Daily Reading: Mark 11

I’ve been slowly reading through the gospel of Mark over the last month or so and decided to start making a record of some of the things I am learning. If you read this I hope you are encouraged and that it spurs you on to study and love the word of God more.

Warning: these are just the observations of a simple man trying to read and apply God’s word to his own heart and life.

Mark 11

Opens with the triumphal entry. The crowds cry out:

“Hosanna!
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord;
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David;
Hosanna in the highest!”

I’ve heard the word Hosanna before but to be honest I’m really not very familiar with it so I went back to a post I wrote a few years ago and found this very helpful explanation from John Piper, “[In the OT] It used to mean, “Save, please!” But gradually, it came to mean, “Salvation! Salvation! Salvation has come!” It used to be what you would say when you fell off the diving board. But it came to be what you would say when you see the lifeguard coming to save you! It is the bubbling over of a heart that sees hope and joy and salvation on the way and can’t keep it in. So “Hosanna!” means, “Hooray for salvation! It’s coming! It’s here! Salvation! Salvation!”And “Hosanna to the Son of David!” means, “The Son of David is our salvation! Hooray for the king! Salvation belongs to the king!”And “Hosanna in the highest!” means, “Let all the angels in heaven join the song of praise. Salvation! Salvation! Let the highest heaven sing the song!” The word moved from plea to praise; from cry to confidence.”

Cursing of the fig tree. Apparently when a fig tree has leaves it also begins bearing fruit. Jesus finds a fig tree with leaves but no fruit. It has the appearance of health and fruit bearing but in reality it is not bearing any fruit so He curses it.

Application: don’t be like the fig tree having only an external appearance with no internal fruit bearing reality

He then goes into the temple and cleanses it. No doubt there is a connection between the fig tree and the temple practices. They have the appearance of worshiping God but no reality.

At the end of the chapter Jesus exposes the religious leaders by asking if John the Baptist was from heaven or from man. They decide to say “We do not know” because they fear the people. This answer still exposes them. If everyone considered John to be a real prophet (v32) and they didn’t recognize that, then how can they recognize if Jesus is from heaven or man? They have disqualified themselves.

 

 

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Rejoicing in a Fiery Trial

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” 1 Peter‬ ‭4:12-13‬

Ran across this passage in 1 Peter 4 this morning and it touched on the same topic as yesterday’s post, Joy in Trials. Here Peter says “Don’t be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes to test you.” 

I take from that we should be expecting these things to happen. We shouldn’t be shocked by these things or surprised, we should be anticipating and preparing ourselves for these things. Being prepared is one of the smaller themes in 1 Peter.

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭1:13‬

but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,”‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭3:15‬

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭5:8

We as believers in Christ must be ready, we must be ready to defend our faith, we must have our minds sober ready and prepared for action, we must be on our guard against attacks from the evil one and we must be prepared to suffer.

Again Peter links the concept of trials with joy, “…But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” 

We must rejoice in our sufferings because it is allowing us to share in Christs sufferings. Christ suffered for us and Hebrews 12:2 said He did it with joy, it is only fitting for us as His followers to do the same.

Don’t be surprised. Don’t be caught off guard. Be ready, in season and out of season. Rejoice.

Grace and peace.

Joy in Trials

Experiencing joy during a time of trial may seem like a counter intuitive concept. Trials bring pain. Trials are hard. Trials are messy. How in the world can there be any joy during a trial? Well, thankfully, the answer to that question is found in the Word of God.

There are at least four main texts that I have been using over the past few years to help me deal with various trials and troubles in my own life. I have put them here with some very brief commentary. I believe the texts alone speak with great power but I also think it it helpful to talk through them. My prayer is that this may bring you some measure of comfort and grace when you are faced with trials in your own life.

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭1:6-7‬

In this text Peter is writing to believers who are scattered far away from each other and living in hostile places and being persecuted. And his instruction is startling, he tells them to rejoice in their grief, to rejoice in their trials. Doesn’t that sound strange? Doesn’t that strike you as odd? How can they rejoice when their circumstances are so bad?

They can rejoice because the trials and the grief they are experiencing is being used by God to purify their faith. Their faith is like a valuable piece of raw unrefined gold that has been found but is not yet perfect, it still has some impurities in it, it still has some imperfections. What do you do with that piece of gold? You thrust it into a hot fire melt it and purify it which makes it even more valuable and precious.

It’s a vivid word picture for sure! That’s what trials do, they purify us, they test us, they prove that our faith is genuine, and all of this brings praise glory and honor to our Lord Jesus Christ.

