SUNDAY TEACHING FROM GOD'S WORD
A Prophet Like Me The Rev. Canon Barclay Mayo Jan 31, 2021
Deut. 18:15-22; Psalm 111; 1 Cor.8:1-13; Mark 1:21-28
As I was reading over the scripture assigned for today and couple of questions came to mind. First, is this Deuteronomy passage speaking about the OT prophets who would follow Moses? Or... was it speaking about Jesus? We will get to that discussion in a moment. But, there was a second question. What was the context in which Moses said these words? Why was he speaking here about false prophets? Let me begin with the second set of questions. They will help us discern who Moses was actually talking about.
First, let's back up a few verses and look more closely, for instance, at 18:9, When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. Moses is speaking to the people just before they cross the Jordan and take possession of the Promise Land. Moses has not been given leave by Yahweh to enter the Promised Land because of his lack of trust, & his subsequent disobedience. When the people were thirsty and needed water, Yahweh instructed Moses to "speak" to the rock, calling the water out in the Lord's name. Nu.20:8 Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water. So, you shall bring water out of the rock for them and give drink to the congregation and their cattle. That would have been a prophetic moment, Moses speaking in God's name to produce the water. Also, please remember that his staff is not really meant as a tool, but a symbol of Moses' authority to speak on Yahweh's behalf.
However, in his frustration and anger at the people, Moses uses the staff as a tool instead of calling the water forth in Yahweh's name as instructed. He said, Nu.20:10-11, "Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?" 11 And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock. What we have here is the difference between speaking for God, according to his instruction....and acting according to human wisdom and understanding. It is very important distinction to our discussion this morning about the authenticity of the prophetic word.
Yahweh was still faithful and provided water. However, he was not amused, Nu.20:12, But God said to Moses and Aaron, "Because you did not trust Me enough to affirm My sanctity before the eyes of the Israelites, even so you shall not bring this assembly to the Land that I have given them. There are always consequences for disobedience, especially for the shepherds!
Back to our story...and I am working now from commentary provided by Hukkat Balak, a Jewish Torah scholar. The Israelites had a history of trusting in God because of what they saw. That is, they retold the story of the Red Sea crossing...of Moses arms lifted high and Yahweh's saving them by destroying the Egyptian Army. Those images are burned into their psyche. However, in this story about the rock and water, Balak says, God seems to be trying to wean the Israelites from one kind of perception to another: from dependence on the visible... on the one hand, to reliance on speech in connecting with their God, on the other.So, for our purposes today, the change is to reliance on the prophetic rather word than the visible actions.
In Deut. 4:12, when Moses is retelling the long story of their journey in the wilderness, he said,...the Lord spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of words, but saw no form; there was only a voice. The Hebrew word translated as "form" in that verse is temunah, the same word that is used in the Ten Commandments in the warning against idolatry. So, the "abdominal practices" spoken about in this morning's passage, are all about idolatry, based on idolatry. Recognizing the unbearable societal pressure the Israelites would experience... to succumb to idolatry of the people whose lands and they were occupying, Yahweh desired to shift their reliance on the observable onto confidence in the prophetic. Also, as shall see in a few minutes, there is a very long-term plan in development here.
Look at Deut.18:10-12, There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering,[a] anyone who practises divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer 11 or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who enquires of the dead, 12 for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you. David Baker, in the Cornerstone Biblical Commentary on this passage, contends thatthese are important prohibitions, because they strike at the heart of practices that look for spiritual guidance to sources other than Yahweh. The beginning of the prophetic tradition is a milestone in the transition between the covenant fulfilment of the Promised Land, where the Holy City will be built, and the advent of the Messiah.
Now we come to this morning's passage, Deut18:15 "The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers-it is to him you shall listen- So, here is the first question. Is this referring to the long string of Prophets who were to lead Israel through OT times... or is this describing the Messiah? The answer, I believe, is "yes". It actually refers to both.
The first and foremost prophet of Israel, of course, was Moses himself. He spoke God's word to the people when the covenant was first declared on Mt Horeb. (NBC) But, because Moses could not enter the land a new mediator between Yahweh and the people needed to be appointed... and many others to follow... as the covenant of nationhood was fulfilled. Here is the first important point for this morning. The prophet or prophets would speak for God so that the Israelites would not need to hear God's voice directly, which, for them, was a fearsome prospect and so that they would not always be looking for visible signs of God's presence in the idolatry of the nations they conquered. It is obvious, when you look at verses 20 thru 22 that Yahweh has a number of prophets in mind, some speaking God's words and others presuming to know what to say....each with subsequent fallout, some good and some bad. So...many prophets.
