1 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
2 Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
3 Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
5 For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.
As seen above, Psalm 100 begins with several commands: make a joyful noise, serve with gladness, and come into His presence with singing (100:1–2). The psalm again commands the readers to enter His gates with thanksgiving and praise, giving thanks to Him and blessing His name (100:4).
After each section of commands, the psalm lists a number of facts about God that motivate towards such praise, singing, and thanksgiving. Try to read this list slowly, pondering each item for its worth, allowing the Spirit to prompt you to a greater thanksgiving to God for who He is to you.
What an amazing God. May we often express our thankfulness to Him!
Call upon God, adore, confess,
Petition, plead, and then declare
You are the Lord’s; give thanks and bless,
And let the Amen confirm the prayer.
One of the items of prayer in this poem by the famous hymnist Isaac Watts (1674–1748) is to “give thanks.” Numerous passages in the Bible command us to give thanks to God, and 1 Thessalonians 5:18 is all-encompassing: “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Are you in Christ Jesus? Do you desire to do the will of God? Whatever your circumstances may be, give thanks to God. In his book A Guide to Prayer (1716), Watts explains thanksgiving in prayer as taking place in two ways.
First, we should thank God for the good He gives us apart from our having asked for such. Among the infinite blessings He grants to us, we can thank Him for being made in His image and the means of salvation that were provided for us as sinners who could do nothing for ourselves. We can thank Him for daily protection and His countless mercies which are new every day. We can thank Him for food, shelter, and clothing and the luxuries of life beyond these simple things with which we should be content (cf. 1 Timothy 6:8).
Second, we should thank God for the good He gives us in answer to our specific requests in prayer. We often think to pray when we are in need and desire His help in some way. But how often do we stop and think to look back and see how He has specifically answered our prayers? Some people keep a written list of prayer requests and keep a column next to the requests to record when they have been answered. Others keep journals. At the least, we should pause in prayer to reflect upon how God has been good to us, note where this goodness is in specific answer to prayer, and give God thanks accordingly.
“Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!” (Psalm 100:4).
A parable keeps truths about the kingdom from being understood by those who have already rejected them (cf. Mark 4:10–11, 33–34). Parables can be difficult to understand, especially when the parable quotes or alludes to OT texts, leaving one to figure out if the context of the OT passage underlies the parable at hand. A parable’s parallel passages can also add information to help interpret details that seem unclear from one Gospel to the next. Below is a smattering of notes and conclusions from my own study of Mark 12:1–12.
In the parable of the rogue tenants in Mark 12:1–12, the owner of the vineyard is God the Father (Mark 12:6; cf. 1:11; 9:7). The vineyard is the kingdom of God (cf. Matt 21:43). The tenants are the chief priests, scribes, and elders (Mark 12:12; cf. 11:27). The servants are the prophets who have been beaten and killed by Israel’s leaders throughout her history (cf. Jer 7:21–26; 25:4; Matt 23:34–35). The son and heir is Jesus who is also the cornerstone (Mark 12:6–7, 10). The Jewish leaders in Jesus’ day rejected the cornerstone and owner’s son (Jesus) and thereby disqualified themselves for watching over the vineyard (Mark 12:9).
The others to whom the vineyard is given are the apostles (a debatable conclusion). The parable was aimed at the rejecting leaders (Mark 12:12), so to give the vineyard to others is to give it to other leaders. The apostles would lead the early the church and Israel in time to come (cf. Matt 19:28). The apostles were those who were following and not rejecting Jesus (cf. Mark 12:10). The apostles would tend the kingdom of God by rightly preaching the truth about the Cornerstone, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will establish His kingdom in full in the future. The foundational truths they gave are tended by the church and its teachers today (cf. 1 Tim 3:15).
Jesus alludes to Isaiah 5:1–7 in which a vineyard that yielded wild grapes pictures Israel whose lack of righteousness led to bloodshed and a lack of justice. Matthew 21:43, however, shows that Jesus’ parable makes the vineyard out to be the kingdom of God. Perhaps the link between Isaiah 5 and Mark 12 is that Israel in its present state was unacceptable to God (i.e., by its leaders’ rejection of Christ).
Jesus also quotes Psalm 118:22–23 to picture Israel’s leaders who rejected Him as builders that rejected the stone that the Lord would make marvelous. The original context of Psalm 118 involves Israel’s king who is rejected by surrounding nations. Jesus thus paints Israel’s leaders with the hue of those who attacked the Lord’s anointed king.
Noteworthy within the parable is the compassion of God who repeatedly seeks out those who reject Him, even sending His Son. Also, Jesus’ parable implies that He knows full well that He was sent by His Father to offer Himself as King to those who would reject Him.
