Holy worship (artifacts and priests)

21 02 2011

DAY FIFTY-TWO : Exodus 29 v. 1 – 30 v. 38; Mark 6 v. 6b-29; Proverbs 5 v. 15 – 23

Consecrating the Priests : bull, two rams, bread, cakes and wafers offered; Aaron and sons washed with water (ritual cleansing), then dressed with the ephod, breastpiece, turban, diadem; anointed with oil and established as priests.

Aaron and sons lay hands on the bull before it is slaughtered at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting; the blood is put on the altar; the fat is burned on the altar; the rest is burned outside the camp. All this as a sin offering.

Aaron and sons lay hands on one of the rams before it is slaughtered; the blood is put on the altar side; the entire ram is burnt on the altar. All this is a burnt offering (‘a pleasing aroma’).

Aaron and sons lay hands on the other ram before it is slaughtered (the ordination ram); the blood is put on Aaron’s (and sons’) right earlobe, right-hand thumb and big toe (Eek!), then sprinkled on the altar-sides; oil and blood sprinkled on Aaron’s (and sons’) garments; the fat and some bread, cake and wafer is a wave offering (‘wave them before the Lord’) before being a burnt offering (‘a pleasing aroma’); the ram’s breast is a wave offering too (these bits, breast and thigh, are a regular share for the priests).

The sacred garments are to be passed down to Aaron’s offspring for their ordination.

The ordination ram, and the bread, are to be cooked and eaten by Aaron and his sons (no-one else can eat them, and nothing can be left to the next day)
Ordination is a seven day celebration, with a bull sacrifice offered every day (as an atoning sin offering).
Every day, two yearling lambs are to be offered – a pleasing offering.
This is laid down for generations to come.

“There I will meet you and speak to you; there also I will meet with the Israelites, and the place will be consecrated by my glory.”
“I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. They will know that I am the Lord their God…”
Altar of Incense : a gilded acacia wood altar, with poles etc. for carrying; to be situated in front of the curtain covering the Ark; so, only Aaron is permitted to offer incense (daily) on that altar; nothing else to be offered on this altar (except for a once-a-year atonement sprinkle of blood). “It must be holy to the Lord”.Atonement Money / Tabernacle Tax : a census count will yield money from each Israelite (as a ransom for life); 1/2 shekel from each person over the age of twenty (whether rich or poor); it is to be used to service the Tent of Meeting.

Bronze Lavar / Basin for Washing : situated between the Tent of Meeting and the altar; Aaron and his sons are to wash their hands and feet every time they enter or sacrifice, as the priests need to be cleansed before entering the presence of God.

John Wesley wrote of this verse:
“They then had a laver for the priests only….but to us now there is a fountain opened….an inexhaustible fountain of living water, so that it is our own fault if we remain in our pollution.”

Anointing Oil
 : the recipe for the anointing oil (myrrh, cinnamon, cane, cassia and olive oil) is specific and not to be duplicated; it is a sacred, holy oil, and is to sanctify all the artifacts and Aaron and his sons;

Incense : spices (gum, onycha, galbanum, frankincense) blended together, pure and sacred, powdered, in front of the Tent of Meeting; again, holy and not to be duplicated.

I have loved the precision of the recipes etc., the consecrated furniture and garments, a holy presence.

Sending out the twelve :
sent out two-by-two, with authority over evil spirits, from village to village; taking nothing for the journey (except a staff – like Moses?); they are to depend entirely upon God and on the hospitality of others; ‘shake the dust off your feet’, at places they’re not welcomed; the disciples succeed in driving out demons and healing the sick.

The disciples are beginning their ministry, before fully comprehending who it is they are serving; sent out in twos, learning to share ministry in little teams.

Baptist beheaded :
Jesus is being spoken of as John the Baptist, Elijah, a prophet; Herod, himself, believes Him to be John risen from the dead (and so we get the story of the beheading, at the hands of Herod’s wife and daughter); Herod is upset, and has not really found fault with John (similar to Jesus’s death under Pilate).