Trials in this word are good because they refine us, they burn away the dross in our life, they take away the impurities, they loosen our grip on this world and help us live for the world to come.
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans‬ ‭5:3-5

Here it is again, but not from Peter, this time it is Paul and he is telling the Roman Christians that they need to rejoice in their sufferings. How can this be? How is it that someone can rejoice when they suffer? Well, he gives us the answer, we can rejoice when we suffer because we “know” something, he says, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing…” You have to know something before you can rejoice when you suffer, you have to remember something, there is a body of truth you need to think about. Rejoicing during suffering doesn’t just happen by accident.

Here is what you need to know: “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Suffering produces all of these Christlike characteristics in us. Suffering makes us more like Christ, it molds us into His image. Christ had endurance, Christ had character, Christ had hope and those things are produced in us when we suffer.

There is also a link here to Romans 8 where we learn that God works everything together for our good (v.28), the good the bad the ugly, He’s working it all together for our greatest good. What is this greatest good? The verses that follow Romans 8:28 tell us that the greatest thing that God can do for us is to conform us into the image of His Son, to make us like Him. And back in Romans 5 we see that suffering does just that, it makes us like Jesus.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” ‭‭James‬ ‭1:2-4‬ ‭

Here we have yet another writer in the New Testament, James the half-brother of Jesus. Yet, we have a similar theme, joy in trials. James tells us to “count it all joy when we meet various trials”, that seems a hefty task. All joy? How am I supposed to consider it all joy when various trials come?

Well, like Paul, James gives us a list of Christ-like character traits that are produced in us when we rightly endure through a trial. Also like Paul, James tells us that we “know” this, we think about it, we remember these facts, we set our mind on these truths. Again, this does not come natural, we must be diligent to know and remember these truths.

What truths? What truths do I need to know to have joy during a trial? These truths: “…the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Trials produce endurance and steadfastness which bring completion or wholeness. Trials grow us and help us mature. They cause us to become more and more like Christ, that’s why we can count it all joy when we run into them! Because they are being used by God to make us more like Christ.

One final text.

“looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews‬ ‭12:2‬

Here is the final text with the same theme but from still another writer. We do not know with 100 % accuracy who wrote the book of Hebrews, but yet again we see this theme of joy in trials. Jesus for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross and despised the shame. Jesus had joy on the way to the cross, surely the cross was a trial, surely the cross was suffering, surely it involved pain. Yet Jesus considered it all joy. Jesus knew what the cross would accomplish, He knew it would please the Father, He knew it would save sinners, He knew the end goal and because He knew all of this He had joy in the suffering, joy in the trial.
As we have seen above, all four texts connect joy with trials. Trials are difficult to be sure, but when we approach them Biblically, they produce in us Christlike Character traits like the ones listed in Romans 5 and James 1. They refine and purify our faith like in 1 Peter 1. And when we endure and when we meet trials with joy we are acting just like Christ did in Hebrews 12. Trials are tough, they are messy, they are painful but they are  also the faithful instrument God uses to bless us and grow us.

For more on trials and temptations see my post on The Difference Between a Trial and a Temptation

Here is a very encouraging song along these lines by Shane and Shane

Grace and Peace 

Isaiah 11

Love the opening illustration contrast. In chapter 10 the Assyrian army was like a vast forest that was hewn down when God swung His mighty axe, when He wielded His saw there was nothing left but stumps. With that fresh on our minds chapter 11 opens, “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.”

V1 – a branch from Jesse. Back in 4:2 there is a reference to the Branch of the LORD. In Zechariah there is also reference to this branch: “I will bring my servant the Branch” (3:8) and “Behold, the man whose name is Branch…”(6:11). The Branch is the Servant, Isaiah will expand this Servant concept later

V2 – Jesus, the Righteous Branch, has the perfect resume to be a ruler. He is everything the King of Assyria is not. He is everything Ahaz wasn’t as well. He is wise and understands all things. He is righteous and good. He rules well and everything and everyone prospers under his leadership. Ray Ortland points out that we often think that Jesus is a very nice person but in real life an incompetent person. We think too highly of ourselves and we think too low of Him. The truth is “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ” (Col 2:3). Jesus is the answer to all of our problems. For proof just look at v6-9 and what happens when He reigns.

V6-9 the future reign of the Messiah is exciting and thrilling. It’s beautiful and interesting. It’s not boring and dull as most people think about when they think of life after death. (I am supposing that since this is describing the reign of Messiah on earth this is a Millennial reference). All things are rejuvenated. All wrongs made right. All social and political problems solved by the righteous reign of King Jesus. Isaiah is not telling us how to solve these problems or when they will be solved, instead he is telling us who is the only one who can solve all our problems.

