Mark 2:1-12 NET

1 Now after some days, when he returned to Capernaum, the news spread that he was at home. 2 So many gathered that there was no longer any room, not even by the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some people came bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. 4 When they were not able to bring him in because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Jesus. Then, after tearing it out, they lowered the stretcher the paralytic was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some of the experts in the law were sitting there, turning these things over in their minds: 7 “Why does this man speak this way? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 Now immediately, when Jesus realized in his spirit that they were contemplating such thoughts, he said to them, “Why are you thinking such things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up, take your stretcher, and walk’? 10 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,” — he said to the paralytic – 11 “I tell you, stand up, take your stretcher, and go home.” 12 And immediately the man stood up, took his stretcher, and went out in front of them all. They were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

Last week, I showed from Psalm 130 that our God is willing to forgive. This week we will see that Jesus has the authority to forgive us.

We can see that in the story of Jesus’ healing of the paralytic in Mark 2:1-12. First, we see that…

The crowds had gathered because they believed Jesus was able to heal (1-2).

Jesus was returning to Capernaum after an absence. He came back to preach, but he always found time to heal people as a demonstration of the veracity of his message. The people knew that. They were looking forward to seeing the miracles happen again.

Maclaren describes the scene by pointing out “the crowd flocking to the humble home, overflowing its modest capacity, blocking the doorway, and clustering round it outside as far as they could hear Christ’s voice. ‘He was speaking the word to them,’ proclaiming His mission, as He had done in their synagogue when He was interrupted by the events which follow, no doubt to the gratification of some of His hearers, who wanted something more exciting than “teaching” (Maclaren, 48).

That is understandable. We need demonstrations of God’s power in our lives. The world around us is looking for the reality of our faith. We should not discourage the seeking of miracles. The miracles God allows us to experience can be how he demonstrates the veracity of our faith and our God.

The story includes the fact that…

The paralytic and his four friends sought Jesus for healing (4-5).

Alexander writes that these four friends “would not have gone so far in their endeavor to reach Jesus if they had not believed in his capacity and willingness to do what they desired” (35). They were not just carrying their friend around in the hopes of possibly coming by a doctor. They sought Jesus for healing. When they found him, they would not be impeded by the obstacle of the crowded house. They would get their friend to Jesus if they had to tear the roof off the house.

They were determined to do this because they had faith in Christ to heal their friend. Maclaren points this out by saying “We can fancy the blank looks of the four bearers, and the disappoint-ment on the sick man’s thin face and weary eyes, as they got to the edge of the crowd, and saw that there was no hope of forcing a passage. Had they been less certain of a cure, and less eager, they would have shouldered their burden and carried him home again” (Maclaren, 49).

The passage says that Jesus saw their faith. Of course, he saw everything else as well. He saw their persistence and love for their friend. He saw the paralytic’s patience in enduring the humility of being carried around. But Jesus looked beyond these surface realities and noted their cause. All five of these men had faith. They sought Jesus because they believed in him.

He saw their faith. But how did he see their faith? He saw their faith by their works! That is the only way to demonstrate faith. Goodwin says that the faith of these four men “was precisely the kind of faith which God loves, a faith which could be seen because it was a faith which showed itself in works. Even the pulling of tiles from the roof of a house may be a holy action, and replete with blessing; the commonest acts may be sanctified by the spirit which dictates them” (Goodwin, 32).

If we want our neighbors to know that we have faith in Jesus, we need to be bringing them to Jesus. We need to be praying over their problems and ours. We need to demonstrate that the kingdom of God is important to us. These four friends of the paralytic did that by seeking Jesus to heal their friend.

Mark’s story also reveals that…

Jesus knew he was also able to forgive the paralytic (5).

The crowds were expecting Jesus to say “be healed” or “be restored” or something to that effect. But Jesus told him that his sins are forgiven. Jesus knew that he was able to do both. So, this healing was designed to be a demonstration of his ability to do more than heal.