The blessings of water;
“May your fountain be blessed….
  a man’s ways are in full view of the Lord, and He examines all his paths.”


Twelve times table ?

21 02 2011
DAY FIFTY-ONE : Exodus 27 v. 1 – 28 v. 43; Mark 5 v. 21 – 6 v. 6a; Psalm 24 v. 1 – 10;


he Altar for burnt offerings : squared acacia wood, with a horn at each corner; bronze plated; all the utensils made of bronze; poles to make it transportable;
The Courtyard : a rectangle area (100 cubits x 50 cubits) screened off with curtains and posts; an elaborate entrance with blue, purple and scarlet yarns finely twisted;
Oil for the Lampstand : clear olive oil to be used for the lamps; keep the lamps burning outside the Holy of Holies, the lamps are to remain lit from evening to morning;

The Priestly Garments :
Aaron and sons to be set apart as priests and to wear sacred garments; using gold, blue, purple and scarlet yarn;
The Ephod :
this is a multicoloured apron-like garment to cover the lower part of the body; two onyx stones containing the engraved names of the twelve tribes to be fastened to the ephod’s shoulder straps;
The Breastplate :
this is attached to the ephod, and its purpose is to aid making decisions; multicoloured yarns; precious stones inlaid, twelve engraved stones to represent the tribes of Israel; gold rings and fasteners to link to the ephod; Aaron will bear the names of Israel’s sons when he enters the Holy Place; the Urim and Thummin (sacred dice-like items for casting lots) and also built into the breastplate, over the heart (‘bearing the means of making decisions for the Israelites over his heart before the Lord.’) 
Other Priestly Garments :
the ephod robe made of blue cloth – I like the idea of the pomegranates and golden bells along the hem of the robe – so you / God can hear Aaron going in and out of the Holy Place; a gold plate engraved with “HOLY TO THE LORD” to be worn over the turban on his forehead (Aaron will ‘bear the guilt involved in the sacred gifts the Israelites consecrate’); tunics and turbans of fine linen, and embroidered sashes for Aaron and his sons, who are to be anointed, ordained and consecrated;
Oh, and don’t forget the underwear, covering modesty and avoiding any guilt !!  

(Check out the paintings of the life of Jesus on the website for Prof. M. M. Ninan :
this one’s called ‘Talitha Koum’)


Jairus’ daughter and the woman with bleeding
On the lakeside again, a large crowd is pressing in around Jesus.
Synagogue ruler, Jairus, comes and begs Jesus to visit his sick daughter, believing He could heal her.
Jesus starts towards Jairus’ house.
The woman, who has been bleeding for twelve years (and has tried all the doctors and treatments under the sun (except the Son !!)), touches the hem of Jesus’ cloak (she is undoubtedly ashamed of her ‘uncleanness’, and doesn’t want any attention drawing to herself). Jesus recognises ‘power has gone out of Him’ and stops the crowd to ask who touched Him. The disciples think the question is bizarre since so many are crowding Him.
The woman falls at Jesus’ feet and tells her story. She has her faith commended by Jesus, and is blessed as she goes, healed.

The news arrives that Jairus’ daughter has died, but Jesus presses on, stating, “Do not be afraid, just believe”.
Taking his inner circle of disciples and Jairus and his wife, he pushes through the grieving crowd, claiming the girl is simply sleeping (Jesus is mocked for this claim), and speaks over the girl, “Talitha Koum – Little girl, get up”. The girl is revived, gets up and walks about – Jesus sees it has been hungry work for her, and asks them to get her some food – He thinks of everything.
I don’t know quite how He expects them to keep this one quiet though – there’s a grieving crowd just outside the door.

I was intrigued by the woman’s twelve years of bleeding, and the twelve year old girl revived through Jesus’ healing; both stories show that the power of Jesus is sufficient when human resources fail

A Prophet Without Honour – back in His hometown, Jesus realises that all those who’ve known Him as He’s grown up amongst them struggle to be taught by Him, to accept His miraculous works. “Isn’t this the carpenter ? Isn’t this Mary’s son ?” (although his brothers and sisters are mentioned, there’s no Joseph by this stage in Jesus’ life).
It’s in His hometown that a ‘prophet is without honour’, and there’s a distinct lack of faith.

