Sabbath Trust: H.C. Lord's Day 38

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 38

Q 103. What is God’s will for you in the fourth commandment? 
A 103. First, that the gospel ministry and education for it be maintained, and that, especially on the festive day of rest, I diligently attend the assembly of God’s people to learn what God’s Word teaches, to participate in the sacraments, to pray to God publicly, and to bring Christian offerings for the poor.

Second, that every day of my life I rest from my evil ways, let the Lord work in me through his Spirit, and so begin in this life the eternal Sabbath.

The issues of the Sabbath day in modern culture is complicated, to say the least.  Some say that Sunday is the new Saturday and that the day is for church and church only.  Others treat Sunday as a “second Saturday” that is interrupted by a church worship service.  In either case, I think, we miss the mark of what is going on when it comes to Sabbath rest and the Bible.

During Jesus’ ministry, he was confronted by a number of religious leaders that challenged Him on any number of teachings.  One that frequently drew criticism from them was Jesus’ treatment of the Sabbath laws.  His response, in one of these encounters, was this: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.

For us, this is an important teaching because it gives the context for the ultimate purpose of the Sabbath.  God created the earth in 6 days and rested on the 7th.  Scripture tells us that this 7th day was made to be holy, a day set apart for rest.  Jesus’ teaching reminds us that the Sabbath was actually created after humankind was; there is an order of priority.

If humans were made second and placed in a sort of already created work/rest paradigm, then it would be right for us to hold one day a week for explicit rest in which we literally did nothing (you know like when your parents didn’t even let you ride bikes with your friends).  Sabbath would almost be like gravity in this sense, we wouldn’t be able to get around it.

This, however, is not the case for us.  After God has finished creating everything, He introduces the concept of Sabbath.  Something that was created and purposed for all of the creation, especially for humanity.

Observance of the Sabbath day was codified in the giving of the Mosaic Law to the people of Israel as part of the covenant.  Keeping the Sabbath was a practice that only the Israelites observed, and it was done as a sign of both covenant faithfulness and trust in God’s ultimate provision.   Herein lies a great deal of the meaning behind the Sabbath day.

In a world that never rests, we are called to be set apart and distinct as God’s people.  Does this look like the legalistic observance of a particular day of the week?  I think not.  Does it, however, emphasize our trust in God as the ultimate provider of all our needs by giving a day to honor Him?  Well… that would certainly be counter-cultural and different.

In today’s world, things never stop.  We can’t stop working, researching, checking email, texting, or posting on social media for fear that we will fall behind.  If we fall behind at work, the competition could take us over or take us out.  We could lose our jobs, our livelihood, and everything we’ve worked for.  In essence, we are in charge of our own destiny… or so the “American dream” would have us believe.

But what if that weren’t true?  What if we didn’t take the place of God, the place of the provider of all our needs in our lives?  What if we let God be God and trust that His ways are higher than our ways and that He will always keep His promises, even if it doesn’t look like what everyone else is doing?

More than this, though: what if God created a sabbath day of rest/trust because He knew it would not only be good for us, but it is exactly what we need as humans?  It’s construct is a gift to us, we who would more readily work ourselves to death in an effort to get ahead.  Instead, God once again offers us grace and peace by supplying our much needed physical rest in the observance of a Sabbath day… and spiritual rest in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

“May our hearts be restless until they find their rest in You, our Lord and God.” – St. Augustine



Sabbath: H.C. Question 103 (Part 2)

What is God’s will for you in the fourth commandment? 

 

1 Corinthians 11:23-25 – For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

Colossians 3:16 – Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

1 Timothy 2:1 – I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people

Psalm 50:14 – “Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High,

1 Corinthians 16:2 – On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.

2 Corinthians 8-9 – And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.

I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

And here is my judgment about what is best for you in this matter. Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.

Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.”

Thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same concern I have for you. For Titus not only welcomed our appeal, but he is coming to you with much enthusiasm and on his own initiative. And we are sending along with him the brother who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel. What is more, he was chosen by the churches to accompany us as we carry the offering, which we administer in order to honor the Lord himself and to show our eagerness to help. We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man.

In addition, we are sending with them our brother who has often proved to us in many ways that he is zealous, and now even more so because of his great confidence in you. As for Titus, he is my partner and co-worker among you; as for our brothers, they are representatives of the churches and an honor to Christ. Therefore show these men the proof of your love and the reason for our pride in you, so that the churches can see it.

