Nehemiah has a surprising ending and Luke begins with the accounts of the miraculous births of John the Baptist and Jesus.
As you know, I’ve not been feeling well the past several days, but I am feeling better now. Thanks so much for your prayers.
But even though my health is better, my energy level just isn’t where it should be. I’m am feeling the need to take a break from producing the show.
I’ve produced almost exactly 300 episodes since the last time I took a break. That’s about 60 weeks, with only a day or two’s break for an occasional cold or some such thing. Last summer I took a couple of days to hike in the Sierra, but even then I produced shows in advance so that you wouldn’t be left without fresh episodes.
So, I must admit that my energy level is somewhat depleted and in need of refreshing.
So here is my plan. The Lovely Lady LeeAnn has earned a fairly prestigious award from her employer, and will be taking a trip back to the home office in Charlotte, NC in April to receive it at a big event.
In over 26 years of marriage, we have never taken a long, traveling vacation together. We have been to Hawai’i a couple times, but never anything like what we plan to do in April. We’ll go to Charlotte, after which we will go to a little town she spent part of her childhood in there in NC, then drive up to Washington DC, which she has never seen (and I think every American citizen should go there at least once) and then drive up to NYC.
When I was a boy, my family and I lived in NJ, just across the Hudson River from Manhattan, so I’ve been in NYC many times. But the lovely Lady LeeAnn has never been and has always wanted to go.
So my plan is this.
As I said, I need a break. So I am putting the creation of new episodes on hiatus until the first Monday in May, which is May 2nd.
But I take very seriously my commitment to you that “This is the podcast that helps you achieve consistency in reading the Bible.”
So I am going to be reposting previously published episodes. Reading and listening to the Bible every day is a good habit to be in, and I don’t want to be the reason you fall out of the habit.
I hope that’s ok with you, and that you understand my need for some regenerative time. When I come back on May 2nd, I should be good to go for another long stretch, God willing.
The fact that Jesus rose from the dead is the only thing that makes life worthwhile. If He had not, the future would hold no hope for mankind. If He had not risen, it would mean either there is no God, or we would all be destined for an eternity separated from God. Either way, we would all be facing a grim or non-existent future.
But the fact is that Jesus was resurrected and lives now at the right hand of God the Father.
How do we know that He lives? Because there were more than 500 eyewitnesses who saw him alive after His crucifixion and before He was taken up to heaven forty days later. It is a historic fact. If you don’t believe me, do your own research.
Since He is alive, you and I can live lives of faith, peace and joy knowing that we will one day be with Him. It doesn’t get any better than that, my friend.
Depending on how I feel over the next few days, I might not be putting up shows every day this week. We’ll see how it goes. Just know that if you check your podcast app and there is not a new episode it’s because I just didn’t feel up to it. I’ll be back as soon as I can.
Ok with you?
Because of what God does to Uzzah in chapter 13, I’m going to rerun my comments from episode 328, in which we read of this same event in 2 Samuel chapter 6. If you were with me then, please bear with me and our new listeners. It’s important, I think, to have a better understanding of why God reacted as He did.
Well David is finally king over all Israel. At God’s direction, Samuel had anointed him as the future king when he was a shepherd boy of about 12 or 15 years old. As we read today, he was 30 when God finally put him there. God always keeps his promises, but we never know what his timing will be.
So upon taking the throne, David decides that the Lord’s chest, better known as the Ark of the Covenant, should have a proper home. It had been captured by the Philistines many years before, and then brought back to Israel, where for some time it was in the home of Abinidab.
Now, there are some passages in Scripture that are hard to understand. This is one of them. Scholars have some ideas, but still some people really struggle with the following scene. First I’ll recap what happened then I’ll give some possible explanations.
The Ark is loaded onto an ox-drawn cart to make the trip from Abinidab’s house to David’s City. The two sons of Abinidab, Uzzah and Ahio went with it. Ahio was in the front to lead the oxen, Uzzah was close behind. Something happened that caused the oxen to stumble, which Uzzah evidently thought threatened to cause the Ark to fall, so Uzzah put his hand on the Ark to steady it. God was angry at this, and He stuck Uzzah dead.
It’s hard for a lot of people to understand God’s reaction to Uzzah’s actions here, and we’re told that David became angry at God for doing this.
So what happened? Why did God do this?
Here are the thoughts of scholars.
First off, when God gave His instructions to the Israelites on how they were to build the Ark, he was very clear about the most minute detail, including how it was to be transported and who was allowed to move it and who was allowed to touch it. It was never to be put onto a cart, but it was to be carried by Kohathites only. There were two poles that went through two loops on each side of the Ark, and these poles were to be placed on the Kohathite’s shoulders, bearing the Ark between them.
No one but a priest was to touch the Ark, because the Ark had the very presence of God upon it. Remember, this all happened before the Messiah had come, and only the priests had direct access to God and only priests could perform the sacrifices that could cover the sins of the people. The Ark represented a holy and awesome (in the very real sense of that word) God, and God had made it very clear how it was to be honored, because it was a reflection on how they were to honor God Himself.
