Tag Archives: Martha

Relentless Joy

Meditations on the Psalms

You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.(Psalm 4:7 ESV)

Our expectations, because of the image of God in us, are to naturally do that for which we were created. God created us for relationship with Him. Sin brought rebellion, making the world a dangerous place. Our expectations of God are He must bless us, and when He doesn’t according to our arbitrary standard, we curse Him. We cease to rely upon God, not realizing all we have, our very lives, are given us by His grace and sustained by His decision.

Jesus tells us God gave Him more delight and contentment, because of Their relationship, than any person could have, even when all their perceived needs and wants are met. God put joy in His heart.

Joy means mirth, gladness, gaiety and pleasure, and can mean happiness. Spiritual joy is more than happiness. Spiritual joy is the relentless pleasure of intimately knowing God. Abound means to increase or become many, great, or long. We measure our riches with physical belongings, pleasurable and sensual activity, or manipulative control like power, grasp that which will last only a short time. If our measure does not last for eternity then we settle for failure.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21 ESV)

Mary, the sister of Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from death, demonstrated her joy in intimately knowing Jesus. John tells us she was the one who anointed Jesus. “It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill” (John 11:2 ESV). John tells us this fact before it happened in the sequence of the story because her devotion is important to Jesus, bringing Him great pleasure and joy. What she did for Jesus is given prominence in the declaration of the gospel. “Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her” (Matthew 26:13 ESV; see Mark 14:9). God is not selfish in accepting the worship of those He created for relationship with Him.

Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with an expensive perfume, pure nard, or spike nard. “Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume” (John 12:3 ESV). Spike nard perfume was expensive because the plant from which it is derived, Nardostachys jatamansi, also called Indian spike, grows only in the Himalayas. Nard also means having the power of persuasion, skillful in producing belief, trustful, relied upon. Mary used a perfume to anoint Jesus which symbolically described His character and personality. Mary showed her devotion to Jesus by cleaning His feet with the perfume and drying His feet with her hair. She would, if necessary, die for Him.

But there was one present who thought more like the world than like one abandoned to God. Judas, who would betray Jesus, who was charged as the Disciple’s treasurer, who stole money from the moneybag for himself, was displeased with Mary’s devotion.“Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” (John 12:5 ESV; see Matthew 26:9, Mark 14:5). His focus was upon what God should do for him, not what he was obligated to do for God. He who walked with Jesus, saw His miracles, heard His words and teachings, spent enough time with the Son of Man to intimately know Him, hated Him. Judas betrayed Jesus to the authorities that wanted to kill Him, for a handful of money. Perhaps his hatred grew over time as he saw missed opportunities to increase his own wealth and standing in the world. He wanted an abundance of grain and wine, measuring his riches with a temporary, transient standard, refusing to see those riches would be destroyed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.

I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. (1 Corinthians 15:50-52 ESV)

Jesus tells us to find our joy in Him, in eternity and in knowing God, which is the natural product of having the image of God. Our eternal joy cannot be found in the world or in anything of the world. Our worship of Him brings God great joy. He looks to eternity, where those who are His will no longer rebel against Him. They will have a righteous and healthy relationship with their Creator and will enjoy Him as He enjoys them. There is no sin in eternity in God’s presence.

“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress. (Isaiah 65:17-19 ESV)

Jesus looked toward His death with anxiety and anticipation. “And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44 ESV). Before His crucifixion He raised Lazarus from the dead knowing He, though He would soon die on a cross, would not stay dead. We who believe His resurrection, who find ourselves in Him for eternity, give God the greatest joy. In turn, He fills us with His Spirit who gives an abundance of joy, with peace and rest, to we who are God’s.

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Righteous Sacrifice

Meditations on the Psalms

Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the LORD. (Psalm 4:5 ESV)

Jesus speaks in the first person to those people who dishonor His name and who love vain words, lifting themselves up above God. They do not stand before God with awe, refusing to ponder their own actions and motivations. He told them to contemplate their position before God and to silence themselves and their self-centered thinking. Jesus does not ask them to do anything. He commands them, with an expectation of obedience.