There is no need for me to write to you about this service to the Lord’s people. For I know your eagerness to help, and I have been boasting about it to the Macedonians, telling them that since last year you in Achaia were ready to give; and your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action. But I am sending the brothers in order that our boasting about you in this matter should not prove hollow, but that you may be ready, as I said you would be. For if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we—not to say anything about you—would be ashamed of having been so confident. So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given.

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written:

“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor;
their righteousness endures forever.”
Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

Isaiah 66:23 – From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,” says the Lord.

Hebrews 4:9-11 – There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.



Sabbath: H.C. Question 103 (Part 1)

What is God’s will for you in the fourth commandment? 

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 – Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 6:20-25 – In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the Lord our God has commanded you?” tell him: “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. Before our eyes the Lord sent signs and wonders—great and terrible—on Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household. But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land he promised on oath to our ancestors. The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the Lord our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. And if we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.”

1 Corinthians 9:13-14 – Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple get their food from the temple, and that those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.

2 Timothy 2:2 – And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.

2 Timothy 3:13-17 – while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Titus 1:5 – The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.

Deuteronomy 12:5-12 – But you are to seek the place the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go; there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. There, in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you.

You are not to do as we do here today, everyone doing as they see fit, since you have not yet reached the resting place and the inheritance the Lord your God is giving you. But you will cross the Jordan and settle in the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, and he will give you rest from all your enemies around you so that you will live in safety. Then to the place the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name—there you are to bring everything I command you: your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, and all the choice possessions you have vowed to the Lord. And there rejoice before the Lord your God—you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites from your towns who have no allotment or inheritance of their own.

Psalm 40:9-10 – I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, Lord, as you know.  I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help.  I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness from the great assembly.

Psalm 68:26 – Praise God in the great congregation; praise the Lord in the assembly of Israel.

Acts 2:42-47 – They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Hebrews 10:23-25 – Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Romans 10:14-17 – How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.

1 Corinthians 14:31-32 – For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets.

1 Timothy 4:13 – Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.



God the Father: H.C. Question 26 (Part 2)

What do you believe when you say, “I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth”?

Exodus 20:11 – For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Psalm 33:6 – By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
their starry host by the breath of his mouth.

Isaiah 44:24 – “This is what the Lord says—your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the Lord, the Maker of all things, who stretches out the heavens, who spreads out the earth by myself,

Acts 4:24 – When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.

Acts 14:15 – “Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them.

Psalm 104 – Praise the Lord, my soul.
Lord my God, you are very great;
you are clothed with splendor and majesty.
The Lord wraps himself in light as with a garment;
he stretches out the heavens like a tent
and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters.
He makes the clouds his chariot
and rides on the wings of the wind.
He makes winds his messengers,
flames of fire his servants.
He set the earth on its foundations;
it can never be moved.
You covered it with the watery depths as with a garment;
the waters stood above the mountains.
But at your rebuke the waters fled,
at the sound of your thunder they took to flight;
they flowed over the mountains,
they went down into the valleys,
to the place you assigned for them.
You set a boundary they cannot cross;
never again will they cover the earth.
He makes springs pour water into the ravines;
it flows between the mountains.
They give water to all the beasts of the field;
the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
The birds of the sky nest by the waters;
they sing among the branches.
He waters the mountains from his upper chambers;
the land is satisfied by the fruit of his work.
He makes grass grow for the cattle,
and plants for people to cultivate—
bringing forth food from the earth:
wine that gladdens human hearts,
oil to make their faces shine,
and bread that sustains their hearts.
The trees of the Lord are well watered,
the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
There the birds make their nests;
the stork has its home in the junipers.
The high mountains belong to the wild goats;
the crags are a refuge for the hyrax.
He made the moon to mark the seasons,
and the sun knows when to go down.
You bring darkness, it becomes night,
and all the beasts of the forest prowl.
The lions roar for their prey
and seek their food from God.
The sun rises, and they steal away;
they return and lie down in their dens.
Then people go out to their work,
to their labor until evening.
How many are your works, Lord!
In wisdom you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
There is the sea, vast and spacious,
teeming with creatures beyond number—
living things both large and small.
There the ships go to and fro,
and Leviathan, which you formed to frolic there.
All creatures look to you
to give them their food at the proper time.
When you give it to them,
they gather it up;
when you open your hand,
they are satisfied with good things.
When you hide your face,
they are terrified;
when you take away their breath,
they die and return to the dust.
When you send your Spirit,
they are created,
and you renew the face of the ground.
May the glory of the Lord endure forever;
may the Lord rejoice in his works—
he who looks at the earth, and it trembles,
who touches the mountains, and they smoke.
I will sing to the Lord all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
May my meditation be pleasing to him,
as I rejoice in the Lord.
But may sinners vanish from the earth
and the wicked be no more.
Praise the Lord, my soul.
Praise the Lord.



