These reflections help us look into the Bible to discover what God is saying to us today. We find Bible passages to read and questions to ponder. The themes are in the process of being listed in an index with each theme ultimately divided into seven sections. We hope to be completed soon.
We now start to traverse the book of the prophet Malachi. It is framed around eight questions posed by people to the Lord. The general tone of the questions is that of perplexity and hurt. The people feel that God is being rather unfair. They plead ignorance as to their own failures. Sometimes we can reach a state of sublime innocence when in fact we are far from guiltless. Our conscience can have become used to our low spiritual state, and we need awakening.
The first question they lob to God is, “How hast thou loved us?” (v.2). They feel that they owe little to God since he has not done anything particularly noteworthy for them. When put like that it sounds rude and ungrateful. But to them it seemed fully justified.
God’s answer, however, may still not sound that convincing to us. Basically he is saying that he has “laid waste (v.3) their wayward neighbour “Esau” (v.2). So, they who are descended from Jacob have been protected, whilst their “brother” (v.2) Esau has been judged. As a result of this, they should be grateful to the Lord and say, “Great is the Lord, beyond the border of Israel” (v.5).
Whatever we may think about this argument we need to learn that often the Lord has blessed us by preserving us from danger. Just because we were not aware of the danger does not negate his active protection. The very fact that we are alive and well is sufficient reason to be grateful and to be convinced that he loves us.
Also, we can look at others around us and realise how fortunate we are. The lives of many others are far, far worse than our own life. How we need to cultivate a spirit of gratitude, a spirit that counts our blessings. As Paul says: “There is great gain in godliness with contentment” (1 Timothy 6:6) – see Explore More.
Thank you Lord that you continually watch over me and provide for me. Grant me a grateful heart . Amen.
“If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven”(v.23) RSV
One of the areas in which we need healing is in broken relationships and in guilt. Perhaps we are in danger of thinking that healing of physical ailments or deliverance from evil powers is more difficult and more impressive. But we would be wrong. Do you remember when the paralytic man was let down through the roof by his friends? When he lay before Jesus the first thing to be addressed was not his paralysis, but his sins.
His friends had brought him presumably in order for his physical problem(s) to be dealt with. But Jesus tackled the more difficult and the more pressing problem of his sins. It was only by the by, in order to prove that he had the authority to forgive sins that Jesus told the man to stand up.
This is why Jesus gave the disciples, in our passage today, the authority and the commission to deliver people from the bondage of their sins and guilt. He said: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (v.23). We are to do the same today.
The word ‘absolution’ is often misunderstood. Some people think that it means a priest is essential for the forgiveness of sins. But the priest (or indeed any Christian) is only the conveyor of God’s forgiveness. ‘Absolution’ is best illustrated in this way. A man in prison has a pardon issued by the King. However that pardon is only made effective when it is delivered and applied. The prisoner hears the footsteps of one approaching his cell who has the written pardon in his hand. That person unlocks the door and says: “You have been pardoned and I have come to set you free.”
The Church and Christians have the task of announcing forgiveness, speaking as the very mouthpiece of God. This ministry is not usurping God, but bringing his liberating forgiveness to those to whom we speak. We are told to “Say the Word”.
Thank you Lord for those who have assured me of your forgiveness. May I be bold in confirming that forgiveness to others. Amen.
“in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk” (v.6) RSV
For three years the disciples had been with Jesus and seen him heal the sick, cast out demons and raise the dead. While he was alive they started to do the same works themselves. First he sent out the Twelve on a mission (Matthew 10:5-8), and then he sent out the Seventy-Two (Luke 10:1-9). But now he had gone (in his physical form), and they were having to continue his ministry inspired by his Holy Spirit.
Jesus had told them they would be able to do the works he had done, and indeed they would do even greater works (John 14:12). However, it is not so easy to continue with the same confidence when the Master has gone. Yet the disciples did continue to do the works of Jesus. The Holy Spirit gave them the boldness and the confidence.
So here we have the story of the healing of the lame man who sat daily at the gate called Beautiful outside the Temple. Peter and John were on their way into the Temple to pray, but on this occasion they were prompted to stop and encounter the beggar. At first the man was not looking for, or believing in, healing; he wanted money. But Peter and John encouraged by the Spirit elicited faith and hope in him. They said the word: “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk” (v.6). They further encouraged the man by giving him a helping hand. The man responded in faith and obedience. He rose, walked and leaped in the air!
Now, it is essential to note how Peter explains how he had the authority to say the word. It was not because of his and John’s own “power of piety” (v.12). They were not special saints or innately gifted. They were simply operating in obedience to Christ’s commission. They had directed the man’s attention to Jesus Christ and proclaimed that he would receive healing through him.
We too (modern day disciples) are required to do the same. We are to point people to Christ and then say the word as if we are Christ (we are his mouthpiece), and then stand back to see the power of God at work.
Thank you Lord for your mighty power. Thank you for all who minister in Jesus’ name. May the world come to believe. Amen.
There are three recorded raisings from the dead performed by Jesus. We have already considered one: “Lazarus, come out” (John 11:43). The second is the widow of Nain’s son: “Young man, I say to you, arise” (Luke 7:14). And the third, which we consider this week, Jairus’ daughter: “Talitha cumi” which means “Little girl, I say to you, arise” (v.41). Surely the consistency of working cannot be missed, nor can it be coincidental. Each time Jesus gives a short word of command. This word is heard, received and responded to.
But as ever, faith is the prerequisite. Without faith it is not only impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6), but it is more or less impossible for God to work through us. A world in rebellion and unbelief stifles God’s activity.
Jesus had to work hard to create the ambience of faith in order for the little girl to be brought back to life. Jairus, her father, had to overcome his status as a ruler of the local synagogue. Not only did he have to risk the disapproval of his congregation, but he also came in abject humility to fall at the feet of Jesus. This man expressed true love for his daughter; he would do anything for her. And the direction of his hope was Jesus.
All was well at first, Jesus “went with him” (v.24), but then disaster struck. Jesus was diverted and distracted with the needs of the woman who had been haemorrhaging for the past twelve years (the same length of time that Jairus’ daughter had been living). During this delay news came of the girl’s death. But Jesus strengthened the father’s faith, “Do not fear, only believe” (v.36). When they arrived at the house, Jesus put out all the unbelievers and scornful mourners. He took with him his strongest (in faith) disciples and the child’s parents. Their combined faith and love enabled Jesus to exercise that confident authority over all evil: “Little girl, I say to you, arise” (v.41).
Thank you Lord for those who are strong in faith. May we encourage one another so that we can become channels of your power to heal and save. Amen.