeat and captivity, throughout the Old Testament.  America is going through a period of turmoil for the same reason.   Taking time to appreciate God’s blessings will result in greater appreciation for God, and a desire to please him, while focusing on what we want leads to resentment, disrespect, and disobedience. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Who Should Praise God?

Psalm 148:1-14

“Praise ye the LORD.

Praise ye the LORD from the heavens: praise him in the heights.  Praise ye him, all his angels: praise ye him, all his hosts.  Praise ye him, sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars of light.  Praise him, ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that be above the heavens.  Let them praise the name of the LORD: for he commanded, and they were created.  He hath also stablished them for ever and ever: he hath made a decree which shall not pass.” (Psalm 148:1-6)

The psalmist starts with the command to praise God.  He then points out that those who are in the heavens or in the highest places of the universe should praise God.  The angels and all the saints who have gone before should praise God because they owe him their very existence.   He was the creator of the sun, moon and stars who placed them where they are.  Scientists now claim to have evidence of water on several of the planets, and the clouds contain vast amounts of water.  God placed them all there for his purpose.  They have been there from the time of creation and they will remain as long as time exists.  They all ought to praise God for their creation and their continued existence. 

“Praise the LORD from the earth, ye dragons, and all deeps: Fire, and hail; snow, and vapours; stormy wind fulfilling his word: Mountains, and all hills; fruitful trees, and all cedars: Beasts, and all cattle; creeping things, and flying fowl: Kings of the earth, and all people; princes, and all judges of the earth: Both young men, and maidens; old men, and children: Let them praise the name of the LORD: for his name alone is excellent; his glory is above the earth and heaven.” (Psalm 148:7-13)

Things on earth, owe God just as much thanks for their existence as do the things in heaven.  The various lizards, in the most remote places on earth, or the things in the deepest parts of the earth and sea were created by God.  He created fire and the wind, the rain, the hail and snow that cause our weather at his command.  He created the mountains and hills, and the trees that grow on them, from the ancient cedar to the newest variety of fruit tree.  He created the mammals, the reptiles, the insects, and the birds that live on the earth.  He created the great kings and rulers of the earth, the business leaders, and judges, as well as the poor, the old men and the babies, the young men and young women.  All were created by God and owe their continued existence to him.  They should praise him for creating them.  Their very existence demonstrates his power and wisdom.   

Everything in universe, from the smallest particle of matter to the largest object in space and every living thing, from the least significant microbe the greatest whale demonstrates God’s power, his wisdom and his love for them.  Everything should be praising him, and one day they all will forced to acknowledge him.    

“He also exalteth the horn of his people, the praise of all his saints; even of the children of Israel, a people near unto him. Praise ye the LORD.” (Psalm 148:14)

While God has blessed everything he has created by giving them existence and enabling them to survive, he has blessed his people, those who chose to obey his commands far more, because they have chosen to be with him.    

Friday, December 9, 2016

God Loves His People

Psalm 147:1-20

“Praise ye the LORD: for it is good to sing praises unto our God; for it is pleasant; and praise is comely.” (Psalm 147:1)

I Thessalonians 5:18 commands, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”  The David practiced this every day as we have seen throughout the book of Psalms.  Simply taking the time to give thanks and praise improves our attitude about our life by focusing our attention on the good rather than the bad.   In a world filled with negative attitudes it is a very attractive attitude. 

“The LORD doth build up Jerusalem: he gathereth together the outcasts of Israel.  He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.  He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names.  Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite.” (Psalm 147:2-5)

God  had done and still does wonderful things of r Israel, restoring their homeland and allowing their people to return.  He heals broken hearts for all his people, on an individual basis, even though he rules the universe, knowing all the stars by name and how many there are.  He has infinite knowledge, so that he is able to keep track of everything and power to deal with them all. 

