Bible reading for July 26 -- 27
July 26 -- Jeremiah 22 and Mark 8
July 27 -- Jeremiah 23 and Mark 9
"Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land." (Jeremiah 23:5)
ABUSE OF POWER (ch 22). King Josiah, himself a good and godly ruler, had two sons and a grandson mentioned in this chapter. Shallum (renamed Jehoahaz) ruled briefly after Josiah's death and was subsequently deposed by Pharaoh Necho and taken to Egypt, where he died. (At that time, before Babylon defeated Egypt, Jerusalem was subject to Egyptian power.) Eliakim (renamed Jehoiakim) replaced Jehoahaz and ruled oppressively. He used forced labor to build himself a lavish new palace. Jeremiah says, however, he would have a donkey's burial (vv 18-19). We also read of Jehoiakim's response to Jeremiah's prophecies later in chapter 36. He died, perhaps in battle, but the circumstances and location of his body are unknown. After his death, his son Coniah (renamed Jehoiachin) became king, but was soon taken into exile to Babylon. God's will is that leaders lead in righteousness. They are to guide and care for people according to the law of God, and not for their own power, pleasure, and profit.
THE ROYAL BRANCH (ch 23). Another leader would come, however, one who would gather (not scatter), and preserve and multiply the people. He would not abuse his power. He is called "the Branch" (v 5). This title, "branch" (Heb., tsemach, "sprout, shoot, bud"), comes from the picture of the house of David (Davidic dynasty) being chopped back to a stump, followed by a humble shoot sprouting up from the root. This speaks both of Christ's humility (a small beginning) and of his uniqueness, since he is the only One who is worthy to rule (cf Rev 5:1-12).
FALSE PROPHETS. The rest of the chapter (23:9-40) tells us about false prophets. He's speaking here not primarily about the prophets of Ba'al or some other false god. Many of these so-called prophets presumed to speak in the name of the Lord, and they were a bane to Israel's history. Many who thought themselves prophetic, or felt spiritual, or who experienced dreams, would presume to say, "Thus says the Lord" or "the burden (oracle) of the Lord is..." This was tantamount to putting words -- their own words -- into the mouth of the Lord, words which he never spoke nor commanded. The Lord says, "...let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? declares the LORD. Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?" (vv 28-29) So these straw-speaking prophets were considered as bad as the prophets who served the false gods. This situation has also plagued the church throughout the years (and will so in the future, too, see Matt 7:15; 24:11, 24). We should beware of people who say, "the Lord told me..." or "God is saying to you", or who write books putting words in Jesus' mouth that he never said. Theologian Benjamin Warfield wrote about the differences between this kind of mysticism and Christianity:
"Evangelical Christianity interprets all religious experience by the normative revelation of God recorded for us in the Holy Scriptures, and guides, directs, and corrects it from these Scriptures, and thus molds it into harmony with what God in His revealed Word lays down as the normal Christian life. The mystic, on the other hand, tends to substitute his religious experience for the objective revelation of God recorded in the written Word, as the source from which he derives his knowledge of God, or at least to subordinate the expressly revealed Word as the less direct and convincing source of knowledge of God to his own religious experience. The result is that the external revelation is relatively depressed in value, if not totally set aside." (B. B. Warfield, "Mysticism and Christianity", in Biblical and Theological Studies) For a contemporary example, read Randy Alcorn's review of Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.
"And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, 'Do you see anything?' And he looked up and said, 'I see men, but they look like trees, walking.'" (Mark 8:23-24)
PETER'S CONFESSION (ch 8). This chapter of Mark is the pivot, or hinge chapter, of Mark's gospel (see chart above). Chapters 1 through 8 deal with who Jesus is, that is, his identity, his power, his authority as the Son of God. Peter's confession here, "You are the Christ..." comes in this chapter. And there's a different emphasis in chapters 9 through 16, that of what Jesus came to do. The focus is now upon Christ's work, that he came to serve, to suffer, and to die, and then be raised from the dead. This was largely unexpected by most Jews of Jesus' day. The Messiah as King could not suffer such indignities, they thought.
WALKING TREES. In this chapter Jesus performs his only recorded two-step miracle. It took two touches for the man to see clearly. This is not because the first time didn't work, it's because knowing Christ is not just knowing who he is, but also knowing the nature of his work as our Savior and Lord, and to follow his example. Peter, who boldly confessed the identity of Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah, would then rebuke Jesus for speaking of his death. He did not see clearly that the Messiah came first to suffer and die, and to rise from the dead. He needed another touch to open his eyes. We have a continual need for the Lord to clarify our understanding. The theme of clear sight runs through this section of Mark. "Do you not see...?" (v 18) "Do you see anything...?" (v 23) And three disciples would see Christ's glory on the Mount of Transfiguration (9:2-9; 2 Pet 1:16-18). This should be a regular prayer for us: "Lord, help me see things clearly. Help me better understand your truth. Help me to discern your will."
ON THE ROAD AGAIN (ch 9). Upon this clearer understanding of the work Jesus came to do (8:31; 9:31), and of the self-denial and suffering necessary when we follow him (8:34-38), the disciples head south to Jerusalem. The word for road or way (Gr., hodos) appears 16 times in this gospel. The gospel begins, "Prepare the way (hodos) of the Lord..." (1:2-3). It can mean a literal road or path, or a journey. Used figuratively, it denotes a way of life and teaching. Mark's gospel overlaps these meanings to let us know that the Christian life is lived as a journey, following Jesus by living out his example. Salvation is more than thinking, it is living and doing. It is never less than thinking, but it certainly is more. Jesus and the disciples have begun the long journey from Caesarea Philippi, the northernmost part of Israel, where Peter's confession took place, and set their faces toward Jerusalem in the south. On a mountain somewhere near Galilee, Jesus is transformed before three of his disciples. This is a preview of the kingdom, a glimpse at the true glory of Jesus which was veiled in his humanity.
HELP FOR UNBELIEF. "Help my unbelief!" cried the father of the afflicted child (9:24). I resonate with this man's cry. Not only for the suffering of our loved ones and friends, but we as God's children carry about indwelling sin, a sinful nature, right along with our new nature and the indwelling Holy Spirit (Rom 8:22-23). I can completely trust God in one situation, and then later in the same day, crumble under another situation. I'm comforted that this is the experience of all believers in this age (Rom 7:15-23; Gal 5:17). The father confesses the weakness of his faith, and receives from the Lord a very great blessing, the deliverance and healing of his son. He is an example to me, and there have been many times in my life I have said, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief." We need to remember that even weak faith can receive great blessing from the hands of the Lord.
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About this newsletter: I post three times a week on my Bible reading, following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson. Subscribe for email at Buttondown.email/Sandy. Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. A very helpful resource is the NET Bible with its excellent notes at netbible.org.