He tells them to offer the sacrifices of righteousness, not just a right sacrifice. Offer and sacrifice are words so closely related they mean almost the same thing. Offer means to kill or slaughter. Sacrificemeans the thing being killed or slaughtered. Slaughter your sacrifice. Commit your sacrifice completely and wholly to God so that it can never be taken back.

We think of form and function when we say right. We want to be correct in what we do and how we act, according to our policy and procedure manuals. This is not what He means by a right sacrifice. Yes, God gave them detailed instructions about what kind of sacrifice, when and where to offer it, and how they were to honor Him with their sacrifices. God told them why they were to offer sacrifices. But He also told them the thinking of their hearts affected their sacrifice. Cain’s sacrifice was not accepted because he was angry. He tried to buy God’s favor, to control God, with a sacrifice, as those who give superstitious offering to an idol. “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it” (Genesis 4:6-7 ESV). Speaking through Isaiah, God is blunt about what He thinks of the offerings of a people who hate Him.

“What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? Bring no more vain offerings. … When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. (Isaiah 1:11-13,15-17 ESV)

When did an offering become a sacrifice? When Abel and Cain brought their offerings, they were gifts to God. Sacrifices are required. God uses both words in the Pentateuch when giving instructions on worshiping Him. Sacrifices are obligatory, while offerings are gifts. Every person offering a sacrifice does so under compunction of the law, caused by sin and circumstance, while the one giving an offering does so out of the gratitude of the thinking of the heart toward God.

There was only one righteous sacrifice slaughtered for God. All other offerings and sacrifices point to the One Sacrifice, when Jesus offered Himself as the propitiation, the covering, for the sin of all. Jesus tells those who would follow Him the cost of discipleship. “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27 ESV). Those who follow Jesus, who are citizens of the kingdom of heaven, abandon themselves to Him in complete devotion and offering. The identity of the Christian, those chosen by God, is complete. In God’s eyes, what He does the Christian does. The word appeal means to call or summon for encouragement or instruction.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2 ESV)

We know what we do is not always true to God as we live out our lives in the world. It is not what we do but what Christ has done for us.

Martha didn’t understand what Jesus could do yet still declared she believed Jesus was loved and known by God and that God would give Him whatever He asked. However, she did not believe He could bring life back to a dead body. Her brother Lazarus died. Jesus told her Lazarus would rise again. Martha’s response was “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day” (John 11:24 ESV). Jesus’ response to her is game changing.

“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26 ESV)

 Our lives are His. His life is given for us. Our identity is in Him. We slaughter ourselves as a righteous sacrifice to Him because He was slaughtered as a righteous sacrifice for us. Dying physically means nothing in the eternal scheme of things. Losing anything the world has to offer is of no consequence when we gain life in eternity.

You are the righteous sacrifice.

Righteous Anger

Meditations on the Psalms

Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah.(Psalm 4:4 ESV)

Why do any fight against God? Isn’t the knowledge of God inherent to people enough to tell them they will lose? How can those created in the image of God war against the One who created them and possibly prevail?

Angry does not mean angry, as we understand the word, in every instance used in Scripture. Angry may mean rage, agitation or being perturbed. But the word also means to quake, to fear, to tremble or be excited. The Authorized Version translates the word as stand in awe. We misinterpret the Psalm when we do not understand the meaning of the words. The Psalmist is still speaking to those people who have turned His Honor into shame and who love themselves and their own thinking more than they love God. He has told them He will make holy those who are His, those identified with His Son. They may have anger at this declaration, but they should feel awestruck with the power of God to do that which they could never do for themselves.

Do not sinis not a request. No one has permission from God to sin, which is to miss the mark of His righteousness, to go the wrong way, to bring upon themselves guilt, to forfeit their righteous standing before Him. Sin is any thinking of the heart translated into action that violates the moral law of God inherent in the image of God given to everyone. Sin is violating the essential nature given to all people, bending and breaking them, making them unable to do that for which they were created. Though we now have a sin nature, we are still told to not sin.