V6 – a little child will lead them. Back in 10:19 it says that there will be so few Assyrians that a child can write them down. Interesting how a child can be such a great illustration.

V8 again the nursing child used to illustrate the innocence and peace of the reign of the Branch

V. 13–14 Israel and Judah will again be at peace with one another and will be united in serving the Lord and coming together. Strong divisions among God’s people are not eternal, that’s convicting for me, even these 2 are able to reunite.

Jesus, The Greatest of All Delights (“Glorious Christ” by Sovereign Grace)

A while back I was in a conversation and the person said some disparaging remarks about a song that I thought was pretty well written and at least I thought I had gained some personal spiritual benefit from. They got me thinking. The song was “Glorious Chirst” by Sovereign Grace Music. You can view the video here.

Here are the lyrics:

VERSE 1
The radiance of the Father
Before the dawn of time
You spoke and all creation came to be
The molecules and planets
Reveal Your great design
And every one was made so we could see
So we could see

CHORUS
You are the glorious Christ
The greatest of all delights
Your power is unequaled
Your love beyond all heights
No greater sacrifice
Than when You laid down Your life
We join the song of angels
Who praise You day and night
Glorious Christ

VERSE 2
You left the air of heaven
To breathe the dust of earth
And dwell among the outcast and the poor
You came to be forsaken
And died to take our curse
So You could be our joy forevermore
Forevermore

BRIDGE
You’re seated now in heaven
Enthroned at God’s right hand
You’ve shattered death and freed us
From our fears
And though we cannot see You
You’re coming back again
And all will be made right when You appear
And all will be made right when You appear

As I thought through the lyrics I guessed at what they may have problems with and to my surprise one of the lines that they had the most difficulty with was towards the beginning of the chorus, the problematic phrase…… “The greatest of all delights“.

Their opinion was that Jesus is NOT the greatest of all delights. Instead they argued that the Father is the greatest of all delights, not the Son. To be honest I really think they are making an unhelpful distinction and also not taking into account some other key concepts from Scripture. The purpose of this post is to hopefully provide some clarity and exalt Jesus Christ and the Father.

Below you will find some verses (only some, there are probably many more with the same or similar concepts) which talk about the Father delighting in and taking pleasure in the Son. In Scripture, we see that the Father’s greatest delight is in His Son. He crushes His Son’s enemies, He seats His Son at His right hand, He commands others to listen and obey His Son, He commands His angels to worship Him etc.

Suffice it to say, throughout the entire Bible the Father takes great delight in the Son. If a defining characteristic of Jesus is that He only does what the Father tells Him to do, than it is also true that a defining characteristic of the Father is that He delights in His Son. Therefore, when I take delight in Jesus, when I find my pleasure and satisfactions in Jesus, I am simply behaving like God, I’m doing what God does, I’m being God-like or godly. And surely, it is good and right to behave like God is it not? Does it not honor Him when I behave like He does?

Well here we go, this is very simple and very basic but I hope that there is also great clarity. I hope you walk away desiring Christ, finding your pleasure in Him and delighting in Him, just like your heavenly Father does.

We see the Father delighting in His Son at His Baptism

And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11 ESV)

  • The Father is well pleased with His Son, He takes pleasure in Him. See next verse for more.

We see the Father delighting in His Son at His Transfiguration

He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” (Matthew 17:5 ESV)

For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” (2 Peter 1:17 ESV)

  • This phrase “well pleased” in both Mark 1 and Matthew 17 and 1 Peter 1 all carry the idea to take pleasure in, to desire or delight in, to be contented in
    • Therefore the Father delights in, takes pleasure in, His Son Jesus Christ
    • Therefore, it is only fitting for me to find my pleasure and my satisfaction in Christ, that’s how God behaves and I want to be like God or Godly in my behavior

We see the Father take delight in His Son in Prophecy

Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. (Isaiah 42:1 ESV)

  • The Father is speaking of what will happen in the future with Jesus and He says that His soul delights in this servant which is an obvious reference to Jesus
  • For my soul to delight in Jesus then is simply to act the way God acts, to be godly

The Father delights in the Son’s death

The Lord was pleased to bruise him; he has put him to grief; when he makes himself an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days; the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. (Isaiah 53:10)

  • This might seem strange to put here but it is true, the death of His Son, which would redeem all those who would put their faith in Jesus brought God pleasure. The Father was well pleased with every aspect of Jesus’ life and death.
  • Also notice that the pleasure of the Father will prosper in His hand, again the Father is pleased with, delights in, finds pleasure in, His Son. The Father finds great delight in His Son. For the Father, the Son is His greatest delight.