However, Messianic Jewish professor Michael Rydelnik notes that the phrase "like me," that is, like Moses, is defined in Numbers 12:6-8 as being someone who speaks to God mouth to mouth (or face to face). This is as opposed to most of the OT prophets to whom the Lord speaks to "in a vision, through and angel or in a dream." In Deuteronomy 34:10-12. Verse 10 reads, "There has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face." These verses, coming at the end of the Torah, clearly refer back to chapter 18 and were apparently written long after Moses' death. So, the expectation is that eventually there will be another, like Moses, who speaks to God, "face to face" and to the people on Yahweh's behalf. So now we begin to see indications of the Messiah.
When we begin to look at references to prophets in the New Testament and John's Gospel for instance, John 1:21, people ask John the Baptist, " 'Are you Elijah?' He said, 'I am not.' 'Are you the Prophet?' (that is a reincarnation of Moses) And he answered, 'No.' " They affirm this expectation of the coming Prophet/Messiah in John 1:25. Asking John, "Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?" to which John answers, (26-27) "I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, 27 even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie." Matthew tells us that John goes on to say, Mat.3: 11a-12, He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire." Which refers to prophecy spoken in Ezra, Joel, Isaiah, Zechariah & Malachi about the coming Messiah ...and declaring, at the very beginning before Jesus Baptism and time in the wilderness, that he is actually God among them. No mere human was capable of doing any of those things.
Look Back at Deut.18:15 for a moment. The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you... In his commentary on this passage, John MacArthur notes first that the singular pronoun used here is indicative that there could only be one other like Moses. He goes on to point out that Jesus was like Moses in many other ways. Jesus, like Moses, was spared death as a baby. He renounced royal ways, had compassion and made intercession for his people. Jesus, like Moses & unlike the other OT Prophets, spoke with God face to face and was the mediator of the covenant.
Luke, writing in the Acts 3:22 gives the clearest claim that it was Jesus, the Messiah, to whom Moses was referring in Deut.18. In fact, if you have your bible, turn over with me and look at verses 11-26 for a moment. Peter is speaking & Luke reporting. The disciples, at the temple gate, have just healed a man who had been crippled from birth. Look at verse 12, And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: "Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. Then (17-18) And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. Then Peter identifies Jesus as the Prophet like Moses. (22) Moses said, 'The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you.
So, why would all this be important? First, easily identified fulfilled prophesy is one of the most powerful tools that you and I have available as we witness to non- believers and adherents of other religions about Jesus. That is why it is so important that all of us not only know our bibles intimately but are also able ... in the power and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to show those solid connections between the OT and New...and the consistency of the God who keeps his promises throughout. We need to be able to build confidence that God will indeed keep his promises in the future.
Secondly, when we witness, we need to be able to show that Jesus was undeniably the expected Messiah; that he was completely different from all the other pretenders who came before, so that we and those to whom we are called to witness, can be confident that the Lord is indeed unique from all the pretenders to come who will appear as this age draws to a close. As the scripture tells us, there will be many who come claiming to be him. We need to be able to identify the reality.
Let me close this morning with a brief note on our Gospel reading that is a perfect example of that uniqueness I am talking about. Turn with me please to Mark.1:21-28. Look at verse 22, And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. First, Jesus was different in the manner of his teaching. That is, spoke with God's authority, speaking, as he was to say later, only what the Father taught him. The Scribes and Pharisees always referred to the written word and never presumed to speak for God themselves. In this way Jesus was very distinct from them.
Secondly, Jesus had an authority to speak things into being, not based on the Torah, but inherent within himself. (23-26)And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, 24 "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are-the Holy One of God." 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be silent, and come out of him!" 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. Jesus spoke and things were. No Pharisee or teacher of the Law had the power to banish unclean spirits. There is story after story in the Gospel where Jesus simply speaks things. Yes, he does touch people. But, more often than not Jesus just speaks, and things are accomplished. This harkens back to the change that Yahweh began when he told Moses to speak to the rock.
Finally, and it would be easy to miss this in the discussion but is ultimately important. Jesus, unlike all before or after him, has complete and ultimate power over the forces of darkness. The New Bible Commentary on this passage notes, Here at the beginning of Mark's gospel Jesus is shown to be engaged in a conflict with the enemy which will continue throughout his ministry. The Bible makes it clear that until Christ sets us free, we are all under the power of the enemy to a greater or lesser degree . The man in the synagogue at Capernaum was completely controlled by an evil spirit, who immediately recognized the claim to authority in Jesus' teaching and so reacted violently.
