Commentary On Daily Bible Readings According To The Bible Companion Reading Plan.
" And Moses spake before the Lord, saying, Behold, the children
of Israel have not hearkened unto me; how then shall Pharaoh hear me,
who am of uncircumcised lips?" (Ex. 6:12,30). Yet God had promised
Moses earlier that Israel would hear him (3:18). God solemnly told him
to go and speak to Pharaoh, because God had told him to do so. But Moses
has the cheek to say exactly the same words to God a second time. In a
chapter which speaks much of Moses' reluctance, the record encourages
us: " These are that Aaron and Moses...these are they which spake
to Pharaoh...these are that Moses and Aaron" (Ex. 6:26,27).
Ps. 59 is an example of David composing a Psalm in the heat of the moment- it was written, according to the [inspired] introduction, whilst Saul’s men were watching his house planning to kill him. And there he was in his bedroom, praying and composing a Psalm…
The record of the miracles is framed to show God commanding Moses to do certain things to bring and end the plagues, and him obedient to this. But Ex. 8:9 RV contains a strange sentence: “Have thou this glory over me: when shall I intreat for thee...to destroy the frogs?”. It could be that, in the words of Bro. Mark Vincent, “Moses with an excessive and sarcastic politeness, is asking, ‘And (pray tell me!) when exactly would you like the frogs to be gone?’, as though Pharaoh might miss them and fondly wish them to stay around for a couple more days”. This to me doesn’t score very highly in spiritual terms. Is such sarcasm really spirituality?
Isaiah 19 lists various judgments on Egypt, packed with allusions to the situation at the time of the Ex.dus (e.g. their turning to workers of false miracles, v.3), and then says that at this time " the land of Judah shall be a terror to the land of Egypt...in that day shall five citites in the land of Egypt speake the language of Canaan...in that day shall there be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt...and the Lord shall be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know the Lord" (v. 18-21), exactly as they were made to at the time of the Ex.dus (Ex. 7:5; 14:4,18). Clearly enough, the events of the Ex.dus are typical of the latter day deliverance of Israel.
True prayer really will be heard; God 'hearing' is an idiom for Him answering (e.g. 1 Sam. 7:9; Is. 30:19; 65:24). Indeed, “hear me” in the AV is often translated “answer me” in the RV (e.g. Ps. 60:5; Mic. 3:4)- there is an intentional double meaning in the Hebrew word. There should be real comfort for us in knowing that prayer really is ‘heard’; the hearing is, in a sense, the answer / response, with which a man should be content. Therefore David desired to praise God even before the answer was received; the knowledge God was really hearing him gave such confidence (Ps. 108:1-6; 109:30).
There are links between the concept of ‘truth’ and the cross. In Ps. 60:4 God’s Truth is displayed on the banner (s.w. “pole” , on which the snake was lifted up). John struggled with words, even under inspiration, to get over to us the tremendous truth and reality of what he witnessed at the cross (Jn. 19:35). God is the ultimate Truth, and the cross was the ultimate declaration of His Truth.
The description of the believer as a “living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1) alludes to the scapegoat, the only living sacrifice, which was a type of the risen Lord (Lev. 16:10 LXX = Acts 1:3). As the Lord ran free in His resurrection, bearing away the sins of men, so we who are in Him and preach that salvation can do the same.
The exceeding great plague of hail was one of the plagues which lead to Israel’s passover deliverance (Ex. 9:22), and yet this is the language of the last days (Rev. 16:21)- as if there will again be a Passover deliverance for God’s people, heralded by the pouring out of plagues upon those who persecute them.
Pharaoh hardened his own heart (Ex. 7:22; 8:15,19,32; 9:7,34,35). And yet God hardened his heart (Ex. 9:12; 10:1,20,27; 11:10; 14:8). The references to God hardening Pharaoh's heart generally occur after Pharaoh had first hardened his own heart. The fact Pharaoh hardened his heart was a sin (Ex. 9:34), and yet God encouraged him in this. God offered Pharaoh a way of escape after each of the plagues; all he had to do was to agree to let Israel go. But the conditions got tougher the longer he resisted God's demand: he finally had to not only let Israel go, but also provide them with sacrifices (Ex. 10:25). Likewise when Nebuchadnezzar lifted his heart up, God hardened it (Dan. 5:20). God is waiting to confirm us in our mental attitudes.
God has ‘spoken twice’, an idiom for Divine emphasis upon something, that all power belongs to Him, God is omnipotent- and exactly because of this, David says, we should not set our heart upon riches if they happen to increase (Ps. 62:10,11). As the world economy develops more and more wealth, increase in riches is a temptation which faces many believers, both relatively rich and relatively poor, in most countries of the world. I’d guess that well over 50% of Christians have experienced an increase in riches over the past 20 years. The temptation is of course to ‘set our heart’ upon them, and the illusion of freedom which increased wealth brings. This most insidious temptation, David says, can be overcome by a deep sense of how important it is to believe that all power is of God alone. This means that money is not equal to power; because all power is of God. Don’t set your heart upon money because power is from God… these simple, inspired words dramatically torpedo this world’s most crucial principle: that money = power. It doesn’t. Quite simply, because all power is of God.
The trial of our faith is going on now; the judgment will simply formally reveal the verdict which is now being arrived at. The Father judges now "according to every man's work" (1 Pet. 1:17), as He did in OT times: "Thou renderest to every man according to his work" (Ps. 62:12). Yet when His Son returns, He will give every man "according as his work shall be" (Rev. 22:12). It couldn't be clearer: the judgment is going on now, and the Lord Jesus returns to give us the reward which has been 'judged' appropriate for us. We make the answer now- God is watching and judging today, the court is in progress.
We should live now in the same joy and righteousness as if we were in the Kingdom. "The day (of the Kingdom) is at hand: let us therefore...walk honestly, as in the day" (Rom.13:12,13), i.e. as if we are now living in the Kingdom which is soon to come.
Israel in Egypt had light, but Egypt was in darkness (Ex. 10:23). And yet later, at the time of the Ex.dus, it was the Angel in the pillar of cloud and fire that gave light to the Israelites and darkness to the Egyptian pursuers. One possible conclusion could be that the guardian Angel of each Israelite was physically with them at the time of the plague of darkness, giving them light and yet darkness to the Egyptians.
The prodigal son hadn’t quite learnt the lesson when he decided to return home. He decided to return and ask to be made “as one of your skilled craftsmen” (Lk. 15:19 Gk.- he uses misthios rather than doulos, the usual word for ‘slave’). Presumably he figured that he could work and pay off what he had wasted. His plan was to use the phrase “I have sinned against heaven and against you” (Lk. 15:18)- but this is almost quoting verbatim from Pharaoh’s words of insincere repentance in Ex. 10:16! He still failed to grasp that he was his father’s son- he didn’t ‘get it’, that this would be the basis of his salvation, rather than a master-servant relationship with his father based on hard work. It was the father’s amazing grace which swept him off his feet just along the street from his father’s home; it was the father’s unconditional acceptance of him which made him realize what sonship and repentance was really all about.
Prayer is perhaps the area where it is easiest to have only a surface level of spirituality, without getting down to real faith, real perseverance in prayer, real wrestling with God. Elijah " prayed in his prayer" (James 5:17 AVmg.) reflects the Spirit's recognition that there is prayer, and real prayer. “Hear my voice, O God, in my prayer” (Ps. 64:1) seems to say the same: there is our true, pleading voice: and the outward form of prayer. The form of words we use, the outward form, conceals the real thing; the real groaning of spirit which is counted by God as the real prayer.
The Bible could not be clearer in it's analysis of gossip in the church. It is like shooting an arrow from a secret place at a person (Ps. 64:4 RV). It is no coincidence that the word translated " devil" essentially means a false accuser, a slanderer (so it is translated in 1 Tim. 3:11; 2 Tim. 3:3). Slandering others is the very epitome of all that is wrong with the flesh.
Rom. 15:21 quotes Is. 52:15, a Messianic prophecy about Jesus. Paul appropriates a prophecy of how the news of the crucified Christ would spread to those who had never heard it. He didn’t just read those verses as prophecy; he saw in them an imperative to fulfil them. This is an example of where prophecy depends to some extent upon us to fulfil it.
The Hebrew text says that " a great mixture" of people " went up also" with Israel out of Egypt (Ex. 12:38). There can be no doubt that this refers to the many references in the promises that the seed would come to include such a " mixed multitude" (Gen. 17:6; 22:17; 26:4; 28:3,14; 35:11), thereby showing that by reason of leaving Egypt and passing through the Red Sea these Gentiles became part of the seed (cp. 1 Cor. 10:1; Gal. 3:27-29). But the supreme fulfilment of these promises will be after the 'Red Sea' of the last days.
Ex. 12:10 implies they spent the whole night eating the meal as zealously as possible, because the aim was not to have any left by the morning. So we must make the maximum possible use of the spiritual help and forgiveness given in Christ, before the morning of His coming is here and it is too late to gain help. Dt. 16:7 also indicates the whole night was spent eating: " Thou shalt roast and eat it in the place which the lord shall chose; and thou shalt turn in the morning, and go unto thy tents" . On this first occasion, they literally left Egypt that same night. The sense of urgency and intensity is hard to miss, yet so difficult to replicate in our own experience. And yet we are either in Egypt, or redeemed. At this moment in time, your name is either in the book of life or not. You either have unforgiven sins hanging over you or you don't. Now is the time as soon as possible to repent, to gain full forgiveness, to gain full freedom with God. They ate the feast standing up, terrified of Egypt as we are of sin, awed by the sense of the presence of God, as we should be the presence of Christ Himself in the midst of us gathered here. Likewise Hezekiah's people ate the feast with their minds prepared, or standing up. The very meaning of the words used in this chapter indicate the sense of intensity; they were to strike the blood on the door, to 'lay hand on' the blood, to grasp; the word is used in the Law about a rapist ceasing or kidnapping his victim. That's the intensity we must have in seizing Christ's sacrifice, or as the N.T. puts it 'apprehending' that for which we are apprehended, taking our place in the Kingdom almost by violence, taking hold of it by force. And that's just what the phrase in v.21 means- " draw out a lamb" - seize hold of one. And so like the drowning men and women we are, we grab hold of the lifebelt of Christ and cling to Him. He is the only way to save us from our sins, from the bondage and death of Egypt.
