1 And again He began to teach by the sea. And a great multitude was gathered to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat in it on the sea; and the whole multitude was on the land facing the sea. 2 Then He taught them many things by parables, and said to them in His teaching: 3 “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow.” (Mark 4:1–3, NKJV)
People crowded around Jesus to hear Him teach. Indeed, teaching was an integral part of His work (Lk. 4:18-19; Matt. 4:23). Truly, He was the Master Teacher (Lk. 6:40). But people must listen to the teacher if learning is to occur. As Jesus taught the crowds onshore from a boat, He said, “Listen!” This word is in the imperative mood, conveying “a command for someone to perform the action of the verb” (Ancient Greek for Everyone). Jesus commanded them to listen! They needed to pay attention and not miss what He was teaching them. Even so, He commands us to listen to Him. We must do more than casually listen to the teachings of Jesus. We must be cautious not to inject into His teachings what we prefer to hear Him say. Unless we pay close attention to His words, we will not understand them (Jno. 8:43). The wise person hears the words of Jesus and does them (Matt. 7:24-25). Jesus teaches us the truth that frees us from sin, so obey His command to “listen” to Him (Jno. 8:31-32).
20 Wisdom calls aloud outside; She raises her voice in the open squares. 21 She cries out in the chief concourses, at the openings of the gates in the city she speaks her words: 22 “How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity? For scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge. 23 Turn at my rebuke; Surely I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you.” (Proverbs 1:20–23, NKJV)
Solomon personifies wisdom as a virtuous woman calling out in the streets to all who will stop, listen, learn, and follow her words of understanding. She seeks to bless those upon whom her words fall. Yet, in their ignorance, the naïve turn away from her insight. Others mock her perception while others loathe her knowledge. Even so, wisdom offers her spirit of discernment to all who are willing to hear. But beware. Rejecting wisdom’s call ultimately leads to ruin (Prov. 1:24-27). What is at work in the heart that refuses God’s wisdom? Proverbs 1:29 gives us an answer: “Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord.” Pride and irreverence prevent accepting wisdom’s guidance. We must choose to fear the Lord and to love the knowledge He gives us in His word. If not, we will search for wisdom and never find her (Prov. 1:28). Here is our test: Our attitude and reaction to the gospel of Christ (“the wisdom of God”) tell whether we hear wisdom or despise her (1 Cor. 1:21-25; 3:18).
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. (Psalm 116:15, NKJV)
When death takes loved ones, we ask, “Why?” and “How could this happen?” It is not that we do not know the answers (death comes to us all, Heb. 9:27). Such questions come to our minds because we are left to grapple with our loss. That is natural. The gospel teaches Christians how to deal with death by developing God’s point of view of death. The death of God’s saints (holy ones) is a valuable event in God’s sight. Even at the moment of our loss, it also can be precious to us. Saints have overcome by the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 12:11). They have lived their lives by faith, not sight (2 Cor. 5:7). A living hope has lived in them (1 Pet. 1:3). When God’s people die, He blesses them with rest from their fleshly toils and adversities (Rev. 14:13; Lk. 16:25). To “depart and be with Christ” is “far better” than this physical realm. So, we accept patiently and joyfully the passing of beloved saints, knowing the assurance of God are real and received. And so, we press on by faith while living in the flesh, anticipating eternal realms of glory with God and His saints. Thanks be to God that death is our doorway to everlasting joy. Are you ready to die? When you live holy as God is holy, you are (1 Pet. 1:13-16).
