ONLY BELIEVE

Mark 5: 21-43

BRIEF INTRO: We have noticed beginning in chapter four (4:1) that Jesus was teaching by the sea. After He finished His teaching using parables, He wanted to cross over the sea to go to the other side, into the region of the Gerasenes (4:35; 5:1). There He was met by a man “with an unclean spirit” who lived in the tombs (5:2). Jesus commanded the spirits to leave the man and gave His permission for them to enter the swine. The herd, about two thousand, ran into the sea and drowned!

We witness Jesus getting into the boat and “crossing over again “to the other side (5:21). It is there where one of the synagogue officials approaches Jesus. In the events leading up to this meeting, we find two fascinating and seemingly “hopeless” situations that Jesus proved His Lordship over! First is the deadly storm (4:35-41). Second, the man possessed by the “Legion” (many unclean spirits). He now moves into what I will term another set of seemingly hopeless situations: a diseased woman and a dead girl! We will witness in each of these situations, yet, again, the complete authority and power Jesus has over all the things and all the scenarios of our daily and temporary lives!

21 When Jesus had crossed over again in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered around Him; and He [a]stayed by the seashore. 22 And one of the synagogue [b]officials, named Jairus, *came, and upon seeing Him, *fell at His feet 23 and *pleaded with Him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death; please come and lay Your hands on her, so that she will [c]get well and live.” 24 And He went off with him, and a large crowd was following Him and pressing in on Him.

FOCUS ONE: Jairus boldly approaches Jesus

Directly after Jesus touches the shore, a man breaks through the crowds that have gathered and falls at Jesus’ feet. His name is Jairus, and he is a “synagogue official” (v. 22). As a synagogue official, Jairus would be some form of an attendant in the synagogue. That role entailed bringing out the Torah scrolls for the service, leading the synagogue in prayers, and returning the scrolls afterward. Historically speaking, “after the destruction of the Jewish temple in A.D. 70, worship could no longer take place in the temple, making the synagogue the central place of worship.”

He approaches Jesus in reverence and humility, NOT demanding or proclaiming entitlement, evidenced by his tone and demeanor (fell at His feet, pleading earnestly). This man exhibits great faith in Jesus to heal his daughter in what, humanly speaking, is a hopeless scenario to find himself in. She is only twelve years old and is at “deaths door” (v. 23). His faith in Jesus to heal her is impressive and instructive for us, even today. “Come and lay your hands on her so she can get well and live.”

Jairus is a bold man of faith. He was not afraid to approach Jesus, the only one that could help him in his hour of need. He must have heard of what Jesus was doing on the other side of the sea and so had no doubts that He was able to heal his daughter.

“So, Jesus went with him.” Everybody in that crowd wanted to witness a miracle. To see with their own eyes the Undoing of the impossible! With that many people pressing against Him as they walked, it must have been burdensome to move. At that moment, a woman suffering from bleeding for twelve years reached through the compacted crowd and touched Jesus’ robe.

I will focus on her story in my next focus point. But for now, I want you to put yourself in Jairus’ place. His daughter is close to death, and time is quickly running out. Jesus, his only hope, is now “side-tracked” by this woman who has an issue. Time is of the essence and Jesus, rather than continuing to his house, turns around inquiring as to who touched Him, which then leads to more precious time being lost as Jesus engages the woman.

Jesus, with great compassion, always seems to be ready to inconvenience Himself to help people in need. Are we prepared to do the same?

Jairus, like us, must have felt great apprehension in his soul when Jesus stopped to engage this woman. The fear of losing his daughter must have escalated as time appeared to be quickly passing by and hopes of healing were diminishing. And then, to have people come and tell you that your daughter has died while you were en route must have been deeply grievous to his soul.

BUT, Jesus knowing what was said, tells Jairus, “don’t be afraid, only believe” (v. 36).

We must remember, and this is VERY important to the story, that Jesus, by touching a dead person and being associated with blood, in their view, would Himself take on the uncleanness related to both of them (Leviticus 15:19-27; Numbers 19:11). BUT, rather than making Jesus unclean, the woman was instantly healed, and Jairus’s daughter was brought back to life!

25 A woman who had had a hemorrhage for twelve years, 26 and had endured much at the hands of many physicians, and had spent all that she had and was not helped at all, but instead had become worse— 27 after hearing about Jesus, she came up in the crowd behind Him and touched His [a]cloak. 28 For she had been saying to herself, “If I just touch His garments, I will [b]get well.” 29 And immediately the flow of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 And immediately Jesus, perceiving in Himself that power from Him had gone out, turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My garments?” 31 And His disciples said to Him, “You see the crowd pressing in on You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?'” 32 And He looked around to see the woman who had done this. 33 But the woman, fearing and trembling, aware of what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth. 34 And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has [c]made you well; go in peace and be cured of your disease.”

