Prayer is Trusting God’s Will

Job 16:15-22

Prayer is to adjust our perspective rather than change our circumstances.

Trust God on High

Humble Yourself Before God

Job 16:15-17, NKJV

15 “I have sewn sackcloth over my skin,

And laid my head in the dust.

16 My face is flushed from weeping,

And on my eyelids is the shadow of death;

17 Although no violence is in my hands,

And my prayer is pure.      

            Job was a man who lived through pain, loss, and suffering the majority of people in developed countries will never come close to experiencing, but situations people in underdeveloped countries endure through their lifetime in some cases. The destruction of all his children, the loss of all his material possessions, and enduring the disgrace of false accusations from friends that happened in a few days would be enough to bring the most optimistic person to their knees in defeat. Yet, Job maintained his integrity and refused to speak evil of God even while giving full verbal expression to his emotions (Job 42:8).

            In the verses leading up to the passage listed above, Job is responding to the verbal abuse he had been receiving from his friends. These friends came with the intention of comforting him, but quickly turned to blaming Job for bringing all this devastation upon himself because of secret sins he had in his life of which they had no evidence of at all. They assumed God was punishing Job due to the severity of the suffering Job was enduring. Job even calls them, “…Miserable comforters are you all!” (Job 16:2, NKJV).

            Job verbalizes how he believes God is working against him in the same ways many have used as excuses to avoid turning to God or to deny God’s existence altogether. Job shares with his friends that God has, “…worn me out…desolated all my company…shriveled me up…tears me in His wrath…gnashes at me with His teeth…delivered me to the ungodly…turned me over to the hands of the wicked…shattered me to pieces…set me up for His target…pierces my heart…breaks me with wound upon wound…” (Job 16:7-14, NKJV).

            If only one of these things was done to someone it would a person to avoid and refuse to be around that person. Job does something that is quite opposite. He put on sackcloth and put dust on his head. This cloth was either made from the course hair of camels or goats and was normally black in color. Sackcloth is similar in texture of modern day burlap which is made from Jute or Hemp. The abrasive material would be worn against the skin and ashes poured over oneself to signify mourning and sorrow. I caused the one wearing it to feel uncomfortable externally as much as internally.

            Job ran to the Lord instead of away from Him in his hurt and distress. He embraced the pain he felt by giving verbal expression to the reality he was experiencing as he presented his case to the Lord in prayer. The final words of verse seventeen reveals Job’s sorrow and frustration before the Lord in the posture of humility and not in anger when he says, “…And my prayer is pure” (Job 16:17, NKJV).

            Job’s prayer was his continued dialogue with God as he was directing his speech directly to God even while he spoke with his visitors. Prayers are more than words that are spoken by a person to God. Prayer is also exhibiting trust in the Lord’s will by accepting what is transpiring in life at the moment regardless of whether it is pleasant or unpleasant. Job’s prayer was pure before the Lord due to his honest submission to God by enduring the pain and turning to the Lord alone for comfort even though Job felt it was God who was the One afflicting him.

            Job humbled himself before the Lord accepting what he was going through, embracing it through mourning, and turned to the Lord as the only source of his comfort. Every day there are people around the world in every economic and cultural status level possible suffering with no clear explanation of why they are going through the things they of which they are dealing. The difference between those who understand what prayer is and those who have a misconception of prayer can be seen in how they respond to the struggles and heartache they are enduring. There are examples of both found in Scripture, but none as clear as the response of King Jehoiakim of Judah and the Jeremiah the prophet.

1 Now it came to pass in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, that this word came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying: 2 “Take a scroll of a book and write on it all the words that I have spoken to you against Israel, against Judah, and against all the nations, from the day I spoke to you, from the days of Josiah even to this day. 3 It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the adversities which I purpose to bring upon them, that everyone may turn from his evil way, that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.”…

16 Now it happened, when they had heard all the words, that they looked in fear from one to another, and said to Baruch, “We will surely tell the king of all these words.” 17 And they asked Baruch, saying, “Tell us now, how did you write all these words—at his instruction?”…

23 And it happened, when Jehudi had read three or four columns, that the king cut it with the scribe’s knife and cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the scroll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth. 24 Yet they were not afraid, nor did they tear their garments, the king nor any of his servants who heard all these words. 25 Nevertheless Elnathan, Delaiah, and Gemariah implored the king not to burn the scroll; but he would not listen to them. (Jeremiah 36:1-3, 16-17, 23-25, NKJV)

            King Jehoiakim lashed out at what God had instructed Jeremiah to write to get him to acknowledge his sin and repent in order to avoid the destruction that was prepared if he refused to humble himself before God. The leaders around the king were afraid of what God had to say, but certainly not enough to acknowledge their sins and repent of it with great mourning. This was because they mistakenly thought prayer was nothing more than a religious practice meant to make oneself feel better and attempt to get what they imagined they desired for themselves.

            Many people respond to correction and hardship with denial, ignoring the reality of what is taking place, or being angry at those who speak the truth. The king and his leaders responded in this manner as well and found themselves coming under the judgment of God. Yet, there were others like the widow who lived in Zarephath who simply embraced the reality of her destitution and found that God had sent her the Prophet Elijah to provide all she needed for her and her son.

8 Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, 9 “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.” 10 So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, indeed a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, “Please bring me a little water in a cup, that I may drink.” 11 And as she was going to get it, he called to her and said, “Please bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.”

12 So she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I do not have bread, only a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil in a jar; and see, I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.”

13 And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said, but make me a small cake from it first, and bring it to me; and afterward make some for yourself and your son. 14 For thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the Lord sends rain on the earth.’ ”

15 So she went away and did according to the word of Elijah; and she and he and her household ate for many days. 16 The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke by Elijah. (1 Kings 17:8-16, NKJV)

            The widow did nothing wrong, but was enduring the drought which came about through the word of the Lord through Elijah. She humbled herself and accepted the future as far as she could see and trusted the Lord’s word through His prophet and cared for Elijah as he asked. King Jehoiakim and his leaders were warned about the coming destruction they would suffer but ignored God’s warning through His prophet, even if it caused them to be fearful for a short time.

            Job humbled himself before God and turned to Him for comfort even though Job believed God did all the horrible things to him which he was suffering. The humility Job exhibited was his prayer to God accepting it was the Lord’s will for him to endure these things. Prayer is trusting God’s will through humility by enduring longsuffering that is either the result of consequences of sin or simply a reason that may never be known by God’s child who is enduring the suffering. There are times when no clear answer or reason for suffering is given to the one who suffers. It is best to stop looking for the explanation and focus more on what God is teaching us through the hardship being faced and on His power that sustains when everything else has failed.

            Prayer is trusting God’s will by accepting the authority of God and humbly enduring with peace and patience the present circumstances of life. If sinful choices or selfish decisions have brought about the situation presently, repent and once again submit to the Word of God and obey Him. God is faithful and will see His people through difficult times because He is merciful. If what is being suffered at the moment is the result of circumstances beyond a person’s choices or have been brought on by the sin of others, take heart and be encouraged that nothing is a surprise to God. The Lord is faithful and will see His people through the darkest of times. Praise God and allow the actions and words of each day to be spoken in confidence of the faithfulness of God’s will to do what is righteous and just.

Trust God on High

Job 16:18-22, NKJV

18 “O earth, do not cover my blood,

And let my cry have no resting place!

19 Surely even now my witness is in heaven,

And my evidence is on high.

20 My friends scorn me;

My eyes pour out tears to God.

21 Oh, that one might plead for a man with God,

As a man pleads for his neighbor!

22 For when a few years are finished,

I shall go the way of no return.  

            Prayer that trusts God is consumed by heavenly things and not visible results; it is looking toward the Lord and His good pleasure above all else. Job prays that nothing on earth would be able to silence his cries from which he refuses to stop speaking. There is much Job has suffered; he has endured beyond his ability to withstand such anguish and now gives full vent to his cries to God. Job refuses to be silent even though God appears to be doing him this harm. This is due to the facts Job points out in Job 16:19, “19 Surely even now my witness is in heaven, And my evidence is on high” (NKJV). Job is calling God as his witness and proclaiming the truth is residing with the Lord.

            We have to look back to where all this started to see that Job is speaking truth instead of things that he merely wishes were true. “1 There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1, NKJV.) Job lived an exemplary life before the Lord. In one of his exchanges with his friends he said,

12 …I delivered the poor who cried out,

The fatherless and the one who had no helper.

13 The blessing of a perishing man came upon me,

And I caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy.

14 I put on righteousness, and it clothed me;

My justice was like a robe and a turban.

15 I was eyes to the blind,

And I was feet to the lame.

16 I was a father to the poor,

And I searched out the case that I did not know.

17 I broke the fangs of the wicked,

And plucked the victim from his teeth. (Job 29:12-17, NKJV)

            Job trusted his integrity to God rather than the opinion of other people. He was certainly not perfect or sinless, but God considered him to be upright and one who shunned evil. This is high praise coming from God who judges the intentions of people along with their actions, words, and thoughts (Hebrews 4:13). The testimony of people can be denied and easily dismissed for one reason or another. God’s declaration of a person’s character is what really matters in the end. God will be the One who all will stand before in judgement one day which the writer of Hebrews was inspired to proclaim, “27 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27, NKJV).

            God is the One who must be trusted above all else. There was no one else Job really had to turn to in his life at this point. God was the only One who could comfort Job in his current state. In reality, God is the only One who can comfort anyone, regardless of their circumstances. Job knew this in his heart more than he had evidence of it in writing. Those who worship God today have thousands of years of history and examples of how God works, His trustworthiness to keep His promises, and instruction from prophets, apostles, Christ, and even the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within them.

            Job knew the evidence of his integrity was on high because that is where God resided. Long before Jeremiah was inspired to record these words of God, “10 I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings” (Jeremiah 17:10, NKJV). Job’s friend Eliphaz used what God revealed about Himself in creation to accuse Job of sin rather than allow God to be the Judge and Revealer of truth. Eliphaz was trusting in his wisdom to make judgments about others and the world when he said to Job,

8 Even as I have seen,

Those who plow iniquity

And sow trouble reap the same.

9 By the blast of God they perish,

And by the breath of His anger they are consumed. (Job 4:8-9, NKJV)

            God reveals Himself in creation clearly, but mankind often will take what God reveals and twist it to accommodate their selfish desires. The revelation of the Lord is made known to change the hearts and minds of people to conform to the truth of God. Far too often individuals will violently force God’s revelation through His word or in creation to justify what is right in their own eyes. Job refused to conform God to his image as Eliphaz was doing by using God’s revelation in the world to condemn Job.