13 They brought him who formerly was blind to the Pharisees. 14 Now it was a Sabbath when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. 15 Then the Pharisees also asked him again how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” (John 9:13–15, NKJV)
The healed man had already told the Pharisees how he received his sight (Jno. 9:10-11). Their interest in Jesus and His miracle was not to believe in Him; it was to accuse Him as a Sabbath-breaker (Jno. 9:16). Let’s draw our attention to the particulars of this event. 1) The man said Jesus did something (“put clay on my eyes”), then 2) Jesus told him to do something (“I washed”), and then 3) The man received his sight (“I see”), John 9:6-7. A similar sequence occurs when God saves sinners. 1) Jesus did something (died for our sins and arose from death). 2) Jesus tells us to do something (“arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins” (Acts 22:16). 3) When we believe and do what He tells us to do, we are saved (Mk. 16:15-16). Like the faithless Pharisees, many religious leaders reject and deny this God-revealed sequence of salvation. Yet, like the blind man’s healing, receiving God’s gift of salvation blends God’s grace and our faith (Eph. 2:8). The blind man did not merit his gift of sight when he obeyed Jesus. Neither do we merit our gift of salvation when we obey Him (Eph. 2:8-9; Heb. 5:9; Rom. 6:3-5, 17). But unless we have the faith to obey, we remain blind, lost in sin. So, will we choose to have faith like the blind man and obey Jesus? Or will we join the Pharisees and faithlessly resist Jesus and His salvation?
Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, “I find no fault in Him at all.” (John 18:38, NKJV)
Many people believe truth is relative, not absolute. A recent social cartoon captured the post-truth mindset. It depicts a witness in the courtroom with hand raised being asked, “Do you solemnly swear to speak your truth, your whole truth, and nothing but your truth?” (Fishman, 9/20/2020, King Features Syndicate, Inc.). Post-truth is “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief” (Cambridge Dictionary). Again, “Post-truth is a philosophical and political concept for ‘the disappearance of shared objective standards for truth’ and the ‘circuitous slippage between facts or alt-facts, knowledge, opinion, belief, and truth’” (“Post-truth,” Wikipedia.org). Pilate did not let the objective truth he discovered by investigating evidence (“I find no fault in Him at all”) get in the way of his political agenda. Let us be clear; Truth is absolute. Truth is God’s word (Jno. 17:17). Truth is Jesus Christ (Jno. 1:1-3, 14; 14:6). The Scriptures provide truthful evidence that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God who can save you from your sins (Jno. 20:30-31; Acts 17:2-3). Will you believe and obey the truth? Or will you stand with Pilate? Have I “become your enemy because I tell you the truth” (Gal. 4:16)?
23 Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches; 24 But let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,” says the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:23–24, NKJV)
This stern warning against pride in personal wisdom, power, and wealth is set against the backdrop of God’s wisdom, power, and richness. Paul wrote, “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor. 1:25). Human insight is nothing before the Almighty’s wisdom. Only the boastful would make such a foolish claim. Concerning human power, “Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the Lord” (Jer. 17:5). Pride moves people to think they are stronger than God. Riches are temporary, and “perish through misfortune” (Eccl. 5:14). Pride in material abundance can lead to neglecting eternal riches (Lk. 12:15-21). By contrast, we can “understand and know” the Lord (Jer. 9:24). We understand He is sovereign (Lord), and accomplishes what is gracious, just, and righteous in the earth. Humility glories in God’s accomplishments, not ours. By doing so, God assures us of His favor (delight).
Shall I not punish them for these things?” says the Lord. “And shall I not avenge Myself on such a nation as this? (Jeremiah 5:9, NKJV)
The cup of Judah’s iniquities had reached the brim: “Their transgressions are many; Their backslidings have increased” (Jer. 5:6). Like her sister Israel to the north, idolatry, adultery, selfish indulgence, oppressive leaders, false prophets, and faithless neglect of God headlined her sins (Jer. 5:7-8, 11-13). Yet they were sure punishment would not come upon them (Jer. 5:12-13; Micah 3:11-12). Even to this moment, many have created a view of God that takes everyone to heaven. Sin is minimized out of existence; therefore, they eliminate the prospect of punishment. “A loving God will not send people to hell!” they proclaim. We must divest ourselves of this illusion. Yes, God is love. His severity is also real (Rom. 11:22). Our God is a consuming fire against evil (Heb. 12:29). Over and over, God called His people to turn from their sins and return to Him (Jer. 3:14-18, 22; 4:4; 7:13, 25-26). Because Judah and Israel rejected God’s word and refused to repent, God had no choice but to exact punishment. God’s word is clear; those who “do not know God” and those “who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” “shall be punished” when Christ returns (2 Thess. 1:8-9; Matt. 25:46). Now is the time to repent and turn to the Lord. Now is the day of salvation (2 Cor. 6:1-2).