Bennett observes “To a modern audience, and probably to many of those then present, these words would sound like an evasion of the demand for a miracle. The carnal mind would think that an offer of forgiveness to such a sufferer was mere mockery; but Jesus placed in the forefront that which was most important to Him, and also, doubtless to the sufferer. His inspired insight had discerned that the paralytic craved healing for his soul as well as for his body” (Bennett, 28).

Jesus could have merely healed this man, and that would have been a miracle. But Jesus wanted to do more than a miracle. There are some today who only seek Jesus when they need a miracle. Oh, Christian, don’t limit our Savior to that. He is more than a substitute doctor. He is the Great Physician!

Mark’s story also reveals some antagonists at work.

The experts in the law rejected Jesus’ authority to forgive (6-8).

There were some spies in the crowd that day. They were there not because they believed in Jesus, but because they did not believe in him. Some people go to church for the same reason. They don’t come to be blessed by the gospel but to find something to condemn in the service. I’ve known of people who have stayed away from church for years because they never found one they can approve of. Those who come to criticize and those who stay away because they can’t find the right church are doing the same thing these experts in the law did. They are rejecting Jesus.

You see, there is no Jesus who is just a healer or miracle worker. That Jesus doesn’t exist. The real Jesus is more than a good teacher or miracle worker. The real Jesus is God’s only Son with every right to forgive sins.

These experts in the law were rejecting Jesus by questioning his authority. They were his enemies because they rejected his words. Any time we doubt the words of Christ, we put ourselves in their place. We don’t even have to voice our doubts. They didn’t. They were “turning these things over in their minds.”

Despite that opposition, however, …

Jesus healed the paralytic to demonstrate his authority to forgive (9-12).

The Gospel authors do not always give us the reason why Jesus heals. Sometimes we are told that he has compassion on the crowds, but rarely are we told Jesus’ specific reason for healing an individual. This is an exception. Here Jesus explains that this particular healing is a visual demonstration that he has the authority to forgive sins. He is the one who can restore on a level higher than the physical.

The next time Jesus would tangle with the religious leaders – they would criticize him for hanging out with the riffraff. He would explain that as a doctor he needed to be around sick people. But he wouldn’t be in a hospital when he said that. He would be in Levi’s house – and he would not be healing at the time. He would be treating sinners who needed forgiveness.

Jesus is a doctor who can treat more than diseases or injuries. He can dig down deep to find problems that do not show up on an x-ray. Jesus asked the question about which is easier. He meant ‘which is easier to claim?’ It’s easier to claim to forgive. But he healed the paralytic that day to prove that he can forgive sins.

But as he was healing him, he asked the paralytic to demonstrate his faith for the healing. As Heil puts it “no longer dependent upon the four men to carry him, the paralytic may now ‘rise’ by himself and ‘take up’ the pallet he was forced by his illness to lie upon'” (Heil, 61). Christ has the authority, but we have to put our faith in him.

Why Does Jesus refer to himself as the Son of Man here? This title “marked him off from all other teachers, and claimed for him a special position of his own” (Bennett, 30). Read Daniel chapter 7. It describes beasts, who represent four human empires. One after another, these empires emerge in history, and each is given authority on earth for a time. They were given that authority by God, who is called “the Ancient of Days.” But then someone else appears “with the clouds of the sky.” He is called “one like a son of man.” Daniel writes “To him was given ruling authority, honor, and sovereignty. All peoples, nations, and language groups were serving him. His authority is eternal and will not pass away. His kingdom will not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:14).

So, from Daniel 7, we learn that Jesus’ authority is permanent. He does not have temporary authority, like President Biden, or Vladimir Putin.

From today’s text, we learn something more about Jesus’ authority. His authority goes beyond the physical and political. He has authority on earth to do what his Father does in heaven. He can forgive.

When Jesus commissioned his church to share the gospel with all nations, he included the fact that he can forgive. We are commanded by our Savior to proclaim that truth. In Luke’s version of the great commission, we are told that “repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in his name to all nations” (Luke 24:17).