            Job knows that God is merciful and kind as well as righteous and just. Eliphaz is promoting a works based salvation while Job is proclaiming a salvation that is based entirely on the grace of God long before Christ came into the world to die for the sins of mankind. This is clear by other things that Job has said, “25 For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth” (Job 19:25, NKJV). Job trusts God to be his Judge as well as his Deliverer. This is the perfect explanation of Christ who is God in the flesh but also is the One who offers His flesh for the salvation of others as the Apostle Paul so clearly announced,

8 …God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. (Romans 5:8-11, NKJV)

            God came into the world to satisfy His wrath on sin personally on behalf of all people. It is through the death and resurrection of Christ that we have been reconciled with God the Father. The only place anyone can run to in order to find forgiveness is to the God that has been sinned against. The only way to have strength to endure all that is experienced in life is to trust in the only true God who is sovereign, righteous, and just in all that He allows into a person’s life.

            Job’s friends were gloating over his suffering and falsely accusing him of wrong doing because in their minds God fit into their understanding, and their understanding convince them God only allowed horrible things to happen to horrible people. Unfortunately, some of the most horrible things happen to those who are some of the most righteous in this world. The perfect example of this is Jesus who was perfect in every way, but suffered throughout His life and died the death of a criminal.

            There was much about Job’s suffering that can be seen in the life of Christ. Job’s friends scorned him and tears poured out of his eyes to God. In the life of Jesus, tears flowed out of Him to the Father as well when He wept at Lazarus’ tomb, over Jerusalem’s future, and in the garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:32-34; Luke 19:41-44; John 11:32-36). There is a confidence seen in Job that God would make a way to satisfy justice and still redeem those who were hopelessly trying to live a pleasing life before the righteous God of all creation. Jesus lived the perfect life before the Father to be able to do for mankind what they could not possibly do for themselves; His innocent death brought atonement to all who would accept Christ’s death on behalf of their sins.

            The last portion of Job’s prayer to God expresses the importance of making the decision to place faith in God for the forgiveness of sins before physical death. “22 For when a few years are finished, I shall go the way of no return” (Job 16:22, NKJV). There is no return to life as we know it physically. This in no way discounts resurrection because we know Christ was raised from the dead, but Christ’s body was not the same after resurrection as it was before His death. Jesus rose from the dead immortal, never to die again. Those who were recorded to be raised in the Old Testament and by Christ all experienced physical death later on. All who Jesus healed physically eventually died of something else since that resurrection did not change their physical make up.

            There is no opportunity to accept Jesus once we take our last breath upon this earth for the final time. The rich man found this out too late in the account Jesus shared recorded in the Gospel of Luke 16:19-31. Therefore, it is crucial for a decision to accept the atoning death of Christ on behalf of sin be made now since no one knows the day of Christ’s return or the day of their death.

            Prayer is trusting God’s will since it is more than words spoken to God; it is living daily with an eternal perspective of what is to be rather than what is visible presently. The very life of God’s child ought to be a continual prayer of praise and acceptance of the will of God. This means that what is seen currently that is contrary to what God has promised is recognized as sin’s effect upon the perfect creation of God through Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is why God tells His people to live by faith, not be sight.


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Prayer is Praise Onto God

“Prayer is Praise Onto God”

2 Samuel 7:18-29

Praise God regardless if His answer is yes, no, or wait.

Focus on Who God Is

Praise God for Deeds Done

Focus on Who God Is

2 Samuel 7:18-24, NKJV

18 Then King David went in and sat before the Lord; and he said: “Who am I, O Lord God? And what is my house, that You have brought me this far? 19 And yet this was a small thing in Your sight, O Lord God; and You have also spoken of Your servant’s house for a great while to come. Is this the manner of man, O Lord God? 20 Now what more can David say to You? For You, Lord God, know Your servant. 21 For Your word’s sake, and according to Your own heart, You have done all these great things, to make Your servant know them. 22 Therefore You are great, O Lord God. For there is none like You, nor is there any God besides You, according to all that we have heard with our ears. 23 And who is like Your people, like Israel, the one nation on the earth whom God went to redeem for Himself as a people, to make for Himself a name—and to do for Yourself great and awesome deeds for Your land—before Your people whom You redeemed for Yourself from Egypt, the nations, and their gods? 24 For You have made Your people Israel Your very own people forever; and You, Lord, have become their God. 

            This portion of Scripture is a prayer of King David in response to being denied the opportunity to build a permanent house for God among the people of Israel. David’s response to being denied something that he desired to do for God was due to the fact he listened to what God said rather than focused on what the Lord did not say. There are some important things God said to David recorded in the verses prior to the above portion of Scripture that were very encouraging.

8 Now therefore, thus shall you say to My servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts: “I took you from the sheepfold, from following the sheep, to be ruler over My people, over Israel. 9 And I have been with you wherever you have gone, and have cut off all your enemies from before you, and have made you a great name, like the name of the great men who are on the earth. 10 Moreover I will appoint a place for My people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own and move no more; nor shall the sons of wickedness oppress them anymore, as previously, 11 since the time that I commanded judges to be over My people Israel, and have caused you to rest from all your enemies. Also the Lord tells you that He will make you a house.

12 “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men. 15 But My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.” ’ ” (2 Samuel 7:8-16, NKJV emphasis added)

            David could begin with “Who am I, O Lord God? And what is my house, that You have brought me this far?…O Lord God; and You have also spoken of Your servant’s house for a great while to come” (2 Samuel 7:18-19, NKJV). There were promises for David personally and for the nation of Israel specifically. God proclaimed to David that he would rest from his enemies, establish his ancestors as rulers, and the Messiah would come from David’s line. The nation of God’s people was promised to be permanently established and be free from all oppression from other nations.

            Notice throughout this prayer the number of times David refers to God rather than Himself: “You brought me this far…You also spoken of Your servant’s house…You, Lord God, know Your servant…Your words sake…Your own heart, You have done all these great things, to make Your servant know them…who is like Your people…went to redeem for Himself as a people, to make for Himself a name…Your people whom You redeemed for Yourself…Your land…Your people…Your very own people…” Sixteen times David is heard specifically referring to God. How many times do the prayers of those who are of the body of Christ today focus on the Lord in this way?

            David was able to praise God through the denial of his desires because David comprehended all that God had already done for him and the nation of Israel. There were many difficult times David endured up to this point which God had faithfully brought him through. He would have been able to look back over his life to the present and see the benevolence of God’s mercy upon him. These things were acknowledged by David as undeserved mercies he received at God’s hand. All these things combined formed his understanding of prayer to be less about himself and his needs and more about the opportunity to praise God for whom the Lord was, what God had done, and even prevented him from doing.

            This was long before the many failures David would suffer due to his sinful choices. David would certainly suffer consequences for his actions, but the promises of God never changed in spite of all that David did in not following God’s commandments. The promise of God endures time and the failure of God’s people. Acknowledgement of sin and repentance of sin is the attitude David had whenever he was convicted of his sins. God’s faithfulness is displayed through His promises over the years and through all the failures of God’s people as they turn to Him in their despair of sin. Knowing these facts help David to see prayer as God intended it to be.

            Prayer as praise onto God is one of the most important characteristics of prayer for it is to remind ourselves of our dependency upon the power and presence of God in our life. Prayer was never about informing God about the needs of His people or helping God know what ought to be done in His creation. God has much more understanding about what is happening and needs to take place in creation than any person or group of people could possibly comprehend. The purpose of prayer becomes distorted and lost whenever we lose sight of who it is that is being spoken to when we go into prayer.

           There have been many people who say the phrase, “Keep them in our thoughts and prayers” in times of tragedy. The problem with this statement for followers of Christ and atheists alike is who is being prayed to in reference to prayer. Is it a god made in our image or the Creator of the universe that desires to transform people into His image? Prayer is worthless coming from anyone who does not recognize first who God is and who they are in Him. Understanding that God is Master of all and that His children are His property to direct as He sees fit must cause people to recognize their need for obedience.

            Peter was inspired to write this kind of warning to husbands to help them to see the connection of obedience and prayer in this way, “7 Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7, NKJV emphasis added). This connection can also be seen in the inspired writings of Job, “8 Now therefore, take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams, go to My servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and My servant Job shall pray for you. For I will accept him, lest I deal with you according to your folly; because you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.” (Job 42:8. NKJV emphasis added).

            There are numerous examples where God proclaimed He would refuse to listen to the prayers of His people because of their disobedience. Isaiah 1:15-17 is one example of how disobedience hinders the prayers of God’s people,

15 When you spread out your hands,

I will hide My eyes from you;

Even though you make many prayers,

I will not hear.

Your hands are full of blood.

16 “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;

Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes.

Cease to do evil,

17 Learn to do good;

Seek justice,

Rebuke the oppressor;

Defend the fatherless,

Plead for the widow. (NKJV)

            Prayer is always distorted whenever God is made in the image of people rather than His people being made into the His image. How God is addressed in times of disobedience is with arrogance, demanding specific outcomes, and anger at God for causing situations to go against what is thought to be best by the one praying. Please understand this has nothing to do with salvation. God’s people did not cease being His people in their disobedience. He could not honor their prayers in the way they were presented to Him since they were outside of His perfect will. Jesus later made this fact abundantly clear saying,

13 And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son…

16 A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me, because I go to the Father…

23 And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (John 14:13, 16:16, 16:23-24, NKJV).         

            True prayer has the element of praise onto God for who He is first and a desire of the one speaking to God to submit to Him as Lord over their entire life. Prayer is ineffective and an exercise in futility if the one praying has forgotten who it is they are praying to because they are unwilling to pray in accordance with the Spirit of God.

Praise God for Deeds Done

2 Samuel 7:25-29, NKJV

25 “Now, O Lord God, the word which You have spoken concerning Your servant and concerning his house, establish it forever and do as You have said. 26 So let Your name be magnified forever, saying, ‘The Lord of hosts is the God over Israel.’ And let the house of Your servant David be established before You. 27 For You, O Lord of hosts, God of Israel, have revealed this to Your servant, saying, ‘I will build you a house.’ Therefore Your servant has found it in his heart to pray this prayer to You.

28 “And now, O Lord God, You are God, and Your words are true, and You have promised this goodness to Your servant. 29 Now therefore, let it please You to bless the house of Your servant, that it may continue before You forever; for You, O Lord God, have spoken it, and with Your blessing let the house of Your servant be blessed forever.”    

            Prayer consists of praise onto God for who He is but also for all that He has done on the behalf of the one who is coming before God in prayer. Now David is turning his attention to praising God for that which He has done as well as rejoicing over the promises made as though they are already fulfilled. Notice the language here again, “…You have spoken concerning Your servant and concerning his house, establish it forever and do as You have said… let Your name be magnified forever… the house of Your servant David be established before YouYou are God, and Your words are true…O Lord God, have spoken it, and with Your blessing let the house of Your servant be blessed forever.