Acknowledging the truth and consequences of sin require all ponder, which means to say, answer, think, to speak to oneself the truth presented and then to command, to promise and intend to do that which rectifies the wrong. Every person must come to the conclusion sin exists and is true and take responsibility for their own sin. No one has an excuse.  Contemplating the truth of sin and its ultimate consequences brings one to the realization of the broken relationship between their Creator and themselves, His creation. Coming to this conclusion should drive everyone to their knees. Silent means to be still, struck dumb, to make oneself quiet.

When God answered Job, he clapped his hand over his mouth to silence himself. He saw God and then saw all his empty arguments, so he restrained himself from speaking further. “Then Job answered the LORD and said: ‘Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further’” (Job 40:3-5 ESV).

Death is the undeniable evidence of the reality of sin. As Jesus stood before the tomb of Lazarus many suggest had Jesus been present the man would not have died. Martha was the first to speak. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you” (John 11:21-22 ESV). When Mary arrived, she exclaimed the same thought. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:32 ESV). Finally, some of those standing around watching said “could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” (John 11:37 ESV). They believed Jesus could do something when a person was alive. They did not believe He could do anything after a person died. No one believed the evidence of His words and works, that He had already raised people from death (see Luke 7:11-16; see Matthew 9:18-26, see Mark 5:22-43, see Luke 8:41-56). Jesus was a mere man with certain abilities fed by their superstitious beliefs. He could heal. He could not raise from death.

Martha protested when Jesus told them to take away the stone covering the tomb. She who had just declared “but even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you” (John 11:22 ESV) now said “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days” (John 11:39 ESV). She did not believe Jesus with the thinking of her heart. Only after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, and she and the other touched her brother and lived with him, did she begin to believe.

Jesus works, as God works, leaving behind the irrefutable evidence of His labor. In creation, we are surrounded by the evidence of God. We are filled with the evidence of God having His image. Yet, we are also assaulted by sin from the world and our own flesh. Ignoring the evidence of God and of sin is irrational and insane. Our anger toward the truth of sin needs replacing with the astonishment of intimately knowing God. Only by taking responsibility for our own sin and then seeking Him with our whole hearts will we receive His eternal blessing.

Holiness

Meditations on the Psalms

But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD hears when I call to him. (Psalm 4:3 ESV)

Separation for God from the world is one of the major themes in the Psalms. We see God separate the wicked from the righteous in Psalm 1. Those who would separate themselves from God face His wrath and ultimately achieve their purpose in Psalm 2. In Psalm 3, Jesus, and those in Him, need not fear those who stand against them or God, for He will deliver. Here, the Psalmist declares God has set apart for Himself those who obey Him within the deepest thinking of their hearts. To set apart means to be distinct, marked out, separated, distinguished from others. God describes for us those who are His whom He has set apart. They are the godly, the faithful, holy, pious saints.

God reveals that those who exhibit and live holiness, He claims for Himself. These are the people who turn away from their sin toward God, who repent and walk toward Him in the faith He gives. They are His and cannot be taken from Him.

After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, some of those who witnessed the miracle went to the religious leaders of Judah, reporting to them what had occurred. They condemned Jesus and devised a premeditated plan to murder Him. They decided to murder Lazarus, the living witness to an irrefutable miracle. What were they going to do with Mary and Martha and all of the other people who witnessed Jesus’ miracle, who had seen Lazarus dead, then saw him walk out of a tomb after four days? They cannot kill everyone.

God uses the authorities of the world, whether they cooperate are not, to do His will and fulfil His purpose. In this case, the high priest, Caiaphas, prophesied what would happen by telling those under his authority what needed doing. In his mind and heart, the best solution to the problems Jesus raised by His presence, teaching and works, was to murder Him. Murder is against the law of God. Everyone who heard him, knew this. “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13 ESV; see Deuteronomy 5:17) is an explicit statement. Caiaphas declared Jesus had to die so the nation might continue to exist. His reasoning was that if Jesus continued to live the Romans would punish them all and take away their temple and disperse them throughout the world.

