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Psalm 48 1
1 Great is the LORD, and most worthy of praise, in the city of our God, his holy mountain. 2 It is beautiful in its loftiness, the joy of the whole earth. Like the utmost heights of Zaphon is Mount Zion, the city of the Great King. 3 God is in her citadels; he has shown himself to be her fortress. 4 When the kings joined forces, when they advanced together, 5 they saw her and were astounded; they fled in terror. 6 Trembling seized them there, pain like that of a woman in labor. 7 You destroyed them like ships of Tarshish shattered by an east wind. 8 As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the LORD Almighty, in the city of our God: God makes her secure forever. 9 Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love. 10 Like your name, O God, your praise reaches to the ends of the earth; your right hand is filled with righteousness. 11 Mount Zion rejoices, the villages of Judah are glad because of your judgments. 12 Walk about Zion, go around her, count her towers, 13 consider well her ramparts, view her citadels, that you may tell of them to the next generation. 14 For this God is our God forever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end.

clip_image120Introduction 2

This Sunday’s sermon is being given in part with a visitor portraying John Calvin. This Sunday has been set aside to celebrate Calvin’s birthday. Here is a brief biography:

  • Born July 10, 1509 in Noyon, France, Jean Calvin was raised in a staunch Roman Catholic family. The local bishop employed Calvin’s father as an administrator in the town’s cathedral. The father, in turn, wanted John to become a priest. Because of close ties with the bishop and his noble family, John’s playmates and classmates in Noyon (and later in Paris) were aristocratic and culturally influential in his early life.

At the age of 14 Calvin went to Paris to study at the College de Marche in preparation for university study. His studies consisted of seven subjects: grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music. Toward the end of 1523 Calvin transferred to the more famous College Montaigu. While in Paris he changed his name to its Latin form, Ioannis Calvinus, which in French became Jean Calvin. During this time, Calvin’s education was paid for in part by income from a couple of small parishes. So although the new theological teachings of individuals like Luther and Jacques Lefevre d’Etaples were spreading throughout Paris, Calvin was closely tied to the Roman Church. However, by 1527 Calvin had developed friendships with individuals who were reform-minded. These contacts set the stage for Calvin’s eventual switch to the Reformed faith. Also, at this time Calvin’s father advised him to study law rather than theology.

By 1528 Calvin moved to Orleans to study civil law. The following years found Calvin studying in various places and under various scholars, as he received a humanist education. By 1532 Calvin finished his law studies and also published his first book, a commentary on De Clementia by the Roman philosopher, Seneca. The following year Calvin fled Paris because of contacts with individuals who through lectures and writings opposed the Roman Catholic Church. It is thought that in 1533 Calvin experienced the sudden and unexpected conversion that he writes about in his foreword to his commentary on the Psalms.

For the next three years, Calvin lived in various places outside of France under various names. He studied on his own, preached, and began work on his first edition of the Institutes—an instant best seller. By 1536 Calvin had disengaged himself from the Roman Catholic Church and made plans to permanently leave France and go to Strasbourg. However, war had broken out between Francis I and Charles V, so Calvin decided to make a one-night detour to Geneva.

But Calvin’s fame in Geneva preceded him. Farel, a local reformer, invited him to stay in Geneva and threatened him with God’s anger if he did not. Thus began a long, difficult, yet ultimately fruitful relationship with that city. He began as a lecturer and preacher, but by 1538 was asked to leave because of theological conflicts. He went to Strasbourg until 1541. His stay there as a pastor to French refugees was so peaceful and happy that when in 1541 the Council of Geneva requested that he return to Geneva, he was emotionally torn. He wanted to stay in Strasbourg but felt a responsibility to return to Geneva. He did so and remained in Geneva until his death May 27, 1564. Those years were filled with lecturing, preaching, and the writing of commentaries, treatises, and various editions of the Institutes of the Christian Religion.

Background of Psalm 48 3

We do not know who wrote Psalms 46, 47 and 48. We do not know when their author wrote them. What we do know is that something happened that saved the city of Jerusalem. What was it? We are not sure, but many Christians and Jews think that it was when Sennacherib attacked Jerusalem. This was in 701 BC. Sennacherib was the king of Assyria. Assyria was a strong country, and an enemy of Jerusalem. Assyria attacked Jerusalem in 701 BC. But God protected the city. One night, 185 000 Assyrian soldiers died. We do not know why. It was a strange illness, but we do not know what it was. This is what the Bible says in 2 Kings 19:34-36.

Biblical Truths 4

Verses 1 – 2 The holy mountain is Mount Zion, where they built the temple. But, in this psalm, the holy mountain is all the city of Jerusalem. They had built it on the edge of high land, so when you came to it, it looked beautiful. The High Place of Zaphar was where all old religions thought that their god came to the earth. The psalmist is saying that there is only one Zaphar, and only one God: Jerusalem is the real Zaphar, and the *LORD is the real God.

Verses 3 – 8 The kings in verse 4 were the leaders of the Assyrian army. (Look at The Story of Psalms 46, 47 and 48 together.) They attacked Jerusalem, but God kept his city safe, and the people that were in it. The kings saw something that frightened them away. We do not know what it was. Perhaps it was the 185 000 dead bodies! God did this just as easily as he could send a wind to destroy a ship! Tarshish was a place in Spain that had the biggest ships in the world at that time. The people living in Jerusalem saw that what they had heard was true: God will keep his people safe! But they must believe in him, obey him and love him. Later, when the Jews did not do these things, God did not keep their city safe.