Hebrews 4 – Sabbath-Rest

Read Hebrews 4

The theme of “sabbath” is much greater than a simple “day of rest” once a week that the people of God are called to honor.  Sabbath is about intentionally honoring God through the putting aside of one’s self and the things that we value in life and giving that time to God.  When I was young, we knew some people that wouldn’t let their kids even ride their bikes on Sunday because it was the Sabbath…  while I can see now what they were trying to instill in their children, I think, I do believe that rules like that entirely miss the point of the Sabbath.

Sabbath has often been relegated to the notion of self-care as well.  We take our own “sabbaths” from work in an effort to regenerate or re-energize ourselves.  Though self-care is an important part of our lives, sabbath’s focus is directed toward God, not self or rules, and it is in that intentional redirection that we find true rest.

But the notion of Sabbath extends far beyond physical or even spiritual rest.  God’s true Sabbath rest for His people was the fulfillment of His promise to bring them into the promised land.  The reality, though, is that the physical land was not actually what brought them the rest, it was following God, His Law and living into the identity that He gave them; something they did not do.

Jesus, through His life and ministry, draws this idea forward, offering a Sabbath rest for all people by grace, through faith.  The true promised land, then, is a relationship with God and the salvation that comes by putting our faith in Jesus Christ.  Because of what He did, the way is opened for us to enter this Sabbath rest which is actually a new beginning, not an end unto itself as the Israelites thought the promised land was.

What is no longer necessary is work, striving for salvation… here we find rest.  Here, then, we find true freedom and life in Christ, responding freely to the grace we have been given.



Matthew 28 – Sabbath & Re-Creation

Read Matthew 28

The Sabbath day is one of the most significant days in Jewish life.  Apart from humanity being the crown of creation, the significance of the Sabbath is the first declaration in Genesis 2.  Today I am struck by the fact that Jesus’ full day in the tomb is the Sabbath day, the day of rest.

In Hebrews 10, the author makes this connection between the work accomplished by Christ.  His once for all sacrifice for the sins of the whole world ushers believers into a “sabbath rest,” the reality that we no longer have to do ritual sacrifices to gain forgiveness.  Instead, we rest in the assurance of faith in Jesus Christ and that we are heirs of eternal life.

It is no coincidence then, that Jesus resurrection happens on the first day of the week then, the same day that God begins work on creation, the day that New Life is sealed in Christ’s defeat of death itself.  The work of God in creating the world and the work of Christ is redeeming it, bringing new life out of death are intimately related, and the theme of Sabbath flows through both.

Too often we subscribe to the idea that we have to do a lot of work for ourselves to earn a place in God’s Kingdom, to repay Him for what He did for us.  We Christians set up laws for ourselves, never saying that we have to earn salvation, but often implying it.  Certainly we are called to live out our faith, fulfilling the great commission to make disciples, but we do this out of grateful obedience, not to earn our salvation.  When we act as though we need to earn the grace we are given, we unknowingly diminish the power and work of Jesus on the cross.



Matthew 12 – Sabbath Fruit

Read Matthew 12

I can remember, back when I was much younger, the rules about Sunday activities that we had.  We didn’t follow them as militantly as some, and over the years those rules tended to drift away, but I will never forget them.  Sundays were for rest and in some cases, we were forced to rest, whether we liked it or not.

Looking back now, I wonder who this was benefitting.  I know that we are called to honor the sabbath, respect that day as being different from the others, but to what end?

This, I think, is the direction Jesus’ teachings are taking in this chapter.  The Pharisees are questioning the actions of Jesus and His disciples strictly on the basis of the day they happened on rather than the intention in which they took place.  Jesus, after making some unassailable points about the sabbath, teaches about good and bad fruit and how it relates to the living out of our faith.

As has been true, Jesus’ fruit teaching accents the things that have just happened in the passage.  He left the synagogue after healing the shrivled hand and as He went He healed many.  All of this, we see, was the fulfillment of Scrpiture.  When questioned about His actions, He shows them that the fruit of one’s ministry will be an indicator of its source, whether good or bad.

