Psalm 91 for COVID-19

Psalm 91: Dwelling in the Secret Place of the Most High
Do Not Fear COVID-19 – Reverse 19 and get 91

This is considered a Messianic Psalm and many interpreters believe it only applied to Jesus Christ during the 33 years he lived on earth. The Messiah lived under God’s protection and nothing and nobody could harm him until he finished his death and resurrection. Jesus of Nazareth dwelt in the secret place of the Most High and enjoyed the protection of the Almighty like no one else ever has or ever will. The reason for believing this is a Messianic Psalm is Satan used this Psalm to tempt Jesus to sin (Matthew 4:1-11). Satan quoted Psalm 91:11-12. Satan used this promise as an invitation to disobedient arrogance – for the Son to disobey the Father. Jesus understood the promise as a request for help when it was most needed to fulfill His service for God and not self-advantage. Angels helped Jesus after this temptation (4:11) and when he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:43).
I disagree with limiting the promises in this Psalm to Jesus during his earthly ministry. If you are in Jesus Christ by faith, then it applies to you also. It is protection for you as you serve God and fulfill His purpose for your life. Until it is God’s predetermined time for you to die, you are invincible

91 He who dwells in the shelter/secret place of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
4 names of God are used: Most High (Elyon – emphasizes God’s sovereignty and preeminence), Almighty (Shaddai – the name that sustained homeless Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), LORD (Yahweh – revealed to Moses), and “my God” (Elohim – Genesis 1:1 Creator of heavens and earth).
The shelter or “secret place” referred to the inner sanctuary of the Jewish temple. Confirmed by Psalm 27:4-5: One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple. For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle; In the secret place of His tent He will hide me.
The whole temple represented the ministry of Jesus Christ, especially the Holy of Holies with the Mercy Seat on the Ark of the Covenant (background picture). The Mercy Seat in the OT temple is now a Throne of Grace where Jesus Christ sits as our High Priest. Read Hebrews 4. If you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ then you are dwelling in the secret place/shelter of the Most High. The “shadow of the Almighty” is the place of protection.
Abiding in Christ is abiding in the “shadow of the Almighty.” We abide in Christ and His Spirit abides in us (John 14:17, 15:4-7). John 15:7: If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. Abide in Christ the secret place and ask for His protection.
The “secret place” in the New Testament is sitting with Christ in heavenly places. God raised Christ from death and seated Him at His right hand in the heavens far above all other rulers and powers and put all things under His feet (Ephesians 1:20-23).
By faith in Christ we are seated with Him in the heavenly places. Ephesians 2:4-6: But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus… So whatever is under Christ’s feet, under His authority, is also under our authority.
COVID-19 is under His feet and it’s under our feet in Christ.

3 For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
5 You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
The “snare of the fowler” is a trap set to capture a bird. The snare of the fowler refers to any trap set by Satan or his servants. God will deliver us from Satan’s surprise attacks. “Deadly” also means infectious and contagious.
The Hebrew word of pestilence (deber – noun) is derived from a root word (dabar -verb) that means “to speak a word or decree something.” The most interesting application of this etymological connection is speaking this Word of God and claiming its protection. Psalm 91 is the Word of God and a promise of protection and it will only be activated when you speak it over yourself and your household. Pray or recite/speak it over yourself and your household. The Jewish Talmud calls this psalm the “song of plagues,” for “one who recites it with faith in God will be helped by Him in time of danger.”
If you do not believe and say, “This is not really a promise of protection,” then it will not protect you. It’s not a promise and it will be useless to you. You will not benefit from God’s promise. You must believe it and speak it. Verse 2: I will SAY to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
24-7 Protection: 5 You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, 6 nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday. Arrow = pestilence. It flies in the air and it sticks on door handles. The pestilence stalks in the darkness means we do not know where it comes from or how it is transmitted – at least when this was written. Now we have the technology to see it, but it still moves mysteriously and seems to infect some people out of nowhere. The pestilence is a “destruction that wastes” or sickens and causes death. The main idea is around-the-clock protection. Night and day in v.6 and midnight and noonday in v.7. Psalm 91 is a promise that God will deliver His people from any deadly pestilence that becomes a pandemic.

