Day 62

A Loving, Ongoing Relationship

Wisdom Psalm 28:1–7
New Testament Mark 11:1–25
Old Testament Leviticus 8:10–12

Introduction

In one of his last songs, Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of the rock group Queen, asked the question: ‘Does anybody know what we are living for?’

In spite of the fact that he had amassed a huge fortune and had attracted thousands of fans, Freddie Mercury admitted in an interview shortly before his death in 1991 that he was desperately lonely. He said, ‘You can have everything in the world and still be the loneliest man, and that is the most bitter type of loneliness. Success has brought me world idolisation and millions of pounds, but it’s prevented me from having the one thing we all need – a loving, ongoing relationship.’

There is only one relationship that is completely loving and ongoing, and for which we were created. Without that relationship there will always be a deep sense of aloneness and a lack of ultimate meaning and purpose.

At the heart of the Christian faith is this relationship with God where we find what we are living for.

How can you and I have a relationship with the Creator of the universe? How in practice can we begin to communicate with God? What is the basis of this relationship?

Wisdom

Psalm 28:1–7

1 To you, Lord, I call;
  you are my Rock,
  do not turn a deaf ear to me.
For if you remain silent,
  I shall be like those who go down to the pit.
2 Hear my cry for mercy
  as I call to you for help,
as I lift up my hands
  towards your Most Holy Place.

6 Praise be to the Lord,
  for he has heard my cry for mercy.
7 The Lord is my strength and my shield;
  my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.
My heart leaps for joy,
  and with my song I praise him.

Commentary

Develop a pattern of prayer

Prayer is a key way to develop a relationship with God by speaking with him. There is no set way to do this. There are hundreds of different prayers in the Bible. Sometimes, it is helpful to follow a pattern (such as the Lord’s Prayer). Another pattern that I have found helpful is using the mnemonic ‘ACTS’. These elements are often found in the prayers we see in Scripture.

The context of this psalm is fear – possibly the fear of premature death. David may be facing illness or deep despair. He fears that he might die in disgrace and go down ‘to the pit’ (v.1).

His prayer to God includes the following:

  1. A: Lord I adore you

Praise be to the Lord’ (v.6a); even in the midst of a difficult situation, David chose to praise God. Whatever the circumstances, praise God for who he is and what he has done. We see another example of this in the New Testament passage as the people worship Jesus (Mark 11:9–10).

  1. C: I confess

‘Hear my cry for mercy’ (Psalm 28:2a); ask God’s forgiveness for anything that you have done wrong. This is also a moment to forgive anyone you need to forgive. As Jesus says in todays’ New Testament passage, ‘When you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins’ (Mark 11:25).

  1. T: I will give you thanks

‘My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him’ (Psalm 28:7c). Thank God for health, family, friends and so on. The importance of thanksgiving can also be seen in the Old Testament reading for today (see Leviticus 7:12–15).

  1. S: Hear my supplication

‘… as I call to you for help’ (Psalm 28:2a). Pray for yourself, for your friends and for others. Interestingly David says, ‘I lift up my hands’ (v.2b). This seems to be almost synonymous with prayer. Hands raised in worship is not a modern idea; it is actually one of the most ancient forms of prayer.

Prayer

Lord, I adore you. I worship you today. Praise be to the Lord...
I confess my sins to you... Hear my cry for mercy and forgive my sins.
I will give thanks to you for you are good. Thank you, Lord, for…
Hear my supplication. Today I call on you for help…

New Testament

Mark 11:1–25

11 As they approached Jerusalem... Jesus sent two of his disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here...

7 When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. 9 Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,

“Hosanna!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

12 The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13 Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14 Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.

15 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17 And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’”

20 In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. 21 Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!”

22 “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. 23 “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

Commentary

Pray in faith

The great emphasis of the New Testament is that we relate to God by faith. We cannot earn the right to a relationship with God; it is a gift to be received by faith. In this passage we see the importance that Jesus placed on faith. He said, ‘Have faith in God’ (v.22). He says that by faith you can move mountains if you do not doubt in your heart but instead believe (v.23).