So by putting the Ark on the ox drawn cart, they were all guilty of transgressing God’s direct instructions. Why was Uzzah killed?
Touching the Ark was a direct violation of God’s clear instruction. It could be that God saw the condition of Uzzah’s heart, that he didn’t have the proper attitude toward it. It had been in Uzzah’s house, after all for some time, and he might have become indifferent to it. We must not become indifferent to God. He. Is. God. The creator of all that is. The One who gives us life and sustains us.
It could be that Uzzah had a cavalier attitude regarding God’s Word. He didn’t think it was important to sweat the details.
Maybe his reaching out to steady the Ark reflected a lack of faith on Uzzah’s part, that God somehow needed his help.
What we might want to draw from this is that we need to pay attention to what God says, and we should do all we can to be obedient to Him. Yes, He is loving and He is merciful. But He is also Holy, and it is important that we never forget that. It is His holiness and justice that requires payment for sin. It is His love that made a way for me and you to not have to make the payment for our sins. It is His holiness and justice and love that required the sacrifice of His Son in my place and yours. Because of His holy and just nature, he couldn’t just overlook the sin. It had to be dealt with.
I’m thankful that God made a way for me to escape His wrath, and that He has offered that way, that gift, to anyone who will receive it.
You know that fragrances, aromas, smells, can have an enormous effect on us, right? One of the greatest things about the Christmas season is the smell of the Christmas tree in the house. It brings back memories of Christmases past, and it just gets me into the Christmas spirit.
The smell of the classic version of Old Spice after shave takes me back to when I was a little boy and watching my dad shave.
The Lovely Lady LeeAnn has a favorite perfume that whenever I catch a whiff of it, it makes me think of her.
As I was reading this chapter, which I have read many, many times, something occurred to me that I’ve never thought of before. It was when Jesus was in the home of Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead, and his sisters Mary and Martha.
You may remember an earlier time when Jesus visited their home. Jesus was speaking and Martha was busy being a hostess, probably preparing a meal, making sure everyone was comfortable and keeping the house in order. Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet, hanging on every word. Martha finally complained to Jesus that Mary wasn’t doing her fair share of the work. Jesus said, “Calm down, Martha. It’s ok. Don’t worry about the little things. Concentrate on what is important.”
Here in our chapter today, Jesus knows that his crucifixion is literally just hours away and he has come to visit his beloved friends one last time. And Mary, from a deep love for this man who has been such a good and true friend, pours an expensive and sweet smelling perfume on His head. From the account of this scene in John’s gospel, we see that it must have run down all the way to His feet, because she wiped His feet dry with her hair.
Some of the other guests who saw this got upset at this. They said, “We could have sold the perfume for more than 300 silver coins and given the money to the poor!” And they said some nasty things to her.
But Jesus told them to leave her alone. He said, “She has done a beautiful thing for me. 7 You will always have the poor with you. And whenever you want to, you can give to them. But you won’t always have me here with you. 8She has done all she could by pouring perfume on my body to prepare it for burial. 9You may be sure that wherever the good news is told all over the world, people will remember what she has done. And they will tell others.”
Now here’s the part that I’ve never thought of before. Back then, people rarely bathed. So there is every possibility that Jesus still had the aroma of that sweet perfume on Him when He was taken to be tried in front of the Sanhedrin, when He was then taken to Pilate, and when He was beaten, and when He hung on the cross.
I can imagine Him catching the aroma during the beating. When he was hanging, in agony, on the cross. You know that there was a part of Him that remembered this beautiful, loving sacrifice that Mary made for him, and the love and admiration in her eyes when she poured it on His head and wiped His feet with her hair. And I think it made Him think of His love for her, and for you and for me. I think it helped to give Him comfort in the darkest hour anyone has ever experienced.
What do you think? I’d like to know. Leave a comment below.
Let’s talk about chapter 11:17-19. King David is hiding from his enemies. He’s been fighting the Philistines with his army, and he’s thirsty. And here’s what the scripture says,”17David longed for water. He said, “I wish someone would get me a drink of water from the well that is near the gate of Bethlehem!”
18So the Three fought their way past the Philistine guards. They got some water from the well that was near the gate of Bethlehem. They took the water back to David.
But David refused to drink it. Instead, he poured it out as a drink offering to the Lord. 19″I would never drink that water!” David said. “It would be like drinking the blood of these men. They put their lives in danger by going to Bethlehem.” The men had put their lives in danger by bringing the water back. So David wouldn’t drink it.”
Have you ever been really, really thirsty? You’ve been working hard, out in the elements, doing manual labor with the sun beating down on you. You haven’t been able to stay hydrated because you just haven’t had access to water. Eventually, all you can do is think about how thirsty you are. You’re dry. You’re parched. You couldn’t spit if you wanted to.
That’s how King David felt. Scripture says, “David longed for water.” I’ve been there. Here where I live in southern California, summers can be hot. A hundred and fifteen degrees is not at all unusual. And one of my day jobs requires me to work outside, with no shade, over cars and trucks that have been sitting in the sun. It’s not unusual for the surface temperature of those vehicles to hit 165 degrees. I know what it’s like to be thirsty. I’ve had many occasions to say, “Boy do I wish I had some water right now!”
