Tag Archives: healing

Repentance

Meditations on the Psalms

Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. (Psalm 2:10 ESV)

God calls those who rebel against Him to repentance. All who mutiny against God and incite mutinous behavior in others face His unavoidable wrath and ultimately, annihilation. God commands them to turn away from their sin and rebellion because only the foolish continue to fight against the God who created them. Wisdom is a godly characteristic.

God uses two words to encourage these disobedient and obstinate leaders back to a relationship with Him. He tells the kings to be wise and the rulers to be warned. Wise means to be prudent, circumspect, have insight, understand the signs of the times and the thinking of the heart of themselves and others. Kings are to consider carefully their words, actions and judgments, looking for the perfect combination of prudence and application to bring the most honor to both themselves and their kingdom. Warned means to be chastened, admonished and instructed, corrected and disciplined. Rulers are to apply the rulings of the king to the people in a way which fulfills the intent of their sovereign.

Since both kings and rulers are under the authority of the King of kings and Lord of lords, the thinking of their hearts should reflect the intent of God, not themselves. This statement is an admonishment to return to serving God. God tells them to stop sinning.

On a Sabbath, early in His ministry, while in Jerusalem during a feast, Jesus spoke to an invalid at a pool called Bethsaida. Many invalids congregated there because of a superstitious belief an angel of God would come down occasionally, stir the waters of the pool, and the first person into the pool would be healed of their infirmity. Jesus approached only one of the invalids and healed him. He did not heal any of the others.

The man’s focus, his eyes, the thinking of his heart, was solely on the pool and its magical properties given occasionally by a supernatural being. Jesus asked the man, only this one man, “Do you want to be healed?” (John 5:6 ESV). Jesus asked the man if he wanted to be made whole and complete. The man’s response showed his complete defeat and hopelessness in every becoming healthy. “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me” (John 5:7 ESV). He had been taught about the wrath of God against those who sinned. In the thinking of his heart, God made him this way because of some sin and under no circumstance would God undo what He had done. Nor did the invalid know who Jesus was. He clung to his superstitious, idolatrous belief and whined that no one cared to help him. Jesus healed the man instantly, telling him to “get up, take up your bed, and walk” (John 5:8 ESV).

When confronted by the religious leaders, the man who was healed still did not know Jesus by name. He had been healed on the Sabbath. He did not follow Jesus or cling to Him or devote himself to his benefactor. When Jesus withdrew Himself, the healed man did nothing to show his gratitude. Nor did he desperately search for Jesus. Instead, he went his way and was confronted by the Jews, probably the Jewish religious leaders, about carrying his bed, which was working and something verboten for any to do on the Sabbath. He admitted ignorance, pointing away from himself to the One who performed the miracle. His thinking in his heart was “don’t blame me. I’m only doing what I was told” not “he healed me, an invalid for 38 years.”

Jesus found the man again and spoke startling words to him. “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you” (John 5:14 ESV). The implication of Jesus’ words is “look at what happened to you. You are healed by My authority. Stop sinning or you will find yourself exiled from the presence of God.” We know the man immediately went to those who accused him of working on the Sabbath and told them it was Jesus who healed him. From this testimony, the Jews decided to persecute Jesus for breaking their rules.

Here is the crux of the rebuke of Psalm 2:10. Use the thinking of your heart to come to a reasonable conclusion about your rebellion against God and stop sinning. Jesus began His ministry preaching repentance. However, God has been commanding people to repent since the fall of Man. No one is excluded from this call.

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Why Do the Nations Rage?

Meditations on the Psalms

Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, (Psalm 2:1-2 ESV)

All peoples and nations fight against God. God asks Why? For what reason are the nations doing this? How did they come to the place where such thinking of their hearts is justified? What has God done to illicit a violent and consuming belief followed by insidious action? Why?

Nations refers to a large group of people or locusts or other animals and refers to all countries. Some translations use the word heathen instead of nations. People refers to the individuals of each nation. Rage means to scheme a tumultuous mutiny and plot in vain means to moan or mutter, to devise and imagine idle and empty thoughts. Thus, large groups of people, whole communities and societies, collectively believe and promote wrong thinking and violence against God.

