Reflection day 81- Security and purity
From Paul Barton, one of our church workers
2 Timothy 2:19 – Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: ‘The Lord knows those who are his,’ and, ‘Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.’
False teachers and their doctrine are nothing new. In a recent film called, ‘American Gospel: Christ Alone,’ the prosperity gospel is examined and shown to be false compared to the Biblical gospel message. The film looks at the false teaching of the prosperity gospel and those who preach it. It reveals the impact this teaching is having in America and across the world. It is an excellent presentation and well worth a watch (available on Netflix (free) or Amazon Prime. Links to a trailer and one-hour free edited version below).
The apostle Paul addresses the issue of false teachers and their doctrine in 2 Timothy 2:14 – 3:9. He names the ringleaders teaching heresy in the Ephesian district (2:17). Hymenaeus and Philetus are the ones who are spreading their teaching ‘like gangrene’. It seems that they once knew the truth but have wandered away (departed – 2:18 cf. 1 Tim. 1:6; 6:21).
What was their error? V18 – ‘They say that the resurrection has already taken place.’ They taught that the future resurrection of the body would not take place. Their teaching was based upon the spiritual resurrection of the soul in baptism (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12). They over spiritualised the reality of the new birth and by doing so loosed the very foundations of Christianity. The inference from this false teaching was that Christ’s resurrection (which demonstrated God’s approval of his atoning death) did not take place. They denied the gospel (see 1 Cor. 15:13-14 & 17).
A good question to ask then and now is: ‘Does this mean that God’s true church can be destroyed?’
V19 – Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: ‘The Lord knows those who are his,’ and, ‘Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.’
False teachers will lead many astray, but God’s true church remains unmoved and secure. It will not be shaken (Heb. 12:28). How can this be so? It is guaranteed with an unbreakable divine seal – ‘The Lord knows those who are his,’ and, ‘Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.’
The true church is eternally secure and it must remain pure to publicly reveal the election of God’s people. Christians have a responsibility to believe (God’s decree of eternal security) and obey (keep ourselves pure by forsaking sin). Security and purity fit together (cf. 2 Thess. 2:13).
What are we doing with our time during lockdown? Are we cultivating and engaging in sin? How is our walk and conduct? Would you say you are being consistent with your walk and talk? Hymenaeus and Philetus lacked this consistency. They would name the name of the Lord and then promote unrighteousness. May we all confess our sin to the Lord today and seek to live pure and righteous lives before God and mankind.
American Gospel trailer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0XH2p6Q3u5s
American Gospel YouTube one-hour version – https://youtu.be/ocHm18wUAGU
Reflection day 82- Search me, God
‘Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.’ (Psalm 139:23&24)
One conspicuous characteristic of human beings is our ability to see the faults of others but to be blind to our own. Indeed, Jesus explicitly warned us about wanting to take the speck out of our brother’s eye when there is a plank in our own (Matthew 7:3-5).
In Psalm 139 David meditates on God’s being. He begins, ‘You have searched me, LORD, and you know me.’ God knows everything; he is also by his Spirit everywhere at the same time; and he is sovereign over every single thing that happens in our lives. In the course of this meditation David marvels at the way God made him as a human being, at how he was woven together in his mother’s womb. All this leads him to abhor those who seek to shed innocent blood, who blaspheme the name of this awesome God, who hate God and rebel against him.
But, as David concludes, he asks God to examine him. He wants the LORD who has searched him (v1) to search him again! He is anxious, disturbed. Is there anything offensive to God in his own life? If there is, David wants God to reveal it to him that he might be led by God in the way that leads to everlasting life.
But how does God do this? How can we know what are the sins and flaws we’re blind to?
I lay in bed recently as a shaft of sunlight beamed through the curtains and illuminated thousands of tiny particles of dust in the air, dancing this way and that. How dirty some things also seem when the snow falls and they stand next to it in its brilliant whiteness.