FOCUS TWO: The woman sneaks up in the crowd and touches Jesus’ garments

As I meditated on this text, seeking to understand why Mark would include this story sandwiched between Jairus approaching Jesus and then going to Jairus’s home, I tried to put myself in his position. Sometimes it is helpful to do that when we are trying to figure out the plotline within our text. Now we have, most likely in Jairus’s view, an unwanted delay in Jesus healing his daughter by this woman that sneaks up to Jesus in the crowd.

Jairus, now with Jesus, is walking home to his beloved dying daughter. This woman “interferes” with his expectations, and that subsequent time lost results in the death of his little twelve-year-old daughter. When they began walking, there was hope; she was only in the process of dying. Now, after this woman engages Jesus, his daughter is dead! He is weighed down with grief.
This woman has been dealing with her ever-growing hopeless situation for twelve years. She tried every new thing she could. New doctors with new treatments and spent all her wealth but found no healing. Luke, the physician, tells us that nothing helped because her condition was incurable (Luke 8:43). It sounds like God had a plan in allowing her to suffer for so long. He would manifest His authority and power through her, under such circumstances for His all-wise and holy purposes! That’s how old Jairus’ daughter is (vv. 25,42).

Her faith was so great that she believed that she only needed to touch His garment and that she would be healed. Such faith was exhibited with Paul (Acts 19:12), the difference being Paul was not God; the Lord granted any power in Him to magnify His name and His gospel!

Jesus, wanting to draw the woman out of the crowd, asks, “who touched me?” He wanted her to have faith, not fear; praise, not trembling. She does come forward and tells Jesus everything (v.33). Jesus then makes this statement crucial for us to hear: “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed from your affliction” (v. 34).

From his sentence, we draw out three statements

  1. Your faith has made you well
  2. Go in peace
  3. Be healed of your affliction

First, notice that her faith made her well, not touching His clothes. Second, Jesus was not angry at her for touching Him, and He granted her peace. And third, He heals her of her affliction.

*”The verb save (s’oz’o) in verse 28 can refer to deliverance from physical danger and affliction or deliverance from eternal judgment. It’s used in 10:26, where ‘being saved’ is par to inheriting eternal life and 10:17,30 “entering the kingdom of God (10:23-25). The primary meaning in this passage (5:23,28,34), however, relates to deliverance from physical difficulty since ‘being saved’ is par to ‘being healed from affliction’ (5:34). YET, even in his passage, (save) seems to point beyond mere physical healing from a particular affliction to a greater sense of wholeness and well-being, since the woman’s deliverance allows her to ‘live in peace.”
So there seems to be a strong suggestion that her faith also led to spiritual salvation!

We now begin to see the bottom piece of bread in this sandwich! Mark began with Jairus (bread), then entered the woman (meat), and now we have our next piece of bread (Jairus’ home) to complete the sandwich.

35 While He was still speaking, people *came from the house of the synagogue official, saying, “Your daughter has died; why bother the Teacher further?” 36 But Jesus, overhearing what was being spoken, *said to the synagogue official, “Do not be afraid, only [a]believe.” 37 And He allowed no one to accompany Him except Peter, [b]James, and John the brother of [c]James. 38 They *came to the house of the synagogue official, and He *saw a commotion, and people loudly weeping and wailing. 39 And after entering, He *said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child has not died, but is asleep.” 40 And they began laughing at Him. But putting them all outside, He *took along the child’s father and mother and His companions, and *entered the room where the child was in bed. 41 And taking the child by the hand, He *said to her, “Talitha, kum!” (which translated means, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). 42 And immediately the girl got up and began to walk, for she was twelve years old. And immediately they were utterly astonished. 43 And He gave them strict orders that no one was to know about this, and He told them to have something given her to eat.

FOCUS THREE: The little girl arises

While Jesus was speaking to the woman, news came of Jairus’s daughter’s death. How distressing for him to hear, how discouraging for him as he may have counted in his mind the precious minutes being lost as Jesus engaged the woman. BUT, Jesus encourages him to continue having faith in Him, even though his situation appears pointless now that his daughter has died.

Imagine the scene as they walk up to his house, hearing the mourners’ loud lament. They saw so many people weeping and wailing at the girl’s death. Imagine standing there as Jesus tells them all not to cry. The child did not die but is sleeping! Would you have laughed at Him too!

Jesus takes Peter, James, John, and the child’s parents into the room where the twelve-year-old girl lies. He speaks while holding her hand, and she arises!

What similarities and differences do these accounts share?

Common:

  1. Both are in a hopeless situation (vv. 23, 25-26)
  2. Both seek Jesus for healing (vv. 22, 27)
  3. Both expressed fear (vv. 36,33)
  4. Both exhibit faith (vv. 23, 28)
  5. Both receive what they sought (vv. 34, 42)

Not in common:

  1. Jairus is a male; the woman is, well, a woman (vv. 22, 25)
  2. He is a synagogue official, she is a woman with a hemorrhage (vv. 22, 25)
  3. Jairus boldly approaches Jesus, the woman sneaks up in a crowd (vv. 22, 27)
  4. He exhibits fear and concern, she exhibits embarrassment and shame (23,36,27,33)
  5. She endured much at the hands of others; Jairus is pleading for someone else (vv. 26, 23)
  6. Jairus’s daughter dies and then is brought back to life; the woman remains alive (vv. 35, 34)

What do we learn from these things? We realize that they both needed Jesus, the king of the kingdom, the promised Messiah, Emmanuel, to heal their hopeless situation. And in so doing, Christ put on display His deity, authority, and power over all things natural or unnatural!