The powers of darkness that possessed this man knew and declared Jesus as, "The Holy One" of Israel. It isn't just a throw-away title. This is the Hebrew word "HaKadosh", used throughout the Law and the writings of the Prophets as the identifier for God. In Jewish thinking, the Holy One, the HaKadosh, is the one set apart as utterly perfect and unique, utterly transcending the realm of the finite, the fallen and the imperfect. This is the only one who is worthy of worship, the only one who is perfect.
So, the masters of the realm of evil acknowledge who it is they are dealing with, even before the society he has come to save. Back to Acts for a moment, 3: 23-26, And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.' 24 And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. 25 You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, 'And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.' 26 God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness."
God sent Jesus to the Gentile world next. Because we have been grafted into the covenant, these words are as much for us and for this generation as they were for them. Because we are now people of the Covenant, you and I have a responsibility to the lost and broken of the world around us to show them this Jesus who has complete power and authority over powers of darkness within and around them ... and the desire and ability to defeat it, to redeem them and give them eternal life.
Immediately! The Rev. Canon Barclay Mayo January 24, 2021
Jeremiah 3:19-4:4 Psalms 130 1Corinthians 7:7-24 Mark 1:14-20
This morning we are going to continue with the theme of calling that I spoke about last Sunday. Only This week, instead of John's gospel, we will be looking at the first chapter of Mark. However, let me begin this morning with a question that comes from the Gospel reading that you just heard. Please open your bibles to Mark 1:14-20 and we are going to have a look at verses 16-20. What is the first thing that strikes you about these four verses? ... Let me give you a little hint about what I am looking for. What word gets repeated? "Immediately".
Now, if you only had Mark's gospel, without reference to any of the others, or to the history of those days, you might get the impression that Simon and Andrew, James and John just up and abandoned their boats and their families on an impulse and began to follow Jesus that day when he told them he would make them "fishers of men". You might even get the impression that their behaviour wasn't very ethical...or even downright disrespectful of their parents & servants who would end up carrying the load when they left. But, lets not rush to judgement...and lets take a look at this passage in context.
The narrative in the Gospel of Mark follows closely after the appearance of John... to the Baptism of Jesus... the temptation in the wilderness and then the beginning of his ministry. The word "immediately" seems to indicate that these things happened consecutively, and one directly after another. However, to interpret the story in this way would be a mistake. Why? The timeline is much more extended than a quick reading of the gospel stories seems to indicate.
The actual timeline goes something like this:
- AD 28: John the Baptist begins his ministry, challenging the people and the authorities and setting the scene for Jesus, the Messiah, to appear and begin teaching. (John 1:1-8)
- AD 29: A few months after John starts up, Jesus appears and is Baptized by John in the Jordan River, at a town called Bethabara, south of the Sea of Galilee, in between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. We need to understand both the timing and the geography in order to get the whole picture. (John 1:9-11)
- Also, in AD 29, in fact the very next day, Jesus has his first encounter with Andrew and Simon, then with Phillip and Nathanael (John 1:35-51). Then Jesus is driven into the wilderness, the Judean desert, by the Spirit... for 40 days. Mark 1: 12-13. The wilderness is in the south of Judea west of the Dead Sea, between Qumran and Masada. So, Jesus travels from Bethabara... south and west and is there tempted by Satan.
- Once the temptation is finished, Jesus begins to teach and proclaim the coming kingdom.
- At sometime in the next few months, John the Baptist is arrested, and his disciples return to Galilee to fish.
- During that same period, into Ad 30 or so, we find Jesus working his way north (205 km on foot) from the wilderness near Masada to Jerusalem, through Samaria to Galilee, healing and teaching in the synagogues. (Luke 4:14-ff) The wilderness time and this trip north takes months. Most historians think almost a year between Jesus' Baptism and first encounter with the 4 disciples... and the time, we heard about this morning, when they were actually called to follow him.
So, there are many things that happen in this 12-18-month time period and each of the gospel writers only report a part of it. They were sourcing their material not only from their own experiences, but also different people who heard and observed different events and from different perspectives.
Now we come to this morning's readings and we can see that there has been quite a bit of history between the disciple's initial encounter with Jesus and this moment when he came upon them fishing and repairing their nets. John the Baptist had been arrested, and his disciples scattered to their homes. However, they would have been hearing stories about what was happening with the Lord. Luke 4:14-15 tells us that, "And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all." Well, almost all! It seems that they weren't too impressed with him in Nazareth.
During this time, Jesus even goes to Simon's house and healed his mother. In fact, He healed hundreds and hundreds and caste out demons before he ever called these four disciples to come with him. 18 months before, Jesus asked them to come and see where he was living. But now he asked the to follow. By this time, they would have been excited and hoping to see him again...just waiting for Jesus to appear. I believe, plans had already been put in place and they were ready for him. So, they, as the scripture this morning tells us, "immediately" left their gear and families and followed him.
