Day 57

Better Than Fame and Celebrity

Wisdom Psalm 26:1-12
New Testament Mark 9:2-32
Old Testament Exodus 39:1-40:38

Introduction

In a survey of millennials, 50% of young adults said that a major life goal was to become famous. In the past people wanted to be famous for doing something. Now, celebrity has become an end in itself. It has attained god-like characteristics. Not only do people want to be famous, they idolise those who have achieved celebrity status. This widespread interest in famous individuals has been described as ‘the cult of celebrity’.

Fame to the ambitious is like salt water to the thirsty. The more you get, the more you want. Madonna, who at one stage was probably the most famous woman on the planet, said, ‘I won’t be happy until I am as famous as God.’

Celebrity and fame are only a pale reflection of true glory. ‘Glory’ is used in the Bible to denote the manifestation of God’s presence. Glory is one of the most common words in the Bible. God’s glory means his importance, reputation, majesty and honour.

Perhaps it is not surprising that as society moves away from worshipping the glory of God, it turns towards the worship of the ‘glory’ of celebrity and fame. We are called to worship God’s glory and reflect it, however imperfectly, in our lives.

Wisdom

Psalm 26:1-12

Of David.

1 Vindicate me, Lord,
  for I have led a blameless life;
I have trusted in the Lord
  and have not faltered.
2 Test me, Lord, and try me,
  examine my heart and my mind;
3 for I have always been mindful of your unfailing love
  and have lived in reliance on your faithfulness.

4 I do not sit with the deceitful,
  nor do I associate with hypocrites.
5 I abhor the assembly of evildoers
  and refuse to sit with the wicked.
6 I wash my hands in innocence,
  and go about your altar, Lord,
7 proclaiming aloud your praise
  and telling of all your wonderful deeds.

8 Lord, I love the house where you live,
  the place where your glory dwells.
9 Do not take away my soul along with sinners,
  my life with those who are bloodthirsty,
10 in whose hands are wicked schemes,
  whose right hands are full of bribes.
11 I lead a blameless life;
  deliver me and be merciful to me.

12 My feet stand on level ground;
  in the great congregation I will praise the Lord.

Commentary

Seek God’s glory

David writes, ‘God, I love living with you: your house glows with your glory’ (v.8, MSG). King David was a ‘celebrity’ in his own right (see 1 Samuel 18:7). Yet he did not seek glory for himself, rather he led the people in giving glory to God: ‘My feet stand on level ground; in the great congregation I will praise the Lord’ (Psalm 26:12).

If you want to reflect the Lord’s glory, follow David’s example. Try to lead a blameless life (v.1). Trust in the Lord without wavering (v.1b). Try to keep your heart and mind pure (v.2). Be guided by God’s love and truth (v.3). Avoid getting too close to people who might bring you down: ‘tricksters’; ‘thugs’; ‘gangsters’; ‘double-dealers’ (vv.4–5, MSG).

Although David says, ‘I lead a blameless life’ (v.11a), he goes on to say, ‘Deliver me and be merciful to me’ (v.11b). He must have been conscious that, although he was trying to live a sinless life, he did not succeed and needed God’s redemption and mercy. Rather than claiming to be sinless, David is declaring that he is living a life of ‘integrity’ (vv.1,11, AMP), that is sincere and wholehearted for God.

Other kings at the time might have expected the people to worship them at the ‘cult of their celebrity’. But David was a worshipper of the Lord. He writes, ‘I... go about your altar, Lord, proclaiming aloud your praise and telling of all your wonderful deeds. Lord I love the house where you live, the place where your glory dwells’ (vv.6–8).

For the people of God in the Old Testament, the temple in Jerusalem was the place where God’s glory could be found. But the glory of God is supremely revealed in Jesus (John 1:14). Jesus is the new temple (2:10,21).

Further, the amazing truth is that God’s glory also dwells in all people who are trusting in Jesus. Both individually (see 1 Corinthians 6:19) and together (see 1 Corinthians 3:16), followers of Jesus are seen as God’s temple in whom the Spirit dwells: ‘Being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit’ (Ephesians 2:22).

Prayer

Lord, thank you that your glory dwells among your people. I will proclaim aloud your praise and tell of all your wonderful deeds.