            David is affirming his belief that what God has stated will happen regardless if he will see it in his lifetime. Speaking to God is unlike speaking to anyone else. He is eternal and His Word is established forever by His perfect and righteous character that has no limitations or constraints that are upon everything that has been created. The writer of Psalm 119 puts it best when he was inspired to write,

89 Forever, O Lord,

Your word is settled in heaven.

90 Your faithfulness endures to all generations;

You established the earth, and it abides.

91 They continue this day according to Your ordinances,

For all are Your servants. (Psalm 119:89-91, NKJV)

            The attitude that David had is confirmed by Christ and encouraged by other inspired writings of the New Testament. Jesus responded to the devil’s temptation of food by quoting from Deuteronomy 8:3, “3 So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord” (NKJV emphasis added). God’s Word is life-giving in a way that physical food is unable to provide for people. Those who eat physical food will eventually die, but those who feast on the Word of God will live even though they die because the Scriptures proclaim Christ as the Son of God (John 11:25-26).

            The Word of God is the firm foundation that life now and eternally must be built upon or what is built will be destroyed. Building on the foundation of God’s Word is to live with calm assurance that all He has said He would do will be done on earth as it is in heaven. This is the beginning of the model prayer Jesus taught His disciples when He instructed them about prayer.

9 In this manner, therefore, pray:

Our Father in heaven,

Hallowed be Your name.

10 Your kingdom come.

Your will be done

On earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:9-10, NKJV)

            The prayers of God’s people must praise Him for who He is and what He has done no matter if the reality of the promises God has made is being experienced presently. That means the children of God should be rejoicing in the fact of the home that is as sure as the moment they are living in at this time. The promises of God are beyond an individual’s lifespan upon this earth. God’s people must live in the reality of the promises of God rather than in the doubt of it because they are presently experiencing something far less than God said He would do.

            David’s faith in the trustworthiness of God’s promises can be clearly seen when he proclaimed, “…You are God, and Your words are true, and You have promised this goodness to Your servant…” (2 Samuel 7:28, NKJV). Later on whenever David found himself suffering the consequences of his sins it is easy to imagine that David would start doubting the promises of God because of his disobedience and failures. Yet, doubt is the last thing that is heard from David in his last words that are recorded in 2 Samuel 23:1-5,

1 Now these are the last words of David.

Thus says David the son of Jesse;

Thus says the man raised up on high,

The anointed of the God of Jacob,

And the sweet psalmist of Israel:

2 “The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me,

And His word was on my tongue.

3 The God of Israel said,

The Rock of Israel spoke to me:

‘He who rules over men must be just,

Ruling in the fear of God.

4 And he shall be like the light of the morning when the sun rises,

A morning without clouds,

Like the tender grass springing out of the earth,

By clear shining after rain.’

5 “Although my house is not so with God,

Yet He has made with me an everlasting covenant,

Ordered in all things and secure.

For this is all my salvation and all my desire;

Will He not make it increase? (NKJV)

            David realized that he had failed to follow God’s commandments personally and his family was suffering the consequences of his sins. However there was nothing that indicated to him that this in anyway voided the promises that God had made to him years earlier. This was affirmed in David’s willingness to accept the conviction of God and to repent of his sins each time he fell.

            David’s prayer life suffered severely during his times of entertaining sin as was evident when he was inspired to write,

3 When I kept silent, my bones grew old

Through my groaning all the day long.

4 For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;

My vitality was turned into the drought of summer. Selah

5 I acknowledged my sin to You,

And my iniquity I have not hidden.

I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”

And You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah (Psalm 32:3-5, NKJV)

            There was no concern of David as the end of his life on earth approached that God might not fulfill that which was promised. The assurance of God’s promises allowed David to praise God in prayer while acknowledging the fact of the dysfunction of his family and the failures of his life. God has certainly blessed the house of David through the Messiah of God who even now resides on the thrown eternally. Jesus is the Son of God, who is also of the line of David’s royal family because of God’s promises that were made to David centuries ago.

            Apostle Paul expresses best as God has inspired him to record it concerning why prayer is praise for what God has accomplished when he said, “19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19-22, NKJV).

            Prayer is praise onto God because there is no need to tell God what needs to be done or even what is taking place currently as if He is unaware of it. Prayer is meant to help His children grasp the proper perspective of everything that is taking place in this sin fallen, broken world that is experienced presently. Once God’s people begin to grasp that one of the most important aspects of prayer is to correct the focus of God’s people, praise will consume much of what is said in times of speaking with the Lord.

            How much of your prayer time is taken up in praising the Lord who alone is worthy of praise?


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Tips for Social Media Discussions

            I was reminded this week once again of how pointless social media can be beyond superficial contacts and small talk. The social media channels and programs have their purpose. They are great ways to stay in touch with people who are far away and share events that are coming up. However, some have desired to use social media as places where deep discussions are held on theology, philosophy, and politics. This is equivalent to the armchair quarterbacks yelling their instructions to the coaches on the sidelines about what plays should be done. They have no real understanding about what is going on but are convinced they are right. Engaging in these discussions is a practice in futility. I know of no one who has ever changed their position on anything based on the interchange of ideas on social media.
            Placed in between Jesus’ discussion on judging others by first dealing with a person’s own sin before addressing that of other people and speaking of how gracious God is by giving His children what they need is an interesting proverb recorded in Matthew 7:6, “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces” (NKJV).
            Solomon was inspired to write something similar that is recorded in Proverbs 9:7-12,
7 “He who corrects a scoffer gets shame for himself, and he who rebukes a wicked man only harms himself. 8 Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you; rebuke a wise man, and he will love you. 9 Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a just man, and he will increase in learning. 10 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. 11 For by me your days will be multiplied, and years of life will be added to you. 12 If you are wise, you are wise for yourself, and if you scoff, you will bear it alone.” (NKJV)
            Verses seven and eight are exactly what happens when engaging the world on social media with anything having to do with theology especially. The Christian who is attempting to share biblical truth often does more harm to themselves and is shamed rather than accomplishing what their intent was in entering the discussion. That does not mean that we as believers remain silent and allow the world to continue talking in circles of nonsense. Engaging in discussions on social media must be done with prayer, grace, and deep love for people who are wise in their own eyes.
            Here are some tips for engaging people on social media regardless of the platform or program:
1. Remember everyone, including ourselves, is not free from sin (Romans 3:10-18).
2. It is impossible to argue anyone into the kingdom of God because only God has the power to change a person’s heart through faith by God’s grace. Therefore, the primary focus is not the topic at hand, but introducing them to Christ, the Son of the living God (John 3:16-18, 14:6; Hebrews 11:6).
3. If you do feel led to join in a discussion, it is best to private message the person to set up a time to meet face to face or video chat if distance makes getting together impossible. (Luke 19:1-9; John 4:1-42)
4. Be willing to listen more than you speak, ask questions rather than make commends, and place the burden of proof on those who reject God. (James 1:19-26).
            These will help you as a believer and committed follower of Christ to graciously deal with people who are convinced of their own righteousness and intelligence. Introduce people to Christ by how you live and what you say and do, then let the Lord do what only He can do and bring salvation to the heart of a person.
            Praying beyond the physical:
Father, help me lean upon You and not my knowledge and understanding so I will know how to answer others.
Jesus, teach me to live more like You daily so Your character is evident in all I say and do.
Spirit, hold my tongue and make it submission to Your influence so I say only what glorifies the Father and Son.
Pastor Tom

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Faith is acting on God’s Word

“Faith is Acting on God’s Word”

Hebrews 11:23-29

What a person believes is revealed by what they do.

Trust God Over Self

Forfeit Comfort for Obedience

Trust God Over Self

Hebrews 11:23-26, NKJV

23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s command.

24 By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, 26 esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.

            There are two places in which faith is revealed in actions. The first is described in Hebrews 11:23-26. The choices and decisions of individuals where faith is acted out in obedience to the Word of God is fertile ground for the maturing of a person’s trust in Christ. The impact of faith displayed by an individual is small in scale most of the time in the lives of others, but powerful in testimony to the authenticity and reality of God’s Word for those who know them. This portion of Scripture reveals the significance of obedience to God and how it can literally bring about the will of God in future generations because past generations believed it was more important to obey God rather than people.

            “By faith Moses…was hidden three months by his parents…” is a far bigger decision than this simple fact sounds. It is crucial to understand the society the Hebrews were living in at the time Moses’ parents decided to hide their son.

8 Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. 9 And he said to his people, “Look, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we; 10 come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and it happen, in the event of war, that they also join our enemies and fight against us, and so go up out of the land.” 11 Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh supply cities, Pithom and Raamses. 12 But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were in dread of the children of Israel. 13 So the Egyptians made the children of Israel serve with rigor. 14 And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage—in mortar, in brick, and in all manner of service in the field. All their service in which they made them serve was with rigor.

15 Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, of whom the name of one was Shiphrah and the name of the other Puah; 16 and he said, “When you do the duties of a midwife for the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstools, if it is a son, then you shall kill him; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.” (Exodus 1:8-16, NKJV)       

            Population control is something which has been going on long before the United Nations Population Fund was introduced in 1969 to monitor and control the population of the world. The Egyptians attempted to control the growth of the Hebrews by ordering the death of all Hebrew male babies. This would have been an extremely effective way of stopping the people of God from increasing if the midwives would have chosen to obey the edict of the Pharaoh, “17 But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the male children alive” (Exodus 1:17, NKJV).

            Moses’ parents were able to act on their faith because the midwives who helped the Hebrew women in childbirth acted on faith first. The midwives made the hard decision to fear the Lord instead of fearing the Pharaoh which gave the Hebrew parents the choice and opportunity to act upon their faith which the Word of God has proclaimed. When an individual decides to act upon their faith it allows others to obey the commandments of God as well. If the midwives had not feared the Lord more than they feared Pharaoh, Moses would have been killed and the parents would have never had the chance to hide their child.

            There is a curious revelation in this passage which causes some to wonder why it was even stated in the text. Yet, every word of Scripture is “16 …given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NKJV). Hebrews 11:23 specifically states Moses was “…hidden three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child…” (NKJV) which reflects what is recorded in Exodus 2:2, “2 So the woman conceived and bore a son. And when she saw that he was a beautiful child, she hid him three months” (NKJV).

            Some have looked at this statement as the human understanding that a person who is pleasing to look upon and healthy has been blessed by God. People who are disfigured, disproportionate, or maimed are often viewed as cursed by God. A perfect example of this attitude was expressed by the disciples when they asked who sinned to cause a man to be born blind. “1 Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

            3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him” (John 9:1-3, NKJV).

            Moses’ parents would not have changed their minds about risking their lives to save the life of their child even if he was disfigured or challenged in any manner. Moses was looked upon as a gift from God and worth the effort to save because they believed God had a plan for every single person. They hid him three months till it became impossible to conceal his presence in their home. It was then that they once again acted on their faith in God and placed their precious child in the basket to be watched over by his older sister Miriam (Exodus 2:3-4).

