The Centurion’s faith (Matt 8:5-13)

We began a series yesterday working through Matthew chapters 8 & 9. Following on from Jesus’ first public words in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew narrates Jesus’ first public actions. Throughout this series we’ll be looking for the big picture Matthew is building up by arranging these stories together.

Yesterday, we saw Jesus’ first healing: of a man with leprosy, an Israelite who was an outcast in his own society. It was a story of Jesus meeting people’s needs in the here-and-now, as a sign that he was fulfilling the “suffering servant” role spoken of in Isaiah 53.

Today, we see Jesus’ second healing, which is equally significant: a non-Israelite, who nevertheless displays the key requirement for experiencing the blessing of the kingdom – faith.

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Introducing Matthew 8-9: Healing a leper

We begin a new series through Matthew chapters 8 and 9. In our last look at Matthew’s Gospel (chapter 5), Jesus was saying a lot of stuff. Here, he’s doing a lot. It’s the walk that backs up the talk. We see healings, exorcisms, provocative encounters, and even someone raised from the dead. Although this might seem to be just a random collection of cool stories involving Jesus, there’s a very deliberate point being made by the Gospel author throughout these chapters. Our task will be to work out what that is.

In the meantime, we’ll look through the stories one-by-one, to build up a picture of what Matthew is telling us. Keep this quest for the big picture in mind, as any application we find in each story will mostly be secondary to this larger point being made.

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Psalm 96

We finished our series through 1 Samuel 8-17 yesterday. Next week we’ll start something new. For today, a very brief meditation on Psalm 96, which connects in some way with the message of the David and Goliath story. It’s all about proclaiming God’s name – God’s honour and reputation – to the world, in light of what he has done for us.

Read Psalm 96 now.

Sometimes I find it helpful to “update” psalms as a way of praying them myself. Not in terms of the imagery, but in terms of what has happened since then in salvation history – you know, Jesus, Easter, the Holy Spirit and all that…

Here’s a New Testament mediation on Psalm 96. Use it to spark your own prayers:

Let all the earth sing to God a new kind of song, because in Jesus he has done something new amongst us.
Sing to God, praise the very essence of his being; tell the world each day what he has done for us.
Tell all the nations of his indescribable glory, and go to all the people groups of the world to announce the saving act of the cross.
For God is great, and deserves our praise; any other god or idol or cause or life-goal is nothing compared to the one who made the galaxies.
And this same greatness is demonstrated to the world through the likes of us, in whom he chooses to dwell.
Give God his due: offer your whole self in response to his glory.
Commit yourself to tell the nations of God’s just and fair rule, which cannot be changed.
Let all the heavenly creatures rejoice, along with all of creation, because God is coming to judge his world.

Defending God’s honour – part 3 (1 Sam 17)

This is the final part in our three-day look at the David and Goliath story. We’ve seen how the battle was really about defending God’s honour. David was the only one zealous enough to want to defend it, and confident enough in God’s power to attempt it.

Today, we look at the final part of the story – only a few verses – to see how it fits into the bigger sweep of what God was doing.

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Defending God’s honour – part 2 (1 Sam 17)

Yesterday we began our look at the well-known story of David and Goliath. We saw that it was primarily a challenge to God’s honour and reputation. Yet David was the only one to really see it that way; the only one who was zealous for God’s honour.

17:26 David asked the men standing near him, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”

Read 1 Sam 17:26-54, the next instalment of the story.

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Defending God’s honour – part 1 (1 Sam 17)

So far in 1 Samuel we’ve seen Israel ask for a king like the other nations had, so they could be like everyone else. So God granted their request, and gave them Saul. Indeed, he was the kind of king they asked for, being more concerned about what other people thought than what God commanded. So the kingdom would be taken from Saul and given to a different king – the kind of king God had in mind. In the intervening chapter (1 Sam 16), Samuel anoints David as king. Whereas Saul was the obvious candidate from a human perspective – tall, handsome, the eldest son – God’s choice was the least likely. David was from the smallest tribe, the smallest clan, the youngest in the family. And to top it all off, according to some readings he was a ranga! (For international readers: Aussie slang for a redhead. OK, so the word the KJV translates “ruddy” probably doesn’t mean “red-head”, but many ancients took it that way.)

This is the story of how David began his ascent to the throne, by acting in a very different way to Saul. Read 1 Sam 17:1-26, the first part of the well-known story of David and Goliath. Although it probably should be called the story of David and God’s honour.

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The rise and fall of King Saul – part 3 (1 Sam 9-15)

Today is the final part of a three-part look at the rise and fall of King Saul. If you’re joining us now, you’d be best starting with the first in the series. Yesterday, we saw Saul listening to the people rather than God, and suffering the consequences. Yet God was gracious, allowing him to remain king. He gives him a second chance.

But what does Saul do with it? We’ll skip over a bit of the story and move to chapter 15, where Saul gets another chance to prove himself with God. Will this time be different?

15:2 This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them.’

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The rise and fall of King Saul – part 2 (1 Sam 9-15)

Today is part two of a three-part look at the rise and fall of King Saul. If you’re joining us now, you’d be best starting with yesterday’s post. Because we left Saul, the reluctant king, victorious in war against the Ammonites; and the people of Israel being graciously given a second chance by God, despite their choosing a human king over God.

The next scene is pivotal (Read 1 Sam 13, or follow the highlights below). The Israelite army assembles at Gilgal to offer a sacrifice. They want to do this in order to gain God’s favour before they went out to battle the Philistines. Verse 7 tells us that the men were ‘quaking in fear’ at the Philistines,  so they needed reassurance that God would be with them:

13:7b Saul remained at Gilgal, and all the troops with him were quaking with fear.

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The rise and fall of King Saul – part 1 (1 Sam 9-15)

Having spent three days looking at 1 Samuel 8 (on how Israel wanted a king like the nations around them), we’ll speed up a bit as we see how having a king like the nations around played out in the life of Saul. You can read all of 1 Sam 9-12 if you like, or follow my edited highlights, below.

In chapter 9 we’re introduced to a man named Kish, who had a son, who was Israel’s future king. He just didn’t know it yet:

9:2 He had a son named Saul, an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites—a head taller than any of the others.

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