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letthewordreveal

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us….

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January 2016

The Greatest…Mark 4:35-41

Have you ever thought to yourself that life is a little unfair?

When the traffic lights never seem to be in your sequence. When the lines up at the bank or shops are so long and you have other places to be. When you get a puncture in the brand new tyre you just put on.

On more serious note, when you know someone who has battled for years with ongoing illness. When a diagnosis hits that you weren’t expecting. When all the bills come due….

Life has storms,and we struggle to cope at best of times, and when the worst of times hits, we are left with little more than anxiety, depression,doubt, and hurt.

What our hearts turn to in moments of distress reveals what we are trusting in. Who we blame shows what we truly believe.

Marks gospel begs the question of all – who is Jesus? It shows how often we get Him wrong and shows Who He really is.

1 – The Great Storm

The Sea of Galilee’s location creates the perfect mix for many violent and unexpected storms.

Although storms were known to happen, and the majority of the disciples were seasoned fishermen, the severity of this particular storm even had them panicking.

The boat was filling with water, the waves crashing and breaking, the swaying back and forth, up and down.

Wet, wild, windy, and terrifying.

Some of the scenes from the Sydney to Hobart are enough to put me off getting on board any sailing boat, and stories like this, and numerous other shipwrecks and storms in the bible confirm the biblical foundation of never setting foot on something that needs wind to carry it.

The disciples reaction to the storm is something we sympathise with, as fear is a common connecting point between all humans, despite the separation of time, gender, race, culture…Fear is a great leveller.
2 – The Great Calm

When Jesus does wake up He rebukes the wind like it was a naughty child, and we are told Jesus says to the sea, “Peace, be still”, and like a compliant child, the winds and waves ‘obey’ Him.( v41).

There is a great calm. A complete calm after total calamity.

He didn’t utter an incantation. He didn’t summon the angels of heaven to hold back the wind and the four corners of the earth. He didn’t brace Himself for a fight. He didn’t give instructions to the disciples. He just rose and spoke, and all was calm.

This miracle of a calm sea shows us not only the great power that Christ had as the Creator of the universe, but also the message of why He came to this earth at all.

The sea, in those days, and even still in come situations today, is seen as an unstoppable force of destruction and death.

Once it reaches it’s full, unbridled fury, no vessel and no person is safe who is on it or near it.

Christ comes along, and with a word, brings stillness.

How much we need to see the Word made flesh do the same in our lives and hearts.

To have calm in the raging storms of life is possible, but only if Jesus the One you go to for help.

There are two options when we face the storms of life.

You could argue that it’s just life. You’re born, you suffer, you die and that’s it. All is destruction and everything is meaningless. It makes no difference how you handle storms. If you have integrity and humility or if you are cruel and vindictive, nothing matters in then end, and nothing will make a difference.

“To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day. To the last syllable of recorded time; and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot. Full of sound and fury signifying nothing.” – (Macbeth), William Shakespeare.

The other option is to believe that Jesus is Who He says He is. Then there is a different way to look at life and all that happens to us. If He is truly Lord of All, including this world, and your life – then you will find that He gives all the healing, rest and power you will ever need. But you’re going to have to see Him for Who He is first and just how much you need Him!

3 – The Great Fear

Everything was going wrong, they were about to die and Jesus seemed to be MIA. If He truly cared, He wouldn’t be absent, they wouldn’t be about to sink. If He loved them, He wouldn’t let them suffer.

His words to them after He calms the sea are somewhat of a rebuke, but more of challenge to the disciples ( and our) perceptions of Who He is and what it is He should be doing for us.

He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”.

When the storm is raging, the disciples are afraid. When the storm is calmed, they are terrified. Why is that? Why were they more afraid in the calm than they were in the storm?

They had just seen the unimaginable happen. The storm had had great power, they couldn’t control the storm and they certainly couldn’t escape it. Jesus clearly had far more power than the storm, and they clearly had even less control over Him and had been called to follow Him!

“If I go to Jesus in my storm, He’s not under my control anymore than the storm is. He lets things happen that I don’t understand. He doesn’t do things according to my plan, or in a way that makes sense to me. But if Jesus is God, then He’s got to be great enough to have some reasons to let you through things you can’t understand. His power is unbounded, but so are His wisdom and His love. Nature is indifferent to you, but Jesus is filled with untameable love for you.” – Timothy Keller

The premise that that if God loves us nothing bad will ever happen to us is a wrong one.

