Day 53

How to Spend Time with Jesus

Wisdom Psalm 25:1-7
New Testament Mark 6:30-56
Old Testament Exodus 31:1-33:6

Introduction

I first encountered Jesus in February 1974. I am so grateful to those who taught me, right from the start, the importance of what they called ‘the quiet time’.

The old-fashioned expression ‘the quiet time’ (meaning time set aside to read the Bible and pray) probably has its origin in the words of Jesus in today’s New Testament passage, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place’ (Mark 6:31). Practically every morning since I was eighteen years of age, I have begun the day in this way. I try to spend time with Jesus, by myself, in a quiet place. Sometimes it is very brief, sometimes it is longer. But just as I do not like beginning the day without breakfast, I cannot imagine beginning the day without spiritual food.

Nearly always, I start by reading the Bible, as I believe it’s more important that Jesus speaks to me than I speak to him. My thoughts from each day are now the basis of these notes that accompany the Bible in One Year.

Wisdom

Psalm 25:1-7

Of David.

1 In you, Lord my God,
  I put my trust.

2 I trust in you;
  do not let me be put to shame,
  nor let my enemies triumph over me.
3 No one who hopes in you
  will ever be put to shame,
but shame will come on those
  who are treacherous without cause.

4 Show me your ways, Lord,
  teach me your paths.
5 Guide me in your truth and teach me,
  for you are God my Savior,
  and my hope is in you all day long.
6 Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love,
  for they are from of old.
7 Do not remember the sins of my youth
  and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
  for you, Lord, are good.

Commentary

Time to look to God

Do you ever feel daunted by your circumstances? Do you ever fear that you might fail and end up disappointed or even ashamed?

David clearly had such fears and gives us an example of how to start a quiet time. He begins by saying, ‘Unto You, O Lord, do I bring my life’ (v.1, AMP). He is determined to trust God despite all the challenges that lie ahead. He goes on, ‘O my God, I trust, lean on, rely on, and am confident in You. Let me not be put to shame or [my hope in You] be disappointed; let not my enemies triumph over me’ (v.2, AMP).

He says, in effect, ‘I am looking to you, God’ (v.1, MSG). He was obviously under attack, but he trusted that God would never let him be put to shame (v.3). His hope was in God ‘all day long’ (v.5).

Take time each day to look to God in preparation for what lies ahead. Ask for God’s mercy, forgiveness, help, guidance and deliverance.

Prayer

Lord, I pray for your guidance in everything I’m involved in today: ‘Take me by the hand; Lead me down the paths of truth… plan only the best for me, God!’ (vv.5,7, MSG).

New Testament

Mark 6:30-56

Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand

30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

35 By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. 36 Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”

37 But he answered, “You give them something to eat.”

They said to him, “That would take more than half a year’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?”

38 “How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.”

When they found out, they said, “Five—and two fish.”

39 Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. 41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. 42 They all ate and were satisfied, 43 and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. 44 The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.

Jesus Walks on the Water

45 Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray.

47 Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. 48 He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, 50 because they all saw him and were terrified.

Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 51 Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, 52 for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.

53 When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret and anchored there. 54 As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognized Jesus. 55 They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.

Commentary

Time alone with Jesus

Jesus taught his disciples the priority of time alone with him. He said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place’ (v.31b) and they went off by themselves ‘to a solitary place’ (v.32).

There was so much action going on in Jesus’ life that it must have been very hard for him to escape and get some rest (v.31). God was using him in amazing ways – feeding the 5,000 and walking on water for a start! He saw the vast needs of all the people (‘He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd’, v.34).

They were desperate for him and were literally running towards him (vv.33,55). Nevertheless, Jesus found it necessary to send them all off. He needed some solitude. He climbed a mountain to pray (vv.45–46). He prioritised his time alone with God.

