Mark 9:37

Verse of the Day Devotion.  Mark 9:37 

“Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me.” Mark 9:37

As Jesus and His disciples were traveling through Galilee, Jesus was teaching them that which was coming, And He did not want them to tell anyone for what He was telling them was for their ears only at this point. “And from there they went out and began to go through Galilee, and He was unwilling for anyone to know about it.” Mark 9:30. This was no doubt because Jesus did not want the Galilean multitude to cling to Him, thus hindering this important trip to Jerusalem. He needed His disciples to know and understand what essential event was close to becoming a reality. “For He was teaching His disciples and telling them, ‘The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, He will rise three days later.’ But they did not understand this statement, and they were afraid to ask Him.” Mark 9:31-32. Jesus clearly told His disciples of this destiny back in the previous chapter. “And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.” Mark 8:31. They did not understand it here either, which is shown by their rebuke of Jesus.

Now when they arrived in Capernaum and entered the house they were staying in, Jesus asked the disciples a somewhat embarrassing question. “What were you discussing on the way?” Mark 9:33b. This was no doubt embarrassing because of what we read in the next verse. “But they kept silent, for on the way they had discussed with one another which of them was the greatest.” Mark 9:34. This was an embarrassed silence. It showed that they were ashamed of their obsession with greatness. It was a healthy sense of shame and proved that some of the message of Jesus was sinking into their hearts, that being the message of humility, but it obviously did not fully sink in, for it seems that this was the primary debating topic among the disciples. They all counted on Jesus to take over the world as King Messiah, and the debate was about who was most worthy to be Jesus’ chief associate.

But Jesus knew what they were discussing, so He called the disciples to Him. “And sitting down, He called the twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all.” Mark 9:35. This was important because by sitting down, Jesus showed that he was going to teach. According to Willian Barclay, “When a Rabbi was teaching as a Rabbi, as a master teaches his scholars and disciples, when he was really making a pronouncement, he sat to teach. Jesus deliberately took up the position of a Rabbi teaching his pupils before he spoke.”  The question being argued was, “Who would be the greatest.” And what Jesus said probably surprised them. He told them that if they wanted to be first, they must be a servant in love to all. This was totally opposite of how most people see greatness. He was saying, those who desire to be first, must be last and ultimately a servant of all.

And to reinforce this idea, “And taking a child, He set him before them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them, Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me.” Mark 9:36-37. The idea is that he shall be the most Christian like who is the most humble, and who is willing to be esteemed least and last of all. To esteem ourselves as God esteems us is humility, and it cannot be degrading to think of ourselves as we are; but pride, or an attempt to be thought of more importance than we are, is far from wise. Matthew, in his gospel put it like this. “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:4.

And finally, Jesus says in the next chapter that in order to be the greatest, they must be the least. “And calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. But it is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all.” Mark 10:42-44. Leaders and others in the church are not called to lord over the people, but to serve them. We are to be like Christ who did not come to be served but to serve. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Matthew 10:45.

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries, Inc.

Luke 18:17

Verse of the Day Devotion Luke 18:17

“Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it at all.” – Luke 18:17  

Today’s verse shows how Jesus sees children and in a sense tells us how we must be in this world. It starts with the following statement. “And they were bringing even their babies to Him so that He might touch them, but when the disciples saw it, they began rebuking them.” Luke 18:15. In Matthew’s gospel, we get a clearer picture of what was happening. “Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them.” Matthew 19:13. When we put the two together, we see that people were bringing their babies, toddlers, and young children to Jesus.  There is no clarification as to the ages. Matthew and Mark say children, whereas Luke uses babies here, and then child/children in verse 17. This indicates to me that all ages of children were brought to Him. Then it is stated here in Luke that they brought them to Him to touch them.  In the nineteenth chapter of Matthew, we see that these children were brought to Jesus so He could pray for them. In essence, to bless them. But as we see at the end of verse 15, the disciples rebuked them. Now, it was quite customary in Israel to entreat Rabbis and rulers of synagogues for such a benefit; but that this was desired from Jesus even yet in the last period of His public life, in spite of the continually increasing opposition to Him, is an unequivocal evidence of the deep and favorable impression which His activity had left behind in these regions. They heard He was in the area, and they brought them to Him for a prayer and blessing.