Why would this be important? First, I don't believe that God ever calls us to do things on impulse. God will never call upon us to abandon something he has already given us to care for, unless he has a plan in place for it to continue or its time is done. Hence, the "father and hired servants" who would continue to fish and care physically for the disciple's families and the community around them.
You have heard me say this before, but it is important and bears repeating. Rusty, the Principle of Emmanuel and St. Chad Seminary where I trained, was. speaking to our first-year class, one morning, about calling. I will never forget his opening statement. He said, "The very first and most important ministry that God has called you to, is to your family. Everything you do, from this moment forward, either as a theological student or in ordained ministry must be done in the context of, and subservient to, that first and primary calling."
Learning that lesson early on, and being brought back to it when I allowed other things to take precedence, has helped me immensely throughout the last 35 years of service to the gospel. When I was a military chaplain, I was dressed down one day because my superiors didn't think my priorities were in the right place. I had told them that my family was first, my calling as a pastor second and those two things were the reason I was a military chaplain, not the other way around. Needless to say, the colonel was not impressed with the military put in third place, but I wasn't looking to get promoted anyway!
So first, God never calls us to be impulsive. Secondly, and back to our gospel from this morning, God always prepares and resources that which he ordains. Thirdly, He always sets things in motion according to His divine plan and His perfect timing. God is very often at work in our lives long before it becomes evident to us. That is why the scripture tells us over and over to be still before the Lord...wait on the Lord. We will never be able to discern his call if we are in motion.
God could have parachuted an adult Messiah into AD 30, but he didn't. The historical events that took place before Jesus began his formal ministry were not chance events, not chance encounters. Each incident from the Incarnation, to situation and timing of his birth, the shepherds and Magi, Egypt, the boy Jesus in the temple, John the Baptist, Jesus Baptism & wilderness experience, were necessary preparation for both the people and for Jesus, so that God's plans could be completed. Circumventing any of it would have removed an essential piece of the preparation, would have messed up the plan. But God's plans are perfect.
I believe that it incumbent upon us...looking at the story from this perspective, to understand what happened from the perspective of the day, and why. It is the only way we will truly come to know God's heart for creation. I would also contend that presumption breeds bad theology and inappropriate behaviour or response to that theology. And, we have definitely experienced some of that in the last few years! Nothing that happens to Jesus or that Jesus does in the midst of this divine narrative, is just filler. Nothing that happens around him or to the other characters is unessential. Even when the sin and disobedience of humanity is reported to us in the scriptures, there is a lesson in it that we are called to learn.
We humans are an impatient lot, particularly in this day and age. We want everything to happen instantly. We want it now...and often get very upset when we don't see immediate results. However, that is not God's way. Look at the second verse of this morning's reading.. Mark 1:15, Jesus says, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand..." Certain things had to happen, in a particular way, according to specific time-line, so that humanity and Jesus would be ready for the revelation and implementation of the "the Kingdom of God." This is not simply a chronological moment in the process, but the decisive second in time when God's plan is to be unfolded according to His purposes.
When Jesus says, Mark 1:15, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand..." this is really an amazing statement. He is, at that very moment, giving notice to all the temple cult and religious leaders of the day that the day of judgement is at hand. Please remember, these are the same guys who John the Baptist, 18 months earlier, was calling "vipers", the same people John told, Luke 3:16-17, "I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire." Then Jesus appears, as advertised, and immediately affirms John's call for repentance, immediately begins to behave in this way. The kingdom of God is at hand...The kingdom of God is among you. It would have terrified them.
Do you know that feeling that happens when, after a long time of getting away with something you know is wrong, you suddenly realize that your sin is about to be revealed, is about to be brought into the light...you know, that empty gut feeling, almost nausea cause by the raging endorphins in your body? Its fright! That is what the religious leaders would have been feeling when they heard him declare that the kingdom is at hand!
I have always wondered at what seemed a disproportionate reaction to Jesus teaching in the synagogue in Nazareth. I mean, when you read it, it doesn't seem that challenging. He read from Isaiah 61:1, which says, The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; He said, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."
Luke tells us they were filled with wrath. They were going to murder Jesus, to silence him so that their sin wouldn't be revealed. It wasn't so much what he said at the time, which was enough to get Jesus censured, for sure. After all, he was claiming the Messianic fulfilment in himself. However, it was also obvious to them, that Jesus had real power. He had been healing people and casting out demons for months. Jesus knew things. He had insight and foreknowledge that they could not control...and it terrified them so much that they tried to kill him.
