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Posts Tagged ‘blessings’

13 And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” 16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them. – Mark 10:13-16

This pericope is a fitting follow-up after the Lord taught about the sanctity of marriage. In a God-fearing Jewish household, the marriage vows are held in high esteem for it is the will of God that when a man and a woman are joined together, no human authority can ever dissolve it. It is in this same household that the Law of YHWH is held in the highest esteem for their very lives revolve in the revealed will of God.  Included in this God-centered life is the instruction to teach them children in the way of the Lord at every opportunity daily.  Here we also seize the fact that a sanctified marriage is a good ground for planting the children into the knowledge and presence of the Lord. Not only are the parents to grow in the knowledge and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ but their marriage should also display the reality of His presence when husbands love their wives as Jesus love the church and when wives submit to their husbands as to the Lord (Ephesians 5:22-32).

Receiving ChildrenAnd so we have here a continuing stream of children being brought to the Lord.  We are not told who are bringing these children, but it is obvious that whoever is leading them to Him, whether a father, a mother, a sibling or guardian, desired his blessings upon the children. A parallel story in Matthew 19:13 reveal the intention to have blessings conferred to the children.  Greater possibility still is that they bring their children to Him because they understand – how much, we do not know – who Jesus is – someone who can confer heavenly blessing, whether they perceive Him to be a prophet or the Messiah or the Son of God. That fact is still unknown here but the overwhelming evidence of His ministry has provided them a good amount of understanding on His close relationship to Yahweh. Remember how people are; they would protect their children more than themselves when a stranger is involved. But to them Jesus in not a stranger anymore but are convinced that He is indeed a ‘man of God’ as evidenced by their desire for Him to confer the good blessing of God.

It is a common practice among the Jews to lay their hands on the head of those whom they will confer blessing, especially from since the time of the patriarchs in Genesis. But we know here that the children are up for the greatest conferring of God’s blessing for this one comes from the Lord who spoke to patriarchs themselves. Oh, if all Israel knew, that place at that moment would have been filled with all their children! Matthew Henry comments that this conferring of blessings upon children is a revealed will of the Lord through the prophet Isaiah 44:3 “…I will pour out my Spirit upon your offspring, my blessings upon your descendants”.

Having this in mind, it is no wonder why the Lord would be indignant (Greek eganaktesen – deep emotion, pained emotion) when the disciples rebuked those who were bringing the children to the Lord. This is not an isolated indignation. Another incident in Matthew 21:15 when the children as they shouted ‘Hosanna, hosanna’ to Jesus were rebuked by people who presume to know more about God – the Pharisees!  These children were rejoicing that the Savior has come; perhaps the very children who were brought to Him that Mark has now written about. In truth, Jesus is the only source of their blessing from God and to hinder them that privilege is to prevent them from coming to God himself. At their tender age, they do not know how, but as they are taught the knowledge of God, they will themselves have the privilege later on to come on their own.  It is the desire of God therefore that children at the youngest of age be brought to Him.  The young Israelite is taught the Law, Prophets and Psalms on all occasion that a child should build his or her entire life centered on the true God.  This particular moment was the greatest opportunity for them to see and hear whom that was spoken to them by their parents from the very pages of the Old Testament scriptures. And to hinder them caused deep, pained emotions for the Lord who loves them. Love is evident by what He said, that the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.

The secular world understands that people are best indoctrinated while they are young. The Chinese communist leader, Mao Zhedong (or Mao Tse Tung – more familiarly), once instructed the nation to catch the mind and heart of the Chinese people while they’re young – to indoctrinate them with Maoist communism in their childhood years. Even MTV, in one of its infomercial, in a sinister kind of way, mentioned the importance of grabbing their viewers at a tender age because that is the greatest time of influence.  Would the children then be rather exposed to corrupting influences of man’s sinful activities? Jesus forbids it so and would have the little ones know Him from a tender age.

Let the children therefore come to the knowledge of Christ Jesus and God’s saving grace while they are young. No hindrances should be spared for this one great privilege for any Christian adult to bless their children with.

Proceeding now to verse 15, careful reading of it allows us to see an important shift in the focus of the statement of the Lord, yet it provides us a heavenly truth with regards to how we should welcome Him. Sometimes when we read a particular section in God’s word, presuppositions are injected into what is being read resulting to a failure to comprehend properly. In this particular verse, there can be failure of the reader to see the shift from ‘children to whom the kingdom of God belongs’ to ‘the kingdom of God to be received like the way children were received by the Lord’unhindered.

Yes, there should not be barriers or obstacles in receiving the Lord. The parallel of Jesus and the kingdom of God is established here. To receive the kingdom of God is to receive Jesus Christ. Nothing should be placed as a hindrance in between the Lord and children in particular, and all men in general.

Verse 16 now continues and as all hindrances now removed, Jesus proceeds to bless the children. He blessed them not only by His prayer but by showing to them Himself.

Observe then that this narrative is set between two other stories: the teaching on marriage and its sanctity (Mark 10:1-12), and then the rich young ruler (Mark 10:17-27).  In both pericopes, hindrances were the contributors of the discontinuing of what should be. 