In every community just like ours all around the world, people need something money cannot buy. They need forgiveness. They need forgiveness more than they need to walk. They need forgiveness more than they need a car or a house or a job. Only Jesus can give them what they need. He has called us to pick these people up and bring them to him.



Alexander, Joseph A. The Gospel According to Mark Explained. New York: A.D.F. Randolph, 1858. pp. 33-39.

Allen, W. C. The Gospel According to St. Mark. London: Rivingtons, 1915. pp. 65-67.

Bennett, William Henry. The Life of Christ According to St. Mark. 1907. pp. 27-30.

Branscomb, B. Harvie. The Gospel of Mark. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1967. pp. 41-48.

Ford, James. The Gospel of S. Mark: Illustrated (Chiefly in the Doctrinal and Moral Sense) from Ancient and Modern Authors. London: J. Masters, 1849. pp. 36-43.

Goodwin, Harvey. A Commentary on the Gospel of S. Mark. Cambridge [Eng.]: Deighton, Bell, 1860. pp. 29-34.

Heil, John Paul. The Gospel of Mark As Model for Action: A Reader-Response Commentary. Eugene, OR.: Wipf & Stock, 1992. pp. 58-62.

Maclaren, Alexander. The Gospel of St. Mark. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1893. pp. 47-60.

Rowlandson, W. H. The Gospel according to St. Mark, with prolegomena. 1869. pp. 10-11.




Jefferson Vann preaches about biblical faith from Isaiah 53:1-12 NET

This month we are talking about repentance and faith. We are looking at the Old Testament to fill in some or the gaps about what repentance and faith entails. Last week, we looked at Hosea 14 for a description of biblical repentance. This week we are looking at Isaiah 53 for a description of biblical faith.

Isaiah predicted a Messiah who was hard to believe (1-3).

1 Who would have believed what we just heard? When was the LORD’s power revealed through him?
2 He sprouted up like a twig before God, like a root out of parched soil; he had no stately form or majesty that might catch our attention, no special appearance that we should want to follow him.
3 He was despised and rejected by people, one who experienced pain and was acquainted with illness; people hid their faces from him; he was despised, and we considered him insignificant.

Isaiah’s people were a despised lot. No one would have expected the Son of God to make his appearance among men as one of the Israelites. But that is exactly what Isaiah predicts. And just to show that God rejects all our deceptive assumptions, Isaiah predicts that when the Messiah does show himself, he will be despised and rejected by those same people. He will appear weak, struck down and afflicted. But this beating he would take would be as a substitute for the transgressions of the world.

Before we run off with this idea as it relates to Christ, and his suffering on the cross, we need to see the message from Isaiah’s standpoint. He was speaking to a group of people who had deceptive assumptions about themselves. He was trying to encourage them to stop believing those lies. The truth is, God did want to work though them. Example: the Messiah himself would be seen as a beaten, condemned criminal. But God would work in that reality to save us all.

Isaiah asks the question “who would have believed what we just heard? God has a plan, but it is going to show up way out in left field. God is not going to use a mighty warrior to accomplish his purpose. He’s going to use a root out of parched soil. Roots don’t grow well in parched soil. Mostly dry soil just stays dry soil. When the rain comes — if the rain comes — then we can expect something to happen.

My series of sermons this month is on repentance and faith. This passage tells us something about the faith that reaches God. It is a faith that dares to see him doing what no one would expect. The focal point of that faith is Jesus Christ.

The world doesn’t really mind it if we have faith. But the world has a fit when we dare to tell everyone that we have put our faith in Jesus Christ. There is no saving faith outside of Jesus Christ.

Acts 4:12 “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among people by which we must be saved.”

Isaiah predicted that when Jesus appeared there would be no significant evidence that he was the one the universe needed. It would have to be taken on faith.

Yes, the crowds folllowed hm, but before long the crowds were shouting “crucify him.” They wanted someone to overthrow Rome, not someone who would be executed as a criminal by Rome.