            Faith is acting on God’s Word when it is inconvenient, detrimental to personal safety, and against the counsel of other people. It takes no faith to do what comes naturally for a person, when there is no cost involved, and when others are supportive of the actions to be taken. The fear of God must be greater than fear of people or the loss of money, property, or even life itself. Faith is genuine when a person responds in every circumstance with the conviction that God is faithful to His promises regardless of threats, obstacles, or impossibilities people see.

            Moses was discovered in the river by one of the Pharaoh’s daughters who God graciously desired to raise as her own Egyptian son even though she was fully aware of his nationality (Exodus 2:5-6). God rewarded Moses’ mother for her trust and faith by allowing her son to be returned to nurse until the child was weaned, but to receive wages for raising her child till the day Moses was delivered to Pharaoh’s house (Exodus 2:7-10).

            Each of these individuals would have missed out on blessings from God if they had feared mankind more than they feared the Lord. The midwives were blessed for their faith they acted upon. Moses’ parents were rewarded to spend time with their son openly without fear all because they were willing to trust God more than fearing what might happen to them if caught disobeying the command of Pharaoh.

            There are actions that are taken by people who love God and desire to obey Him that are not genuine acts of faith. For instance, Moses killing the Egyptian was not an act of faith but him acting on God’s behalf without God’s guidance. Moses denial of the luxuries and privileges of growing up in Pharaoh’s palace was certainly an act of faith on his part. Faith caused Moses to know the pleasures of this world only satisfies our evil hearts. Moses remembered that his parents, family, and people were suffering severely under the oppression of the Egyptians who he was living with intimately.

            This fact led for conflict between Moses and the Egyptians and also with his people. Moses attempted to show his solidarity with the Hebrews by acting out but not in faith; he took action that seemed good to him which caused Moses to flee into the wilderness.

11 Now it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out to his brethren and looked at their burdens. And he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren. 12 So he looked this way and that way, and when he saw no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. 13 And when he went out the second day, behold, two Hebrew men were fighting, and he said to the one who did the wrong, “Why are you striking your companion?”

14 Then he said, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you intend to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?”

So Moses feared and said, “Surely this thing is known!” 15 When Pharaoh heard of this matter, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh and dwelt in the land of Midian; and he sat down by a well. (Exodus 2:11-15, NKJV)

            The people talked about how God was going to one day come and rescue them from the heavy hand of Pharaoh. The hopeful account of Joseph’s instructions to take his bones out of Egypt when God would lead the people out of Egypt was remembered. All these things Moses would have been aware of due to the interest in the history and identity of his people. The mistake is made whenever a person attempts to do God’s will by what makes the most sense to them.

            Moses’ actions and life, which are recorded in Exodus, seem quite different than the brief light found recorded in Hebrews 11:24-25. These accounts parallel one another instead of contradicting because Moses is writing about his actions, while the writer of Hebrews is expressing God’s plan which Moses at the time could not comprehend. Moses was physically trying to bring about the will of God instead of doing things in God’s timing. The way something is done is just as important as the result of the deed. Moses’ acknowledged his murder of the Egyptian was wrong before he killed him because he checked to see if anyone was looking before he acted.

            There is no reason to act in faith secretly. Faith is acting on God’s Word in spite of the opinion, thoughts, or presences of others. Ultimately, Moses was truly called to lead God’s people out of the land of Egypt. He may have not understood exactly all that was going to entail, but knew there would be one greater than he who would liberate God’s people from more than their physical oppression, “18 I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him” (Deuteronomy 18:18, NKJV).

Forfeit Comfort for Obedience

Hebrews 11:27-29, NKJV

27 By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, lest he who destroyed the firstborn should touch them.

29 By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land, whereas the Egyptians, attempting to do so, were drowned.   

            The second place faith is revealed is described in Hebrews 11:27-29. The choices and decisions made by groups of people where faith is acted out in obedience to the Word of God is where the Holy Spirit makes His presence most evident among God’s people in society. The impact of faith displayed by multiple people is often on a large scale most of the time in the lives of others, dispelling the arguments and breaking down the defenses of those who have rejected Christ as their Savior and Lord.

            Verse 27 shifts the emphasis off of Moses personally and to him as the leader of the nation of Israel. Moses certainly fled Egypt in fear of the wrath of Pharaoh, but now it is recorded, “By faith [Moses] forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:27, NKJV). There is something about having an encounter with the living God which changes a person for the rest of their lives.

            There were many reasons for Moses to not go back to Egypt far beyond the reasons he had given to God as he talked with Him at the burning bush. Yet, Moses returned in spite of all the human reasons for it being illogical. He was acting on faith on God’s Word rather than acting on his own accord to do for God what only He could do for Himself. Moses was no longer thinking about himself and how he could accomplish God’s work in his life; he was simply following God’s direction so he could see how God was bringing about the reality of God’s promises through the obedience of God’s people.

            Moses and his brother Aaron followed God’s instruction in faith knowing full well their lives were in great danger if the Lord would be absent from their presence. The warnings and plagues the Lord brought upon the Egyptian people devastated the land and brought low all the major gods of the Egyptian nation. The final plague was the most devastating where God passed through the whole nation and struck down all the first born of those who did not have the blood of the lamb upon the door of their house (Exodus 12:29-30).

            The Israelites by faith followed Moses’ instruction from God believing death would come to the first born in their families just as God had promised would happen to the Egyptians. The act of faith Moses did upon his own home as the leader of the people caused the Lord to pass over the homes of the Israelites. The lack of faith in Pharaoh’s home and in the homes of the Egyptians caused the entire nation to mourn inconsolably while those of God’s people had reason to quietly thank God for their families. Following the instruction of God was tedious and specific but their obedience brought life.

            Obedience to God may cause conflict with the world and struggle within the heart, but life is always the result of submitting to God’s commands. What Moses did by leading the people was only a shadow of the leadership of the Spirit of Christ living in God’s people today. Christ spoke of this Himself to His disciples before His arrest:

5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.

9 “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.

11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:5-11, NKJV)

            The fullness of joy Jesus spoke of to His disciples during the Passover feast they were celebrating together was connected to the solemn joy of life the Israelites experienced in the midst of the tragedy of the Egyptians. The blood Jesus was about to shed, which He identified as being connected with the Passover meal, was about to give spiritual life rather than physical life like those of the exodus experienced that night when God passed through Egypt killing all the first born of man and beast alike.

            This life and joy is bound up in Christ through obedience to the will of the Father which Jesus made clear even in the beginning of His ministry when He said, “21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21, NKJV). Jesus can offer life and joy to all because He sacrificed Himself and the comforts of glory to endure for mankind what they could not provide for themselves.

42 But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. 44 And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45, NKJV)

14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16 Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. (John 13:14-17, NKJV)

            God never asks His people to do what He has not first done. Christ explained what the attitude of the disciples should be: serve as He has served. Jesus has forfeited comfort for obedience to God the Father as an example to all who would follow Him as Savior and Lord of their life.

            The obedience of the Israelites in spreading the blood on the mantle and door posts of their homes simply because God said He would not bring death to their homes when He saw the blood was an act of faith based on nothing more than what God had said. The mourning of the Egyptians during the night certainly tempered the joy of the Israelites, but those families praised God for His mercy and faithfulness. Mankind has short memories though which is why God would follow up the Passover with something far more dramatic and visual for His people to experience and all the nations to witness.

            “By faith they passed through the Red Sea on dry land…” God had a purpose for leading the people the long way around by the Red Sea. The Lord told Moses what He was planning and why.

1 Now the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 2 “Speak to the children of Israel, that they turn and camp before Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, opposite Baal Zephon; you shall camp before it by the sea. 3 For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, ‘They are bewildered by the land; the wilderness has closed them in.’ 4 Then I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, so that he will pursue them; and I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army, that the Egyptians may know that I am the Lord.” And they did so. (Exodus 14:1-4, NKJV emphasis added)

            The route God sent His people on to leave Egypt was impossible to navigate without following the direction of God. Death was impossible to avoid without obedience to His Word. Dealing with Pharaoh after years of running from him was impossible for Moses to do in his strength, but powerful enough to bring about God’s will in God’s way in God’s timing. All these things were uncomfortable, confusing, and caused Moses and the people to deny the fear they felt in their hearts in leading up to the event and going through the midst of it.

            It all must begin with the individual making the decision in their life to act on God’s Word in faith. The exodus began the moment a new Pharaoh came to power who acted upon his fear of God’s people rather than in faith of the living God. It was the act of faith of the midwives who recognized the preciousness of the miracle of birth which God has given to mankind. Moses’ parents who trusted the Lord to hide their son rather than kill him. Their act of leaving Moses to be found was one of faith by setting their son at the mercy of the Lord’s will for him. God taught Moses that deliverance of the Israelites would not come from his ability but through his obedience.

            It was also the people of God as a whole acting on the Word of God which Moses and Aaron spoke to them that brought life instead of death. The act of faith in following Moses to the Red Sea and then being willing to step out onto dry land where moments earlier the sea blocked their escape. All these individuals who acted in faith trusting God’s Word led to a nation’s ability to act in faith in the face of certain death. The rejoicing over the lifeless Egyptian soldiers washing ashore at their feet on the other side of the Red Sea would have never been seen unless someone takes that first step of faith and acts on God’s Word.

            Let us act in faith on God’s Word so the world may know that He is the Lord.


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God will never fail

            There are people who are knowledgeable in finances which forecast what they see in the economy and make decisions based on what they see is going to happen in order to protect their investments through down turns in the economy. Jeremiah was prophesying about the coming destruction of Jerusalem due to the sin of the people. A cousin of Jeremiah came to Jeremiah while he was in prison because he was liquidating his physical assets before they were taken over by force and had to suffer financial lose.

            8 Then Hanamel my uncle’s son came to me in the court of the prison according to the word of the Lord, and said to me, ‘Please buy my field that is in Anathoth, which is in the country of Benjamin; for the right of inheritance is yours, and the redemption yours; buy it for yourself.’ Then I knew that this was the word of the Lord. 9 So I bought the field from Hanamel, the son of my uncle who was in Anathoth, and weighed out to him the money—seventeen shekels of silver. 10 And I signed the deed and sealed it, took witnesses, and weighed the money on the scales. 11 So I took the purchase deed, both that which was sealed according to the law and custom, and that which was open; 12 and I gave the purchase deed to Baruch the son of Neriah, son of Mahseiah, in the presence of Hanamel my uncle’s son, and in the presence of the witnesses who signed the purchase deed, before all the Jews who sat in the court of the prison.