7 A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
8 You will only look with your eyes
and see the recompense of the wicked.
9 Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place—
the Most High, who is my refuge—
10 no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
no plague come near your house.
There’s another application of the Hebrew word for pestilence (deber – noun) and its root word (dabar -verb) that means “to speak a word or decree something.” Here’s the point: A plague is decreed in heaven and not mere coincidence. In other words, if God speaks into existence a pestilence as punishment (v.8: for the recompense of the wicked) it is not to hurt His servants. It is to accomplish His purpose of judgment.
Jesus predicted pestilence as a sign of the end times (Luke 21:11; Matthew 24:8 the beginning of birth pains) and the pale horse (4th seal kills 1/4) in Revelation 6:8 is the fulfillment of it. / Note: Certain features of this COVID-19 make it seem like a punishment. The atheist CCP covered it up. The nations most affected are part of China’s “belt and road” plan: Italy and godless Europe, Islamic Iran, South Korea (a cult church brought it to S Korea). The USA is under God’s judgment for legalized abortion and same-sex marriage, but God is merciful and may use USA to find a cure. Since God directs plagues it may be a punishment for godless nations and also a TEST for all believers.

11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
12 On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the adder;
the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.
True believers in Christ have angelic protection. Angels cause plagues according to God’s command: 1 Chronicles 21 “David’s census brings pestilence.” But they also protect servants of God from plagues.
How many angels are there? There are angels in the OT & the NT serving God’s servants. Hebrews 12:22-24: 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
Is “social distancing” protection? When does social distancing become fear and not faith?
Verse 3. Surely he shall deliver thee from the deadly pestilence. The English nobleman Lord William Craven lived in 18th-century London when a terrible plague raged. As the deadly pestilence claimed more lives, his Lordship, to avoid the danger, resolved to go to his seat in the country. His coach and six were accordingly at the door, his baggage put up, and all things in readiness for the journey. As he was walking through his hall with his hat on, his cane under his arm, and putting on his gloves, in order to step into his carriage, he overheard his black servant, who served him as his coachman, saying to another servant. “I suppose, by my Lord’s leaving London to avoid the plague that his God lives in the country, and not in the city.” The servant said this in the simplicity of his heart, as really believing a plurality of gods. His comment, however, struck Lord Craven very sensibly, and made him pause. “My God,” thought he, “lives everywhere, and can preserve me in town as well as in the country. I will even stay where I am. The ignorance of that servant has just now preached to me a very useful sermon. Lord, pardon this unbelief, and that distrust of thy providence, which made me think of running from thy hand.” He immediately ordered his horses to be taken from the coach, and the baggage to be taken in. He continued in London, was remarkably useful among his sick neighbors, and never caught the infection. ~Whitecross’s Anecdotes
Example: Charles Spurgeon and the London shoemaker who posted Psalm 91 in his shop window as the Asian cholera plague ravaged the city in the 19th century.
Some say this is not an absolute promise for every believer in every circumstance. I say it is as a promise of protection from pestilence but not persecution. Believers are persecuted all over the world. For example: Bibles for Mideast missionaries were beaten, chained in a cattle stall for three days, and left to die without food and water. Jesus healed them. The whole village repented and believed in Christ when their cows died and the man who instigated their beatings was killed in a car crash.

14 “Because he holds fast to Me in love, I will deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows My name.
15 When he calls to me, I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him and show him My Salvation.”
Our only protection in this world is to dwell in the secret place of the Most High. How do we dwell and abide? The OT answer in this Psalm is twofold:
First, know His names. Four of God’s names are given in verse 1: Most High (Elyon – emphasizes God’s sovereignty and preeminence), Almighty (Shaddai – the name that sustained homeless Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), LORD (Yahweh – revealed to Moses “I Am who I Am”), and “my God” (my Elohim – Genesis 1:1 Creator of heavens and earth). Know = Experience. Experience God’s names and trust Him.
Second, hold on tight in love. Love is a relationship. If you love someone then you will do whatever you can to protect them from harm. But your power to protect is limited. God’s power is not. That’s what this Psalm declares. This loving relationship is pictured as a mother bird protecting her babies. Take refuge under God’s wings (the wings of the angels on the Ark of the Covenant). Verse 4: He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. Pinions are the outer feathers of a bird’s wings that repel rain and wind. Underneath are the soft feathers that provide warmth.
The NT answer to how to dwell and abide is a relationship with the Father through the Son, Jesus Christ, who sits at His right hand. The Psalm concludes “With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” The Hebrew word for “salvation” is the name Joshua (Yeshua) which is also the name Jesus. The Father will show you His salvation, His Yeshua, who is Jesus.