Isaiah predicted a ministry that was hard to believe (4-6)

4 But he lifted up our illnesses, he carried our pain; even though we thought he was being punished, attacked by God, and afflicted for something he had done.
5 He was wounded because of our rebellious deeds, crushed because of our sins; he endured punishment that made us well; because of his wounds we have been healed.
6 All of us had wandered off like sheep; each of us had strayed off on his own path, but the LORD caused the sin of all of us to attack him.

We know all about that ministry today because we have had two thousand years to ponder the significance of the cross. We call it the docrtrine of substitutionary atonement. It involves four particular things that Jesus did for us by dying on the cross.

By dying on the cross, Jesus purchased forgiveness for sinners so that we can be justified — decalred righteous in God’s sight.

By dying on the cross, Jesus reconciled us to God, so that we could become his friends instead of his enemies.

By dying on the cross, Jesus served as our substitute, taking upon himself the penalty of death that we deserve.

2 Corinthians 5:21 God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God.

1 John 4:10 In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

By dying on the cross, Jesus absorbed the full wrath of God for all those who put their faith in his finished work. That does not keep any of us from dying the first death, but it will prevent us from experiencing the second death.

Isaiah also mentions in this amazing section that the Messiah would do this while people looked on, thinking that he was suffering for his own sins. Verse 4 say “we thought he was being punished, attacked by God, and afflicted for something he had done.” The cross was for criminals — but here is the sinless Son of God walking the via dolorosa and getting nailed to the cross — not for a real crime but as a sacrifice to purchase deliverance for us.

Isaiah predicted a faithfulness that was hard to believe (7-9)

7 He was treated harshly and afflicted, but he did not even open his mouth. Like a lamb led to the slaughtering block, like a sheep silent before her shearers, he did not even open his mouth.
8 He was led away after an unjust trial — but who even cared? Indeed, he was cut off from the land of the living; because of the rebellion of his own people he was wounded.
9 They intended to bury him with criminals, but he ended up in a rich man’s tomb, because he had committed no violent deeds, nor had he spoken deceitfully.

Note the silence of Jesus before his accusers and judges during his trials. Note his refusal to lash out at them or those taunting him.

Matthew 26:62-63 So the high priest stood up and said to him, “Have you no answer? What is this that they are testifying against you?” But Jesus was silent. The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.”

Matthew 27:13-14 Then Pilate said to him, “Don’t you hear how many charges they are bringing against you?” But he did not answer even one accusation, so that the governor was quite amazed.

Isaiah predicted a victory that is hard to believe (10-12)

10 Though the LORD desired to crush him and make him ill, once restitution is made, he will see descendants and enjoy long life, and the LORD’s purpose will be accomplished through him.
11 Having suffered, he will reflect on his work, he will be satisfied when he understands what he has done. “My servant will acquit many, for he carried their sins.
12 So I will assign him a portion with the multitudes, he will divide the spoils of victory with the powerful, because he willingly submitted to death and was numbered with the rebels, when he lifted up the sin of many and intervened on behalf of the rebels.”

Now Isaiah predicts a victory that assumes two things. First, he predicts that the suffering servant will accomplish restitution.

But verse 10 says something that is not quite made clear in the NET translation. The phrase “once restitution is made” is actually im tasim asam nafsho (‎אִם־תָּשִׂ֤ים אָשָׁם֙ נַפְשׁ֔וֹ) in Hebrew. The WEB (World English Bible) translates that phrase more literally, “When you make his soul an offering for sin.” Christ’s whole being died, not just his body. He did not appear to die. He died — completely. When Jesus said “it is finished” that is what was finished. He accomplished the purpose for which he came into the world. That is the first part of the victory. His resurrection was the proof of this accomplishment.