The eating of the meal with girded loins (Ex. 12:11,13) is seen by Peter as meaning we should have our minds girded, gathered up, in place and order (1 Pet. 1:13). Note how 1 Peter is replete with Passover allusions (1:17 cp. sojourning with fear in Egypt; 1:18 silver and gold taken from Egypt; 1:19 the Passover lamb; 1:23 corruptible seed= leaven; 2:9,10 cp. leaving Egypt at night, led from darkness to the glory of Sinai, where they became a nation.
Yet it was not all fear and intensity. Ex. 12:11 says they were to eat in haste. The Hebrew word translated " haste" is only ever used in the context of the Passover; it comes from the word for the weasel, because of its sense of quick, smooth, gliding motion. There was to be no panic in their leaving Egypt, but calmness. It is a different word to that used in Ex. 12:.33, where we read that the Egyptians sent the people out in haste; this is a different word, implying fear on the part of the Egyptians, a desire to rush the people out in panic. So in our leaving of the flesh, we must not be driven by a sense of panic and fear of rejection, but above all by a gliding, ever flowing love of God's commands.
The Psalms so often encourage Israelites to feel as if they personally had been through the Red Sea experience. Generation would tell to generation the Passover story, and would also sing of God’s greatness as Israel did in Ex. 15 (Ps. 145:5-7). Hence: “He turned the sea into dry land…there let us (AV: did we) rejoice in him” (Ps. 66:6 RVmg.). We too are enabled by Scripture to feel as if we were there, and to rejoice in what God did for us there. This of course depends upon our sense of solidarity with God’s people over time, as well as over space.
The fact that God “holds our soul in life”, a reference to Gen. 2:7, means that David wanted to “make the voice of his praise to be heard” (Ps. 66:8,9). This was the meaning of the basic facts of creation for David!
No delay for anything was possible in the light of the knife-edge urgency of sharing Christ with others. And it was whilst Simon and Andrew were in the very act of casting their net into the sea, snap shotted in a freeze-frame of still life, silhouetted against the sea and hills of Galilee, that the Lord calls them to go preaching (Mk. 1:17). The Lord surely intended them to [at least later] figure out His allusion to Jer. 16:14-16, which prophesied that fishermen would be sent out to catch Israel and bring them home to the Father. And He called them to do that, right in the very midst of everyday life.
The breaking of bread is the New Covenant's equivalent of the Passover feast. The Passover meal was in order to remember the great salvation which God had wrought for all Israel at the Red Sea. Egypt, representing the power of sin, was gloriously vanquished there. Yet the faithful Israelite of all ages was to also proclaim that " This is done because of that which the Lord did unto me when I came forth out of Egypt" (Ex. 13:8). Our memorial meeting has this same two fold structure; remembering the deliverance which God wrought for us personally, as well as for the whole community of the redeemed. This is why at the breaking of bread there ought to be an awareness of personal fellowship with God, and also with each other, and with those who have gone before.
The work of our guardian Angel is so over-ruled that they will never tempt us above what we are able to bear. The trials they chose for us are in accordance to the spiritual strength they know we posess- thus the Angel leading Israel through the wilderness "led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines; for God (the Angel leading them) said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt; but God led the people about through the way of the wilderness" (Ex. 13:17,18). So we see the great fear our guardian Angel has that we will return to Egypt (the flesh), and therefore He gives us trials which will prevent this, although at the time we feel like Israel that the trials are actually enough to make us want to return to the world.
Through meaningful fellowship with our brethren we will find those relationships which we have given up compensated for, even if we aren’t physically close to our brethren. In reference to Israel’s deliverance from Egypt we read: “God setteth the solitary in families: he bringeth out those which are bound with chains” (Ps. 68:6). To be set in a new family is paralleled with being brought out from slavery. Part of the process of our redemption is that we are set in a new ecclesial family. This must be a reference to how Israel were brought out on Passover night, where the families and lonely ones had to join together into households big enough to kill a lamb for. The implication of Ps. 68 could be that it was in these family groups that they travelled through the wilderness. The N.C.V. reads: “God is in his holy Temple. He is a father to orphans, and he defends the widows. God gives the lonely a home. He leads prisoners out with joy...”. The very house / family of God becomes the house / family of the lonely. Hence the ecclesia is the house of God (1 Cor. 3:16). We find true family in the new family of God.
We have a tendency to consider God as passive to our failures and acts of righteousness, simply because His judgments are not openly manifest. We may forget that on, say, 6.6.96 we swore under our breath in anger…but God, in this sense, doesn't forget. The passage of time doesn't act as a pseudo-atonement for Him as it does in our consciences. The tendency for human beings to assume that God forgets our wrong actions and will never judge them is frequently commented upon in Scripture. "They consider not in their hearts that I remember all their wickedness", i.e. to judge them for it at a future date (Hos. 7:2). The day of judgment is likened to God 'awaking' (Ps. 68:1; 73:20). Not that He is now sleeping; but then, the principles of His judgment which now appear to lie dormant will be openly manifested.
“When Jesus saw the faith of the friends , He said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee” (Mk. 2:5). That man was healed for the sake of the faith of others. The widow woman’s son was resurrected because God heard Elijah’s faithful prayer (1 Kings 17:22); and thus Heb. 11:35 alludes to this incident by saying that through faith- in this case, the faith of Elijah, a third party- women received their dead raised to life. The Centurion’s servant was healed for the sake of his faith; Jairus’ daughter was healed because of his faith (Mk. 5:36). Hence the Lord told them to believe and stop wavering, so that she would be made whole, or “saved” (Lk. 8:50).
Moses' song of triumph after the Red Sea deliverance shows a fine spirituality. However, note his possible misunderstanding in Ex. 15:13,17- that Siani was to be “the place” where God would dwell with Israel. How "pure" is our understanding...?
The language of inheritance (e.g. 1 Pet. 1:4) and preparation of reward (Mt. 25:34; Jn. 14:1) in the NT is alluding to this OT background of the land being prepared by the Angels for Israel to inherit (Ex. 15:17 Heb.; 23:20; Ps. 68:9,10 Heb.) . We must be careful not to think that our promised inheritance is only eternal life; it is something being personally prepared for each of us. The language of preparation seems inappropriate if our reward is only eternal life. The husbandman produces fruit which is appropriate to his labours, and so our eternal future and being will be a reflection of our labours now (Heb. 6:7). Not that salvation depends upon our works: it is the free, gracious gift of God. But the nature of our eternity will be a reflection of our present efforts as well as those of the Father, Son and Angels, in preparing it for us.
The pain and difficulty of speech in the position of crucifixion was such that it is apparent that the Lord meant us to hear and meditate upon the words He uttered from the cross. Perhaps it would have been far easier for Him to have prayed those words to Himself, within His own thoughts; but instead He made the effort to speak them out loud. The passion of the Lord's intercessions on the cross is matchless. He roared to God in His prayer, regardless of whether there was light or darkness (Ps. 22:1,2). He reflected there that His prayer was offered to God " in an acceptable time" (Ps. 69:13). And yet this very passage is taken up in 2 Cor. 6:2 concerning the necessary vigour of our crying to God for salvation. That the intensity of the Lord's prayerfulness and seeking of God on the cross should be held up as our pattern: the very height of the ideal is wondrous.
Christ felt forsaken by God, and Biblically, without a doubt, being forsaken by God means you are a sinner. " Why (oh why) hast Thou forsaken me?" is surely the Lord Jesus searching His conscience with desperate intensity, finding nothing wrong, and crying to God to show Him where He had failed, why the Father had forsaken Him. It may be that initially He assumed He had sinned (Ps. 69:5), going through the self-doubt which David went through at the time of Absalom's rebellion (Ps. 3:2). As David had felt then that God had cast him off, even though " my lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail" , so the Lord felt (Ps. 89:33,38). But then with an unsurpassedly rigorous self-examination, He came to know that He really hadn't. This means that once over the crisis, our Lord died with a purity of conscience known by no other being, with a profound sense of His own totality of righteousness.
When she stands outside the house asking to speak with Jesus, Mary is identified with her other children who considered Jesus crazy. Jesus says that His mothers are those who hear the word of God and do it. This must have so cut her. There is a rather unpleasant connection between Mk. 3:32 “they stood without” and Mark 4:11 " unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables" . And further, Lk. 13:25 speaks of how the rejected shall stand without [same words] knocking and asking to speak with the Lord. Mk. 3:20 RVmg. says that Jesus came home- i.e. to the family home in Nazareth, and it turned out that the interested visitors took the house over, with His relatives, mother, brothers, sisters etc. left outside (Mk. 3:21 RVmg.). No wonder the point was made that He now had a new family; and His natural family, Mary amongst them, resented it.