            13 “Then I charged Baruch before them, saying, 14 ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: “Take these deeds, both this purchase deed which is sealed and this deed which is open, and put them in an earthen vessel, that they may last many days.” 15 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: “Houses and fields and vineyards shall be possessed again in this land.” ’ (Jeremiah 32:9-15, NKJV)

            Jeremiah was called by God to invest in a future that looked impossible. This would never make financial sense and defies human logic to buy property that was about to be confiscated by another ruler. Jeremiah acted on the Word of God rather than relying on his wisdom. Jeremiah even doubted what he was being told to do until his cousin came to him asking Jeremiah to buy the field as God instructed him.

            Obedience to God will rarely make financial sense and often disagree with common sense. This is due to the fact that God desire people to prepare for the fulfillment of His promises instead of waiting in doubt that God is going to do the things He says He would do. It is much like the rich man who desired for Christ to reveal to him what he must do to be perfect and inherit eternal life (Matthew 19:16-22). This man was paralyzed to go and sell everything and follow Jesus as he was instructed to do. Where was the security in liquidating his assets? How would he live? Where would he find shelter? What would everyone say? These are all valid questions that are certainly going to be asked by others if a person does not wrestle with them in their heart.

            The answer to all these questions are found in the brief parable of the wise and foolish builders recorded in Matthew 7:24-27, “24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.

            26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall” (NKJV). Building life on the foundation of Jesus Christ is the only thing that is guaranteed never to change (Hebrews 13:8). Money and possessions will come and go. Other people will let us down in the same way we disappoint ourselves. Governments and philosophies will all fail to come through and eventually become unstable in sustaining a culture. The eternal truth in Scripture is the only thing a person can build their life upon that will never fail to give proper guidance and direction whenever God’s Word is allowed to be the ultimate authority by which everything else is measured against as the standard of life.

            Praying beyond the physical:

Father, remind me that You are the only One who will never fail and can be trusted in spite of the sin of people.

Jesus, place in heart and mind Your Word and teachings so it is You I build my life upon and nothing else.

Spirit, empower me in my weakness to submit to Your guidance and direction in all things to remain faithful.

 

Pastor Tom 


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Faith is Trusting in God’s Word

“Faith is Trusting in God’s Word”

Hebrews 11:8-22

Trust is revealed in faithfulness that defies circumstances.

Focus on God’s Ability

Proclaim God’s Kingdom

Live by Faith

Focus on God’s Ability

Hebrews 11:8-12, NKJV

8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; 10 for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

11 By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude—innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.      

            Can people really trust God’s Word? When people respond with faith to the things God has spoken they proclaim God’s Word is trustworthy. The challenge of trusting the Bible as God’s inspired Word is no different than the challenge those who are recorded in the Old Testament had to deal with in their time. Hearing God’s voice personally still needed to be accepted by faith and acted upon by each person.

            “By faith Abraham obeyed…” is a significant testimony about Abraham. There are two things the writer of Hebrews points out about Abraham to give evidence of his extreme trust that he demonstrated in what God said to him.

            Abraham left a guaranteed inheritance with his physical family for an inheritance that was unseen, impossible to comprehend, and with no immediate documented assurance of its reality beyond the promise of God. Genesis 12:1-3 records God’s calling of Abram to trust Him and leave his family and all that was familiar.

1 Now the Lord had said to Abram:

“Get out of your country,

From your family

And from your father’s house,

To a land that I will show you.

2 I will make you a great nation;

I will bless you

And make your name great;

And you shall be a blessing.

3 I will bless those who bless you,

And I will curse him who curses you;

And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (NKJV)         

            In this calling of God Abram is receiving no specific address, country of destination, or even distance that will have to be traveled. There is a possibility Abram knew where God was going to be leading him. Genesis 11:31-32 records this often overlooked detail about Abram’s father,

31 And Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot, the son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they went out with them from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan; and they came to Haran and dwelt there. 32 So the days of Terah were two hundred and five years, and Terah died in Haran. (NKJV)

            Terah was headed to Canaan when he left Ur. There are no such things as coincidences since God is sovereign over all things, so it was no accident that God was directing Abram’s father to where He wanted Abram to eventually end up living. Stephen’s testimony before the high priests supports that Terah was led by God to go the Canaan with his son Abram which God had laid upon their heart. “2 And he said, “Brethren and fathers, listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, 3 and said to him, ‘Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you’” (Acts 7:2-3, NKJV).

            Moses says nothing about where the call of God to Abram happened in Genesis 12:4, “4 So Abram departed as the Lord had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran” (NKJV). It simply says that Abram was seventy-five when he departed Haran, not that the call of God took place there. There is no discrepancy between Stephen’s witness before the high priest and what is recorded by Moses in Genesis. Abram was called by God to go to the land of Canaan, but stalled in the journey in Haran.

            There are times in walking with God that distractions divert and cause the people of God to get side tracked. Terah is credited for taking his son Abram and his family along with his grandson Lot and his family to travel to Canaan. There was no specific place given to Abram, so he certainly did not know where he was going other than a general area. This is something that all of those who have answered the call of God can relate to personally. God gives as much information as necessary as His people need to know at the appropriate time; not before it is needed and never later than it ought to be known.

            Abram was moved by faith to answer the call of God in obedience to Him on the little information that he was given because he trusted that God was faithful to His word. This faith moved Abram, but also caused him to live knowing that he would not personally see the promise of God come about. Abram trusted God beyond what he could see, know, and imagine.

            “By faith Sarah herself received strength…” is speaking of more than the physical ability to conceive and bear a child in her old age. Sarah judged God faithful to fulfill the promise He made to her,

10 And He said, “I will certainly return to you according to the time of life, and behold, Sarah your wife shall have a son.”

 (Sarah was listening in the tent door which was behind him.) 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, well advanced in age; and Sarah had passed the age of childbearing. 12 Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, “After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?” (Genesis 18:10-12, NKJV)

            The things God promises and says will nearly always be beyond the capacity of those who hear and receive to fully comprehend and see how it could possibly be true if they do not listen and see in faith and trust in God. This is why Abraham and Sarah only did what they had done because of faith.

            God has not changed how He deals with people. People’s ability to understand the things of God has not been lost in the twenty-first century. The only reason why the people of God are not doing the same things we read about in the Scriptures is due to the fact that those who claim to worship God have lost their faith in His Word and have become dependent upon mankind’s logic and understanding. Believers today must learn how to trust God’s ability to do all He has promised and proclaimed in spite of their inability to fathom how it could possibly be true.

Proclaim God’s Kingdom

Hebrews 11:13-16, NKJV

13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. 15 And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.

            Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Sarah all died in faith never seeing for themselves the fulfillment of the promises of God which He had told them in their fullness. These elders and many others who have gone nameless throughout history “…embraced [God’s promises] and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth”. The promises of God have never been grounded in fulfillment in the temporal things of this world which has been corrupted by sin.

            Those who claim that God desires to bless people with health and being void of sickness and harm here upon this earth now are cheapening the reward of God, and draining the promises of God of their ability to strengthen God’s people in the midst of hardship. Worldly wealth is limited; it is easily lost and stolen. Health will always be fleeting since the curse of death is upon mankind physically due to the consequences of sin. Pleasure and comfort in this world is fleeting at best and can be destroyed with the change in weather, someone’s choice to sin against another person, or the careless words spoken by someone.

            Scriptures about God’s promises are often limited to the immediate circumstances of people rather than accepting that they are looking forward to something that presently we cannot even imagine. A perfect example of this is Jeremiah 29:11, “11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (NKJV). God spoke this to those in Jerusalem who were about to be carried into captivity for seventy years. Today, many take this same passage and claim that God is speaking it to them about their immediate situation of how God desires to turn things around for their physical comfort. Another is Romans 8:28, “28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (NKJV). The ultimate fulfillment is not in the lifetime of the individual who claims these promises of God, but can be held in expectation in eternity in God’s presence to be greater than the physical “good” that is often imagined by people in the present.

            It is God’s kingdom that they hoped for which cannot be merged with this world that has been tainted by sin as it is presently. Therefore, there must be a new heaven and new earth to bring about in the fullness of God’s plans for “…a future and a hope…” for “…those who are the called according to His purpose”. Those who are proclaiming what has come to be known as the “Health and Wealth Gospel” have stripped the power of the eternal promises of God and reduced the hope He gives to people to knowing more than brief periods of comfort and moments of happiness. God has something greater in store for those who love Him than what can be seen and experienced in this lifetime.

            The people who are recorded in Scripture that took amazing steps of faith to do the unthinkable, go through incredible suffering without losing joy or peace, and constantly were unfulfilled in their endeavors and striving in this world, had their eyes on something other than this world. They were able to see through eyes of faith and with a heart that trusted in what God had told them.

            Those who claim faith in Christ like those who trusted in God before His coming must not lose heart and look back. The temptation to return in order to be comforted in the moment is great. The Israelites coming out of Egypt thought the hardships in the past were much more bearable than their present situation and longed to return to slavery. Jesus made it clear about those who choose to place their faith in Him that, “…No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62, NKJV).

            These are strong words from Jesus and the writer of Hebrews. Is there an attitude and knowledge among those who call themselves disciples of Christ that we are strangers and pilgrims in this world? If God’s people see themselves in this manner then all the things of this world such as wealth, possessions, heartaches, trials, and circumstances are seen as tools to reveal the truth of God to a world that is spiritually dead in their sins rather than things to be hoarded or experiences to be avoided.

            There is no doubt time is short whether speaking in terms of a person’s lifespan or the return of Christ. God’s people ought to be rejoicing over their pending arrival in the kingdom of God and the coming of Christ, whichever is to come first. God’s people ought to be exhausting their resources, time, and energy on kingdom matters more than immediate comfort. Those of the past never accomplished this flawlessly and neither shall we. The question still needs to be asked, is anything more important or pressing in all earthly existence than revealing salvation by grace alone through faith in Christ Jesus?

            Hebrews 11:16 should be one of the verses that believers should place in areas where it can be seen everywhere. “16 But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them” (NKJV). If the enemy of God can distract the attention of God’s people to desire this life and sinful world more than His heavenly courts, he has succeeded in minimizing the power of God through His people. The witness of a life that is unsatisfied with the temporary pleasures of this life is eroded, reducing faith to nothing more than empty words and actions.

            God must never be put to shame in this way and be ashamed of His people, but lifted up to reflect His honor and glory by their resolute testimony of what God has prepared for those who love Him which is beyond their comprehension.

Live by Faith

Hebrews 11:17-22, NKJV

17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18 of whom it was said, “In Isaac your seed shall be called,” 19 concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.

20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.

21 By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff.

22 By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the departure of the children of Israel, and gave instructions concerning his bones.

