Sunday 23rd April – Psalm 2
1 Why do the nations conspire
and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together
against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,
3 “Let us break their chains
and throw off their shackles.”
4 The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
the Lord scoffs at them.
5 He rebukes them in his anger
and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
6 “I have installed my king
on Zion, my holy mountain.”
7 I will proclaim the Lord’s decree:
He said to me, “You are my son;
today I have become your father.
8 Ask me,
and I will make the nations your inheritance,
the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You will break them with a rod of iron;
you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”
10 Therefore, you kings, be wise;
be warned, you rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear
and celebrate his rule with trembling.
12 Kiss his son, or he will be angry
and your way will lead to your destruction,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
The first Psalm is about the future contentment of the godly, whereas this Psalm is all about the destiny of the rest. In particular the Psalmist looks at the powers that be, the Kings and Rulers, who feel so confidant in their activities and he says that God merely laughs (v4). They don’t realise how puny and how silly they are before Almighty God. What is the plot and the conspiracies he speaks of in v1? They may not think it but all the activities that the ungodly go about are really actions against God. There is no neutral state before God, either we are for him or, if not, against him. There is no big picture within which God and us are players, no, He IS the big picture.
The Psalm also introduces the Lord’s Anointed (v2) and in v7 speaks of a Father and a Son, the Son being the anointed Ruler set upon the Earth by the Father. This of course is the soil out of which the early Church understood God as Trinity, Father and Son of equal worship and who were in truth One (John 10:30 & 38). To love the Son is to love the Father and vice-versa. I remember speaking to a man once who said “I don’t believe in God but I believe in Jesus”. Actually there is no way to split the two, as the slogan says “If you want to go to God, go to Jesus”. However it is the real Jesus, not any cosy made up one as the last verses remind us. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
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 3:1-12
Two kinds of people are shown in this chapter. The terrible thing is that if you don’t want to become a follower of Jesus you can quickly become first a critic and then an enemy and this is what we see in the first six verses. So soon after the start of his ministry we see accusers springing up who refuse to admit that what he is doing is the right thing and Jesus becomes angry. They were more concerned with their understanding of the sabbath laws (a failed understanding) than the good thing Jesus was doing in healing the poor man’s hand. The result was that the Pharisees and Herodians planned to get rid of the one whose life and ministry challenged them. Murder comes out of resistance to truth, goodness, honesty, and all that is godly.
Whereas these people wanted to get rid of Jesus by v7 we see another kind of people who rushed toward Jesus. He became crowded out but they were not really followers, what they wanted was for Jesus to do things for them (v10). There is no doubt that God is good to us but if all that we are concerned about is “what will He do for us?” then where is the relationship? Jesus just becomes a means to an end for us. “Do I love him?” is the question we need to ask – Jesus asked it of Peter after the resurrection and he asks it of us in our lives today.
Tuesday: Mark 3:12-34
It is worth noting that Jesus chose the disciples, it wasn’t the other way round and there is a deep truth about the initiator of our faith and life as followers of Jesus being God Himself. We ought never to imagine that we are the instigators of our life of discipleship. As Paul said “you are saved by grace through faith, not of yourselves it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). Worth pondering before going any further.
Towards the end of the chapter we find the issue of the truth being challenged again. “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness” says Isaiah (5:20). Today we sometimes say ‘they wouldn’t see the truth if it smacked them in the face’ but it isn’t a matter for humour or passing frustration, rather it is a matter for serious concern. Someone once said “if a child says he saw something out of one window but you know that he saw it out of another, don’t let it pass; who knows where careless about the truth may lead”. Can we be brave enough to call out lies masquerading as truth today? Give thanks for those who have.
Wednesday: Mark 4:1-34
In this chapter we are introduced to the kind of way Jesus spoke to the crowds who came to hear him. It was parable teaching which is not as simple as many think. After generations of familiarity with them and their interpretation we are apt to think they were picture images to help understanding but actually Jesus said the opposite. He said he told in parables almost as secret code that would be obscure and understood only by those who had the key (v11,12)
There is something to be said here about all reading of the scriptures. The reading needs to be done in tandem with prayer and the light of the Holy Spirit within the believer. Let me give not a parable but an illustration. We used to have a stamp with which we could emboss any blank piece of paper with our address. A piece of paper was put between its jaws, the lower one contained the address in relief while the upper one had the address standing out like type; when the upper jaw came down it pressed the paper into the lower one and the address was thereby impressed on it. I use this as an illustration because the Bible is like the lower jaw of the stamp, it has God’s Word but it needs the upper jaw of God’s Holy Spirit to come down and impress it upon us so that we will be affected and changed by it.