The incident of Mary and her other children coming to Jesus is inserted by Mark in the context of his record that the Scribes concluded that He had “an unclean spirit”. In that same context, we read that Mary and His brothers concluded that He was “beside himself” (Mk. 3:21,22). The language of demon / unclean spirit possession is used in the Gospels to describe mental rather than physical illness. The Scribes thought that Jesus was demon possessed; His family and mother thought He was mentally ill. The two thoughts are parallel, as if to imply that His family had been influenced by the prevailing opinion of the elders about Him. The Lord responded to the Scribes by warning them that they ran the risk of blaspheming the Holy Spirit by saying this of Him. And it would appear that His own mother may have been running the same risk. This is such a tragic difference from the young, spiritually minded woman who was so convinced that her Son was indeed Messiah and the uniquely begotten Son of God. And it happened simply because she was influenced by what others thought of Jesus, rather than what she had learnt from the word and experienced herself. It’s a powerful warning to us.
In Mk. 3:21,31-35 we read of how “his own” family thought He was crazy and came to talk to Him. Then we read that it was His mother and brothers who demanded an audience with Him, perhaps linking Mary with her other children. Their cynicism of Jesus, their lack of perception of Him, came to influence her- for He effectively rebuffs her special claims upon Him by saying that His mother and brethren are all who hear God’s word. The parallel Mt. 12:46-50 five times repeats the phrase “his mother and his brethren”, as if to link her with them. Clearly the brothers, who didn’t believe in Jesus (Jn. 7:5) influenced her. When He speaks of how His real family are those who hear the word of God and do it, the Lord is alluding to Dt. 33:9, where we have the commendation of Levi for refusing to recognize his apostate brethren at the time of the golden calf: “Who said unto his father and to his mother, I have not seen him; neither did he acknowledge his brethren…for they [Levi] have observed thy word, and kept thy covenant”. The last sentence is the essence of the Lord’s saying that His true family are those who keep God’s word and do it. The strong implication of the allusion is that the Lord felt that His mother and brethren had committed some kind of apostasy.
Israel's murmurings about the lack of food did not discourage Moses; " the Lord heareth your murmurings which ye murmur against him: for what are we? your murmurings are not against us, but against the Lord" (Ex. 16:8). Here we see real humility in Moses, due to his appreciation of God manifestation in him.
The manna represented the word of God and the salvation which comes through its revelation of Christ (Jn. 6). Israel could gather it on six days of the week, but not on the seventh. The seventh day represents the Millennium / Kingdom (cp. how the manna ceased as soon as they entered Canaan, representing the Kingdom). Yet on the seventh day Israel sought to collect manna (Ex. 16:27), but found none- as the foolish virgins of the new Israel will seek the oil of the word when it is no longer available. Now is the time to gather it!
One key aspect in perceiving the value of persons is to separate the person from their behaviour, the sinner from their sin, so that we can still love them. The way David treats Absalom is a great example. He clearly loved him, as the historical records make so abundantly clear. And yet the Psalms open another window into how David perceived Absalom. He describes him as “the cruel man” and invites God’s judgments upon him (Ps. 71:4 etc.). Yet he could do this whilst still loving Absalom the person.
The greatest fear within a righteous man is that of sinning. There are many Messianic Psalms in which David, in the spirit of Christ, speaks of His fear of being forsaken by God- e.g. " Forsake me not...O God, forsake me not" (Ps. 71:9,18). When we feel that what we feared has come upon us, we need to know that Christ's panic-attack on the cross that He had sinned and been forsaken enables Him to know how we feel.
Understanding and perceiving the meaning of the parables would result in conversion, repentance and forgiveness (Mk. 4:12).
Moses becomes reconciled to his ex-wife Zipporah whom he had divorced, and has the humility to accept the advice of his ex-father in law Jethro. This all reveals how Moses' humility developed, as ours ought to over time. Moses accepts Jethro's advice on the basis that he will " surely wear away" (Ex. 18:18); even though his natural strength never abated (Dt. 34:7), and God surely would not have asked him to do the impossible. Jethro at this time seems to have seen Yahweh as only one of many gods; he was a pagan priest. He prophesied that if Moses followed his advice, " all this people shall go to their place in peace" - which they didn't. Yet Moses showed humility in dealing with advice which had incorrect aspects to it.
Uplifted hands are something consistently- and frequently associated with intense prayer, often for the forgiveness of God's people Israel (Lam. 2:19; 2 Chron. 6:12,13; Ezra 9:5; Ps. 28:2; 141:2; 1 Tim. 2:8). The only time we read of Moses lifting up his hands elsewhere is in Ex. 9:2,8,29, where his spreading out of his hands is made parallel with his intreating of God to lift the plagues on Egypt. In passing, let's not read those records as implying that Moses simply uttered a few words to God, and then each of the plagues was lifted. There was an element of real fervency in Moses' prayers- which may well be lacking in ours. This is surely an example of genuinely praying for our enemies (perhaps it is the Old Testament source of Christ's words in Mt.5:44?). It must be significant that uplifted hands is also related to a confirmation of God's covenant (see especially Ez. 20:5,6,15,23,28.42; 36:7; 47:14); for this is exactly what Christ did on the cross. And in a sense, this is what was happening in Ex.17; Israel had sinned, God had forgiven them, and was reconfirming the covenant through Moses (notice that one of the terms of the covenant was that God would save Israel from their enemies, e.g. Amalek). John’s Gospel has many references to Moses, as catalogued elsewhere. When John records the death of the Lord with two men either side of Him, he seems to do so with his mind on the record of Moses praying with Aaron and Hur on each side of him (Ex. 17:12). John’s account in English reads: “They crucified him, and with him two others, on either side one” (Jn. 19:18). Karl Delitzsch translated the Greek New Testament into Hebrew, and the Hebrew phrase he chose to use here is identical with that in Ex. 17:12.
Stranded for a while with only my Bible, I read through the Psalms and other well known prayers, underlining those verses which make specific request, and trying to divide the requests into groups. The Psalms, of course, are the greatest collection of prayers which we have. Some sections of the Psalter are evidently more devoted to praise than prayer. However, Book 2 of Psalms (42-72) is entitled " the prayers of David" (Ps. 72:20). And there are some Psalms which are specifically entitled 'prayers' (38, 86, 90/91, 102, 142/3); and it has been demonstrated by several writers that the titles of the Psalms are inspired and should be read as such.
The results were as follows:
" The prayers of David" (Ps. 42 - 72): 1 request every 7 verses.
The specific 'prayers' recorded in Psalms: 1 request every 5 verses.
Christ's prayer in Jn. 17: 1 request every 4 verses.
It was quite amazing how very few personal requests were made in any of these prayers, although evidently one senses that often David had in mind a particular crisis. Prayer isn't to be simply a list of requests- it is communication with God, and the requests are largely for others, and for the coming of His Kingdom.
The Lord Jesus, in His ministry, had forbidden the extroverts from publicly preaching about Him, as they naturally wanted to (e.g. Mk. 8:26). To keep silent was an act of the will for them, something against the grain. It is hard to find any other explanation for why He told Jairus not to tell anyone that He had raised his daughter (Lk. 8:56)- for it would have been obvious, surely. For they knew she had died (8:53). By contrast, those who would naturally have preferred to stay quiet were told to go and preach (e.g. Mk. 5:19). Our witness to Christ, therefore, is going to be quite against the grain of our natures and natural personality types.
The way Moses sees Israel as far more righteous than they were reflects the way the Lord imputes righteousness to us. He says that Israel didn't go near the mountain because they were afraid of the fire (Dt. 5:5), whereas Ex. 19:21-24 teaches that Israel at that time were not so afraid of the fire, and were quite inclined to break through the dividing fence and gaze in unspiritual fascination at a theophany which was beyond them. And today, righteousness is being imputed to us too by a Lord who loves us even more than Moses.
Hebrews 12:25-29 goes on to draw a parallel between the voice of the Lord’s blood and the sound of the earthquake and voice of God when the Old Covenant was inaugurated, a noise that made even Moses exceedingly fear and quake (Ex. 19:18 LXX). The voice of the Lord’s blood shakes all things, the only thing unshaken by it is the Hope of the Kingdom. It shows forth, as a voice, God’s righteousness (Rom. 3:25,26 RV). When 1 Cor. 1:18 speaks of “the preaching (Gk. ‘the word’) of the cross", we have the same idea; the word of the cross, the word which is the cross, preaches to us of itself, as we behold it. This is how powerful reflection on the cross should be for us.
The rejected will of their own volition slink away from the face of their Lord. And yet the rejected are often described, both explicitly and in the types of judgment, as actively fleeing from the Lord's presence, and being cast and thrown by Him into condemnation. Korah and the rebels slipped down into the pit and were then cast down into destruction (Ps. 73:18; v. 17 refers to Num. 16:38,39). The rejected condemn themselves (as they did in their lives)- they slink away of themselves, of their own volition they end up fleeing, and yet all this is fulfilling the Lord's own fiat that they should be chased from Him. God wants to save us; the condemned will have condemned themselves.
Asaph reflected upon the fate of the wicked within Israel: " Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end. Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction... Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins. So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee" (Ps. 73:17-22). On entering " the sanctuary" , he saw the plates around the altar, which were all that was left of Korah’s rebellion. " Thus my heart was grieved" - for the tragedy of that rebellion, for the tragedy of men experiencing Divine condemnation. He didn’t gloat over the punishment of the wicked. He grieved for it; it pricked his conscience, right within the depths of his being (" pricked in my reins" ). Do we have a heart that bleeds for the tragedy of others' condemnation and eternal deaths?
The Talmud and other Jewish writings record the charge that Jesus was the illegitimate son of a Roman soldier. He would surely have been teased as a child about His father. It has been suggested that the title “son of Mary” given to Him in Mk. 6:3 implied that they considered Him illegitimate- for men were usually called by their father’s name. ““Jesus, son of Mary” has a pejorative sense…[there is a] Jewish principle: A man is illegitimate when he is called by his mother’s name” (Raymond Brown, The Birth Of The Messiah, New York: Doubleday, 1993 p. 540). The perception of the surrounding world may have influenced Joseph, and must have surely given rise to at least temptations of doubt within Mary as the years went by.