Prayer and action go hand in hand. The activity comes out of the relationship. Jesus ‘had compassion on them’ (v.34). The word used is the strongest word in the Greek language for ‘pity’. ‘His heart broke’ (v.34, MSG).

Jesus was constantly developing and encouraging the disciples in their ministry. He did not merely feed the 5,000 miraculously by himself. He said to them, ‘You give them something to eat’ (v.37).

Sometimes I feel daunted by the ministry God has given to me. Often, I feel I have little to offer the people I am called to serve. I take great comfort from this passage. Jesus can do a lot with a little. If you offer to Jesus the little you have, he can multiply it and meet the needs of all the people.

Jesus was efficient, organised and practical. He ‘told them to make all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties’ (vv.39–40).

After the disciples had fed the 5,000, Jesus sent them off again by themselves. He made his disciples get into a boat and go on ahead of him, while he went up on a mountainside to pray.

Even when we are doing what Jesus tells us to do, it is sometimes very difficult and hard work. There are times when I feel ‘agitated (troubled and filled with fear and dread)’ (v.50, AMP). The disciples were ‘straining at the oars, because the wind was against them’ (v.48). When Jesus joined them he said, ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid’ (v.50).

As Jesus climbed into the boat with them, ‘the wind died down’ (v.51). We see a picture of the difference Jesus makes to our lives. It is an uphill struggle unless you are conscious of Jesus’ presence with you.

Only those who recognise Jesus (v.54) can enjoy this relationship. Those who did recognise him ran towards him (v.55) and – I love these words – ‘all who touched him were healed’ (v.56).

Prayer

Lord, thank you that in the storms of life you say to me, ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid’ (v.50).

Old Testament

Exodus 31:1-33:6

Bezalel and Oholiab

31Then the Lord said to Moses, 2 “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 3 and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills — 4 to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, 5 to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts. 6 Moreover, I have appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan, to help him. Also I have given ability to all the skilled workers to make everything I have commanded you: 7 the tent of meeting, the ark of the covenant law with the atonement cover on it, and all the other furnishings of the tent— 8 the table and its articles, the pure gold lampstand and all its accessories, the altar of incense, 9 the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, the basin with its stand— 10 and also the woven garments , both the sacred garments for Aaron the priest and the garments for his sons when they serve as priests, 11 and the anointing oil and fragrant incense for the Holy Place. They are to make them just as I commanded you.”

The Sabbath

12 Then the Lord said to Moses, 13 “Say to the Israelites, ‘You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy.

14 “‘Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it is to be put to death; those who do any work on that day must be cut off from their people. 15 For six days work is to be done, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day is to be put to death. 16 The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. 17 It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed. ’”

18 When the Lord finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two tablets of the covenant law, the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God.

The Golden Calf

32When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”

2 Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. 4 He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”

5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord.” 6 So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.

7 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. 8 They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’

9 “I have seen these people,” the Lord said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. 10 Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.”

11 But Moses sought the favor of the Lord his God. “Lord,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. 13 Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.’” 14 Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.

15 Moses turned and went down the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands. They were inscribed on both sides, front and back. 16 The tablets were the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets.

17 When Joshua heard the noise of the people shouting, he said to Moses, “There is the sound of war in the camp.”

18 Moses replied:

“It is not the sound of victory,
it is not the sound of defeat;
it is the sound of singing that I hear.”

19 When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. 20 And he took the calf the people had made and burned it in the fire; then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it.

21 He said to Aaron, “What did these people do to you, that you led them into such great sin?”

22 “Do not be angry, my lord,” Aaron answered. “You know how prone these people are to evil. 23 They said to me, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.’ 24 So I told them, ‘Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.’ Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!”

25 Moses saw that the people were running wild and that Aaron had let them get out of control and so become a laughingstock to their enemies. 26 So he stood at the entrance to the camp and said, “Whoever is for the Lord, come to me.” And all the Levites rallied to him.