We see God demonstrate delight in how He commands Jesus to be worshipped

For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”? Or again, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”? And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.” (Hebrews 1:5-6 ESV)

  • As a proud Father cheering on a well beloved Son, so does the Father cheer on His Son, and He commands His angels to worship Him. You don’t tell others to worship something or someone that you don’t delight in yourself. When my children do something that delights me, I quickly run around the office showing others the picture or the video of my child doing something. So too, with the Father, He delights in His Son and He commands other to see and worship as well. The Father is glorified when we delight in the Son.

We see the Father’s delight in the Son in the fact that they share the same glory

And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. (John 17:5 ESV)

We see the Fathers delight in the Son in the Gospel of John

All through the Gospel of John Jesus says things like the sharing of glory in John 17, we also see Jesus says things like “If you believe the Father than you also believe me” “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father” the language Jesus uses can be used to support the idea that if we are delighting in and worship Christ, we are also delighting in and worshiping the Father.

Finding delight in Christ cannot be separated from finding delight in and worshiping the Father, they are intertwined. Philip asked Jesus to “show us the Father” and Jesus replied “if you have seen me you have seen the Father” (John 14:8). Therefore I must conclude that when we say (or sing) that Jesus is the “greatest of all delights” it is also music in the Fathers ear and by the testimony of Scripture I think He would agree and say Amen, for the Father Himself  finds great delight in the Son.

Conclusion

Psalm 115 says that you become like what you worship. The Bible also says that God is conforming us into the image of His Son (Romans 8:29) and when we see Him we will be like Him (1 John 3:2). Not only will we be like the Son when we worship Him and delight in Him and find our satisfaction in Him, but we will also be like the Father because we will be doing what the Father does, we will be delighting in who the Father delights in, We will be pleased with who He is pleased with, and we will take pleasure in who He takes pleasure in. Surely, Jesus Christ is the “greatest of all delights”, it sure seems like He is the Father’s greatest delight.

Morning Reading – Closing out Deuteronomy

Deuteronomy 31-34

31:6-7 Moses commands the people and Joshua to be strong and courageous not because they are so great and powerful but because God is going to be with them, He is going to go ahead of them. They are to be strong in the LORD and in the strength that He supplies to borrow NT language

31:23 again Joshua told to be strong and courageous

32 Moses shares a song with Israel which should have been a warning and sobered them up

32:35 “…In due time their foot will slip” – Always brings Edwards to mind

33 Moses blesses all of the tribes of Israel

34 Moses gets to see the land from a distance, he dies and It appears that God buries him. Joshua is filled with wisdom and the people are ready to obey, they are ready to take the land and Joshua is Gods instrument to make it happen

Morning Reading – I am Unworthy

Deuteronomy 28-30

Deuteronomy 29:6 “You have not eaten bread nor have you drunk wine or strong drink, in order that you might know that I am the LORD your God”

This struck me this morning. Sometimes God gives material blessings to show His goodness and sometimes He reveals Himself by withholding them

Deuteronomy 29:19-20 The LORD is “never willing to forgive” a man who says “I have peace though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart”. It is a foolish thing to think you have peace with God if you are living in disobedience.

Deuteronomy 29:29 “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.” – God has not revealed His word to us just so we can know it, He has revealed it to us so we can live it and obey it

Deuteronomy 30:9-11 The LORD will “prosper you abundantly” and “rejoice over you for good” if you obey His commands and if you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and soul. And v11 says that this is not too difficult, it is not out of reach.

Deuteronomy 30:17-20 If you choose to disobey and turn away you will perish. Death and life are before you.

In Luke 7 the Roman Centurion sends some Jewish elders to ask Jesus to heal his slave. I love the contrast in how the Centurion views himself and how the Jewish elders view him. The elders say to Jesus “He is worthy for you to grant this to him” (v4). They speak in terms of merit, they think he deserves to have Jesus do this for him, he has earned it, he is worthy.

But in verse 6-7 the Centurion says this about himself “…Lord do not trouble yourself further, for I am not worthy for you to come under my roof; for this reason I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you…”. The man did not consider himself worthy. Twice he calls himself unworthy. Think about the social setting, on the surface he was a Roman Centurion with lots of power and influence and Jesus was a lowly jewish carpenter/teacher. But somehow the Centurion knew better. He had a high view of Jesus and a low view of himself. God help me be like the Centurion!