To my mind, one of the most artless and surpassing things about the Lord was that He lived a sinless life for 30 years, and yet when He began His ministry those He lived with were shocked that He could ever be the Messiah. He was “in favour” with men (Lk. 2:52), not despised and resented as many righteous men have been. He was the carpenter, a good guy- but not Son of God. Somehow He showed utter perfection in a manner which didn’t distance ordinary people from Him. There was no ‘other-wordliness’ to Him which we so often project to those we live with. We seem to find it hard to live a good life without appearing somehow distasteful to those around us. In fact the villagers were scandalized [skandalizein] that Jesus should even be a religious figure; they had never noticed His wisdom, and wondered where He had suddenly gotten it from (Mk. 6:2,3). This suppression of His specialness, His uniqueness, must have been most disarming and confusing to Mary. Her son appeared as an ordinary man; there was no halo around His head, no special signs. Just an ordinary guy.
The idea of the Samaritan [= Jesus] taking care for the man is expressed in the language of Ex. 21:19, which says that if a man wounds another, "he shall pay...and shall cause him to be thoroughly healed". This somewhat odd allusion (at first sight) surely indicates that the Lord took upon Himself the full blame for our stricken condition, presumably in the sense that as the second Adam He took upon Himself the guilt of Adam. This is why there are so many connections between His death and the effects of Adam's sin (e.g. the crown of thorns, the Garden etc.). The way Christ compared Himself to a Samaritan, half Jew and half Gentile, shows that especially on the cross, this is how He felt. He was mindful of both Jewish and Gentile aspects of His future body as He died. The Jews (and His own brothers, Ps. 69:8) treated Him as half Gentile (from a Roman soldier, the Midrash claims).
Remember the Lords story about the little boy who falls down the well. The legalistic mind would have gone straight to Ex. 21:33: the man who dug a well and didn’t cover it was responsible for any deaths arising from it. The story would imply that the father of the child was the owner of the well. The Lord doesn’t draw the lesson that Its your own fault for being disobedient to the Law. He focuses instead on the need to act urgently to save, without maxing out on the issue of whose fault it was that the tragedy had occurred.
Even the fact other believers had received answered prayers inspired David's faith in prayer (Ps. 74:11-15; 106).
God created matter. Ultimately, all that exists was made by Him; and by faith we believe that things which now exist were not made from what already existed apart from God. The Genesis record of creation, however, emphasises how God brought order out of chaos. He brought this present world of beauty and order out of a darkness that brooded upon a sea, and from an earth that was “without form and void”, the Hebrew images behind the words implying ‘a chaos’. The frequent references to the earth and sea ‘bringing forth’ (e.g. Gen. 1:12,24) use a Hebrew word which means ‘to let something which is within to come out’. The present world was created by a re-organization of things which existed in some form before. This means that when our own lives, or the collective life of God’s people, appears to be in chaos- then we can in faith reflect that God has brought beautiful order out of chaos, and He can likewise powerfully bring order to what seems hopeless. This is the context of the creation allusions in the laments of Ps. 74:12-17; 89:10-15; Is. 51:9 etc.
The mother of the sick girl got healing for her daughter: " For this saying [of faith and understanding] go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter" (Mk. 7:29). In fact there are quite a number of other examples of where the Lord does things for a person because of the faith of others (Mk. 5:22; 7:24; 9:14; Jn. 4:45). In other words, He regards intercession as of similar validity to the petitions of the person involved. The implications of this, the demands upon our prayer life for others, are amazing. Martin Luther commented that anyone serious about pastoral work should be spending three hours / day on their knees in prayer. I thought that this was just so much theory, until I got to know a missionary who spent around two hours / day on his knees.
When you perceive an opportunity to do the Lord's service, respond immediately. See it as another opportunity for " redeeming the time" . This is a major Biblical theme. Israel were not to delay in offering their firstfruits to God (Ex. 22:29), lest their intentions weren't translated into practice.
The Lord Jesus didn't come to destroy the Law of Moses. It still stood when He gave His teaching (Mt. 5:38). Yet He said that instead of insisting upon an eye for an eye in situations like a pregnant woman having a deformed child because of the violence of a man, she should instead try to forgive him (Ex. 22:22-24). He was not changing the Law, as some have wrongly thought. He was saying that the Law was capable of being lived on different levels, and that some aspects of it were a concession to human weakness. Thus the woman with a deformed child could legitimately express her anger by insisting on the physical deformation of the man who had attacked her during pregnancy; but this, the Lord was saying, can give way to a higher level: simply forgive the man.
God is right now enthroned as judge of our lives (Mt. 5:34; Ps. 93:2). We are now in God's presence, and can't escape from it (Ps. 139:2); and the presence of God is judgment language (Acts 3:19; 2 Thess. 1:9; 2:19; Jude 24; Rev. 14:10). "God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another" in His mind (Ps. 75:7)- although the final putting down and setting up will be at the judgment seat (the basis for the parable of the man being asked to go up higher, Lk. 14:10).
It is noteworthy that the rebuke of Sennacherib's Assyrian invasion is celebrated in language which alludes to that used about the destruction of Gog and Pharaoh (e.g. Ps.76:6=Ex.15:1; Ez.39:20), suggesting that the final invasions of Israel will summarize those of all her old enemies. And God's final deliverance of her will have been typified by scores of like interventions in time past. In the Middle East today we see Biblical history repeating itself, working out all these types and shadows.
“From whence shall we get bread here in the wilderness?” is how Peter / Mark recorded their question to the Lord (Mk. 8:4). But the wording is so very similar to the LXX of Ex. 16:3, where a faithless Israel asked the same of Moses; and Moses responded, as did the Lord, in providing bread from Heaven. Did the disciples actually say those words? Would they really have said the very words which Israel did in one of their lowest ebbs of faith and understanding? My suggestion is that they did indeed say something similar in essence, but Mark / Peter purposefully recorded it in terms which highlight the similarity with unbelieving Israel- to as it were emphasize how weak the disciples were at that point. We too are disciples of the Lord- despite our huge weakness.
We can make others sin (Ex. 23:33; 1 Sam. 2:24; 1 Kings 16:19). There is an urgent imperative here, to really watch our behaviour; e.g. to not drink alcohol in the presence of a brother whose conscience is weak.
Moses encouraged Joshua (and all uncertain journeyers through the wilderness) by commenting on the great work of the Angels in preparing the way to enter the promised land. There is a connection made between the fear of God among the Canaanite nations, the "hornet", and the Angel: "I send an Angel before thee. . . I will send my fear before thee. . . and I will send hornets before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee" (Ex. 23:21,27,28). Moses recalled how God had said to him "The LORD thy God He will go over before thee", and then said to Joshua "be strong and of a good courage, fear not nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God (the same Angel called 'the LORD thy God' in relation to Moses), He it is that doth go with thee; He will not fail thee nor forsake thee" (Dt. 31:3,6,7). These words are quoted in Heb. 13:5, and it is good to note the original Angelic context in which the words were used: "Be content with such things as ye have: for He hath said, I (the Angel) will never leave thee nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord (i. e. the Angel) is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me".
Self-talk is perhaps the very essence of prayer; this speaking to ourselves is in fact a speaking to God. That's how we can live the life of continual prayer which busy men like David and Paul claim to have lived. David especially speaks of how he communes with his own heart at night (Ps. 77:6; 119:148 s.w.)- this in particular is the time for self-talk. And hence Prov. 6:22 uses the same word to describe how when we awake, our self-talk will again be of God's word.
How exactly was Peter motivated to walk on water? We want to know, because it’s the motivation that we so urgently need. We read that the Lord “passed by”. This is the very language used in the Old Testament concerning theophanies, i.e. those times when God ‘passed by’ before His people, accompanied by earthquake, rain, wind, fire etc. These ideas all recur here in the account of Jesus ‘passing by’ before the fearful disciples. In Mt. 14:27 the Lord tells them: “It is I”. This was a reference to the “I am” of the Yahweh Name. Peter knew that it was Yahweh who walks upon the waves of the sea (Job 9:8), and so he asks that if Jesus is really “I am”, God manifest in flesh, then He will bid Peter also walk on the water. It was Yahweh whose way was upon the sea (Ps. 77:19 Heb.; Ps. 29:3). Indeed, the whole incident on the lake is almost prophesied in Ps. 107. The people are hungry in desolate places (:4,5), they are filled by Yahweh with good things, as the Lord Jesus fed the multitude (:9); some go down to the sea in ships (:23); a storm arises, sent from God (:25); they are troubled and cry out (:27,28); and then Yahweh delivers them, bringing them to their desired haven (:28-30). Peter, I think, perceived all this. He saw that this Man from Nazareth was indeed manifesting Yahweh, and he is asking that he too will be a part of God’s manifestation; he perceived that what was true of Jesus really could be true for us. If Jesus, manifesting Yahweh, walked upon the sea, then so could Peter. When Peter asks Jesus to “bid me come unto thee”, the Greek word translated “come” is also translated “to accompany”. He wanted to walk with Jesus on the water. He wanted to do what Jesus was doing. This of itself explains how the fact Jesus did what God did [e.g. walk on waves] doesn’t mean He is “very God of very gods”- for Peter realized that he too could have a part in that manifestation. If Jesus was a man of our nature and yet God manifest, then, Peter reasoned, I too can manifest the Father. And the same is true for us, today. The reality of God’s manifestation in the human Jesus should inspire us too to leave our comfort zones and enter the adventure of living Godly- living like God- in this present world.