“The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.”
“Who may ascend the hill of the Lord ?
 Who may stand in His Holy Place ?
 He who has clean hands and a pure heart..”
A psalm of praise to the King of glory, and a desire for His holiness, His life in ours. A need for our purity and holiness, only possible through Him, the Lord Almighty…

My recreated thoughts :

Twelve sons of Israel
Twelve years of bleeding, healed
Twelve year old daughter, revived
Count to twelve…….
God is always blessing His people,
healing and reviving.
Lord, bless, heal and revive us today.

Peace, be still….God is with us, fear not.

19 02 2011

DAY FIFTY – Exodus 25 v. 1 – 26 v. 37; Mark 4 v. 30 – 5 v. 20; Psalm 23 v. 1 – 6

The Tabernacle – everyone contributes something for the sanctuary – different coloured cloths, animal skins, wood, oil, spices, stones and gems – “and I will dwell among them”.
The Ark – a chest of acacia wood, gold covered, poles to transport it, to contain the Testament; an atonement cover, again gold-plated, with a golden cherub at either end; “there, above the cover….between the cherubim…I will meet with you and give you all my commands for the Israelites.”
The Table
– slightly smaller than the Ark; also gold-plated, and with poles to transport it; all the plates and bowls etc. to be made of gold; “Put the bread of the Presence on this table to before me at all times.”
The Lampstand – gold, of course; three branches either side, with three flowers on each; more flowers on the stand under each pair of branches; God provides the pattern for them, and instructs that all the lamps, trimmers and trays be made of pure gold.

The Tabernacle –  ten curtains (blue, purple and scarlet twisted linen); loops and clasps to fasten them together to make the tabernacle one unit; eleven goat-hair curtains fastened together to go over the tabernacle (with a front piece); two extra coverings for the tent (one of ram skins, one of sea cows;
Upright frames of acacia wood; frames and bases as specified; crossbars of acacia wood; everything overlaid with gold; another curtain (blue, purple and scarlet twisted linen) to separate the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place (which contains the Ark of the Testimony and atonement cover); the table is for outside (north) the curtain, with the lampstand the opposite side (south) of the curtain; an entrance curtain (same colours) is added, too.

For the forty years travelling the wilderness, the tabernacle is entirely portable, and symbolises the presence of God in the midst of His people (previously on top of the mountain).

Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed – the Kingdom of God may appear small to us at first, but like the smallest seed, it will grow into the largest of all garden plants, shading birds from the heat; parables are a major teaching tool for Jesus, giving people something to think about, to work out; Jesus fills the disciples in on the meanings, when He has them alone.
Jesus calms the storm – Jesus sleeps as a violent storm chops up the waters on Galilee; when woken, He simply speaks, “Quiet! (Peace) Be still !”. The wind dies down and it’s calm. The disciples had asked if hadn’t cared they were about to drown. Jesus asks why they have such little faith. The disciples are still trying to work out exactly who Jesus is, “even the wind and the waves obey him!”

Healing the demon-possessed man – Jesus and the disciples encounter a very strong possessed man; he falls at Jesus’ feet and the evil spirit begs Jesus not to torture it; Jesus commands the spirit to leave the man, but asks its name – “Legion”, indicating many spirits, comes the reply. The demons are sent into a herd of pigs, as they, themselves request; (interesting that Jesus gives permission for them to enter the pigs – the demons are under Jesus’ authority at this point).
The pigs drown in the lake.
The people plead with Jesus to leave them alone, when the story is told of all that has happened.
The healed man wants to go with Jesus, but He tells him to stay and tell his story (in a place which had sent Jesus away; whilst Jesus tries to silence people amidst places where His renown is spreading fast). All who hear the man’s story are amazed.

