THE SECOND COMING (OLIVET DISCOURSE)

Mark 13:1-8

BRIEF INTRO: Sometimes, it is hard to remember everything we have learned in a lengthy study simply because there is so much good stuff! So, I want to remind you how similar chapter thirteen is to chapter four. They are different in that in chapter four, Jesus speaks in parables, and in this chapter, He speaks in an eschatological (end times) sense. But they are alike in that both chapters serve as transitional! “Chapter thirteen is a fitting end to the section on Jesus’ conflict with the religious leaders in the temple, because it starts with Jesus prdicting the destruction of the temple.” 

This chapter is also significant because it serves as the framework for making sense of His coming death, burial, and resurrection—which Jesus often spoke of to His disciples so they would understand. Yet, here again, in the first few verses of this chapter, we realize that they still did not comprehend it fully.

     We must keep a few truths in mind to properly understand this prophecy. 

  • First, this passage never mentions the church or the Rapture. Why? It doesn’t mention these things because this passage was not written to the church, it was written to the nation of Israel. This is primarily a Jewish prophecy. Still, there are many truths we can glean from these verses. 
  • Second, this prophecy covers a tremendous expanse of time. Over 3,000 years of human history are in view here. These verses contain prophecies that have been partially fulfilled and that will be completely fulfilled in the future. So, we will be looking backwards and forwards at the same time.
  • Third, as with any prophetic passage of Scripture, we need to move cautiously and with the knowledge that no one has all the answers. No Bible scholar has ever been able to solve all the theological riddles hidden within The Olivet Discourse. Thus, we must approach these great verses with a humble heart, knowing that none of us knows it all.

I share these truths with you, gleaned from one commentator because we would do well to exercise wisdom as we move through this section of Mark. 

13 “As He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples *said to Him, “Teacher, look! [a]What wonderful stones and [b]what wonderful buildings!” And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another, which will not be torn down.”

FOCUS ONE: Destruction of the temple (1-2)

“The Temple in Jerusalem was considered among the most spectacular wonders of the ancient Roman Empire. The original temple constructed by Solomon was a magnificent building that took seven years and many millions of dollars to build. This temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians in about 600 BC. 

When the Jews returned to the homeland 70 years later, they constructed the second temple. This temple served the Jews for nearly 500 years, but by the time of the New Testament, it had suffered great damage due to the passage of time. When King Herod assumed the throne of Israel, he wanted to gain favor with the Jews. So, he offered to rebuild their temple. They accepted and in 18 BC, the work began.

By the time of Jesus, the work had been underway some 46 years, John 2:20, and would continue for another 20 years. The temple that Jesus and His men visited was an amazing building. It sat atop Mount Moriah and literally dominated the skyline of the ancient city. The temple mount covered some one-sixth of the land area of Jerusalem. The temple itself was 172 feet long and 20 stories high. It could be seen from many miles away and from anywhere in the city.”

“The stones that made up Herod’s Temple were enormous. Some were forty feet long, eighteen feet high and fifteen feet wide. They were cut by hand from pure white limestone, and fit together so tightly and perfectly that a sheet of paper could not be inserted between the stones.

The doors, walls and even the floors of the temple were overlaid with pure gold. There were jewels, ornate carvings, and many awe inspiring sights. It was said that when the sun came up over Jerusalem, you could not stand to look at the temple because of the light gleaming from its golden walls. Anything that was not covered with gold was the purest of white. Whether the temple was seen during the day or at night, it was a sight that no one ever forgot.”

With such a description of the temple, it is not hard for us to understand how impressed the disciples would have been at “such wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings” (v. 1).

Jesus’s reply must have been unexpected and startling, to say the most! Rather than agree with the disciple and stare enthralled at the buildings, Jesus predicts their destruction. Talk about “shock and awe.” This prophecy was fulfilled in A.D. 70 when the Roman general Titus destroyed Jerusalem and the temple.

3 “As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, [a]James, John, and Andrew were questioning Him privately, “Tell us, when will these things come about, and what will be the [b]sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?”

FOCUS TWO: Private questions (3-4)

After they left the temple and the city, Jesus led His men up the Mount of Olives. This mountain stood some 150 feet higher than the city below. It offered a commanding view of the temple and its grounds. It is here where Peter, James, and John ask Jesus questions and for a sign so they know when these things are asking place.

But, again, His answer is not exactly what they are looking for! Rather than provide dates and signs, Jesus seeks to “prepare them by exhortation and warning for the trials that lay ahead.”

They want to know the following:

  1. When will these things be?
  2. What will be the sign when these things are going to be fulfilled?

“How natural it is to us to desire to know things to come, and the times of them; more inquisitive we are apt to be about that than about our duty” (Matthew Henry).

“The disciples’ question has in view the predicted destruction of the temple. Jesus’ replyseems to include both this particular event and the time leading to the coming of the Son of Man (v. 26; cf. Matt. 24:3). The events surrounding the destruction of the temple seem to anticipate and typify those associated with the Second Coming” (Reformation Study Bible).

And Jesus began to say to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. Many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He!’ and they will mislead many. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; those things must take place; but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will also be famines. These things are only the beginning of birth pains

FOCUS THREE: Jesus begins to answer (5-8)

Jesus begins His answer to their questions with a warning (see to it or watch out), a warning to be careful that they are not deceived. Jesus uses this word throughout this section (see vv. 9,23,33). “Blepo” is a word that stresses having more excellent perception, a discerning eye at what is going on around you.

Seeing that Jesus uses this word repeatedly in this section, the disciples are made aware of one of His greatest concerns, deception. 

False Christ’s are first on His mind. Those that will come and claim messiahship, claiming “I am He,” misleading many. But we notice that it’s not just going to be one or two people claiming this, but many. “History records no such pretender’s before the destruction of Jerusalem, although doubtless there may have been.”

We know of two that rose before the days of Christ because they are mentioned in the book of Acts, but they did not claim to be Christ: Theudas and Judas (Acts 5:34-39). There were others:

        “After the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, many more would-be Messiahs came to prominence in Israel. One was a man named Simon Bar-Kochba. He started a rebellion that lasted three years and cost thousands of lives in Israel. His revolt led to a harsh Roman crackdown that left Jerusalem in utter ruins. 