27 Then he said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.’” 28 The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died. 29 Then Moses said, “You have been set apart to the Lord today, for you were against your own sons and brothers, and he has blessed you this day.”

30 The next day Moses said to the people, “You have committed a great sin. But now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.”

31 So Moses went back to the Lord and said, “Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. 32 But now, please forgive their sin —but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.”

33 The Lord replied to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book. 34 Now go, lead the people to the place I spoke of, and my angel will go before you. However, when the time comes for me to punish, I will punish them for their sin.”

35 And the Lord struck the people with a plague because of what they did with the calf Aaron had made.

33Then the Lord said to Moses, “Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ 2 I will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 3 Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.”

4 When the people heard these distressing words, they began to mourn and no one put on any ornaments. 5 For the Lord had said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites, ‘You are a stiff-necked people. If I were to go with you even for a moment, I might destroy you. Now take off your ornaments and I will decide what to do with you.’” 6 So the Israelites stripped off their ornaments at Mount Horeb.

Commentary

Time to receive help from God

Part of the reason Jesus wanted his disciples to come away was to get some rest (Mark 6:31). We see in this passage the importance of rest and refreshment (Exodus 31:13–17). Look ahead at your schedule and make sure that you put these times in as a priority.

Time alone with Jesus includes listening to him. The main way in which we hear Jesus speak to us is through the Bible. It is often when I fail to spend time alone with Jesus that I more easily succumb to temptation or feel afraid.

In Exodus 32, we see that however much God has done for us in the past, we so quickly forget and doubt him and, as a result, fall into sin: ‘They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them’ (32:8).

The initial cause of their idolatry was a lack of patience. They did not wait for God’s timing. The fact that God takes what we consider to be a long time does not mean that he is not at work.

After the people had made the golden calf as an idol, it was the prayer of Moses that averted total disaster (vv.11–14). By the power of prayer it is possible to change the course of history.

Aaron was held responsible for the idolatry: ‘What did these people do to you, that you led them into such a great sin?’ (v.21). Actually, Aaron simply followed popular opinion. It was the people’s idea, which he had put into action. Yet in God’s sight he was still the leader. He should have stood against them, rather than allowing himself to be persuaded to lead them into sin.

Aaron replied, ‘You know how prone these people are to evil… they gave me the gold and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!’ (vv.22–24). This is obviously nonsense but it is easy to distort the truth slightly to justify ourselves.

Today’s passage can be more fully understood in the light of St Paul’s exposition of it in the New Testament. He writes, ‘Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did’ (1 Corinthians 10:6). This passage warns us about four things:

  1. Self-indulgence (1 Corinthians 10:7; Exodus 32:6)
  2. Promiscuity (1 Corinthians 10:8, MSG)
  3. Self-worship (v.9)
  4. Grumbling (v.10).

The severity of the punishments the people of God faced is a mark of how serious and destructive these sins are, ‘and were written down as warnings for us’ (v.11). This shows us God’s unwillingness simply to let things fester.

Yet Paul does not just leave it there, he tells us how to deal with temptation: ‘No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it’ (v.13, MSG).

These final words remind us of God’s extraordinary grace towards us helping us through temptation. However, even when we fall down in these areas we can be forgiven through Jesus.

Prayer

Lord, thank you for the amazing privilege that we have of being able to spend time in your presence. Thank you that I can listen to your voice and that you speak to me. Help me to be careful not to fall into temptation. Keep me walking in a close relationship with you each day.

Pippa adds

Exodus 31:1–33:6

How quickly people get into mischief when left to their own devices. Aaron should have known better – he had been part all the great miracles. Even he was led astray by the crowd. Only Moses remained totally faithful. He didn’t go along with the crowd. Leadership can be lonely. Moses was a true leader.

Verse of the Day

Mark 6:56

‘… all who touched Jesus were healed’
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References

The One Year® is a registered trademark of Tyndale House Publishers. Used by permission.

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

Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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