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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson


psalm 116

John 11:38-44: ”Take away…Take off…”

John 11:38-44: ”Take away…Take

38-39 Then Jesus, the anger again welling up within him, arrived at the tomb. It was a simple cave in the hillside with a slab of stone laid against it. Jesus said, “Remove the stone.”The sister of the dead man, Martha, said, “Master, by this time there’s a stench. He’s been dead four days!”40 Jesus looked her in the eye. “Didn’t I tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”41-42 Then, to the others, “Go ahead, take away the stone.”They removed the stone. Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and prayed, “Father, I’m grateful that you have listened to me. I know you always do listen, but on account of this crowd standing here I’ve spoken so that they might believe that you sent me.”43-44 Then he shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” And he came out, a cadaver, wrapped from head to toe, and with a kerchief over his face. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him loose.”NIV

Someone observed that it’s a good job Jesus put a limit on His command: ”Lazarus, come out!” (43). If He’d just said, ”Come out!” He would have emptied the cemetery!! I see that point, and it makes me smile.

This story got me thinking again about how we are often invited to partner with Jesus in performing miracles. There is no doubt that Lazarus’ emergence from the tomb – alive – was a God-given miracle (40-44a). Jesus did it in answer to the prayer of faith (41, 42). 

But people got to play a part in the miracle. This is reflected in the two commands: 

”Take away the stone” and ”Take off the grave clothes…” (39a, 44b).

”Take away the stone…So they took away the stone” (39, 41). When they were obedient, all heaven broke loose, you might say (or it was revealed that heaven had already broken loose inside that cave.)

The ”stone” speaks of an obstacle in the way of the full manifestation of the miraculous.

It is a big thing; a heavy thing; a daunting thing. It’s a something which will require concerted effort – possibly with others: ”…they” took away the stone (41).

It may be easier to raise unbelieving objections than to get on with the work being asked of you (39b). You can also imagine objections being raised to taking the grave clothes off a corpse having just come to life (44b). ”And the dead man comes out – a heart-stopping moment of shuddering horror and overwhelming joy, mixed together like dark mud and liquid gold…If we don’t feel it’s power, and feel ourselves driven to awe and thanks and hope, then either we haven’t learned to read or we have hearts of stone.” Tom Wright: ‘John for everyone’, part 2, pp.13, 14.

But when we play our part, Jesus does His. We are ”workers together” with God.

How does this speak to you today?

Is there some resurrection life miracle awaiting your involvement? What will you do in response to this challenge?

What is the stone and where is that stone you need to ”take away”? Are you willing to do it, or making an excuse?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, please forgive me for expecting you to do what you ask me to do. Help me now to rise up and take action.

Daily Bible thoughts 880: Tuesday 19th May 2015: Psalm 116:12-19

 Psalm 116:12-19

Do we live with a sense of gratitude to God for His grace in our lives? Somebody once spoke, in my hearing, about how the ‘shine’ can go off your salvation. Has that happened to you?

If you remember, this psalm was written by someone facing grave danger. Possibly, he was a persecuted believer, and he was staring death in the face. But God saved him. This was our dilemma too, but at a much deeper level. For us, God provided a rescue in Jesus that comprehensively dealt with the depths of our situation, and delivered us from spiritual death.

‘’I will lift up the cup of salvation.’’ (13). How do you do that?

  • By prayer (13b, 17b). By prayer we can enjoy our salvation. The word is actually ‘’salvations’’ indicating its fullness. Through communion with God we keep taking deep draughts from the well of salvation. We can never exhaust it;
  • By thanks giving (17a). When we give thanks in the company of believers we are holding up the cup of our personal experience for others to see and be encouraged to drink for themselves;
  • By living the life you have promised to live (14, 18 and 19); a life worthy of the God who saved you.( I think it was Gandhi who said that Christians would need to look a lot more saved if he was to believe in the Saviour);
  • By lifting this cup to the lips of others as we have opportunity. Alec Motyer, in the New Bible Commentary says that (17-19) give a strong description of going public in testimony.

Here is one final thought on today’s passage:

‘’Yet, (15), there is no such thing as an untimely death. For the Lord, death is too valuable thing to be squandered. The death of his saints, ‘his beloved’, is like a precious jewel which he bestows – precious to him and to them because at death he receives them home. In this sense, death is the final and greatest earthly blessing of God on his people.’’ J.A.Motyer: ‘New Bible Commentary’,p.564.

Believers drink most fully and deeply of ‘’the cup of salvation’’ when they depart this world to be with Christ.

Prayer: Lord enable me please to not be ashamed of the message of salvation, and help me to not keep it to myself.

Daily Bible thoughts 857: Thursday 16th April 2015: Psalm 116:1-11

 Psalm 116:1-11

‘’…faith working by prayer remains the greatest force available to God’s earthly people.’’ J.A.Motyer: ‘New Bible Commentary, p.563.

Just as with the exodus (Ex.2:23, 24) here was a great cry for help that initiated great saving acts of God

‘’…when I was in great need he saved me.’’ (6b);

‘’when I was at the end of my rope, he saved me.’’ The Message.

This is a psalm of testimony. It contains:

A definite commitment (1,2): ‘’I will call on him as long as I live.’’ This came from a man who had first-hand experience of the power of prayer. This made him determined to be even more of a pray-er. Rendered literally, the opening words are: ‘’I love him…’’ (1 John 4:19).In (2a) there is a beautiful picture of God listening: ‘’He listened so intently as I laid out my case before him.’’ The Message. He takes our prayers seriously. I want to learn from God in listening to others.

A dire need (3-6): ‘’Death stared me in the face, hell was hard on my heels. Up against it, I didn’t know which way to turn…’’ The Message. Death and the grave are represented as aggressors. He was in a bad way. ‘’Then…’’ It is so often the case that people pray (or pray especially fervently) at the ‘’Then’’ moment– when trouble strikes. In (5, 6a) there is an important statement about God’s nature/character. Knowing who God is; the kind of God we pray to, encourages our prayers.

The desired deliverance (7-11): As I read through the psalm I thought regarding (8, 9) that Christians have experienced this ‘salvation’ in a richer and fuller way. You can’t help but see the centrality of faith in the psalmist’s experience: ‘’Above all, however, the crisis was met by faith, the key to making all things new (8-11), the pivot of the whole psalm… The key words I believed (10), stand at the mid-point between new life enjoyed (8-9) and old life endured.’’ J.A.Motyer: ‘The New Bible Commentary’,p.565. Because the psalmist had faith he spoke out in accordance with his beliefs, even in the middle of his afflictions (2 Corinthians 4:13.) Against all human hope he held onto his faith and was delivered.

This is a lovely summary: ‘’The situation was one of deadly threat (3, 8, 15), brought about by human deceitfulness (11) and personal lack of discernment (6). But into this situation came prayer (1-4). The Lord listens (1-2), is gracious (bestows favour on the undeserving), righteous (never deviates in his commitment to his people and promises) compassionate (is emotionally moved by their plight) (5), and sensitive about the death of his beloved (15). So there came about salvation (4-6), deliverance from death (8) and bondage (16), and full provision…’ J.A.Motyer: ‘The New Bible Commentary’, p.563.

‘’I will call on him as long as I live.’’

Prayer: Lord, I make this my commitment too, by your grace. Please help me to fulfil it.


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