The second thing that Isaiah predicts is a profound exaltation. Isaiah says the Messaiah “will see descendants and enjoy long life” which is a bit of understatement. All of the saved of all time will enjoy eternal life with him — as a result of his victory for them. With victory will also come the spoils of victory. Ultimately, the prophet is talking about eternity in the new universe. The king of kings and lord of lords is going to take his throne. Under him will be every other king and every other lord. He will have gone from the lowest of the low to the highest of the high.

The Servant shall be high and lifted up and exalted.

Isaiah 52:13 “Look, my servant will succeed! He will be elevated, lifted high, and greatly exalted.”

But first he will be despised and rejected by men.

Kings will be shocked by his exaltation (52:15).

But first he must go to the cross with his own mouth shut, like a lamb led to the slaughter (53:7).

He will know eternal life and prosperity , but first he must allow God’s will to happen, which means he will be crushed (53:10). He will make many to be accounted righteous (53:11), but first he must pour out his soul to death, and be numbered with the transgressors (53:12).

Who would have believed such a thing? This was God’s plan. Yet there is something still more unbelievable. God has done all this for us through Christ, yet there are still people who say they don’t believe. There are still some who refuse to put their faith in Christ.

Repentance is half of the foundation. Faith is the other half. We must turn to God, ready to tell him all the things we have done against him. But then we must also turn to God in faith.

LORD, thank you for the ultimate sacrifice: infinite purity made into a sin offering to rescue us from our own defilement. We choose to believe in Jesus Christ the one you sent.



Jonah 1:17-2:10 NET

1:17 The Lord sent a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights.

2:1 Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the stomach of the fish

2 and said, “I called out to the LORD from my distress, and he answered me; from the belly of Sheol I cried out for help, and you heard my prayer.

3 You threw me into the deep waters, into the middle of the sea; the ocean current engulfed me; all the mighty waves you sent swept over me.

4 I thought I had been banished from your sight, that I would never again see your holy temple!

5 Water engulfed me up to my neck; the deep ocean surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head.

6 I went down to the very bottoms of the mountains; the gates of the netherworld barred me in forever; but you brought me up from the Pit, O LORD, my God.

7 When my life was ebbing away, I called out to the LORD, and my prayer came to your holy temple.

8 Those who worship worthless idols forfeit the mercy that could be theirs.

9 But as for me, I promise to offer a sacrifice to you with a public declaration of praise; I will surely do what I have promised. Salvation belongs to the LORD!”

10 Then the LORD commanded the fish and it disgorged Jonah on dry land.

This month’s theme is God’s heart for the nations – piggybacking on the message Penny shared on October 31st from Matthew 24:14. God’s heart is to redeem the lost from all the nations, so Jesus commissioned us to go to all the nations and preach the gospel to them. We have a job to do, and nothing should distract us from it – not even our expectation that we are at the end of the age. In fact, the closer we come to the end, the more evangelizing we must be doing.

Jonah had a job to do. He was sent to the capital city of the nation of Assyria – Nineveh. He didn’t want to do it, so he boarded a ship going far away from Nineveh. But as we saw last week, God has ways of getting us back on track when we decide to go the wrong way. Jonah wound up being thrown overboard, and God provided alternate transportation to get him to Nineveh: he was swallowed by a big fish.

Jonah prayed from the stomach of the fish (1-2).

I used to think that Jonah’s prayer from the stomach of the fish was a prayer of repentance. I now realize that I was wrong.

I made a mistake in my interpretation of this text. I want to share with you today the fact that I was wrong and had to change my interpretation. But I also want to trace the process that I used to come to the wrong interpretation. We need to be honest with each other about our fallibility. God’s word is infallible, but we are not. His word is inerrant, but we are going to make errors when we interpret it. We need to be honest about that.

So, here is the process I went through when I first read Jonah 2 – and came up with a wrong interpretation. The first thing I noticed was how Jonah said that he had prayed from the belly of Sheol.

Sheol (שְׁאוֹל) is one of the Hebrew words that the writers of the Old Testament used for the state of being dead. It’s not the only word they use for this state. Sometimes they use the word death. Sometimes they use the word destruction. Sometimes they use the word grave. Sometimes they use the word pit. But the biblical authors often use these words to express the idea that they are in danger – that they are close to dying.