Will we trust God or give in to fear? SAY it together: “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

Apologetics + Kingdom Authority

I have not posted any scriptural insights for a long time. So, I will try to post an insight once a week. I’ve been consumed with understanding my new duties at FCBC. Now a separate English worship service will start.

But here’s something I’ve been thinking and praying about… I think the Holy Spirit is giving me an idea to combine apologetics with the kingdom authority Jesus imparted to his disciples to heal diseases and drive out demons. I am afraid to step out in faith and try it. I have excuses. “What if…” “I’m not holy enough.” “I don’t walk in perfect obedience to the Father like Jesus.”

I can see teaching an apologetic lesson and then demonstrating the authority of the kingdom and Christ’s ascension by praying for sick people. I am ready to do this, but I need a gift of faith.

But then I read Luke 17:5-6. I think Jesus meant use the little faith you have and it will increase.

(See My January 8 post.)

Treasure in Heaven

I was recently challenged by a brother in Christ’s lifestyle and the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:19-24: “Don’t collect (store up) for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But collect (store up) for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

There is no storing up treasure in heaven without sacrificing something on earth. To store up treasure in heaven we must sacrifice something on earth. The simplest thing we must sacrifice on a mission trip is comfort – our bed, our food, our favorite way to make coffee in the morning. The greatest and most difficult thing we must sacrifice is our physical life – becoming a martyr. The one thing we cannot choose to sacrifice is our physical life. This is the Lord’s will and not our choice. What is it you can choose to sacrifice to store up treasure in heaven?

What is treasure in heaven? I think it is anything we do for Christ that is the result of sacrificing something on earth. It is obeying a command of Christ that costs us something. It could be sacrificing our pride to humbly and boldly share Christ with someone. Treasure in heaven is sacrificing something – money and time – to obey Christ’s Great Commission. Treasures in heaven are the people saved because we sacrificed to go and make disciples of all nations. Treasures in heaven are the good works we do out of love for one another (1 John 3:16-18; James 2:14-17).

6:22-23 is about covetousness. Our eyes and our hearts are linked. We see and our hearts want. Our hearts will be where our treasure is. If our eyes are healthy, not coveting, then our whole body will be full of light. If we are coveting, then we will be full of darkness. 6:24 is about which master we will serve. If we are living to store up treasures on earth, then money is our master. If we are living to store up treasures in heaven, then God is our master.

Storing treasure in heaven is followed by “Do Not Be Anxious.” These teachings of Jesus are connected. No need to be anxious about treasure in heaven because it cannot be stolen, destroyed by rust, dry rot, or termites, break down and require money to repair, or need to be covered by costly insurance. 

Massive Promise: Romans 828

Most Christians know Romans 8:28. It is one of the greatest promises in the Bible. It provides us with comfort when life is confusing and anxious. It is the shelter we run into for safety when the storms of life surprise us.

In my Bible this promise is in the middle of a paragraph of chapter 8. Let’s consider its context. So what is written before and after this great promise?

Before R828: The Spirit helps us in our weakness and intercedes for us according to the will of God. Our weakness is our ignorance. We do not know how to pray according to God’s will. When we are praying according to our desires motivated by our anxieties, the Spirit corrects our prayers and intercedes for us according to God’s will. All things work together for good for those who are called according to God’s purpose because the Spirit intercedes for us according to God’s will. The Spirit’s intercession ensures that all things, good and bad, work together for our good and God’s glory.

After R828: The “all things” that the Spirit’s intercession works together for our good are foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification, and glorification. These are the BIG “all things” that work together for the ultimate good, which is to be conformed to the image of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. The Spirit knows and carries out God’s will in foreknowledge and predestination. The Spirit calls us to salvation and gives us justifying faith. The Spirit daily works to conform us into the image of Christ until the day we are glorified in heaven. The Spirit’s daily intercession to conform us into the image of Christ is sanctification. This is the missing link in the golden chain.