Perhaps the most loved of all the psalms, speaking of the protection and peace God grants to those He shepherds and guides in life. Even the shadow of death, the dark valley, can be endured without fear, “for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”
I love the promise in v. 5 and 6 of the banquet being prepared by the Lord Himself, the anointing with oil which is upon us, the goodness and mercy which attend us all through our lives, and the promise of dwelling with God, in His house, for ever.

My recreated thoughts:
The pastoral picture of being led by quiet waters (not the stormy waters, as in our gospel reading today), and our souls being restored (caring as much about the detail of our lives, our souls, as the detail of the tabernacle in our Exodus readings), is a beautiful one.

To the troubled waters – Peace, be still
To the tortured mind – Peace, be still
To the gathered community – Peace, be still
To the lone walker – Peace, be still
To our fears and distresses – Peace, be still
To all creation – Peace, be still

Keep the feasts !! Abundant feasts !!

18 02 2011

DAY FORTY-NINE : Exodus 23 v. 1 – 24 v. 18; Mark 3 v. 31 – 4 v. 29; Psalm 22 v. 22 – 31

EXODUS 23 – great ‘laws’ about not spreading malicious untruths, about taking back an enemy’s stray donkey, or helping him with his sick ox; don’t get involved in false charges; don’t accept bribes; don’t oppress foreigners (aliens, again !).
Sabbath – leave the land (including vineyards and olive groves) unploughed in its seventh year (offer its produce to the poor). Rest on the seventh day (and your household). Be careful to keep these rules, and don’t entertain other ‘gods’.

FEAST OF UNLEAVENED BREAD – annual celebration remembering the exodus from Egypt, involving eating yeast-free bread for seven days.
FEAST OF HARVEST – when the firstfruits are presented to God.
FEAST OF INGATHERING – at the end of the year, when all is gathered.

everyone to celebrate these festivals, offering just what is prescribed, “the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God.”

(not sure about the need to implore people not to cook a young goat in its mother’s milk – who would do such a thing !!)

There is an angel provided by God to lead the way (‘my Name is in him’), and there will be signs (e.g. hornets) to show how God will remove, bit by bit, the Amorites, Hittites (etc. etc.) from the land, to fulfil His promise to let them dwell there. The Israelites are not form any pact or covenant with these peoples and are not to entertain their gods.

EXODUS 24 –  When Moses returns to the people, and tells them all God’s said, they proclaim their allegiance with one voice, “Everything the Lord has said we will do.” Hoorah !!
Moses builds an altar next morning at the foot of the mountain – and twelve stone pillars representing the twelve tribes.
Burnt offerings and fellowship offerings are sacrifices (bulls).
The Book of the Covenant is read and everyone says “Yes”!
The people are sprinkled with ‘the blood of the covenant’ (cp Jesus’ ‘blood of the new covenant’).
The leaders go up and ‘see God’ – standing on a pavement of sapphire, as clear as sky.
Moses and his assistant, Joshua, go up the mountain to collect the stone tablets with the law written on.
Moses is on the mountain for six days before he’s called into the cloud of God’s presence, where he stays for forty days and nights (took some time to sort the tablets of stone….think how much shorter time would have been had Moses had all the communication gadgets available to us today…emailed in a matter of seconds !!).

It is interesting to me to note the blood of the covenant sprinkled over the people after giving their wholehearted assent to the laws God’s giving, and the link to the new covenant in Jesus’s blood. The forty days and nights in God’s presence on the mountains, and Jesus’s forty day excursion into the wilderness. These are momentous events in the old testament.

MARK – Yesterday, Jesus’s family were concerned for His mental well-being; here, today, they are struggling to get to Him (maybe they still want to ‘control Him’). Jesus’ words sound harsh (especially for His family), but He is being radically inclusive here, inviting anyone who does the will of God to be family with Him.

Parable of the Sower – again, as in Matthew’s gospel, this fantastic story, drawing us into considering the lay of the land in our lives, to receive God’s word and bear fruit, is told on a boat to the crowds on the shore. Later, his disciples get His ‘meaning’.