But as we see at the end of verse 15, the disciples rebuked them in the hope of preventing them from bringing them to Jesus. Jesus, having seen and heard this told the disciples to stop. “But Jesus called for them, saying, permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it at all.” Luke 18:16-17. Mark says that they were reprimanded. “But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Mark 10:14.  There was nothing wrong being done by the parents or children.  Also, Jesus was not saying that all children, simply because they are children, have received God’s kingdom. Jesus was not attributing to children an innate goodness. Rather, he appealed to some quality possessed by little children that is essential for entering God’s kingdom.  Many see this as humility, which makes sense. Others denote simple faith free from doubt and argumentation.   I see it as without prejudice, pride, ambition, and vanity, with meekness, and humility. 

In closing, Darrell L. Bock says the following that I believe is very well said. “There are two basic lessons to be learned.  The lesson about children is that they are welcome in God’s kingdom. He is available to them. God’s care for them shows that he cares for all. The kingdom is not only for adults. And the lesson for disciples is that children are good models for a disciple. Children trust their parents and rely on them. So disciples should rely on their Father. To be a part of the kingdom, we must receive it in the way a child walks through life. Entry is blocked to those who do not trust the Father. God accepts those who run into their Father’s arms, knowing that he will care for them.” Let us trust our Father, as a small child trusts their parents, not challenging or arguing, but listening and leaning on His every word, accepting everything He says while patiently waiting for the fulfilment of the promises He gave us.  This is the attitude of the children in Jesus’ time, and this should be our attitude with our Heavenly Father.

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.

Luke 9:48

Verse of the Day Devotion Luke 9:48 

“And said to them, whoever receives this child in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me; for he who is least among you, this is the one who is great.” – Luke 9:48

This verse is important for believers in Jesus, Christians, to understand and follow.  In Luke we read, “And an argument arose among them as to which of them might be the greatest.” Luke 9:46.  Mark’s account of this goes a bit further. “And they came to Capernaum; and when He was in the house, He began to question them, What were you discussing on the way? But they kept silent, for on the way they had discussed with one another which of them was the greatest.”  Mark 9:33-34.  Now this occurs just after Jesus told them of His death and resurrection.  “And they were all amazed at the greatness of God. But while everyone was marveling at all that He was doing, He said to His disciples, Let these words sink into your ears; for the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. But they did not understand this statement, and it was concealed from them so that they might not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask Him about this statement.

This shows in this period of time such a strife could arise; shows most plainly how little the Savior’s repeated prediction of His suffering had yet taken root in the mind of His disciples. In their thoughts they had already distributed Crowns, while the Master spoke of the cross. Occasion for such a strife they had been able to find a sufficiency of in the days last preceding, even if the germ of rivalry had not been already existent in their hearts.  However, Jesus knew their thoughts. “But Jesus, knowing what they were thinking in their heart, took a child and stood him by His side, and said to them, Whoever receives this child in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me; for he who is least among you, this is the one who is great.” Luke 9:47-48.

In the first century a child was an insignificant and the weakest member of society, and thus exemplified one who is ‘the least’.  And because of this, we can understand Jesus’ answer.  “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3-4.  He did not name a specific person who would be declared the greatest. What He was essentially saying was  what designates greatness in the Kingdom of God is not how the world determines the greatest.  People tend to be concerned with social status, political clout, and pecking order. We tend to rank people according to how things look to us in this world, but Jesus warned that using earthly criteria will never give us an accurate picture of rank in God’s kingdom. Human judgment will give way to God’s someday, as it says  in the scriptures, “But many who are first will be last; and the last, first.” Matthew 19:30.

In closing, rather than work to be the greatest in this world, we should simply trust in Jesus and serve others, which is basically serving Him. In the kingdom of God, positions of power are meant to be positions of service. Rather than lord power over others, we are to focus on serving others. The greatest in the kingdom are those who have the humility of a child and the meekness of Jesus. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5. What is valued in God’s kingdom is loving the way He loves us, selflessly.