There is a learning moment here for us. There is no point ever trying to hide. Jesus said "...everything that is in the darkness will be brought into the light." (Luke 12:3) When we try to hide, even the smallest sins, they infect us in ways that cause more sin and desparate reaction to their revelation. I have worked on this over the years and it is mostly under control, but when I was younger, I would rage when challenged with things that I knew in my heart needed attention. Then have to apologize not just for the thing itself, but my inappropriate reaction to the challenge. Everything that happens in the darkness will be brought into the light. Why? Because, as Jesus said, The time is fulfilled and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel!"
Here is another little piece of the puzzle. Look at the second part of that statement for a moment. The Greek word translated in the ESV as "repent" is "metanoia". As usual, the word has many more meanings than simply repent, which is a necessary part of the whole picture, but only a part. Many of the other translation interpret the word differently. The word, in its original understanding, means to change one's mind, to turn from one course of action and to move emotionally, spiritually or physically in another course of action.
So, in this instance, Jesus is not calling for a little and insignificant decision...like, Oh, I sorry, I will try to do better..." He is claiming that everything John had been teaching about him to be true. When Jesus speaks of the gospel, literally...the "good news", he is claiming that what they are receiving presently and, to a large part up to the moment from the religious leaders, was "bad news!" When he says that the "time is fulfilled" Jesus is claiming the Messianic prophesies. And...he is demanding, as is his right and his calling, for repentance, a radical and life-changing direction of service from those who say that they believe. Now do you understand why these four men were so ready to immediately drop whatever they were doing and follow him?
Think about what that might mean for you. What would it take for you to be willing to follow Jesus in this way...to answer his call on your life?
Please pray with me...
Calling & Sending The Rev. Canon Barclay Mayo Jan 17, 2021
1Sam.3:1-20 Psalm 63 1Cor.6:9-20 John 1:43-51
This morning, our scripture offering has provided us with a window into the whole issue of calling. That is, God's intention, purpose and direction for each of those whom he has saved through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. The Epistle passage speaks about who we were before salvation, where we have come from, as well as an admonition not to fall once again into that old way of being. So, lets have a look at some of those verses first and as is our custom, set the scene.
1Cor.6:9-11 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practise homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. Aside from the vivid description of the old sin-filled life, these verses also contain two points of context for our discussion this morning. The first is found in verse 9.
It may seem that Paul is stating the obvious here, but he is not speaking, as one might surmise, to non-believers. He is addressing the redeemed who are acting as if they are unredeemed. In his day, as in ours, may of the liberal & wealthy elite believers of society, as did their pre-conversion Jewish counterparts, thought themselves above the moral law and, because of their status and ability to hide their behaviour, able to do as they pleased without repercussions.
I am going to leave the discussion about post-salvation judgement of believers to another sermon; for there isn't time to deal with it today. However, the New Bible Commentary on this passage tells us that, None of these listed sins ever strengthens relationships with God or with other believers. As in the Ten Commandments, they are prohibited specifically because they are destructive and unhelpful to Christian relationships...plus, they inflict grief and anguish upon believers and those who could become so.
The second point to note here is that Paul clearly states that this is who they were...past tense. They are not, nor do they need to be bound by, or condemned because of these past sins because they have been saved, because they are redeemed. Look at the second part of verse 11, But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. They, as we, have been, justified (saved) by the blood of the lamb, Jesus and sanctified (are being remade in his image) through the power and work of the Holy Spirit. The point here is that drunkards, Idolaters and swindlers...the whole list of moral sins, can...have been and will be saved. Saved for a purpose.
Look at verse 17. As believers, we have been literally joined to the Lord, become one spirit with him. (19) your body is a temple (the dwelling place) of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God. Because of that, we belong to God, we were bought by the blood of Jesus. We are now not free to just do as we please and ignore the moral laws he has set down for us. Instead, we are to glorify God.
We became believers as we, like Phillip and Nathaniel in today's gospel passage, were called by Jesus. It is not something that just happens on our own. Look at John 1:43...He found Phillip and said to him, "Follow me." It is God's intention to call us, to direct each of us to fulfill his purposes in us. And when we, as Paul said in the Corinthian passage, "glorify God", then we will get to, see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man. Just like Nathaniel was promised.That is God's promise to each of us.
Turn over with me to the Samuel passage now. First Samuel introduces us to Israel's last two judges (Eli, who was an epic failure & Samuel, who was an amazing success. It also introduces us to Israel's first two kings (Saul, who like Eli was a complete failure & David, who met with much greater success. Listen as Eli is rebuked by Yahweh. This is significant because Eli did not pay attention to his amazing calling. 1Sam 2:29, you scorn[d] my sacrifices and my offerings that I commanded, and honour your sons above me by fattening yourselves on the choicest parts of every offering of my people Israel. Whooh! (31) Behold, the days are coming when I will cut off your strength and the strength of your father's house, so that there will not be an old man in your house. Eli and his priestly family, who scorned his calling, is cut off from God's grace and mercy...sent packing, as it were.