I found myself reflecting on the Israelites’ unanimous “Yes” to God when presented with the commandments, but knowing that some will have ‘ears to hear’, and others will be like the path, others like the rocky soil, others like thorny ground. Not much has changed. Will the soil of our heart be clear enough for God’s word to take root, grow and bear fruit – and see what abundant fruit grows in the good soil.
Oh Lord, clear the ground. Give me ears to hear.

Don’t hide the light – let it shine – it’s there to expose darkness.
Be careful what you listen to.
You will get what you dish out.

The farmer sows the seed, but then waits for it to grow – stalk, ear, then grain – before taking up the sickle to harvest it.
In the Kingdom, God sows, and patiently waits. There will be a harvest !

PSALM – God is to be praised for His faithfulness to His people, descendants of Jacob, of Israel. He feeds the poor, those who seek Him will live for ever, all people will come to praise Him, He rules over every nation. The past and the future will be filled with praise, rich feasting, humble bowed-down worship. Hallelujah.

My recreated thoughts :

Lord of harvest, grant that we
Wholesome grain and pure may be!


18 02 2011

DAY FORTY-EIGHT : Exodus 21 v. 1 – 22 v. 31; Mark 2 v. 18 – 3 v. 30; Proverbs 5 v. 1 – 14

EXODUS 21 – Okay, now we’re into all sorts of ‘laws’.

Firstly around how to treat servants, setting them free in their seventh year, redeeming those who displease their master, making permanent servants of those who make their home (get a wife and have children) within the master’s household. There’s protection, too, for the servant who is married off to the master’s son, even if he marries someone else.

Secondly, ‘personal injuries’ (oh, how I detest those Personal Injury Claim adverts!!). Premeditated, planned murder is to lead to a death sentence (it’s for the judges to decide if it’s unintentional, in which case the murderer is banished).
Death sentence for : attacking parents, kidnapping, cursing parents.
Compensation for : injured person’s loss of time
Punishment for attacking a slave if he dies, but no punishment if he recovers (‘since the slave is his property’)
v. 23 : “life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot……” – there it is in print. I remember my Hebrew professor telling us that this was more to limit the punishment (i.e. you can’t inflict further injury on someone beyond what they’ve done to you). Of course, Jesus goes further in His teaching, using this verse to lead His disciples beyond it to a place of turning the other cheek (Matt. 5).
Freedom is the correct compensation for a servant who is wounded by her / his master.
A bull that attacks and kills a person is to be put to death. The owner might also be put to death if the animal has injured others and the owner has taken no steps to prevent it happening again.
30 shekels is the compensation price to the master of a slave who has been gored to death by a bull.
Compensation is to be paid if someone digs a pit and an animal owned by another falls into it – I loved the phrase, “he must pay (the animal owner) for the loss, but the dead animal will be his” – how to get your very own dead donkey!!

EXODUS 22 – Property is to be protected by laws. There’s a four (or five) fold payback for stealing a sheep (or ox); if a thief is hit and dies whilst breaking in, the defender is not guilty of murder, unless it’s in daylight (giving the defender some benefit of the doubt); a thief will be sold into slavery if he is unable to pay back what he’s stolen; payback if your animals graze on another person’s land; payback for arson attacks; the judges to decide on difficult cases of possessions which have been lent and lost or stolen, or of lost livestock turning up in someone else’s flocks; difficult cases, too, where an animal is placed in safekeeping with another and comes to harm; if an animal is hired, the cost of the hire should cover any loss.

Social responsibility – bride-price to be paid for sleeping with a virgin, unbetrothed, and she will become the man’s wife (unless her father forbids it); death penalty for sorceresses, for those who do ‘inappropriate things’ with animals, sacrificing to other gods; there’s protection, however, for the alien (from another region, not necessarily another planet….but who knows !), widows and orphans (severe punishment for those who take advantage of the vulnerable); lend without interest (don’t be like those nasty moneylenders); don’t blaspheme God, or your ruler; give to God; don’t eat bad meat!
“You are to be my holy people.”