New Testament

Mark 9:2-32

The Transfiguration

2 After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. 3 His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. 4 And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.

5 Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)

7 Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”

8 Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.

9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.

11 And they asked him, “Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?”

12 Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected? 13 But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him.”

Jesus Heals a Boy Possessed by an Impure Spirit

14 When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. 15 As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.

16 “What are you arguing with them about?” he asked.

17 A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. 18 Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”

19 “You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”

20 So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.

21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”

“From childhood,” he answered. 22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”

24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”

26 The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.

28 After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

29 He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.”

Jesus Predicts His Death a Second Time

30 They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, 31 because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” 32 But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.

Commentary

Reflect Jesus’ glory

Peter, James and John caught a glimpse of the glory of God when Jesus was transfigured before them. The transfiguration came, not coincidentally, just after Jesus had asked the disciples, ‘Who do people say I am?’ (8:27). It revealed Jesus’ divine nature as the Son of God.

The curtain of time was drawn aside and the disciples saw Moses (representing the Law) and Elijah (representing the prophets) clearly alive and alongside Jesus. The disciples would have known all about Moses and Elijah. In the Judaic world, these men were the ultimate celebrities. But God is saying that Jesus is even greater than these two revered men.

When the disciples looked again, they saw only Jesus (9:8). Peter, James and John saw Jesus as we will see him when he comes again, with his glory revealed.

The word used for ‘transfigured’ is the same word as is translated ‘transformed’ when the apostle Paul writes, ‘And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed [transfigured] into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit’ (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Celebrity today is often about fame and seeking publicity. Jesus did not seek publicity; rather the opposite. He ‘swore them to secrecy. “Don’t tell a soul what you saw”’ (Mark 9:9, MSG).

Celebrity is also often associated with wealth and a luxurious lifestyle. In the life of Jesus, suffering and glory are inextricably linked. The moment he comes down from the mountain he explains to his disciples that ‘the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected’ (v.12). Jesus’ ‘glory’ was of a different kind to that which the world expects, then and now.

One thing Jesus does share with today’s ‘celebrities’ is that he drew a crowd (v.14): ‘As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him’ (v.15).

The disciples who had not gone up the mountain did not have the faith necessary to heal the boy with an evil spirit. Jesus said, ‘Everything is possible for him who believes’ (v.23). The world says, ‘I need to see first, then I will believe.’ Jesus says, ‘Believe first, then you will see.’ St Augustine wrote, ‘Faith is to believe what we do not see. The reward of faith is to see what we believe.’

The boy’s father exclaims a tension we all feel from time to time: ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’ (v.24).

Jesus heals the boy without any great ceremony or even, in this case, the laying on of hands. There is no drawn out battle but the simple power of the command of Jesus. The battle is already won through his prayer life (v.29). Again, we have seen a glimpse of the glory of Jesus.

Jesus goes straight on to speak about his suffering: ‘The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise’ (v.31).

Prayer

Lord, help me today to spend time in your presence and to reflect your glory in everything I do and say.

Old Testament

Exodus 39:1-40:38

The Priestly Garments

39From the blue, purple and scarlet yarn they made woven garments for ministering in the sanctuary. They also made sacred garments for Aaron, as the Lord commanded Moses.

The Ephod

2 They made the ephod of gold, and of blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and of finely twisted linen. 3 They hammered out thin sheets of gold and cut strands to be worked into the blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen—the work of skilled hands. 4 They made shoulder pieces for the ephod, which were attached to two of its corners, so it could be fastened. 5 Its skillfully woven waistband was like it—of one piece with the ephod and made with gold, and with blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and with finely twisted linen, as the Lord commanded Moses.

6 They mounted the onyx stones in gold filigree settings and engraved them like a seal with the names of the sons of Israel. 7 Then they fastened them on the shoulder pieces of the ephod as memorial stones for the sons of Israel, as the Lord commanded Moses.

The Breastpiece

8 They fashioned the breastpiece —the work of a skilled craftsman. They made it like the ephod: of gold, and of blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and of finely twisted linen. 9 It was square—a span long and a span wide—and folded double. 10 Then they mounted four rows of precious stones on it. The first row was carnelian, chrysolite and beryl; 11 the second row was turquoise, lapis lazuli and emerald; 12 the third row was jacinth, agate and amethyst; 13 the fourth row was topaz, onyx and jasper. They were mounted in gold filigree settings. 14 There were twelve stones, one for each of the names of the sons of Israel, each engraved like a seal with the name of one of the twelve tribes.

