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John 12:27-30: Man of sorrows.

John 12:27-30: Man of sorrows.

“27 “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!”Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.30 Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine.” NIV

Isaiah saw Jesus as ”despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering” (Isaiah 53:3).

Have you ever felt so troubled that you didn’t know quite what to say? Jesus can sympathise; indeed, empathise (27). ”Right now I am storm-tossed. And what am I going to say?” The Message. Perhaps your heart is weighed down as you read this? Well, Jesus knows, and He cares. He is not sitting up in heaven watching impassively as you are buffeted by winds and waves of trouble.

”For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses…” (Hebrews 4:15).

In trouble, you can follow His pattern, and just raise your eyes towards heaven and say, ”Father…” (27).

But in Jesus’ own case, He knew He would not ask to escape from the net (27b). The shadow of the cross falls over the whole passage from (20-36). Jesus was well aware of His destiny. He knew why He had come into the world. As He began to feel the darkness closing in more and more He would not request an exit strategy.

There is such help here.

You find yourself in trouble, and it may be that God does want to save you from it. He often does – but not always.

It may also be the case that He has a great destiny for you in your trial. Whether in or out of trouble ( and ”In this world you will have trouble…” 16:33) it is always right to pray that God will glorify His Name in your life. When Jesus prayed this prayer (28a), it was clear that the Father had answered it (29), and it is for our ”benefit” that He did.

Pray it again! It’s a prayer the Father always delights to answer.

”Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…” (Matthew 5:9).

Daily Bible thoughts 1234: Thursday 22nd September 2016: John 12:27-30: Man of sorrows.

John 12:27-30: Man of sorrows.(please click for todays passage)

Isaiah saw Jesus as ”despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering” (Isaiah 53:3).

Have you ever felt so troubled that you didn’t know quite what to say? Jesus can sympathise; indeed, empathise (27). ”Right now I am storm-tossed. And what am I going to say?” The Message. Perhaps your heart is weighed down as you read this? Well, Jesus knows, and He cares. He is not sitting up in heaven watching impassively as you are buffeted by winds and waves of trouble.

”For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses…” (Hebrews 4:15).

In trouble, you can follow His pattern, and just raise your eyes towards heaven and say, ”Father…” (27).

But in Jesus’ own case, He knew He would not ask to escape from the net (27b). The shadow of the cross falls over the whole passage from (20-36). Jesus was well aware of His destiny. He knew why He had come into the world. As He began to feel the darkness closing in more and more He would not request an exit strategy.

There is such help here.

You find yourself in trouble, and it may be that God does want to save you from it. He often does – but not always.

It may also be the case that He has a great destiny for you in your trial. Whether in or out of trouble ( and ”In this world you will have trouble…” 16:33) it is always right to pray that God will glorify His Name in your life. When Jesus prayed this prayer (28a), it was clear that the Father had answered it (29), and it is for our ”benefit” that He did.

Pray it again! It’s a prayer the Father always delights to answer.

”Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…” (Matthew 5:9).

Daily Bible thoughts 1032: Monday 14th December 2015: Jeremiah 24: Different destinies.

 Jeremiah 24: Different destinies.(please click here for todays passage)

‘’Jeremiah received the vision described in this chapter shortly after King Jehoiachin and other leading citizens of Jerusalem (including the prophet Ezekiel) had been carried into exile in Babylon (2 Kings 24:10-14); the year was 597 B.C., eleven years before the final destruction of Jerusalem. The purpose of this vision of the good and the bad figs was to show that those who were carried into exile (the good figs) were far better off than those who stayed in Jerusalem (the bad figs): the exiles would survive, prosper, and eventually return to Judah; those who stayed in Jerusalem would be destroyed along with the city.’’ Tom Hale: ‘The Applied Old Testament Commentary, p.1110.

It’s important to understand that both groups – those taken into exile, and those left behind were ‘bad’, in the sense that both had violated God’s Covenant, and both were being punished. It was by the grace of God alone that the exiles were chosen to survive and become a remnant, from which, in due time, the Messiah would come. The irony is that those who remained in Jerusalem thought they were the lucky ones. They were soon to find out otherwise.

