November 19th 2017: Ian Jones

Ian Jones-November 17John 4:43-54: Jesus heals the Nobleman’s Son

We remember those in the Bible we hear a lot about – Abraham, Sarah, Ruth, yet we may forget about those we hear least about, like Elkanah and Malon. What about the nobleman here in John’s gospel? He is only mentioned in John’s gospel.

Jesus had been in Judea and left for Galilee, ‘he left Judea and departed again for Galilee.’ (John 4:3). There was growing opposition from the Pharisees. Jesus, however, didn’t take the normal route around Samaria but went through Samaria because He needed to meet with the woman at the well (John 4). Jesus spent two days here before He left (John 4:43).

Jesus went to Cana, Galilee (John 4:46). John reminds us this was the place whChrere Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding. This marked His great Galilean ministry, which lasted over 16 months. Matthew, Mark and Luke record this but John only records the feeding of the 5,000 and the healing of the nobleman’s son.

Who is this nobleman? He was called a nobleman because he served in the king’s palace. He has a son in Capernaum who was very sick. We expect a man of his position to have sought the very best medical help. However, his son’s sickness got gradually worse. He heard that Jesus was in Galilee and went to implore Him to heal his son, ‘When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to Him and asked Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death.’ (John 4:47).

Straight away we have an important lesson. Why do so few people have no need of Christ? Why do so few read the Bible? If people have no need of Christ then hearing about Him will have no effect on their lives. If the nobleman didn’t have a sick son, he would have no interest in seeing Jesus. This is the way God works in his life. Hearing Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, perhaps the nobleman had heard reports of Jesus turning water into wine, or other reports of Jesus’ healing ministry. This gave him the reason to come to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Whatever our needs are in life today, none can be compared to our greatest need to come to Christ. The Lord may work in a physical or spiritual way to bring them to Christ. It’s wonderful to see how the Lord brings us to Christ and works in people’s lives, in the lives of people who had no interest in Christ, yet come to Him. This is what we pray for as a church, for others to come as we have come. As God’s word is preached people may be reminded of their true position – sinners before God – and have a need for their sins to be forgiven, to be restored in fellowship with Christ.

What is even more amazing about this nobleman is that nothing will stop him from coming to Christ. He has a sick son at the point of death yet he went to Christ and implored Him to come to heal his son. It doesn’t matter how far away you are when a loved one is dying, you will want to be with them. The noble man had servants of his own he could have sent to Jesus whilst he stayed at home with his son in those valuable moments. Yet he left his son to go to Jesus Christ, to implore him to heal his son who was at the point of death. The distance would have been about 25 miles and would have taken 4-6 hours travelling. It was a long journey for him, he might never see his son alive again. He would do everything possible to save his son.

Are we willing to do everything possible to bring others to the Lord Jesus Christ, to bring Christ to others? It is easy to sit back and relax. Here we find an encouragement. Are we coming to God in prayer about those who are facing a lost eternity? Are we praying that Christ would restore them and give them life as He has given life to us? The noble man went on that journey to bring Christ to his son. Are we seeking to bring Christ to others?

What did this noble man think about on the journey? He may have wondered what Jesus would say to his request. However, Jesus’ response was not what he wanted to hear, ‘So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.”’ (John 4:48).  This would have been a shock to the nobleman. Jesus was not only speaking to him but also to the crowds. When a person comes to Jesus they do not always hear what they want to hear (like the rich young man who asked what he must do to inherit eternal life).

What does the nobleman do when he hears something he doesn’t want to hear? Does he go home? No, because he had a great need. He wasn’t going to give up lightly, ‘The official said to Him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”’ (John 4:49). Again Jesus’ response is not what he wants to hear, ‘Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.”’ (John 4:50). He had been asking Jesus to come and heal his son but the Lord Jesus says, ‘Go.’ This man only had faith that his son would only be made well if the Lord came to his home to heal him. He didn’t have the faith of the centurion.

The Lord does an amazing work – He gives the nobleman the faith so he trusts Christ at His word, ‘The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way.’ (John 4:50). We can make excuses not to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, as the crowd was doing. They wanted proof but the Lord Jesus wanted them to believe first in Him rather than have miracles. What is holding us back from believing in the very word of God? God asks us to simply believe in Him, believe the word of God is true. The nobleman turned and went on his way home, when he was met by one of his servants who told him his son lived. What joy! What confirmation.