15 For the breastpiece they made braided chains of pure gold, like a rope. 16 They made two gold filigree settings and two gold rings, and fastened the rings to two of the corners of the breastpiece. 17 They fastened the two gold chains to the rings at the corners of the breastpiece, 18 and the other ends of the chains to the two settings, attaching them to the shoulder pieces of the ephod at the front. 19 They made two gold rings and attached them to the other two corners of the breastpiece on the inside edge next to the ephod. 20 Then they made two more gold rings and attached them to the bottom of the shoulder pieces on the front of the ephod, close to the seam just above the waistband of the ephod. 21 They tied the rings of the breastpiece to the rings of the ephod with blue cord, connecting it to the waistband so that the breastpiece would not swing out from the ephod—as the Lord commanded Moses.

Other Priestly Garments

22 They made the robe of the ephod entirely of blue cloth—the work of a weaver— 23 with an opening in the center of the robe like the opening of a collar, and a band around this opening, so that it would not tear. 24 They made pomegranates of blue, purple and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen around the hem of the robe. 25 And they made bells of pure gold and attached them around the hem between the pomegranates. 26 The bells and pomegranates alternated around the hem of the robe to be worn for ministering, as the Lord commanded Moses.

27 For Aaron and his sons, they made tunics of fine linen —the work of a weaver— 28 and the turban of fine linen, the linen caps and the undergarments of finely twisted linen. 29 The sash was made of finely twisted linen and blue, purple and scarlet yarn—the work of an embroiderer—as the Lord commanded Moses.

30 They made the plate, the sacred emblem, out of pure gold and engraved on it, like an inscription on a seal: holy to the Lord. 31 Then they fastened a blue cord to it to attach it to the turban, as the Lord commanded Moses.

Moses Inspects the Tabernacle

32 So all the work on the tabernacle, the tent of meeting, was completed. The Israelites did everything just as the Lord commanded Moses. 33 Then they brought the tabernacle to Moses: the tent and all its furnishings, its clasps, frames, crossbars, posts and bases; 34 the covering of ram skins dyed red and the covering of another durable leather and the shielding curtain; 35 the ark of the covenant law with its poles and the atonement cover; 36 the table with all its articles and the bread of the Presence; 37 the pure gold lampstand with its row of lamps and all its accessories, and the olive oil for the light; 38 the gold altar, the anointing oil, the fragrant incense, and the curtain for the entrance to the tent; 39 the bronze altar with its bronze grating, its poles and all its utensils; the basin with its stand; 40 the curtains of the courtyard with its posts and bases, and the curtain for the entrance to the courtyard; the ropes and tent pegs for the courtyard; all the furnishings for the tabernacle, the tent of meeting; 41 and the woven garments worn for ministering in the sanctuary, both the sacred garments for Aaron the priest and the garments for his sons when serving as priests.

42 The Israelites had done all the work just as the Lord had commanded Moses. 43 Moses inspected the work and saw that they had done it just as the Lord had commanded. So Moses blessed them.

Setting Up the Tabernacle

40Then the Lord said to Moses: 2 “Set up the tabernacle, the tent of meeting, on the first day of the first month. 3 Place the ark of the covenant law in it and shield the ark with the curtain. 4 Bring in the table and set out what belongs on it. Then bring in the lampstand and set up its lamps. 5 Place the gold altar of incense in front of the ark of the covenant law and put the curtain at the entrance to the tabernacle.

6 “Place the altar of burnt offering in front of the entrance to the tabernacle, the tent of meeting; 7 place the basin between the tent of meeting and the altar and put water in it. 8 Set up the courtyard around it and put the curtain at the entrance to the courtyard.

9 “Take the anointing oil and anoint the tabernacle and everything in it; consecrate it and all its furnishings, and it will be holy. 10 Then anoint the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils; consecrate the altar, and it will be most holy. 11 Anoint the basin and its stand and consecrate them.