There it is – all these rules are to establish the Israelites as God’s chosen, holy people. The significance of many of the laws is that there is limited ‘restitution’ (putting right the injury committed) rather than vengeance. There are severe consequences for doing what God has forbidden. Holiness is what sets God’s people apart.

MARK – Jesus tackles the issue of why His disciples aren’t fasting, like John’s. He says that His disciples will fast when He (the bridegroom) is no longer with them…
Something new is happening (new wine in new wine skins), and it won’t fit into the old skins.
When the Pharisees challenge Jesus on His picking of corn on the Sabbath, He reminds them that “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath….the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
When the Pharisees are ready to catch Jesus out as He heals on the Sabbath in the synagogue, Jesus asks them a catch-22 question, which traps them in their own trap, and they remain silent.
Jesus feels compassion for the man with the shrivelled hand, but anger at the stubborn hearts of the Pharisees.
And WOW, by the middle of chapter three they are planning how to kill Jesus.

However, He is drawing crowds wherever He goes, and He has a boat ready to get away from the many, many people who are crowding to be healed. Evil spirits react immediately when they come into Jesus’ presence, with a shout of “You are the Son of God” – I guess Jesus doesn’t want the word to be spreading through them, so he gives strict orders that they tell no-one.
(Note that Jesus doesn’t deny He is the Son of God – there are some who argue that He never said He was – but it does sound pretty emphatic here).

Jesus calls the twelve apostles – it is amazing to think that the Son of God chooses these twelve men to accompany Him, and to become His witnesses, learning from Him. They are a mixed bunch, including Judas, and a reminder that God calls all sorts, and sees potential in people beyond what is obvious to many. How awesome, though, to be called by name, to serve the King of kings.

On another occasion, when Jesus is surrounded by a large crowd, His family want to protect Him (‘to take charge of Him’), worrying for all that is happening, and worrying about His state of mind.
The Pharisees are spreading harmful stories about His being possessed by Beelzebub (prince of demons), because of all this demonic activity wherever Jesus goes. Jesus talks with them about a ‘kingdom divided against itself’ to show that He can’t be demon-possessed to be the one driving out demons. Also, that there is a blasphemy (He will be aware of their charges of blasphemy, claiming to be the Son of God) which denies the work of the Holy Spirit, one He calls an ‘eternal sin’.

It is fascinating for us to see how quickly Jesus has followers and opponents as one and the same time, and how He turns their charges against Him to put the spotlight on them. The Master at work.

PROVERBS – the reader is warned of the dangers of stepping towards adultery, sweet though it may seem initially, it’s the path to death, the grave…..there are choices and consequences, and the WISE ones heed God’s wisdom and insight to ‘maintain discretion’ and ‘preserve knowledge’.

My recreated thoughts :

As you called Your first disciples
In their boats on Galilee
See me standing here, before You,
Saying, “Here I am, send me.”

Ten Commandments…and Jesus’ healing ministry continues

17 02 2011

DAY FORTY-SEVEN : Exodus 19 v. 1 – 20 v. 26; Mark 1 v. 29 – 2 v. 17; Psalm 22 v. 12 – 21

EXODUS 19 – Three months in, they arrive at Sinai. God calls from Mt Sinai. God asks the Israelites to “obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all the nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”
The Israelites pledge their allegiance, “we will do everything the Lord has said.” Ahh, how long will that last?
Something holy and awesome is about to happen – God is paying them a visit on the top of this holy mountain, so the Israelites are consecrated, a period of two days of cleansing and abstainance to prepare for this momentous event. No-one is allowed to step on the mountain for fear of death.
On the third day, God appears in thunder and thick cloud. God descends and Moses ascends to the mountain top. Boundaries are set to protect the people from God’s holiness.