            Those who trust and live upon the Word of God were and still are challenged daily. Fears, doubts, and unbelief will continue to plague all who seek to submit to the Word of God in defiance of the desires of their sinful hearts. The failures and stumbles during the journey of faith with the Lord on this earth do not define the child of God; it is what a person does in response to their failures that will define them. Failures will either proclaim God as sovereign Master of life or reduce God to nothing more than just another idol worshiped by people that are powerless to save.

            Abraham was willing to sacrifice his only son to the Lord having faith that God could and would raise the dead. Isaac trusted that God’s will would be done even though he was fooled by Jacob to bless him rather than his brother Esau. Jacob never gave up hope and continued to bless even though his life was quickly passing away and would not see the fulfillment of God’s promises in his lifetime. Joseph in faith made the people promise that when they left Egypt as God had promised after a long period of slavery to take his bones with them.

            Each of these men acted on the things God had said as if they would come about in the span of their lives, when in reality many generations would pass before the things God had promised would be realized. These are the things that have been recorded for all who would read and hear about the great things God has done and said so that we would believe and live out the truth of God before all people.

            The references made about Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph here in these verses may sound like these men never struggled or wrestled with the turmoil of hearing what God says, but seeing everything around them as just the opposite of how things were in their lives. The difference about these men listed here and everyone else is their refusal to accept that God was anything else but trustworthy.

            Abraham when he was journeying to go and sacrifice his only son simply because God said to do it said some amazing things:

4 Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off. 5 And Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.”

6 So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together. 7 But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!”

And he said, “Here I am, my son.”

Then he said, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”

8 And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” So the two of them went together. (Genesis 22:4-8, NKJV)

            Abraham’s faith allowed him to know that he and Isaac would be returning to the men even though his plan was to sacrifice his son as a blood sacrifice to God. He also comforted Isaac’s questioning mind about the sacrifice because Abraham trusted that God had plans he was not aware of at the time. Isaac, Abraham’s son was spared, but the Son of God was cruelly sacrificed before God to atone for the sins of all people. God did indeed “provide a sacrifice for Himself” in the Lamb of God, His own Son.

            Isaac still trusted God to bring about His will in spite of being fooled by Jacob to receive the blessing of his brother Esau which Isaac intended for him because Esau was his favorite.

32 And his father Isaac said to him, “Who are you?”

So he said, “I am your son, your firstborn, Esau.”

33 Then Isaac trembled exceedingly, and said, “Who? Where is the one who hunted game and brought it to me? I ate all of it before you came, and I have blessed him—and indeed he shall be blessed.” (Genesis 27:32-33, NKJV)

            Isaac had chosen Esau, but the Lord had chosen Jacob. The blessing was certainly stolen from Esau. Rebekah manipulated her husband and did what was wrong by instructing Jacob to lie. Does this make what they did right? Certainly not! God brought His will about in spite of the failures and sins of His people. Isaac could not take back what he had blessed Jacob with even though he was tricked. Jacob trusted the Lord to work things out regardless of the actions of others.

            Jacob was reminded about the infinite power of God when he and his beloved son Joseph were reunited, “9 Joseph said to his father, “They are my sons, whom God has given me in this place.”

            And he said, “Please bring them to me, and I will bless them.” 10 Now the eyes of Israel were dim with age, so that he could not see. Then Joseph brought them near him, and he kissed them and embraced them. 11 And Israel said to Joseph, “I had not thought to see your face; but in fact, God has also shown me your offspring!” (Genesis 48:9-11, NKJV). Jacob was coming to the end of his days and blessed his grandsons Ephraim and Manasseh as his own children proclaiming the blessing of God overcame physical limitations.

            Joseph also lived with the assurance that all God had told Abraham was as good as present reality even though none of it looked probable in his day prophesied, “24 And Joseph said to his brethren, “I am dying; but God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land to the land of which He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” 25 Then Joseph took an oath from the children of Israel, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here” (Genesis 50:24-25, NKJV). Joseph was still trusting in the Lord to fulfill all that was promised to Abraham generations before. This is the perfect example of what it means to live by faith and not by sight.

            It is not blind faith that God’s people have; it is faith in the trustworthiness of God and that His Word is true no matter how the current circumstances defy their reality. Living by faith is trusting in God’s Word. The glorious miracles and majesty of God that was displayed in the past can and is still seen presently in the twenty-first century when the people of God refuse to place their trust and hope in anything but the God who created and is sovereign over all things seen and unseen.

            Does this describe how life is being lived by the people of God today? If not, it is time that the children of God live by faith in God and forsake all faith in themselves and all other things.


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God’s Word is Truth

Lifespans in Genesis

 
There is much wasted time in the church discussing things that are plain and simple about Scripture if we truly believe that, “16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NKJV). When Christians proclaim this and then creatively attempt to fit God’s Word into the logic of mankind, then we make 2 Timothy 3:16-17 a false statement and discount the Bible completely. One example would be when we read passages like:

            12 Cainan lived seventy years, and begot Mahalalel. 13 After he begot Mahalalel, Cainan lived eight hundred and forty years, and had sons and daughters. 14 So all the days of Cainan were nine hundred and ten years; and he died.

                15 Mahalalel lived sixty-five years, and begot Jared. 16 After he begot Jared, Mahalalel lived eight hundred and thirty years, and had sons and daughters. 17 So all the days of Mahalalel were eight hundred and ninety-five years; and he died.
(Genesis 5:12-17, NKJV) There are believers who want to discount the ages of the genealogy of Genesis 5 because we cannot fathom people living 800 and 900 years. It is true that achieving the age of 90 and 120 is rare in the world today even with our modern medicine. When one part of the Bible is called into question, the entire Bible is open to being discredited among God’s people and the world. There is no picking and choosing what parts of the Bible can be taken literally and which parts need to be viewed figuratively.

            God’s Word is truth from Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” – Revelation 22:21, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen” (NKJV). It is true that the Bible is made up of many different kinds of literature styles such as prose and poetry presented in letters, prophecies, historical records, and genealogies. Poetry is certainly to be read differently than prose writing, but it does not make it any less true because it is poetic language that is used rather than formal sentence structure.

            Genesis 5 is not written in poetic form but in straight forward sentences that simply record the history of actual people who lived and had children. These are not groups of people who lived these lifespans, but individuals who benefited from the beginning of creation when mankind was intended by God to live eternally. It was the rebellion of people against God that brought sin and death into the world. The eternal life God created people to live lingered in the physical make up of mankind for centuries until well after the great flood. This view stays faithful to the authority of Scripture and confirms 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Any view different from this erodes the authority of the Word of God in a person’s heart.

            God will never fit into the logic of humanity; He is infinite and we are finite. There will be many who are more educated, scholarly, and wiser than I am who will take issue with this position that is held in my heart. I hold these positions because I firmly believe 2 Timothy 3:16-17, John 5:46-47, “6 For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”; Ephesians 3:20-21, “20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen (NKJV).

            How can we possibly say that Moses only wrote truthfully about Jesus and was inaccurate about everything else he wrote by inspiration of God? How is it possible that we can claim that God can do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think and proclaim the ages in Genesis 5 are figurative or referring to something other than individuals? Yes, it is impossible for us to fathom how God can do these things, but He has done them nonetheless, believe it or not.

            Praying beyond the physical:

Father, stop me from reducing You to nothing bigger than my understanding and limitations.

Jesus, teach me to trust in Your Word rather than my understanding and logic

Spirit, increase my faith so nothing You share about the Father and Christ is disregarded by me.

 

Pastor Tom


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Calling vs. Profession

Calling versus profession is the difference between submitting to God’s authority or doing what seems best in a person’s own understanding. This was especially true in Saul of Tarsus’ activity following his conversion on the road to Damascus. Paul explains his credentials to preach to the Galatians in this manner,

            “15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, 16 to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.

            18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and remained with him fifteen days” (Galatians 1:15-18, NKJV).

            Apostle Paul’s ministry was based strictly on the authority and call of God for him to preach the Gospel of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles. He recognized first of all that God was the One who had chosen him for salvation as well as being an apostle (one who is sent) of the Gospel. There were three and a half years spent in seclusion from everyone and everything to be taught by Christ himself in Arabia before going to Jerusalem to visit with Peter.

            I have heard this passage referenced to and used this passage myself when speaking with people about entering into full-time or part-time pulpit or missionary ministry within the body of Christ. This passage speaks to more than ministers in pulpit and missionary ministries in a tradition sense, but to all believers who are working in whatever fields of employment they find themselves in.

            It is clear from Scripture that whatever we do as children of God we must do it for God’s glory and as if we are doing it exclusively for Him. “17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him…23 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:17, 23-34, NKJV). God does not call all His people to be in full-time or part-time ministry behind the pulpit of a congregation. He has called some to be truck drivers, doctors, engineers, dishwashers, cooks, excavators, clerks, accountants, factory works, farmers, as well as any occupation that children of God are found employed as in their life.

            Is what you are doing today what God has called you to do, or is it something you chose to do because it was good money, what was available at the time, or because someone said you would be good at it? God has a calling on the lives of all His people. It uses their spiritual gifts and natural talents to help them grow in their faith in Him both on and off duty. Paul took time to make sure that his calling into ministry was not influenced by others, but was what God called and equipped him to do in his life.

            Make what you do today your mission field. This does not mean that you become an outspoken evangelist on the employer’s time, but you allow your diligence and character on the job and off the job to be focused on honoring God in all that you do. I have said it many times and will continue to do so: Disciples of Jesus ought to be the most sought after workers and most diligent employees and business owners because they are not working for a paycheck, but striving to lift the name of Christ in all they do. When believers do this they are a blessing to their fellow co-workers, those they are employed by, and serve.

            Praying beyond the physical:

Father, correct my vision and attitude if I stop seeing what I do as a ministry onto You and only see a job I do.

Jesus, instill in my heart a desire to worship the Father in all I do in all my waking hours of life.

Spirit, empower me to work in a manner that reflects the Father’s character and the submission of Christ.

 

Pastor Tom


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Faith is Beyond Sight

“Faith is Beyond Sight”

Hebrews 11:1-7

Faith is worthless unless it is trusting in God for all things.

Faith is Trusting God’s Word

Faith is Acting on Belief

 

Faith is Trusting God’s Word

Hebrews 11:1-3, NKJV

1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2 For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.

3 By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.

           

            Faith is one word which the servants of God use as much as those who have no affiliation with the one, true God. Therefore, it is important that we first of all identify what God’s people are speaking about when they refer to faith so to keep from being confused with the idea of faith all people have in some measure.

            The writer of Hebrews begins this section with, “Now faith is…” The Greek word translated faith here is “pistis” meaning faith: firm persuasion, conviction, belief in the truth, veracity, reality. The next word we need to be sure we grasp the meaning of is the Greek word translated substance. This word is “hupostasis” which means support that is essence or assurance, confidence, confident, substance. God is explaining to all who read His Word that faith is something solid that is evidenced by facts rather than imagination of people or their personal preferences. Faith that is based on anything other than truth is founded in a lie and hopes in things that will never come about since it is nothing that is true.

