Help is on its way….(and water – from the rock – baptism – fishing)

16 02 2011

DAY FORTY-SIX : Exodus 17 v. 1 – 18 v. 27; Mark 1 v. 1 – 28; Psalm 22 v. 1 – 11

EXODUS 17 – thirsty again in the desert, the people moan and argued with Moses.
“What am I to do with these people?” is Moses’s cry!
Moses is instructed to strike the rock with his staff, and water flows from the rock. Israel’s elders¬†saw this miraculous provision.
First mention of Joshua here, as Moses sends him out to fight the Amalekites.
“As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning…”
Aaron and Hur hold Moses’ hands in the air, to lead Joshua and the Israelites to victory.
Moses builds an altar and calls it, “The Lord is my Banner”, as a reminder of the hands lifted to the Lord’s throne.

EXODUS 18 – Moses is reunited with Jethro (his father-in-law), his wife, Zipporah, and the two sons, who Moses had sent away (for safety?) some time earlier. Moses fills Jethro in on all that has happened. There’s a celebration meal, with Jethro leading the expressions of praise to the Lord for His saving, redeeming work, rescuing the Israelites.
Next day, Jethro observes Moses acting as judge for the people from dawn til dusk.
“Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and laws.”
Jethro is concerned for Moses’ workload – it’s not good for him, and will lead to burn-out.
“The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.”
Jethro’s plan is to raise up ‘officials’ to deal with much of the workload, the easier cases, leaving Moses to deal with the most difficult.
Moses chooses ‘capable men’, and raised them into leadership over tens, fifties, hundreds and thousands, to serve as judges.

What a great visit from the father-in-law – great, practical help offered to Moses, teaching him the art of spotting leaders and delegating.

MARK – Mark begins his gospel, not with a birth narrative, but straight into John the Baptist preparing the way for Jesus. The start of the gospel, good news for Mark, is the start of Jesus’s ministry. Nothing about Jesus before His 30th birthday.
John the Baptist is the forerunner, fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy hundreds of years before. John is offering a ritual cleansing from sin, as people flock to repent and be washed in the waters of baptism in the Jordan.
John is dressed as a desert-dweller, and tells the people to expect one ‘more powerful than I….who will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.”
No mention that John is related to Jesus, but purely that his role is to prepare the people to receive Jesus.

Jesus is baptised by John. Heaven is torn open and the Spirit descends as a dove.

Jesus is immediately sent out into the desert (disappears for a while), where He is tempted by Satan for forty days (no record here of what Jesus’ temptations/wilderness battles were). Wild animals and angels were company for Him in the desert.

John is imprisoned, and Jesus’ ministry around Galilee begins, calling people to repentance.
Simon and Andrew are the first to be called to join Jesus in His mission, turning them from fishermen to fishers of men! They leave everything to follow Jesus. It must have been an awesome moment, the rabbi-teacher figure calling them to join Him (I guess usually people ‘applied’ to join the group of disciples around a rabbi – this is all Jesus’ initiative).
James and John, two more fishermen join the group, leaving their dad, Zebedee to continue their work with the hired men. Bet that went down well ?!?!

(Pictures from Capernaum – remains of the Synagogue where Jesus preached)

On our trip to the Holy Land, we visited Capernaum – amazing archeological site there on the northern shore of Galilee. You can see the remains of the synagogue where this incident in Mark 1 took place.
Not only is Jesus’ teaching different – a weight of authority unlike any other teacher – but when an evil spirit presents itself within a worshipper in the synagogue, proclaiming Jesus to be, “the Holy One of God”, Jesus’ authority is not only in word but in action, too, driving out the spirit (I like the simplicity of Jesus’ response to the spirit,¬†“Be quiet ! Come out of him !”, and with a shudder and a shriek the spirit leaves).
News begins to spread fast.

Mark is straight into the action in chapter one of his gospel – John, baptism, temptations, calling the first disciples and driving out an evil spirit – fast-paced and action packed. That will be the nature of the first chapters of Mark.

PSALM – Oh, these are the words on Jesus’ lips on the Calvary Cross recorded in Matthew’s gospel (read a couple of days ago). The reference in the psalm to the insults and jeering of the people reflects identically the mocking scorn of those close to Jesus’ cross as He hangs, dying. The psalmist knows what it is like to feel abandoned by God, crying out for His presence and His rescue. Yet, already in this psalm, the writer knows that God has been with him from birth, throughout all his life, and he pleads for God to draw near to him in his suffering.
Amen to that.