        Others included Moses of Crete. He claimed he would part the Mediterranean Sea and lead his followers across dry land from the island of Crete to Israel. Many leaped from the cliffs at his command and were drowned in the sea. 

        In the 1100’s a man named Moses Al-Dar’I told his flowers to sell all their possessions because Messiah was coming at Passover in 1127. Passover came and went and his followers were left destitute. 

        In 1666 a man claimed to have heard the voice of God declaring that he was the son of God. He led his followers to the city of Constantinople and was arrested by the Turkish Sultan. The Sultan ordered him to either prove that he was the Messiah or be executed. The would-be Messiah promptly converted to Islam. The Jews rejected their true Messiah and many imposters rose to take His place.

        In our own era many so-called Messiahs have paraded across the stage of history. Joseph Smith, Charles Taze Russell, Mary Baker Patterson Glover Eddy, and Sun Myung Moon come to mind. Many can remember Jim Jones, the founder of The People’s Temple, and the nearly 1,000 people he led to commit mass suicide in 1978.

        As the end of time approaches, there will be more and more people who will step forward claiming to be the savior of the world. Beware that you are not deceived by their slick words and evil deception. The appearance of such people is merely a sign that the end is approaching.”

Jesus then speaks about rumors of wars and wars taking place (v. 7-8). How Jesus is saying this seems to dictate that they shouldn’t be alarmed by such news but should expect it as the day approaches. These wars, like the destructive forces of nature mentioned later, are within God’s providence and purposes. Take notice of the “definitive” language He uses (For nation will rise; there will be earthquakes; there will be famines, etc.).

Sadly, and yet amazingly, it doesn’t stop there. In addition to international power struggles, he tells them there will be severe weather-related catastrophes. Two are mentioned (earthquakes and famines), but there could be others that are not mentioned. Matthew’s account speaks of pestilence, earthquakes, and wars (Matthew 24:7) in KJV. Pestilence is a disease or plaques.

“We may think something like that cannot happen today. Just stop to think of the AIDS epidemic. It is estimated that 70% of the people in Africa are HIV positive. Think of the SARS and Bird Flu scares of a few years ago. Think of the horrors of viruses like Ebola. There are killer diseases out there just waiting for an opportunity to devastate the human race. An outbreak of deadly disease in our world has the potential to kill hundreds of millions of people in a just a few short weeks. An outbreak like that would shut down society as we know.” I add Covid-19!

But we should not be fearful. Jesus said that we would see diseases, pestilence, and trouble of every kind increase as the end approached. 

After telling His men some things that will cause people to believe the end is near, Jesus lets them know that they can’t know when the end will come. Jesus tells them that they are just “the beginning of sorrows” (or birth pangs) when they see these things. These men were looking for signs. What Jesus gave them were not signs at all; they were non-signs.

Any woman could tell you that when their “birth pangs” begin, they begin somewhat weak BUT continually get worse! Those early contractions are an indicator of a long, painful road ahead. So shall it be before “the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory” (v. 26)?

Jesus wanted them and us to live every day as if it could be the day he returned. He didn’t want them to be looking for signs but for Him, a savior. How are you living in light of these truths? What is your mind occupied with, signs of His coming or HIM? 

The Complete Word Study NT

Exegetical Guide to the NT

Second Coming Bible

Alan Carr

IT’S THANKSGIVING: WHY SHOULD WE BE THANKFUL?

Psalm 111 [a]Praise [b]the Lord!

I will give thanks to the Lord with (all my heart),

In the company of the upright and in the assembly.

2 Great are the works of the Lord;

They are [c]studied by all who delight in them.

[d]Splendid and majestic is His work,

And His righteousness endures forever.

4 He has caused His [e]wonders [f]to be remembered;

The Lord is gracious and compassionate.

5 He has given [g]food to those who [h]fear Him;

He will remember His covenant forever.

6 He has made known to His people the power of His works,

In giving them the inheritance of the nations.

The works of His hands are [i]truth and justice;

All His precepts are trustworthy.

They are upheld forever and ever;

They are performed in [j]truth and uprightness.

He has sent redemption to His people;

He has [k]ordained His covenant forever;

Holy and [l]awesome is His name.

10 The [m]fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;

All those who [n]follow His commandments have a good understanding;

His praise endures forever.

After reading that Psalm, the answer to the question “why” should be obvious. But our world is inundated with many things that seek to rob us of our joy, replace our peace with anxiety, and fill our hearts with unthankfulness rather than thankfulness.

On a day set apart to celebrate all the good things we have and the blessings we share, let us remember WHY we should be thankful. Let’s list below the many reasons from that scripture to be thankful :

 And (His) righteousness endures forever.

The Lord is gracious and compassionate.

5 (He) has given [g]food to those who [h]fear Him;

(He) will remember (His) covenant forever.

6 (He) has made known to (His) people the power of (His) works,

In giving them the inheritance of the nations.

The works of (His) hands are [i]truth and justice;

All (His) precepts are trustworthy.

9 (He) has sent redemption to (His) people;

(He) has [k]ordained (His) covenant forever

Right there before our eyes are TEN reasons why we should be thankful regardless of what this world throws at us! All of those ten reasons listed above are only worthy of our consideration, praise, and thanksgiving if the One who has accomplished and is accomplishing those things is sovereign! But what should be the source of our thankful hearts? That’s an entirely different question and, perhaps, a better reason why we should be thankful.

In other words, we can only base our joy and thanksgiving on such things if the One that says such things is the ruler of the universe. If He alone has the right to do whatever He wants without being bound or limited in any way. Our God: our creator, sustainer, and savior, is precisely this- sovereign!

Because He is sovereign, we can trust (despite present circumstances) that His always good purposes will be accomplished. Nothing will hinder Him from fulfilling His Word to us. Besides this, our thankfulness should grow as each day passes by because “we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for He chose us in advance, and He makes everything work out according to His plan” (Ephesians 1:11).

TAKE TIME TO THINK ABOUT HOW BLESSED YOU TRULY ARE.