In his place another is called. God says, (2:35) And I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in my heart and in my mind. And I will build him a sure house, and he shall go in and out before my anointed for ever. And so, this morning's story begins. Do you remember the description of Samuel's birth? His mother Hannah had been baren through many years. She was abused by husband's other wife, Peninnah , because of her barrenness. 1:6 says, And her rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb.
This was a faithful, believing family, who would together, as the scripture says (1:3)... go up year by year from his city to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts at Shiloh. One year, Hannah greatly distressed by her barrenness, went by herself to pray and cried unto the Lord. (1:11) And she vowed a vow and said, "O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head." Hannah had a son, Samuel and on his 3rd birthday, she went to Eli, as she promised, and delivered her boy to the Lord. (27) For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him. 28 Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord."
Why would I tell you all this? Well, first... the unfaithfulness and disregard for their calling by Eli and his sons, whom God had intended to be his messengers to the newly minted kings of Israel, resulted in that priestly and prophetic line being cut off at its roots, thrown into the fire because it bore not the fruit of repentance, as Jesus tells us in the gospels.
God knew very well that this was going to happen and had already begun to prepare another from a faithful seed, to replace Eli. There is a stark comparison here between Eli's family and Elkanah's. Eli is defiant. Elkanah & Hannah are obedient. Eli neglects his promise. Hannah keeps hers and God his. That boy would become a prophet, a priest, judge, and, most significantly, a kingmaker. God chose Samuel to anoint Israel's first two kings.
The new Bible Commentary on this passage makes and important point. Samuel and his family were not established as priests. The priestly calling in Israel was established through lineage. Instead, Samuel was to become the great prophet of his generation. Priests needed no divine call to office. Prophets, on the other hand, received individual calls, direct experiences of God.
The Lord, in spite of his sin and abandonment of calling, must have used Eli to train Samuel to be, as the scripture tells us, (3:1) ministering to the Lord under Eli. However, his calling was to be radically different from Eli's perception of a temple servant.
Have a look at the rest of that first verse. There are a couple of things to glean from it And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision. Historically, there were two types of divine gifting or spiritual gifting given to prophets. The first is a direct communication or word from the Lord, and secondly visions. They are rare in this time-period because the leaders of Israel, like Eli, were unfaithful to their calling and busy about fulfilling their own desires instead of Yahweh's plans and purposes. Throughout history, whenever the people of God and more specifically their leaders, began to pursue their own yearnings instead of God's commands, he simply removed his hand and left them to their own devices. This is exactly the situation here. It explains why both Samuel and Eli were surprised by the voice!
Eli knew that he had been judged wanting. He had not restrained his sons. However, he also knew that God would raise up another and when he realized what was happening that evening, he gave wise instruction to his you apprentice. (9) Go, lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say, 'Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.' Which is exactly what Samuel did, and the Lord spoke to him. (11) Then the Lord said to Samuel, "Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel at which the two ears of everyone who hears it will tingle. And the Yahweh told Samuel why him and not Eli and his priestly family.
Verses 19 though 21 set the scene for the next chapter, firmly establishing Samuel as the Lord's prophet. And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. 20 And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established as a prophet of the Lord. 21 And the Lord appeared again at Shiloh, for the Lord revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the Lord.
So, what we see here is God, on the one hand, clearly demonstrating how he will respond to those who spurn his calling, and on the other, revealing that his plans and purposes, his word and intentions will indeed be fulfilled by servants faithful to their calling. However, wile we are indeed redeemed and called; we are in many respects still broken vessels. If that is so, what the can we do to ensure that we don't fall and fail so epically that our calling is removed and given to another more faithful servant.
Please turn wit me to this morning's appointed Psalm. This Psalm is attributed to David. That is important because, although the Lord has called him "A man after his own heart", David is also, like many of us a broken vessel & a work in process. He sins and falls down on the job. However, there is something in his spirit that knows that his only hope is found in the God who called him and set him upon the throne if Israel. Psalm 63:1a, O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; David publicly recognizes who he belongs to and the upon whom the totality of his dedication and affection must, out of necessity, rest. (1b) my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. David remembers the dry and thirsty days as he hid from Saul in the desert. Today, he yearns for God as he did for water then. The first lesson, then, is about the object of our hearts desire. More than anything, God's presence must be the first thing we seek.
