The first thing the first speaker said was that there’s not a single functional family in the entire Bible, not one. Every home we encounter in the Bible is dysfunctional. Sin has laid waste to every human family and all of us come from broken homes, some more than others, but all broken. And that definitely includes the one I came from and the one I created and have. Nothing like traveling 2300 miles with a couple of sons to remind a dad of his sins and the sins he has passed down from one generation to another. Without a doubt the most painful experiences of my life are seeing my sins in the mirror of my sons. What I want to do this morning is say some things I wish I had heard 30 years ago and not just heard but taken to heart and put into practice. If we want to know what fatherhood looks like and sounds like and smells like and tastes like, we should turn to the original designer, the first architect, the best example and model and look in the book He wrote. I’m serious about this. The older I get and the more I read and study the Bible the more amazed I am at how it really does have the answer to all of life’s questions and issues. It’s the most supremely practical book. It contains God’s wisdom for doing life. If there is a question we need to know the answer to, that answer will be found in Scripture. Scripture teaches us everything we need to know about fathering and mothering. When you boil it down to the basics, fathering and mothering is love and correction, tender and tough, grace and guidance, delight and discipline. That’s what I want to focus on this morning and the next time I preach, delight and discipline, or pleasure and pain. From Scripture I want to show every father here these two aspects of godly, Biblical, masculine fatherhood. By the way, this has broader application beyond sons and daughters, to grandsons and granddaughters, nieces and nephews, and to all the children we relate to in this covenant community. This morning we will stop with the first half of what I am calling the pleasure and pain of fatherhood, or the delight and discipline of being a dad.
I am taking a bit of liberty with Mark and skipping a passage in order to preach on Jesus sending out the twelve apostles on this Sunday when we ordain and install new elders and deacons. I will return to the first part of Mark 6 in July. Our purpose here this morning is to exposit this text, meaning to dig out the meaning of it and to do so in a way that finds the implications and applications for us today. We don’t just want to look at the foundation and build nothing. And we don’t want to just focus on building something nice without being sure it’s well grounded in the truth of God’s Word. As we work through this text I am especially aware that it has application for pastors, elders and deacons, past, present and future. But there are also applications here for all of us. In Mark 3 we read about Jesus going out to a mountain and praying all night for the selection of the twelve apostles.
Zephaniah begins with the longest genealogy of any prophet in the Bible. He traces his ancestry back to his great-great-grandfather, Hezekiah, king of Judah. So finally we have a prophet who is a somebody, a descendent of royalty, a true blue blood. Zephaniah prophesied during the time of the good king Josiah (640-609BC). He seems to be writing from Jerusalem, he has intimate knowledge of the city (1:4, 10-11). I wonder if people were expecting more of a party line from him, something more favorable to those in leadership, something that would tickle the ears of the political and religious powers. The first sentence out of his mouth dispelled every such foolish notion. “I will utterly sweep away everything from the face of the earth.” And then as if that wasn’t enough, he ups the ante in verse 8, “I will punish the officials and the king’s sons.” Zephaniah was a contemporary of Habakkuk and Jeremiah, maybe just before Jeremiah. That means that they had the saddest of all the prophecies. Zephaniah and Jeremiah were called upon by God to announce the last warnings and final appeals to His remnant people in Judah, the southern kingdom, before God’s judgment came upon them. Zephaniah and Jeremiah both lived to see the fall of Jerusalem and the fall of the temple of God, the great temple that Solomon built. They saw the great and terrible day of the Lord in their own time and land. This book of Zephaniah has been called the whole OT in miniature. The OT is pregnant with the gospel, the OT is great with gospel. And the prophets are toward the end of the pregnancy. In the prophets things start getting clearer, both the bad news and the good news. Zephaniah is especially full of gospel. It begins with the most sober announcement of our sin against God. Then comes the announcement of judgment on our sin. Then finally comes the good news of mercy, hope for sinners. Zephaniah begins with no hope, then a glimmer of hope and finally a full display of a glorious hope. Zephaniah is the tale of two days, two days of the Lord, a day of judgment and a day of jubilee.
I read this week that down in the Silicon Valley the Porsche showrooms are empty. Penthouses and mansions are being snatched up for hundreds of thousands of dollars over list. Facebook billionaires and millionaires are on a huge spending spree. Life is good right now. But what about that day when their soul is required of them? What good will their money do them then? Jairus was the ruler of the synagogue, a high ranking official, he was somebody important. But status and rank didn’t insulate him from trouble. No one is beyond the reach of pain and sorrow.
When we turn to the prophecy of Nahum, we find ourselves reading words written down by another relatively unknown, small town prophet. But it doesn’t really matter because all we really want to do is get into the words of a man who heard directly the voice of the Lord and who spoke for God the very Words of God. We want to get to know the words of this man who heard God and had the power and authority of God to declare the things of God. The first thing we have to acknowledge if we are going to be totally honest is that Nahum is pretty rough reading. You don’t hear many sermons from the book of Nahum. You certainly don’t see many verses from Nahum cross-stitched and hanging in people’s homes. I pulled out my Lectionary and discovered that Nahum is one of a few books completely left out of the formal three year schedule of Scripture readings used in more liturgical churches. Nothing to see here folks, move along. Nothing really worth reading here, just skip on to Habakkuk. But let’s be brave and see what this portion of God’s holy and inspired Word says.
Our journey with Jesus takes us back across the Sea of Galilee to Jewish territory on the west side of the lake where Jesus receives a much friendlier reception and a crowd quickly gathers. Mark tells the story of two people who make a special point of coming to Jesus. Notice how accessible Jesus is. Notice that He’s among the people, in the crowds, able to be touched. His entire ministry was on the streets and hills of Palestine and in the homes and synagogues of the people. The crowds sometimes kept Him from being able to eat and sleep and retreat for prayer, but He was accessible. He always has been and He still is. But He is not only accessible, He’s available and beyond that, He’s interruptible. This is the third time in this Gospel where we have a story interrupted by another story. Bible commentators like to call these Marken sandwiches. This time we are going to look at the meat of the sandwich and next week at the two pieces of bread that surround this story within a story, this miracle within a miracle. These two stories aren’t just your average bad day stories. These are two people in the depths of despair. One is of a young girl at the point of death, and the other is a woman at the point of utter hopelessness from a long-lasting medical condition. This woman’s condition is far worse than we first realize for three reasons.
This morning we return to Mark 5 to, as Paul Harvey used to say, “hear the rest of the story.” Jesus had crossed over the Sea of Galilee with His disciples to the east side into Gentile territory where He was immediately accosted by a man possessed by an unclean spirit, or actually a legion of unclean spirits. Jesus cast them out into a herd of 2000 pigs who then rushed headlong into the Sea of Galilee and drowned. We begin reading now at Mark 5:14. You are about to hear the inspired, infallible Word of Almighty God, which our Lord Jesus Christ said is Truth. Truth that cannot fail. Truth that cannot be broken. Please receive it as such this morning.