            Faith is more than some abstract idea or feeling; it is the very substance of what is hoped for which is not seen presently, but has been proven to be true. The writer of Hebrews points out that this is how the “elders obtained a good testimony”. The elders being spoken of here are all those who lived and worshiped the Lord before the coming of the Messiah. These people were faithful in spite of the lack of the availability of God’s Word at their fingertips and on demand as those in recent centuries have had available to them. These elders strictly took God at His verbal word that was passed down to them by those who came before.

            This in itself is difficult for the skeptical attitudes of our modern societies to accept, especially when the idea of absolute truth is called into question. How can there possibly be any evidence of anything if truth is some abstract concept which has no foundation to rest upon? Yet, truth is something mankind cannot escape. Truth exists and is true regardless of whether it is accepted or denied by people. Truth is independent of everything and is unavoidable no matter what is done to escape it. The people of the past who placed their faith in what was true placed their faith in the Word which God has spoken. They found that their faith was not misplaced because they prioritized their life and viewed everything as based upon what they believed.

            The writer of Hebrews explains this “good testimony” they obtained beginning with accepting, “…the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible” (Hebrews 11:3, NKJV). Genesis 1:1-3 says,

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. (NKJV)

And then in Genesis 2:1-7 explains,

1 Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. 2 And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.

4 This is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, 5 before any plant of the field was in the earth and before any herb of the field had grown. For the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the earth, and there was no man to till the ground; 6 but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground.

7 And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. (NKJV)

            Prior to Moses being inspired to write these things down for future generations this information was passed down verbally through the generations. In the critical mindset of people today there is nothing that would be convincing to stand as fact or truth. A critical mind is not exclusive to the twenty-first century, but has been part of mankind from the beginning. The evidence of this is seen for us in how easily the devil deceived Adam and Eve into breaking the commandment of God not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Solomon centuries later confirmed this when he was inspired to write,

9 That which has been is what will be, that which is done is what will be done,

And there is nothing new under the sun. 10 Is there anything of which it may be said, “See, this is new”? It has already been in ancient times before us.

11 There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of things that are to come by those who will come after. (Ecclesiastes 1:9-11, NKJV)

            The elders who heard and placed their faith in the God who they heard made all things out of nothing that was made visible to them did so because of the evidence they found. What evidence is there? Apostle Paul proclaimed, “19 …what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20, NKJV). The evidence of God as the Creator and not the fanciful ideas of people trying to figure out all the answers to life by their own wisdom and knowledge are all around people daily.

            The question has been asked of God’s people, “What about those people who were not born in America that never heard about Jesus?” Fact number one is Christianity did not begin with America; it began in the Middle East at Jerusalem by those who were first disciples of Christ and were later called Christians (Acts 2:1-5, 11:25-26). The question is also wrong because God has been revealing Himself from the very beginning of Creation; His fingerprints are everywhere.

            The order, symmetry, balance, and detail of the world are proof beyond a shadow of a doubt that all was created through intelligent design rather than chaotic, random chance. In fact, even what is seen as random can be measured and approximated through mathematical algorithms. This is only possible since there are established fixed things in creation that are consistent. The only reason why science, mathematics, and technology even exist and can make the discoveries and advancements it has made are due to the balance and order God has established in creation itself. The elders who had a good testimony simply recognized by trial and error that what they heard about God was true based on the factual evidence they discovered by submitting to and challenging what God had established in His creation.

            Science, mathematics, and physics are the greatest evidences of the existence of God and His character. It is the interpretation of mankind that has skewed the evidence to support the sinful desires of their hearts that desire to usurp the authority of God and deny His ownership of all things. The faith of those who turn to God is in no way blind, but supported by evidence that is impossible to deny and can be discovered to be true.

            Take for instance question of the origin of the chicken or any animal that is hatched from an egg: Which came first, the animal or the egg? If you would say the egg, then you have to ask where did the egg come from since there was no animal to lay it. If you would say the animal, then how does it exist if it did not come from an egg, or why did it change to coming from an egg if it did not develop that way from the beginning? This is really a puzzle which theory of evolution cannot answer adequately, but the Bible can answer specifically.

            Evolutionary theory says two non-chickens mated, laid an egg, but a mutation in the DNA produced the first chicken. The Bible says God created the animals. If evolutionary theory is to be believed why are no eggs continuing to be mutated into other species today? If God is to be believed, then there is no problem because the chickens are doing what they have been designed by Him to do: lay eggs and produce more chickens. It seems faith in God is far more consistent than faith in a theory, evolutionary or otherwise.

            Interestingly enough, the idea of mankind is always contrary to the truth which God makes plain in His Word and His revelation in creation. God says the animal came first; mankind says the egg came first goes through some extensive explanation and still ends up at a suggestion of the egg came first. The different conclusions in this question that has been debated for centuries is also clarified by God’s Word, “27 God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence” (1 Corinthians 1:27-29, NKJV).

Faith is Acting on Belief

Hebrews 11:4-7, NKJV

4 By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.

5 By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, “and was not found, because God had taken him”; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God. 6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

7 By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.   

            Acting on the truth that God is sovereign over and Creator of all things is life transforming if a person truly believes that these facts are true. The writer of Hebrews refers to three elders who lived their life in full belief of the above fact. Abel, Enoch, and Noah were three men who acted on their faith in God in spite of the cost they paid for doing so.

            “By faith Abel offered…” is how the first elder is introduced. The sacrifice Abel offered was of the shedding of blood (Genesis 4:4-5). Abel acknowledged his sinfulness before God by shedding the blood of an innocent animal in order to bring his sacrifice before the Lord. This was how God had taught Adam and Eve about sacrifice immediately following their sin and made them durable clothing instead of the leaves they covered themselves in after their eyes were opened (Genesis 3:21).

            Abel was declared righteous because he followed the instruction of God that was given to him through his parents. Cain was certainly aware of the need for a blood sacrifice to make atonement for sin, but chose to offer God what he thought was good enough, after all it was from what he had harvested. God deserves obedience; He is unmoved by what people believe God ought to be satisfied with in their mind. Abel was righteous in the sight of God since he found atonement through the shed blood of the animal which died in Abel’s place. Abel’s recognition of his need for atonement meant there was nothing that was not worth the effort and sacrifice for God.

            This same attitude can be seen in the apostles as they ministered before the Lord in sharing the Gospel which eventually cost each of them their lives. There are no clear records of most of the apostles’ deaths, but it is reported that Peter and Paul were both martyred by Emperor Nero in 66 A.D.; Andrew is said to have been crucified in Greece; Thomas is claimed to have died after being thrust through with four soldier’s spears; Philip is suspected to have been cruelly put to death in Asia Minor after converting a Roman proconsul’s wife; Bartholomew possibly was martyred in Southern Arabia; Matthew is believed by many to have been stabbed to death in Ethiopia; James is reported to have been stoned and then clubbed to death; Simon the Zealot was murdered in Persia; Matthais is believed to have been burned to death in Syria; John is the only one who escaped being boiled to death in Rome and died a natural death.

            Abel was killed by his brother’s anger because he was faithful to be obedient to God. The Apostles died because they saw sacrificing their lives to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ a worthy price to pay for the privilege. If following Christ is not worth dying for, how much is it really worth? Do you believe that God will be satisfied with what you decide He is worth? Cain surely believed he brought a sacrifice worthy of God in his mind, but was rejected. Jesus has declared what God the Father views as a worthy sacrifice, “21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21, NKJV).

            Abel still spoke even though he was dead because he was the first person to enter into Paradise where Jesus would descend to and lead the captives free after His crucifixion and before His resurrection. God was faithful to Abel and watched over him because he was righteous in His eyes through the sacrifice Abel offered to Him.

            Next we go forward a few generations to the son of Jared who was Enoch. “Enoch…did not see death…because…he pleased God” (Hebrews 11:5, NKJV). Little that is known about Enoch is found in Hebrews 11:5 and Genesis 5:18, 21-24, “18 Jared lived one hundred and sixty-two years, and begot Enoch…21 Enoch lived sixty-five years, and begot Methuselah. 22 After he begot Methuselah, Enoch walked with God three hundred years, and had sons and daughters. 23 So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. 24 And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him” (NKJV).

            Enoch is listed in the genealogies found in 1 Chronicles 1:3 and Luke 3:37. The final mention of Enoch is in the letter of Jude 1:14-15 concerning this prophesy of Enoch,

14 Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, 15 to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him. (NKJV)

            Enoch pleased God is the testimony which he was known for during his three hundred and sixty-five years upon this earth before God took him into Paradise. We know that no one, regardless of how righteous they were considered by God by their obedience and submission to His will, could enter into heaven until the resurrection of Christ from the grave. It is interesting that this prophesy of Enoch God inspired Jude to record in Scripture speaks of the coming judgment of God on all the ungodly ways of humanity.

            There is no record of specific things that Enoch did during his lifetime. The only thing about him proclaims that he pleased God. How is it possible to please God without performance of rituals and sacrifices? God answers this through the inspired writers of Scripture, “4 “Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4, NKJV); “16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:16-17, NKJV).

            One question Jesus asked during His ministry on the earth should cause all those who call upon His name for salvation to pause and reflect, “8 …when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8, NKJV). Enoch understood long before Apostle Paul was inspired by God to pen the words that he had to walk in life by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). Enoch walked with God is a profound testimony to the lifestyle of Enoch. Why the Lord chose to have him and Elijah the prophet for that fact skip death we can only speculate. I personally believe that these are the two witnesses spoken of in Revelation 11:1-14. It is there that these two men of God will experience death. Scripture makes clear that it is appointed unto man to die once and then face judgment (Hebrews 9:27).

            “By faith Noah…moved with godly fear…” is how we are introduced to the third elder who had a good testimony before God. The Lord warned Noah of the coming flood that would come upon the whole earth. It had never rained up to this point in all the history of the world since God watered the whole earth from the mist that rose up from the ground (Genesis 2:6).

            Noah had nothing in which he could refer to in order to comprehend what God was saying He was about to do, or fathom the size of the project God called him to undertake. The people taunted him for building a ship of enormous proportions when there was no water near which would be able to accommodate a ship of that size. Yet, Noah accepted that God could and would do all that He said He would do based solely on the Lord’s word to him.