Let’s remember some of the history of the Jews. God had already destroyed the temple, dispersing the Jews throughout the world. He did this because they refused to trust Him as their God and obey His directives. In 586 BC, the Babylonians conquered the nation of Judah, the southern part of the divided nation of Israel. Around 70 BC, the Northern Kingdom was destroyed by the Assyrians, its people dispersed throughout the world. Judah was ransacked, the temple destroyed, and many of the citizens of Judah were exiled in 586 BC. Seventy years later the Babylonian nation was conquered by the Medes and Persians. It was the Medes and Persian leader, Cyrus, who sent a remnant of Jews back to Judea­ to rebuild the city of Jerusalem. The religious leader’s of Jesus’ time should have known disobeying the direct will of God was not going to save their nation. Murdering His Son only brings His wrath. Before the end of the century Jerusalem is destroyed again, the temple is razed and the Jews are exiled.

But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. (John 11:47-52 ESV)

When the Jewish religious leaders killed Jesus using the Romans as their executioners, they ultimately accomplished the will of God. They were responsible for their actions, for the thinking of their hearts. Their physical, temporal nation was destroyed. But the eternal Kingdom of God is established and the eternal King is enthroned.

 “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. (Psalm 2:6-8 ESV)

God’s kingdom is filled with those He set apart for Himself, beginning with His Son, Jesus Christ. Because the One Man is blessed, so those who take refuge in Him are blessed. “Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 2:12 ESV). Peter describes the follower of Christ.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10 ESV)

We are set apart from the world for God.

Relief and Grace

Meditations on the Psalms

You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer! (Psalm 4:1 ESV)

Those feeling distress look for relief. We do not know the circumstances which inspired the writing of this Psalm. Some suggest David wrote Psalm Four on the tail end of Psalm Three, as he was fleeing his son, Absalom. That the Psalmist is in distress is stated in this opening prayer to God, the only One who offers gracious relief.

Given me reliefmeans to grow large, enlarge or widened, as when the heart is filled with good things. Distress has the opposite allusion, meaning tonarrow, tighten, to find one self in a narrow, indefensible strait or place, by an adversary, foe, enemy or oppressor, whose attack is hard as flint. Gracious means to show favor or pity. Both David and Jesus, as with many Christians throughout history, found themselves in places where they were attacked on every side, hemmed in at a place which is indefensible, by an enemy whose intent and tack are meant to utterly destroy. Who is the enemy? They are the Deceiver, death, the wicked, rebellious nations lead by kings and rulers, those who surround the godly with the evil goals of usurping God.

Many of David’s writings are prophecies of Jesus Christ’s life. The thinking of the heart of this Psalm shows the thinking of the heart of Christ while living as a man among the people of Israel. Any number of Jesus’ situations and experiences are described here. One specific episode comes to mind.

Psalm Four describes many of the occurrences in the story of the death and resuscitation of Lazarus of Bethany, whose sisters were Mary and Martha. Jesus loved this family. He was raised from death but then died again and has been resurrected to eternal life. “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus” (John 11:5 ESV). When Jesus heard Lazarus was sick He stayed where He was, several days journey away from Bethany. Knowing what was to happen, Jesus directed the attention of His disciples toward God, not toward the illness of the one He loved. “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11:4 ESV).

Finally, after two days, Jesus decided to return to Bethany. This frightened the disciples, who knew many people there wanted to murder Him. Jesus then declared Lazarus had died, using the metaphor of falling asleep. “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him” (John 11:11 ESV). Not understanding Jesus’ words, the disciples question Him about returning for a man who is simply asleep. Jesus revealed why He waited. “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him” (John 11:14-15 ESV).

This does not sound like Jesus felt either destress or fear to journey to a place where His enemies would attack Him. Jesus was not afraid to walk into circumstances where His life was threatened, knowing no one could harm Him until God’s purpose and plan were ready for fulfillment. When Jesus arrived at Bethany, He did experience distress over death. In the eyes of the witnesses, Jesus, a man larger than life, was enlarged even more by His public actions and public prayer.