EXODUS 20 – God gives Moses the Ten Commandments.
1 – You shall have no other gods before me.
2 – You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth below
3 – You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God
4 – Keep the Sabbath, rest day
5 – Honour your father and mother
6 – You shall not murder
7 – You shall not commit adultery
8 – You shall not steal
9 – You shall not lie (bear false witness against your neighbour)
10 – You shall not envy, coveting what’s not yours

Matt, our Youth Pastor, was reminding me the other day that there is only one commandment which has a blessing / consequence attached. Making an idol of something else and bowing down to worship it will lead to three or four generations of punishment, whereas God will show love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep His commandments.

The people tremble at the sights and sounds surrounding this fantastic event.
God reiterates His command not to make false idols, and to make a simple and pure earthly altar for sacrificing on.

MARK 1 – Jesus’ healing ministry is well under way already. He heals Simon’s mother-in-law (is Simon really happy about that ?). That evening, the whole town gathers for further healing and deliverance.
Next day, Jesus heads off early for His quiet time – a solitary place. Simon and others find Him and say, “Everyone’s looking for you.” (that’s exactly why he’s stolen away to be on His own with God) to which Jesus replies, “Let’s go elsewhere”. He’s not to be confined to one place, and they are immediately on their way to take the news elsewhere. In every place, Jesus spends time in the synagogues preaching and healing.

“If You are willing, You can make me clean.” – the leper’s words indicate his faith in Jesus, and how ‘unclean’ he feels because of his leprosy. Which is worse, the disease or the way others make him feel about his disease ? Jesus is willing to attack and heal both !
Jesus is ‘filled with compassion’ for the man – always the reaction in Jesus which causes a miracle to occur. The greek word indicates gut-wrenching pangs which identify with the suffering of another / others. 
Although Jesus asks him to keep it quiet, he can’t and it affects Jesus’ ability to go about His ministry – and He had to stay outside the towns, in lonely places. His popularity is increasing already, as chapter one ends.

MARK 2 – Jesus heals the paralysed man, in Capernaum once again. The place is packed, so the paralysed man’s friends take him onto the flat roof, breaking their way in above the crowd and lowering their friend on his stretcher-bed.  In chapter one, the point is made that the leper suffers through both his disease and his uncleanness. Here the point is made between that the paraysed man suffers through his disability and his sin / wrongdoing (although others might like to see a direct connection between the two, i.e. he suffers his disability because of his sin (cp our two weeks in the book of Job !), Jesus is not making that link, but shows His power to attack both ailments !).
Jesus’ talk of forgiving sins upsets the teachers of the law, for in saying this, Jesus identifies Himself as God, hence the charge of blasphemy.
Jesus knows what they’re thinking in their hearts!
All the people are amazed when Jesus’ words of healing and forgiveness enable the man to get up, take up his mat and walk out in front of them. AMAZING.

It’s always been a story of Jesus rewarding the faith of the friends who bring their paralysed friend to Him. “When Jesus saw THEIR faith, He said to the paralysed man….”. It’s a call to radical intercession, of bringing people to Jesus for their healing. Your faith matters !

Jesus calls Levi, from his tax-collector’s booth by the lakeside. How unpopular is this guy, representing the evil Romans, but worse than that, being a traitor Jew ! Levi immediately leaves everything to follow Jesus, and invites all his reprobate friends round for a meal to introduce his new friend. Many of them are beginning to follow Jesus, and the Pharisees are appauled at the company He’s keeping. It’s clear who has the real problem here.
Jesus addresses the Pharisees with important words whick will mark His relationship with them and with the sinners / unclean who are responding in great number…… 

“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”These words should act as a bit of a check to us – with whom do we spend most of our time ? Where do our priorities lie ? Whose company do we crave ?PSALM 22 – this psalm which Jesus quotes on the cross (‘why have you forsaken me’), contains the haunting words,
‘all my bones are out of joint…my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth…a band of evil men has encircled me…they have pierced my hands and my feet…people stare and gloat over me…they divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing….”
all of these phrases indicate the death Jesus is dying on the cross. Amazingly prophetic words.
Even through all this, the psalmist cries out to God for His faithfulness, strength, deliverance and rescue.
‘Come quickly to help me.’

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.