Jairus had many “why” questions, just like us, and he was able to get the answers, at least to some degree” through this experience. I think the story of the woman with the blood issue was placed in the middle because Jesus wanted Jairus to grow in his faith in Him. His circumstances did just that?

“But we may never know the answers to our why questions this side of heaven. Will you be willing to trust God during that most difficult moment?”

This account of Mark should encourage us to trust Jesus even when we have to wait longer than we would like.

*Exegetical guide to the Greek NT, Joel f. Williams, pg. 96

FOLLOW ME

MARK 1:16-20

BRIEF INTRO: It’s funny how I can, at times, look at a portion of scripture and, at least in my thinking, not see too much. What I am reading appears to be pretty straightforward, no doctrine to unfold, no theology to research and unpack, and the application is clear enough. But, I have learned over the years to “think again,” that is, I had to discipline myself to prayerfully look at the verses and meditate on what truth’s I could grasp from some seemingly “unimportant” text.

Such is the situation before me. These verses in Mark 1:16-20 appear, on the surface, to be all those things I just stated above. But thankfully, the more I reflect on these verses, or I should say, the main point of these verses, I have been blessed by the Holy Spirit as He has opened my mind and heart to some truths I needed to be reminded of. I think we all can benefit from such reminders. So, let’s get to it!

16 As He was going along the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “(Follow Me,) and I will have you become fishers of people.” 18 Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. 19 And going on a little farther, He saw [a]James the son of Zebedee, and his brother John, [b]who were also in the boat mending the nets. 20 Immediately He called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and went away [c] (to follow Him).

FOCUS ONE:  THE OBVIOUS

At our first reading of these scriptures, we come across some simple facts:

  1. 1. Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee
  2. 2. He saw and later called two men to “follow” Him
  3. 3. These men were brothers (Simon and Andrew)
  4. 4. They were fishermen
  5. 5. Jesus calls them to follow Him and “be made,” or “have you” become something other than what they were currently: fishers of men!
  6. 6. Immediately they leave all and follow Him
  7. 7. Going a bit farther, Jesus sees James and John (brothers)
  8. 8. They were in a boat mending nets (fishermen)
  9. 9. He calls them to follow Him
  10. 10. They leave everything ( including the hired servants and follow Him)

Those facts assimilated reveal Jesus was seeking, Jesus calling, and Jesus being obeyed!

FOCUS TWO: THE NOT SO OBVIOUS

Is it mere coincidence that Jesus comes upon these men that day along the Sea of Galilee? What would compel these men to follow Him? Why would they forsake all to follow Christ? “Then Peter answered and said to Him, ‘Behold, we have left everything and followed you; what then will there be for us?'”

Jesus speaks of “those He has chosen” in reference to His disciples in John 13:18. In chapter 17 of the same writing, He references the disciples as “men whom thou gavest me out of the world” (v. 6). 

It is evident from these scriptures that God had, by His foreknowledge and for “the praise of His glory,” chosen or by way of “election,” decided that these men would be disciples of His Son and ultimately fearless martyrs; for the glorious gospel of God! These men were not extraordinary by any means as you and I would think. Like you and I, they were working men, family men, husbands, fathers, etc. They were not wealthy men or intellectual types; they were not mighty men. But such are those God chooses to serve Him!

26 For [a]consider your calling, brothers and sisters, that there were not many wise according to [b]the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the [c]insignificant things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29 so that no [d]human may boast before God. 30 But it is [e]due to Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, [f]and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:26-30).

Did He need them? No, but He was pleased to use them in His glorious work among men!

Another not-so-obvious observation is drawn out in this question: What was His purpose in having disciples?

This purpose is primarily expressed in Christ’s prayer in John 17:5:19. Jesus called these men unto Himself and invested approximately 3 ½ years into them so that they would, as they followed Him, experience Him in every manner of His life. By walking and talking with Him, listening to Him teach, watching Him perform many miracles, and by being with Him ALL THE TIME, they would get to know Him as thoroughly as any human being can know another! They would “come to understand that all things (the message and the mission of Christ) which Christ had were ultimately from the father.”

The ultimate purpose in calling these men unto Himself was so that they would be a witness and testimony to the gospel of Christ. So that these men, after Christ’s ascension, would continue the work that he began, the proclamation of the “gospel of the kingdom” (Matthew 28:18-20)!

FOCUS THREE: OBSERVATIONS THAT DIRECT APPLICATION

In this section, I aim to point out several things that I hope will be “food for thought” as you close your iPad, exit your phone, or do whatever you will do when you finish reading this post.

The first item to point out is that nets are associated with fishing, NOT rods within this context and any I know of throughout scripture! This fact has important implications for us as we faithfully seek to fulfill the great commission. 