God creates a need for us to come to the Lord Jesus Christ. He gives us faith to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Then, as we walk in faith He gives us confirmation of what we believe. He establishes our faith. He strengthens us in various ways.

Jesus had it that the nobleman’s servant met him. That’s what God does as we walk by faith, as we go through various trials, he establishes us. The Lord doesn’t just leave us when we come to Him. There is confirmation. Twice the nobleman believed; initially, when the Lord told him to go, and again at the end, when he and all his household believed, ‘And he himself believed, and all his household.’ (John 4:53). This is important – the nobleman went on to tell others what had happened.

This was the second sign that Jesus did when he came out of Judea and into Galilee. Both miracles are very similar, they both have people who have great need and who show persistence leading to great faith.

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November 12th 2017: Lawrence Mitchell

On Remembrance Sunday we listened to a Remembrance poem written by Philip Hancock and read out by John Hancock. Before observing two minutes silence in honour of those who have given their lives in battle and those who continue to serve today, we listened to a prayer written by Private William Evans, an uncle of Pearl and Alec Davies, who died serving his country 100 years ago in the Great War.

Our service was led by Lawrence Mitchell who preached on 2 Timothy 2:4

‘No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.’ (2 Timothy 2:4 KJV).

‘No soldier gets entangles in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.’ (2 Timothy 2:4 ESV).

Paul is reminding Timothy he is chosen by God to be a soldier. God Himself, as the Bible tells us in Exodus, is a great God, a mighty God. He is a God of grace and mercy. Exodus tells us God is a God of war. He was against the sins of the nations and had to punish them. God was for the children of Israel and wanted them to walk in His light. There are many battles and wars in the Old Testament. Prayers were said before going into battle. God is a God of war but He is also a God of holiness. He guided those who sought Him in prayer. Sometimes, the people would send singers before they would fight. We read of this in Judges and the Psalms. God gave victory as the people honoured Him.

Today we are going to think of a different battle.

We are called as sinners to the Saviour. He chose us before the foundations of the world. He chose men to be converted. We are called by God’s grace, it is not of us. Paul talks here to Timothy, saying he’s been chosen by God to be a soldier. Paul led this young man to God. It’s wonderful to pray for someone to come to Christ and see this happen. God is able to save, God is able to subdue, God is able to keep.

Paul says to Timothy he’s now a son in the faith and gives him a charge, ‘This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. (1 Timothy 1:18-19).

Paul warns Timothy about being entangled by the things of this world, ‘No soldier gets entangles in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.’ (2 Timothy 2:4). Paul encourages him to endure by trusting in the Lord and believing in His promises. Paul not only tells us of the choices God has made, but how we can be entangled, mixed up in the wrong things of life. Paul is instructing his young son in the faith.

Paul also brings the message not only to Timothy but to all of us; we are encouraged to endure, ‘Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.’ (2 Timothy 2:3 KJV).

‘Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.’ (2 Timothy 2:3 ESV). Paul says we must endure hardship that we come across in this life. Timothy was a great minister to Paul. The young convert brought blessings to Paul. The younger can bring blessing to the older. It’s a humbling yet blessed experience.

God’s soldiers are enveloped. There is a way out of the hardness, the disappointments and difficulties, the darkness of the tunnel. There is light for the true believer. Endure the hardness for God will guide and bless.

As soldiers of Christ we can, as John Wesley says, arise and put our armour on. We are chosen, guided, used and blessed. This is all of God, not of us.

 

November 5th 2017: Gareth Edwards

20991230_1910562232550470_632853575_oExodus 10: 21-29      The Darkness of Disobedience

‘Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness to be felt.”’ (Exodus 10:21).

Like plague three and six, this plague comes without warning as Moses does not speak to Pharaoh in advance of the event. This plague strikes at the very heart of the Egyptian belief system. Their chief deity, the creator-god, was Amon-Ra, the sun god of whom Pharaoh was an incarnation. In the famous Egyptian writings The Book of the Dead it is said of Amon-Ra “I am he among the gods who cannot be repulsed.” But here he is repulsed and his life-giving rays, as the Egyptians believed, are extinguished replaced by darkness which spoke of death, judgement and hopelessness. Yahweh extinguishes all trace of Amon-Ra and pharaoh, the so-called incarnation of this deity, is defeated.