  1. If you’ve heard of Jesus, you’ve had more access to the gospel than 4 billion people in the world.
  2. If you have the entire Bible in your language, your language is one of only 700 out of 7000 languages with a complete translation.
  3. If you worshiped this past weekend without threat on your life, you’ve had more privilege than many believers around the world.
  4. If you have sufficient food today, you’re better off than 800 million people around the globe who are chronically undernourished.
  5. If your children have clean water, good sanitation, and proper hygiene, they’re uniquely blessed (in fact, World Vision estimates that 15,000 children under five die every day from preventable causes like diarrhea, malaria, and pneumonia).
  6. If your children have a roof over their heads, they’re better off than at least 150 million street children in the world.
  7. If you’re a Christian, you’re redeemed, held in the hands of God, and destined for heaven. No matter what you’re facing today, you have reason to be grateful.

As you and your family celebrate Thanksgiving this week, be sure to express gratitude to God for these blessings:

Be sure to be thankful today, tomorrow, and every day

This exhortation is borrowed from the writings of Chuck Lawless.

Happy Thanksgiving 😊

JESUS’TEACHING IN THE TEMPLE

Mark 12:35-44

BRIEF INTRO: As we move forward in time, relating to our context, we will witness Jesus communicating His views about the Pharisees. His statements relate not only to their teaching but their actions as well. Jesus did not want His disciples, or anyone else for that matter, to be deceived by a false religiosity that only condemns but can never save anyone. We will see this transpire in three ways; you will notice this in my section outline.

35 And Jesus responded and began saying, as He taught in the temple area, “How is it that the scribes say that the [a]Christ is the son of David? 36 David himself said [b]in the Holy Spirit,

‘The Lord said to my Lord,

“Sit at My right hand,

Until I put Your enemies under Your feet.”‘

37 David himself calls Him ‘Lord’; so in what sense is He his son?” And the large crowd [c]enjoyed listening to Him.

FOCUS ONE: Jesus teaching (vv.35-37)

The first words in verse thirty-five are interesting and could be a bit confusing, so let’s look at them quickly. “And Jesus answering began to say. . .” Who is He answering? He already responded to the scribe asking Him which commandment is the greatest (vv. 28-34). Nobody else dared ask Him anything. Interesting, isn’t it? Granted, some translations do not have it this way; some might say, “and Jesus responded” (as seen above, ironically, both the above and what I began this section with come from the NASB only different years). Still, others translate it this way: “and continuing.”

I believe the latter is a better translation of what is going on in the text. Strongs defines the Word for answering as “to answer, reply, or take up the conversation.” In other words, when someone begins to speak and continue a conversation. Jesus, already involved in a conversation in which He spoke last (v. 34), continues the discussion by asking His question! Now that makes more sense as I read it.

Here Jesus challenges the scribes relating to their teaching on the Messiah as the Son of David. Oh, How they esteemed David. He was probably the most esteemed person in all Jewish history next to Moses. So, Jesus asked what these scribes meant “when they said that the Christ, the expected Messiah, is the Son of David, who would be the triumphant deliverer (cr. 10:47).” This “sonship” was a massive part of the Jewish belief system of that day (John 7:41-42). But did they believe that the Messiah was David’s Lord? 

Their view, in general, was correct but not complete! Jesus, with great wisdom, leads them to reflect on scripture from Psalm 110. The question “how” reflected in the words “in what sense,” are directed at a more targeted response, how is He His son?

Did this quote from Psalm 110 cast any doubt on their assumptions? It most certainly did. In what he wrote, Jesus showed them that David, their esteemed one, “complicates their understanding of what it means for the Messiah to be the Son of David, since David himself assigned to the Messiah a superior title and psition.”

That the Messiah was the Son of David in a physical sense is true but not complete. That the Messiah, in a divine sense, is also David’s Lord (master, supreme in authority-God) completes the whole picture of precisely who the Messiah is. The Hebrew writing of Psalm 110 most clearly evidences this truth. 

In Hebrew, we would read it this way: “The Lord (Yahweh, the proper name of the God of Israel), said to my (David’s) Lord (Adonai-master, owner, sovereign ruler). What is indisputable is the fact that David called the Messiah Lord! So the million dollar question is this: How is David’s son BOTH God (David’s Lord) and man (David’s son; cf. Romans 1:3-4; 2 Timothy 2:8)?

The response to a seemingly bold yet veiled depiction of who He is is two-fold. First, we read of no reaction by the scribes; nothing is mentioned. Second, we read that the “great crowd” enjoyed or gladly listened to Him (v. 37). That doesn’t mean that they understood it all, but simply that they enjoyed listening to His teaching.

You probably, like myself, love to hear the preaching of the Word. Sometimes we don’t understand it all either. But our response should be much different than those we read about in this section. It is good to enjoy hearing the Word taught, but understanding and applying it are far better responses than enjoyment or apathy. Perhaps, we need to discipline ourselves to be more studious in our bible study.

38 And in His teaching He was saying: “Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes, and like personal greetings in the marketplaces, 39 and seats of honor in the synagogues, and places of honor at banquets, 40 who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers. These will receive all the more condemnation.

FOCUS TWO: Jesus’ warning (vv.38-40)

By Jesus using the word “beware” in His teaching in the Temple, He wants all those listening to understand that the manner in which the scribes operate on a daily basis is not the pattern they should follow in their walk of faith. He wants them to look more intently at how the scribes model their faith. He wants them to perceive the difference between a true example of godly living from a false one.

Jesus mentions four areas in which their hypocrisy is evident:

  1. 1. The long robes (speaks of them continually exercising their will from a motive of a desire to be seen).
  2. 2. Greetings in the marketplace ( They loved attention their “holy facades” fostered but were fakes and frauds, spiritually speaking. They expected to be addressed with titles of dignity).
  3. 3. The chief seats in the synagogues and at banquets ( It gratified them to receive such deferential recognition at religious services).
  4. 4. Greed for money ( As one of their functions, scribes serve as consultants in estate planning for widows. Their role allows them to convince lonely and susceptible women that their money and property should be given to the scribe for his holy work or to the Temple for its sacred ministries. In either case, the scribe gains personally).

We must keep in mind that Mark only gives a brief snippet of the teaching of Jesus at the Temple. For a complete account, I direct you to Matthew 23:1-39. Matthew reveals that after Jesus rebukes the scribes, He pronounces eight woes upon them! Matthew helps us understand how bad these people were and why those listening to Jesus’ teaching needed to grow in their discernment.