The Lord Jesus spoke several times of taking up the cross and following Him. This is the life you have committed yourself to by baptism; you have at least tried to take up the cross. The full horror and shock of what He was saying doubtless registered more powerfully with the first century believers than with us. They would have seen men in the agony of approaching death carrying their crosses and then being nailed to them. And the Lord Jesus asked men to do this to themselves. Our takings up of the cross will result in damage- the plucked out eye, the cut off foot. And notice that the Lord says that we will enter lame into the eternal life, or enter the Kingdom with just one eye (Mk. 9:45-47). Surely this means that the effects of our self-sacrifice in this life will in fact be eternally evident in the life which is to come. The idea of taking up the cross suggests a conscious, decided willingness to take on board the life of self-crucifixion. Taking up the cross is therefore not just a passive acceptance of the trials of life.
" I will that they also...be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me" (Jn. 17:24) alludes to the 70 elders sharing Moses' experience in the Mount (Ex.24:70); it is as if Christ is saying that his disciples really can enter into his relationship with God, we can be where he was spiritually in his mortal life.
Moses bound the people into covenant relationship with the words: “Behold the blood of the covenant” (Ex. 24:8). These very words were used by the Lord in introducing the emblems of the breaking of bread (Mk. 14:24). This is how important it is. We are showing that we are the covenant, special Israel of God amidst a Gentile world. Indeed, “the blood of the covenant” in later Judaism came to refer to the blood of circumcision (cp. Gen. 17:10) and it could be that the Lord was seeking to draw a comparison between circumcision and the breaking of bread. For this is how His words would have sounded in the ears of His initial hearers. This is how vital and defining it is to partake of it.
Israel turned back in the day of battle, they lost their faith and nerve, because “they kept not the covenant” (Ps. 78:9). Keeping the covenant had an effect upon the crises of life. And keeping it was not a matter of mere outward obedience, it was rather a state of the heart. Thus “their heart was not right with him, neither were they faithful in his covenant” (Ps. 78:37). The covenants /promises made to Abraham and David above all take a grip upon the heart- and we have to keep remembering that those same covenants are made with all who are in Christ.
Israel were humbled by the Angel in their lives: "The Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee. . He . . suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna. . that He might make thee know that. . by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live" (Dt. 8:2,3). It was the Angel that led them, and provided manna (Ps. 78:23-25), and who needed to "know what was in thine heart" (Dt. 8:2)- God Himself knows the heart of men (Ps. 44:21; Jer. 17:10). So recognizing the extent of Angelic work in our lives should in itself be a humbling experience, not least because if we recognize we are led by the Angels through life, we cannot plan ahead in our own strength.
In the preaching of the word of salvation to those who they knew wouldn’t respond, the Father and Son show their hopeful spirit. Having explained “how hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom”, the Lord went on to comment: “With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible” (Mk. 10:25,27). It is impossible for a rich man to be saved, He seems to be saying. And as we seek to convert the rich and self-satisfied in the societies in which we live, this does indeed seem the case. But although on one hand it is an impossibility, yet not with God: for He desires to seek and save the rich too. And indeed He does, achieving what with men is impossible. And the Father seeks to impress His positive attitude upon us.
There is great emphasis in Ex. 26 that the tabernacle was " one" , joined together in such a way that taught the lesson of unity. The spiritual tabernacle, the believers, was " pitched" by the Lord- translating a Greek word which suggests 'crucifixion' (Heb. 8:2). Through the cross, the one, united tabernacle was pitched. To tear down that structure by disuniting the body is to undo the work of the cross.
The layout of the tabernacle was a "pattern of things in the (literal) Heavens" (Heb. 9:23). In the wilderness journey, the ark was covered in the tabernacle by the various layers of the tent detailed in Ex. 26:1-6: sea cows' skins, red rams skins, goats hair, blue, purple, scarlet and linen. These would form a kind of rainbow over the ark, and above that there was the Angel in the pillar of cloud or fire. This "pattern of things in the Heavens" replicated the visions of a throne (the ark) over-arched by a rainbow and the glory of God.
The Hebrew word translated " zeal" in the context of God's zeal for us (Is. 9:7) really means the jealousy which flares up in a man for a woman (the same word is in Num. 5:14,15; Prov. 6:34; Song 8:6 etc.). That jealousy burning like fire (Ps. 79:5) is His passion for us His people. He is a jealous God in His zeal for us; and therefore any other relationships with the things of this world cannot be contemplated by us. That zeal of God will be poured out upon us at the second coming, resulting in a consummation with Him as the wife of His covenant (Is. 42:13,14; 64:1).
Repentance is elicited by an appreciation of God's Name of Yahweh. Joel appealed: " Rend your heart…and turn to the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy" (Joel 2:13)- alluding clearly to the declaration of the Name in Ex. 34. Because of how God is, as revealed in His Name of Yahweh, because mercy and forgiveness are paramount within the texture of His very personality…therefore, repent. Thus Asaph prayed: " Help us...purge away our sins, for thy name's sake" (Ps. 79:9). Reflection on the Name inspired his faith in forgiveness and thus helped his repentance. It did the same for David (Ps. 25:11) and for Jeremiah (Jer. 14:7,21).
Consider how the Lord taught ambition in prayer- He put before His men the real possibility of moving a mountain into the sea, if that was what was required (Mk. 11:23). This example wasn't off the top of His head; He was consciously alluding to Job 9:5, where Job says that God alone, but not man, can do something like moving a mountain into the sea. And the Lord is saying: 'Yes, God alone can do it; but such is the potential power of prayer, that He will hearken to your requests to do such things- and do them'.
The veil symbolized the flesh of the Lord; and yet in it was woven scarlet, a symbol of His blood and sacrifice (Ex. 27:16), which permeated His mortal life. The lesson is that the cross is a daily way of life. The Lord taught this when He asked us to take up the cross daily: to live each day in the exercise of the same principles which He lived and died by. Let's not see spiritual life as a survival of a few crises, as and when they present themselves. It's a way of life, and the principles which lead us to the little victories (when we scald ourselves with hot water, when we dirty a newly washed shirt...) will give us the greater ones also, when (e.g.) we stand before a tribunal, or face death in whatever form.
Ps. 81, 82
Israel in the wilderness could have had honey out of the rock to feed them (Ps. 81:16), but because they “limited the Holy One of Israel” (Ps. 78:41), they received only water and manna. So much potential has been prepared for us to experience- yet we realize so little of it.
God speaks of Israel as if they were His beloved baby child: “Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it. But [so tragically] my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me…oh that my people would hearken unto me, that Israel would walk in my ways!” (Ps. 81:10-13 RV). This passage alone makes me want to plead with Israel to return to their so loving Father.
“Surely they will reverence my Son” is the thought imputed to Almighty God in the parable, as He sends His only Son to seek for spiritual response in Israel (Mk. 12:6). The parable frames God as almost naive in believing that although Israel had killed the prophets, they would reverence the Word made flesh, and the speaking of God to them in Him. Yet of course God knew what would happen; but in order to express the extraordinary, unenterable extent of His hopefulness, He is framed in this way. God's hopefulness should be ours.
Judgment and prayer are linked. The "breastplate of judgment" enabled the High Priest to bear the names of all Israel before the Lord in mediation- and their judgment was carried by him, as it is by Jesus, in the process of mediating for them (Ex. 28:29,30). Romans is full of legal language, of interceding, pleading, finding a favourable verdict etc., and refers this to the judgment and also to the cross.
Like the Levites, we give our lives back to God, in service towards His children. The Lord died that He might " sanctify" us to God. This is the word used by the LXX to describe the consecration of the priests to service of the body of Israel (Ex. 28:41). If we reject the call to priesthood today, we reject the point of the Lord's saving suffering for us.
Psa 83, 84
It is quite possible to translate 2 Pet.3:8 as " One day with the Lord is as a thousand" , which would suggest another Psalm allusion- this time to Ps.84:18: " A day in thy courts is better than a thousand" . In this case Peter would be saying 'By all means be aware that a day of judgment and condemnation will surely come, as outlined in v.5-7; but beloved, do be mindful too of the wonderful reward. Just 24 (12?) hours of perfect fellowship with the Lord, unmarred by our sinful nature, is worth a thousand years of this life!'. Truly an inspiring thought, and a motivation to come to appreciate the righteousness of God.
The Lord says that we are all the watchers of the door of the house of the ecclesia (Mk. 13:34,35; Lk. 12:39,40), as the prophets were the watchmen over the city of Zion, God's Old Testament ecclesia. We all therefore have a responsibility to guide and warn the ecclesia, not just to scrape out of condemnation for ourselves, but from a genuine, earnest desire to help others to the Kingdom road. It's not something we can just leave to others.
Although we are a great multitude of redeemed, yet the communication of the Father and Son to us are still amazingly unique, even though we all hear and read the same actual words, and reflect upon the same facts. Right back at the beginning of God’s relationship with Israel He had made the point that “I will meet you [plural] to speak there unto thee [you singular]” (Ex. 29:42).
Christ's interpretation of the manna as representing the word in John 6 would support this idea of the Angels spiritually strengthening Israel on their journey. Ex. 29:42 implies this happened daily; the Angel stood at the door of the tabernacle each day to speak with them. Perhaps the same is true today for those who through Angelic help feed daily on the manna of the Word. In our wilderness journey this day, the Angel is providing strength to endure.