“The LORD lifteth up the meek: he casteth the wicked down to the ground.  Sing unto the LORD with thanksgiving; sing praise upon the harp unto our God: Who covereth the heaven with clouds, who prepareth rain for the earth, who maketh grass to grow upon the mountains.  He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry.” (Psalm 147:6-9)

Because he has that infinite knowledge and cares for each one, God can deal with each individual, blessing those who are not focused on themselves , while punishing those who do evil.  Weshould sing thanksgiving to God, because he is one who sends the rain when it is needed, and makes the grass and trees grow on the mountains.   As a result, the animals and birds have food, as do humans.    

“He delighteth not in the strength of the horse: he taketh not pleasure in the legs of a man.   The LORD taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.” (Psalm 147:10-11)

Humans get caught up in the strength and power of a horse or some machine, or focus on the athletic ability of an athlete, but God is not impressed because it was him who enabled them to have the strength and skill.  Instead, he is pleased that people respect him enough to obey his commands and trust him to make things work as they should. 

“Praise the LORD, O Jerusalem; praise thy God, O Zion.  For he hath strengthened the bars of thy gates; he hath blessed thy children within thee.  He maketh peace in thy borders, and filleth thee with the finest of the wheat.  He sendeth forth his commandment upon earth: his word runneth very swiftly.  He giveth snow like wool: he scattereth the hoarfrost like ashes.  He casteth forth his ice like morsels: who can stand before his cold?  He sendeth out his word, and melteth them: he causeth his wind to blow, and the waters flow.” (Psalm 147:12-18)

God has blessed us in so many ways.  He has enabled us to protect ourselves, He has given us the love of our families, and given us peace and freedom to live.  He provides us with healthy food, and  He controls the weather and can respond to our needs instantly, causing snow and frost to fall, or the ice to melt at his will. 

“He showeth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel.  He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments, they have not known them. Praise ye the LORD.” (Psalm 147:19-20)

He has blessed his people in a way others have not been blessed, giving them his word so they can know what is right in any situation, while others are limited by the constraints of their conscience and understanding.    As Romans 4:11-13 makes clear, those who believe are heirs to the same promises to Abraham as those who were born into Israel, although they are not heirs of the later promises to his descendants.  “ And he (Abraham) received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.  For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.”

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Depending on God Rather Than Man

Psalm 146:1-10

“Praise ye the LORD. Praise the LORD, O my soul.  While I live will I praise the LORD: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being.” (Psalm 146:1-2)

The psalmist is committed to thanking God  with everything he has and everything he is for as long as he lives on this earth and right on into eternity, for as long as he exists. 

“Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.  His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.” (Psalm 146:3-4)

Because so many people have placed their hope in a political candidate, whether Hilary Clinton or Donald Trump, Trump’s victory has caused a huge uproar, with riots and efforts to overthrow his victory by pressuring the Electors, forcing recounts and threatening to kill Trump.  The reality is that neither Trump nor Clinton have the ability to fix the problems.    They have only human powers, and either candidate could die unexpectedly of a myriad of causes.  When they die, every plan and dream they had ceases to exist, as someone else takes the lead.  At best their efforts to make things better are only a momentary change.  The conflict reveals how completely America has placed their hope in man rather than in God. 

“Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God: Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is: which keepeth truth for ever: Which executeth judgment for the oppressed: which giveth food to the hungry.  The LORD looseth the prisoners: The LORD openeth the eyes of the blind: the LORD raiseth them that are bowed down: the LORD loveth the righteous: The LORD preserveth the strangers; he relieveth the fatherless and widow: but the way of the wicked he turneth upside down.” (Psalm 146:5-9)

The person who places their faith in God has nothing to fear.  God has the power to create the universe, and everything in it.  He is the one who established the laws of nature and enforces them.  He is the one who  judges the wicked and sees that justice is received.  He provides food for those who are hungry and sets those who are oppressed free.    His is the one heals the blind and the sick and protects the alien or foreigner.   He intervenes on behalf of the orphans and widows, but he causes the wicked to suffer the consequences of their actions, turning their plans into disasters.  He has perfect knowledge and infinite power.  Human leaders have only limited power and knowledge, so that even when they try they cannot accomplish what is needed. 