If you believe in a God great enough and strong enough to be mad at when things don’t go your way, you also have a God Who is great enough and powerful enough to have reasons you don’t understand. You can’t have it both ways.

What do you do when you’re faced with such a truth about Who Jesus is? About Who God is?

You have to realise you cannot save yourself.

You have to realise this Jesus has power not only beyond your imagination, but also beyond your control.

The step you should then take is move from fear to awe, and fall down and worship. “Who is this, that even the wind and waves obey Him?”

“Where is your faith?” – in framing it like that, we can see a hint of what He’s trying to get them to see.

“No you can’t save yourself from the storm. Yes, you were right to call upon me, even if you had no idea of what I would do and now are terrified even more. You do believe, but you need help with your unbelief.”

He was also showing them that it wasn’t the quality or quantity of their faith that would save them, but the object of their faith.
4 – The Greater Jonah

The water and the depths of the sea we have already noted were associated with death and destruction.

No one who went into the depths of the sea could possibly survive.

The Psalmist often used the image of the waves and seas and depths to portray a helplessness and as a place to call out to God from.

Jonah, of course, gives us the account of another boat, in another storm, at another time many years before Jesus calmed that sea of Galilee.

There are many parallels between Jonah’s story in the storm on the boat and this storm with the disciples and Jesus.

Both Jesus and Jonah were in a boat.

Both boats were overtaken by a sudden storm.

Both storms are described in a very similar way.

Both Jesus and Jonah were asleep through the storm.

They were both woken up by fearful sailors who were saying they were all about to die.

In both cases, through a miracle, the storm was calmed and all survived.

In both stories, the sailors were terrified after the calm.

There are of course, some differences.

Jonah instructed the sailors to throw him overboard in order to save themselves. ( Jonah 1:12).

This of course doesn’t happen in the story in Mark.

Or doesn’t it?

Mark is hinting at, and Jesus said explicitly in Matthew 12:39-41 that He was the Greater Jonah.

“Someday I’m going to calm all storms, still all waves. I’m going to destroy destruction, break brokenness, kill death. How can He do that? He can do it only because when He was on the Cross He was thrown – willingly, like Jonah – into the ultimate storm, under the ultimate waves, the waves of sin and death. Jesus was thrown into the only storm that can actually sink us – the storm of eternal justice, of what we owe for our wrongdoing. That storm wasn’t calmed, not until it swept Him away.” – Timothy Keller.

The knowledge that Jesus hung and died on a cross, bearing the ultimate weight of all our sin, all of sin and all of it’s effects that cause us such grief and sorrow here on earth, and bearing our own sins in His own body…that picture, as you see it truly for yourself, will give you a true awareness that God truly does care.

If He could go through that darkness, that unspeakable and unimaginable storm of God’s wrath for you, how could we possibly think, as believers in Jesus, that He would not only be with us through our current storms, but be with us in the same power?

When we let that truth sink down deep, we may well still have moments when we are overwhelmed, but we will never be overcome, not if the One Who commands the very winds and waves is with us.

You will know He cares when you look at the cross.

When through the deep waters I call you to go,
The rivers of woe shall not overflow;
For I will be with you, your troubles to bless,
And sanctify to you your deepest distress.

“Looking for The King: Hannah’s Faith” 1 Samuel 1:1-20

We live in what is known as the age of entitlement.We want freedom and tolerance, and by that we mean that we should be free do whatever we want and others should tolerate it.

‘You can’t tell me what to do’

‘Don’t impose your views on me’ are heard often.

One way of summing this view up, is by using the definition the writer of Judges gives over and over again, ‘everyone did what right in their own eyes’.

Judges 19-21 certainly paints a very graphic description of what a society that does whatever it wants look like. It’s not pretty. It also sets the scene for 1 Samuel. The last verse a reader of the Hebrew bible reads before 1 Samuel is Judges 21:25. ‘In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in their own eyes.’

So far as Israel is concerned, the way to fix the problem of rampant lawlessness and depravity is to be like all the other nations( 1Samuel 8:5). They were sick of judges who failed.They wanted honour and prestige among the other nations and getting a king was the way to do it, or so they thought.