God penetrates to the heart of the mutiny by identifying those who instigated such thinking. It is the leaders and teachers training the people. The kings of the earth set themselves means the kings of the entire planet who have planted their feet firmly, stationing themselves to take a stand. The rulers take counsel together means those who carry the weight and burden of leading the people daily have laid a foundation and seated themselves close together to consult and decide the actions of the entire group. Thus, the national leaders have listened to their counselors who have all agreed their position and place before God is unacceptable.

What king would allow his subjects to rebel in such a fashion? What ruler would discover and allow a conspiracy to develop in their presence? Do they not know before whom they are speaking and thinking and conspiring? No king would allow this to happen. Kings would squash the conspiracy and put the conspirators to death, or at least replace them with those who are loyal and support him and his authority. Why do any think God will allow rebellion against Him?

Peter and John, after the ascension of Jesus, found themselves before the people of Jerusalem declaring the resurrection of Jesus. Several times they were confronted by the same religious leaders who had condemned Jesus. As they entered the Temple they encountered a lame man begging for money. Instead of giving him money they healed him in the name of Jesus in front of crowds of people.

And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. (Acts 3:7-10 ESV)

After this miracle and while Peter and John were teaching, the religious leaders sent guards to arrest them and bring them before the same High Priest who arrested and executed Jesus, using the Romans as executioners. Peter spoke to the assembled counsel of religious leaders about their complicity in arresting Jesus and His death, but also about His resurrection. Also, before them, stood the man healed of his lameness. They threatened Peter and John, telling them to no longer teach Jesus and released them.

When relating their experience to the rest of the disciples they prayed and quoted from Psalm 2:

“Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit,

“‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’—

for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” (Acts 4:24-28 ESV)

All leaders of all nations are fighting against the eternal God and against His Son, Jesus Christ.

God Rests

Studies in Genesis 2

And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. (Genesis 2:2-3 ESV)

God finished His work and then He rested. Do not think God is exhausted from His work or that He needs to sleep so He can get up after the weekend and do it all again.

We need to have an understanding of God’s work for us to understand God’s rest. God worked in creation. His work is everything He does which is natural to His being. He does not work for someone else but acts according to His eternal nature. What He begins He finishes, perfectly completing all He determined to accomplish. He then ceases working on creation. He finishes creation, because there is nothing left to do. His finishing creation and ceasing to work He calls “rest.” God “rested.”

“Rested” is a verb and means to cease or desist from labor. It is the word shabat from which is derived the noun shabbath translated Sabbath. So, on the seventh day of creation, the sabbath, God rested, shabat.

One of the questions which arises is whether after God rested He again began to work. We are told God finished His work. If He were to begin working again it would be to do something different, unrelated to that which He created. A new project. We don’t know about God’s “projects” other than the space-time universe in which we live. Yet, Jesus tells us He and His Father are still working. “My Father is working until now, and I am working” (John 5:15 ESV). John uses a word for “work” which is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word “work” used in Genesis 2.

Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath and the Jewish leaders are incensed. One of the rules the Jewish leaders extrapolated from Scripture was no one was to “work” on the Sabbath. Apparently healing a person on the Sabbath was considered “work.” That, and Jesus told the man healed to “get up, take up your bed, and walk” (John 5:8 ESV), which is also considered work by the Jewish leaders. Not only was Jesus working but encouraging others to work on the Sabbath. How scandalous.

Jesus’ response to the superstitious tradition of not doing physical labor on the Sabbath was that God works and is still working, regardless of the day of the week. These Jewish leaders misunderstood what it means to work and rest. They also have a skewed understanding of God. They do not know Him either intellectually or intimately.

Jesus is God. It was He who created the heavens and the earth, every atom in the universe, accomplishing exactly what He intended. It was He who wrote the Scripture, inspiring the writers to record, in their own voices, that which He wanted. It is He who declares Himself “Lord of the Sabbath” “for the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:8 ESV). It is He who created the beginning of the space-time universe and it is He who will bring it to an end.