Unlike a fishing rod that is cast into the water and then yanked back hard to hook a fish, nets are CAST out and open wide (depending on size) with the sole purpose of catching as many fish as possible. Any fish in the area can swim into this net, which can mean a large number will be caught within it. The imagery we often see of using a lure and a line and then waiting for a fish to strike is foreign to the Bible.

Some fish will get away when the nets are closed and pulled back into the boat, but the net will catch many. This has its parallel in our fishing for men!

  1. We are to cast our nets (the gospel) wide to draw in as many people as possible.
  2. Evangelism can be tedious and tiring at times, seemingly lacking results. We can feel we cast our net in vain, once again. But, as we learn in Luke 5:4, we are to rest in Christ, faithfully continuing to share the gospel, trusting Christ for the results!
  3. Only when we are with Jesus may we fully know just how many men were caught in our gospel nets!!
  4. Some people will reject the gospel (fish falling out of the net), we cannot keep them in, but we can pray for their souls!

A second item that stands out to me in this text that we are looking at is that Serving Christ requires our willingness to forsake all else.

In the Gospel of Luke, we find a situation in which some men stated they wanted to follow Christ, and others had several excuses not to follow Him (Luke 9:57-62). Contrast those people to these men in our text: what a stark contrast! Christ’s answer to them seems plain enough, even for our ears today: “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (v. 62).

I noticed one or two other applications, but I will leave it up to you to search them out in your study. Have fun.

CHRIST’S PREPARATION FOR MINISTRY 

BRIEF INTRO: In my last post, I focused on the overall context of verses 1-8, where Mark opened his writing with the words: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God,” and then introduced the “forerunner” for Christ, John the Baptist. In this post, I will place our attention on Christ’s baptism and temptation in the wilderness, not only because they follow our previous verses but because they are instructive in teaching us about how God prepared His Son for the earthly ministry that was before Him.

Mark moves through his gospel with urgency (“and it came to pass;” “and immediately,” and “just then,” are statements made throughout his writing). So we would be wise to discipline ourselves now, at the on-set, to stay focused, or we might miss his point altogether! 

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens [a]opening, and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon Him; 11 and a voice came from the heavens: “You are My beloved Son; in You I [b]am well pleased.”

FOCUS ONE: The Baptism of Jesus (1:9-11)

Mark tells us that Jesus left His hometown of Nazareth in Galilee and submitted Himself to the rite of baptism that John was performing at the river Jordan. Mark lays out Christ’s baptism in straightforward language, unlike Matthew and Luke. He does not explain anything; he quickly states what happened.

The significance of the baptism lies in God’s public approval of His Son, which I will get to in a minute. First, we need to recognize that Jesus’ baptism does have some contrast related to all of those “from the country of Judaea” coming to John and being baptized.

In contrast with all the others, Jesus made no confession of sins (Mark 1:5), since He was without sin (John 8:45-46).  Mark did not state why Jesus submitted to John’s baptism; however, three reasons may be suggested: (1) It was an act of obedience, showing that Jesus was in full agreement with God’s overall plan and the role of John’s baptism in it (Matthew 3:15). (2) It was an act of self-identification with the nation of Israel whose heritage and sinful predicament He shared (Isaiah 53:12). (3) It was an act of self-dedication to His Messianic mission, signifying His official acceptance and entrance into it” (Bible Knowledge Commentary).

The Fathers public approval of Jesus (v. 11)

This voice from heaven both qualified and identified Jesus to those around Him. The words “you are my son,” affirm His unique relationship with the Father. “Beloved,” seems to stress the intensity of the love between the Father and Son but can also “be understood in the Old Testament sense of an ‘only son'” (Genesis 22:2, 12, 16). In either case or as a whole, it seems clear that Jesus “preexisted” and did not, at His baptism, become a son!

The whole trinity involved 

Don’t miss what Mark reveals in these following verses (v. 10-11). Mark states three things that set Jesus apart from all the others that he baptized:

  1. The heavens were opened or parted! The Greek uses a “forceful verb,” which signifies “being torn open, or split.” 
  2. He saw the Spirit descending on Him like a dove. This imagery takes us back to Genesis 1:2, where we read about the Holy Spirits’ part in the creation and His creative activity. In the Old Testament, we find passages telling us that the Spirit came on certain people and empowered them for a particular service (Exodus 31:3; Judges 3:10). It appears that Mark is telling us that the coming of the Holy Spirit on Jesus empowered Him for His messianic mission (Acts 10:38).
  3. Jesus heard a voice from heaven (v.11). Words from the Father expressing His heavenly approval of the baptism that had just taken place! To put this simply:
  1. The Son submits to the ordinance
  2. The Spirit rests upon the Son
  3. The Father voices His “good” pleasure

12 And immediately the Spirit *brought Him out into the wilderness. 13 And He was in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by Satan; and He was with the wild animals, and the angels were serving Him.