12 “Bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance to the tent of meeting and wash them with water. 13 Then dress Aaron in the sacred garments, anoint him and consecrate him so he may serve me as priest. 14 Bring his sons and dress them in tunics. 15 Anoint them just as you anointed their father, so they may serve me as priests. Their anointing will be to a priesthood that will continue throughout their generations. ” 16 Moses did everything just as the Lord commanded him.

17 So the tabernacle was set up on the first day of the first month in the second year. 18 When Moses set up the tabernacle, he put the bases in place, erected the frames, inserted the crossbars and set up the posts. 19 Then he spread the tent over the tabernacle and put the covering over the tent, as the Lord commanded him.

20 He took the tablets of the covenant law and placed them in the ark, attached the poles to the ark and put the atonement cover over it. 21 Then he brought the ark into the tabernacle and hung the shielding curtain and shielded the ark of the covenant law, as the Lord commanded him.

22 Moses placed the table in the tent of meeting on the north side of the tabernacle outside the curtain 23 and set out the bread on it before the Lord, as the Lord commanded him.

24 He placed the lampstand in the tent of meeting opposite the table on the south side of the tabernacle 25 and set up the lamps before the Lord, as the Lord commanded him.

26 Moses placed the gold altar in the tent of meeting in front of the curtain 27 and burned fragrant incense on it, as the Lord commanded him.

28 Then he put up the curtain at the entrance to the tabernacle. 29 He set the altar of burnt offering near the entrance to the tabernacle, the tent of meeting, and offered on it burnt offerings and grain offerings, as the Lord commanded him.

30 He placed the basin between the tent of meeting and the altar and put water in it for washing, 31 and Moses and Aaron and his sons used it to wash their hands and feet. 32 They washed whenever they entered the tent of meeting or approached the altar, as the Lord commanded Moses.

33 Then Moses set up the courtyard around the tabernacle and altar and put up the curtain at the entrance to the courtyard. And so Moses finished the work.

The Glory of the Lord

34 Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 35 Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.

36 In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set out; 37 but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out—until the day it lifted. 38 So the cloud of the Lord was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the Israelites during all their travels.

Commentary

Await an eternity of glory

David caught a glimpse of God’s glory when he entered the temple. The disciples caught a glimpse of God’s glory when Jesus was transfigured before them. When you gather together with the people of God you should get a glimpse of God’s glory.

When they had finished building the tabernacle (‘The Dwelling’, MSG) (which precedes the temple) the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting and ‘the Glory of God filled The Dwelling’ (40:34, MSG). Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud had settled upon it and ‘the Glory of God filled The Dwelling’ (v.35, MSG).

The Glory of God was tangibly powerful at that moment. It could actually be seen ‘settling’ in the tabernacle. The Hebrew word for settling (shekinah) is sometimes used today to describe a particularly powerful or tangible sense of the presence and glory of God.

The cloud above the tabernacle, which represented the glory of God, accompanied the people of God in their travels and led them by day and by night (vv.36–38) as the Holy Spirit of God now leads you. This is the Old Testament background to the cloud in the story of the transfiguration. What Peter, James and John experienced on that occasion was a glimpse of the glory of the Lord (Mark 9:7).

Through ‘the gospel that displays the glory of Christ’ (2 Corinthians 4:4) you can get a glimpse of the glory of God. ‘For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ’ (v.6).

It is only a glimpse and one day you will see the reality itself. The apostle Paul said that this is why you should not lose heart even when you are going through difficult times: ‘For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all’ (v.17).

Prayer

Lord, thank you that you are preparing us for the moment when you will reveal your full glory. Help me to see the struggles of life in the perspective of ‘an eternal glory that far outweighs them all’.

Pippa adds

Psalm 26:1–12

Psalm 26 is attributed to David. I was interested that verse 1 says, ‘I have led a blameless life; I have trusted in the Lord and have not faltered.’ I wish I could say the same, but I know my life is far from blameless and there have been lots of wavers along the way. The trouble is we know that David’s life wasn’t blameless. So either he was doing very well when he wrote this and then got himself in a real mess, or he wasn’t doing quite as well as he thought he was. In verse 11 he says, ‘Be merciful to me.’ David knew he needed God’s mercy, and I do too.

Verse of the Day

Mark 9:24

‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’
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References

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

Madonna (in interview 1985), cited in John Hind, The Guardian, ‘Did I Say That? – Madonna 49’, accessed via: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2008/may/18/madonna

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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