God’s holy word can enlighten us and show us what’s offensive to him in our lives.
i) When we carefully consider God’s commands and how we have broken them. Have we done what he’s told us not to do or not done what he’s told us to do? As well as the Ten Commandments, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is incredibly searching in this regard.
ii) When we review the example of godly believers in the Bible, to give you some examples, Joseph (Gen 39:9), Samuel (1 Samuel 12:23), David (1 Samuel 17:45-7), Mary (Luke 10:39,42) or Stephen (Acts 7:59,60), we see our sins more clearly and are moved to seek God’s forgiveness and his help to imitate these people.
iii) By extension, in a similar way, reading Christian history and biography and about the lives of devout Christians from the past can humble and enliven us. So too can considering the lives of godly Christians today, the best Christians we know.
iv) Above all there is the life, the attitude, the actions of Jesus himself. ‘In your relationship with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus’. (Philippians 2:5)
v) Finally, let me add, it’s worth considering if there is even some truth in the criticisms we hear others making of us.
I was searched by some words of a 17th century Christian called John Owen that I came across recently in a Christian newspaper. Notwithstanding the old-fashioned language we get the drift: ‘Take heed lest that evil be still abiding upon any of our spirits, that we should be crying out and calling for reformation without a due consideration of what it is, and how it is to be brought about… Would you have a reformation? Be you more humble, more holy, more zealous; delight more in the ways, the worship, ordinances of God; reform your persons in your lives, relations, families, parishes, as to gospel obedience, and you will see a glorious reformation indeed… Has God not said to us, You that have prayed under persecution for reformation, – you that have fought in the high places of the field for reformation, – you that have covenanted and sworn for reformation, – go now, reform yourselves!’
Reflection day 83- Either one or the other
‘To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)
Jesus’ teaching is characteristically black and white and challenges us to ask, ‘Am I like one or the other?’
The Pharisees, ‘the separated ones,’ were a sect of Jews devoted to keeping the Old Testament’s laws and instructions. They had developed many of their own rules to ‘ring-fence’ those laws and make sure they were kept and not broken. For example there were thirty-nine main kinds of act forbidden on the Sabbath. In terms of positive duties, the Pharisees viewed tithing (devoting 10% of your income to God, often in the form of crops grown or animals born – Leviticus 27:30-32) as particularly important. When you had to pay those heavy Roman taxes, tithing was tough and therefore virtuous. Pharisees wouldn’t even eat in the homes of non-Pharisees just in case the food hadn’t been tithed – that would be guilt by association! Most of ‘the teachers of the law’, the expert interpreters, were Pharisees. Jesus, however, observed much pride, ‘virtue-signalling’ and hypocrisy in the lives of the Pharisees.
While the Pharisees were respected by ordinary people tax collectors were hated and despised. First, well, they collected taxes! Second, they were generally greedy, dishonest and brutal in their demands. Think of debt-collectors, or of the mafia and the heavy mob hammering on your door. Third, they worked for the Romans, the foreign occupiers of Israel – tax collectors were collaborators. And fourth, since the Romans were pagan Gentiles, tax collectors were considered ‘unclean’ through their regular interaction with them. Tax collectors weren’t noted for their religious devotion. And yet Jesus ate and drank with tax collectors and called them to repentance. One of his disciples had been a tax collector and in Luke 19 we read of how the life of a chief tax collector called Zacchaeus was completely turned round. In this parable we see a tax collector full of sorrow for sin.
The commentators draw our attention to some unusual things about the language in verses 13&14:
i) “God have mercy on me a sinner.” The Greek is difficult to capture. This could be translated, “God be propitiated” (footnote Revised Version) or “God make atonement for me”. What does this mean? The language is that of sacrifice and being cleansed from sin through sacrifice. The tax collector may be thinking of the sacrifices offered in the temple but Jesus would be the ultimate sacrifice for sin. The same Greek word is used in Hebrews 2:17 ‘make atonement’ and a related one in Rom 3:25, Heb 9:25, and I John 2:2 and 4:10: ‘This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.’
ii) Literally the tax collector says, “God have mercy on me, the sinner.” (RV footnote again) He may well consider himself the worst of sinners.
iii) “justified” v14. We may be familiar with this word from the letters of Paul but here we find Jesus using it. To be justified is a legal term and means to be declared righteous, not guilty, innocent. It was the humble tax collector who asked God to make atonement for his sins who went home right with God rather than the proud Pharisee.
Which one are we like? If we’re proud and contemptuous of others this parable is a warning to us. If we are deeply conscious of our sin and perhaps feel cast down this parable tells us that it’s possible to be right with God through Jesus Christ. Draw near then to God today.