It is the shortest verse in the Bible: “Jesus wept” (John 11:35 ESV). Why did Jesus weep when He stood in front of the tomb of His friend Lazarus? Mary and Martha and others were weeping at the tomb because they would never see their brother and friend again. Jesus wept because of death, knowing the eternal consequences of dying. Jesus sobbed, bursting into tears, because He understood more than anyone what death means and why death happens. He will soon face His own death and feel such stress His sweat will drop like blood. “And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44 ESV). Jesus felt deeply the effects of sin without sinning.

Jesus prayed. He knew what He would do days before. He knew what was happening and would happen from eternity. Lazarus was dead, but death means nothing to God, who cannot die. God controls death, having made it a natural part of the process of creation. Lazarus died, but there is nothing which can stop God from giving him back life.

Jesus commanded the people to open the tomb. Then He prayed. “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me” (John 11:41-42 ESV). He commanded Lazarus to come out of the tomb and out he walked. He who had died several days before emerged from the grave, fully alive. Only God can raise the dead. This is God’s grace on full display.

Jesus confronted the enemy, death, an enemy no one but God can conquer. Soon He would confront death again, with His own life, and conquer forever an enemy who claims all, claiming all for Himself. God has answered Jesus’ prayer. God has relieved His distress.

Martha and Mary, Sides of Peace

It is not just the dangerous and deadly which steals peace from those who belong to God. Our desperate and demanding personalities also take peace from those who are His. When we focus our attention and energy upon that which has no eternal value to the exclusion of that which does, we become agitated at the unexpected results. This does not mean all we do in this world is unnecessary or unprofitable. But the evidence of our actions and attitudes comes through in the focus of our activities.

It is a classic story in Scripture. Martha is preparing her home for many who have come. Jesus is there and Mary sits at His feet, intently listening to His words while her sister worked to provide hospitality to Him and all with Him.

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching” [Luke 10:38-39 ESV].

Jesus never traveled alone. There were many mouths to feed and beds to make and dishes to clean and much work to do for all those who followed Him. I do not know if she envied her sister or simply thought her lazy. While Mary sat, she worked, showing herself responsible, a true servant, caring for the needs of her guests. To her Mary cared nothing for her guests or for her sister. Her actions were done from love while Mary’s were self-serving and unloving. Jesus, the One who taught love and serving others would see her position once she pointed it out. “But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me” [Luke 10:40 ESV].

Jesus didn’t take her side. This may be one of the more startling revelations when they stand before Him, for those who live torn by their own desires, wills and expectations of others. Jesus didn’t take their side. Our eyes are so accustomed to seeing only what we are doing, even when it is the Lord’s will, that we cannot see Him who willed it.

Look at Joshua.

When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, ‘Are you for us, or for our adversaries?’ And he said, ‘No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD. Now I have come.’” [Joshua 5:13-14 ESV]

God was for Joshua and Israel. But that is not how He responded. “Don’t assume I’m for you and against them. I am God. Either you are for ME or against ME.” God doesn’t take sides in worldly arguments and disagreements.

But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.” [Luke 10:41-42 ESV]

Evidence of self-focus shouts through our emotions and countenance for all to see. We cannot hide the thinking of our hearts for long. All will see. God sees. Martha’s thoughts were upon herself and the work she was doing for them. Her emotions became turbulent the harder she worked to the point her work was for herself and not them. Her expectations took precedent over the One in her home.

Jesus sees what is happening. He, knowing He is going to Jerusalem to die and rise for her sins, and then ascend to His place in eternity, where she will join Him, gives Mary direction to continue listening. Jesus doesn’t want to eat the food Martha gives but to give her the food He offers. He is God, the Servant, and they are His servants to do His will.

Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her. [Luke 10:42 ESV]

Mary was at peace with her Lord and Savior, absorbed by His words and teaching. She hungered and thirsted for what He was saying. None of her attention was focused upon herself. All was focused upon Him. Eventually she might have recognized her physical hunger and thirst, but not now. How easily do the expectations of those around control our devotion to Him who owns us. How readily we relinquish His peace for the turmoil of the world. We do so to our detriment.