Today’s readings are from Genesis 8, Matthew 8, Ezra 8 and Acts 8.
“God remembered Noah,” what precious words. More specifically, God remembered to do good to Noah for his faith and obedience.
In Genesis 19:29 God remembered Abraham and even though he did not specifically ask for Lot and his family to be saved from the destruction of Sodom, God delivered them. He knew what was in Abraham’s heart that caused him to intercede for the people of Sodom, primarily the preservation of his nephew Lot. In Genesis 30:22 God remembered Rachel and opened her womb to conceive. In Exodus 2:24, God heard the cries of the Israelites in bondage and remembered His covenant with Abraham. This is re-emphasized in Exodus 6:5. In 1 Samuel 1:19 God remembered Hannah, and she was able to conceive. Psalm 115:12 is plural, God has “remembered us.”
Several times God remembers His love or His promises.
Because God remembered Noah and his family, the waters receded and “the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat” (Genesis 8:4).
A photo of Mount Ararat, by Ferrell Jenkins. Go to his site, Ferrell’s Travel Blog for years of research articles and photographs from Israel, Egypt, Asia Minor and the Mediterranean area.
Verse 20 is another painful reminder that our sinfulness can only be atoned through a sacrifice. More than likely, these animals had become “pets.”
20 Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar.
In God’s promise not to judge all humanity with a catastrophe like this again, he acknowledges that man’s heart has not changed.
21 And when the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done.
In Matthew 8 we have Jesus performing his first miracles, to verify that He is indeed the king of the Jews.
I like the prayer (request) of the leper…
2 And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.”
He didn’t demand that Jesus heal him. He didn’t “name it and claim it.” He fully believed that God could heal him, but he submitted to God’s will. He left it up to Jesus. He presented his request fully believing that God could heal him, but acknowledged his dependence upon God’s will. This is the balance we need in prayer–fully confident that God can, but completely submissive to whether He will.
Jesus’ first words about hell (the lake of fire), though by no means his last, are in Matthew 8:12. He calls it…
the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
What is meant by “outer darkness”? Maybe simply that unlike those invited in to the banquet, they would be left outside, alienated from the “party.”
How can this place be “dark” and “fiery” at the same time? Or is it referring to two levels of judgment–one for those who were ignorant (darkness) vs. those enlightened?
Thomas Constable notes:
Jesus shocked His hearers by announcing three facts about the kingdom. First, not all Jews would participate in it. Second, many Gentiles would. Third, entrance depended on faith in Jesus, not on ancestry, the faith that the centurion demonstrated.
Verse 34 (Matthew 8) is surprising and shocking…
34 And behold, all the city came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their region.
We look at the amazing miracle done to turn this man’s life around completely and would expect them to beg him to stay; they looked at the profit loss from pigs (which they should have anyway, unclean) and begged him to leave. As someone has said, “they preferred pigs to persons, swine to the Savior.”
Apparently Ezra’s return to Jerusalem was delayed due to not finding any Levites among the returnees (Ezra 8:15). So they sent for some to return with them and they were successful because of “the good hand of our God on us” (Ezra 8:18). They celebrated Passover before going (Ezra 8:21).
“It is emphasized that the date of departure from Babylon was carefully calculated to take place on the first day of the first month, though in the event they could leave only on the twelfth day due to the need to recruit Levites ( Ezra 8:31). While the point is not made explicitly, this arrangement implies that the Ezra caravan, like the Israelites of old, marked their departure with the celebration of Passover (cf Exodus 12:1; Numbers 33:3), and that therefore this second episode in the restoration of the commonwealth begins in the same way that the first ends.” [Note: Joseph Blenkinsopp, “A Theological Reading of Ezra –Nehemiah.” Proceedings of the Irish Biblical Association 12 (1989):29.]
Ezra’s refusal to depend upon an armed escort despite the large amount of gold they were carrying displayed genuine faith. We need to remember this. Like Abraham almost sacrificing Isaac, our faith needs to be put to the test and stand the test.
“It is well to affirm faith, as many Christians do regularly in the creeds. Yet it is salutary to ask whether anything that one ever does actually requires faith.” (NOTE: McConville, p. 58)
What is the last thing I’ve done that required faith? How about you?
Here is the way Ezra states it…
22 For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, “The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him” 23 So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty.
If we’ve stated to others that God can be depended upon, then we need to act like it.
Acts 8 records the church finally going to “Judea and Samaria” (Acts 1:8) due to persecution. God had to kick them out of their Christian ghetto in Jerusalem. So Philip “went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ” (Acts 8:5). Many of them believed, because they heard the gospel and saw miracles and were baptized. But they had not yet received the Holy Spirit. Why didn’t the Holy Spirit baptize them when they first believed? Because leading apostles from Jerusalem needed to witness it and verify that the Samaritans (remember they were the antagonists early in the book of Ezra) were part of the same body of Christ, the newly-founded church.
14 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, 15 who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.
We will see something similar happen in Acts 10 when Cornelius believes and receives the Spirit. There, he receives the Spirit immediately, but that is because Peter is already there on the scene to witness it.
Normally, the Spirit baptizes a person into Christ the moment they believe (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:13; Romans 8:9).
Philip, the evangelist, formerly a deacon, was available to go wherever God called (and took) him!
30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?”
I had the exact same thing happen to me in Switzerland in 1978. I was waiting for a train, reading my Bible, when someone approached me and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” Being in Bible College at the time, I said yes, but I wonder what kind of person that was.