God’s rest is in our future. He is not constrained by the space-time universe He created but exists outside of it. Those laws which hold the universe together are sustained by Him until He decides to bring the universe to an end. The laws of the universe, like the moral laws, are a reflection of Him but do not control Him. Scripture tells us He rested after He finished His work. Those who are His know how to rest in Him because they are looking forward to His rest in eternity.

God Only Sustains Life

An Essay on John 4:46-54 

So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death.

So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.”

The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”

Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. (John 4:46-50 ESV)

Even though Jesus regularly performed miracles, John identified only a handful as signs. His first sign was done at a wedding in Cana, a day’s walk from Capernaum. While at the wedding, Jesus turned water into wine. He did something only God could do. He created one thing out of another thing. Water is made from three atoms, two are hydrogen and one is oxygen (H2O). Water is essential for life but is not itself life. Wine comes from grapes which are the seed of grapevines, which are life. Jesus took that which was not alive and created a product of that which is alive. Only God can create one thing from another.

His second sign was healing a royal official’s son, who was on the verge of death. Jesus sustained the boy’s life. Only God can sustain life.

This man came to Jesus begging Him to come with him and heal his son. He had travelled a day to get to Jesus, walking or riding over twenty miles. Jesus’ response sounds like a rebuke. Still, the man pleads with Jesus to come but Jesus does not go. He sent him away with the assurance his son would live. Returning home the next day the official discovers his son is healed. At the exact time Jesus said the boy would live the fever killing him broke and he started getting better. Because of this miracle of healing the royal official’s whole house, everyone within his family including servants, believed Jesus.

Who this royal official was is never indicated in the passage. He was not himself royal but worked for or was related to royalty. In that area Herod was the only royal official we know of at that time. We also know that “Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager” (Luke 8:3 ESV) provided for Jesus and His disciples “out of their means.” Was it Joanna’s son who was healed by Jesus after Chuza journeyed from Capernaum to Cana to fetch Him? We do not know. Chuza was a royal official and his wife, Joanna, followed Jesus.

Was Jesus’ comment, “unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe” truly a rebuke? Jesus did more than heal people. He taught them about God and how they should live for God. He demonstrated God’s love for them by more than miracles. He didn’t just heal lepers. He touched them and healed them. He didn’t just talk to people. He ate with “tax collectors and sinners” (see Luke 7:34). He is much more than a performer of miracles and wonders. He associated with those the righteous Jews considered under God’s wrath. He came because they were under God’s wrath.

Are Jesus’ words a rebuke? In Cana, at the wedding, His mother came to Him and told Him there was no more wine. Jesus’ response to her appears as a rebuke to our western ears and mindset, but actually was not. His mother knew what He was capable of but He would not let her control His timing and actions. He traveled around the nation, going to Jerusalem and returning to Galilee. Again in Cana, Jesus is surrounded by a multitude of Galilean’s who had watched Him in Jerusalem during the feast. “So when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast. For they too had gone to the feast” (John 4:45 ESV). When the official, the father of the dying son, asked Jesus to come Jesus spoke to everyone present, including the royal official, the Galileans and His disciples.

One of the implications of this observation by John was Jesus had performed other miracles and healings while at the feast in Jerusalem. John tells us “now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing” (John 2:23 ESV). Jesus did more than drive the money-changers out of the temple or predict His death and resurrection. He healed people. John does not tell us about those healings but the people who traveled from Galilee saw them and mobbed Jesus when He returned.

Most probably the royal official had seen Jesus heal someone or heard He performed miracles. His son was dying and he reckoned Jesus could save him. So he traveled a day on a desperate mission to find Jesus and persuade Him to come and heal, like He had done in Jerusalem.

Jesus’ statement is not a rebuke but a statement of fact. Knowing the hearts of those surrounding Him He told them why they were there. They had seen miracles. They wanted to see more miracles. For them Jesus was entertainment. Yet, there was a part of Jesus’ statement that thrust a verbal blade to the tender core of their motivation. Unless they saw more miracles they would not continue to believe Jesus. Once He stopped performing miracles they would leave and find something else to tickle their senses.