"The LORD shall reign for ever, even thy God, O Zion, unto all generations. Praise ye the LORD.” (Psalm 146:10)

God will not die or be replaced by another leader.  He will retain power forever, so that the rules will not be constantly changing as they do under our present system.  Thank god that he has tohe power to do what is needed for eternity.  We have nothing to fear if he is our God, if we have placed our trust in him.  We have reason to be afraid if our faith is in man.  

Friday, December 2, 2016

God’s Eternal Glory

Psalm 145:1-21

David's Psalm of praise.

“I will extol thee, my God, O king; and I will bless thy name for ever and ever.  Every day will I bless thee; and I will praise thy name for ever and ever.  Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; and his greatness is unsearchable.  One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts.” (Psalm 145:1-4)

David has committed to making gods praises known for as long as he lived.  It would be impossible to exaggerate his greatness, because it cannot measured.  The older generation should pass their knowledge of his greatness along to the next generation and ensure it will never be forgotten.   

“I will speak of the glorious honour of thy majesty, and of thy wondrous works.  And men shall speak of the might of thy terrible acts: and I will declare thy greatness.  They shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great goodness, and shall sing of thy righteousness.” (Psalm 145:5-7)

God is glorious in majesty, ruling over the entire universe, and does miraculous things.  Everyone will speak of the amazing and frightening things he has done, while David will speak of his greatness in protecting him.  Everyone will speak of god’s goodness and his justice. 

“The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy.  The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.  All thy works shall praise thee, O LORD; and thy saints shall bless thee.  They shall speak of the glory of thy kingdom, and talk of thy power; To make known to the sons of men his mighty acts, and the glorious majesty of his kingdom.  Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and thy dominion endureth throughout all generations.” (Psalm 145:8-13)

God gives people far better than they deserve, having compassion on them in difficulty.  He does not get angry easily and is willing to forgive even the worst if they will accept responsibility for their sin and change.  That opportunity is open to everyone.  Even those who reject his mercy will one day admit he gave them the chance, and those who trust him will thank him for it.  They will talk about the richness and wonder of his kingdom, and his power.  They will tell everyone of what his kingdom is like, like someone who visits a foreign land talks about the things they saw there.  Other kingdoms eventually are overthrown but God’s kingdom will only grow in power for eternity. 

“The LORD upholdeth all that fall, and raiseth up all those that be bowed down.  The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season.  Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing.” (Psalm 145:14-16)

Like a father holding his children’s hands, God will catch everyone that stumbles and falls, and will reach down for those who bow in shame or discouragement.  Everyone who depends on him will have what they need when it is needed.  He will give enough to satisfy the desires of every living thing. 

“The LORD is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.  The LORD is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth.  He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him: he also will hear their cry, and will save them.  The LORD preserveth all them that love him: but all the wicked will he destroy.” (Psalm 145:17-20)

Everything God does is done properly and in a way that is fair to everyone involved.   His door is open and he listens to everyone who honestly seeks his help.  Those who respect him will find their desires are satisfied, and he will rescue them when they ask for help.  He protects everyone who loves him, but those who refuse to do what is right will be destroyed. 

“My mouth shall speak the praise of the LORD: and let all flesh bless his holy name for ever and ever.” (Psalm 145:21)

David was committed to thanking God, but ultimately every living thing will praise him as well, as Philippians 2:9-10 tells us.  “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth.”  Even the wicked will have to admit he is righteous and good.  

Thursday, December 1, 2016

God’s Love For Mankind

Psalm 144:1-15

A Psalm of David.