There was on old Scripture Union chorus that went, “Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold, wondrous, wondrous things out of Thy Word” – a good way to pray before turning to Bible reading.
Thursday: Mark 4:35-41
Mark is always pointing us to Jesus and here he points us to his relationship with nature and also with the disciples. As far as nature is concerned, he is shown as having controlling power because, in the midst of a frightening storm on the Sea of Galilee, he calms it. We should note that as far as the storm is concerned, he is prepared to allow it to happen. He isn’t panicked into interfering with nature – he is calmly asleep in the boat – yet at the frantic pleas of his disciples he does. However in doing so he challenges them saying “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
Would it have been better to have put up with the storm because Jesus was in the boat? When storms of life afflict us can we be still and trust in Jesus with us? When we commit our lives to Christ we believe that in the person of the Holy Spirit he is with us, even in us (John 14:17). Sometimes we do not need to pray about something because we trust Him just allowing Him to manage whatever may come to us. Yes, we can pray, but we can also trust.
Friday: Mark 5: 1-20
What is an unclean or impure spirit? A good question and not one with a simple answer but it occurs a few times in the New Testament and this passage shows it clearly in competition with Jesus who gets rid of its involvement in the man called Legion. We see the words ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’ thrown around a lot in the Old Testament where it is seen in connection with foods or things touched which would make one ‘unclean’ or not fit for approach to God in worship; certain things had to be done to cleanse one from impurity. The heart of the word is to do with mixture. Something pure was something unmixed or clear from other things. We still have that idea today if we wash or clean things up, we are trying to return them to an unmixed or uncontaminated state.
If we use this idea when we come to the unclean spirit we may get an idea of what’s going on. Something is impure because it is mixed, it is the opposite of the word holy which comes from the idea of separation from the world. Special. As an illustration all the brushes in our houses are usually ‘holy’ because they each have special purposes separate from the others. Our toothbrushes like our shoe brushes or hair brushes or any others in the house are only used for their particular dedicated use and are not ‘mixed up’ with each other. If they were they would become useless for the purpose for which they were intended (who would use their toothbrush for polishing their shoes?). Holiness in human life means different, separated, specially for God and that is what we are destined for when God calls us. We are not to be unclean or mixed, contaminated with the world.
The man that Jesus met had a spirit which was mixed, contaminated, impure within him. In his case it gave him superhuman strength that made him difficult to control and it also made him distressed in himself. He self harmed, shouted, lived around the tombs of dead people yet when he saw Jesus he ran to him – almost by compulsion – crying out fearing the presence of Jesus would make things worse.
In fact things didn’t turn out that way at all, for Jesus cleansed the man and he was left in peace. Mark describes the conversation and action as between Jesus and the legion of spirits that had infected the man. Jesus the absolutely pure and holy one wiped the impure away – it/they couldn’t remain in his presence.
Purifying in the Bible is often seen as the result of fire or water (look back at John the Baptist’s time with Jesus). The ancient people knew that heat was the thing that drove out imperfections. C.H. Sturgeon taking a women’s group to see a silversmith at work quickly picked up an illustration. As they saw the liquid silver being stirred he asked the silversmith how he knew when things were ready for the silver to be poured. He replied “when I can see my face in the silver”. Spurgeon, like the preacher he was, used the illustration to show God’s work in the believer. God refines us through the circumstances and trials of our lives so that we become more like Jesus so that we reflect His image.
Saturday: Mark 5:21-43
This passage tells an interesting story of two people who needed Jesus help. The first was a synagogue leader named Jairus whose little daughter was dying. What could be more painful? At his request for Jesus to come at once and put his hands upon her so that she could be healed, Jesus set off with him. However, on the way a woman who had had a bleeding for 12 years (I wonder how old Jairus’s daughter was?) pressed in among the crowd and touched his clothes feeling immediately a healing change in her body. Jesus stopped.
The two people had different emotional responses: Jairus was undoubtedly anxious about delay, the woman having been called to reveal herself was overcome with anxiety and a sense of shame as Mark tells us, she ”fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth” (Mark 5:33).
The incident is a story about time. For Jairus, like many of us, he wanted things to happen right away for he feared what would happen if they didn’t. When we pray we need to have confidence that things won’t slip out of God’s control. For the woman who had spent years seeking a result, her wonderful healing through faith in Jesus at a particular time brought a great conclusion. Luke tells us that Jesus said “people ought always to pray and not to faint” (18:1). Don’t give up if things seem a long time coming. God can pause the clock (for Jairus) or make it ring at the right time (for the woman).