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Showing posts from February, 2015

Daughters of Zelophehad: Rerun

Scripture

Num. 27:1 ¶ Then the daughters of Zelophehad came forward. Zelophehad was son of Hepher son of Gilead son of Machir son of Manasseh son of Joseph, a member of the Manassite clans. The names of his daughters were: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah.
Num. 27:2 They stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, the leaders, and all the congregation, at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and they said,
Num. 27:3 “Our father died in the wilderness; he was not among the company of those who gathered themselves together against the LORD in the company of Korah, but died for his own sin; and he had no sons.
Num. 27:4 Why should the name of our father be taken away from his clan because he had no son? Give to us a possession among our father’s brothers.”
Num. 27:5 ¶ Moses brought their case before the LORD.
Num. 27:6 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying:
Num. 27:7 The daughters of Zelophehad are right in what they are saying; you shall indeed let them possess an i…

Be Opened

Scripture

Mark 7:34 Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.”

Observation

Jesus heals the man who has been deaf. He puts his fingers in the man’s ears and then the man’s tongue, touching him at the point of his exact need. Could the man not speak because he could not hear, or could he not hear and therefore could not speak? Jesus knew, and the symbolism of his touching brought healing.

However, Jesus did not only touch this man, but he looked up to heaven and then he sighed. Jesus sighed! Was he tired and worn out from ministry? Did he need strength from God in that moment? We don't know but then, Jesus speaks just one word, “Ephphatha,” which the gospel writer quotes for us. This word is spoken in Aramaic and is here transliterated for the Greek audience. A big sigh — looking up to heaven and breathing out one word in this man’s native tongue, “Be opened.” This was Jesus’ word of healing spoken over this man. Whether it was his mouth o…

Duplicity

Scripture

Psa. 28:3        Do not drag me away with the wicked,
        with those who are workers of evil,
    who speak peace with their neighbors,
        while mischief is in their hearts.
4     Repay them according to their work,
        and according to the evil of their deeds;
    repay them according to the work of their hands;
        render them their due reward.
5     Because they do not regard the works of the LORD,
        or the work of his hands,
    he will break them down and build them up no more.

Observation

David was struggling for his enemy sought to destroy him. God was his place of refuge and the one in whom he placed his trust.

He had experienced those who pretended to be his friends, who spoke peace with him, but only did so for their own personal advantage.  They were duplicitous in their behavior, their words not matching their actions. Hypocrisy is considered abhorrent, a special type of wickedness that will be punished.

Application


Hypocrisy, or duplicity may be one o…

God’s Call to the Ministry: A Work of Grace

Scripture

Numbers 17:5 And the staff of the man whom I choose shall sprout; thus I will put a stop to the complaints of the Israelites that they continually make against you.

Observation


The Israelites were complaining again and this time it was because they all wanted to be able to approach God at the tent of meeting. Why should only some have that privilege?  They decided to grumble. They had no respect or reverence for the Priesthood — a foreshadowing of how the Jewish leaders would later treat Christ. They were also certain that Aaron’s ministry as a priest and that of the Levites was simply nepotism.

It was time to show the community that the calling of Aaron and the Levites was God’s calling. They had not chosen themselves to this vocation and it was not simply a voluntary offering. The calling to the ministry was a work of grace, revealed in the sprouting of Aaron’s rod. It was a work of grace in the Levites, but also for Christ. It is a heavenly calling for one to “suffer on beh…

Choosing Captains!

Scripture

4 So they said to one another, “Let us choose a captain, and go back to Egypt.”

Observation

The Israelites had made it to the promised land and were spying it out, ready to move forward with God in the lead and suddenly the people stopped. Fear gripped them and they refused to listen to the good reports of the some of the spies. Instead they began to measure their own strength, forgetting about God and determined they could not survive.

Moses was their spiritual leader but they were rejecting him. They wanted a “Captain” and they wanted to “go back to Egypt!”

Application

Think about going back to Egypt and all that meant. They had gone through the plagues, the passover, the Red Sea, the wilderness, the manna….and they would want to undo it all and go back! Had they forgotten the fact that they were slaves and they were making bricks without straw? Life had been miserable back in Egypt and yet, they seemed to forgot all that God had done and continued to do for them! They wanted…

Recoiling with Horror from the Word as Preached

Scripture

22 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.”

Observation

Jesus was teaching on fasting and he never condemned the practice. Actually, he fasted often but the way in which the Jewish authorities fasted was so compulsory that it didn’t fit with a life lived in the freedom of the Spirit. Chrysostom tells us that Jesus’ preaching, just as any fresh preaching may actually make people “recoil with indignity and horror from the word as preached.” This is because the message that Jesus preached was one of servanthood and accountability before God, and not for the benefit of the religious authorities.