He heard Jesus say these words to the crowd. We do not know how many people Jesus healed that day. We know He was in Cana. We know the people there had seen and heard Jesus do wonders. But, this man was not there to watch Jesus perform. He was there to beg Jesus to come and heal his son. Perhaps he was grasping at the last possibility, desperate to do something which would help his son live. He was a day away from home, constantly aware of the suffering his wife and family were enduring as they watched a loved-one die. He was not there for entertainment but to bring his last hope back.

But, maybe the words were for him. We think Jesus has to be present to work. Present as we demand present. Tangibly present. Though Jesus is fully man, those around could touch Him, He is fully God, untouchable by anything sinful. “So Jesus said to him, ‘Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.’” Unless you can touch the tangible evidence of a miracle you will not have faith. Jesus uses the word pisteuo, which means to believe the evidence and trust the object which did the deed that left the evidence behind. Yet, there is an implication in pisteuo of obedience. There must be action as well as intellectual assent and emotional acceptance. Unless you see you will not actively believe. And even if you see you may only believe for a while and then forget and stop believing.

“Sir, come down before my child dies.” He believed Jesus could heal his son. He did not believe Jesus could do anything after the child died. But, before he died, Jesus can do a miracle.

Jesus knows Himself. He also knows the heart of the father standing before Him and the deepest motivation of all those standing around waiting for Him to do something spectacular. Faith is a moment by moment link to God. Even when there are many moments when it seems there is no connection there are still a few moments of faith with a firm and solid connection. God knows Himself. Where we waver He never falters.

“Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your son will live.’ The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way.”

When God speaks what He speaks happens. He spoke creation into being. He spoke light. He spoke the separation of waters from dry land. He spoke life and life covered the planet. When He changed water into wine He didn’t speak to the water but to the servants who knew the difference between water for washing and water for drinking. And they drew out water which became the finest wine.

Jesus spoke to the father of a dying son. Go home. Start now. Your son will not die but will live. I can visualize the father staring into the eyes of Jesus through tears and fear and seeing in those eyes certainty and truth. So he turned and went home. He pistueo, believed the evidence of Jesus’ works and words and emotionally trusted Jesus as the object and walked his faith home in obedience. He would walk home the rest of that day, spend a night somewhere and finish walking home the next.

As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household. This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee. (Joh 4:51-54 ESV)

But the story doesn’t end with a healed son and a comforted father. He was met by other servants before he arrived home. They came to him bearing news. His son was well and would live. When Jesus spoke to the father the previous day his son immediately began to get well. “The fever left him.” His son had an infection and his body was fighting it and losing. Jesus spoke and the infection ceased. At a specific time the fever broke. When he arrived home and told his story, about meeting Jesus and what Jesus said, his family and those bond-servants in his household believed, pisteou, also.

What did they believe? Did they believe Jesus could heal over distance? He can. Did they believe Jesus’ teaching? If I am right, the wife of Chuza, the head of Herod’s household, began following Jesus and providing for Him and His disciples out of her means. She probably would not do this without her husband’s approval. They believed the evidence of Jesus’ words and works and trusted Him showing their faith through their actions and obedience. There is more to this story but we do not have all of the facts. We have enough.

“This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee” (John 4:54 ESV). Jesus did many miracles, healed many people, even raising some from death before His resurrection. Yet, John identifies this healing as “the second sign” with the first sign the changing of water into wine at the wedding in Cana.

As with His first sign, Jesus here does only that which God is able. At the wedding He created something out of something else. Here, He sustains life. Facing eminent death Jesus spoke and death fled. Yes, the wine eventually ran out. Yes, the boy, and his family, would face death and finally die. But John is telling us about who Jesus is and why we should believe, trust and obey Him. Jesus did that which only God can do. He took upon Himself our sin and covered us with His righteousness. He took us, dead in sin, separated from God, and recreated us, giving us life He will sustain for eternity. Only God can do this.

Jesus’ Mercy Toward a Father and Son

And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.”

And Jesus answered, ‘O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.’ And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. [Matthew 17:14-18 ESV].

A father’s cry. “Lord, have mercy on my son.” And then, and honest rebuke. “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” Does our Lord have no compassion on the pitiable condition of either the father or the son? Have they done something wrong to receive such a strong rebuke?

Yes.