“Blessed be the LORD my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight: My goodness, and my fortress; my high tower, and my deliverer; my shield, and he in whom I trust; who subdueth my people under me. “ (Psalm 144:1-2)

David is expressing his thanks to God for everything he has done for him.  Hwe has taught David to plan and given him the skills to gain victory in war.  He has provided him with protection from his enemies and rescued him from situations where he could not do anything for himself.  He has caused the people to submit and follow David willingly, and led him in the best ways, and finally, he has counted David a good man, not imputing his sins to his account. 

“LORD, what is man, that thou takest knowledge of him! or the son of man, that thou makest account of him!  Man is like to vanity: his days are as a shadow that passeth away.  Bow thy heavens, O LORD, and come down: touch the mountains, and they shall smoke.  Cast forth lightning, and scatter them: shoot out thine arrows, and destroy them.” (Psalm 144:3-6)

What is surprising is that the God who created the universe and everything in it would take notice of an individual person, to care for him and protect him.  After all, he is such an insignificant part of creation, and his life only lasts a few years, leaving little or no imprint behind.  As some have written, a man’s death has little more lasting impact than pulling one’s finger out of a container of water.  The hole fills instantly.

God, on the other hand causes the mountains to break into flame just by touching them.  He can rearrange the stars and planets, and causes the thunder and lightning that can destroy everything it strikes.  Why should God pay any attention to mankind, yet he has intervened on David’s behalf repeatedly.

“Send thine hand from above; rid me, and deliver me out of great waters, from the hand of strange children; Whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of falsehood.” (Psalm 144:7-8)

Though he understands how little he deserves it, David also understands that God Cares, and asks that he would reach down and help him, pulling him out of the swamp and drying him off, delivering him from their enemies who were lying about him and threatening to destroy him. 

“I will sing a new song unto thee, O God: upon a psaltery and an instrument of ten strings will I sing praises unto thee.  It is he that giveth salvation unto kings: who delivereth David his servant from the hurtful sword.” (Psalm 144:9-10)

David will sing songs of praise to God using a psaltery and  an instrument with ten strings which might have been a lyre, a harp, or a hammered dulcimer.  The key point is that he would take the trouble to thank God for his blessings, giving his salvation to both kings and common shepherds, and saving David from injury or death by the sword. 

“Rid me, and deliver me from the hand of strange children, whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of falsehood: That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace: That our garners may be full, affording all manner of store: that our sheep may bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our streets: That our oxen may be strong to labour; that there be no breaking in, nor going out; that there be no complaining in our streets.” (Psalm 144:11-14)

He prays that God would get rid of their enemies who made such wicked claims and constantly threatened so that their children could grow up without fear of attack and have a real childhood.  He prayed that their daughters might be able to dress nicely and enjoy their lives,  He aslso prayed that they would have an abundance of food and supplies to last from season to season, and that the livestock would be healthy and prolific, that the the work animals be strong, so that there  would be no legitimate complaining in the streets. 

“Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the LORD.” (Psalm 144:15)

A people who experienced such blessings from God should consider themselves richly blessed, because he is their God and cares about them.  Most people in the world never experience such blessings, and life is an everyday struggle to survive.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Dependent On God’s Mercy

Psalm 143:1-12

A Psalm of David.

“Hear my prayer, O LORD, give ear to my supplications: in thy faithfulness answer me, and in thy righteousness.  And enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.” (Psalm 143:1-2)

David was praying, asking for God’s mercy, with the full understanding that as a human, he did not deserve God’s blessings.  No human being deserves God’s mercy and grace, as 3:10-12 tells us.  “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.  They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”  He asks that God not judge him because he knows he will not measure up to his standards any better than anyone else.  As Romans 3:23 says,  “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”  He is totally dependent on the righteousness of god to understand the truth and decide what should happen. 