The Jewish leaders had become stiff, just like old wineskins and they could not stretch to adjust to the new wine that Jesus brought with him. His message of servanthood was not something that they wanted to hear and nor could they celebrate his presence as…

The Rabble Among Them

Scripture

Num. 11:4   The rabble among them had a strong craving; and the Israelites also wept again, and said, “If only we had meat to eat!

Observation

Every morning when the Israelites awakened fresh manna lay on the ground, ready for them to consume. No one had to work for their daily bread, except to collect enough for their family. This special food from God provided all the nutrition they needed to be a healthy and satisfied people, and yet, they were not satisfied. Evidently a core group of individuals decided to grumble and complain that they didn’t have any meat to eat. They are referred to as, “the rabble among them.” These individuals had a “strong craving.” We might even say, “they had a hankering for barbecue!”

So strong was their “hankering” that they began complaining and this negativity was contagious. The rabble infused the entire camp until finally they were all grumbling, “If only we had meat to eat!” In the following verses they list a menu of food items which they e…

Considered with Contempt

Scripture

Acts 28:22 But we would like to hear from you what you think, for with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against.”

Observation


Having finally arrived at Rome, Paul calls together the Jews of the city. Coming to his home they begin a conversation in which Paul is curious regarding what they have heard about Christianity. Their response gives us a small glimpse of the news that had spread. This group, the Christians, were considered a sect and they were viewed with contempt. Justin Martyr writes that the Christians were cursed in the Jewish synagogues and that an organized band of Jewish men was sent out to inform the entire world of the heresy of Christianity. Everywhere this new sect was considered with contempt.

The reality is that for most of her history Christianity has been viewed with contempt. The message of the Gospel is counter-cultural and there are facets which will make society uncomfortable. Paul was not surprised by their perception for h…

No Compromises

Scripture

Acts 27:33   Just before daybreak, Paul urged all of them to take some food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day that you have been in suspense and remaining without food, having eaten nothing.  34 Therefore I urge you to take some food, for it will help you survive; for none of you will lose a hair from your heads.”  35 After he had said this, he took bread; and giving thanks to God in the presence of all, he broke it and began to eat.  36 Then all of them were encouraged and took food for themselves.  37 (We were in all two hundred seventy-six persons in the ship.)  38 After they had satisfied their hunger, they lightened the ship by throwing the wheat into the sea.

Observation

For days on end Paul and his companions had been struggling to survive in the midst of a troubling storm. Knowing that the ship will soon run aground Paul brought the crew together and urged them all to eat. Paul, the prisoner had suddenly become the leader, and it’s wasn't about his mastery of t…

Being Judged

Scripture

6 And now I stand here on trial on account of my hope in the promise made by God to our ancestors,

Observation

Paul found himself being judged yet again. Here was Paul, still in prison in Caesarea, and Festus brought him out in front of King Agrippa, so that he might present his defense. Paul continued to focus on the core value of his faith — that he believes Jesus is the resurrected Messiah. This is why he has hope, because he believes in the hope of the resurrection as a result of his own personal encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. The leading doctrine of the party was a belief in the resurrection.

The reality is that Paul was being judged for other things, small things that the religious rulers obsessed over because they didn’t want to talk about the real issue. They refused to believe that Jesus was the Messiah, and they certainly refused to believe the resurrection accounts. Paul kept bringing the argument around that if they were a people who believed in the…

Obsessed with Revenge

Scripture

Acts 25:3 and requested, as a favor to them against Paul, to have him transferred to Jerusalem. They were, in fact, planning an ambush to kill him along the way.

Observation

Can you imagine the hostility of the religious leaders who two years later are still plotting Paul’s demise! They were obsessed with this follower of the Way and were certain to plan his demise. Forty conspirators had approached the Sanhedrin two years before with a plot to kill Paul. Now they didn’t need anyone else to suggest the idea but on their own initiative they misled a government official and planned their own execution of Paul. They were certainly obsessed!

Application

To what lengths are you willing to go to get your way? For the Jews in Jerusalem to continue their hunt for Paul and devise such a scheme for his murder two years since he had been in the city clearly reveals that they were obsessed with the idea of punishing him. It leaves us wondering whether they had been plotting the entire ti…

Just the Right Words

Scripture

Acts 24:24   Some days later when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him speak concerning faith in Christ Jesus.  25 And as he discussed justice, self-control, and the coming judgment, Felix became frightened and said, “Go away for the present; when I have an opportunity, I will send for you.”