Reflection day 84- ‘Come to me, all you who are wearied and burdened’
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
Maybe today you feel weighed down and worn out. There are responsibilities you cannot possibly fulfil and requirements you cannot hope to keep and other pressures too. You are desperate not just for a respite but for proper rest.
In these verses Jesus gives an invitation and a promise that would seem arrogant and ridiculous on the lips of anybody else. Whoever you are and however many of you there might be, Jesus promises he can personally give rest to you all.
We have probably seen a picture of a yoke on a pair of oxen or a milkmaid perhaps. The yoke was meant to spread the load and make pulling or carrying a weight easier. In Jesus’ day the Old Testament law was often compared to a yoke. Sadly, especially as interpreted by the Pharisees and teachers of the law, it had become a heavy, cumbersome burden (23:2-4).
Jesus asks us to take his yoke upon us. Evidently he does have something for us to do then – but his yoke is easy and his burden is light. How can this be? Doesn’t he tell his disciples in the Sermon on the Mount that their righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees and teachers of the law? (Mt 5:20) For Jesus, pleasing God is not a box-ticking exercise but when he demands thorough-going, heartfelt obedience isn’t he asking something even harder of us? Again, how then can his yoke be easy and his burden light?
The answer is that, Jesus, even though he is the Son of God (11:27), is ‘gentle and humble in heart’. He has not come to stand in judgement of us like some severe headmaster or judge – chapter 12 immediately goes on to give examples of such people. No, as we thought recently, ‘A bruised reed he will not break and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out,’ (12:20). In the gospel as a whole we see that Jesus has come to bring forgiveness of sins (26:28) and that he promises that he himself will be with us as we seek to carry out his commands (28:20). So we fulfil his commands in an atmosphere not of judgement but of love, mercy and grace.
‘Come to me,’ Jesus says to us here. Come to him, then, to gentle, humble Jesus. Come to him for forgiveness, help and rest.
Reflection day 85- Our private prayer life
From Paul Barton, one of our church workers
Matthew 6: 5-8 – ‘And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
Our passage today is from the Sermon on the Mount. In chapter 6 Jesus expects His followers to maintain the practices of almsgiving, prayer, and fasting. The expectation of giving to the needy is clear – ‘when you give to the needy’ – no ifs or buts but ‘when’ (6:2). Jesus similarly expects the same when it comes to fasting – ‘When you fast…’ (v16). Jesus addresses prayer as a routine part of Christian devotion in today’s passage, v5. What Matthew Henry says about Matthew 6:5–8 could well be said about giving to the needy as well as fasting: “You may as soon find a living man who does not breathe, as a living Christian who does not pray.”
When it comes to prayer how should we pray? Jesus contrasts two types of behaviour. He firstly states in v5 – …do not be like the hypocrites… Jesus wants us to move away from hypocrisy. Hypokrites, the Greek word behind the English hypocrite, referred to an actor who would put on a mask in order to change characters. Christ is giving us a big warning here as He doesn’t want us to pretend to be someone other than who we are when we pray (give – v2 and fast – v16). The religious activity in Jesus’ day would have involved men praying aloud in the synagogue and they would speak with lofty phrases and false solemnity. A trumpet would sound at different points in the day, the locals would hear this call to prayer and people would cease what they were doing, face Jerusalem, and then pray. All who prayed would be noticed by the public. These hypocrites would ‘act up’ and their religious activity would be on show for all to see. Their motivation to pray was to receive the praise of the audience (men KJV).
In v6 Jesus describes the behaviour of His disciples when they pray. ‘Jesus’ solution to this problem is a robust personal prayer life’. Public prayer in the early church was not forbidden and they understood that (Acts 4: 23–31), but prayers prayed for the sole purpose of impressing other people was. ‘We do not pray to sound pious, make a point, or further an agenda. Prayer is a time for praying, not preaching.’
In v7 we see a caution that Jesus gives – ‘…do not keep on babbling like pagans…’. This is a reference to the attempts of pagans to manipulate the gods through lengthy, but meaningless words. The length of prayers in not the issue (cf. Luke 18:1–8 – perseverance in prayer), but the intent. The Father is aware of our needs before we come to Him in prayer (v8), therefore, simple, direct, and sincere prayers are sufficient. When we pray we must remember that we can’t “force” our heavenly Father to respond because of the ‘many words’ in our prayers or a particular method we are following.