“For the enemy hath persecuted my soul; he hath smitten my life down to the ground; he hath made me to dwell in darkness, as those that have been long dead.  Therefore is my spirit overwhelmed within me; my heart within me is desolate.” (Psalm 143:3-4)

David was praying because he knew he had no power to escape his enemies’ attacks by himself.  The Jews had long used natural caves as burying places, and David had been driven to hiding in caves like he was already dead.   He was overwhelmed with depression and loneliness.
“I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the work of thy hands.  I stretch forth my hands unto thee: my soul thirsteth after thee, as a thirsty land. Selah.” (Psalm 143:5-6)

In the midst of his depression and loneliness, he thought about the miraculous things God had done in the past and how he had delivered others.   As a result, he felt impelled to reach out to God in prayer.  He longed for a sense of God’s presence like a person longs for a drink when they have no water. 

“Hear me speedily, O LORD: my spirit faileth: hide not thy face from me, lest I be like unto them that go down into the pit.  Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee.” (Psalm 143:7-8)

Emotionally, David recognized his weakness and asked that God respond before he sank into depression like others and turned away from God.  He prayed for an awareness of God’s love and presence, because he was putting his faith in him, focusing in what he had promised, and asking for his direction.

“Deliver me, O LORD, from mine enemies: I flee unto thee to hide me.  Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness.  Quicken me, O LORD, for thy name's sake: for thy righteousness' sake bring my soul out of trouble.  And of thy mercy cut off mine enemies, and destroy all them that afflict my soul: for I am thy servant.” (Psalm 143:9-12)

He asks that God would enable him to escape his enemies, because he was coming to him for asking to be taught to do what pleases God because he knew God was good and would lead him to what was right.  He prayed that God would make his spirit alive to God’s presence and take away the emotional turmoil, while punishing those who hated him and sought to destroy him simply because he was giving himself to God.

Monday, November 28, 2016

No One But God To Trust

Psalm 142:1-7

Maschil of David; A Prayer when he was in the cave.

“I cried unto the LORD with my voice; with my voice unto the LORD did I make my supplication.  I poured out my complaint before him; I showed before him my trouble.” (Psalm 142:1-2)

Maschil means “to be circumspect”, to act wisely.  Tradition has placed this Psalm as being about the time when David was hiding in the cave to escape Saul.  David had been forced to flee from Saul to save his own life.  He fled to the Philistines but was recognized and forced to go back into Israel, as we see in I Samuel 22:1.  At the time he had almost no followers and there was no one but God to help him.  He poured out his soul, reminding him that he had done nothing to cause Saul to hate and fear him.    

“When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then thou knewest my path. In the way wherein I walked have they privily laid a snare for me.” (Psalm 142:3)

David had been overwhelmed by the danger, and had no idea which way to go, yet God knew exactly where he needed to go to help him avoid the traps that Saul was setting to catch him. 

“I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul.” (Psalm 142:4)

Saul had murdered the priests for helping him and no one else dared admit they knew him for fear of being killed.  At the time David felt completely alone, although a few days later, his brothers and many people who had been displaced by Saul began to join him in the wilderness. 

“I cried unto thee, O LORD: I said, Thou art my refuge and my portion in the land of the living.  Attend unto my cry; for I am brought very low: deliver me from my persecutors; for they are stronger than I.” (Psalm 142:5-6)

David had been King Saul’s son in law, and one of his highly respected generals, but now was a fugitive with a death warrant hanging over him.  God was his only hope at the time.  He begged God to listen to him because he had lost everything.  He asks that he be delivered from the threat.  Saul and his army were much more powerful than David, and without God’s help, there was no way to escape.   

“Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name: the righteous shall compass me about; for thou shalt deal bountifully with me.” (Psalm 142:7)

David couldn’t even escape to the west because the Philistines posed just as much of a threat as Saul and his army.  His freedom was just as restricted as if he had been in a literal jail.  David asked tha God would deliver him from that prison, setting him free to publicly praise God’s name again and surrounding him with other people who worshiped and obeyed God.  David expected God to keep that promise, and as we see I Samuel 22:2, people began to come to him, although it would be several years before he would be completely free to go where he wanted.  

