David anointed King / Judas must be Replaced: June 3rd 2021

2 Samuel 3:22-5:5

Joab, one of David’s commanders, murdered Abner who David had told to go in peace. Joab killed Abner in revenge for the killing of one of his brothers in an earlier battle.

David declared himself innocent of Abner’s death and he cursed the house of Joab (2 Sam.3:28-29). David wept aloud and fasted at Abner’s funeral to demonstrate to his people that he had no part in the murder. Everything that David did pleased the people.

Even though David was the anointed king, he considered himself weak. He felt his kingship was in a precarious position and called on the Lord to repay evildoers for their deeds (2 Sam. 3:39).

Saul’s son, Ish-Bosheth, was murdered on his bed by his own men. They took his severed head to David expecting a reward but David was furious and had the traitors killed.

All the tribes of Israel came to David. They knew that David had been the one to successfully lead their military commands while Saul was king. They knew that the Lord approved of him. David was anointed king over all Israel and he reigned for forty years. David was called on by God to ‘shepherd my people Israel’ (2 Sam. 5:2). His descendant, Jesus, was destined to be the good shepherd for all the world.

Acts 1:1-22

Saint Luke wrote ‘Acts’ as well as the Gospel that bears his name. He wrote more of the New Testament than any other single writer including Saint Paul. Luke was a Gentile not a Jew, a Syrian from Antioch. He was a well educated man – a doctor – and when writing his accounts of Jesus and the apostles seems to have had privileged access to Mary, Mother of Jesus, and her friends.

Luke states that after Jesus’ resurrection he gave many convincing proofs that he was alive over a period of forty days (Acts 1:3). Jesus had told the apostles not to leave Jerusalem until they had been baptised with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5). The gifts of power from the Holy Spirit are for all that have been called to be Christians. The Holy Spirit will sanctify us and work on changing us from within into Jesus. The more we hand over to him through praying in the Spirit, the more he will be able to mould and shape us so that we reflect Jesus to all we meet.

Jesus had told the apostles to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Jesus ascended into heaven but will one day come back (Acts 1:11).

According to Acts, Judas, the betrayer of Jesus, had bought a field with the reward for his wickedness. However, in Matthew, Judas returned the money and hanged himself (Matt. 27:5). The Chief Priests then bought a field with the returned ‘blood money’ for burying foreigners. Luke wrote that Judas fell over in his new field with fatal consequences (Acts 1:18-19) and that is why it was called the ‘Field of Blood’. Either way, no-one lived in this field, as David had prophesied in Psalm 69:25.

Peter had already taken on the leadership of the fledgling church (one hundred and twenty believers) and announced that they must choose one person from the wider group of disciples, who had accompanied Jesus his whole ministry, and appoint them as an apostle to replace Judas. Peter was keen to maintain twelve apostles as there were twelve tribes of Israel.

Jesus’ death and resurrection are the corner-stone of the Christian faith and must be defended at all times. Some people acknowledge Jesus as a wise teacher but think he sneaked off into obscurity and died a natural death. What would be the point of that? The whole reason Jesus appeared on earth was to defeat the works of the devil, wiping out sin and taking the sting out of death, opening up the way to eternal life for all those who are baptized and believe. Jesus had to die to make us righteous and justified with God through his precious blood being spilled for us all. If he didn’t die, we would still be in a state of eternal sin and not able to enter God’s presence. Only Jesus, the one mediator between humans and God, was able to make us right with the Father. We cannot earn a place in heaven through our good deeds and impeccable behaviour. When men and women refuse the gospel, it is because they have become hardened as a result of sin and their trust in their own works. The only way to the Father is through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Psalm 69:13-28

God will rescue us with his sure salvation when we cry out to him. He will deliver us from those who hate us.

As Jesus was on the cross, the floodwaters of our sins engulfed him. He was in terrible trouble as he became sin and God, the Father, temporarily turned his back on him. As Jesus died, the depths did swallow him up and the pit closed its mouth over him (Psalm 69:15). However, the same Holy Spirit, who is within every baptized Christian, raised and resurrected Jesus from hell. With his great mercy, the Spirit turned to him, rescued him and redeemed him. Jesus redeemed us from sin by the sacrifice of his perfect, holy blood.

The scorn of our friends and families for the gospel message we love can threaten to break our hearts (Psalm 69:19-20). We have to turn to our fellow believers to find comfort and sympathy. Jesus literally died from a broken heart as he was crucified due to the physiological changes in his body. He was disgraced and shamed in death but glorified by his triumphant resurrection.

While Jesus was dying on the cross, the prophecy in Psalm 69:21 was fulfilled. He was given vinegar for his thirst.

Jesus sets a banquet out before us. We just have to believe in him and be baptized to be given eternal life. The banquet table set before us is a trap for non-believers; when they die and are judged, they will have to explain how they consistently failed to believe despite the truthful witness of the disciples and billions of other Christians around the world. Their eyes are darkened so they cannot see but only because they chose not to believe, trusting proudly in their own intellect, which will only lead them to death.