Paul met some disciples in Ephesus and learned that they had not heard of the Spirit’s arrival at Pentecost and that they were baptized into the baptism of John, i.e., John the Baptist (Acts 19:1–3). Paul consequently baptized them in the name of the Lord Jesus, and similar to what took place in Acts 2, the Spirit came on these men who then prophesied and spoke in tongues to indicate that these Gentiles, too, even as far as Ephesus, had been included into the church that began with the Spirit’s outpouring in Jerusalem (Acts 19:5–6). Paul explained to them that John baptized with a baptism of repentance, which was joined to the belief in Jesus who was to come after him (Acts 19:4; cf. Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3). Perhaps Paul added that John’s baptism was a symbol of what Jesus would eventually do―baptize those who believed in Him with the Spirit (Matt 3:11–12; Mark 1:7–8; Luke 3:15–17; John 1:26–27, 33–34).
From the above, we see that John’s baptism symbolized something past and something future. As to the past, just as water washes away filth, so also the repentant sinner had been forgiven and washed of the guilt from his sins. As to the future, just as the individual was baptized in water, so also Jesus would come and baptize the repentant with the Spirit.
In Acts 19:1–7, now that Jesus had come, died, risen from the dead, ascended into heaven, and sent the Spirit, John’s baptism was no longer valid. It anticipated something that was now past, the coming of Jesus and the initial baptism with the Spirit. What Paul administered to these Ephesians was Christian baptism. This baptism involves an individual’s immersion into and being brought up from water (as did John’s), primarily symbolizing his union with Christ in His death and resurrection in that he has died to sin and has been made alive unto righteousness (Rom 6:3–4; Col 2:11–12; 1 Pet 3:21). Implied in this symbolism is that the individual will be one day resurrected as Jesus was long ago (Rom 6:5).
Similar to the baptism of John, Christian baptism looks to the past and future. As to the past, it looks back to the death and resurrection of Christ and symbolizes the believer’s death to sin and new life unto righteousness. Perhaps also, just as one’s baptism by water brings one into the local church administrating as much (one would hope), so also water baptism may look back and symbolize one’s Spirit baptism and its function of having brought one into the church universal, all of which normally takes place at one’s regeneration (1 Cor 12:12–13). The abnormal situations in which Spirit baptism takes place after conversion are found in the church’s transitional period recorded in the book of Acts, such as we see with the Ephesians described above (Acts 8:14–17; 10:44–48; 19:1–7).
This little blurb hardly scratches the surface of a theology of prayer. Nonetheless, let it be a little reminder to heed the call to prayer in your personal life and the life of your church.
The Book of Acts records several instances that show the early church as an example for us to be just as devoted in prayer today as they were then. Of the small band of believers just before Pentecost, it was said, “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer” (Acts 1:14). Likewise, just after Pentecost, among other things, “they devoted themselves to . . . the prayers” (Acts 2:42). Instead of meeting the practical needs of the saints, the Twelve stated, “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4). When Peter was in prison and the church feared his martyrdom (Acts 12:1–3), “earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church” (Acts 12:5), throughout the night (cf. Acts 12:6–11), and so they were at “the house of Mary . . . where many were gathered together and were praying” (Acts 12:12).
Just as the Bible describes how Christians prayed, it also prescribes how Christians should pray. Since we are God’s house (1 Tim 3:15), we will incur God’s anger if we are not a people of prayer (cf. Isa 56:7; Matt 21:12–13). The church must pray for the needs of its members (Eph 6:18), and the church must pray for unbelievers as well (1 Tim 2:1–7). Men should lead in times of corporate prayer (1 Tim 2:8), and women should participate in prayer as well (1 Cor 11:4–5). The church must pray for the advance of the gospel (Acts 4:29; Col 4:3; Eph 6:19), and, as mentioned above, prayer must be a priority for those lead the church and who speak the Word of God (Acts 6:4).
Has the Spirit has moved in you to be more mindful of prayer due to your consideration of the handful of Scriptures quoted and referenced above? Do you attempt to be with our church during its times of corporate prayer on Sundays and Wednesdays? Not everyone can make it every time the church gathers for prayer, but when considering whether we are really unable to come or not, we must remember that some people find excuses to avoid the work of gathering for prayer, and others find the excuse of a time for prayer to avoid whatever would get in its way. Let’s pray to God that He would help us to fall into the latter of those categories and that He would help our churches to be people of prayer.
Pastor David Huffstutler
Pastor Huffstutler regularly writes articles for our Sunday bulletin. See his bio on our pastoral bio page.