FOCUS TWO: The Temptation of Jesus (1:12-13)

Here we feel the “urgency” in Mark’s writing again (v. 10). At once or immediately, Jesus is compelled by the Spirit to “go out into the wilderness.” Mark uses a pretty strong word, from the Greek verb (ekballo), meaning to drive out or send away. Mark used this word in other places to denote the expulsion of demons (vv. 34, 39; 3:15). Here “it reflects Mark’s forceful style. The thought is of a strong moral compulsion by which the Spirit led Jesus to take the offensive against temptation and evil instead of avoiding them.” 

So, Jesus is led by the Spirit further into the wilderness region. Some commentators believe that the site of Christ’s temptation was northwest of the Dead Sea immediately west of Jericho.

Mark, in his brevity, states:

  1. The Spirit compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness
  2. He was there forty days
  3. Satan tempted him
  4. He was with the wild beasts
  5. Angels were ministering to Him

Satan sought to lead Christ into sin (Matthew 4:1-11). Matthew relates just how Satan attempted to do this. The word “tempted” means “put to the test, make trial of” to discover the kind of person someone is.” As I was reminded of by my pastor this past Sunday in his sermon, and then again writing this post, Matthew’s use of such a word can be in either a “good” way or a “bad “way.

In a good sense, God’s testing (1 Corinthians 10:13; Hebrews 11:17). Or in a bad sense of enticement by Satan and his minions to sin. One commentator points out that both meanings are evident here! “God put Jesus to the test (The Spirit led Him), to show that he was qualified for His mission. BUT also Satan tried to draw Jesus away fro His divinely appointed mission” (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13).

Only mark makes use of the phrase, “he was with the wild beasts.” Most likely, he is using the words to stress the “hostile” environment where Christ was placed. Desolate, lonely, and full of danger! Pretty descriptive of Satan’s domain!

So, whereas the baptism resulted in the Spirits’ control, here the wilderness tempting, the extent of Christ’s submission to the Father’s will, we see this in the forceful guidance of the Spirit, one element of Christs’ self-humiliation, and also in His dealing with our arch-enemy, “the serpent of old.” Praise God Jesus, the God-man, put the enemy to flight (Luke 4:13) by using scriptures to expose the lies of the evil one (Luke 4: 4, 8, 12)!

Through all of these forty days, the “angels ministered to Jesus.” Whatever they supplied Christ, and to what extent they provided it, is not explicitly mentioned, but whatever it entailed, it was enough! The Fathers protecting care was ever-present in the ministry of the angels attending the Messiah.

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GOD’ S VIEW OF CHRISTMAS

Extended reading: Revelation 12

Devotional reading: Verses 10-12

When you think of the Christmas season and what it means, do you think of it in the terms written out for us in Revelation 12? Probably not. We are so accustomed to thinking about a cute baby in a manger, wise men with gifts, and angels singing out in the fields with shepherds that we most likely miss God’s view of the Christmas story.

“The birth of Christ and Satan’s opposition to the event are graphically depicted in this scene. Jesus, the messiah, was born into this world to implement God’s plan for the world’s restoration. Satan had planted the destructive effects of sin into God’s good creation by tempting Adam and Eve to sin. So as Jesus was born to reverse the effects of that sin, Satan did all he could to destroy the infant savior” (remember what Herod did? Matthew 2:16-18).

“Thankfully, Satan was unsuccessful, and the future Ruler of the world was able to complete His earthly mission. As much as Satan desires to thwart God’s overall plan, he cannot stop God’s plan of salvation for us if we surrender our lives to Him by trusting Christ to pay for our sins.”

Some parts are adapted from “The every mans Bible.”

JEHOVAH- RAPHA “The Lord our healer.”

Exodus 15

BRIEF INTRO:

In our Bibles, we find many names of God, names like El Elyon “the most High God” back in Genesis 14, El Roi “the God who sees,” in Genesis 16. “El Shaddai” the all-sufficient one in Genesis 17, Jehovah “the self existent one,” Back in Genesis 2, Jehovah Jireh “the Lord who provides” in Genesis 22. Many names of God reveal more of His character and nature to us. In this post, we are going to focus on the name Jehovah Rapha “The Lord who heals.”

I would say there is a sensible unfolding of God’s revelation of Himself to us. Scripture begins by revealing God as (Elohim), a God of great power, and then (Jehovah), a God who is eternal in His nature and essence. The (most high God), a God who sees all, Almighty, a provider, a healer, our banner, and so on and on and on…. all the way up to Emmanuel “God with us” in Matthew 1:23! And what a fantastic revelation of God in Christ this is Sacrificial, self-less love!

In these names, there is a progressive revelation of Jehovah meeting every need as it arises in the experience of His redeemed people–saving, sustaining, strengthening, sanctifying, and so on; and not only for the redeemed of that day but for God’s saints in all ages. The things that happened to Israel, the apostle Paul tells us, were our examples:

“Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come” (1Corinthians 10:6).