“The disciples are to continually beware of them because they are ungodly, do not truly know God, have no true spiritual wisdom. As MacArthur says, “They are agents of Satan sent to fight the purposes of God…False religion never restrains the flesh. So these people operate like the worst of the unregenerate, except that it is not apparent on the surface. But false religion cannot subdue their wretched heart, for that can only be subdued by regeneration by means of the truth of the Gospel. So these men are to be avoided because they are always one thing on the outside and something else on the inside. They have nothing to offer spiritually and are destructive…deadly…dangerous. Do not get near them because you will get singed, stained.”

With all that being said, it becomes much clearer how hypocritical the scribes were and why they deserved such condemnation.

But what about today? Are there hypocritical false teachers among us? Absolutely! A good portion of what we see on most “Christian” networks would easily fit this prototype. But why do so many people watch it? Why do many professing Christians digest such teaching every week? I think for the same reason, the people of Jesus’ day blindly followed the instruction and examples of the scribes and Pharisees-lack of discernment.

41 “And Jesus sat down opposite the treasury, and began watching how the [a]people were putting [b]money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large amounts. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two [c]lepta coins, which amount to a [d]quadrans. 43 Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all [e]the contributors to the treasury; 44 for they all put in out of their [f]surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, [g]all she had to live on.”

FOCUS THREE: Jesus observing (vv. 41-44)

Note the shift in location from the Court of the Gentiles (the large, open area where thousands could hear his teaching) to the smaller Court of the Women, which contained the thirteen Treasury chests or ‘trumpets.’ He was observing the offerings (how they offered their money). The Scribes and Pharisees made a great show strutting around like peacocks to attract men’s attention. Jesus focuses on the contrast of a poor woman presenting her offering.

Next, we take “notice” of what Jesus observed as He “sat down opposite the treasury.” He noticed a contrast between what one poor widow contributed and “all the other contributors” (v. 43). So, what is the difference between putting money in the treasury from your surplus or out of your poverty?

Before I answer that question, I want first to exercise some discernment. We have just observed Jesus criticizing the Scribes and Pharisees, But He does not identify these “givers” or “contributors” as from either group, but only as the rich. While one might postulate that is what these rich were doing, Jesus does not specifically say that in this section.” “Likewise, while we might suppose they were doing their giving for show, Jesus does not say that this was their motive. Yes, He had just finished issuing a series of “Woes” to the Scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23:1-36, even saying in verse 5 that “they do all their deeds to be noticed by men.” So, we want to be careful moving forward.

 As He sits there observing, He notices what people are giving. This text shows a contrast between the rich and the poor. Whereas the “rich” were contributing large sums, the “widow” put in “two small copper coins,” which equaled 1/64th of a denarius (a Roman silver coin worth about 15 cents).

We are quick to notice the obvious-the giving of the rich required no sacrifice; they had an abundance. But for the poor widows giving required great sacrifice. But is that the point to walk away with? Perhaps not:

“Her piety and personal sacrifice are to be applauded, but what is the (cause) of her poverty, and what will be (done) with her gift? Mark has just pictured Jesus condemning religious leaders who reduce widows to poverty” (Mk 12:38–40). Maybe that’s the point to walk away with!

“She literally put in less, but Jesus assesses her gift as more. He does not say it is better, but just that it is more than all the others. He will explain this “quantifying” statement in the next verse.”

“So the reason she gave more is not because of the (quantity) she gave, but the proportion she gave. Notice Jesus neither condemns the rich for not giving like the poor widow. But neither does He laud the poor widow for giving a greater proportion (literally 100%). He is simply stating the contrast between the givers.” 

Lesson to be learned:

The poor widow’s (degree of sacrifice) is given great weight, but history is replete with stories of those who have shown great sacrifice for a cause they believed in, and many of them had nothing to do with faith in Christ. “Considering, then, that she is casting money in the Temple treasury, it seems fair to say that she is supportive of the religious system that her money will go to undergird. So sacrifice by itself is no indicator of one’s faith in Jesus.”

To reiterate, we cannot discern the motive of her heart for giving all she had. Jesus did not comment on the (state of the heart) but on the degree or proportion of her giving. And He did not tell the disciples, “Go and do likewise.

What is our motivation for giving? 

The Bible Knowledge Commentary

Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament

Preceptaustin.org

SETTING THE TRAP

Mark 12:13-34

BRIRF INTRO: In our previous study, we read about the “authority” of Jesus being questioned by the chief priests, scribes, and elders (11:28). We then had the blessed privilege of viewing how Christ responded to their question! First, He asked them a question in which they knew the correct answer but were afraid to say it because they feared the people (11:32). And then, I think, in cunning irony, He answered their question by using a parable about their history and by utilizing Old Testament scripture (12:1-12). His “authority” comes by virtue of Him being the Son of the living God!

As we move forward in this chapter, we will witness three conflicts that Jesus had with three different groups. Groups that generally were arguing among themselves about the theology of the other. But, as the adage goes: “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” We will witness them go after Jesus in rapid succession with one goal in mind: to trip Him up in His words so that the people would lose faith in Him, and then they could move forward with their plans to destroy Him (11:18).

13 Then they *sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Him in order to trap Him in a statement. 14 They came and *said to Him, “Teacher, we know that You are truthful and [a]do not care what anyone thinks; for You [b]are not partial to anyone, but You teach the way of God in truth. Is it [c]permissible to pay a [d]poll-tax to Caesar, or not? 15 Are we to pay, or not pay?” But He, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, “Why are you testing Me? Bring Me a [e]denarius to look at.” 16 And they brought one. And He *said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” And they said to Him, “Caesar’s.” 17 And Jesus said to them, “Pay to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were utterly amazed at Him.

FOCUS ONE: Conflict with the Pharisees and Herodians (13-17)

The first group to attack are the Pharisees and the Herodians. “The Herodians were as obnoxious to the Pharisees on political grounds as the Saducees were on theological grounds.” Yet, they come together in their attempt to destroy Jesus. Their sole purpose is stated for us, so there is NO speculation on this fact: “to trap Him in a statement” (v. 13).