When the Hebrew writers actually talk about Sheol, they describe it as a deep, dark, silent place where everyone goes when they die, and rest without any conscious awareness until they are woken by resurrection.

But often the biblical authors talk about being near Sheol as being in great danger – as being almost dead. Here are some examples of that:

“O LORD, you pulled me up from Sheol; you rescued me from among those descending into the grave” (Psalm 30:3 NET).

“The ropes of Sheol tightened around me, the snares of death trapped me” (Psalm 18:5 NET).

“But God will rescue my life from the power of Sheol; certainly he will pull me to safety” (Psalm 49:15 NET).

That is what Jonah meant when he said that he had called out to God “from the belly of Sheol.” That part I got right.

But what confused me was that the text says that Jonah prayed from the stomach of the fish that had swallowed him. I thought the stomach of the fish was the belly of Sheol. This passage actually uses two separate Hebrew words to make it clear that…

Jonah was in the belly of Sheol before he was swallowed by the fish (3-7).

In verse 3, Jonah says that God – not the pagan sailors – threw him into the deep waters, into the middle of the sea. He said the ocean current engulfed him; that all the mighty waves God sent swept over him. In other words, he had been buried at sea while still alive. He did not expect to stay alive long.

In verse 4, he said that he thought he had been banished from God’s sight, that he would never again see God’s holy temple. In other words, he did not expect to be rescued from that watery grave.

In verse 5 he said that water engulfed him up to his neck; the deep ocean surrounded him; seaweed was wrapped around his head.

The Hebrew word for “neck” is nefesh (נֶפֶשׁ). That’s the word that lots of translations render “soul.” But it’s not what people call a soul. When people think of a soul they think of something immaterial that survives the death of the body. But Jonah’s nefesh was his neck. He was nefesh-deep in the water, and the seaweed was wrapped around his head, forcing him under the water. Jonah was about to drown.

Then he went under. In verse 6, Jonah says that he went down to the very bottoms of the mountains. The NET says “the gates of the netherworld barred me in forever.” That’s not a good translation. Jonah is not talking about the netherworld. The ESV states it better: ” I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever.” Jonah is using prison language. He says that he sunk to the bottom and was being held there permanently. He was going to that watery grave. He was going to Sheol, with no hope of rescue.

Then the rescue happened. Jonah says that the LORD brought him up from the Pit. Remember that the Pit (the Hebrew word here is shachat (שַׁחַת)) is a synonym for Sheol. Jonah was in the belly of Sheol when he was drowning in the water – before he was in the stomach of the fish.

In verse 7, Jonah says that when his life was ebbing away, he called out to the LORD, and his prayer came to God’s holy temple.

Jonah’s prayer from the fish was not a prayer for help, it was a prayer of gratitude (8-10).

The fish was not Sheol. The fish was God’s gift to Jonah. It was his means of rescue from the grave. Jonah’s prayer from the fish was not a prayer for help, is was a prayer of gratitude because God spared his life.

In his prayer, he thought about those pagan sailors who had thrown him into the ocean to save their lives. He said in verse 8 that those who worship worthless idols forfeit the mercy that could be theirs. Actually, those sailors had not turned back to their pagan idols. They had offered sacrifices to Jonah’s God because of the power he displayed.

And in verse 9, Jonah promised to do the same thing. He had learned his lesson. In verse 10, we learn that the LORD commanded the fish and it disgorged Jonah on dry land. Jonah went from a grateful prayer for salvation to a grateful life of service.

That is what is supposed to happen to us as well. We are saved to serve. We are rescued to obey the great commission. The God whose heart is for the nations sends someone to our nation to preach the gospel to us. We believe in the gospel and are saved. Then, we are supposed to go to someone else, somewhere else, so that they too have the opportunity to be saved.

