The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost August 8, 2017
Mark 13-16; Luke 8:40-42a, 49b-56; 2 Kings 5:1-14; 2 Kings 22:1-2; 1 Samuel 17:40-51
Editor’s Note: This week’s meditation reviews and applies five Scripture texts from a Vacation Bible School (VBS) series. Hymns are incorporated after each section of the meditation. Due to the expanded nature of the meditation there are no other Scripture readings.
If this sermon is being used in lay-led worship service, a worship option is to make use of your standard liturgy up to the Scripture readings, insert this sermon with hymns, and then conclude with your post-sermon liturgy. Additional hymns could be added for opening, pre-sermon, and closing (e.g. 16, 234, 50).
Dear Friends in Christ:
This past week we paid special attention to the children among us. Vacation Bible School gave our students the opportunity to learn Bible truths, make things with their hands, and spend time together in play. We understand how important it is for each generation of adults to encourage and help the younger generation in spiritual things. The world is very evil and we want our children to have a solid foundation in Christ as they grow up.
It is rather amazing how many times young people play an important part in God’s history. Take, for example, Mary who was visited by an angel and later became the mother of Jesus. This morning we spend a few minutes thinking about children in the Bible: The children who came to Jesus for a blessing, the daughter of Jairus who was raised from the dead, the little slave girl who changed a man’s life, the boy who became king, and young David. As we do this, I would like all of you to think about yourselves as children—as children of God. Think about how He has blessed you as His own dear children, and how each day you are able to live under Him in His kingdom.
We are CHILDREN OF THE HEAVENLY FATHER I. Children welcomed by Jesus, II. Children with an eternal future, III. Children who change the lives of others, IV. Children who rise above their parents, and V. Children who are champions in Christ.
Text: Mark 13-16
Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them.
Many of us have seen pictures of the familiar story of Jesus blessing the children—Jesus with all of the little ones gathered around Him. He is holding them and blessing them. If you know the story, you know that if the Lord’s disciples had gotten their way such a picture never would have been drawn.
When the parents brought their children to Jesus, the disciples did not want them around. Whether they thought the Lord was too tired to see them, or whether they thought the children were just an interruption to Christ’s important ministry on that day, we don’t know what the disciples were thinking; but we do know how quickly Jesus reacted: “When Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God’” (Mark 10:14). Jesus had come for these little ones too. He had come to bless them. He had come to die for them. He had come to make them part of His family of believers along with their parents.
We adults want to be careful in our own lives that we do not play the role of the disciples who did not want the children to come to Jesus. Although we might not forbid children in the open and obvious way the disciples did, we can be responsible for sending more subtle messages at times. Do we ever get so concerned with our daily lives and our earthly problems that we neglect to set good examples for our children in matters such as prayer, trust, forgiveness, or faithfulness? By our actions, do we ever send the message to our children that there can be times when other things are more important than God? The fact is we can and we do send such messages for we are sinners.
But the Lord welcomes sinners, both children and adults. “Let them come to me,” Jesus says. Safe in His arms we receive forgiveness. We receive blessing. In His arms we are reminded once again how good it is to be a child of God. There we find safety, security, peace and hope.
Hymn: 785 [TLH alt., 428]
Text: Luke 8:40-42a, 49b-56
So it was, when Jesus returned, that the multitude welcomed Him, for they were all waiting for Him. And behold, there came a man named Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue. And he fell down at Jesus’ feet and begged Him to come to his house, for he had an only daughter about twelve years of age, and she was dying…someone came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house, saying to him, “Your daughter is dead. Do not trouble the Teacher.” But when Jesus heard it, He answered him, saying, “Do not be afraid; only believe, and she will be made well.” When He came into the house, He permitted no one to go in except Peter, James, and John and the father and mother of the girl. Now all wept and mourned for her; but He said, “Do not weep; she is not dead, but sleeping.” And they ridiculed Him, knowing that she was dead. But He put them all outside, took her by the hand and called, saying, “Little girl, arise.” Then her spirit returned, and she arose immediately. And He commanded that she be given something to eat. And her parents were astonished, but He charged them to tell no one what had happened.
Everyone knew the little girl was dead. Jesus knew it. Her parents knew it. The professional mourners who were wailing outside knew it and laughed when Jesus suggested that the girl was sleeping. “What can He do?” they all scoffed.
