David fights the Arameans / Peter and John Heal a Man Crippled from Birth: June 6th 2021

2 Samuel 9:1-10:19

David tracked down his deceased friend Jonathan’s disabled son. David was determined to show kindness to someone from the house of Saul for Jonathan’s sake.

Jonathan’s son was called Mephibosheth and David restored to him the land of his grandfather, Saul, and allowed him to always eat at his table.

It is wonderful to spend time considering if there is someone we can help out / be kind to and get on and do it.

The king of the Ammonites died and David sent a delegation to express his sympathy to his son. The Ammonite nobles accused the visiting Israelites of being spies and assaulted them disrespectfully (2 Sam.10:4). The Ammonites realised this had angered David and they hired mercenaries to bolster their army. David sent Joab and his entire army of fighting men against them.

The hired men, Arameans, fled in front of the Israelite army. They eventually regrouped and engaged Israel in battle. David’s army killed a huge number of them (2 Sam.10:18) including the commander of their army. This made smaller nations make peace with the Israelites out of respect for them and the Arameans were too afraid to help the Ammonites any more.

Acts 3:1-26

A man crippled from birth asked Peter and John for money. He didn’t even look at them. He didn’t realise that they, out of all the people passing him by, were now adopted sons of God with the power to heal him. Peter commanded the man to look at them (Acts 3:4). The man finally gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.

Peter said he didn’t have any money ‘but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk’ (Acts 3:6-7). Peter helped the man up and instantly his feet and ankles became strong. The man had never walked for his whole life but was now able to walk, jump and praise God. It was an outstanding miracle and shows that we, as baptized spirit-filled disciples, can also pray powerfully for healing ‘in the name of Jesus’. A crown of onlookers acknowledged the man’s healing and were filled with wonder and amazement.

The place where the healing took place was a temple gate called ‘Beautiful’. Peter and John had seen the beauty in a man created by God, even though he needed healing. The crowd saw the beauty of Jesus’ healing power changing someone’s life for ever. We can encounter someone that needs healing wherever we may travel. The Holy Spirit might whisper to us that we should walk up a different street than usual or go somewhere at a certain time in order to meet someone we can help. Let us boldly seize the chance and not walk on by. A friend of mine specialised in healing strangers in supermarkets. He marched up to a lady one day in the vegetable aisle and said: ‘I can see you have a problem with your leg. I am a Christian, may I pray for you.’ Most people are very grateful for the offer. Everyone likes attention. The lady replied: ‘I didn’t know that I had any problem with my leg but please go ahead anyway’.

Peter asked the crowd why this miracle surprised them. It was not the disciples’ own power or godliness that had healed the man but the authority of Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him (Acts 3:16). Peter reminded the crowd that they had disowned the Holy and Righteous One and killed the author of life (Acts 3: 14-15). So many people in our society today still disown Jesus and allow a murderer, the devil, free access to take up residence within them. The crowd in Jerusalem had acted out of ignorance but modern people are far more guilty. Most are not ignorant of the gospel, they just ignore it and refuse to believe in active rebellion against God.

Peter urged the crowd to repent and turn to God so that their sins would be wiped out (Acts 3:19). When we finally turn to God and become ‘born again’ our whole body and spirit will be refreshed.

Jesus will physically remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything (Acts 3:21) but he spiritually lives in the hearts of all born-again Christians.

Moses had prophesied that Jesus would be raised up from the Jews. All the prophets, from Samuel on, had foretold the appearance of Christ (Acts 3:24). Jesus wants to turn all of us from our wicked ways through the power and encouragement of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus is descended from the original patriarch, Abraham, because God had promised him: ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed’ (Acts 3:25).

Psalm 70:1-5

We can pray for God to hasten to save us. He is our help and our deliverer (Ps.70:5).

Jesus taught us to pray for our enemies (Romans 12:14) in contrast to King David who often wanted his enemies to be shamed / confused and disgraced. However, God will make sure that justice is delivered (Romans 12:19-21).

King David prayed that all who seek God will rejoice and be glad in him.

I love the kind salvation that God has given me and so I proclaim, with David, ‘Let God be exalted!’ (Ps.70:4).