Both father and son had done something wrong. They sinned. Perhaps, a better explanation is they could do nothing but sin. Although the ultimate consequence of sin is eternal separation from God there are immediate, short-term effects. For the boy, one such effect was demon-possession. For the father believing at any time, anything other than God is capable of fulfilling his needs. They, and we, are members of a fallen people living our lives in a way and manner which excludes God from His rightful place. Even living under the illusion we are within His expectations when we  are not and never have been.

Jesus uses the word “faithless” means the exact opposite of “faith”. Faith always encompasses three elements, belief in God’s truth, trusting His decisions and obeying His commands. Faith involves the whole person, mind, emotions and will. “Twisted,” another word Jesus uses, means perverse, distorted, misshapen, and is the obvious consequence of sin. Every generation is twisted by sin cutting off the flow of God’s provision received through the conduit of faith. Twisted and faithless describes everyone affected by sin, which is everyone except Jesus, the Son of God.

Faithlessness breeds desperation and hopelessness as seen in the father’s distressed request. Like everyone around him he showed no faith. And like everyone alive at that time the son was twisted. Yet, the father was also twisted and the son, no matter his age, was also faithless. They were twisted by sin and taught to not place faith in the ultimate Object of faith. Those standing around were equally faithless and twisted. His disciples, standing with the crowd, unable to do anything, were like all the rest. They had God in their midst and still they twisted their thoughts about Him declaring Him something other than the Great I Am.

Does this sound harsh and merciless? Is my thinking wrong? Should we put aside truth because of circumstance, conveniently forgetting the truth of sin because the obvious effects of sin capture our attention and prick our own wounded spirits? No father or mother should ever have to watch one of their children suffer. No son or daughter should have to suffer. Isn’t this the way we think? How could God be so cruel to allow such hopelessness?

What do we do with God’s word and the charges against us?

“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”  “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” [Romans 3:10-18 ESV; Psalm 14:1-3 and 53:1-3; 5:9; 140:3; 10:7; 36:1]

What do we do with Jesus’ words “O faithless and twisted generation”?

Peter, James and John had just witnessed something few people throughout history had seen. Moses and Elijah were the only others in recorded history to actually see Jesus, a theophany of God, in His glory. Both men were hidden from the face of God but saw His back or His hand. No sinful person can look upon the face of God and live. This does not mean sinful man could not see the glory of God. Many saw God’s glory in visions and dreams. Peter, James and John saw the momentary metamorphosis of Jesus, into what He truly is.

Then they came down the mountain into the sinful world.

Mark’s Gospel in 9:20-22 gives more detail. Jesus asked how long he had suffered and his father responds from childhood. The demon, recognizing Jesus convulses the boy, throwing him into what appears as an epileptic fit. Again, the father asks if Jesus can do anything. “But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us” [Mark 9:22 ESV].

Jesus’ response pinpoints the father’s lack of faith, of believing God, trusting Him and obeying His command. “If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes” [Mark 9:23 ESV]. This is another astounding statement directed at everyone within hearing. The word “believe” is the word for having faith. The object of such faith must be God and nothing else. Such faith cannot be corrupted or twisted by sin. The result of such faith is always God’s will, never the will of any man.

Follow the discussion between Jesus and everyone around, everyone involved in the circumstance. The father immediately recognized the war between his faith, “I believe” and that faith twisted by sin, “help my unbelief” [Mark 9:24 ESV]. Jesus, having mercy on both the father and son and all watching commands the demon remove itself from the boy. We know nothing else about the father or boy. We never see them again.

Afterward Jesus’ disciples come to Him and ask why they could not do what He just did. Jesus’ answer confirms their twisted faith. The word used is the same as “faithless.” The ESV is generous in its translation and gives the wrong impression, suggesting they had even a little faith. “Because of your little faith (faithlessness). For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you” [Matthew 17:20 ESV]. They did not have little faith. They had no faith.

God’s mercy is not dependent upon our faith, our works or our good standing before Him. His mercy is active love extended to those undeserving of His love. His mercy is given to those who rebel against Him, who fight Him, but who still acknowledge His sovereignty over their lives. His mercy is given to those He has chosen for His reasons and according to His will. Extended to all, His mercy is received by those who cry out “I believe. Help by unbelief.”