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries. 

Isaiah 9:6

Verse of the Day Devotion:  Isaiah 9:6

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” – Isaiah 9:6

Merry Christmas Eve.  This is the day before the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Savior of the world.  Our focus verse is the prophecy of this great event as given by Isaiah.  This verse tells us the reason for the great things that will come in the future.  “But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish; in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walk in darkness Will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them. You shall multiply the nation, You shall increase their gladness; They will be glad in Your presence As with the gladness of harvest, As men rejoice when they divide the spoil. For You shall break the yoke of their burden and the staff on their shoulders, The rod of their oppressor, as at the battle of Midian. For every boot of the booted warrior in the battle tumult, And cloak rolled in blood, will be for burning, fuel for the fire.” Isaiah 9:1-5. 

In our focus verse we see several beautiful things that describe this child.  First of all, it speaks of the government being upon His shoulders.  This statement may be referring to the idea of a key that is placed on the king showing his control over the throne room and house of the king.  “Then I will set the key of the house of David on his shoulder, When he opens no one will shut, When he shuts no one will open.” Isaiah 22:22.  Note the phrase, when he opens no one will shut, and when he shuts, no one will open.  This designates control and authority over the kingdom of which he rules.  This very well could be what is referred to in Isaiah 9 where he says, the government will rest on His shoulders.  He will rule and the government will be vested in Him; He will be king.

He is called Wonderful Counselor.  He always gives good counsel to His people, in both temporal and spiritual matters.  His wisdom surpasses all others because it comes directly from the Father, and because He is God Himself knowing all things past, present and future.

And He is the Mighty God, as I stated above.  The language here is, God The Mighty One.  He was not just sent by God, He is God, with all the attributes associated with God.  However, He will be in the form of a man.  John put it this way.  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” John 1:1-3.  And we know this is referring to Jesus because of what John says later on, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14.  And the next verse clarifies Him as the promised one when He says, “John testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.” John 1:15.  John the Baptist was conceived in the womb before Jesus, but John says He existed before him.  The meaning is clear here.  He was God who came in the flesh.

He is the everlasting Father.  There is but one Father in the Godhead, however, how this all fits together is beyond our understanding.  But what we do know is that Jesus and the Father are one.   He made this clear in John when He said, “I and the Father are one.”  John 10:30.  If Jesus Christ were not God, could he have said these words without being guilty of blasphemy?  He could not be referring to His earthly father, for this would not have been worded “the Father” but “my Father”.  He is God, not “a God” or a messenger of God, He is God Himself.

And He is the Prince of Peace.  According to theologian Albert Barnes, this is a Hebrew mode of expression denoting that he would be a peaceful prince.  That the tendency of His administration would be to restore and perpetuate peace.  This was in sharp contrast to the mass of kings and princes who have delighted in conquest and blood.  In contradistinction from all these, the Messiah would seek to promote universal concord, and the tendency of his reign would be to put an end to wars, and to restore harmony and order to the nations.  And this refers to all forms of peace.  In a prophecy regarding the new kingdom, Isaiah writes, “And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, And the leopard will lie down with the young goat, And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little boy will lead them.  Also the cow and the bear will graze, Their young will lie down together, And the lion will eat straw like the ox. The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra, And the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den. They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD As the waters cover the sea.” Isaiah 11:6-9.

These attributes describe completely who this child is that will be born to us, as stated in our focus verse.  He came to us a little over two thousand years ago; a baby born of a virgin in a manger in a small and virtually overlooked town of Bethlehem.  Who He is goes beyond our understanding, but it does show us what we have been given.  A loving and mighty God who provides perfect counsel to those who seek it,  one who is our Father for all eternity who’s reign is defined by perfect peace.  And we have this now in our relationship with Him.  “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace because he trusts in You. Trust in the LORD forever, For in GOD the LORD, we have an everlasting Rock.”  Isaiah 26:3-4.  And then, “The way of the righteous is smooth; O Upright One, make the path of the righteous level.” Isaiah 26:7. 

