Sunday 7th May – Psalm 4
1 Answer me when I call to you,
my righteous God.
Give me relief from my distress;
have mercy on me and hear my prayer.
2 How long will you people turn my glory into shame?
How long will you love delusions and seek false gods[b]?[c]
3 Know that the Lord has set apart his faithful servant for himself;
the Lord hears when I call to him.
4 Tremble and[d] do not sin;
when you are on your beds,
search your hearts and be silent.
5 Offer the sacrifices of the righteous
and trust in the Lord.
6 Many, Lord, are asking, “Who will bring us prosperity?”
Let the light of your face shine on us.
7 Fill my heart with joy
when their grain and new wine abound.
8 In peace I will lie down and sleep,
for you alone, Lord,
make me dwell in safety.
David begins this Psalm with “Answer me when I call to you” and in verse 3 he says, “the Lord hears when I call to him”. Whatever the circumstances of our lives our prayers to God are heard – be assured of this today in whatever you are praying. David knew that there were many around him who mocked and scoffed at his trust in God but it didn’t knock him back even though, like the circumstance we saw in the last Psalm, things seemed hopeless. 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 in the New International Version of the Bible has Paul saying “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” J.B. Philips in his modern translation rendered it in shortened fashion, “We are knocked down but not knocked out”. I like that.
David has words for his enemies when they lie down every night to sleep for he tells them to fear and not to sin, to search their hearts and offer right sacrifices to God. It is a good practice to pray before sleeping because every day we have is a gift from God. Give thanks for the day that is past and pray for the one, God willing, to come. In contrast perhaps to some of his opponents David closes the Psalm with “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety”. Amen.
READINGS FOR THE WEEK AHEAD
If you don’t have a bible at home you can find the readings on a website such as www.biblegateway.com or an app such as YouVersion
MONDAY Mark 7:24-30
The significance of this healing is not about the little daughter with the impure spirit but where this happened and to whom. When Jesus moved from where he had been ministering and went to Tyre on the Mediterranean coast he left Israel and moved into a foreign country and engaged in conversation with a woman who was a Greek.
She begged Jesus to heal her daughter and Mark reports Jesus speaking to her in a way that we would view as giving her the cold shoulder and being really rude. He said – “First let the children eat all they want, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” (Mark 7:27).
What was all this about? The children he was talking about were the Jews, the ancient people of God and He was reiterating what was clearly known in the Old Testament that salvation was of the Jews. In speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well Jesus said the same thing “You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews”. We ought always to remember that it is to the Jews that we are beholden for God’s Word. However though the woman accepts what Jesus was saying she more or less pleads that he will care for a bigger company in the household than just his close family. In doing so we are given an inkling of what was to come because this family was to receive adoptees in days to come from the world at large.. What was only Jewish was to become universal, as the Apostle Paul says of the gospel it is “the power of God for salvation to every one who believes; to the Jew first (yes), and also to the Gentile” (Rom 1:16)
TUESDAY Mark 7:31-37
This is another wonderful healing by Jesus of a deaf and dumb man. First of all note that the man was brought to Jesus because of the care of others. To introduce people to Jesus is a great privilege not to be forgotten. The way Jesus deals with him is first in solitude – one to one – and then he performs certain physical things on the man. Maybe his friends had prayed for him but none had put their fingers in his ears or touched his tongue but Jesus does. Why? The Bible does not tell us why Jesus does certain things but what we can see is that he deals with people as individuals not as classes. Perhaps there was something about the touches that were significant for this man for touch can be profoundly healing.
There once was an experiment in a library where the librarian was asked to touch every second person who came into the library that day – perhaps in guiding to the right shelves or giving a touch to the hand in handing a book back. As people left they were asked by way of a survey how they felt about the library and those who felt it was a nice library and who had enjoyed their visit most were those who had received some physical contact from the librarian.
WEDNESDAY Mark 8:1-13
In this chapter we have another feeding of a multitude. Is there a reason? Let me suggest that it isn’t just a duplicate but it is the circumstances that surround the feedings that are important and why Mark (and Mathew) give these two feedings. In the first in Mark 6 (the 5000) the place was near Bethsaida in the Galilee area, the home country of Jesus and Jewish in population. The second feeding here (the 4000) was in the area of the Decapolis which was a Greek or Gentile area with not a lot of Jews.