Their particular question revolves around the issue of taxes. Is it lawful to pay a poll tax to Caesar? But they don’t just nail Him with the question outright; oh no, they first pave the road of bad intentions with some flowers of flattery! Such flattery is not only self-serving, but it’s also hypocritical. They didn’t mean any of it. Their only goal, as previously stated, was to destroy Jesus.

“Since the time of Archelaus’s banishment in A.D. 6, Jews had been required by the Romans to pay tribute money into the fiscus, the emperor’s treasury. Some Jews (the Zealots) flatly refused to pay it, because it was for them an admission of the Roman right to rule. The Pharisees disliked paying it but did not actively oppose it, whereas the Herodians had no objections to it.”

With such a divide in thinking between these groups it becomes pretty clear their intent with that question. If they can force Jesus to answer, one way or another, He would be identifying with one or the other group and be caught in their trap. The dominoes would begin to fall, and they would have their goal achieved.

But, we see Jesus in no way falling for it because He knew their hypocrisy (v. 15). He tells them to bring Him a denarius (equivalent to one day’s wages). And then, in a way that seems so simple, He asks them, “whose likeness and inscription is this?” They answer Him saying, “Caesar’s.” 

His point? “Caesar has a legitimate claim and so does God. Give to each his rightful claim” (v. 17). This very point they had tacitly conceded when they very quickly produced and handed Him one such coin! That might well imply that using such coins themselves acknowledged Caesar’s authority and, therefore, their obligation to pay the tax.

These folks didn’t have Romans 13 then, but we do. Paul, led by the Spirit, was establishing the principle of “subjection to the governing authorities,” because such authority comes from God Himself (13:1). There is a place for civil authority and our subjection to it as long as it does not infringe on God’s sovereignty over all governing authorities.

18 “Some Sadducees (who say that there is no resurrection) *came to [a]Jesus, and began questioning Him, saying,19 “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves behind a wife and does not leave a child, his brother is to [b]marry the wife and raise up [c]children for his brother. 20 There were seven brothers; and the first took a wife, and died leaving no children. 21 The second one [d]married her, and died leaving behind no children; and the third likewise; 22 and the seven together left no children. Last of all the woman also died. 23 In the resurrection, which one’s wife will she be? For each of the seven had her as his wife.” 24 Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are mistaken, that you do not [e]understand the Scriptures nor the power of God? 25 For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 26 But [f]regarding the fact that the dead rise, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the burning bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27 He is not the God [g]of the dead, but of the living; you are greatly mistaken.”

FOCUS TWO: Conflict with the Sadducees (18-27)

Next up? Some Sadducees. Right out of the gate, we see their hypocrisy. This group does not believe that there will be a resurrection, yet that is their line of questioning. “In the time of Jesus, the Saducees were small numerically but exerted great influence politically and religiously. They were not, however, popular among the masses. They represented the urban,wealthysophisticated class  and were mainly residing in Jerusalem. Josephus says they were educated men and many of them held prominent positions.”

Mark marks them out (pun intended) as those who say there is no resurrection (v. 18). The Sadducees accepted “only Scripture and rejected all beliefs and practices not found there.” It sounds like a good thing to me, but they claimed that they could not find clear teaching on the resurrection in the Old Testament. That’s the problem. There is clear teaching about it in the Old Testament, and Jesus clarifies that to them. “Is this not the reason you are mistaken, that you do not understand the Scriptures, OR the power of God” (v. 24)?

Notice what He claims:

  1. They will rise from the dead (v. 25)
  2. There are NO marriages in heaven
  3. Those who rise will be like the angels (service for and fellowship with God).

In answer to their ignorance of the scriptures, He directs them back to Exodus 3:6, in the Old Testament and where the account of Moses and the burning bush is located. “His use of the Pentateuch was significant because this part of the “O.T.” was considered particularly authoritative by the Saducees.” 

These three men mentioned, Abraham, Sadduceesnd Jacob, had all died long before God made this statement to Moses. Remember what God said: “I AM,” not “I was.” So, God is saying that these men were still alive in Moses’ time (v.27)! And He will certainly raise their physical bodies at the resurrection of life!

Something else that should be mentioned at this point is the idea that God is a “covenant God.” God made promises to these men, and scripture shows that He can be relied on! This “underscores the basic thrust of Jesus’ argument-the faithfulness of God.”

28 One of the scribes came up and heard them arguing and, recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the [a]foremost of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The [b]foremost is, ‘Hear, Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one; 30 and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 And the scribe said to Him, “Well said, Teacher; You have truly stated that He is One, and there is no other besides Him; 33 and to love Him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 When Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And then, no one dared any longer to question Him.

FOCUS THREE: Conflict with the scribes (28-34)

A scribe is “a teacher of the law.” At first glance, we might tend to think his question is sincere. After all, He heard all the questions and answers that came from these discussions, and he believed Jesus “answered them well” (v. 28). But Matthew 22:24 paints another picture.

Keep in mind that the rabbis counted 613 individual statutes in the law. 365 that were negative and 248 that were positive! It seems “that the question arose out of a works-righteousness understanding of the law and keeping of its commandments.” 

Jesus does not pick one of these 613 in answer to his question; instead, He quotes two passages from the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Leviticus 19:18). The Deuteronomy passage is directly related to the “shema.” The Shema affirms two things, “(1) the unity of God and (2) the covenant relationship of God to the Jewish people (The Lord our God.).” Because He gives Himself completely in love to His people, He expects His people to give themselves totally (heart, mind, soul, and strength) in love to Him.

Its relationship to the Leviticus passage is important because it shows “that love of neighbor is a natural and logical outgrowth of love of God.” These two commandments belong together and cannot be separated. 

The scribe’s response reveals that what Jesus was saying to him was getting through. “You are not far from the kingdom of God” (v.34). This statement should have challenged the man to think on this more and contemplate its veracity. This must have been a challenge from the Lord to comprehend what was said and then take decisive action. Nothing is said regarding whether or not He, in fact did so.

Jesus so wisely and powerfully answered the questions of these three groups that “no one would venture to ask Him anymore questions” (v. 34). But, in our next study, we will see that Jesus has a question for them!