Psa 85, 86
It seems that in the Lord Jesus alone we see the perfect fusion of " grace and truth" (Jn. 1:14); in Him alone mercy and truth met together, in His personality alone righteousness and peace kissed each other (in the words of the beautiful Messianic prophecy of Ps. 85:10). Somehow it seems that we both individually and collectively cannot achieve this. We are either too soft and compromise and lose the Faith, or we are too hard and lose the spirit of Christ our Lord, without which we are " none of his" (Rom. 8:9). The result of this is that whenever the Truth is revived, that community is in a sense born to roll downhill; after two or three generations the Truth is lost. Either they destroy themselves through bitter subdivision, or they compromise with error and lose the Faith. Perhaps it is God's plan that no one community should hold the Faith through many generations; perhaps this is one explanation of the paradox within Bible teaching about fellowship. But perhaps the 'contradiction' is there to teach us - or try to teach us- the need for us to rise up to the challenge of showing " grace and truth" in our thinking and judging, even though we cannot fully achieve it; to realize our tragic inability in this, to recognize that within our limited nature this must be an unsolveable paradox. And thereby we should be led to appreciate more the beauty and the wonder of the way in which these two concepts are linked together in the Father and His Son, and to yearn more to perceive and enter into the glory of God's Name, which totally incorporates these two humanly opposed aspects (Ex. 34:6,7; Rom. 11:22).
Mark’s record of the Lord’s trial is not merely a historical account. It’s framed in terms of our need to testify for our faith too. The Lord’s example in His time of suffering was and is intended to be our example and inspiration, in that we are to in a very practical sense enter into His sufferings. Mark records the Lord’s prediction that His people would have to witness before both Jewish and Gentile authorities (Mk. 13:9-13)- and then Mark goes on in the next chapter to describe Jesus doing just this. The Lord asked His suffering followers not to prepare speeches of self-defence- perhaps exemplified and patterned for us in the way that He remained silent before His accusers. Peter is recorded as denying Christ three times- just as the Romans interrogated Christians and asked them to three times deny Christ (2). The Christians were also asked to curse, or anathematizein, Jesus (3). And when we read of Peter’s cursing, the same word is used. We’re left with the impression that Peter actually cursed Christ. And so Mark, who was likely writing the Gospel on Peter’s behalf, is showing that Peter, the leader of the church, actually pathetically failed to follow his Lord at this time. And yet the Gospel of Mark was being distributed to Christians who were being dragged before Jewish and Roman courts. The idea was surely to give them an example and encouragement from Peter’s failure, rather than portray a positive example of a man overcoming the temptation to curse and deny Christ. But this was how the Lord used Peter- as an example from failure for all of us.
Thanks to David building an altar at his own expense and asking God to kill him and his family, God stopped the plague upon Israel (2 Sam. 24:16,17- the stretched out hand of God in destruction was what David asked to be upon him and his family). Israel were suffering the effect of their own sin, in not paying the temple tax (Ex. 30:11-16); but in the spirit of Christ, David was willing to die for them. He seems to have sincerely felt that their sin was his sin (25:17). And his dominant desire was counted as if it had been done, and thanks to his self-sacrificial spirit, the people were saved when they personally were unworthy.
There are many allusions to the language of priesthood in the New Testament, both as major statements and also in passing (e.g. the description of us as " blameless" , Tit. 1:7, is priestly language). This usage illustrates for us the meaning of priesthood. " He that is washed needeth not save but to wash his feet" (Jn. 13:10) was surely suggesting that all baptized believers (" washed" ) were like the priests, who firstly washed their bodies and then their hands and feet, before entering on service (Ex. 30:21). We're called to be priests this day- not passengers, spectators at a show. But actually feeling the call to be dedicated to ministry to others as a way of life.
Psa 87, 88
Is. 40:26 compares God’s ‘bringing out’ of Judah from Babylon with His ‘bringing out’ the stars by their individual names, all wonderfully known to Him. Ps. 87:6 had prophesied something similar about the restoration of Zion’s fortunes: “The LORD shall count, when he writeth up the people, that this man was born there”. The Kingdom of God was to be the restoration of Israel’s Kingdom- but they had to actually get on and restore it rather than wait for it to come. The Kingdom might have come then, if they'd fulfilled the conditions. And with us, so much has been made possible for us, this day and every day- yet will we achieve that potential? Will the return of Christ be as it were delayed because of this?
Mk. 15, 16
Perhaps when He crossed Kidron He would have thought back to how Asa had to separate himself from his mother in the very same place (1 Kings 15:13). The crucifixion record describes Mary the mother of Jesus as Mary the mother of James and Joses (Mk. 15:40 cp. Mt. 13:55)- not Mary the mother of Jesus. It’s as if the record itself seeks to show that separation between mother and Son which occurred there. Both Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James- i.e. the mother of Jesus too (Mk. 16:1 = Mk. 15:40 = Mt. 13:55) came to the sepulchre, but Jesus chose to appear to Mary Magdalene first (Mk. 15:9), and not His own dear mother. Mt. 27:61 almost cruelly rubs the point in: “There was Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, sitting over against the sepulchre”, but the Lord appeared to Mary Magdalene first. Indeed, there is no record that He ever appeared to His mother. This would presumably have been to help her in realizing that she must relate to Him as her Lord and Saviour now, like any other woman had to, and not as a woman with special maternal privileges in her relationship with her now Almighty Son. It must have so pained the Lord to do this- to not appear to his dear mother first. But as He oftentimes acts with us, so He did with her- doing something which even in Divine nature must have been so painful for Him, in order to help her in her growth.
Ex. 31, 32
t is simply fantastic that Moses could love those people so intensely, despite their aggression and indifference towards him. He was prepared to give his place in the Kingdom so that they might enter; he prayed God to accept his offer. He knew that atonement could only be by sacrifice of blood (Lev. 17:11); and yet he climbed the Mount with the intent of making atonement himself for Israel's sin (Ex. 32:30); he intended to give his life for them. And he didn't make such a promise in hot blood, as some men might. He made the statement, and then made the long climb to the top of the mount. And during that climb, it seems he came to an even higher spiritual level; he was prepared not only to offer his physical life, but also his place in the Kingdom (Ex. 32:32 cp. Ez. 13:9; Dan. 12:2; Lk. 10:20; Phil. 4:3; Rev. 3:5; 20:12). Now although hopefully we are not rejecting Christ as they did, the fact still stands that the love of Moses for Israel typifies the love of Christ towards us. The degree, the extent of Moses' love, is but a dim foretaste of the degree of the love of Christ for us. Now in this is something wonderful, something we really need to go away and meditate about. And the wonder of it all is that Israel did not realize the extent of Moses love at the time. At the end of his life he recounts how God has threatened to destroy the people, and then “I turned and came down from the mount” (Dt. 9:15). He doesn’t record his 40 days of pleading with the Father, and how he turned down the offer of having himself made into a great nation. In this we see tremendous spiritual culture, pointing forward to the Lord’s own self-perception of His sacrifice.
There are a number of links between the Psalms and Job's speeches (run your eye down the marginal references). Depressed Job must have been very much at the back of David's mind. Like Job, David knew and respected God's promises, but at times such as that when he wrote Ps.89, it all seemed rather abstract, and in his depression he bitterly questioned God. In Ps.89, David repeats the promises made to him, but compares them with his present difficult situation: " Thou saidst...my covenant will I not break...but thou hast made void the covenant of thy servant" (Ps.89:19,34,39). He reflected how God had promised that " The enemy shall not exact upon him" , but now his enemies clearly had the upper hand (Ps.89:22 cp. " Thou hast made all his enemies to rejoice" , v.42,50,51). Likewise " His throne (shall endure) as the sun" , but " thou hast profaned his crown (i.e. his throne) by casting it to the ground" (Ps.89:36,39). It is in the context of God promising David eternity that he questions: " Shall he (God) deliver his soul from the grave? What man is he that liveth and shall not see death?" (Ps.89:48). He goes so far as to feel that God's " former lovingkindnesses (a word often re. the promises), which thou swarest unto David in thy truth" had been at best suspended (Ps.89:49). Surely David is close to the edge here; there almost seems to be a sense of mocking in his comments on the promise that his throne would endure for ever as the sun: " His throne (shall endure) as the sun...but...Thou hast cast his throne down to the ground" , rather than it being like the sun (Ps.89:36,44). Yet truly in the spirit of Job, he was able to praise God in this very same context: " Blessed be the Lord for evermore. Amen, and amen" (Ps.89:52). Presumably this Psalm was written (or thought out) whilst fleeing from Absalom, or possibly during one of the later rebellions, when it seemed that all hope of holding on to the throne was lost. Here is David in depression, making hasty comments about the faithfulness of God, reacting to the position of the moment. This is surely an indication of his mental make up. One cannot be persuaded that the Lord Jesus did not experience the temptations which go along with this kind of personality. " My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Mt.27:46) and the following thoughts in Ps.22 seem to be Christ's equivalent of David's crisis in Ps.89. Yet- and this is so wonderful- God worked through David's depressive mood at this time to inspire the most wonderful prophecies of His Son. Indeed, it would seem that David himself nursed himself through his own depression towards an understanding of Christ equalled by no other Old Testament figure. Depression leads to self-knowledge in the end, and that heightened introspection, with God's guidance, leads us in some way to Christ.
1Co 1, 2
The voice of the Lord’s blood shakes all things, the only thing unshaken by it is the Hope of the Kingdom (Heb. 12:25-29). It shows forth, as a voice, God’s righteousness (Rom. 3:25,26 RV). When 1 Cor. 1:18 speaks of “the preaching (Gk. ‘the word’) of the cross", we have the same idea; the word of the cross, the word which is the cross, preaches to us of itself, as we behold it. Paul declared unto Corinth “the testimony of God", i.e. “Christ and Him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:1,2). This message was “in demonstration of the Spirit and of power", “the wisdom of God", “Christ crucified" (1 Cor. 1:17,23,24; 2:4,5). Indeed, “the cross of Christ" is put for ‘the preaching of His cross’ (1:17). All these things are parallel. The cross is in itself the testimony and witness of God. This is why, Paul reasons, the power of the cross itself means that it doesn’t matter how poorly that message is presented in human words; indeed, such is its excellence and power that we even shouldn’t seek to present it with a layer of human ‘culture’ and verbiage shrouding it. So today, let's reflect upon the cross and be shaken by it, and hear the word of God to us through it.