This is our relationship with the promised child born of the virgin Mary in Bethlehem so many years ago.  Rejoice and be glad as we celebrate this wonderful time of Christmas Eve and then Christmas day.  And remember, our time here is but the beginning.  “But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9.  Oh the beautiful and amazing things we have to look forward to.

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries. 

Isaiah 7:14

Verse of the Day Devotion:  Isaiah 7:14

“Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” – Isaiah 7:14

As Christmas 2020 approaches, I want to take the remainder of this week as well as next week to look at some of the prophecies found in the Old Testament that declare the coming of the Messiah, Jesus.  This has been a most difficult year what with the Covid-19 pandemic and all that happened as a result.  However, we must always remember that nothing surprises God, and He has been with us the whole time.  As Joshua declared to Israel which pertains to us as well, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9. 

Today, we will look at Isaiah 7:14 regarding the prophecy of Jesus, this being our focus verse.  “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14.  To understand this, it is important to look at what was transpiring at this time.  Ahaz, king of Judah and the royal family were very nervous because they received word that Rezin, king of Syria and Pekah, king of Israel were looking to invade Judah.  This was actually set up by God at the end of Jotham’s reign over Judah as we see here, “In those days the LORD began to send Rezin king of Aram and Pekah the son of Remaliah against Judah. And Jotham slept with his fathers, and he was buried with his fathers in the city of David his father; and Ahaz his son became king in his place.” 2 Kings 15:37-38.  This was meant as a form of correction, but Judah would not be destroyed. 

The Lord sent Isaiah to Ahaz and told Isaiah what to tell him which was, “Take care and be calm, have no fear and do not be fainthearted because of these two stubs of smoldering firebrands, on account of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and the son of Remaliah. Because Aram, with Ephraim and the son of Remaliah, has planned evil against you, saying, Let us go up against Judah and terrorize it, and make for ourselves a breach in its walls and set up the son of Tabeel as king in the midst of it, Let us go up against Judah and terrorize it, and make for ourselves a breach in its walls and set up the son of Tabeel as king in the midst of it,” Isaiah 7:4-7.  Unfortunately, he did not believe  that Jerusalem would be safe, so God told Ahaz to ask for a sign that would convince him. 

However, he would not ask for a sign.  Then God, through Isaiah, told him, “Listen now, O house of David! Is it too slight a thing for you to try the patience of men, that you will try the patience of my God as well? Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.“  Isaiah 7:13-14.  He starts off by asking Ahaz was it not enough to try the patience of men, so you will try the patience of God too?.   So God will give you a sign anyway. The sign is that a child will be born from a virgin, and He will be called Immanuel.  So, how is this a sign of their protection from the kings of Syria and Israel?  God was intonating that this would occur in Jerusalem in the future.  This child’s birth shows the preservation of that city, nation and tribe in which this one called Immanuel would be born would not be destroyed, therefore they had no reason to fear. 

The name Immanuel is critically important in this sign, for Immanuel means “God with us” or “God is with us.”.  This sign was a prophetic message to Ahaz that would be fulfilled some 700 years later, where a virgin from Nazareth named Mary, who was engaged to a man named Joseph, became pregnant via the Holy Spirit.  An angel told this to Joseph when he learned she was pregnant and was looking for a means to send her away without shaming her.  “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.  She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20b-21.  This name Jesus is derived from the Hebrew name Joshua meaning ‘to save’.  Then Matthew states this is the fulfilment of the prophecy to Ahaz.  “Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” Matthew 1:22-23. 

God originally gave this prophecy to Ahaz as a sign He would not allow the tribe of Judah to be destroyed.  It was later used to convince Joseph not to send Mary away because she became pregnant while they were engaged, thus before they were married.  It was proof of the deity of this child who was the promised Messiah who would die as the means to pay the penalty for all who would accept Christ as Lord of their life.  We, as Christians, are the new Jerusalem.  And just as God promised to Ahaz the protection of Judah, where Jerusalem is located, so does He also promise protection for the New Jerusalem which will be our eternal home.  So, be at peace regarding all that is going on in our world today, because just as this was a sign of the protection of Judah, so is it a sign of our protection as well. 

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.