  • In marriage, a hindrance such as infidelity committed by one of the partners would result to the discontinuing of the marriage. From the very beginning it is ordained that marriage should not be broken for it runs contrary to the expressed will of God. In order for a disobedient heart not to further hardened, divorce was allowed but each divorcee are never to remarry until one of the partners die for this is the only acceptable means to God for a remarriage.  To contradict God in this matter and marry another person while the divorced partner is still alive is to fall into the sin of adultery – consequently putting the idol of ‘self’ in place of God (this is the very essence of the Ten Commandments where the breaking of commandment nos. 4-10 is ultimately breaking commandment no. 1-3).
  • In the next pericope of the rich young ruler, it can be perceived also to be the amplification of the narrative about children coming to Christ.  This time it is a rich person coming to Jesus and asking how he should inherit the kingdom of heaven. Yet his desire is prevented by the very statements he was asserting about himself to the Lord.  I will discuss this in another post but to be sure another hindrance this story was preventing a union between Lord and himself.

And it is no coincidence either the pericope on marriage and this narrative was taught in one sweep for many times in the Scripture the union between God and his people is represented by the metaphor of a marriage that cannot happen when there are hindrances nor can be dissolved what God has already joined.  Although I use the word ‘hindrance’ here often, one thing is true, whatever that hindrance be, is definitely considered sinful for it rubs against the will of God. 

Suffice it for us to understand that no hindrances must be placed in between the kingdom of God and ourselves.  Encouraging as this may sound, it is unfortunate that the reality is that we always have something that hinders us from receiving Him.  It is called sin. And like the disciples we hinder.  Who then can be saved? The answer of the Lord is still the same, “with man it is impossible, but with God nothing is impossible” (Mark 10:27).

Going back to the verses that we are particularly studying here, Christian parents primarily are conferred by God the responsibility of telling their children who Jesus Christ is at whatever age they are in.  All Christians are by extension conferred this responsibility for all children.  We take all what is possibly necessary to bring to them the Gospel and at the same time, protect them from the corrupting influences of the world. Also, let us be careful in teaching them.  Many times, we do teach them that by obeying commandments they go to heaven without perhaps realizing that we put a false gospel as a hindrance. And many times, like the disciples who prevented the children to be brought to Jesus, we presume to know the Lord’s mind when we say things that the Scriptures have not instructed us to say or do.  We should teach them that Jesus is their only means of their salvation, the One who paid with His life so that they will be at peace with God, and this promise is their blessing.  And because it is so, they are supposed to be taught to receive Him, to receive Him by faith, to entrust their lives to Him alone – to do all these without any hindrances for the Lord says that the kingdom of heaven belongs to them. And they would not know until we bring the Gospel to them and pray to the Lord for their salvation.

As a footnote, let this be a means of joy to parents who have lost young children whether in disease or mishaps, that as Jesus explicitly says, that children belong to the Kingdom of God. Not that the children are sinless for also in them is the seed of Adam, a sinful nature, but rather it is a gracious blessing conferred by the Lord Jesus Christ to them. This is also an encouraging truth for me for I have a sister with Down’s syndrome who will never know her left from her right, nor will she comprehend the fullness of her blessings in Christ.  Yet while she is still alive, we endeavor to teach her through biblical songs and stories about God’s salvation through Christ. And when she gives praise to the Lord, it is the most wonderful sight and sound to behold from her. To God be the glory!

 

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Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity and in whose spirit there is no deceit – Psalm 32:1-2

The heading for this psalm says it’s a maskil of David.  Whether this is a musical or a liturgical term, both are true as this song embodies a form of worship to the Lord who alone can forgive sin.  Man, in his fallen nature, can somehow bestow upon another human being a certain type or amount of forgiveness but it infinitely falls short of the glory of the one true forgiving God. We were not told of any particular sin here but sin is sin nonetheless regarding of its type, and it ultimately is a transgression against God.  Psalm 51:4 tells to whom do we sin  ultimately,

 Against You , You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight.”

Reading Psalm 32, we are informed on the following: 

  • (v.1-2) the blessedness of the God-forgiven man,
  • (v.3-4) the burden of unconfessed sin that weighs so heavily upon the soul and body,
  • (v.5) sincere acknowledgement of sin and promised forgiveness received,
  • (v. 6) the sin-liberated man’s call to everyone to seek the Lord before judgment day,
  • (v. 7) freedom from judgment for those who sought the Lord (followed perhaps by a moment of reflection as suggested by selah which is already an unknown term today),
  • (v.8-9) God leads the steps of the forgiven man (through the Word),
  • (v.10) contrasting situation between the unrepentant person and the forgiven man, and
  • (v.11) the rejoicing unto God of the one whose sin has been removed.