FOCUS ONE:

 Well, let’s look at THE NAME Jehovah-Rapha –It means Jehovah heals. Jehovah means “self-subsisting—the self-subsisting one heals! The name Jehovah-Jireh, you may remember, arose out of the incident of Jehovah’s provision of a substitute in place of Isaac whom He had commanded Abraham to sacrifice upon the altar (Gen. 22). The name stands for Jehovah’s great provision for man’s redemption in the sacrifice of His only begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who was the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world.

This name of God, Jehovah-Rapha arises out of one of Israel’s earliest experiences in the wilderness, as told in Exodus 15. Let me remind you what is going on in the biblical narrative, and then we will zoom in to our text for this morning. In chapters 11 and 12, the Lord tells Moses that he is bringing one more plague on Pharaoh and Egypt. It is the plague of the death of the firstborn. This plaque would break Pharaoh and Egypt, and he would send the sons of Israel out of the land.

Next, we have the great Exodus of Israel (12:33-). The Egyptians gave them all kinds of gold, silver, and even clothing as they left Egypt. Scripture says: “thus they plundered the Egyptians (vs. 36) after 430 years as slaves in Egypt! In chapter 13, We see the Lord leading the people by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. The Lord directs the people to turn back and camp before pa-hahiroth so it would appear to Pharaoh that the people were wandering around. Pharaoh’s heart is hardened, and he gets his army and chariots together and pursues Israel. The sea is divided by the Lord, Israel crosses over on the dry ground, But….Pharaoh’s entire army was lost (14:28). After this fantastic victory, Moses and all Israel rejoice and sing a song to the Lord (Chapter 15). Let’s read this together.

Here we find an amazing song of praise and adoration unto the Lord, and rightly so, He just saved them miraculously from the Egyptians by parting the sea and closing it up on their enemies!!

But this same chapter which records Israel’s triumphant song, also records the second murmurings of discontent and bitterness. In the first flush of victory, they went along joyfully the first day and perhaps even the second day. But the way was hot and weary, and their water was giving out. The third day was well along, and still, there was no water. Their throats were parched. They felt their plight becoming desperate. They forgot the might and mercy of the God who had so marvelously delivered them. In their anxiety and anger, they murmured against Moses in bitter complaint (vs. 24).

Can you imagine their feelings of relief and joy as they first came in sight of this well, but what angry disillusionment when they find the waters bitter–an aggravation and a mockery of their thirst.

This setback maddened them; what were they to do? Were they and their children to die there of thirst? BUT THEN God showed Moses a certain tree, which, when cast into the waters, turned those waters from bitterness to sweetness so that the people drank. They were refreshed and strengthened for the journey ahead. Their murmuring was turned to praise as their confidence in Jehovah and His servant Moses was renewed. Then we read in verse 26 that “God made a statute and regulation and there He tested them.”

“If you wilt diligently hearken to the voice of Jehovah thy God, and will do that which is right in his sight . . I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am Jehovah that heals you” (i.e., Jehovah-Rapha)

FOCUS TWO:

Just like in Abraham’s trying experience in the mount, there came a new and comforting name of God, Jehovah Jireh, —so out of Israel’s bitter experience in the wilderness, there comes another new and comforting name of God, Jehovah- rapha, (Jehovah heals). The word Rapha appears sixty times in the Old Testament, always meaning to restore, heal, cure, or a physician, not only in the physical sense but also in the (moral) and (spiritual) sense. And Jehovah here pledged Himself on condition of their obedience always to be their Healer.

Perhaps the first lesson we may draw from this story since these events are all examples is humanity’s need for a physician’s healing–even in a physical sense. The Old Testament reveals a number of instances in which God’s power is manifested, and sometimes by natural means, to heal the bodies of men. A notable example is King Hezekiah, who was healed and granted a definite additional span of years to live (2 Kings 20).

Nothing is more obvious, tragic, and costly than the toll that sickness has exacted from our human life and happiness. Disease is rampant the world over and has brought untold havoc. It is no respecter of persons and stretches out its tentacles into all classes and communities. It is a grim fact of human existence with which mankind has always had to cope and which has called for the exercise of our best minds, efforts, and resourcefulness to try and overcome.

Friends, The many hospitals and institutions everywhere, built and maintained at a great cost, bear witness to the prevalence and tragedy of sickness in the world. How appropriate, then, to the physical need of men is the name Jehovah-Rapha!

But man’s need for healing is even more significant in the spiritual realm. For here, the ravages of sin are even more grim and obvious. The tragedy and sorrow, and pain are even greater. Using the physical characteristics of a man, the prophet Isaiah describes the (moral) and (spiritual) condition of his people:

Notice the language used:

 “The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and raw wounds: they have not been closed, neither bandaged, neither softened with oil” (Isaiah 1:5, 6).

The moral and spiritual sickness of mankind is an open, running sore. The heart of man is desperately sick, says Jeremiah 17:9. Herein is the heart’s fundamental disease–the sin that alienates it from God–the sin that manifests itself in open and secret evil of every kind. How desperately mankind needs a healer, a physician!

Brothers and sisters, sin is like the waters of Marah in our text, to which the children of Israel came in the wilderness. It is (NOT) sweetness and life (but) bitterness and death.