Image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_apostles_Peter_and_John_heal_the_lame_man._Photomechanic_Wellcome_V0034960.jpg

Jephthah battles the Ammonites / Jesus is the Bread of Life: May 10th 2021

Judges 10:1-11:40

The Israelites once again cheated on God and served pagan deities. So God allowed them to be crushed by their enemies. Eventually, the Israelites were in such great distress they cried out to the Lord and confessed their unfaithfulness. At first, God was reluctant to save them again: ‘Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen. Let them save you when you are in trouble!’ (v.14).

However, the desperate Israelites got rid of the foreign gods among them and served the Lord. Then God ‘could bear Israel’s misery no longer’ (v.16).

Jephthah, from Gilead, was a mighty warrior’ (11:1). He was illegitimate and his half-brothers had forced him to flee. A group of individuals gathered around him and, eventually, the elders of Gilead asked him to be their commander, fighting against the Ammonites.

The Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah and he advanced with his army against the Ammonites. He made the unwise vow to the Lord that if God gave his enemies into his hands, he would offer ‘whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return as a burnt sacrifice’ (v.31). What could possibly go wrong?

Jephthah defeated the Ammonites and devastated twenty towns. When he returned to his home, his daughter came out to meet him, dancing with joy to the sound of tambourines. She was an only child. Jephthah was heart-broken. His daughter told him to keep his word to the Lord – but she would like two months to roam the hills and weep with her friends. Jephthah granted this request. She faithfully returned and was sacrificed. This is a strange story as we know that God does not like human sacrifice. God stopped Abraham sacrificing his son Isaac at the last minute. Jephthah should have prayed to God and asked for confirmation that he should go through with this and God would have stopped him. I don’t think it is a good way to pray: Lord if you do this, I will do that. We shouldn’t bargain with God. We should do his work out of our love for him, because he loved us first. We should pray to find out his will in all things and pray for his help, without bargaining, in Jesus’ name. There is nothing we can bargain with. He owns everything already. He wants obedience and faith, not sacrifice.

John 6:25-59

The crowd chased after Jesus to the other side of the lake. They wanted some more of the delicious bread he had multiplied when he had fed the five thousand. However, they should not ‘work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life’ (v.27). Jesus will give us this spiritual food.

For the debate about whether salvation is based on faith alone or on faith together with deeds, Jesus explained that the work of God is: ‘to believe in the one he has sent’ (v.29).

Jesus is the bread of God who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world (v.33). So, when we are praying the ‘Our Father’: ‘And give us this day our daily bread’, we are also praying for a daily infilling of Jesus.

Jesus is the bread of life and we are invited to eat this bread during the Holy Eucharist. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live for ever. This bread is my flesh which I will give for the life of the world’ (v.51). ‘For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink’ (v.55). ‘The one who feeds on me will live because of me’ (v.57). If we look to Jesus, come to him and believe in him, we will never go hungry or thirsty (v.35). Jesus will never drive away those who freely chose to come to him (v.37) and he will raise us up to eternal life on the last day (v.39).

Jesus confirmed that ‘No-one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father’ (v.46). Therefore, all the physical appearances of ‘God’ in the Old Testament e.g. Abraham meeting the three visitors (Genesis 18), Jacob wrestling with God all night (Genesis 32), must have been with Jesus himself. Jacob marvelled that he ‘saw God face to face, and yet my life is spared (32:30).

Jesus offering himself to us as Living Bread is infinitely better than the provision of manna, the supernaturally provided food that sustained the Israelites in the desert for forty years. The forefathers of the Jews were just physically nourished by manna. It did nothing to their spiritual life. As we come to Jesus and eat his blessed body we become incrementally more like Jesus both physically and spiritually, ‘He who feeds on this bread will live for ever’ (v.58).

Psalm 59:1-8

King David is once again asking God to deliver him from his enemies. He calls for justice because he is being attacked when he has done no wrong (v.4). When we make it publicly known we are Christians, we can expect attacks from friends, colleagues and strangers for no offence or sin of ours.

These people spew out evil words and twist our message of eternal life. They call good things evil and evil things good.

God is laughing at these evil people and He scoffs at nations run by them. Justice will always prevail in the end and we will be delivered.

Image: https://pixabay.com/photos/bread-bread-of-life-gospel-bible-3707013/

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