The Expositors Bible Commentary

LIFE CYCLE

Guest post by: Connie Faust

The cycle spins on relentlessly;

From promise of life to final death,

So few are the years allotted to one

From the moment of first fragile breath.

An infant is born-happiness reigns-

Parents applaud a new life.

Fast forward through childhood, on to maturity,

Struggling through heartache and strife.

The hour and day when we leave this old world

Is a guessing game won by no man.

We feel our mortality closing the gap,

And ponder how short is life’s span.

Another friend dies, a bond is dissolved,

The memories over us flow,

And we ask how much time is left on the clock

Until it is our time to go.

How God marks the day of departure

Is a mystery that’s His to reveal;

How we use every minute we’re given to live

Will confirm if our faith is for real.

THE AUTHORITY OF JESUS QUESTIONED

Mark 11:27-12:12

BRIEF INTRO: As we look into these passages, we notice Something odd. The questions that the chief priests, scribes, and elders are asking Jesus are the wrong questions! Rather than asking, “by what authority are (you) doing these things?”They should have asked each other, “why aren’t (we) doing these things?”

Have you ever asked the wrong question? In some ways, I can relate to this problem. If you are married, you understand what I mean. I am not using that example to be sarcastic or discourteous towards our spouses, but it is within such a relationship that we are most prone to realize that we have struggled in much the same way.

The problem here, however, is that they are asking the wrong questions of the Lord, not a spouse. And in so doing, they reveal that they are ignorant of the truth, self-serving, and hypocritical because they are not genuinely seeking to understand but instead want to “destroy Him” (v. 18).

Remember, back in vv. 15-16, Jesus cleansed the temple. He cast out (drove away) those people that were changing the “Roman money the pilgrims brought to Jerusalem into the Tyrian currency (closest thing to the old Hebrew shekel), since the annual temple tax had to be paid in that currency.” He turned over the seats of those selling the doves. These things originally were done for the “convenience” of the pilgrims, but had defaulted into a money-making scheme. They should not have been done inside the temple court. 

So by His cleansing of the temple, Jesus directly challenged their authority since it was by their authorization that these things took place within the temple. That is one reason they want to destroy Him (v. 18) and why they would not answer Him (v. 33).

27 And they *came again to Jerusalem. And as He was walking in the temple area, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders *came to Him, 28 and began saying to Him, “By what authority are You doing these things, or who gave You this authority to do these things?” 29 But Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question, and you answer Me, and then I will tell you by what authority I do these things30 Was the baptism of John from heaven, or from men? Answer Me.” 31 And they began considering the implications among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ 32 But should we say, ‘From men’?”—they were afraid of the [a]people, for they all considered John to have been a real prophet. 33 Answering Jesus, they *said, “We do not know.” And Jesus *said to them, “Neither am I telling you by what authority I do these things.”

FOCUS ONE: Jesus has “all” authority 

Within those verses, I highlighted the main issue; what authority does Jesus have to cleanse the temple? How drastic the cleansing was the previous day certainly got their attention. That is why all three groups are present this day in the temple when Jesus returns (v.27). With intentional laser-like focus, they approach Him and ask the question, “by what authority? Their hope was that by His answer Jesus would be brought into disrepute (rejected by the people) with the people and thereby clear the way for their arresting Him.” But once again, Jesus turns their intentions back on their heads! “You answer my question first, then I’ll answer yours” (v.28). Jesus is the master of debate!

The question He asks is about whether or not God was behind John the Baptist’s mission. Think about the implications. “John had clearly testified to the divine source of Jesus’ mission. If they recognized the divine authority of John’s mission, they would be forced to recognize Jesus’ also and His cleansing of the temple as the legitimate exercise of His authority.”

The implications were obvious. It was too much for them to handle. So, they reasoned among themselves how to wiggle their way out of answering it. “We do not know” (v. 33). One commentator has said of their reply, “to save face they pleaded ignorance.” I can relate to that as well. 

So Jesus, upon hearing their response, refuses to answer their question. Even so, They got the answer, didn’t they?

12 And He began to speak to them in parables: “A man planted a vineyard and put a [a]fence around it, and dug a vat under the wine press and built a tower, and leased it to [b]vine-growers and went on a journey. And at the harvest time he sent a slave to the vine-growers, in order to receive his share of the produce of the vineyard from the vine-growers. And they took him, and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. And again he sent them another slave, and they wounded him in the head, and treated him shamefully. And he sent another, and that one they killed; and so with many others, beating some and killing others. He had one more man to send, a beloved son; he sent him to them last of all, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those vine-growers said to one another, ‘This is the heir; come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours!’8 And they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. What will the [c]owner of the vineyard do? He will come and put the vine-growers to death, and give the vineyard to others.

FOCUS TWO: Jesus has divine authority as the Son of God

Now Jesus begins to speak in parabolic language and, in this way, answers the question of His authority. It seems logical that these religious leaders are the “them” referenced in (12:1; cr. 12:12). The parable is easy to understand once we recognize the key components.

The “man” represents God. The vineyard symbolizes Israel, possibly the leaders of Israel. Slaves are the prophets, and the “beloved son” is Jesus.

Jesus, in using this parable, is in some way relating to the history of Israel. They rejected and killed the prophets of God, and they rejected and killed the Son of God (Acts 7:52). In sending the son the parable underscores the serious view of the owner of the vineyard. 

To draw out the parable’s meaning, Jesus asks them a question (funny in a way, cr. 11:33), and then answers it Himself. His answer is frightening-judgment is coming! (Most bible scholars believe this happened in A.D. 70 at the fall of Jerusalem when the Romans destroyed the city and sacked the temple).

10 Have you not even read this Scripture:

‘A stone which the builders rejected,

This has become the [a]chief cornerstone;

11 This came about from the Lord,

And it is marvelous in our eyes’?”

12 And they were seeking to seize Him, and yet they feared the [b]people, for they understood that He told the parable against them. And so they left Him and went away.

FOCUS THREE: Jesus has divine authority as the chosen cornerstone of God

The observations we make are amazing when we take the time to look. How much have we missed in our reading of the Bible? This study and what we are observing is simply one case of that very thing. At first glance, Jesus did not answer their question (11:33). But that is not the complete picture we see in this section. He did not answer them “outright,” but take notice that in the parable we just looked at, and now by citing Psalm 118:22-23, He is giving them a clear, understandable answer to their question. They understood His answer (v. 12)!