God’s purpose in sending the exiles away was to purify them; to cleanse, and cure them of idolatry (6, 7). The ultimate fulfilment of the seventh verse would come in the inauguration of the ‘’new covenant’’ (Jeremiah 31:31-34), when the Holy Spirit came to live in believers following Christ’s death on the cross. He is the One who makes it possible to joyfully obey God’s law.

So it is not the case that the exiles were inherently good, and that those who remained in Jerusalem were intrinsically bad. The point at issue concerns the treatment they were going to receive, and this comes out in The Message: ‘’The exiles from here that I’ve sent off to the land of the Babylonians are like the good figs, and I’ll make sure they get good treatment…But like rotten figs, so rotten they can’t be eaten, is Zedekiah king of Judah. Rotten figs – that’s how I’ll treat him and his leaders, along with the survivors here and those down in Egypt.’’ Good figs have a useful purpose and are treated accordingly; whereas bad figs are useless, and get the treatment they deserve.

This passage reminds me that there is coming a day of judgment, which will be a day of division. People will experience different eternal destinies according to their acceptance or rejection of Christ. C.S. Lewis put it well. He said that in the final analysis there will only be two types of people in the world: those who say to God, ‘Your will be done’, and those to whom God says, ‘Your will be done.’

Prayer: In the light of the final judgment, help me to live seriously. Strengthen me to hold out Jesus to everyone I can. He is the only Saviour of the world.

 

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 1018: Tuesday 24th November 2015: Luke 2:21-40: Word and Spirit.

Luke 2:21-40: Word and Spirit.(please click here for todays passage)

Someone said, ‘’If you just have the Word you will dry up; if you just have the Spirit you will blow up; but if you have the Word and the Spirit together you will grow up.’’

I am struck by the balance between the Word and the Spirit in today’s passage. Joseph and Mary were eager to perform what was prescribed in God’s Word. But we also encounter Simeon and Anna, who were truly ‘charismatic’ people. These two elderly individuals were living lives rooted in the Scriptures, but at the same time they were moving and speaking in the Holy Spirit. This is an important balance for all Christians to maintain. We must be obedient to the Bible and open to the Holy Spirit.

Here are some other thoughts from this part of Luke’s gospel:

  • Joseph and Mary were devout and godly parents who, from the beginning, wanted to raise their child according to God’s Word. That is such a blessing. Mary and Joseph were poor. They couldn’t even afford to bring a lamb (24). But Jesus was blessed to have such God-honouring parents. (I have to add, though, that Mary and Joseph were presenting ‘’the Lamb of God’’, presumably without realising the fact). He, who owns everything, came to nothing. What humility on the part of Jesus (2 Corinthians 8:9);
  • Consider the miracle of timing that the Holy Spirit moved Simeon and Anna to be in the right place at the right time. Here are two examples of ‘divine appointments’. A hidden life of worship and fasting may be preparing someone for one special moment (27, 38);
  • Jesus is the hope of the world (29-32): Luke the Gentile is communicating that Jesus has come to save the Gentiles, not only Jews. (In every encounter with Mary thus far in this gospel there have been repeated affirmations of how special her baby is);
  • Jesus is also a divider of people (34, 35; see also Matthew 10:34-36). The response to Jesus will split humanity in two. It will determine eternal destinies. It will also reveal hearts. Perhaps nothing exposes a person’s heart quite like how they react to Jesus;
  • God mightily uses older people. Don’t think you are finished because you have a few decades behind you. Stay soaked in the Word and immersed in the Spirit, and always be ready for action. After Alan Redpath turned 70 he commented that he was now in ‘extra time’. But he said he realised that a goal scored in injury time could turn the game.

Prayer: Thank you Lord that there is no retirement age in the Kingdom of God.

Daily Bible thoughts 1015: Thursday 19th November 2015: Jeremiah 22:13-19: A bit of an ass?