The “all things” includes daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly things that happen in our lives. It includes all pain and sorrow and tests and trials. It includes the past, present, and future. It includes the things we know and do not know, the expected and the unexpected. It includes gains and loses. It includes sickness and health. It includes all our prayers. The Spirit’s intercession ensures that all things work together for those who love God and are called to salvation in Christ. Don’t lose sight of the ultimate good – conformed to the image of Christ – in the all things of life.

In his book Future Grace, John Piper wrote about Romans 8:28: “If you live inside this massive promise your life is more solid and stable than Mt. Everest. Nothing can blow you over when you are inside the walls of Romans 8:28. Outside of Romans 8:28 all is confusion, anxiety, fear, and uncertainty. Outside this all encompassing future grace there are straw houses of drugs and alcohol, numbing TV, and dozens of futile diversions. There are slat walls and tin roofs of fragile investment strategies and fleeting insurance coverage and trivial retirement plans. There are cardboard fortifications of deadbolt locks and alarm systems and anti-ballistic missiles. Outside are a thousand substitutes for Romans 8:28. Once you walk through the door of love into the massive unshakable structure of Romans 8:28 everything changes. There comes into your life stability and depth and freedom. You simply can’t be blown over anymore. The confidence that a sovereign God governs for your good all the pain and all the pleasure that you will ever experience is an incomparable refuge and security and hope and power in your life.”

Doing what Jesus did: Mark 7:31-37

Can a Christian do what Jesus Christ did? Jesus healed a deaf and mute man with a command, “Be opened.” If I had the opportunity to heal a deaf and mute person then would I be able to do it with a command? Can I do it like Jesus did it? Jesus always healed by command.

My first thought: “No, because I’m not God. Jesus was able to do it because he is God.” What if Jesus did not do miracles by command because he was God? What if Jesus did miracles as the “Son of Man” who walked in perfect obedience to his Father? What if he did miracles from his human nature anointed by the Holy Spirit, and not his divine nature. Jesus was empowered by the Holy Spirit at his baptism (Mark 1:9-11). If Jesus did miracles from his human nature anointed by the Holy Spirit, then it is not unreasonable to expect a Christian who is empowered by the Holy Spirit and living in obedience to Christ to do what he did and heal by command.

My second thought: “If Jesus did miracles from his human nature anointed by the Holy Spirit, then he did them from his sinless human nature. I will never have a sinless human nature, therefore I will not be able to do what Jesus did.” The disciples did not have sinless human natures, but Jesus gave them power and authority to heal the sick and cast out demons even before Pentecost. They healed and removed demons by command after being empowered by the Holy Spirit. The ability to heal the sick and cast out demons by command does not depend on having a sinless human nature like Christ. It depends on the transfer of power and authority from Christ to obedient Christians for the purpose of acting as “fishers of men” (Mark 1:17), preaching repentance, advancing the kingdom of God (Mark 6:7-13), and obeying the Great Commission (Mark 16:9-20).

Jesus always healed by command. He never prayed for people to be healed or delivered from demons as I do, leaving it up to the merciful sovereignty of God. I’m running out of excuses to do what Jesus did as he did it. Now it’s a matter of belief or unbelief (hardness of heart). I am earning a Doctor of Ministry, but I do not want any inaccurate theology to blind me to a straightforward understanding and practice of Scripture, to bind my belief, and prevent me from doing what Jesus did as he did it. If Jesus commands me to do it, then I must believe and do it in obedience.

Jesus’ expectation: John 14:12-14: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”

More to come as I contemplate this, believe and practice Scripture, and learn from Christians who are doing what Jesus did as he did it in order to fulfill the Great Commission before Christ returns.

Walk On By: Mark 6:45-52

Two incidents in this story bother me.

First, Jesus walked on water. This is the hardest miracle for me to believe. I believe Jesus healed people (6:53-58). I believe he resuscitated people who were in the ‘sleep’ of death (5:35-43). I can even believe he multiplied bread and fish to feed 10,000 people (6:30-44). I believe he can calm storms (6:51). But walk on water!? Nobody does that. Nobody does that unless he controls the laws of nature. He can only control the laws of nature if he created the laws of nature and they obey his command. If Jesus swam out to them, then the story would not bother me. But why swim when he can walk on water?