Note that the word transgression is singular as in many cases in the New Testament which uses sin. Man is always called through the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to repent from their sin.  The two-fold implication of the singular form sin has to do with man, firstly as being sinful, and then his sins.  It is worth repeating here that man sins because he is a sinner;  his sinful actions are a proof of his fallen nature. By nature, he is a slave to sin hence the thoughts of his heart and his deeds are continually evil in God’s eyes.  Anyone who disagrees will only have to hear what Lord says about humanity in Genesis 6:5 (continually evil), Matthew 7:11 (who are evil), and no one does good nor counted righteous in the sight of God (Psalm 14:1-3; Romans 3:11-12)

With our fallen nature touching every facet of our lives and the consequential living charaterized by sin, we are truly in a wretched state. But blessed is the man whose sin God does not count against and the solution is, and will always be, outside ourselves.  God who is just is also the justifier (Romans 3:26).  He condemned us yet  He provided the atonement (Psalm 65:3) through His Son, Jesus Christ (1 John 2:8). Through God the Son alone is the blessing graciously granted and received by faith in Him and His finished work on the cross of Calvary.

Not only does forgiveness in Christ Jesus sets us free from the slavery of sin, condemnation and judgment, but also sets us free to seek Him continuously, to understand the Word and be led by the  Holy Spirit  to walk in the path of righteous living, and to live in continual fruitful repentance.

Today, the world pursues blessings and you hear people left and right talk about it. And hey, we even receive emails that commands you to ‘pass this message to 10 people and you will be blessed’, which to the discerning heart is a form of sorcery.  But the world is only after its own lust, always giving itself to pursuit of earthly pleasures rather than God. Wordly blessings are not only measured in fame, health and wealth but wickedness that sinful humanity so hotly pursue.  A fornicator considers his partner a blessing.  A beauty queen considers her scantily-clad body paraded before the world her blessing. A successful singer consider his voice a blessing while songs so devoid of godliness are sung for all to hear. The successful CEO considers his business a blessing even as he abandons every conduct of honesty and integrity. Every person considers his earthly freedom a blessing even though each one rejects the only true spiritual liberation Jesus Christ can give.   All humanity considers its growing unity their blessing even when they have all together ignored and sneered at the Gospel of  Jesus Christ. All these will perish and become meaningless in the face of eternity.  God’s Word tell us plainly that the world and its desires will perish (1 John 2:17).

But to the one who repents and has faith in Jesus Christ, he is the truly blessed person, whose sin God remembers no more (Isaiah 43:25) –

I, I am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”

Indeed this is the blessing that exceedingly matters.  May God bless you in His Son.

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace…” – Ephesians 1:7

 

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Finally, my brethren… – Ephesians 6:10

“Last but not the least” is what I will say as this narrative on the full armor of God section begins. The word ‘finally’ in the Greek is tou loipou which means ‘as for the rest’ but it must not diminish the importance of the narrative.  It was not an afterthought nor was it something that Paul discussed in the last chapter because it was least important, but it is as important as every block of narrative in the Ephesian letter. Imagine a stack of books that are kept standing because of  a pair of bookends, Eph. 6:10-20 is one of these ‘bookends’ that supports the entire epistle because:

  • It frames the teaching of a new life beginning in Eph. 4:17 where Paul exhorts the believers to not live like Gentiles who live in darkness. Every facet of life must display the new life in Christ. And after this Paul reminds the believers again that the forces of darkness would wage war against them (Eph. 6:12).  It is interesting to note here that Paul does not refer to them as Gentiles anymore but keeps his consistent reference to them as saints belonging to the household of God (Eph. 2:19-20).
  • It complements the prayer began by Paul in Eph. 1:15 -23.  He begins praying for them and then he enjoins them to pray in the Spirit for the saints and for him. Prayer takes a front seat in the Christian’s life, presenting himself dependent on God in every way for everything, from the understanding of the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ received by faith and the fruit-bearing life resulting from it, from orthodoxy (manner of understanding) to orthopraxy (manner of life).
  • It brings out some of the spiritual gifts that God has blessed us in His Son in the heavenly places (Eph 1:3). Blessings that are freely given to us – the power and might of the Lord, the full armor of God, and Holy Spirit-led and empowered prayer – in order to stand against the spiritual forces of darkness in the heavenly realms that will wage war against us (Eph 6:12).

Despite Paul’s calling as an apostles coming directly from the Lord, he did not elevate himself over the Ephesian believers. He called them brethren.  The ESV did not write the word ‘brethren’  but the Greek New Testament writes adelphoi which means brethren. But adelphoi presents a deeply rooted brotherhood that is born of God in His beloved Son. Reading Eph 1:1-2 may seem to place Paul and the believers in separate levels, but as soon as verse 3 comes in, both he and the believers have been blessed by God jointly. He made sure to inform them that together, they will be engaged in the same spiritual war and he entreats them to remember that they have the same source of their power – the Lord. Jesus clearly speaks when He said to the apostles, ‘Apart from Me, you can do nothing’ (John 15:5) – yes, even in spiritual warfare.  As it is true for the apostles, so it is true for all believers – apart from our Lord Jesus, we all can do nothing!

Part 3 – Our Lord of Power and Might              https://emmaustrekker.wordpress.com/2009/07/24/panoply-series-part-3-our-lord-of-power-and-might/

Previous: Part 1 – Two Kingdoms at War   https://emmaustrekker.wordpress.com/2009/07/03/panoply-series-part-1/

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