John Chrysostom said, we pray “not to inform God or instruct him but to beseech him closely, to be made intimate with him, by continuance in supplication; to be humbled; to be reminded of our sins”. I was challenged recently by this question and remark: How much time do you spend praying in private? If you pray in public more than you do in private, you might be more concerned with how others see you than with how God sees you.
Reflection day 86- Neither poverty nor riches
7 ‘Two things I ask of you, Lord;
do not refuse me before I die:
8 keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
9 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, “Who is the Lord?”
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonour the name of my God.’ (Proverbs 30:7-9)
Another gloomy economic forecast was published yesterday but we didn’t really need to be told. We know that the lockdown, however justified, has had a serious impact on business in the UK. The Government is also going to have to find the money to repay the large amounts it’s borrowed to support working people through the furlough scheme etc. That is likely to affect us all whether our job is in the private or public sector, whether we’re a stay-at-home mum, a student or retired. Some people have already found themselves made redundant. At the same time others will come out of this episode better off. For a few it may even have been a particularly profitable season.
In this situation and with so much still uncertain it is worth reminding ourselves of Agur’s prayer in Proverbs 30.
Financially Agur asks not so much for a happy medium but a safe one. He recognises that both poverty and riches bring temptations.
In the case of riches there is the temptation to think we don’t need the LORD. We can buy pleasure and insure ourselves against sickness and other misfortunes (at least we think we can). We may deny God’s existence and persuade ourselves that we will never have to give an account of our life to him. Alternatively we may embrace a god who’s more tolerant of the sins we wish to indulge than the God of the Bible. We live in a wealthy part of the world and are bombarded with adverts for everything from ready meals to mobile phones, from children’s toys to kitchens to cars. Jesus warned his disciples however about the danger of riches – in his parables of the sower (‘the deceitfulness of riches’), the rich farmer, the rich man and Lazarus, after his encounter with the rich young ruler, in the Sermon on the Mount and on numerous other occasions.
But poverty also presents strong temptations. When the bills are mounting up, when our creditors are threatening us, when we’re struggling to feed our family, it is tempting to steal. It might be from the Government (tax evasion or benefit fraud), our employer or a shop, from a stranger or even a friend. It’s so easy to rationalise theft: ‘It’s not much. They won’t miss it,’ ‘I’ll pay it back eventually,’ ‘I’ve done so much for them,’ ‘They have plenty,’ ‘They were born with a silver spoon in their mouth,’ ‘They’re nasty and never deserved all this in the first place.’ At the end of the day, however, stealing is deeply dishonouring to God.
In fact it is this desire to know God and glorify him that moves Agur to pray against the temptations of both riches and poverty. Instead he asks for ‘only my daily bread’. He wants enough – enough to keep him from anxiety, desperation and theft – but no more.
Jesus surely had Agur’s saying in mind when he taught his disciples to pray, ‘Give us this day our daily bread’ (Matthew 6:11). And riches and poverty are also some of the things to be aware of when we pray, ‘Lead us not into temptation,’ (Matthew 6:13). These then are prayers for us to pray with faith and fervency at this concerning time.
Reflection day 87- The fall of a king
From David Mortimer, one of our church elders
Please read 1 Kings 11 vv. 1-13
David Mortimer writes today:
I ended last Friday’s Reflection with these words: ‘Solomon started well, as he humbled himself and looked to God for help. May we do so in our own lives day by day’. Solomon’s request for wisdom had pleased the Lord, who blessed the king mightily during the following years, as we see in 1 Kings chapters 4 – 10.
Solomon’s fame spread far and wide, so much so that the Queen of Sheba travelled many miles to check out whether what she had heard about him was actually true. She was overwhelmed by what she saw, exclaiming; ‘I did not believe these things until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half was told me; in wisdom and wealth you have far exceeded the report I heard. How happy your people must be! … Praise be to the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on the throne of Israel.’ (1 Kings 10 vv. 7-9)
If only the story of Solomon had ended there! It doesn’t, though, for, as we go into chapter 11 we see ‘however’, as the third word in verse 1. This is a small word which introduces a big problem that King Solomon had – that his heart was not fully committed to the LORD. After all of the blessings that he had enjoyed, wouldn’t you have expected him to remain faithful to the One who had provided them? Yet Solomon, who had started so well, did not continue to walk in the ways God had directed; he allowed himself to be distracted, to be influenced by others, and was disobedient to the clear teachings of God’s Law.