Ex. 33, 34
These chapters are the basis for many New Testament allusions. For example: " The word was made flesh...we beheld his (Christ's) glory...full of grace and truth" (1:14). " if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see (like Moses) the glory of God" (John 11:40). Philip asks Jesus to “show us the Father” (John 14:8), and Jesus replies that He is the manifestation of the Father.
Israel had asked that " the word" be not spoken to them any more; only Moses saw God's glory. But we are being invited to be equal to Moses, seeing from the cleft in the rock the awesome majesty of the perfection of Christ's character; the full glory of God. But do we appreciate his righteousness? Paul likewise invites us to behold with unveiled face, as Moses did (2 Cor. 3:18 RV), and thereby, just from appreciating the glory of Christ's character, be changed into the same glory. Note too how in Rom. 11 we are each bidden “behold the goodness and severity of God”- a reference to Moses beholding all the goodness of Yahweh. We are in essence in his position right now (Ex. 33:19).
This is the language of Ex. 33:18 LXX, where Moses likewise asks God “show yourself to me”. The answer was in the theophany on Sinai, with the Name of Yahweh declared, as full of grace and truth. This, according to Philip’s allusion to it, is what we see in Jesus. And this is why Jn. 1 speaks of Jesus in terms of the theophany of Exodus, that in His personality the full glory of the Father dwelt.
Psa 90, 91
Ps. 90:13 "Let it repent Thee concerning Thy servants. . . Return, O Lord. . . O satisfy us early with Thy mercy. . . for we are consumed by Thine anger". This 'prayer of Moses' (title) is lamenting how Israel were being destroyed by the Angel as they wandered in the forty year period of punishment. It may even be that the Angel left Israel in a sense (hence "Return O Lord") although still leading them. Thus there are different degrees of the Angelic presence- as at the restoration the Angel did in a limited sense return to the temple. Yet Moses clearly believed that this period of decreed punishment could be shortened ("satisfy us early with Thy mercy") by the Angel repenting. Previously his prayers had succeeded in making the Angel repent of the evil that He had planned to do to Israel, and Moses evidently hoped the Angel would again repent. Why exactly didn't He? In our reasoning with God and Angels in prayer- are we this bold? Is there any reason why we should not be?
Paul seems to have assumed that all of us would preach and make converts (not leave it to just some of our community): he speaks of how " every man" in the ecclesia builds upon the foundation of Christ, but how he builds will be judged by fire. If what he has built is burnt up at the judgment, he himself will be saved, but not what he has built (1 Cor. 3:10-15). I would suggest that the 'building' refers to our converts and work with other believers. If they fail of the Kingdom, we ourselves will be saved, but our work will have been in vain. This parable also suggests that the salvation of others, their passing through the fire at the judgment, is dependent upon how we build. This may be hyperbole to make a point, but it is a powerful encouragement that we are all elders and preachers, and we all have a deep effect on others' spirituality. We have responsibilities to those who respond to our preaching. The preaching of the Kingdom of God is not only in words but by the power of example (1 Cor. 4:20).
The generous response of the Israelites in giving towards the tabernacle was surely because it was not demanded of them but merely their assistance was invited (Ex. 35:24). The grace of God, His demand as it were for so little from us, should motivate us to give our all.
Paul pleads with Corinth to see the similarities between them and the ecclesia in the wilderness; he wants them to personalize it all. He sees their gathering and redistribution of wealth as exactly analogous to Israel’s gathering of manna (2 Cor. 8:15)- and he so wishes his Corinthians to think themselves into Israel’s shoes. For then they would realize that as Israel had to have a willing heart to give back to God the wealth of Egypt which He had given them, so they were to have a willing heart in being generous to their poorer brethren (Ex. 35:5 = 2 Cor. 8:12). And they would have realized that as “last year” they had made this offer (2 Cor. 8:10 Gk.), so the year before, Israel had received Egypt’s wealth with a similar undertaking to use it for the Lord’s cause. As Moses had to remind them a second time of their obligations in Ex. 35, so Paul had to bring it again before Corinth. And if they had seen these similarities, they would have got the sense of Paul’s lament that there was not one wise hearted man amongst them- for the “wise hearted” were to convert Israel’s gold and silver into tools for Yahweh’s service (Ex. 35:10 = 1 Cor. 6:5; 2 Cor. 10:12).
Psa 92, 93
Ps. 92 is a psalm of joy for the Sabbath (note that the titles of the Psalms are inspired- at least two of them are cited as inspired scripture in the NT). The Sabbath was ordained in order that man might think back on the reality of creation; and this most essential core reality should be an endless source of joy for us, if we believe it: " For thou, Lord, hast made me glad through thy work: I will triumph in the works of thine hands" (Ps. 92:4), just as the Angels shouted for joy at creation. David’s motivation for praise was simply because God has created him: “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps. 139:14). Even in the cycle of death, which is part of the ongoing creation and renewal of the planet, there is something to praise. Thus David praised God because of the way that He takes away the breath of animals and they die, and then renews His creation; as “the Lord rejoices in his works” of creation, so David joins Him in a sublime fellowship of Creator and creature (Ps. 104:29-31) which flowed out of a basic belief in God as creator.
1Co 4, 5
The fact that Paul saw the spiritual man in all his brethren means that to some degree he saw them all as equal. He seems to bring this point out in 1 Cor. 4:14,17: " As my beloved sons I warn you (Corinth ecclesia)...for this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son..." . Paul calls both Corinth and Timothy his beloved sons. The implication is that to some degree, he felt the same towards dodgy Corinth as he did towards the spiritually strong Timothy. Likewise Christ showed his love for the whole church when he died on the cross. This does not mean, of course, that Paul did not have deeper bonds with some than with others. But the fact is that in spiritual terms, he saw all his brethren as equal, in that they shared the same status of being justified in Christ. Whether one had 2% righteousness and another 5% was irrelevant; they both needed the massive imputation of God's righteousness through Christ. As Paul could call both Timothy and Corinth his " beloved sons" , so God calls both Christ and ourselves by the same title (Mt.3:17 cp. Col.3:12; 1 Jn.3:2; 2 Thess.2:13) . The reason? Because " he hath made us accepted (by being) in the beloved (son) " (Eph.1:6).
Note all the times we read in this chapter of how the various parts of the tabernacle, the curtains, the couplings etc., all joined together to make "one tabernacle". There is one body- this is a very common theme in the New Testament. But it has strong Old Testament antecedents. There was one chosen nation, one land, one tabernacle, one altar, one covenant, one temple- unity was God's evident intention for His people even in Old Testament times.
Psa 94, 95
Ps. 94:8,9 tells the fools to be wise and watch their behaviour, because " He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? He that formed the eye, shall he not see?" . Reflection on the fact that God truly is our personal designer and creator will lead to an awareness that He therefore sees and knows all things. These first principles powerfully link up, to exhort us to live life and speak our words knowing we are in the very presence of our creator. And remember that it was reflection upon the extent and nature of God's creative power which lead to Job's repentance; it isn't something we can passively reflect upon.
Because He rose, therefore we stop committing sin (1 Cor. 6:14). We can’t wilfully sin if we believe in the forgiveness His resurrection has enabled. Men should repent not only because judgment day is coming, but because God has commended repentance to us, He has offered / inspired faith in His forgiveness by the resurrection of Christ (Acts 17:30,31 AV mg.). The empty tomb and all the Lord’s glorification means for us should therefore inspire personal repentance; as well as of itself being an imperative to go and share this good news with a sinful world, appealing for them to repent and be baptized so that they too might share in the forgiveness enabled for them by the resurrection.
The cherubim were figures of beaten gold at either end of the mercy seat (Ex. 37: 7-9). Their wings overshadowed the mercy seat with which they were of one piece (Ex. 25:19-20). The connection between Angels and cherubim means that they were gazing down into the blood of the sacrifices. 1 Pet. 1:10 and 12 alludes to this: "Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently. . . which things the Angels (also) desire to look into", referring to the Cherubim Angels peering down intently into the blood on the mercy seat, the "salvation" which the prophets searched after. We are to be made like Angels (Lk. 20:35,36), and yet this would imply that Angels are of limited knowledge. Thus having Divine nature doesn't mean we will know everything. We'll spend eternity growing, dynamically!
Note the parallels between Psalms 96 and 98:
But there are some subtle differences. Ps. 96:2,3 exhorts us: “Show forth his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the heathen”. But Ps. 98:2 puts it another way: “The Lord hath made known His salvation. His righteousness hath He openly shewed in the sight of the nations”. These latter words are only true in that we make known that salvation, and we declare His glory among the nations. Thus a statement in Ps. 98 that Yahweh has shewed His glory to the nations becomes an imperative for us to go and do that in Ps. 96. When we read statements about what God is like, we are therefore to actively go out and live accordingly to enable these things to really be so. Likewise, if our Lord is the light of the world- we are to be likewise!
The power of Paul's teaching about singleness is backed up by his personal situation. As a member of the Council who condemned Stephen, he would have had to be married. An unmarried Orthodox Jew would have been a contradiction in terms at that time. And yet he is evidently single in his Christian ministry. It seems fairly certain that his wife either died or left him at the time of his conversion, probably taking the children with her. If this is so, it gives extra poignancy to his comment that he had suffered the loss of all things for the sake of his conversion (Phil. 3:8). The chances are that he thought and wrote that with a difficult glance back to that Jerusalem girl, the toddlers he'd never seen again, the life and infinite possibilities of what might have been... And it gives another angle on his description of his converts as his children.