Friday, November 25, 2016

Trusting God When It Seems Hopeless

Psalm 141:1-10

A Psalm of David

“LORD, I cry unto thee: make haste unto me; give ear unto my voice, when I cry unto thee.  Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.” (Psalm 141:1-2)

As humans, we have very limited understanding of what is going on around us.  By the time we recognize a potential problem, it appears as a huge problem, and we cry out desperately unto God for a solution.   David was no different than the rest of us.  He asked that God respond quickly to his prayer, and that his prayers be as precious to God as the incense which was offered on the altar of incense or his holding up his hands in supplication as the offering of the evening sacrifice.    

“Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.  Incline not my heart to any evil thing, to practice wicked works with men that work iniquity: and let me not eat of their dainties.” (Psalm 141:3-4)

Because we know so little, we over react to things that happen. And David was afraid he would say or do things that were offensive to God in an effort to escape some threat.  So often our fear leads us into sin, and David did not want to fall into that trap. 

“Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head: for yet my prayer also shall be in their calamities.  When their judges are overthrown in stony places, they shall hear my words; for they are sweet.” (Psalm 141:5-6)

He would rather be punished by righteous men who would act for his good, painful as it might be.  Like a parent spanking a child to stop him from doing something dangerous to prevent his doing something worse in the future which might result in his death or imprisonment, he would accept their desire to help him and consider it a blessing.  He would continue to pray for them in love when they had problems, and would encourage them with pleasant words. 
“Our bones are scattered at the grave's mouth, as when one cutteth and cleaveth wood upon the earth.  But mine eyes are unto thee, O GOD the Lord: in thee is my trust; leave not my soul destitute.  Keep me from the snares which they have laid for me, and the gins of the workers of iniquity.  Let the wicked fall into their own nets, whilst that I withal escape.” (Psalm 141:7-10)

Though it seemed hopeless, and like their bones were scattered around like wood chips where someone chopped wood, David was still looking to God for help, trusting he would act on his behalf.  He asked that God enable him to avoid the traps the wicked had set for him, and cause them to fall into the traps themselves, while he escaped them.    After all, God knows every trap that has been set for us and exactly what will be needed to escape it.  

Monday, November 21, 2016

Surrounded By Wickedness

Psalm 140:1-13

To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.

“Deliver me, O LORD, from the evil man: preserve me from the violent man; Which imagine mischiefs in their heart; continually are they gathered together for war.  They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent; adders' poison is under their lips. Selah.” (Psalm 140:1-3)

We are surrounded by evil men who seek to have everything their own way, and try to destroy anything that limits t5hem or reminds them of their limitations.  They will physically attack or kill all who oppose them.  They constantly think about ways to take advantage of other people and are constantly on the defensive, ready to go to war against anyone.  They take pleasure in saying offensive and derogatory things, and don’t care who they hurt or kill. 

“Keep me, O LORD, from the hands of the wicked; preserve me from the violent man; who have purposed to overthrow my goings.  The proud have hid a snare for me, and cords; they have spread a net by the wayside; they have set gins for me. Selah.” (Psalm 140:4-5)

The wicked and violent will do anything in their power to destroy those who do right and prevent their success.  There are so many that we are incapable of protecting ourselves from all of them.  Convinced they can succeed if they destroy the righteous, they set all kinds of traps for them from sexual and moral to financial and political.  We have to depend on the Lord to enable us to escape them all. 

“I said unto the LORD, Thou art my God: hear the voice of my supplications, O LORD.  O GOD the Lord, the strength of my salvation, thou hast covered my head in the day of battle.  Grant not, O LORD, the desires of the wicked: further not his wicked device; lest they exalt themselves. Selah.” (Psalm 140:6-8)

David reminded God, and himself that he was depending on God for help.  He is asking the God who has given him salvation and protection in battle to protect him from these spiritual and political attacks as well to prevent the wicked gaining power and taking control.  Sometimes as Christians, we become afraid God will not come to our rescue.   We need to remember how much God has already invested.  He will not forsake us now.    Romans 8:31-34 reminds us what God has done for us.  “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?  He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?  Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth.  Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.”