Now, Jonah could have prayed this prayer, and then gone back to his own life, and forgotten about the call to Nineveh. But he didn’t do that. His gratitude produced a commitment to follow his commission.

Now, I submit to you that you and I have been rescued from a worse fate than that of Jonah. He was rescued from drowning and going to Sheol – the grave. But we have been rescued from the second death – destruction in Gehenna. We have been rescued from the death from which there is no resurrection. Jonah was rescued from a temporary grave at the bottom of the sea. We have been rescued from permanent destruction.

Jonah had the good sense to high tail it to Nineveh after he got burped up on the beach. He was not perfect – he still had some lessons to learn. But the God who saved him – sent him. He was going to preach to those Ninevites.

Brothers and sisters, the God who saved us has also sent us. Jesus said, “Just as the Father has sent me, I also send you.”

” (John 20:21). It is a great thing to praise the Lord for rescuing us from hell. It is an even greater thing to show our gratitude like Jonah did – by seeing to it that other lost people get an opportunity to be saved.

LORD, make us grateful and obedient servants like Jonah.




2 Kings 21:1-16 NET

1 Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned for fifty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother was Hephzibah. 2 He did evil in the sight of the LORD and committed the same horrible sins practiced by the nations whom the LORD drove out from before the Israelites. 3 He rebuilt the high places that his father Hezekiah had destroyed; he set up altars for Baal and made an Asherah pole just like King Ahab of Israel had done. He bowed down to all the stars in the sky and worshiped them. 4 He built altars in the LORD’s temple, about which the LORD had said, “Jerusalem will be my home.” 5 In the two courtyards of the LORD’s temple he built altars for all the stars in the sky. 6 He passed his son through the fire and practiced divination and omen reading. He set up a ritual pit to conjure up underworld spirits, and appointed magicians to supervise it. He did a great amount of evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking him to anger. 7 He put an idol of Asherah he had made in the temple, about which the LORD had said to David and to his son Solomon, “This temple in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, will be my permanent home. 8 I will not make Israel again leave the land I gave to their ancestors, provided that they carefully obey all I commanded them, the whole law my servant Moses ordered them to obey.” 9 But they did not obey, and Manasseh misled them so that they sinned more than the nations whom the LORD had destroyed from before the Israelites. 10 So the LORD announced through his servants the prophets: 11 “King Manasseh of Judah has committed horrible sins. He has sinned more than the Amorites before him and has encouraged Judah to sin by worshiping his disgusting idols. 12 So this is what the LORD God of Israel says, ‘I am about to bring disaster on Jerusalem and Judah. The news will reverberate in the ears of those who hear about it. 13 I will destroy Jerusalem the same way I did Samaria and the dynasty of Ahab. I will wipe Jerusalem clean, just as one wipes a plate on both sides. 14 I will abandon this last remaining tribe among my people and hand them over to their enemies; they will be plundered and robbed by all their enemies, 15 because they have done evil in my sight and have angered me from the time their ancestors left Egypt right up to this very day!'” 16 Furthermore Manasseh killed so many innocent people, he stained Jerusalem with their blood from end to end, in addition to encouraging Judah to sin by doing evil in the sight of the LORD.

We have been studying what the Bible says about worship. We understand that worship is very important to Jesus. It is not something we can do without. We saw last week that worship is something we should do regularly, but we should reserve our worship for God alone.

Jesus affirmed this when he was being tempted by Satan. He said to the devil “You are to worship the LORD your God and serve only him” (Matthew 4:10). We can appreciate others and even respect them. But worship is exclusive to God.

One of the reasons for this is that God’s character and power are flawless. His glory is above all others. For that reason, Moses commanded Israel to worship God exclusively. But he knew that they would fail to do that.

God told Moses that “after I have brought them to the land I promised to their ancestors – one flowing with milk and honey – and they eat their fill and become fat, then they will turn to other gods and worship them; they will reject me and break my covenant” (Deuteronomy 31:20).

Worship would become corrupted.