‘The real problem was not the lack of a king, but a lack of obedience to God as king.’ – Tim Chester

So God gives them what they want, and we are left to study this account in Israel’s history that is full of not only human failure, heroism, shame, defeat, and victory but also accounts of God’s faithfulness, promises coming true, and all along, the hints at a True King that would one day come.
1 – Hannah’s Predicament 1 Samuel 1:1-8

The first person we need to meet is Hannah.

Of all the people in 1 Samuel we are to meet, only two stand out as Godly and without blame, true heroes, are Hannah and Samuel. In a book about how kings are meant to solve all moral and social problems, a barren woman and her son play the parts of the most integrity and humility.

Hannah’s situation is not one anyone would envy.

She’s married to a guy named Elkanah. He’s not exactly model husband material. Mainly because he’s married to someone else as well.

Hannah was more than likely his first wife, and when it became clear that she couldn’t bear children, he married again, because that was the ‘done thing’ in order for men to keep their pride.

It certainly wasn’t God’s thing and it’s a clear indication that Elkanah had been corrupted by the thinking of the day ( do whats right in your own eyes) even though he did worship God ( 1:3).

Going through the motions of being a ‘loving’ husband to Hannah (1:5)and worshipping God while engaging in polygamy shows Elkanah is not so much a villain, but a case study in what was wrong with Israel. They couldn’t trust God to give them fruitfulness in the land, even though He had promised it.

Hannah also had someone else to deal with, the ‘other woman’.

Peninnah doesn’t have any redeeming qualities at all. She has borne Elkanah children where Hannah could not and therefore sought any opportunity possible to point this out in cruel and demeaning ways.

The text points it out also. Hannah’s identity is rooted in her barrenness. ‘she had no children’ – v2b.

It’s a terrible predicament, and our hearts go out to a woman whose heart is broken. Her name is meant to mean ‘favoured’, but God has not favoured her. Far from it, it would seem.The text clearly points out it was God’s Sovereignty that she was not bearing children( 1:5b, 1:6b).

This was her affliction.

Childless.

A compromised husband.

A cruel and provocative rival.

Empty arms.

Full eyes.

A God she believes in but doesn’t understand.

There is much I could say about the burden of infertility and the grief that goes with it.

To mourn for a person you have never met, but miss all the same.

‘Empty chairs at empty tables’ doesn’t just apply to those we have know, loved, and lost.

It might be the little soul you never got to meet in person, but saw a grainy black and white picture of.

The little one you see only in your dreams.

You can miss someone you’ve never met. I know this to be personally true.

There is indeed a ‘grief that can’t be spoken’ and we so rarely do speak of it.

How do you handle such an issue?

Scripture certainly isn’t silent on the issue of barrenness.

Sarah. Rebekah.Rachel.Hannah. Elizabeth. Mary. God is and always has been in the business of bringing about life where it simply has not been naturally possible.

Scripture isn’t silent on the issue of affliction as a whole – no matter if we get the answer we have asked for or the answer God deems far better than we could have asked for, we are told to go to God and call on His name whenever we come to something in our lives that we simply cannot bear any longer. His grace is sufficient, and sometimes, it’s all we ever have.

2 – Hannah’s Prayer 1:9-18

There is much to learn from Hannah’s approach to God, but that her distress lead her to the temple rather than away from it shows that although she was bitter, depressed, irritated, and hurt, she knew God was a God Who listened to the cries of the heart(1:13a).

She prays with:

deep distress v10
bitter weeping v10
affliction v11
a troubled spirit v15
anxiety and vexation v16

All these show that we are never to “stuff” or hide our emotions when we come to God. If we are to demand an answer of Him, we should at least let Him demand our honesty. Like Job, in all this, we don’t see Hannah accused of sin or doing wrong before God.

The words Hannah uses to ask God for a son echo the cry of the slaves in Egypt, ‘Look on the affliction of your servant.’ ( 1:11; Exodus 3:7). She knew the history of God with His people. He was a deliverer. He was powerful. He was true to His word.

She makes a promise, that if He remembers her and gives her a son, she will give that son back to Him for all the child’s life.