Verses 9 – 13 After the war was over, the psalmist tells the people to remember what happened. They were to look at all the places that God had made safe. Then they could tell their children what had happened, and the places where it had happened. This would help their children to believe, obey and love God also. The Bible teaches us that it is important to tell our children what God has done for us.

Verse 14 “God will be our guide until we die” means that he will lead if we will follow him. “*or ever and ever” means “always”. After we die, we will be with God if we believe, obey and love him.

Items for Discussion

  • On this 4th of July weekend, the Psalm is about divine intervention-How do you view “divine intervention” with regard to a country, to a family or to a person?
  • History seems to be written by the actions of a few people-How has the reformation impacted Christianity?
  • Why is the human memory so short? God does wonderful things and the next generation seems to forget.
  • How is this Psalm relevant today?

 

Mark 6:1-13
1 Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. 2 When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. “Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles! 3 Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph,[a] Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. 4 Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.” 5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 And he was amazed at their lack of faith. Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. 7 Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits. 8 These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. 9 Wear sandals but not an extra tunic. 10 Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. 11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.” 12 They went out and preached that people should repent. 13 They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.

Background 5

The Gospel of Mark (literally “the good news according to Mark”) is the second of the four canonical gospels in the New Testament but is believed by most modern scholars to be the first gospel written, on which the other two synoptic gospels, Matthew and Luke, were partially based. It was written anonymously but has been traditionally ascribed to Mark the Evangelist (also known as John Mark), a cousin of Barnabas. However, there are pieces of evidence that may confirm that the author of the Gospel of Mark was a disciple of Peter. The gospel narrates the life of Jesus of Nazareth from his baptism by John the Baptist to the resurrection (or to the empty tomb in the shorter recension), but it concentrates particularly on the last week of his life (chapters 11-16, the trip to Jerusalem). Its swift narrative portrays Jesus as a heroic man of action, an exorcist, a healer and miracle worker. It calls him the Son of Man, the Son of God, and the Christ (the Greek translation of Messiah).

Two important themes of Mark are the Messianic secret and the obtuseness of the disciples. In Mark, Jesus often commands secrecy regarding aspects of his identity and certain actions. Jesus uses parables to explain his message and fulfill prophecy (4:10-12). At times, the disciples have trouble understanding the parables, but Jesus explains what they mean, in secret (4:13-20, 4:33-34). They also fail to understand the implication of the miracles that he performs before them.

Following Augustine of Hippo, see also Augustinian hypothesis, the Gospel of Mark was traditionally believed by Christian churches to be based on the Gospel of Matthew, an epitome, and accordingly, it is placed after that gospel in most Bibles. However, most contemporary scholars regard it as the earliest of the canonical gospels (c 70). According to the two-source hypothesis, it was one source for material in the other synoptic gospels, Matthew and Luke.

Biblical Truths 6

Verse 7. By two and two. In order that they might support and encourage each other in their work. Amidst the trials and opposition which they would meet with, mutual counsel and aid would greatly lighten their burdens, and alleviate their calamities. Mutual counsel might also contribute to their success, and lead to united plans to advance the kingdom of the Redeemer. Jesus here, as in all the work of religion, consulted at the same time the happiness and usefulness of his disciples. Nor are they ever separated. Whatever contributes to the usefulness of the people, produces also their happiness; or, in other words, the secret of being happy, is to be useful.

Verses 8-11. See “Matthew 10:9” and Matthew 10:10-15. In Matthew 10:5, they were commanded not to go among the Gentiles or Samaritans. Mark omits that direction, perhaps, because he was writing for the Gentiles, and the direction might create unnecessary difficulty or offence. Perhaps he omits it also because the command was given for a temporary purpose, and was not in force at tile time of his writing.

Verse 12. Preached that men should repent. See the nature of repentance explained in Matthew 3:2. They were now called upon to repent, and reform their lives, because sin was evil; because the Messiah had come to preach forgiveness to the penitent; and because at his presence it was fit that the nation should turn from its sins, and prepare to receive him.

Verse 13. Cast out many devils. See Barnes “Matthew 4:24”.

And anointed with oil, etc. Anointing with oil was in common use among the Jews in cases of sickness. It was supposed to have a mild, soothing, and alleviating effect on the body. In James 5:14, the elders of the church, in connection with prayers, were directed also to anoint the sick with oil. It was also used in wounds. The good Samaritan poured in oil and wine into the wounds of the waylaid Jew, Luke 10:34. Josephus says, that in the last sickness of Herod, his physicians commanded him to be anointed with oil. It need not be supposed, however, that the apostles used oil for mere medical purposes. It was used, probably, like the imposition of hands, or like our Savior’s anointing the eyes of the blind with clay, merely as a sign, in expectation of imparting that aid and comfort from God which was sought, and which was represented by the natural, soothing, and gentle effect of oil.

Items for Discussion

  • To what degree is the cooperation of followers, their beliefs and faith, having on the success of Jesus’ miracles?
  • The interplay of belief and faith on healing – Does it mean Jesus will not heal those who are not involved, we must heal ourselves through our faith or a combination of both?
  • Why is Jesus not being rude when He says don’t stay in someone’s home if you are not welcome?
  • What does this say about Christianity and one’s salvation?

Discussion Challenge

  • Why is it important that the church today celebrate people like John Calvin?
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