“As for the head of those that compass me about, let the mischief of their own lips cover them.  Let burning coals fall upon them: let them be cast into the fire; into deep pits, that they rise not up again.  Let not an evil speaker be established in the earth: evil shall hunt the violent man to overthrow him.” (Psalm 140:9-11)

The wicked, who try to destroy the good, believing they can ignore God, will suffer the natural consequences of their actions, as Romans 1:22-27 tells us.  “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.  Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.”   Like the drug addict or alcoholic, they destroy themselves as a result of their sin. 

“I know that the LORD will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and the right of the poor.  Surely the righteous shall give thanks unto thy name: the upright shall dwell in thy presence.” (Psalm 140:12-13)

The only way the wicked can win is if they can over power God, and as John 10:27-30 tells us, God is more powerful than they are.  “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.  My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.  I and my Father are one.”  We have nothing to fear.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Known By God

Psalm 139:1-24

To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.

“O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me.  Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off.  Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.  For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether.  Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.” (Psalm 139:1-6)

Sometimes we feel like no one understands us, and sometimes we don’t even understand our own motivations and thoughts.  At such times it is comforting to know that God knows and understands us even better than we understand ourselves.    He knows every time we get up in the night or when we sat down to rest.  He understands our thoughts, even before we think them.  Sometimes we say things that do not come across the way we intended, but God knows exactly what we meant and why we said what we said.  He shapes and molds us, protecting us from things that would harm us.  We can’t even begin to understand ourselves like he knows us.  How could anyone else understand us like he does?

“Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?  If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.  If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.  If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me.  Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.  For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb.” (Psalm 139:7-13)

Sometimes we have a guilty conscience and like Adam and Eve in the garden, we try to hide ourselves from God, blaming others and avoiding other Christians and moral people.  Some people leave their families or change religions or become obsessed with making money in an effort to escape God.   Others become drug addicts or alcoholics and some commit suicide in the efforts to escape their sense of guilt.  As David points out There is nowhere they can go that God is not already there.  The things we do may prevent us from seeing God, but they do not stop him from seeing us or working in our lives.  He has known and tried to guide us from the time we were conceived.  Unfortunately, many are like an untrained horse, fighting the reins and making things worse for ourselves.  . 

“I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.  My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.  Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.  How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!  If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.” (Psalm 139:14-16)

When we begin to understand what it took to make an organism as complex as a person is we begin to understand how powerful, intelligent, and loving God is that he worked out the details. So that we can survive in this world.  God knew exactly what would be needed at each step of our development from the time of conception to the point we are at today.  He understood the formation of our DNA and developed it when he made man from the dust of the earth, foreseeing what we would become even before we had begun to develop.  As we understand that we begin to understand how much he cared about us to make such detailed plans and preparations.    We can’t even begin to count the various things he did to create us, and it is only because he still cares about and for us that we still exist. 
“Surely thou wilt slay the wicked, O God: depart from me therefore, ye bloody men.  For they speak against thee wickedly, and thine enemies take thy name in vain.  Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee?  I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.” (Psalm 139:19-22)

Understanding the amount of planning and effort God has put into each individual. It is obvious that he will not allow rebellious people to destroy all his work.   He is love, and is not willing that any should be destroyed.  As a result, he must destroy those who try to destroy others.  David hated those wicked who hated God and tried to prevent people from pleasing him and was frustrated by their actions.  He considered them as his enemies, hating their actions with a godly hatred.    

Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:  And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)

At the same time, David was concerned that he might develop attitudes similar to the wicked, thinking he was better.  He asks that God would examine him thoroughly and reveal anything in his own life that was wrong.  Instead of judging everyone else, we need to make sure of our own state, as Romans 14:13 tells us.  “Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.”   We can’t do much about what the wicked are doing, but we can change our own actions and attitudes, and he knows us.  We can’t fool him.