Observation

While Paul was a prisoner in Caesarea he was called to speak before Felix and Drusilla. He had a moment, an opportunity to share with these people, and he would need to use just the right words. His words reflect the passion of his heart. This is no defense of Paul’s behavior, nor is it a request for freedom. Instead, Paul’s focus was on the spiritual lives of the two individuals who sat before him, listening to what he had to say. Another angle would have been to argue doctrine, but he wanted them to come to know Christ, and so putting away any selfish gain, he began to preach to Felix and Drusilla.

He basically preaches a three point…

Restoration of the Fallen

Scripture

15     My eyes are ever toward the LORD,
        for he will pluck my feet out of the net.

Observation

There are two ways in which this Scripture can be read. By keeping our eyes on the Lord we are not watching where we place every step. When we go through difficult places we generally want to be walking with our heads down so that we can see where we we are going and not slip or fall. Instead, to avoid the pitfalls we are to keep our eyes on God for he will keep us from stumbling.

While at the outset this seems to be the most direct explanation for the verse there is another idea which can be found. David focused his eyes on heaven and yet there were times that he found his feet in the net. He wants to behold God’s glory but he’s having to live and endure the misery of this world. There are times when God will protect his people and keep them from falling into the net, but he also promises that if we fall, he will come and rescue us.

The word “net” is often used as a metaphor f…

Approaching God

Scripture

Psa. 24:0   Of David. A Psalm.
1     The earth is the LORD’S and all that is in it,
        the world, and those who live in it;
2     for he has founded it on the seas,
        and established it on the rivers.

Psa. 24:3        Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD?
        And who shall stand in his holy place?
4     Those who have clean hands and pure hearts,
        who do not lift up their souls to what is false,
        and do not swear deceitfully.
5     They will receive blessing from the LORD,
        and vindication from the God of their salvation.
6     Such is the company of those who seek him,
        who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah

Psa. 24:7        Lift up your heads, O gates!
        and be lifted up, O ancient doors!
        that the King of glory may come in.
8     Who is the King of glory?
        The LORD, strong and mighty,
        the LORD, mighty in battle.
9     Lift up your heads, O gates!
        and be lifted up, O ancient doors!
        that the King …

My Help Comes From the Lord

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Scripture

Psa. 121:0   A Song of Ascents.
1     I lift up my eyes to the hills—
        from where will my help come?
2     My help comes from the LORD,
        who made heaven and earth.

Psa. 121:3        He will not let your foot be moved;
        he who keeps you will not slumber.
4     He who keeps Israel
        will neither slumber nor sleep.

Psa. 121:5        The LORD is your keeper;
        the LORD is your shade at your right hand.
6     The sun shall not strike you by day,
        nor the moon by night.

Psa. 121:7        The LORD will keep you from all evil;
        he will keep your life.
8     The LORD will keep
        your going out and your coming in
        from this time on and forevermore.

Observation

It’s one of my favorite Psalms! The Psalmist looks up to the hills surrounding Jerusalem and they are filled with idols and he knows that they are not the source of his strength. His help comes from the LORD, the one who is above every idol, who is the very one who …

The Power of Testimony

Scripture

 Acts 15:12    The whole assembly kept silence, and listened to Barnabas and Paul as they told of all the signs and wonders that God had done through them among the Gentiles. 

Observation

Peter had already stated the facts, now Barnabas and Paul were to confirm his statement. There was power in their testimony for they had experienced God working in and through them.

A great group of people had gathered. This wasn’t just a small meeting of the apostles, but the “assembly” would have been much larger. Peter had finished speaking and the entire group remained silent, waiting to hear the words of testimony.

While Paul had already been taking a leadership position among the two missionaries, it was Barnabas who was considered the leader in Jerusalem. He’s the one listed first in this instance and so there was an orderliness to the sharing of the testimony and the focus of the testimony was on all that God had done. There was no personal boasting when it came to their testimony, but…

The Very First Missionary Meeting

Scripture

 Acts 14:27 When they arrived, they called the church together and related all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith for the Gentiles.  28 And they stayed there with the disciples for some time.

Observation

Paul and Barnabas had been sent out as missionaries from Antioch. This group of Christians had laid their hands on them, believed in them, and sent them out. I’m sure that they continually supported them in prayer during the entire time of their mission and now they returned back to this church to give their report.

