KMC : Notes for Week of 26.9.2021 Rev. Rod Jamieson.
The people described as ‘the rabble’ are not defined. They could have been fellow slaves who had joined the Israelites on their way out of Egypt or in the desert, as the God of the Israelites was obviously more powerful than their own gods. They could have just been a crowd of unsatisfied people in the camp who rebelled and began to grumble. Whoever they were, they were not satisfied with the provision God offered them and began to ask for someone else to give them food. They were so upset about the situation that they wailed in distress. They could, of course, have hunted for themselves and they had their own flocks with them. So the question arises as to why they did not provide meat for themselves. As they look back on their time in Egypt it is important for the present-day reader to remember they were slaves there. Their plates would not have been piled high with all the good things they list. It seems to be a human characteristic that memories are selective as the good things are recalled but the bad times are discarded. Israel looked back at the past, instead of forwards to the future God promised them. In their grumbling they scorned the generosity of God’s provision. Both God and Moses were angered by the people’s grumbling. In his own way, Moses too grumbled to God about the weight of the burden of leadership that God had placed on him. He asked, in a temper tantrum similar to that of the people, what he had done to deserve such treatment by the people and God. He couldn’t cope anymore, and he felt it would be far better if God just killed him. This was not a well-thought-out prayer, but it was a prayer from Moses’ heart. Help me, Lord! Whilst God did not answer the intellectual prayer (I can’t cope – end it now) He did answer Moses’ heart prayer and provided a solution in guiding Moses to seek support from the elders of the people.
Moses did as God suggested. He gathered the elders together, with the exception of two who stayed in the camp. The Holy Spirit anointed them all for the task to which they had been called. Every one of them prophesied, even the two who had not answered the summons. Joshua was worried their absence may have led to division amongst the leadership but Moses knew that anyone who had been anointed by the Spirit would be of the same mind and was not concerned.
This psalm is attributed to David and is one of the psalms of ascents, which the pilgrims would sing as they climbed to Jerusalem to go to the Temple. To emphasise the truth of God’s protection and deliverance of Israel, the phrase ‘if the Lord had not been on our side,’ is repeated. God had protected Israel many times. Israel’s enemies had been fierce and the small nation would have been wiped out if God had not fought for them. As a result of God’s presence with Israel, the psalmist cries out his praise and gratitude. There is no one like God for He is the Creator of everything – and He continues to protect those who follow Him to this day.
James paints a picture here of a real Christian community – people who put God’s word into practice. He acknowledges that even those who follow Christ will experience both bad times and good. When life is hard he advises people to pray and tell God all that is troubling them whatever that may be. Then wait for God to respond. When times are good, the joy in a Christian’s heart will encourage them to burst into song as they praise God and express their gratitude to Him. The rhythm and melody of a song involve the whole of our being, body, mind and soul. The Church should always be a singing church.
James sees such a community as one who not only cares for the sick, but whose members know they can approach the elders for help. The prayers of faith offered will open the door for God to heal. Such healing may be physical or spiritual. The Church should always be a healing church. It was the Jewish belief that before healing could take place, a person needed to receive God’s forgiveness for their sins. They believed that for confession to be effective it had to be done in the presence of other people, especially the person who had been wronged by such sin. They also believed that there was no limit to the power of prayer which connects with the power of God. Through prayer God’s strength and grace flow and are focused on the troubles the people of God experience. The Church should always be a praying church.
During times of communal confession, James says, the prayer of ‘a righteous man is powerful and effective’. In James’ letter anyone who had confessed their sins and had therefore been forgiven, is seen as being righteous. As a result, God listens to them. James used the example of Elijah whose prayers were effective (1 Kings 17-18). God does not change and what He did for Elijah He will do today for those who follow Him. The Church should always be a confessing church To James, the truth was something that Christ-followers lived. Such living resulted in living a life of love, bearing witness to the truth of Christ; and freedom from sin. It was a gift of the Holy Spirit. So if a person wandered from the truth they moved away from Christ. It is the responsibility and the privilege of the Church community to bring them back and set them on Christ’s path again. The Church should always be a compassionate church.
This is James’ picture of the Christian community called Church : singing, healing, praying, confessing and compassionate.
Mark begins this passage by recording Jesus’ teaching on tolerance. The apostle John is concerned that a man was using Jesus’ name to cast out demons, even though he was not one of their group. Jesus reassured him. If the man was using Jesus’ name then he could not be against Jesus. No one has the exclusive right to Jesus. The man was offering kindness and compassionate by using Jesus’ authority and indicating his faith in Him, just as someone who offers a cup of cold water does to someone who is thirsty. Such a person will be rewarded. But the opposite is also true. Jesus goes on to tell the disciples to be careful they do not stop anyone believing in Him. The reference to ‘little children’ means anyone who is a child of God.
Many things can be stumbling blocks to faith. Mark does not mean a hand or foot must literally be severed, but rather the actions they are used for to cause a person to sin must be cut out of the life of that person. This can only be done by the person themselves, and it must be done, for such sinful actions will prevent anyone from entering the kingdom of heaven. Whilst it is not popular to consider hell in the 21st century, Jesus nevertheless uses Isaiah’s description of hell to warn His followers of the alternative. (Isaiah 66:24)
At times, those who wrote the Gospels would remember what Jesus said, but not when He said it. So the following three references to salt may well have been disconnected sentences said on different occasions and were not connected at all. They were grouped together because of their reference to salt.
• Both salt and fire were used for purification purposes. Everyone who follows Jesus will be purified by
fire. Those who do not follow Him will experience the fires of hell.
• Salt both flavours and preserves. Christ-followers are called to bring a new flavour to a bored and weary
world that is tasteless without Christ. They are also called to stop the decay of sin and attack the
corruption of the world.
• Salt also signifies purity. The ancient people believed that salt was the most pure thing on earth as it
came from the sun and the sea. Jesus likened the purity of salt to the presence of the Holy Spirit. The
disciples had been arguing (9:33-34) but such behaviour would shatter their testimony about Jesus. As a
result, He commands them to live at peace with one another. In this way they would offer hope to the world.
Points to Ponder:
• What is the focus of your attention – how good your past was – or how good your future will be? Why do you
think this is so? What about how good life is at present?
• What role does music play in your life? How often do you burst into songs of praise? Do you like the idea
or not? Why do you answer in this way?
• James describes his picture of the ideal church as a place of singing, healing, praying, confessing and
compassion. How do you think KMC reflects these characteristics? What can you do to strengthen some of
these aspects of what church is in Knysna? How do you feel about taking such a step of faith?
• What is your reaction when you see or hear of an acquaintance or friend sinning? What do you do about it?
• How are you salt to your world?
• If you are going through these questions with a group, how can they help you with any struggles you have
expressed? If you are answering the questions alone, who can you go to for help with anything with which
you are struggling?
Adeyomo, Tokunhoh, et al. Africa Bible Commentary. WordAlive Publishers, Nairoi, Kenya, 2006
Barclay, William. The Daily Study Bible: The Gospel of Mark. The Saint Andrew Press, Edinburgh, 1981
Barclay, William. The New Daily Study Bible: The Letters of James and Peter. Westminster John Knox Press, London,2003