Pitch Darkness:

As Moses stretches out his hand to the heaven a terrifying darkness engulfs Egypt. The intensity of the darkness is shown by three things:

  • It was so dense that it could be felt or it seems you could touch it (v21)
  • It was ‘pitch darkness’ (v22) literally ‘dark darkness’ or the deepest sort of darkness they had ever experienced.
  • They could not see one another nor even move it was so dark (v23). It was so dark it appears they couldn’t even find or light torches or candles.

They could not see an inch in front of their noses and it was as if they had all been struck blind. This terrifying state of affairs lasted for three days signifying it was no momentary experience or passing inconvenience. This all-embracing darkness would have filled them with a sense of doom as it spoke of judgement, curse and death.

Yet, where the Israelites lived there was light (v23). When it turned night in Goshen the Hebrews were able to light torches and candles in their homes. In the Old Testament light signifies God’s covenant blessing such as prosperity, peace and justice. Whilst the Egyptians were engulfed in fearful darkness, the Israelites rejoiced in the light.

Applications:

The terrible spiritual darkness which sin brings to men is matched by the darkness of God’s judgement against sin. ‘The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness.’ (Revelation 16.10). In their sin men are blind to the truth and condemned to an eternity of darkness.

The darkness when Christ hung upon the cross symbolises His taking the penalty of our sin upon Himself as He is judged in our place. Consequently, we now rejoice in the light of the gospel in the grace of God in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Animals for Sacrifice:

Such is the terror of this plague Pharaoh recalls Moses and says all the Israelites can go to worship the Lord in the wilderness. However, he is still not willing to fully submit to the Lord’s demands. He says the Israelites must leave behind all their livestock. Knowing they could not survive for long without their animals it would compel them to return.

Perhaps Pharaoh thought they could capture and sacrifice wild animals, but the principle that sacrifice had to cost the one offering it had been established in Eden and remained central to the worship of God throughout Israel’s history. ‘Then Ornan said to David, “Take it, and let my lord the king do what seems good to him. See, I give the oxen for burnt offerings and the threshing sledges for the wood and the wheat for a grain offering; I give it all.” But King David said to Ornan, “No, but I will buy them for the full price. I will not take for the LORD what is yours, nor offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” So David paid Ornan 600 shekels of gold by weight for the site.” (I Chronicles 21: 23-25).

Moses replies they need their animas to undertake sacrifices God requires but they don’t yet know how many will be needed. Perhaps God will require them to sacrifice all their animals and so Moses insists they will not leave a living thing behind, not even a single hoof!

Applications:

The amazing thing about God’s grace is that at Calvary the sacrifice was made by the Lord who paid such a high price that we might be forgiven. It cost Him everything and us nothing.

However, in response to the extravagance of God’s grace we are to surrender all to Christ, withholding nothing but presenting ourselves as living sacrifices in His service. ‘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).

Romans 12-2

Angry Finale:

Once again we are told God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Even this great calamity does not bring the king to his knees in repentance. Even the demonstration of God’s sovereign power vanquishing Amon-Ra does not cause him to capitulate.

There is no mention this time of Pharaoh asking Moses to intercede before the Lord on his behalf. Instead, there are vindictive words and angry threats. Pharaoh throws Moses out with a warning ringing in his ears that the next time Pharaoh sees him hen will have him killed.

Pharaoh’s reply (v29) is full of confidence. Yet, Pharaoh is right; a time is soon coming when Moses will not see him ever again. There will be one more encounter with Pharaoh after which the Israelites will leave Egypt for good. Pharaoh has had his last chance and before long the final judgement of God will devastate his household and the land.

Applications:

It is amazing how those who face the direct and indirect consequences of their sin can blame God for their sufferings. Deep seated hostility to the Lord is found in many a heart despite the Lord’s goodness in His common grace and in affording people the opportunity to repent.

We are reminded that when Jesus was verbally abused He did not reply in kind and when falsely accused He offered no defence as He willingly accepted the punishment due for the guilt of our sin.