In quoting those verses in Psalm 118, Jesus is speaking of Himself as the Stone. Like in the parable before this, He (the Son) was rejected. But in this quote, we learn that what was rejected has become the key component that holds the building together. This “stone” language was very familiar in early Christianity, as shown by Acts 4:11 and 1st Peter 2:7. Something counted as worthless (like a particular stone) becomes invaluable (and now it holds the building together)!

The application of the Old Testament quote was unmistakable, but once again, the leaders could not grab hold of Jesus to destroy Him (11:18) because they were afraid of the people. This is the second time in these two chapters that we are told they fear the people (11:18; 12:12). 

And so what else is there to do when your opponent has the better hand, and you fear the reprisal of the crowd? “and so they left Him and went away” (v. 12).

The Expositors Bible Commentary, pg, 730

CALEB AND ME

Guest post by Connie Faust

Lord, let my spiritual fervor grow

And never diminish with age.

Don’t let m close the book on Your work,

Though this old body turns a new page.

Give me the heart of a Caleb, Lord,

Whose hoary head follows you still;

Though my feeble hands shake

And my ailing knees quake,

Just help me to walk in Your will.

Oh, to be like Caleb, who at the age of 85, said,

“The Lord hath kept me alive— while the children

Of Israel wandered in the wilderness;

As yet I am as strong this day as in the day

That Moses sent me (at 40): as my strength was then, even so is my strength now.

Why was Caleb so blessed?

“Because he wholly followed the Lord God of Israel” (Joshua 14:11-14).

Cleansing the temple and cursing the fig tree

Mark 11:12-25

BRIEF RECAP: In my last post, we witnessed Jesus finally entering Jerusalem but some people, even religious ones, paid no attention to the king (11:11). We got a glimpse of what it looked like when Jesus entered the temple area, as prophecied in Malachi 3:1, by the “understatement” of the event in Mark’s account.

In this study, we will be focused on the relationship between the cleansing of the temple and Jesus cursing the fig tree on His travels between Jerusalem and Bethany. As we will quickly observe, both involve judgment.

12 On the next day, when they had left Bethany, He became hungry. 13 Seeing from a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 And He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again!” And His disciples were listening.

20 As they were passing by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up.

21 And being reminded, Peter *said to Him, “Rabbi, look, the fig tree that You cursed has withered

FOCUS ONE: Jesus curses the fig tree

This section begins with a view of Christ’s humanity. Like us, He became hungry. Imagine all the walking He accomplished in a day, regularly traveling from one place to another. Bethany was approximately two miles away from Jerusalem (John 11:18), so we can easily surmise that He walked four miles a day just getting back and forth. That does not include any other walking He did throughout Jerusalem or Bethany.

As we saw in our last study, Jesus left Jerusalem after looking around the temple and witnessing all the greed and marketing in “His Fathers house.” As Father’snd the disciples leave Bethany, He sees a fig tree off in the distance. Fig trees were widespread in that region. “The fig is a pear shaped fruit anpear-shapedsed by the people for food. The young figs are especially prized for the sweetness and flavor. The fruit always appears before the leaves; so that when Christ saw leaves on the fig tree He had a right to expect fruit.”

That seems odd. Wouldn’t Jesus, God in the flesh, know that the fig tree wouldn’t have any fruit on it? So why would He curse the tree? Two observations will serve to answer those questions. 

First, remember that Jesus, as God, the creator, and sustainer of all things, would undoubtedly know about fig trees and how they operate. But also take notice to these five words that we read in (14b), “and His disciples were listening.” That is important! This “miracle” takes place as they travel back and forth from Bethany to Jerusalem. Jesus desires to use this miracle/object lesson to teach the disciples something of great importance.

Second, “Jesus’ shocking destruction of the fig tree is an acted parable that prophecies what is in store for a people who proved faithless and whose temple, the very symbol of their faithless religiosity, will be destroyed along with the city of Jerusalem (a prophecy fulfilled in A.D. 70).”

In cursing the fig or enacting judgment upon the tree, Jesus fulfills many of the prophecies regarding the people of Israel and their unfaithfulness (Isaiah 34:4; Jeremiah 8:13; 29:17; Hosea 2:12; 9:10,16; and Micah 7:1-6, which likened Israel’s faithlessness to a fig tree gone bad and about to be destroyed).

“The fig tree has put forth leaves BUT had no fruit. Their denial of His rightful role as king was evident in the lack of the fruit of faithfulness due Him. Similarly , the evidence of true discipleship to Jesus IS the bearing of the fruit of faithfulness and righteousness.”

15 Then they *came to Jerusalem. And He entered the temple area and began to drive out those who were selling and buying on the temple grounds, and He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling [a]doves; 16 and He would not allow anyone to carry [b]merchandise through the temple grounds. 17 And He began to teach and say to them, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” 18 And the chief priests and the scribes heard this, and they began seeking how to put Him to death; for they were afraid of Him, because all the crowd was astonished at His teaching.

19 And whenever evening came, [c]they would leave the city.

FOCUS TWO: Jesus cleanses the temple

This act of cleansing the temple should not be separated from the action of cursing the fig tree. True, they are separated by time and space, but not in the application! Look at how verse seventeen, a quote from Isaiah 56:7, relates to Jesus cursing the fig tree! By Jesus’ violent expulsion of the merchants from the Court of the Gentiles, He anticipates the terrible consequences of turning God’s place of prayer into a place for profit. Here again, we can see the fulfillment of various prophecies (Jeremiah 7:1-15; 26:1-15; Malachi 3:1-5; but especially Isaiah 56:1-8). 

In the Isaiah passage mentioned above, we see God’s invitation to foreigners to His holy mountain and His house of prayer. Here Jesus casts out the self-serving profiteers who “would hinder His mission to the outcast by transforming sacred space into a “robbers den” (v. 17).

Mark records two responses to what Jesus did:

  1. 1. The chief priests and the scribes began seeking to destroy Him (v.18).
  2. 2. The multitude was astonished at His teaching (v. 17).