Next, David reveals how that can be accomplished... what he has done to make it so. (2) I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. In Hebrews 10:25, the apostle Paul encourages us not to neglect meeting together for worship and encouragement. King David directs our attention to the place where God's power and glory should and will be revealed, in the place of public worship. That is a bit problematic for us in these days, but I believe it is so, even as we meet together online.
(3) Because your steadfast love is
better than life,
my lips will praise you. There are two things to note here. First, God's love of David has been demonstrated to him over and over, his covenant love is more important to David than life itself. God's covenant love for you and me, demonstrated by the sacrifice of his son Jesus, should be perceived in like fashion. Our response, like David's, praise on our lips, recognizes and celebrates that reality and keeps it ever before our eyes.
David recites these things out loud not only as a witness to others, but to armour and encourage his soul for battle against the roaring lion who prowls about looking for someone to devour...as St. Peter says in 1 Pet.5:8. We, like him, need to be armoured for the battle and the best way to put that on is to keep our eyes firmly focussed on the reason for our faith.
David declares that he will bless Yahweh as long as he lives, lift his hands to Him in praise and thanksgiving. (4) He recognizes and declares that his soul, his deepest desires are satisfied by God's presence. He doesn't just thank God in public. He does it in the quietness and solitude of his own bed in the darkness of night. (6) If you have ever watched a goose with goslings or a hen with chicks when a raptor is circling above, David's shadow of your wings image will offer a stunning picture of God's protective love. It is a love willing to sacrifice life on his behalf...and for us a clear pre-curser to the Sacrifice of Jesus for us.
I believe that the only way you and I can stay the course & fulfil our calling is to cling to God as David says in verse 8. And God will indeed, not only uphold us with his mighty right hand, but also deal as the last three verses declare, deal with that prowling lion who might seek to devour us!
Prophesy Fulfilled Jan 10, 2021
Isaiah 42:1-9 Psalm 89:1-18 Acts 10:34-38 Mark 1:4-11
Some of the lectionary assignments that we read through year are simply a progression through a particular book, telling the story from one week to the next. This is not like that. This Sunday is designated as a feast day, the feast of the Baptism of our Lord. On feast days, the readings are intentionally picked with a focus or a theme in mind. The lectionary readings this morning have a specific purpose. That is to show a direct connection between what God declared in the Old Testament about Christ Jesus and then through his ministry to the church in the future.
If you pay close attention this morning, my hope is that you will be able to open the eyes of the skeptics who surround you... by showing them how God clearly declared his intentions not only for the people of Israel, but the whole world and then did exactly what he said he would. If that is the case, and I believe that it is, there are undeniable implications for people who live even today. Once the connections are seen and understood, the only possible way to deny the reality is to reject the authenticity of the source. Even that is a bit problematic, because the source authenticates itself by revealing those connections and fulfilled declarations through the centuries.
So, lets begin this morning by looking at the Old Testament passage from Isaiah and what God is saying in it. What does God promise will happen? Now, you and I can't actually view these prophesies with OT eyes. Isaiah 42 was written in the 6th century before Christ, somewhere between 700 & 600 BC & the Psalm, some Scholars believe, was penned by Ethan the Ezrahite during the reign of King Solomon or even perhaps King David. So, we read these passages with the perspective of well over 2000 years of history and we know that at least some of the promises have come to fruition. So, we can show these fulfilled prophesies to our friends. This group of promises have been fulfilled...and because of that fulfillment, we can be assured that the rest will indeed be fulfilled in the future. God keeps his promises!
There is, however, more here for us to learn that will help us be better understand God's plans & purposes. In order to appreciate Isaiah 42, we must first back up a wee bit to the last few verse of Isaiah 41. In fact, some scholars, such as David Jackman for instance, believe that the whole of chapters 40 & 41 set the scene for 42:1-9. I am not going to deal with it all this morning, but please have a look at 40:31, "...they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint." God is saying that the way the people of Israel were living at that time literally wearied them, sucked the physical and spiritual strength out of them. The writer of Isaiah tells them that Yahweh does not grow weary. Yahweh is not only able, but willing to save, to renew their strength, to empower and enable them...as long as they wait on him. So, there is the first promise
But what are the people doing instead? In chapter 41, you can almost sense God's frustration at their continued fascination with the useless idols of the people who surround them. They were literally hedging their spiritual bets, as it were, probably because they are afraid that the promises of God might not be true. Much like a significant portion of the population today! They are suffering because of it, both then and now! But God always says, "look what I have done in the past and know that I will keep my promises in the future.
There are a ton of promises in those verses. Here are a couple: 42:9 &10, "...you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, "You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off"; fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (17-18) When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the LORD will answer them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys. I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.