This aspect of reporting back was vitally important to the on-going and future work of Paul and Barnabas. Without this network back home it would be difficult to venture forward on another journey. Gathering the church together they had the first missionary meeting. They reported what “God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith for the Gentiles.” They did not take credit themselves but reported what it was that God…

How Do You Deal With Rejection?

Scripture

Acts 13:48   When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and praised the word of the Lord; and as many as had been destined for eternal life became believers.  49 Thus the word of the Lord spread throughout the region.  50 But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, and stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their region.  51 So they shook the dust off their feet in protest against them, and went to Iconium.  52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

Observation


Paul and Barnabas were working hard for the Lord, doing all that they could to minister and bring the good news of Jesus Christ to those who needed to hear. The Gentiles were excited to hear about the Lord and to become believers. The Jews were quite unhappy with this turn of events and they made life miserable for Paul and Barnabas. No longer were they able to stay and minister.

Rather than being discouraged by the …

Just Trying to Make Other People Happy

Scripture

Acts 12:1   About that time King Herod laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church.  2 He had James, the brother of John, killed with the sword.  3 After he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. (This was during the festival of Unleavened Bread.)  4 When he had seized him, he put him in prison and handed him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending to bring him out to the people after the Passover.  5 While Peter was kept in prison, the church prayed fervently to God for him.

Observation


King Herod who is mentioned here is the grandson who had all the infants of Bethlehem put to death. He was also the nephew of Herod the Tetrarch who had John the Baptist put to death. He had been raised in Rome where he spent the family fortune on living like a prince and getting in tight with Caius Caesar who went on to become Caligula. He took over the leadership of Rome after the death of Tiberius and gave his friend the territory of th…

Transformational Prayer

Scripture

Psa. 19:14        Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
        be acceptable to you,
        O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

Observation

In Psalm 19 David has prayed against all kinds of sins, those that are practical, which we do in the body and now finally what may come out of our mouth. It is a prayer of cleansing, that the person of God may be entirely and wholly clean, and living in service to God. This is a prayer of penitence from one who realizes that the actions of his life spring from the motivations of his heart. There must be complete reliance upon God who hears the prayer, provides the foundation and redemption. This is a prayer for radical transformation.

Application


E. M. Bounds provides some of the best advice when it comes to prayer. Here is an excerpt from his book “Selected Works on Prayer.”

In Psalm 19, David magnifies the Word of God in six statements concerning it. It converts the soul, makes wise the simple, rejoices the heart, enlighten…

Feeling Confused

Scripture

Acts 10:17   Now while Peter was greatly puzzled about what to make of the vision that he had seen, suddenly the men sent by Cornelius appeared. They were asking for Simon’s house and were standing by the gate.  18 They called out to ask whether Simon, who was called Peter, was staying there.  19 While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Look, three men are searching for you.  20 Now get up, go down, and go with them without hesitation; for I have sent them.”

Observation

Peter had a vision which resulted in his feeling utterly confused. The word for puzzled here means to be at a loss, in doubt or perplexed. One can see him scratching his head and wondering what in the world this means to him. However, just at the height of his confusion, the men sent by Cornelius appear at the door. His confusion will be turned into clarity as he follows the Lord’s leading. The answer is at the door, and now it is time to get up and follow through with the Lord’…

Pleading With God

Scripture

Acts 9:39 So Peter got up and went with them; and when he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs. All the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was with them.

Observation

Dorcas, also known as Tabitha, was a disciple and a very good woman. Saddened by her death the women came in to mourn the loss of this one from their community. When Peter arrived the widows were overcome with their grief and, not knowing quite how to respond, were pleading with God. They were trying to intercede with God on behalf of this one who had died, praying for him to look upon her life and her good works. While their own hearts may have been filled with gratitude for all that she had done for them, they were also hoping that God would look upon her good works and have mercy. Dorcas had been a generous woman who had used her talents and abilities to help the poor. She had sewn clothing for them, using what she had to help others. Su…

“It Planted Miracles Like Forts Among Them”

Scripture

Acts 8:1 And Saul approved of their killing him.
 That day a severe persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria.  2 Devout men buried Stephen and made loud lamentation over him.  3 But Saul was ravaging the church by entering house after house; dragging off both men and women, he committed them to prison.

Acts 8:4   Now those who were scattered went from place to place, proclaiming the word.

Observation

And thus begins the persecution of the Church. Not much time had passed from her birth on Pentecost to this day, a day in which the full force of the religious zeal of those offended by the Gospel was unleashed upon the unprotected believers. But were they really left without protection? Stephen was a very devout man who was willing to give up his life in service to Jesus Christ. The result of his death had a profound influence on a young man named Saul who would go on to become th…