There is evidence that " the single life was highly honoured and respected in the early church, sometimes even going beyond the teaching of Paul". Yet for us, marriage is given more respect than singleness. The single believer is seen as somehow incomplete; there is a sense that the married home owner in a stable job is somehow spiritually strong too. Of course, there are many unstable single believers; but let's not judge the status of singleness by them. The Lord and Paul are asking a very high level of commitment from us. It's so high that it seems strange to us. The reason, I suggest, is that 21st Century Christianity and first century Christianity are very different- in terms of commitment, not doctrine.
Ex.38:18 describes the curtain over the door of the tabernacle in similar language to how the veil hiding the Most Holy is described. Christ is the door of the tabernacle through which we enter at our conversion (Jn.10:9). By doing so we also enter, in prospect, through the veil into the Most Holy of eternity and Divine nature. We really are, right now today, saved in prospect!
Psa 100, 101
The fact that God Himself created us, as His sheep, “and not we ourselves” (a comment applicable, in essence, to theories of evolution and genetic engineering)… should lead us to ecstatic singing of praise before Him (Ps. 100:3). Likewise Ps. 96:2,5, and so many other examples, invite us to enthusiastically praise God, simply because “the Lord made the heavens”. God as creator results in joy and praise amongst those of His creation who recognize Him as creator.
1Co 8, 9
Paul evidently did not turn a blind eye to his brethren's failures. He spoke of them in one breath as being spiritually complete, whilst in the next he showed that he was truly aware of their failures. There's a glaring example of this in 1 Cor. 5:6,7: " A little leaven (which they had in their bad attitude, and also in the presence of the incestuous brother) leaveneth the whole lump. Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened" . They had leaven; otherwise Paul would not have told them to purge it out. But then he tells them that they are " unleavened" . In other words, he saw them as if they were unleavened, but he recognized that they had the bad leaven among and within them. There's another blatant example of this in 1 Cor.8:1,4,7: " As touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge...(v.4) we know that an idol is nothing in the world...(v.7) howbeit there is not in every man (in the ecclesia) that knowledge" . So Paul starts off by saying that they all knew about the correct attitude to meat offered to idols. But then he recognizes that in reality, not all of them did know, or at best, they did not appreciate what they knew. This is a great encouragement for us to have a positive view of our weak brethren, by reason of their status "in Christ".
Ex. 39, 40
The Lord having His own clothes put back on Him meant that He would have been dressed in blood sprinkled garments for the walk to Golgotha. Again His holy mind would have been on the Messianic prophecies of Is. 63 about a Messiah with blood sprinkled garments lifted up in glorious victory. Or perhaps He saw the connection to Lev. 8:30, where the priests had to have blood sprinkled garments in order to begin their priestly work. This would have sent His mind to us, for whom He was interceding. Likewise when He perceived that His garment would not be rent, He would have joyfully perceived that He was indeed as the High Priest whose garment was not to be rent (Ex. 39:23). In the trials and tests of today, are we looking out for the way that encouragement for the spiritual mind is hidden within them?
The question arises as to why Mary anointed the Lord’s feet, when anointing is nearly always of the head. The only time the foot of anything was anointed was in Ex. 40:11, when the pedestal / “foot” of the laver was anointed in order to consecrate it. This pedestal was made from the brass mirrors donated by repentant prostitutes (Ex. 38:8 = 1 Sam. 2:22). In this there is the connection. Mary the repentant whore wanted to likewise donate way she had to the true tabernacle and laver, which she perceived to be the Lord Jesus. Her equivalent of brass mirrors was her pound of spikenard. And it could be that she had been baptized at her conversion, and saw the Lord as her laver. And this was her response- to pour all her wealth into Him. She anointed him for His death- for she perceived that it was through death that the Lord would fulfill all the OT types of the laver etc. And what is our level of spiritual perception? If she could be like that- how about us, who are literate and have easy access to God's written word?
Those who are thankfully redeemed in Christ, now lovingly reconciled to Him, are described as blind, starving prisoners, bound in the darkness, awaiting execution (Ps. 107:14; Is. 42:7; 49:9; 61:1; Zech. 9:11). Our prayers should be like those of a man on death row in a dark dungeon, waiting to die, but groaning for salvation (Ps. 102:17,20). This is the extent of our desperation. We are “the poor” (Gk. ‘the crouchers’), cringing in utter spiritual destitution (Mt. 5:3). And yet we have a terrible tendency to only occasionally really pray, content with prayer on a surface level- because we don't realize our desperation.
Paul speaks of us each one partaking of “the table of the Lord” (1 Cor. 10:21), a phrase used in the LXX for the altar (Ez. 44:16; Mal. 1:7,12)- the sacrifices whereof only the priests could eat. This would have ben radical thinking to a community used to priests and men delegated to take charge of others’ religious affairs. Hebrew 3:13 gets at this idea when we read that we are to exhort one another not to turn away, situated as we are on the brink of the promised land, just as Moses exhorted Israel. It was accepted in Judaism, as well as in many other contemporary religions, that faithful saints [e.g. the patriarchs, Moses, the prophets etc, in Judaism’s case] could intercede for the people. Yet in the New Testament, all believers are urged to intercede for each other, even to the point of seeking to gain forgiveness for others’ sins (1 Thess. 5:25; Heb. 13:18; James 5:15). They were all to do this vital work. The radical nature of this can easily be overlooked by us, reading from this distance.
Lev. 1, 2
All the references to “the Lord spake unto Moses” (Lev. 1:1)could indicate Moses' humility- Moses submerged his own personality in writing his books. Or, they could indicate the hand of an inspired editor.
The awareness of sin in the peace offering is brought out by a highly unusual feature. The offering was to be made with " leavened bread" (Lev. 7:13), even though it was normally forbidden to offer any sacrifice made with leaven (Lev. 2:11). The unusualness of this feature was in order to drive a point home. Whilst we are not to offer our bodies to God with the leaven of sinfulness (cp. 1 Cor. 5), we are to have an awareness of the presence of sin as we keep our peace offering. Awareness of our own failure is vital for peaceful fellowship with God.
Ps. 103:18 parallels " such as keep his covenant" with " those that remember his commandments to do them" . Covenant relationship brings a natural desire to live within the atmosphere of God's spirituality. For Israel in covenant with God, absolutely nothing- not sex, menstruation, the content of clothing fabric, diet- could fall outside the scope of their covenant relationship. And so in principle it is with us under the new covenant. Such a relationship also precludes the worship of any other God.
1 Cor. 11:29 invites us to discern the Lord’s body at the memorial meeting. A related Greek word occurs in v.28: “let a man examine himself". It’s too bad that the translations mask this connection. We are to examine / discern the Lord’s body, and to do the same to ourselves (1). The two are inextricably related. Meditation upon and analysis of His body will lead to self examination and discernment. In this lies the answer to the frequent question: ‘What should we examine at the breaking of bread? Our own sins, or the facts of the crucifixion / resurrection?’. If we think about the latter, we will inevitably be led to think of the former.
Lev. 3, 4
The record of the sin offering in Lev. 4:10,26,31,35 stresses an impressive four times that the animal was to be prepared and offered (e.g.) " as the fat is taken away from the peace offering" . This serves to emphasize the link between the two sacrifices; the peace offering was in gratitude and rejoicing for the peace of sins forgiven. For this reason it was totally voluntary. Our ecclesial lives inevitably feature a regular time for the memorial meeting. But we should come here each time from a spontaneous joy at the peace we have with God through the blood of Christ. If the breaking of bread, our peace offering, is something done voluntarily, in thanks for the peace we have with God, perhaps it ought to be something we do at times during the week, purely from our own joy at being at peace with God. But how many of us have ever done this? It's something to think about.
Name. The Scribe well understood all this: " There is one God...and to love him...and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices" (Mk. 12:32,33). Those whole offerings represented the whole body of Israel (Lev. 4:7-15). The Scribe understood that those offerings taught that all Israel were unified together on account of their bearing the same Name of Yahweh. We must love others who bear that Name " as ourselves" , so intense is the unity between us.
The idea of every little thing in life and the world being controlled by Angels contradicts the notion that God has set this world in motion according to certain natural laws, and that things continue without His direct intervention- as if the whole system is run by clockwork which God initially wound up. Intervention in this system by God has been called 'the hand of providence'. However, these ideas surely contradict the clear Biblical teaching that every movement in the natural creation is consciously controlled by God through His Angels, thus needing an energetic input from Him through His Spirit for every action to occur. Ps. 104 is full of such examples: " He watereth the hills. . causeth the grass to grow. . maketh darkness (consciously, each night). . . the young lions. . . seek their meat from God. . . sendest forth Thy Spirit (Angel), they are created" (not just by the reproductive system).
1Cor. 12, 13
The term " Christ" is even used of the believers, such is His unity with us (1 Cor. 12:12). Christ is not divided, and therefore, Paul reasons, divisions amongst brethren are a nonsense. Christ is not divided, and therefore neither should we be (1 Cor. 1:13; 3:3). Consider carefully how that whoever is properly baptized is a member of the one body, and is bound together with all other members of that body: "As the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one spirit are we all baptized into one body...for the body is not one member, but many" (1 Cor. 12:12-14). Paul, in his relentless manner, drives the point home time and again. He goes on to reason that just because the hand says it isn't of the body, and won't co-operate with the feet, this doesn't mean that it therefore isn't of the body. And so it is with those who say they have broken away from others in the one body; because they say they are not of the body doesn't mean they are not of the body.