Like the Syro-Phoenician woman in the last Chapter this feeding was an indication that the person and work of Jesus was universal and not for Jews only. Numbers in the Bible always have a significance and the four thousand and seven baskets with the numbers 4 and 7 always have an idea of completeness as though Mark was pointing out to us that in Jesus salvation was complete. However the blindness of the Pharisees who could only see the Jews as significant in the plans of God is shown up when, after this exhibition of the power of Jesus, they asked or a sign. There are none so blind as those who will not see the power of God in the person of Jesus.
THURSDAY Mark 8:14-26
It’s easy to get infected by the thoughts and ideas of those around us and to accept the culture of the day. When the disciples forgot to bring enough bread Jesus used the case to teach them not about bread but the yeast of the Pharisees. They were still obtuse – what was he on about? Jesus pointed them back to the feedings and questioned them whether they understood. Sometimes we can miss the teaching elements that come to us in everyday life and the next miracle Mark brings us to is a healing of blindness.
In this healing of the blind man in Bethsaida Jesus once again involves himself physically with the man but the story takes a twist in that the man’s vision is restored in two parts. At first he sees people “like trees walking” and after the second touch of Jesus he sees clearly.
Often our vision or understanding of things needs some time and more touches or prompts of Jesus before clarity comes. Many come to faith in Jesus in stages and many Christian people of longstanding still need time and input before we move on faith and trust.
FRIDAY Mark 8:27-9:1
We come now to one of the turning points in all four gospels. Up until now Jesus has been intent on bringing to the fore who he was; following this point he will be telling of what he must do. He starts by asking the simple question, “Who do people say I am?” and his disciples give various answers. Then, in turning to them specifically he asks the same question and Peter answers with his famous confession “You are the Messiah”. In so doing he lays what will become the foundation stone of the Church in ages to come. Jesus is Lord the Saviour for the world and the corner stone for the Church. I like the 86th question of the old Scottish Shorter Catechism and it’s answer:- “What is faith in Jesus Christ? Answer. Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation as he is offered to us in the gospel”
The next step in the passage leads to Peter tripping up and giving voice to an alien spirit, a voice which Jesus calls out as the Devil. Having got the confession of who he was Jesus then goes on to spell out his coming death and resurrection.
Peter wants nothing to do with the death business but Jesus firmly declares that his life as Messiah will be a deathly way before resurrection and this is followed by him calling the crowd around, together with his disciples, and spelling out that the way to life for all will first be a way to death, death to this world and its ways, before afterwards to heavenly glory.
A Prayer: “Heavenly Father take me with Jesus through death to this world that I may attain to life now and in eternity with you”. Amen.
SATURDAY Mark 9:2-13
Jesus, having told of his death, now links up his life with the whole history of the Jews and God’s dealing with them and with the whole of mankind. Three characters appear with Jesus on the high mountain.
First there is Abraham the father of the faithful whom God chooses out of the great migrating masses of the 2nd millennium BC. He is told to leave where he was and is told that he will become the father of a multitude – which he does but only through faith.
Then there is Moses whom God chooses to become the deliverer of the people of Israel from captivity in Egypt. God rescues them calls them his family and makes a covenant with them giving them his law,
Finally there is Elijah the leading exemplar of all prophets. He is the voice of God amongst the kings and the people who have turned away from God.
What Jesus talks with them we are not told but we surmise that he is talking about how he will cap all that they have been showing in their God-given roles.
What happens at the close of the episode is that the three disciples are told that although the others are witnesses, Jesus is the one God sends and who they were to hear “this is my Son whom I love, listen to Him” (v7)
The disciples knew their Jewish inheritance that before the Messiah would come Elijah was to appear. Jesus agrees but says that Elijah (meaning John the Baptist) has come and of course fulfilled his role of introducing the Messiah (Jesus) before being killed by Herod. We need never to mistake Jesus as being one among a number of special figures in history, he is not. All figures have to stand back before the Sovereign Lord of all.