Sadly, it is much the same today. Some people flat-out reject Jesus and His offer of forgiveness, while others are amazed at His teaching but act with indifference toward it. Thankfully, some hear and believe (Acts 6:7)!

Now, again, Jesus and the twelve leave Jerusalem for the evening. I can think of two possible reasons:

  1. No place to rest in Jerusalem (no one received Him), but in Bethany, they could stay with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.
  2. It could have been dangerous (11:18).

20 As they were passing by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up. 21 And being reminded, Peter *said to Him, “Rabbi, look, the fig tree that You cursed has withered.” 22 And Jesus answered and *said to them, “Have faith in God. 23 Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted to him. 24 Therefore, I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted to you. 25 And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you for your [a]offenses.

FOCUS THREE: The importance and power of faith

A day has now passed since Jesus cursed the fig tree. Peter takes notice of it; most likely, the others did as well, but Peter is the one that speaks up. It seems like the event wasn’t all that meaningful to him; seeing it “reminded him” of what Jesus did to it the previous day. We all have times like that, especially the older we get. Something exciting or unusual happens, and we take note of it, but the businesses of our day, the battle against the tyranny of the urgent in our lives, quickly removes it from our thinking. Then, as we drive by that place or are in that area again where it took place, we “are reminded.”

Notice that it wasn’t the leaves that were withered but the roots. Its very source of life was cut off, and it immediately died. 

Two observations arise:

  1. 1. The cursing of the fig tree and its representation of faithless Israel.

2. Jesus replied to Peter’s observation by teaching them about faith, prayer, and forgiveness!

Here, Jesus takes the time to speak to these men about the power and importance of faith. First, faith’s focus is in God! People put faith in a host of things, i.e., money, power, government, religion, and much more. But Jesus tells them that belief in God is essential. Such faith in His desire and ability to answer our prayers is vital. After all, why would we bring Him our burdens and needs if we doubted that He would care or was even able and willing to answer our prayers and meet those needs?

Second, Jesus states what the inclination of the heart should be as one comes to Him in prayer. A forgiving heart. “And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32). He introduces this with the words: “truly I say to you.” In other words, “this is important so listen up.” 

“Since Jesus was standing on the Mount of Olives, from which the Dead Sea can be seen on a clear day, He may have been referring specifically to the Mount. (The mountain as a symbol of a great difficulty, cf. Zechariah 4:7).” Of course, Jesus is speaking figuratively.

So, it seems logical that Jesus is saying that the most significant possible difficulties can be removed when a person has faith” (cf. James 1:6). Faith in the all-powerful God who works miracles. Trust in His sovereignty over all things and in His omnipotence in bringing what He wills to pass.

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The Expositors Bible Commentary

NEHEMIAH PRAYS

                                                               

     Nehemiah 1:1-28                                             

                                                        

 A story is told about a small town that had historically been “dry,” but then a local businessman decided to build a tavern. A group of Christians from a local church were concerned and planned an all-night prayer meeting to ask God to intervene. It just so happened that shortly thereafter lightning struck the bar and it burned to the ground. The owner of the bar sued the church, claiming that the prayers of the congregation were responsible, but the church hired a lawyer to argue in court that they were not responsible.

The presiding judge, after his initial review of the case, stated that “no matter how this case comes out, one thing is clear. The tavern owner believes in prayer and the Christians do not.”

Do you believe in prayer—-the power of prayer—would that belief be evident in the way you live your life?

                                                   Our study today:

  1. Nehemiah prays out of a burden for His people (1:1-4) Read

          Nehemiah’s story begins with a great burden being placed upon his heart, through the agency of “one of his brothers,” and men from Judah. It is unclear as to whether or not Hanani was simply a Jew or an actual brother as it appears in 7:2. But the term for brother is the same in both places and is widely interpeted in the original language. In any event, through these people a burden, deep burden, was placed on the heart of Nehemiah for his people.

       At this point in their history the Jews had been delivered from their exile in Babylon. However, those that returned to Jerusalem and Judah, and inhabited the city, were faced with broken down walls and burned down gates (security was an issue), and with many enemies around them fear grows like weeds. Because of this there is embarrassment and shame as well.

      As Nehemiah learned of the plight of his people, he sat down and wept. He was in great sorrow over these things and so he turned to the God of heaven in fasting and prayer.

   Notice, this is not just a casual sadness, or a sudden emotional response to some bad news, no, he is deeply feeling their trouble and disgrace, so much so, it leads him to mourn for several days. It is this heavy burden for others that leads him to pray to the God of heaven! If you looked at Genesis 18 you would find something similar happening to Abraham.

There we see Abraham entertaining three men by the Oaks of Mamre. He desires to be hospitable and wash their feet and feed them, so they can refresh themselves. They agree, and so Abraham get’s Sarah to quickly prepare some food for the men. In verses 9-15 the promised birth of Isaac is foretold, but it is verses 16-32 I want to focus on.

          Verse 17 is said in Abrahams hearing, “shall I hide from Him.”

          Verses 20-22 The Lord speaks of the “outcry” from Sodom and Gomorrah, their depravity, and His placing a judgement on them. And then adding to his concern, the men turn and went toward Sodom!

When Abraham learned that the Lord was about to destroy the city of Sodom, he immediately became burdened for those people, maybe more so his nephew Lot who lived there. We see his concern, or burden, led to his pleading with God  not to destroy the whole city.

Here, as in Nehemiah, we see the power and importance of intercessory prayer. As Abraham pleads with the Lord for the city and the number of the righteous to be found gets lower, God remains faithful in his intention NOT to destroy the city if even only 10 righteous are found there.

God answered his prayer one better than he asked for (19:27-29)! Only Lot and his two daughters made it out alive, no other “righteous” people were found there. Just as nehemiah prayed out of a burden for his people, so to Abraham out of a burden for those people, and more so his nephew.

Question: Do you see a relationship between feeling burdened over something and praying with intensity or deseration?

  • Nehemiah prays to God who forgives and redeems (5-11) (Cr. David Psalm 32)
  • Nehemiah prays while he takes action (2:1-8)

           

                    Prayer is: Purposeful, powerful, and His answers are praiseworthy!