"Hear My Praise" painting by Rochelle Blumenfeld

Today: Psalms 22:22-31; Mark 3:31-35; Mark 4:1-29; Exodus 23-24

Psalms 22

In the previous verses we see a picture of Christ on the cross and glimpse into Jesus’ mind. The rest of the passage is a victory song. It is finished. Salvation has come. Proclaim God’s name and praise Him! Stand in awe of Him for He has saved us. We cried to Him for help and He has heard us. From generation to generation, we will know and praise the LORD!

"Jesus Christ" WPAP print by Riweldo Sayuna

Mark 3 – 4

The first three chapters of Mark describe the identity and mission of Jesus. In the previous verses, Jesus has established that He has power to forgive sins and is Lord of the Sabbath. Now He reveals our place in all of this. He says, “whoever does the will of God, this is My brother, and sister, and mother.” (v.35) We are in this with Him; we are His family.

Jesus is a rockstar at this point in His ministry. The hordes of adoring fans that gather around him are so huge that he has to preach from a boat in the sea so that he won’t be crushed by the zealous crowd.¬†Jesus teaches in parables. He is a storyteller. His intriguing stories and amazing healings must have been quite the show – the most incredible entertainment the Jewish people had ever witnessed. They were starstruck.

But His stories had profound meanings. He wanted to take them deeper. Jesus didn’t want groupies; He wanted real relationship. He was offering them the keys to the kingdom of heaven if they would only try to understand, if only they would have “ears to hear…” (v.9)

"The Sower" (Le semeur) painting by James Tissot

Parable of the Sower

This is one of those parables that Jesus later explains to His disciples. I love it when He does that!

This particular parable is one of my favorites because I am a gardener. Planting seeds in proper dirt is so important for a successful harvest. I work very hard improving the soil in my gardens — removing rocks, making and mixing compost, weeding. It is a LOT of work. But the more time I devote to preparing the soil, the better the harvest. Good soil doesn’t just happen. It must be maintained and replenished year after year.

I have taken turns being the various types of soil in Jesus’ parable of the sower. When I was six years old, I prayed to become a Christian. As a little girl, I really loved Jesus. I loved Bible stories and the old hymns we sang in the little Southern Baptist church my family attended. But at that point mine was only a childish, immature love. I was the shallow rocky ground with “no depth of soil” where seeds could not yet grow deep strong roots. Then I grew into an angsty teen and an angry young adult and I changed into the thorny ground. I let the “worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of wealth, and the desires for other things enter and choke the word…” (v.18-19) So how did that plan work out for me? I was miserable!

Today I work hard to be good soil. I spend time every day enjoying God’s presence. We have “dates” every morning. I talk to Him, sit with Him in silence, and I read His love letter to me, the Scriptures. The more time I spend with Him, the deeper our relationship grows. The better I know Him, the more often I hear His voice, the more joy our relationship brings me. It is an eternal love affair.

The gardener does her part prepping the soil, planting the seeds, watering, pruning, and weeding. But the gardener can’t do the actual growing. God does that part. The gardener “goes to bed at night and gets up daily, and the seed sprouts and grows — how, he himself does not know.” (v.27) If we only just seek Him, our “soil produces crops by itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the mature grain.” And then the “harvest has come.” (v.28)

The more we listen — spend time with God, dig into His word — the more He will open our ears, eyes, and mind to understand Him. “Take care what you listen to,” Jesus says, “By your standard of measure it will be measured to you; and more will be given you besides.” (v.24) WE decide what we spend our time doing. We are bombarded by distractions on all sides. They are noisy, seductive, and addictive by design. Carving out time for God will never just come easy. But it is such a rewarding effort. Here’s why… you get so much more out of it than you put in. That’s a promise. If you just TRY, just put in some time, “more will be given [to] you besides.” And the more of God you get, even “more will be given” (v.24) and God will respond “thirty, sixty, and a hundred times as much.” (v.20) If you just reach out to Him, He responds BIGLY!

"Moses" painting by Pietro Novelli

Exodus 23-24

Rules, rules, rules! Here I have been saying it’s not about following rules and God gives us chapter after chapter of RULES. What’s up, God?

God was giving the Israelites a code to live by. Polite civilized society does need some sort of structure to keep the peace. People kind of suck… we need some guidelines to play nice. And the more people you cram into one place, the more structure is needed to keep the society from devolving into chaos. We are just not very good at being good. We need some help.

Reading all the rules in Exodus can become tedious but considering the spirit behind the rules can be helpful. These are all guidelines for how to live together harmoniously, honestly, and respectfully. The Israelites agreed to these new guidelines from God. They “answered with one voice and said, ‘All the words which the LORD has spoken we will do.'” (v.24:3) This was their covenant, their contract with God that they willingly agreed to and signed with blood.

Then God revealed Himself to them in beautiful vision with a pavement of sapphire “as clear as the sky itself” under His feet. And “they saw God, and they ate and drank” (v.24:11) and they worshipped.