Yet the antidote to its poison, the remedy for its sickness, is ever near-even at hand, just as it was near the waters of Marah. For at those waters, God performed His miracle of healing by means of a tree growing nearby. It was the tree of God cast into the waters there that healed and sweetened them.

NEW BOOK REVIEW

WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM FOR KIDS

I recently began going through Spurgeon’s Catechism with my son when my wife, who does most of our homeschooling, told me about this book. There are two books (Workbook One, which covers the first ten questions, and Workbook Two, which covers questions 11-20).

What more significant conversations can we have with our children than those regarding their creator, the entrance of evil into the world, and the suffering and misery that comes from it? The Bible does not shy away from such conversations, and neither should we. It reveals the world as it truly is, and despite the seemingly endless “vanity” of it all, there is hope, and His name is JESUS! These workbooks are easy to read and VERY helpful for parents who struggle with having more in-depth conversations with their children regarding more profound subject matter.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism interestingly introduces the story of redemption. In the first book, questions 1-10, Caroline Weerstra and Thomas Trouwborst, expand the topic of each question posed in the catechism by bringing in two or three “lessons” about the question asked. The workbook helps us expand and penetrate the thinking of our children so they can think through each question logically and biblically. They also help us as parents explain and develop the truth in scripture by using other scriptures that help give us a complete picture of God’s character, nature, and purpose in history.

Each question is asked, and an answer is given, just like in the Shorter catechism itself. Then the authors provide three lessons that go along with the question posed. The lessons are short but helpful, often with a brief review. Your child can write their answers directly in the book – they provide “fill in the blanks” for that purpose. Or, they can write their answers in a notebook, but you can also walk through it together verbally if that suits your style of teaching better!

I enjoyed how they bring in other scriptures to shed greater light on the particular question being answered and sometimes have comparisons, such as what Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 1 compared with what Isaiah wrote In Isaiah 65.

There is also a “Let’s think” section that get’s your child reflecting on your discussion on a more personal level; LOVE THAT!

I appreciate their motivation for this project: “We believe that our rich Reformed heritage should be carried on to the next generation. However, memorization is NOT enough. Children learn best when they UNDERSTAND. . . This workbook series introduces children to the Westminster Shorter catechism and promotes memorization, while also providing clearand concise explanations of vocabulary and theological concepts.

Workbook one covers (Who is God?) the first ten questions of the Shorter Catechism. “It begins with a basic discussion of the purpose of man and the nature of God and moves on to introduce a biblical view of creation.”The second workbook “teaches primarily about the fall of mankind,” and God’s provision of a redeemer. The marvelous message (good news) of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ!

I included a picture of these books. I imagine you can find them many places, but just in case, their website is www.commonlifepress.com

EXAMINE YOURSELVES

Photo by Nugroho Wahyu on Pexels.com

EXTENDED READING: 2 Corinthians 13:1-10

DEVOTIONAL READING: Verses 5-6

Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you [a]fail the test? But I expect that you will realize that we ourselves [b]do not fail the test.

Just the other day I had to “examine” a particular tool that I wanted to use in my next remodeling project. It didn’t have power when I plugged it in and that was odd, I just used it the previous day. One day something works well and is acting as it should, but slowly, subtly, something or things change and what once was taken for granted now became an issue.

It can be like that in our Christianity as well. In these verses above Paul urge the Corinthian believers to engage in serious self-examination. He wanted them to assess the nature of their commitment to God by looking closely at their own lives. You and I need to do the same if we hope to uncover the problems that tear down our relationships with others and our Heavenly Father. 

I examined my power tool in every possible way to determine the problem that needed fixed. We need to examine our hearts in much the same way. It might be helpful to write your observations down and compare your notes. Paul warns that there are some who’s faith may not be genuine. Make sure that is not you.

Prayer: Father, we hear these solemn words of Paul and are at first fearful to test ourselves in this way for fear of what we may find. Please grant us the courage, faith, and resolve to make sure that our professed faith is genuine and that we are approved by You. Amen.

FINALLY, BRETHREN

PHILIPPIANS 4:8-10

BRIEF INTRO: Now that Paul has addressed the issue of disunity within this local church and especially the two women at its heart, He signals that he is coming to an end of his writing. Yes, he appeared to signal this before (3:1), but with approximately (according to one commentator) 40% of his letter yet to come, it seems logical to deduce that he does not mean to signal “finality,” but rather is using the term in the sense of “furthermore,” or “adding to that.” In our text, he is using the exact Greek phrase to signal the true final words of his epistle to them.