However, as God is preparing to bring them home from Babylon, they have become enamoured with the wooden, bronze and stone gods of the Babylonians. So, Yahweh challenges their idols and the priests who lead the people to worship them, to give an answer...to predict the future, to prove their past deeds as he has....but they don't answer. They can't because they are fake. I would contend that a similar challenge, with a similar result, could be put forward today. So, God says, But when I look, there is no one; among these there is no counselor who, when I ask, gives an answer. Behold, they are all a delusion; their works are nothing; their metal images are empty wind. That is the context in which this morning's passage from 42:1-9 needs to be read. It is a little like Paul, as he does so often in the Epistles saying, "therefore." Yahweh says, Pay attention here!!!"
Christian Scholars have designated chapter 42 as the first of the so-called Servant Songs, prophesies about Jesus. The servant, who we know as Jesus, is God's response to the stubborn and blind idolatry of the Hebrew people. And again, I would contend that Jesus is also God's response to the stubborn and idolatrous people we live among today. The Hebrew word translated in the ESV as "Behold" is "Chazah" and it means, pay attention. It could be also "Lo" as in Lo He comes....like, "look up." And if you do behold, look up, pay attention, you will see God's Chosen one and God's response to the needs of the people.
Isa.42:1a, Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights. Who can tell me where you have heard that before? We just heard similar words from the mouth of God in our Gospel reading. Mark.1:11, And a voice came from heaven, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased." Although the words are not exact, they relay the same message, mean the same thing. John had been telling all who would listen that he was simply a messenger, a pre-curser, one whose calling was to prepare for the people for the fulfilment of God's promises in the Messiah.
Back up to the first three verses of the Gospel. Mark first says, Mark 1:1. The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is to be the good news of Jesus, the Son of God...not John, the son of Zachariah...although John appears first. Mark immediately identifies who John the Baptist is, by quoting Isaiah 40:3, Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. The interpreter's Commentary tells us thatIsaiah 42:3 looks forward to the coming of another messenger "in the desert," who will go before the people of God in a second Exodus to prepare for the revelation of God's salvation in Christ.
Just in case we may have missed it, the gospel writer connects the prophesy with the persons both of John the Baptist and the Messiah, Jesus whom John prepares for and declares. And, a bit like you and me looking at this history from many years down the road, Mark, writing somewhere around 70 AD, 37 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus, has had time to question, to reflect and affirm those connections as being authentic history.
When Mark says these things, three things are accomplished. First, it affirms the truth of what John had been telling everyone. His job was to prophetically prepare the way for the Lord's anointed. Secondly, John's ministry & all that happened within it, was the beginning of the fulfillment of God's promises of restoration that were declared in Isaiah. Finally, because John was himself a fulfilment of prophesy, the people needed to pay attention, that is to affirm the truth of what he said and that which follows.
Please look back to Isaiah 42:1b for a moment. There are two important declarations here. First, God affirms that Jesus will be empowered by the Holy Spirit. I have put my Spirit upon him. We see that fulfilled, both in the things that John affirms about Jesus. John prophesies, Mark 1:8, I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit." And God affirms, Mark 1:9-10, In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.
The second important thing to note about Isaiah 42:1b is this, ...he will bring forth justice to the nations. This isn't simply about the restoration and healing of the nation of Israel. It is about the healing of the nations. Jesus himself affirms that in a very familiar passage we all know from Matthew 28:19-20 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
This is not God, demanding and overpowering. It is God the encourager and healer. He knows we are hurting and that at times the pain is so bad that we are close to loosing our faith. But Isaiah tells us that, a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench. Instead, Jesus will bring justice.
What I am trying to get at this morning is that every verse if the Isaiah passage contains at least one prophesy that was fulfilled in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus or is in the process of being fulfilled. It is so plain to see and to affirm. Every verse can be used to help you witness to your friends and family.
Jesus self-identified with this passage. In Mark 10:45 Jesus says,For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. He called himself a servant.When John's disciples came to him and asked if he was the Messiah, what did Jesus say. And he answered them, "Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them....a direct reference to 42:7.
Our world is in such a mess and in such a need of the restoration and healing that only Jesus brings. God has given us this amazing resource, in the Holy Scriptures, that we can unashamedly use to tell others about his plan for salvation through his Son, Jesus the Messiah. It can't be found in idols, even modern ones. God says, I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.
However, in order to see it we have to look, to behold, to look up, to pay attention. If we do, God tells us that his Son, Jesus will be a covenant for us, a light for the nations...he will, open the eyes that are blind, bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, and from the prison those who sit in darkness. Please pray with me.