3 If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? 4 But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared. (Psalm 130:3–4, NKJV)
We rejoice in the truth that God forgives and does not mark (retain) our sins (cf. Psa. 6:1; 38:1). God’s lovingkindness does not free us from accountability for our sin; We are answerable for our sin, its consequences, and punishment. The way of the transgressor is hard, and the wages of sin is death (Prov. 13:15; Rom. 6:23). Today’s psalm praises God’s forgiveness, His mercy, and redemption of Israel “from all our iniquities” (Psa. 130:8). When God’s people cry to Him with repentant supplications, He hears and forgives (Psa. 130:1-2). He does not withhold forgiveness; neither should (Matt. 6:14-15; 18:32-35). God does not vindictively keep an account of evil (1 Cor. 13:5). His forgiveness generates reverential fear for His wonderful pardon (Psa. 130:4). God’s responsive mercy assures our hearts to patiently trust His purposes and hope in His word (Psa. 130:5-6). Christians trust God’s unfailing love, generous mercy, and abundant redemption. He forgives us when we repent and confess our sins (Acts 8:22-24; 1 Jno. 1:9).
1 Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? 2 For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. (Isaiah 53:1–2, NKJV)
No doubt, many are drawn to others based on their physical features. Yet, we can fairly say that Jesus Christ was not particularly handsome. He had “no form or comeliness…no beauty that we should desire Him.” Unlike Saul, who was tall and handsome, God’s Anointed did not draw people to Himself because of his outward appearance (1 Sam. 9:1-2; 10:23-24). Christ does not gather a following like Absalom, who “stole the hearts of the men of Israel” with false humility and flattery (2 Sam. 15:5-6). It was David, a man after God’s own heart, who typified God’s suffering servant (1 Sam. 13:14; Psa. 89:3-4). God looks on the heart, not physical appearance (1 Sam. 16:7). So, what draws your attention to Christ and the gospel? Is it a large church building full of wealthy people? Maybe it is cathedrals or temples built by human hands. Maybe it is the social program of the church. Furthermore, what are Christians using to draw people to Christ? It must always be the gospel, not things that appeal to the pride of the flesh. The Father draws sinners to Christ and salvation by hearing and learning His word, and so must we (Jno. 6:44-45).
If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? (Psalm 11:3, NKJV)
The foundations of our society are cracked. Decades of denying the existence of God and His truth, of sanctioning the killing innocent, unborn life, of oppression of our neighbors to get ahead, and of rejecting the fundamental truths of morality and marriage – all these and more can tempt us to despair of hope and remedy. Through David, God gives us answers that look above the moment and beyond the horizon of hurt and horror. When the foundations are destroyed, the righteous can 1) Keep their trust in the Lord God (Psa. 11:1-2). Corrective truth comes from God, not humans (Jer. 10:23). He protects us from an eternal perspective that we must foster that grounds us in times of trouble. 2) Remember God has not moved (Psa. 11:4). He remains enthroned in heaven; His sovereignty secures our faith and assures us His purposes prevail. 3) Know God sees and investigates every person and judges between the good and the evil (Psa. 11:4-6). The wicked do not escape His gaze and cannot hide from His justice (Rev. 6:12-17). 4) Know God is righteous, and He loves righteousness (Psa. 11:7). He beholds and rewards those who seek peace and pursue righteousness (Matt. 6:33). The righteous remain steadfast when foundations are shaken because we have a kingdom that cannot be shaken. God is a consuming fire upon evil and the sustaining hope of all who serve Him “acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Heb. 12:27-29). These are the things the righteous can do.