Jesus’ relationship with God, particularly through prayer, lies at the heart of each of the incidents we read about today. As Jesus approaches Jerusalem the people worship him. They cry out ‘Hosanna’ (vv.9–10), which was originally both a cry of happiness and a cry for help, meaning ‘save, we pray’ or ‘save now’.

On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus drives out the money-changers because of his passion for the purity of God’s house. He says, ‘Is it not written: “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations?”’ (v.17).

The passage ends with Jesus teaching his disciples that lack of forgiveness can be a barrier to prayer and to your relationship with God. He says, ‘And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins’ (v.25).

Jesus says we are not to hold ‘anything against anyone’. There are no limits to forgiveness. Lack of forgiveness destroys relationships.

Forgiveness sometimes takes great courage but it restores relationships and brings great joy. It is said that, ‘The first to apologise is the bravest. The first to forgive is the strongest. The first to forget is the happiest.’

Intertwined in these events, Jesus demonstrates the power of prayer in the acted parable of the fig tree. From this he teaches his disciples about the importance of faith and fruit in our relationship with God.

The fig tree had leaves but no fruit. Jesus said to it: ‘May no one ever eat fruit from you again’ (v.14). I love the way Joyce Meyer applies this parable: ‘If our lives revolve around the church but we have no fruit, we are not living our faith.’ We can read our Bibles, listen to Christian podcasts and go to prayer meetings, but ‘if we do not have time to help anyone else or even show kindness, we are like the fig tree with leaves but no fruit... if we have leaves, we need to also have fruit’.

Jesus uses hyperbole to explain that we must be absolutely confident in God’s readiness to respond to faith. In Rabbinic literature, ‘mountain’ is sometimes used figuratively to denote an obstacle. Jesus seems to be saying that God will come in response to faith to remove seemingly impossible obstacles. He says, ‘Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours’ (v.24).

Prayer

Lord, show me if there is anyone I need to forgive today. Help me to forgive. Thank you for your amazing promise that ‘whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours’ (v.24). Lord, today I ask…

Old Testament

Leviticus 8:10–12

10 Then Moses took the anointing oil and anointed the tabernacle and everything in it, and so consecrated them. … 12 He poured some of the anointing oil on Aaron’s head and anointed him to consecrate him.

Commentary

Approach God through Jesus

The way to relate to God in the Old Testament was through the priesthood. Because of sin, human beings could not relate directly to God. They needed to go through a priest, and in particular they needed a high priest.

In this passage, we see how Aaron was anointed for this task. Moses ‘poured some of the anointing oil on Aaron’s head and anointed him to consecrate him’ (8:12). Aaron was a forerunner of Jesus Christ. The word Christ means ‘the anointed one’. Aaron’s priesthood was fallible; he had to offer sacrifices for his own sins as well as the people’s. Jesus is the great high priest. Through Jesus you can relate to God with confidence and have a direct relationship with him.

As the writer of Hebrews puts it, ‘Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to feel sympathy for our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need’ (Hebrews 4:14–16).

In fact, because of Jesus’ sacrifice for your sins, you are in an even better position than the Old Testament priests (compare Hebrews 10:22 with Leviticus 8:30). Through repentance and forgiveness your relationship with God is utterly transformed and you can come directly into God’s presence, just as the Old Testament priests did when they entered the Tent of Meeting. ‘Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience’ (Hebrews 10:22).

Prayer

Lord, thank you that through Jesus I can approach the throne of grace with confidence and receive mercy and grace. Help me to stay close to you and walk in a loving, ongoing relationship with you.

Pippa adds

In Psalm 28, I love the combination of God being our strength and shield, fortress, and the gentle shepherd (vv. 6–9) who carries us for ever. Maybe today, you feel you need carrying.

Thought for the Day

The first to apologise is the bravest. The first to forgive is the strongest. The first to forget is the happiest.

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References

Joyce Meyer, Everyday Life Bible, (Faithwords, 2018) p. 1583

Queen, ‘The show must go on’, Parlophone, 1991. Lyrics © EMI Music Publishing.

© Sharon Feinstein. Freelance journalist and writer. Used with permission.

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

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