In verse 2 we see that Solomon disobeyed a clear command of God, not once, but many times, by marrying foreign women, possibly to cement strategic alliances, and these ‘wives led him astray’(verse 3). He was no longer wholeheartedly following the LORD God of Israel, now he was worshipping a plurality of foreign gods, idols, a practice that he would not have countenanced in his younger days. The Bible pulls no punches concerning his conduct – verse 6 tells us that ‘So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the LORD; he did not follow the LORD completely, as David his father had done’.
This is a sad and solemn end to a great king’s glorious reign, and the narrative becomes even more distressing to read, for in verse 8 we see that ‘the LORD became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice.’ A charge sheet was brought by the LORD against him, and Solomon was found guilty of not keeping God’s covenant and decrees. Because of his gross sin, Solomon’s magnificent kingdom would be torn in two; never again would the nation know the peace and blessing that it had enjoyed for these golden years. Solomon was found wanting; he had not followed God wholeheartedly, and slipped further and further into sin.
Solomon started well, but the consequences of his straying from the right path would be felt over many generations in the years to come. Whatever stage we have reached in life, we too can so easily be led astray, or not do what God requires; are we wholehearted in our service for the LORD? Are we obeying His commandments as we ought, living lives that honour Him, and bringing glory to His Name, such that people want to know more? Or are we compromising, worshipping the idols of the world, that don’t bring satisfaction, only judgement?
The LORD will give us strength as we look to Him, recognising our weakness; He will help us throughout our lives, not only to begin well, but to end well too.
Finally, what of Solomon – did he repent? Many scholars believe that the book of Ecclesiastes was written by Solomon, just before his death, and that the final words of that book give us a clue (see Ecclesiastes 12 vv. 13-14).
Reflection day 88- Great is your faithfulness
‘Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.’ (Lamentations 3:22-23)
Diamonds are dug from dark mines and it is in the middle of the book of Lamentations, which laments the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians, that we find these words of comfort and hope. Clive directed us to the same words sixty days ago (Day 28). Today I want to do little more than remind you of a great hymn based on v23. It will, I know, be familiar and precious to many of you – ‘Great is Thy faithfulness’. This declaration of confidence in Lamentations (as we have it in the language of the King James Version of the Bible) begins the hymn and is then repeated in the chorus.
A few words about the author: Thomas Chisholm was born in a log cabin on a small farm in Kentucky in the USA in 1866. He became, at the age of 16, the teacher at the same country school in which he had received his own primary education. At the age of 22 he became the editor of a weekly newspaper called The Franklin Favourite and at the age of 27 he went to report on a meeting at which an evangelist called Dr H C Morrison was preaching. A short-time afterwards he was converted. He served for a short time as a Methodist minister and then as an insurance agent. His health was fragile for most of his life but he nevertheless lived to the age of 94 and died in 1960. Chisholm composed many poems and ‘Great is Thy faithfulness’ was one these, written in 1923. No special occasion inspired it; rather, Chisholm reflected on the gracious character of the God he knew and trusted, the God revealed to him in Jesus Christ. The tune we still sing today was composed by a friend of Chisholm’s, Dr William Runyan, a Methodist minister.
As well as Lamentations 3:23 Chisholm takes up words from James 1:17:
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. (KJV)
And in v2 there is a reference to Genesis 8:22:
‘As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
summer and winter,
day and night
will never cease.’
No doubt we could find other allusions too but here are the words of this beautiful hymn:
Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee,
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not,
As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!
Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above;
Join with all nature in manifold witness,
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside.
Reflection day 89- God willing
‘Many are the plans in a person’s heart,
But it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.’ (Proverbs 19:21)
Every time I turn over a page of my week-to-view diary I see meetings and events that have been cancelled or postponed indefinitely. That holiday we were looking forward to at the end of the month is a no-go and some of you have had scheduled medical treatment delayed until – who knows when? And what of other things in the future – exams, jobs, church services? So much is uncertain now.
The truth contained in this verse in Proverbs should humble us. God is sovereign over everything that happens and can turn our plans upside down. James, in his letter warns us against arrogance:
Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ (4:13-15)
In old writings you will sometimes find the letters D.V. attached to future plans. They are an abbreviation of ‘Deo Volente’, in Latin, ‘God willing’.