That’s what David did. I don’t think he said it to anyone in particular, he just said, “Man. A drink of water from that sweet, cool well by the gate of Bethlehem would be awesome right now.” And his three most loyal men heard him, so out of respect for their leader, they fought through enemy lines to get it for him!
When they got back, what did David do? He wouldn’t drink it! He respected what it cost these men so much that he poured it on the ground as a drink offering to the Lord. It was an act of worship to God. These men sacrificed their own safety for the leader they loved, and David sacrificed the thing that he most wanted in the world at that time to the God that he loved.
This is what a sacrifice is. Putting a buck in the offering plate is not a sacrifice for most of us. Have you ever made an offering to the Lord like David did, or his men? Think back to that time when you were really really thirsty. How much of a sacrifice would it be to pour water on the ground, knowing that there was no other water easily available? That’s huge. What David did was an enormous sacrifice of worship to God.
When was the last time you gave an offering to God that cost you like that?
Jesus knows that he only has a couple of days left with his disciples, and he is giving them some final things to remember and look out for before he goes.
It’s always been interesting to me that only the Father knows when Jesus will come again. We know that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are One, the three parts of the Trinity, the Triune God, but they are also three distinct entities. It’s a mystery that they evidently didn’t share this particular piece of knowledge.
As is often the case in instances that are difficult for us to understand, theologians through the ages disagree as to whether it was only the human part of Jesus that did not know, or that as God he knew but had not been given the authority as man to tell it to the disciples.
Also, it’s interesting to note that these words from Jesus only appear here in Mark.
Are there things that were revealed to Jesus as He grew? Did He have all knowledge at the moment of His birth, or did God the Father reveal things to Him as He matured? When He was a little boy, did He know that He would one day hang on a cross? Did He know that He was from the beginning? Did He remember creating the Heavens and the Earth? When He broke bread, did He think of His broken body?
None of us know for sure. All we can do is be thankful that however Jesus the man knew His mission, He went forward and did what God the Father asked Him to do. If He had not, your eternity and mine would be very dark, indeed.
Chapter nine gives us a glimpse into how the Temple operated. In verse 22 we see that some men were chosen to guard the gates. Some of them were responsible for guarding the utensils used in the Temple. Some were chosen to take care of the furniture. Some, the flour, wine, oil, incense and spices. Some of the priests took care of mixing the spices. One had the job of baking the bread used for the offerings. Some men had the job of preparing the special bread that was put on the table every Sabbath day. And there were musicians.
Each had a job…a calling.
Think of all the activity in the Temple. It was a very busy place. And with all this organization, it probably ran very well.
Our churches today have various jobs and responsibilities that must be filled. And just as certain men were called to fill jobs in the Temple, I believe that whenever a job needs to be filled in the local church today, God supplies the right person. Ephesians 4:11-12 says, “He gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers. 12His purpose was to equip God’s people for the work of serving and building up the body of Christ…”
Do you have a job in your church? My personal belief is that we are not called to a local church for the sole purpose of warming a seat on Sunday mornings. There is something for you to do, a responsibility to fulfill. If you don’t know what that might be, ask your pastor or other leader. I’ll bet they can find just the right spot for you.
Let’s talk for just a moment about Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem at the beginning of Mark 11.
This is Sunday of His final week. Today we call it Palm Sunday, because when He rode into Jerusalem on a borrowed colt, the crowds threw palm and other branches on the road in front of Him. This was a common practice to celebrate victory or success. The crowds were celebrating the victorious entry of the Messiah. And they cried, “Hosanna!” when means, “Save us!”, which is a quote from Psalm 118:25, which was commonly thought to refer to the Messiah. Then they said, “Blessings on the one who came in the name of the Lord. Blessings on the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest!” This all added up to the most honorable praise and worship that could be offered to the promised Deliverer or Messiah.
With this entry into Jerusalem, imagine the consternation this must have caused to the Jewish leaders! If they let this kind of thing continue, they would most certainly lose the people. They had to bring down this blasphemer, this troublemaker.
In this chapter we read about the tribes of Issachar, Benjamin Naphtali, Manasseh, Ephraim and Asher.
I’ll just highlight what we learned about each one.
Issachar was a large and hard working and fruitful tribe who grew to have over 145,000 men in their midst fit for battle.
From the tribe of Benjamin came Israel’s first king, Saul.
The descendants of Naphtali are not listed like the other tribes, possibly because the records were lost.
The tribe of Manasseh had been taken into captivity. That’s why Manasseh had a Syrian wife.
The tribe of Ephraim saw heartbreak early on when two of Ephraim’s sons were killed when they tried to steal cattle from people of Gath. We don’t know much about what happened there, only that Ephraim mourned a long time for his fallen sons, and that he named the son born during that time Beriah because he was born during a time of misery. How would you like to be named after such a time in your family?
And finally the tribe of Asher. They were not large in number, but they produced 26,000 brave soldiers. Perhaps since they were small in comparison to the tribe of Issachar, these soldiers were like today’s special forces.