Jeremiah 22:13-19: A bit of an ass?
As we work through this ‘rogues gallery’ of the final kings of Judah, we come now to ‘’Jehoiakim’’ (18), who was one of that territory’s most evil kings (2 Kings 23:36, 37; 24:1-7). Josiah was his father and Shallum his brother. Jehoiakim only became king after his brother Shallum was exiled (2 Kings 23:34).
‘’Jehoiakim wasn’t much different from some modern politicians who profit from dishonest gain while they ignore the cries of the poor and needy.’’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘The Wiersbe Bible Commentary (OT)’, p.1236.
Here are some observations based on the text:
Loving justice (13): God is grieved when the poor are oppressed by the rich and powerful. One of Jehoiakim’s evil deeds was to make his countrymen work without pay (see Deuteronomy 24:14, 15). He was effectively reducing his brothers to slavery. We need to take care that we do not become complicit in any form of injustice.
True nobility (15, 16): What is it that makes a person noble? It has nothing to do with birth or the blood flowing in their veins. Not really. It has everything to do with character. Leadership is fundamentally about who you are. Jehoiakim’s ‘apple’ fell very far from Josiah’s ‘tree’. It was a case of ‘like father, unlike son’. Josiah lived comfortably, but fairly, caring about matters of justice. True religion considers the poor and needy (see James 1: 27). As someone said, knowing God and doing His will are inseparable. ‘’So that makes you a king-living in a fancy palace? Your father got along just fine, didn’t he? He did what was right and treated people fairly. And things went well with him. He stuck up for the down-and-out, And things went well for Judah. Isn’t this what it means to know me?…But you’re blind and brainless. All you think about is yourself. Taking advantage of the weak, bulldozing your way, bullying victims.’’ The Message.
Sheer folly (18): You can be a great person in the eyes of the world, but it’s only for a short time. Then what? Will it be seen that you were an ‘ass’ so to speak; that you wasted your life? ‘’They’ll give him a donkey’s funeral, drag him out of the city and dump him.’’ The Message. Just recently, a famous (or infamous/notorious ) lady died. She was well-known for devoting her life to an overtly sinful business, and no doubt made a lot of money from it. These words of mine are not intended to judge her. Only God can know the true state of her soul. But I couldn’t help but reflect on the tragedy of a life given over to the vanity and folly of sin. The words spoken about Jehoiakim (19) say that he would have no burial. Instead his body would be left exposed on the ground (see Deuteronomy 28:26; Jeremiah 36:30.This point is not contradicted by 2 Kings 24:6 by the way. The statement there simply means that he died. No burial is mentioned.) How tragic when someone dies and it can be said: ‘’Nobody will shed tears over him.’’ The Message.
Prayer: ‘’Teach me to live, that I may dread, the grave as little as my bed.’’ Bishop Thomas Ken.

Daily Bible thoughts 981: Friday 2nd October 2015: Jeremiah 17: 14-18: ‘Where can I go but to the Lord?’

Jeremiah 17: 14-18: ‘Where can I go but to the Lord?’(please click here for todays Bible passage)

Here is Jeremiah up against it. It was tough being a prophet. Day after day you had to get up out of bed and deliver (and live) messages people did not want to hear. We have seen before that Jeremiah suffered for his calling. But:

  • He was conscious that he was God’s man (16a). He was a shepherd to the people, but primarily he belonged to the Lord. So he spoke and acted as one who was not his own. His life wasn’t about doing what he wanted but living under the Lordship of God. Someone said that the Lord is ready to take full responsibility for the life wholly yielded to Him. So, yes, Jeremiah took his orders and words from God, but he also knew that he could go to Him with his open, bleeding wounds (14). He knew where to take his pain. The Lord was his refuge (17b). Amidst all the heartache, he was a man of praise (14b). He is often characterised as ‘the weeping prophet’, but he was primarily a worshipping prophet;
  • He was committed to speaking God’s words (16b). Are we equally conscious of talking in the sight of God? What difference might it make to your speech if you remembered that God is the ‘silent listener to every conversation’? But sometimes He doesn’t just listen in silence. There are painful moments when you hear Him speak in the depths of your soul and you know you shouldn’t have said that!
  • He did not speak about Hell without tears in his eyes (16b): ‘’…you know I have not desired the day of despair.’’ Jeremiah had to suffer taunts from persecutors who arrogantly poured scorn on his prophecies (15). When was it going to happen? The implication in their question was that it never would. But they were wrong. And there was something of a ‘torn’ feeling in Jeremiah’s heart. No, he had never wanted the judgment he had forecast to fall on his people. It broke his heart to preach it. At the same time, he did want God’s Word (and his words) to be vindicated; he did want to see the Lord deal with his ‘’persecutors’’ (17, 18).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, please put courage into my heart. I feel an inclination towards cowardice. Help me to ‘’not run away’’ from anything you ask of me.