Second, Mark wrote “He meant to pass by them.” Jesus saw them in the boat struggling against the headwinds. He walked out to them on the water and walked right past them. Why would he pass by them when he knows they are struggling against the wind? Maybe he wanted to beat them to the other side of the lake: “I’ll race you to the other side!” Jesus let the disciples see him walking past them. They thought he was a ghost because ghosts are lighter than water. They were terrified. I think Jesus wanted to see what the disciples would do. Maybe it was a test. How would they react? Would they keep struggling on their own against the wind or would they cry out to him for help? Mark wrote, “They thought it was a ghost, and cried out, for they saw him and were terrified.” They cried out in terror. They did not cry out to Jesus. But Jesus did not walk on by and saved them anyway.

Maybe Jesus will pass by us when we are in trouble, unless we cry out to him for help. Jesus waits to see whether we will react in fear or faith. When we react in faith then he comes to our aid and says, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”  

Stop Fearing: Mark 5:35-43

Jairus, motivated by love for his daughter, earnestly implored Jesus to heal her. She was “at the point of death.” While she was still alive, Jairus believed Jesus could make her well. While on the way to Jairus’ house some family members stopped him and said, “Your daughter is dead. Why bother the Rabbi now? It’s too late.” While Jairus’ daughter was still alive, he believed. He had hope while she was still alive, even at the point of death. When Jairus’ daughter died, his belief died with her. Death was he dividing line between his belief and unbelief, between the possible and the impossible.

Jairus’ faith was quickly crushed by fear. Jesus felt Jairus’ fear and said, “Stop fearing, keep believing.” (The tense of the Greek verb means to stop an action in progress.) Jesus knew it was the Father’s will to make her well and to glorify the Son in front of the father and mother, and Peter, James and John (v.37). Jesus said, “The child is not dead but sleeping” and then held her hand and commanded her to arise.

Why did Jesus say, “She’s not dead but sleeping.” He’s not using sleep as a euphemism for death. He’s referring to an intermediate state between life and complete death. (Lazarus was dead four days. That’s complete death.) “Jesus’ statement means that in spite of the girl’s real death, she has not been delivered over to the realm of death with all of its consequences.” (NICNT, The Gospel of Mark, William Lane, p.197.) The girl’s spirit remained in the room. Luke confirmed this when he wrote (Luke 8:55), “And her spirit returned, and she got up at once.” Jesus had the faith and authority to call her spirit back into her body (according to the Father’s will).

While serving as a chaplain at Baptist Hospital my supervisor told me a true story. A patient had a heart attack in a trauma room. The heart monitor flatlined, but the EMTs and nurses attempted to restart his heart for almost 30 minutes – a longer than normal attempt. A new nurse was present in the room and this was her first experience with death. She was afraid and stood in a corner of the trauma room. She prayed for the patient. After 30 minutes the flatline jumped to a pulse and the dead patient suddenly came back to life. A day later the same nurse entered the patient’s room to do something. The patient said to her, “I know you. You’re the nurse who saved my life.” She was confused. The patient said, “I saw you in the corner praying for me. The Lord answered your prayer. Thank you.” The patient’s spirit was out of his body and remained in the trauma room. He was conscious and observed what was happening. He wasn’t completely dead, only sleeping. His spirit returned and his heart started beating.

The lesson: Keep trusting in Jesus Christ even when the situation looks impossible. It may not be completely dead, just sleeping, and waiting for Jesus to command, “Arise!”

Faith Touch: Mark 5:21-34

Is this just an interesting story from Jesus’ life or is there a spiritual principle to apply?

Faith is expectation of healing. The bleeding woman expected to be healed if she touched Jesus’ robe. She said, “If I touch even his robe, I will be made well.” She had no fear and no doubts. She wasn’t saying, “If I can touch his robe then maybe I will be healed. I don’t know, but I will try.” This is how we normally pray because we don’t know the will of Jesus Christ. Our faith is not an expectation of healing as this woman demonstrated. Jesus’ (sovereign) will didn’t play any part in this healing. When Jesus said, “Be healed of your disease,” it was an affirmation of her faith and the healing she already received (v.29). It happened because her faith made her well.