Even as she now calls upon God, from a pure heart, a true heart of faith, she is still being judged and misunderstood by others. This time it’s Eli’s turn to kick her while she’s down.

Eli is another conflicted and compromised character in 1 Samuel. His own sons were drunks and immoral ( 1 Samuel 2:12-17;22-25) but he does little about that while here ironically, falsely accusing Hannah of drunkenness(1:12-14).

Either way, God still uses Eli here.He is Gods appointed leader for now.

Hannah boldly sets him right, and he sees the truth and gives her answer from God she was seeking.

The promise Eli gives her as she leaves fills her with hope that she knew within herself that God was on her side after all.

She had found her face again, she had joy again. She had found herself again – she was ‘favoured’ in Eli’s sight.

What faith she shows, to leave the temple with peace and joy, trusting the Word Eli had given would come to pass!

Hannah’s faith is as challenging as it is beautiful.

3 – Hannah’s Peace 1:19-20

How do we find Hannah’s peace that she found after so much searching and distress?

Don’t be an Elkanah

Don’t be an idiot.
You are not the be all and end all of your wife’s life.
You are not better than ten sons.
If you think you are, you’re a jerk.
Don’t offer platitudes to someone who needs unconditional love.
Don’t tell someone who is facing affliction that you are the answer to all their problems, if only they’d listen. You’re not. If you think you are, you might be one of the biggest problems they have.
We can so often worship God and be completely out of touch with His Will.
Don’t be a Peninnah

If you see someone who has an affliction, don’t rub it in their face.
If you’re the kind of person who gets kicks out of other people’s misery, you are cruel and on par with the devil. It’s his job to be the attacker and provoker.
Don’t judge others for their grief when you have never personally been where they are. Even if you have gone through something similar, you cannot possibly know what that person is feeling at any particular time.
Be a Hannah

The worshipful faith of those who suffer deep personal hurt, both at the hands of others and from the effects of living in a fallen world with a fallen body, and still run to God and call upon His name, their worship is not just remarkable, it is precious.

The great thing about Hannah is not just that she had faith in the midst of doubt and hurt, but that she trusted in God while everyone else did what was right in their own eyes. She submitted to His Will and Sovereignty, and He gave her the desire of her heart.

As we know, her vow was not a ‘foxhole’ promise. She followed through. She kept her word because God had kept His.

The point of Hannah’s story is not about getting God to give you what you want by making vows and promises. We are warned elsewhere in scripture about making foolish vows ( Judges 11:29-40; Matthew 5:33-37).It’s about admitting your helplessness and hopelessness to the One True God, Who hears and blesses beyond what we could ask or imagine ( Ephesians 3:20).

“Our utter incapacity is God’s starting to point to act…When God’s people are without hope, strength, resources, gimmicks, then He loves to stretch forth His hand.” – Kent Hughes

If you have something your heart cries out for, ask for it of the God Who hears prayers.

There may be an overwhelming sadness in your life, but even in that, we are meant to turn to a Sovereign God who longs to bless.

“The sadness you feel is normal, holy in fact. God delights in His design and when it is broken, He is grieved. Barrenness is part of the curse, but Christ bore our curse for us, so we could be fruitful in the land we have been given.” – Russell Moore

If we do not ask, we will not have.

How does Hannah’s prayer encourage you to pray for your own unspoken needs and burdens?

God is in the business of working out His plan through the least likely people.

We say it’s foolish to use weak things to show great power, but God thankfully doesn’t listen to us.

He uses the outcast, the downtrodden. The barren woman. The lepers. The lame. Those who walk with a limp.

He’s interested in the small things, the little people that otherwise go unnoticed.

The despised.

The rejected.

The ones acquainted with grief.

The afflicted.

The cursed.

He’s so interested in these particular kinds of people and cares for them so deeply, He became one of them and suffered the ultimate suffering in their place.

Hannah reminds us of Christ. She suffered an unbearable burden, and when faced with what she could not bear, she sought the face of God in Heaven and submitted to His will.

Christ died for her curse. He died for your’s also.

What you do with that knowledge will show whether you are an Elkanah – knowing, but proud and compromised. A Peninnah – cruel and selfish, looking out only for your own interests. Or a Hannah – sometimes troubled, but at peace with a God Who hears and answers prayer.

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