In our previous study, we observed the apostle exhorting this church (Rejoice, be anxious for nothing, and make known, are all in the imperative – commands) to practice specific positive biblical virtues. Today, in our study, he continues with this appeal by directing them to the things their minds should be dwelling on. Paul desires that these Christians “keep on thinking and doing what is morally and spiritually excellent.” This involves meditating on such higher and nobler things and then putting them into practice. And, as we will observe again, they are encouraged to follow his example.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is [a]lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, think about these things.As for the things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

FOCUS ONE: In these verses, we find six adjectives that are to lead Christians into a higher, more reflective sense of thinking, introduced by the word whatever. Some view these things as “old-fashioned ideas,” while others view them as a “Charter for Christian Thought.” Either way, Paul is reminding them AND us “that careful, logical, and noble thinking produces noble living; high thinking produces high living; and holy thinking produces holy living,” as a man thinks in his heart, so is he (Proverbs 23:7). Such things were exemplified in Jesus Christ (2:5-11) and are produced within us by the working of the Holy Spirit, who indwells each believer.

So, let’s put them in order, and I will give a brief definition of each that I hope will help us grasp the greater sense of each and help us engage the obvious battle for the mind that such thinking elicits (Hebrews 5:16-26).

We are to dwell on:

  1. Whatever is true
  2. Whatever is honorable
  3. Whatever is right
  4. Whatever is pure
  5. Whatever is lovely or lovable
  6. Whatever is good repute or attractive

We should notice that Paul changes the sentence structure to conditional clauses at the end of the verse (if there), so those things are not included in this list but will be discussed later.

Truth is reality, in it is a sense of validity, reliability and is the opposite of what is not. It exemplifies God’s character and should characterize the Christian as well. Honorable is dignified, worthy of reverence, and seems to combine a sense of gravity with dignity. Paul used this word in his pastoral epistles, referring to the qualifications of a church leader.

Right refers to what is upright, conforming to God’s standards, and worthy of His approval.

Pure emphasizes moral purity, that which, in KJV language, is “unsullied.”

Lovely is used in the sense of what is pleasing, agreeable, or amiable. Not to be confused with what is pleasing to the flesh, but the Spirit!

Good repute directs us to what is praiseworthy and rings true to the highest standards—God’s standards, not ours or our cultures.

Some people become discouraged when they read things as we have in this epistle. “have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ” (2:5).” “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (2:12). And, “let your mind dwell on these things” (4:8). But we shouldn’t because, in all these exhortations to Christ-like-ness, God is actively working within us to conform us into the image of His Son (1:6; 2:13; 4:7,9)!

FOCUS TWO: Paul has changed his sentence structure at the end of verse eight to conditional clauses (if there), “A rhetorical device that forces the reader to exercise his own discernment and choose what is excellent and praiseworthy.” It appears that the apostle would have these believers, and us secondarily, focus our minds on these things because when we do, we will be living in obedience to Gods Word, we will be walking in unity, and we will “appear as lights in the world” (2:15)!

Dear reader, these are things that should occupy our minds. These are things that occupy our Lord’s mind. How can we grow in holiness, serve one another, be effective witnesses for Christ, or have intimate, powerful prayer lives if we allow our minds to be engrossed with things that are opposed to the things the inspired Word of God teaches us? 

We often struggle with applying the knowledge we acquire, so our loving Heavenly Father provides us godly examples to imitate (3:17; 4:9). No, we are not to imitate men who walk in the flesh, but we are graciously encouraged to emulate those whose lives are imitations of Christ! Such people exhibit the application of such truths in their daily walk, which, in turn, helps us visualize what conformity to God’s word looks like when it is fleshed out.

As for the things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

FOCUS THREE: Paul had become their teacher shortly after his arrival in Philippi (Acts 16). What they had learned, what they had observed in his life, took place in the short period he was with them (Acts 16:40), and he wanted them to continue practicing these things. 

He uses four verbs that are formed into two pairs (Exegetical Commentary). The first pair, “learned” and “received,” describes the Philippian’s instruction by Paul. He is the person who taught them Christian doctrine and Christian living. The next pair, “heard” and “saw,” depicts their personal observation of the apostle – both his speech and his conduct.

In my meditation on these things, it became clear to me just how much we need both. As Christians, we can’t lead balanced lives if we only have one avenue of personal growth absent of the other. Preaching and teaching are essential, but if it is lacking any application to my daily life, to my walk of faith, it will serve to wound me more than aid me. Let me explain my thinking: I can fill my head with all kinds of bible facts, doctrine, and theology, but if that “knowledge” sits in my head, if I don’t know what it is supposed to look like in applying it in my life, or I’m not encouraged by observing it in others, what use is it to me? 

Real-life illustration: Many years ago, I was a member of a small local church in my hometown. I was a member there for many years and also preached and taught there often. I often overheard a few gentlemen express their disgust at the topic the pastor would be preaching or teaching on that Sunday. Many times I would hear one or the other say: “Why doesn’t he teach on Romans 7 and 8 or Hebrews 5,” I already know all about 1 Corinthians 13.”

Do you see the problem? What good was the “knowledge” about Christian love to them? I observed their rudeness, pride, and self-focus all too often while I was there. They didn’t need more knowledge; they needed to apply what they knew in their own lives and relationships with others.

Paul lived what he preached. His life spoke more eloquently than his lips, I read somewhere. Life examples like that are models that we can follow, confidently trusting that “the God of peace will be with you!”