What can He do, indeed! Only raise her from the dead! Jesus said to Jairus, the girl’s father: “Do not be afraid; only believe, and she will be made well” Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.” Once Jesus had entered the house and removed all except the girls parents, Peter, James, and John, He took the girl by her hand and called saying, “‘Little girl arise.’ Then her spirit returned and she arose immediately” (Luke 8:50ff).
You parents can imagine what an impact this must have had on the father and mother. Such a healing is out of the realm of our own personal experiences. Imagine the amazement that ran through the house when the girl who had been dead all of a sudden stood up. When Jesus matter-of-factly turns and says, “Give her something to eat,” (Luke 8:55), do you think the parents had even had a chance to pick up their jaws off the floor yet?
But even beyond the amazement, what about the joy? For the mother and father this child who had brought such happiness into their lives would bring happiness once again. This great blessing which God had given them would be a blessing to them anew!
We shake our heads too and we think, “Wow!” Perhaps we even think of our own children when we hear this lesson. If you’re like me you have those scary moments once in awhile in which you picture losing a child and you think, “If that happened, I would sure want Jesus to come along and raise my child from the dead!” The beauty of it is, dear friends, that is exactly what He promises to do. Jesus does not let His children die. Those children who are part of Jesus’ spiritual family by faith will be raised up after death to eternal life. The Apostle Paul wrote: “The trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:52 NIV).
For Jesus, bringing someone back from the dead is no more impossible than rousing someone from sleep. The twelve-year old daughter of Jairus shows us that. The Lord’s own resurrection from the dead proves it too. “Because I live, you will live also” Jesus tells us (John 14:19). That goes for all the young children—and all of us grown-up children too.
Hymn: 200:1-2, 7-8
Text: 2 Kings 5:1-14
Now Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great and honorable man in the eyes of his master, because by him the LORD had given victory to Syria. He was also a mighty man of valor, but a leper. And the Syrians had gone out on raids, and had brought back captive a young girl from the land of Israel. She waited on Naaman’s wife. Then she said to her mistress, “If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy.” And Naaman went in and told his master, saying, “Thus and thus said the girl who is from the land of Israel.” Then the king of Syria said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.”
So he departed and took with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothing. Then he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which said, Now be advised, when this letter comes to you, that I have sent Naaman my servant to you, that you may heal him of his leprosy. And it happened, when the king of Israel read the letter, that he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and make alive, that this man sends a man to me to heal him of his leprosy? Therefore please consider, and see how he seeks a quarrel with me.” So it was, when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, that he sent to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Please let him come to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel.” Then Naaman went with his horses and chariot, and he stood at the door of Elisha’s house. And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean.” But Naaman became furious, and went away and said, “Indeed, I said to myself, ‘He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leprosy.’ Are not the Abanah and the Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. And his servants came near and spoke to him, and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” So he went down and dipped seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.
Can children change the lives of others? They are so young. Can they really make an impact on the world?
At age 12, Cameron Johnson paid $100 for his sister’s Beanie Baby collection. He started selling and trading them on eBay. He made money. He invested the money. He made a lot more. By the time he was 15 he was running his own greeting card company with sales in excess of $15,000 per day.
14-year old Ashley Qualls wasn’t satisfied simply to have a MySpace page on the internet like everyone else in her class did. She began designing pages for others and gave the designs away for free. So many wanted her designs that advertisers began paying her money—lots of money—to run ads on her site. Three years later, by age 17, she was a millionaire; and you’d be surprised at how many children’s stories there are that are just as impressive as these.
Children can and do make their mark on the world and on the lives of others. But the financial impact that the youngsters just mentioned were able to make pales in comparison to the impact a young slave girl once had on a man named Naaman.
This slave girl was an Israelite, but had been taken from her home by a group of hostile raiders and moved north to Syria of Damascus. There she became the servant to the wife of an army commander. The commander’s name was Naaman and he had the dreaded disease leprosy. Today the disease can be treated, but in the days of Naaman it meant permanent damage to the skin, nerves, limbs, and eyes.
It was the slave girl who said to her mistress, “If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy” (2 Kings 5:3). The prophet Elisha was indeed a prophet of the true God. The girl was sending him to the right place.
Naaman went and while at first he rejected the counsel of the prophet, eventually he did as God told him to do, washing in the Jordan River seven times. He was cleansed of his disease. And so it turned out that a young slave girl’s insistence had led directly to his healing.
