Genesis 35:2–3 (ESV) 2 So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you and purify yourselves and change your garments. 3 Then let us arise and go up to Bethel, so that I may make there an altar to the God who answers me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.”
In answer to God who told him to go to Bethel to dwell and setup an altar (Gen. 35:1a), Jacob instructed the people to 1) put away foreign gods, 2) purify themselves and 3) change their garments. A couple of things stand out here. First was that they had foreign gods among them. It seems as though some of Jacob’s household had been worshiping other gods. We are not told how long this was the case and they could even have been the gods stolen by Rachel in Gen. 31:19, although this cannot be confirmed. Second was the order of Jacob’s instructions: the gods needed to go before anything else. For the people to be purified, the false gods could not be among them. There is no purity of worship of the one true God until or unless every other potential object of worship is removed.
Mark 6:5–6 (ESV) 5 And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6 And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching.
Jesus’ hometown failed to receive Him and so He did no mighty work there except to heal a few sick people. The second half of Gen. 6:5 is intriguing because one might consider healing people to be mighty works. Perhaps by this point the people had seen how Jesus could heal many and so healing only a few was perceived as less profound. But it seems verse 6 sheds some light on this: “And he marveled because of their unbelief.” It seems as though the mighty work thwarted here by their unbelief was not so much physical healing but the transformation of hearts that come from acknowledging Him as the promised Messiah.
Job 2:2 (ESV) 2 And the LORD said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.”
Satan came to God to present himself before the LORD and the LORD addressed him. In this exchange, we get an insight as to the actions of the enemy: he goes to and fro on the earth, walking up and down on it. In our day-to-day, it is easy to forget that there exists a personal evil, rulers and authorities over this present darkness. (Eph. 6:12). This is not lead to an unhealthy fascination but to a constant awareness and to take upon ourselves the whole armor of God.
Romans 6:19 (ESV) 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.
We typically think of slavery in the negative, largely painted by chattel slavery and the gross mistreatment of humanity. However, there is a kind of slavery that is actually good. The word “slaves” (δοῦλος or doulos) in Rom. 6:19 is translated elsewhere in Scripture as “servant” or “bondservant”. As Christians, we are called to be servants of Christ and to present our members according. Through our full surrender to His Lordship, we are sanctified and freed from the bondage of sin and lawlessness. This we must understand as not being entirely apart from the presence of sin this side of glory, but we are free from its ultimate dominion and authority.
Carson on Mark 6
…one cannot help but reflect on Mark’s conclusion, “their hearts were hardened.” This does not mean they were stupid. Nor does it mean that while their minds were all right, their affections were twisted, as if heart refers to the center of affections alone. In the symbolism of biblical anthropology, heart refers to the seat of human personality, not too far removed from what we mean by mind (although that is perhaps too restrictively cerebral). Their entire orientation was still too restricted, too focused on the immediacy of their fears, too limited by their inability to penetrate to the full mystery of who Jesus is and why he came.
It is helpful to reflect on this and whether our own hearts are similarly hardened or restricted. From a practical standpoint, we can operate as if Christ is not in complete control. If we find ourselves proceeding from a place of fear or anxiety, our hearts are confessing that Jesus is not Lord.
- J. I. Packer et. al, The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016)
- D. A. Carson, For the Love of God: Volumes 1 & 2 (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2006; hosted on thegospelcoalition.org)
- Faithlife Study Bible (Lexham Press, 2016)
- Believer’s Bible Commentary (Thomas Nelson, 2016)
- CSB Study Bible Notes (Holman Bible Publishers, 2017)