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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson


Psalm 119

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 1030: Thursday 10th December 2015: Psalm 119:81-88: Waiting for God.

Daily Bible thoughts 1030: Thursday 10th December 2015: Psalm 119:81-88: Waiting for God.

‘’How long…?’’ (84).

During one pastoral visit to a home in Lancaster, I noticed a plaque over the fireplace saying, ‘’Lord grant me patience, but hurry!’’ Waiting doesn’t come naturally, but we have to learn to both wait on and for God.

We have noted before the darkly sinister background ‘noise’ of persecution in this psalm. The words in this passage are full of longing, and waiting for God to fulfil His Word and take decisive action against the psalmist’s enemies. We feel we can identify with him as we look to God to come to help us in situations of urgent need. Our backs are ‘against the wall’ and we know that if the Lord doesn’t intervene there is nothing we can do. How hard it can be to have to wait though. The greater the pain, the harder the waiting. ‘’ How long do I have to put up with all this? How long till you haul my tormentors into court?’’ The Message.

‘’…and this is the primary lesson to learn,that at the end of our tether there is a place called ‘Prayer’. Very often prayer is the first casualty of suffering, whereas it is in reality the surest remedy.’’ J.A. Motyer: ‘New Bible Commentary’, p.569.

We may know God’s promises, but we have a responsibility to do something with them in prayer: to ‘long’ for their fulfilment (81a), to ‘look’ for them (82), to put our ‘hope’ in them (81b). The promises of God should shape our prayers and strengthen our faith. They are, as Spurgeon said, like cheques to take to the counter of the Bank of heaven, where they will be honoured.

As this psalm goes on, it reminds me of Jesus, who was hated without a cause (86). They ‘’almost wiped’’ Him ‘’from the earth’’ (87a), but He never let go of God’s Word (87b).The Lord ‘preserved’ His life (88; see Isaiah 53:10, 11). If we ever fear that, in prayer, we will be kept waiting indefinitely for a train that never arrives, let’s remember the cross of Jesus, and His resurrection. He speaks to us a word of eternal hope, that evil will not have the final say, and we will be delivered.

Prayer: Lord God, thank you for your sure Word. In these stormy times it remains as rock beneath my feet.


Daily Bible thoughts 1021: Friday 27th November 2015: Psalm 119:73-80: The faithful wounds of a Friend.

Psalm 119:73-80: The faithful wounds of a Friend.(please click here for todays passage)

‘’In affliction the psalmist himself reaped benefit.., but now we find that he is concerned so to live in affliction that the benefit can touch others also. The same human agents of affliction reappear (78, cf.69) but he prays to bear with their hostility in such a way that those who fear you may experience joy through his steadfastness of hope (74) and gather to him in fellowship (79).’’ J.A. Motyer: ‘New Bible Commentary’, pp.568/569.

‘’…in faithfulness you have afflicted me.’’ (75b).

Previously we have read:

‘’Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word.’’ (67); and

‘’It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.’’ (71).

He recognised God’s faithfulness behind His troubles. He came into a deeper relationship with his Bible because of them. So in today’s passage we see him:

  • Pinning his hopes in God’s Word (74b);
  • Claiming God’s promises (76);
  • Delighting in the Word (77);
  • Meditating on the Scriptures (78);
  • Seeking to live the Word (80);
  • Praying for more understanding (73b).

His suffering caused him to cling more tightly to his Bible, and to the God who wrote it. See how his heart’s desire was that in his sufferings he would be a blessing to others (74, 79). Today he is to us!

Prayer: Help me to live in such a way, Lord, that in my troubles I may bless others.


Daily Bible thoughts 930: Friday 24th July 2015: Psalm 119:1-8

 Psalm 119:1-8(click here for todays passage)

If we are going to live the Bible we will need God’s help (5). We will be unable to do it in our own strength. It is good that we come to a place where we recognise this and cry out in our need. Someone said that the victorious Christian life is a series of new beginnings, and as we cultivate an appetite for God’s Word and feed on it, we give the Holy Spirit something to work with in our hearts. He then enables us to walk in God’s paths.

Psalm 119 is the longest psalm in the Bible. Essentially, it is a prayer written in praise of God’s Word. The writer of this psalm is not identified, but we do know that whoever he was, he was someone who was devoted to God and His Word. He makes clear throughout that God and His Word are inseparable. If we love God we will love His Word; and if we love God we will obey His Word (John 14:15, 21, 23.)

There is a fascinating feature in this Psalm. It has been written as an acrostic poem using all the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. It is divided into twenty-two sections, one for each of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew Bible. All the lines in each section begin with the Hebrew letter associated with that section. Obviously, this is not something that we pick up in our English translations, but it’s an interesting detail. Furthermore, each section has eight verses, and to the Hebrew mind that represents abundance, ‘more than enough’. To the Biblical writers, the number 7 represented completeness. So the number 8 meant ‘more than completeness’ or ‘more than enough.’ By these poetic devices the psalmist further underlines the sufficiency of God’s Word.

‘’You’re blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by GOD. You’re blessed when you follow his directions, doing your best to find him. That’s right – you don’t go off on your own; you walk straight along the road he set. You, GOD, prescribed the right way to live; now you expect us to live it. Oh, that my steps might be steady, keeping to the course you set; then I’d never have any regrets in comparing my life with your counsel.’’ The Message.

Seeking God is inseparable from His Word. At the end of the day we have to ask His help to both understand and obey it.

When I was at school, I loved English Literature, but I struggled with understanding some of Shakespeare’s language, even as I generally enjoyed his works. I’ve often thought, ‘Wouldn’t it have been wonderful if I could have had the Bard of Avon come and sit beside me in class and have him explain his books to me?’ When it comes to God’s Word, we not only have the Book, we also have the Author. We need to ask for help, and that help will be forthcoming. How blessed we are!

Prayer: Lord, you have given us a clear route. Help us to stay on your road and not get diverted.

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