She touched Jesus’ robe and felt the healing power in her body. Her faith contacted Jesus and his power flowed into her body. Her faith was like a channel for the flow of Jesus’ healing power. Faith is like a battery cable from a live battery to a dead battery. Jesus was the live battery and she was the dead battery and her faith was the cable.

Jesus felt the power go out of his body and wanted to know who touched him. Jesus said, “Who touched my robe?” The disciples thought that was a strange question. They said, “There’s a large crowd and people are brushing against you. Everyone is touching you!” Jesus knew someone touched him with faith, the expectation of healing. That’s a touch Jesus felt. Jesus always knows when someone touches him with faith and draws out his compassionate power.

Why did she bow before Jesus with fear and trembling? She felt the healing, so maybe the residual power was still coursing through her body and healing her disease. Or maybe she thought she made (Rabbi) Jesus unclean by touching him and he would berate her in front of the crowd. But Jesus’ healing power removed her uncleanness and made her clean.

The compassionate Christ wanted to reassure her of her salvation. “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” He called her ‘daughter’ and showed his loving compassion for her. She was ‘made well’ both physically and spiritually.

What’s the spiritual principle? Your faith in Jesus Christ will always make you well (save you). Faith is the expectation of being made whole by Christ’s loving and compassionate power. Reach out and touch Jesus today!

Cowardice or Christ: Mark 4:35-41

The disciples were in the will of God. They were following Jesus command. Jesus said, “Let’s go across to the other side.” If we are in the will of God when the storm hits, then we will be saved.

In this story there are two kinds of fear directed at two different realities.

Jesus said, “Why are you so afraid? Don’t you have any faith?”

The first GR word for fear has a meaning of timidity or cowardice. This fear was directed at the storm. The disciples fear of the storm was cowardice. (The soldiers of Israel were cowards. They were intimidated by the size of Goliath and David wasn’t.) This fear is backing down in the face of opposition. Instead of facing the opposition with faith in Christ, the fishermen acted like cowards who have never been in a storm before. It’s like Jesus was saying, “Of course, I’m concerned! Do not be cowards! Use your faith.”

The second GR word for fear is true fear. This “great fear” was directed at Christ and his authority to command the forces of nature. This is a good fear. It has the meaning of holy respect. They respected the power of Christ. The disciples knew Christ could heal and cast of demons, but they had never seen him command nature. They were still learning about Christ. “Who then is this, that even the wind and sea obey him?” They feared him more than the storm and that’s good fear.

Cowardice or faith in Christ? When you are caught in a storm, a crisis, do you doubt Christ’s concern for you? Do you act cowardly or act with faith? Do you use the storm to learn more about Christ and respond to him with holy respect? Which reality grips you more – the reality of the storm or the reality of Christ’s love and power?

Angry Christ

Angry Christ: Mark 3:1-6: A man with a withered hand

The scribes and Pharisees, the religious leaders of Israel, set up a test to see whether Jesus would heal on the Sabbath, so they could accuse him. The religious leaders didn’t care about the man with the withered hand. They had no compassion for him. They wanted to use him to accuse Christ. They only cared about their rules. They added hundreds of rules to the Sabbath ‘do-not-work’ commandment. When God gave the Sabbath commandment he never added a rule that nobody can be healed on the Sabbath. Religious people are compelled to make rules that obscure the mercy and grace of God.

Jesus accepted their test. He healed the man right in front of them. The religious leaders never even asked where the healing power came from. It had to come from God. Satan doesn’t heal broken people. If it came from God, then God was healing through Christ. If God was healing through Christ, then the rules of the religious leaders were idolatry. Their rules were like barnacles growing all over the hull of a boat or barnacles covering the rock of God’s commandment.

Jesus was angry. It must have been holy anger because Christ was sinless. Christ as God in the flesh displayed the anger of God at religious idolatry. Jesus was grieved at their hardness of heart. Mercy and grace are always grieved by the hard hearts of religious people.

Questions: Does the same religious spirit that resisted Christ in the synagogue exist in the church today? If it does, then what does it look like and how does it obscure mercy and grace?