We need to praise God that we are listed with the righteous and not blotted out from the book of life.

Image of Saint Mattias: By Workshop of Simone Martini – Public domain https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Matthias#/media/File:Saint_Matthias.PNG

The Ascension Of Christ: April 28th 2021

Joshua 13:1-14:15

Joshua was now incredibly old. He had wandered around in the desert for forty years under Moses’ leadership before he was finally allowed to lead the Israelites into the promised land. God pointed out that there were still large areas of land to be taken over (v.1). The Israelites had not yet faced one of their toughest adversaries – the Philistines. God said that he himself would drive out another tribe, the Sidonians (v.6) on behalf of the Israelites.

The captured land was all fairly divided among the tribes of Israel. The Levites, from whom the priests came, did not receive an allocation of farmland to pass down their generations. God was their inheritance (v.32). They were given ‘towns to live in, with pasture-lands for their flocks and herds’ (14:4).

Caleb had been one of the original twelve spies forty-five years ago sent into the promised land and had set his heart on living in Hebron. Moses had sworn to Caleb that this area would be his inheritance. It is wonderful that Caleb, at the age of eighty-five, still had his middle-aged ambition to conquer Hebron and he had kept his mind and body fit to achieve his dream: ‘I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then’ (v.11). Even though it was populated by giants, the Anakites, living in large and fortified cities he was confident that with the Lord helping him: ‘I will drive them out just as he said’ (v.12). He demanded that his inheritance should be delivered to him: ‘Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day’ (v.12). This shows we should never give up chasing our Godly dreams. With God’s help, we can do anything. We can finish our lives still full of character and strength and power. We should never retire from the work of God. There is always more territory to wrestle from the enemy. With God on our side, who can stand against us?

Joshua was true to Moses’ word. He blessed Caleb and gave him Hebron as his inheritance. Caleb had been a tremendously faithful assistant to both Moses and Joshua. With a small army of Calebs, imagine what good we could do in the world. Hebron has belonged to his descendants ever since ‘because he followed the Lord, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly’ (v.14). It is no good being wishy-washy lukewarm followers of the Lord. God wants dynamic, wholehearted followers who always put his righteous ways at the top of their agenda.

Luke 24:36-53

Jesus appeared to his disciples and said, ‘Peace be with you’ (v.36). We can only find true peace when we know that Jesus is present in our heart as our Lord and guide.

The disciples were able to physically touch Jesus. He was fully alive even though he could mysteriously appear and disappear and still bore the marks of his crucifixion. He had flesh and bones and ate ‘a piece of broiled fish’ (v.42). Interestingly, Jesus said: ‘A ghost does not have flesh and bones’. He did not say, ‘There is no such thing as ghosts’. So we have Jesus himself confirming what humans have long experienced. Spirits of deceased people can occasionally haunt people and locations. Not only are there ghosts, Fortea (p.89) states that ‘the souls of the condemned can possess someone in exactly the same way as a demon’. They insist that they are deceased human beings even when commanded, in the name of Jesus, to tell the truth.

Jesus confirmed that he was written about in the Old Testament in ‘the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms’ (v.44). He opened the minds of the disciples so that ‘they could understand the scriptures’ (v.45). Every day, we should pray to God, before our Bible study, for him to open our minds and teach us the deeper meaning of the Word of God.

The disciples must preach repentance and forgiveness of sins in his name to all nations, starting in Jerusalem (v.47). They were instructed to stay in the city until they received the Holy Spirit: ‘until you have been clothed with power from on high (v.49). Once we have been baptized and have prayed for the Holy Spirit to give us a full measure of all of his gifts, pressed down, shaken and overflowing in our lives, we can demonstrate this same power from on high.

Jesus ascended into heaven near Bethany. He was taken up into heaven while he was blessing his disciples. ‘They worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy’ (v.52). The disciples obediently remained in the city, praising God continually at the temple. They had witnessed awesome sites and soon it would be time for them to be empowered to spread the gospel to the rest of the world, willingly suffering persecution and death to share the message of salvation with us all.

Psalm 52:1-9

It is not wise to boast of evil. We should guard what comes out of our mouths: ‘Is it kind, is it true, is it necessary?’ Boasting is not necessary. We should give God all the glory for the great things he has done in our life.

Our tongue is the most powerful organ in our body and can be used for good or deceitful evil, ‘Your tongue plots destruction; it is like a sharpened razor’ (v.2).

Many people these days ‘love evil rather than good, falsehood rather than speaking the truth’ (v.3).

God will bring deceitful, wealthy boasters to ruin, particularly those who grow strong at the expense of others.

If we trust in God’s unfailing love, we will flourish like a fruitful olive tree. Instead of boasting of ‘our own’ achievements, we should praise God ‘for ever for what you have done’ (v.9). We place our hope in the very good name of Jesus; the name that is above all other names. I praise Jesus, in the presence of his saints, for his life, teaching, death and resurrection. Thanks be to God.

Image: Sharon Mollerus, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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