Christians tend to have a sad history of questioning other Christians’ ministries, especially when said ministries are new.  Whether it happens to be a new church, program, music, liturgy, or even order of a worship service, we tend to be pretty quick to judge those things as dangerous and “not God honoring.”  Maybe the question we should be asking ourselves is: “what kind of fruit is it bearing?”



Day 301: Luke 12-13; Teachings and Parables

All throughout Jesus’ ministry we see Him teaching in both lessons from the Scriptures, much of which comes from the Law.  Our reading today starts off with Jesus directly addressing the teaching of the pharisees.  They too spend a great deal of time teaching on the Scriptures and the Law.  We’ve actually spent some time talking about that teaching too, about all of the laws that the religious leaders of that day had put in place over the course of a couple hundred years to put a hedge around the true law.  Rather than working to understand the true meaning of the Law, to hear the words of Deuteronomy 6 which say very specifically that all of God’s direction is about loving God with all that we are.  Yet, instead of looking to this and learning from the mistakes that sent them into exile, the religious leaders of Israel made more laws to protect the law.  If you weren’t supposed to do work on the Sabbath, they made sure that you didn’t even potentially come close to doing work on the Sabbath by saying that you weren’t even allowed to wash yourself or pick something up off the ground.

Jesus warns His disciples here to beware of the “leaven” of the pharisees because their teaching is hypocrisy.  The Law was meant to guide the people, God’s way of showing His people how they were to live in a way that would be both life giving and God glorifying.  Yet the pharisees had taken it and turned it into a chain, binding the people into the lifestyle that they demanded rather than helping them to love God more fully.  More than that, the religious leaders lived lives of false piety, making it seem as though they were living perfect lives while everyone else was struggling.  In some ways I would liken them to some of the false churches that are out there today, those that say you’ll be more blessed based on how much you give.  The teaching of the prosperity gospel by people like Joel Osteen doesn’t focus on loving God and living into the redemption that we have in Jesus Christ, but on how much you give… things that you can do to earn your own salvation… something we know to be not possible.  It is only in Jesus Christ that we find our salvation.

We also see Jesus teaching through the use of parables.  It is interesting that, when asked about why He speaks in parables, Jesus quotes a passage from Isaiah 6, when the Lord calls Isaiah to ministry.  What Jesus is doing for us, as He teaches about the Kingdom of Heaven and even the life of faith is to bring it into language and imagery that the people He is interacting with can understand.  The church that I worship at, Overisel Reformed Church, is a rural church that is in the middle of a farming community.  It would make little sense for us to talk about urban street life.  The reverse is true for urban churches.  Farming metaphors probably wouldn’t make much sense there.  The Kingdom of God is something that is completely foreign to us, and living the faithful life was something that wasn’t taught to the people in Jesus’ time… at least not in the way that it should have been.  So what does Jesus do?  He condescends to the level of the people, just has He condescended from the throne of Heaven to become a human.  This is a very real sense of divinity being translated to humanity in a way that we can understand.  God continues to do this as well, in the continuing revelation of Himself to us through His Word as well.



Day 290: Mark 1-3; Intro To The Gospel of Mark

Today we begin reading the second of the four Gospels, that which is said to be written by John Mark who was an associate of Peter, Paul, and Barnabus in the book of Acts.  Chronologically speaking, it is held that Mark was likely the first of the four gospels to be written and was directed towards Gentile Christians, possibly in Rome, who were facing persecution for their faith.  The book of Mark is very different from the book of Matthew in the way that it is set up.  Mark is focused primarily on the information about what happened in Jesus life, offering knowledge to those that might not know the story of Jesus.  He doesn’t spend a great deal of time linking Jesus to the Old Testament prophecies like Matthew, in an attempt to prove to the Jews that Jesus is the Messiah, but rather makes a statement right at the beginning relating what is to come to what has already come to pass.  In this way, Mark has shown the reader that this is not something out of the blue but it is a continuation of the story of God from Israel through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  This would have been a major encouragement to those who were dealing with the difficulties and persecutions as they could relate to not only to Jesus suffering and death, but also to His resurrection and ultimately look forward to His return as well.