Daily Bible thoughts 980: Thursday 1st October 2015: Jeremiah 17: 11: Money matters.

Jeremiah 17: 11: Money matters.(Please click here for todays Bible passage)

This verse has such resonance with our times. We hear so much in the news about financial malpractice and corruption. It is rife. Where there is money to be had, there will be those who try to lay their hands on it unjustly.

I once heard a preacher speak about how he had been working through some of the Minor Prophets with his congregation. ‘’We have discovered they are very political’, he said. God is concerned about issues of justice. This is something we see in all the prophetic books.

As we’ve seen before, sin is primarily vertical (Godward) in its impact; but it is also horizontal (man ward) in its implications. First of all, it separates people from God; but it also separates them from each other. One of the ways in which the people’s rebellion against God was worked out in those days was in unjust conduct in society. People were trodden down by the rich and powerful. Some people became (criminally) wealthy at the expense of others (see 6:13).

It is foolish to make wealth your goal. Riches are transient. If they are not taken from you, you will be taken from them. Two ladies were in conversation about a wealthy man who had died. ‘How much did he leave?’ asked one. ‘Everything!’ the other replied.

But it is especially foolish to try to get rich by corrupt means. This is self-destructive behaviour. There will be an ‘’in the end.’’ This is an example of how the deceitful heart can lead a person astray. Any gain can only be temporary. What good would their wealth do them when judgment fell?

Here are some things the Bible teaches about money, and if you observe them you will be kept safe:

  • Work honestly (Ephesians 4:28);
  • Give generously (Luke 6:38; 1 Timothy 6:17-19);
  • Live within your means (Romans 13:8);
  • Whatever God blesses you with, live prayerfully as a wise steward of God’s resources, always looking to Him to know how you should use His

Prayer: Thank you Lord God for your generous blessing on my life. Teach me to use your money as you please.

Daily Bible thoughts 967: Monday 14th September 2015: Jeremiah 16: Some further thoughts.

Jeremiah 16: Some further thoughts.(please click here for todays notes)

Here are some further observations on this chapter:

  • Verse 5 contains a warning for the church today. Think about the letters to the seven churches in the book of ‘Revelation’. ‘Lights’ can go out. ‘Candles’ can be extinguished. God can withdraw His blessing. Someone made the point that the local church is never more than a generation away from extinction. We can’t just live how we please and think that all will be well. God, in His patience, may well give us time to repent, but the time will not be infinite. A day will come when it is too late to change.
  • See once again that a note of hope is embedded within a message of severe judgment (14, 15). Jeremiah was enabled to see that there was going to be a second and greater ‘exodus’. In future days people would see the deliverance from Babylonian as the supreme example of God’s power in Israel’s history – even more than ‘the great escape’ from Egypt. (There is a repeated theme in this book that God will not destroy his people ‘’completely’’ : 4:27; 5:10, 18; 30:11; 46:28; see Psalm 94:14; Romans 11:1-5). When Jeremiah wrote, God’s revelation was not complete. Jesus, God’s final Word to mankind had not yet come. We now know that the supreme demonstration of God’s delivering power in human history was displayed at the cross where Jesus died for our sins.
  • Nothing is hidden from God (16-18; see 17:10). We are well and truly ‘bugged’. Jesus has ‘X-Ray vision (Revelation 1:14b).
  • Essentially, what God does in judgment is to give people what they have chosen (13). They would be where there hearts were – with their gods in the land of their gods. “When you tell this to the people and they ask, ‘Why is God talking this way, threatening us with all these calamities? We’re not criminals, after all. What have we done to our God to be treated like this?’ tell them this: ‘It’s because your ancestors left me, walked off and never looked back. They took up with the no-gods, worshiped and doted on them, and ignored me and wouldn’t do a thing I told them. And you’re even worse! Take a good look in the mirror—each of you doing whatever you want, whenever you want, refusing to pay attention to me. And for this I’m getting rid of you, throwing you out in the cold, into a far and strange country. You can worship your precious no-gods there to your heart’s content. Rest assured, I won’t bother you anymore.’ ’’ The Message.

Beware of what you set your heart on, for it will surely be yours!

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