This happened many times in the history of God’s people. Today’s text highlights how worship was corrupted during the reign of King Manasseh of Judah.

Manasseh corrupted the worship in Judah by copying the religions of the nations (1-5)

Notice that Manasseh’s father – King Hezekiah – had torn down the high places that the pagans had used for worship. So Manasseh cannot claim that he was just doing what his father did before him. He chose to undo Hezekiah’s reforms. His father had taken steps to purge Judah of its idolatry, but Manasseh reversed his policies.

Manasseh invited other gods and goddesses to take their place in Jerusalem, which God had specifically designated as his home. How would you feel if someone came into your home uninvited by you? Manasseh had no business inviting these other gods into the Lord’s home.

God had warned his people that if they tried to be like all the nations around them, they would suffer the same fate as those nations. Some of those nations had been destroyed when the Israelites came into the promised land. The Lord had warned Israel that if they became idol worshipers like those nations…

“I will destroy your high places and cut down your incense altars, and I will stack your dead bodies on top of the lifeless bodies of your idols. I will abhor you. I will lay your cities waste and make your sanctuaries desolate, and I will refuse to smell your soothing aromas. I myself will make the land desolate and your enemies who live in it will be appalled. I will scatter you among the nations and unsheathe the sword after you, so your land will become desolate and your cities will become a waste” (Leviticus 26:30-33 NET).

When it comes to worship, God does not want us to be like everyone else. He wants us to worship him exclusively and he wants us to worship him differently than all the other religions worship their gods.

In this modern age, there are two major ways we can follow in the footsteps of Manasseh and corrupt biblical worship. One is that we can borrow worship practices from other religions. We can sometimes be tempted to borrow practices from non-Christian religions and Christianize them. We need to be careful that we examine the origins of certain practices.

But there is another way we can corrupt our worship as Manasseh did. The most prominent religion of today is atheistic secular humanism. We can build our high places to the god of human progress. If it replaces our devotion and loyalty to the God of the Bible, it corrupts his worship.

But Manasseh went even further than this.

Manasseh corrupted the worship in Judah by encouraging demonic practices (6-11).

The king passed his son through the fire (in other words, he sacrificed one of his sons to the pagan god Molech) and he also practiced divination and omen reading. He set up a ritual pit to conjure up underworld spirits, and appointed magicians to supervise it.

He opened the door to every kind of demonic activity that the Lord had labeled detestable. If he had published newspapers, he would have put the daily horoscope in them. He hired palm readers, and people to hold seances. He had his own royal magicians. These were not illusionists and sleight-of-hand magicians. It was practitioners of the magic arts. When it came to corrupting worship, Manasseh boldly went where no man had gone before. He plunged his nation into the darkness.

Because Manasseh corrupted the worship of Judah, the LORD pledged to wipe Jerusalem clean (12-16).

God could not let this sacrilege continue. But notice that God was not only going to judge Manasseh. Since the king led the nation into corrupted worship, the whole nation would have to suffer.

Since Manasseh has invited false gods and Satanic magic into God’s house – God was going to have to do some house cleaning. He likened it to cleaning a plate on both sides. It doesn’t make sense to just clean a plate on one side, because if you stack the plate afterward, and it is still dirty on the bottom, it will dirty the next plate on the top.

God said he will destroy Jerusalem the same way he did Samaria and the dynasty of Ahab. He will wipe Jerusalem clean, just as one wipes a plate on both sides.

He used foreign empires to take away the kingdoms from those kings. He did that because he could not and cannot tolerate hypocrisy. He cannot allow those who worship other gods to pretend to worship him too.

James tells us to draw near to God and he will draw near to us. He tells us sinners to cleanse our hands. He tells us double-minded people to make our hearts pure (James 4:8). God hates all sin, but he particularly detests corrupted worship.

LORD, we come to you confessing that we have failed to worship you exclusively. Forgive us, LORD, and show us how to clean our hands of this sin-stain. Show us how to make our hearts pure, and our minds singular. We want to worship you the right way.

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