And yet this truth should also profoundly comfort us.
First there are certainly wicked people making evil plans but the LORD Almighty is able with ease to frustrate them. There are numerous examples of this in Scripture: In the OT Pharaoh, Sennacherib (the great Assyrian King who besieged Jerusalem), Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon, the enemies of Daniel and Nehemiah and so on; In the NT King Herod the Great (Matthew 2), King Herod Agrippa (Acts 12), and countless enemies of the apostle Paul. Remember this if you are alarmed at the power that corrupt men and women wield in the world today.
Second our own plans might actually be sinful or foolish. How often would ‘getting our own way’ be a disaster?! The LORD sent Abigail to keep David from murdering Nabal and David himself praised God for her intervention. The LORD prevented Jonah from fleeing to Tarshish and in Nineveh forced him to confront his own prejudice and bitterness. Peter thought he was ready to die for Jesus but was unnerved by the accusation of a servant girl. What took place was ultimately very much for the good of Peter’s soul.
This leads us to say thirdly that God may have something better for us than what we have planned. In fact he always does have. He only frustrates our plans to give us something better instead. No doubt Ruth had all kinds of plans when she was married but sadly before she was able to have children her husband died. In time, however, she would be given a godly and loving husband and become the great grandmother of King David himself. We read that Paul and his companions were ‘kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia’. And, ‘When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.’ (Acts 16:6&7) The Lord Jesus had another ministry for them which would involve crossing continents and cultures and preaching the gospel for the first time in Europe.
It’s a comfort that it is the good LORD’s purpose that prevails. We need to recognise this and trust him and acknowledge too that all our plans are ‘God willing’.
Reflection day 90- The touch of love
From Paul Barton, one of our church workers
Matthew 8: 1-4 – When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. 2 A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” 3 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. 4 Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”
As you read through Matthew’s gospel we see that he draws a comparison between Moses and Jesus. One example is when Jesus, like Moses, was in mortal danger shortly after His birth (see Exodus 1:8–2:10 & Matthew 2: 16–18). Take some time today looking at the following passages:
Exodus 19:20-23:33 & Matthew 5-7 – Two laws delivered on a mountain. Jesus was not Moses’ equal but was his superior. Jesus taught with His own authority and Moses could not (Matthew 7: 28-29).
In our passage today we read that Jesus came down from the mountainside (v1). His purpose was to cleanse His people after declaring His Father’s will (8:1–4). Our passage shows again that Jesus Christ is better than Moses, who came down from a mountain with instructions that could only declare them “unclean” (Ex. 34:29; Lev. 13:1–8).
The Mosaic law pronounces that a person is unclean if they have leprosy. We must also remember that the leper in our passage today would have lived in a leper colony or lived in isolation and therefore he would have been cut off from his community (cf. Lev. 13:45–46). Think about it for a moment, in that time lepers are outcasts, so to approach Jesus for the purpose to be healed, is an act of audacity. Despite that counter cultural move, the leper displays faith, not arrogance, when he kneels before Christ. Bold and humble he is convinced of the Saviour’s power. He must have heard of the healing power of Jesus so therefore he goes to Jesus as his only hope. The leper humbly asks Jesus to make him clean if he is willing, v2. He wants Jesus to exercise His healing touch. This should bring you comfort today as it is an example of how all can come before Christ.
Jesus’ words have healing power (8: 5–13), but He chose to show tender loving care with a touch. He reached out his hand and touched the man, v3. The combination of the touch and Jesus’ words – Be clean! produced immediate cleansing for the leper. One commenter explains helpfully, contact with a leper should render Jesus ceremonially unclean (Numbers 5: 1–4), but He is not defiled. Instead, His contact purifies the diseased man (8:3–4), showing Him to be the fulfilment of the Law.
The great power of our Lord Jesus Christ was displayed in that miracle. Only God can work wonderful miracles like this. Jesus not only heals diseases, but His mission was to cleanse all His people of their sins. Friends come to Christ today if you haven’t and confess your sins to Him because He is faithful and just and will forgive you of all your unrighteousness.
Not all diseases and illnesses will be cured before Jesus Christ returns to consummate His Kingdom. But we can go to Him for daily cleansing and look forward to when He will make all things new in the new heavens and earth.