The Gospel of Mark has almost the feel of a news reporter, jumping from one event to the next seamlessly and immediately.  As a matter of fact, one way to know that you are reading the Gospel of Mark without looking at the reference is to look for the word “immediately” or “suddenly.”  Mark’s writing often takes the feel of ‘and then Jesus did this… and then Jesus said that… and then Jesus healed…”  There is very little temporal understanding of what happens in between because it is not entirely critical to the message of Jesus life.

What we do see from Mark is the setup of Jesus as a powerful healer, teacher, and servant who is spreading the good news of the Kingdom of Heaven wherever He goes.  This can be seen right away in chapter one of Mark.  Jesus waists no time after He is baptized and goes into the wilderness.  He immediately comes back and starts teaching and healing and calling people back to God.  What we see immediately too is that as soon as He does, the religious leaders of Israel are opposed to Him.  What I thought was interesting about this was the fact that the people saw Jesus’ teaching as one that had authority, more so than that of the ‘leaders’ of the time.  Mark contrasts Jesus’ authority with that of the religious leaders right away in the healing and exorcism that He performs.  The crowds are amazed not that there is a spirit in the man (for this would have been relatively commonplace for their worldview) but that the spirit listens to Jesus without question or hesitation.

Mark also works to set up Jesus as being the Messiah, the Savior of the world with authority above that of the Law.  Though Jesus wasn’t one to intentionally go out and break the Law, He is constantly and consistently explaining and showing the religious leaders the true nature of the Law rather than their foolish interpretations of it.  Jesus is setting Himself not as an alternate way to the Law but as the fulfillment of it in its truest form.  This will continue to be important as we move through Mark and the rest of the New Testament as well.  There is a growing movement of people in the Church that think that the New Testament is all we need and the Old Testament is simply defunct and out of date because of the coming of Jesus.  A careful reading of any of the Gospels and the New Testament will make it clear that, as Jesus says, He “has not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it.”  May we keep this in mind as we continue our journey through God’s Word.



Day 36: Leviticus 24-25; Bread, Candles, and the Sabbath

The bread of the presence and the candles that were placed in the “Holy Place,” that is the inner (but not most inner) portion of the Tabernacle were of the utmost importance, as we read here today.  These particular pieces of furniture are made of pure gold.  Remember that almost everything else was made of gold coated acacia wood?  But not these, these were pure, solid gold.  We again see another symbolic set of numbers… the lampstand has 7 lamps, while there are 12 loaves of bread set out on the table at all times.  We talked about the significance of the number 7, and I think that the significance of the number 12 is fairly self explanatory   12 tribes of Israel… and later the 12 disciples/apostles.  These are set before the Lord at all times.  I’m not entirely sure what it all means, and I would love some feedback or suggestions on this.  The only thing that I am drawn to here is the imagery of the 12 tribes of Israel always being in the presence of God, symbolized by the lampstand and the fire that was always lit above it.

Here we see a depiction of what the lampstand might have looked like.  This comes from a page called Art in the Old Testament.  There are several other pieces there that are worth taking a look at.

golden lampstand

In the rest of this section, apart from the story of the Blasphemer being put to death, we read a great deal about rest.  Sabbath and rest are topics that come up often in the Bible and are very important to God and to the people of Israel.  We don’t often look at these things as being very applicable anymore.  I remember some kids on my street growing up that wouldn’t even be able to play outside on Sunday (which I always thought was a bit weird), but that’s a very rare occurrence in homes now days.  We live in a fast paced world that is moving 24/7.  While I don’t know if it is appropriate to say that busyness is a tool of the devil, I do believe that it can be used against us.  Every scientific study that has ever looked into this particular topic has concluded that periodic rest is good for a person.  In fact, people that don’t rest or ever stop tend to be more unhealthy.  The Sabbath is a good and necessary thing for us.  It is also an act of trust.  Too often I think we fear not doing anything… we feel like we need to work stronger and harder to get things done so that we can support ourselves and take care of ourselves.  This too is not a bad thing in and of itself, but it can lead to some bad things.  God points out in his description of the Sabbath Year and the Year of Jubilee (which, if you do that math every 50 years you get 2 years in a row off) that He will provide for the people of Israel during that time.  He says that the harvest in the years before would be so plentiful that they would still be using that bounty by the next time they harvested.  Well that’s all well and good, and easy to say… its much much harder to actually put that into action.  Do you make sure you take a Sabbath once a week?  It doesn’t have to be on Sundays… but it absolutely should be sometime!  It make be a step of faith for you… but it certainly is a necessary one.