But there was more to it than that. When Naaman returned to Elisha he said : “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel” (2 Kings 5:15). That little girl had been instrumental in bringing Naaman to know and trust in the true God. God had used her to bring Naaman to faith. That is what I call a child having an impact. Let us train and encourage our children in such a way that they can be prepared and anxious to lead others to the Lord, for by His wounds we are healed (cf. Isaiah 53:5).
Text: 2 Kings 22:1-2
Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jedidah the daughter of Adaiah of Bozkath. And he did what was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in all the ways of his father David; he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.
You would expect to find a Bible in a church, wouldn’t you? Well, maybe not in the land of Judah in 630 BC. By this time the people of southern Palestine had forsaken their God. They had given up looking for the Messiah who would come to take away their sin. They had turned instead to idols of wood and stone, hoping that the likes of Baal and Asherah would cleanse them spiritually. They sacrificed their children to these gods and did many other detestable things in the eyes of the Lord.
It has been said that children seldom rise above the spiritual level of their parents. That means if parents do not show an interest is God and make Him a priority in their lives, it is far less likely that their children will. This may generally be true, but it does not always hold, and it does not hold in the case of King Josiah. Josiah of Judah rose above the spiritual level of his parents. His grandfather King Manassah was evil. His father King Amon was evil. Josiah, who ascended the throne at the age of eight, loved and worshiped God.
As a young teenager, Josiah showed more spiritual maturity and insight than most of the men in his entire kingdom. He tore down the altars to the false gods. He rebuilt the house of the Lord. And in the course of the rebuilding, lo and behold! a Bible was found in the church! It was brought to Josiah and he read it and then he gathered the leaders of his kingdom and he read it to them.
The people learned from the Scriptures that they had been sinning against God. They were brought to repentance (sorrow over their sin), and they were led to rely on God for forgiveness to heal their spiritual evil.
Parents like to see their children rise above them. We count it a blessing when we see our children achieving things that we were not able to achieve. How much more so in spiritual matters! We know so well our own weaknesses that we pray the next generation would be more mature and stronger in their faith than we are. I know of a grandmother who has her grandson as her pastor. She considers it such a treasure and gift from God that the young boy she once held on her knee and comforted with God’s Word now comforts her with that same word. May the Holy Spirit shower our children with spiritual gifts in abundance!
Text: 1 Samuel 17:40-51
Then [David] took his staff in his hand; and he chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag, in a pouch which he had, and his sling was in his hand. And he drew near to the Philistine. So the Philistine came, and began drawing near to David, and the man who bore the shield went before him. And when the Philistine looked about and saw David, he disdained him; for he was only a youth, ruddy and good-looking. So the Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. And the Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!” Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. Then all this assembly shall know that the Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands.” So it was, when the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, that David hurried and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine. Then David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone; and he slung it and struck the Philistine in his forehead, so that the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the earth. So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. But there was no sword in the hand of David. Therefore David ran and stood over the Philistine, took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him, and cut off his head with it. And when the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled.
The story of the young shepherd boy David who killed the 10-foot giant Goliath with one stone is one of the most famous in the whole Bible. Over time the phrase, “David vs. Goliath” has even become a part of our language—describing any kind of encounter in which the odds seem stacked against the “little guy.”
There are many lessons we can draw from the account of David and Goliath. We can learn that when the Lord promises something, He always delivers. We can learn that when we face giants in our own lives, troubles and distress, we know that God will be with us. We can learn how foolish it is to put our confidence in ourselves like Goliath did. He trusted in his spear, shield, and his own strength to give him the victory. We act just as foolishly when we try to handle everything ourselves without listening to the Lord’s counsel and guidance—when we act as though we must fight alone against our problems because God has failed to come up with solutions for us.
The lesson of David and Goliath, however, also points us to the work of our Lord Jesus Christ, and this is what we want to leave in our minds as we close our study of these young Christians this morning.
Our greatest enemy is not Goliath, it is our own sin. It is the wickedness in our own hearts, the disobedience of our own actions. Our greatest enemy is that behavior which would separate us from God once and for all were it not for Jesus Christ.
Our greatest champion is not David, but it is David’s greater Son. For it was Jesus who suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. It was Jesus who was punished by His Father in Heaven—punished by God for all of our guilt. It was He who made satisfaction for our sins so that we could escape eternal death.
’Tis He whom David did portray
When He did strong Goliath slay.
Oh, sing with gladsome voices!
These children of the Bible and their stories ultimately lead us to Jesus and His story. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! (1 John 3:1 NIV), and that is exactly what we are! Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.