            It is recorded that Noah was “moved by godly fear.” Noah trusted that God was telling the truth, but it was the fear of the reality of what was God was saying that motivated him to act with urgency to fulfill all God instructed him to build according to the specifications God provided for him. Imagine the amazement Noah would have been struck with upon hear God say,

13 And God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth. 14 Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch. 15 And this is how you shall make it: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. 16 You shall make a window for the ark, and you shall finish it to a cubit from above; and set the door of the ark in its side. You shall make it with lower, second, and third decks. 17 And behold, I Myself am bringing floodwaters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die. 18 But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall go into the ark—you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. (Genesis 6:13-18, NKJV)

            God has revealed the same kinds of things to the Church, but are those who call themselves followers of Christ by faith moved with godly fear, have a testimony of walking by faith with God daily, and like Abel by faith sacrificing the best of what is possessed even to forfeiting physical life itself? Jesus has made it clear, “12 “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work” (Revelation 22:12, NKJV).

            Faith is trusting and acting upon things that cannot be seen with physical eyes and comprehended in mankind’s understanding; it is trusting in and depending upon God to do just exactly as He has promised He would in and through His people. If we are not living and walking by faith, the life we live is nothing more than a lie.


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Forgiveness is Putting Away Guilt

“Forgiveness is Putting Away Guilt”

Deuteronomy 21:1-19

Christ has satisfied the wrath of God on sin which covers over lingering guilt of past sin.

Sin Contaminates Everything

Christ Cleanses Consciousness

 

Sin Contaminates Everything

Deuteronomy 21:1-4, NKJV

1 “If anyone is found slain, lying in the field in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to possess, and it is not known who killed him, 2 then your elders and your judges shall go out and measure the distance from the slain man to the surrounding cities. 3 And it shall be that the elders of the city nearest to the slain man will take a heifer which has not been worked and which has not pulled with a yoke. 4 The elders of that city shall bring the heifer down to a valley with flowing water, which is neither plowed nor sown, and they shall break the heifer’s neck there in the valley.       

            In the instruction the Lord is giving to His people as they prepare to enter into the land that He had promised to them, God makes it a point to help them know how to deal with even the things which should not happen in any society. The Lord through Moses is informing the people what to do in the case of an unsolved murder. Many who are not familiar with Scripture believe it to be an impractical book containing instructions on religious ceremonials and ancient laws that have no bearing on the present day. The Word of God is filled with literally everything that a person needs to know about human psychology, ethical business practices, and every kind of way to handle whatever a person will encounter during their lifetime.

            God never ignores the reality of sin and the problems it causes for individuals and society as a whole. For instance, murder has been present in the world and will continue to be a daily occurrence until sin is eliminated in the creation of the new heavens and the new earth (Isaiah 66:22; Revelation 21:1). The first recorded act of sin after the spiritual suicide of Adam and Eve in their rebellion against God which allowed death to enter into God’s creation is Cain killing his brother Abel. “8 Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him” (Genesis 4:8, NKJV).

            God dealt with Cain by placing a curse upon him that separated him out away from other people and prevented others from taking vengeance on behalf of Abel. There are times when it appears like the murderer escapes justice of the authority the Lord has established in the world through human government. Those who take the life of another in the act of murder will never escape the justice of God even though they are never identified by human government authorities. This is why God provides a way to deal with the guilt attached to murder that is unsolved and void of closure for communities.

            God begins with “If anyone is found slain…” This implies that all human life is of equal value in spite of age, gender, status, title, or location. God’s command and ideal for people is not to kill one another, but to treat one another with respect and dignity. This is seen in the last six of the Ten Commandments,

16 ‘Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may be well with you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you.

17 ‘You shall not murder.

18 ‘You shall not commit adultery.

19 ‘You shall not steal.

20 ‘You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

21 ‘You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife; and you shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field, his male servant, his female servant, his ox, his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.’ (Deuteronomy 5:16-21, NKJV)

These commandments of God are affirmed and expounded upon in the social laws God has given to mankind to reinforce the preciousness of all human life.

32 ‘You shall rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man, and fear your God: I am the Lord.

33 ‘And if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him. 34 The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

35 ‘You shall do no injustice in judgment, in measurement of length, weight, or volume. 36 You shall have honest scales, honest weights, an honest ephah, and an honest hin: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt. (Leviticus 19:32-36, NKJV)

            Life is precious and valuable in God’s sight. This does not mean that death did not exist prior to the sin of Adam and Eve; it merely means death was a reality God protected and spared people from in His grace and mercy. Death was something God never intended mankind to experience. Death is a reality for mankind due to the rebellion against God and lack of trust in Him. Sin was revealed and brought death into the perfection of God’s creation of harmony and glory for people to experience loss, pain, frustration, and separation.

            Those who break God’s law experience the guilt of disobedience by being out of sync with God’s established order. Guilt causes people to hide their deed (Genesis 3:8), justify their actions by giving reasons why they should not be punished (1 Samuel 13:11-12), or attempt to silence all who know about what they have done (Jeremiah 18:18). The idea of putting away guilt is more than removing feelings and thoughts that plague people after their iniquity; it is the idea of bringing restoration and harmony between God and His people and His creation again. The death of a person found murdered and lying in a field somewhere defiles the land and the community that is nearby where the body is slain. Sin has drastic effects on people and property spiritually that goes unnoticed by most people; yet it displays itself by spiritual darkness in that place where human life has been taken.

            The incident God refers to in this portion of Scripture is a hypothetical instance where someone who is guilty of murder cannot be found which leaves the guilt of the murder upon the people of the nearest town. The people of the town may have had nothing at all to do with the person found in the field or had any connection with their death. God in His sovereignty knows who the guilty person(s) is even though the person who committed the murder is never found by human authorities.

            It might seem unfair to many who read this passage in a western context; yet it is the consequences of sin that must be dealt with in the land and in the hearts and minds of God’s people. Therefore, God instructs them in this ceremony to remove their guilt and remember their underserved forgiveness of God.

            A heifer, a cow who has never born a calf, that has never been worked or had a yoke placed upon it was to be brought down to a place where there was some kind of running water which has never been plowed. The requirements of the location where the heifer was to have its neck broken was set apart from where people lived and unusable for agriculture. The land and heifer in this sense represented innocence. The heifer’s blood was not spilt so it was a peace offering to the Lord rather than a blood sacrifice before Him.

            This ceremony was to provide the people with an understanding that atonement had to be made by someone in the case of murder. The Lord gave instructions previously concerning the person found guilty of manslaughter and murder, “4 …Whoever kills his neighbor unintentionally, not having hated him in time past… 5 …he shall flee to one of these cities and live; 6 lest the avenger of blood, while his anger is hot, pursue the manslayer and overtake him, because the way is long, and kill him, though he was not deserving of death, since he had not hated the victim in time past…11 “But if anyone hates his neighbor, lies in wait for him, rises against him and strikes him mortally, so that he dies…12 …deliver him over to the hand of the avenger of blood, that he may die. 13 Your eye shall not pity him, but you shall put away the guilt of innocent blood from Israel, that it may go well with you (Deuteronomy 19:4-6, 11-13, emphasis added; see also Numbers 35:9-24).

            In regards to manslaughter and murder the one who committed the murder is known and dealt with according to their intentions. The one who intentionally kills another will be killed by the “avenger of blood.” This person would be the nearest male relative of the victim. The one who killed someone unintentionally would be confined to the city of refuge he was able to escape until the death of the high priest (Numbers 35:25-28). The ceremony of killing the heifer was the way in which atonement was made for the people and the land. Atonement was made to remove the harmony that was broken between the people and God and the people and the land due to the shedding of innocent blood.

            Forgiveness is putting away guilt in the sense of making restoration of the fellowship with God that existed prior to the sin that was committed. The feeling of guilt which a person experiences is the sensitivity to rebelling against the will of God and falling out of fellowship with Him and His established order in creation. The presence of forgiveness heightens a person’s sensitivity to their fellowship with the Lord. The more mature a person is the more offensive even the slightest infraction or disobedience is for the child of God. The absence of forgiveness makes the heart dull and unaffected by sin as if their heart was seared with a hot iron (1 Timothy 4:1-2).

Christ Cleanses Consciousness

Deuteronomy 21:5-9, NKJV

5 Then the priests, the sons of Levi, shall come near, for the Lord your God has chosen them to minister to Him and to bless in the name of the Lord; by their word every controversy and every assault shall be settled. 6 And all the elders of that city nearest to the slain man shall wash their hands over the heifer whose neck was broken in the valley. 7 Then they shall answer and say, ‘Our hands have not shed this blood, nor have our eyes seen it. 8 Provide atonement, O Lord, for Your people Israel, whom You have redeemed, and do not lay innocent blood to the charge of Your people Israel.’ And atonement shall be provided on their behalf for the blood. 9 So you shall put away the guilt of innocent blood from among you when you do what is right in the sight of the Lord.      

            The role of the priests was to serve as witnesses to the ceremony. The elders broke the neck of the heifer, washed their hands over it, and proclaimed their innocence. God is specific in how He describes the position of the priesthood among the tribe of Levi, “5 …the Lord your God has chosen them to minister to Him and to bless in the name of the Lord; by their word every controversy and every assault shall be settled” (Deuteronomy 21:5, NKJV).

            This proclamation by God, that the priests have the final say in judgment, is one that cannot be made as merely a reference to what God had commanded the people earlier,

8 “If a matter arises which is too hard for you to judge, between degrees of guilt for bloodshed, between one judgment or another, or between one punishment or another, matters of controversy within your gates, then you shall arise and go up to the place which the Lord your God chooses. 9 And you shall come to the priests, the Levites, and to the judge there in those days, and inquire of them; they shall pronounce upon you the sentence of judgment. 10 You shall do according to the sentence which they pronounce upon you in that place which the Lord chooses. And you shall be careful to do according to all that they order you. 11 According to the sentence of the law in which they instruct you, according to the judgment which they tell you, you shall do; you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left from the sentence which they pronounce upon you. 12 Now the man who acts presumptuously and will not heed the priest who stands to minister there before the Lord your God, or the judge, that man shall die. So you shall put away the evil from Israel. 13 And all the people shall hear and fear, and no longer act presumptuously. (Deuteronomy 17:8-13, NKJV)

Even in the body of Christ this authority is given to the elders to be able to judge things among followers of Christ. Jesus instructed those who were having disputes, “15 “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ 17 And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church…” (Matthew 18:15-17, NKJV).

            Paul questioned the Corinthian believers, “1 Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? 2 Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters?” (1 Corinthians 6:1-2, NKJV). In Acts it was the elders of the Church who made the final judgment on what Gentile believers were responsible to observe (Acts 15:6-22). The qualifications for bishops and deacons in           1 Timothy 3:1-13 and elders in Titus 1:5-9 is so strenuous because of the responsibilities for making sound judgments according to God’s will through His Word.

            There must be some authority that is respected and trusted to have a final word or disputes will continue on without resolve. God provided the priesthood as a means to provide the final judgment that would be respected among His people to settle “every controversy and every assault.” It is the task of the body of Christ to hold accountable the pastors, elders, and deacons who are in leadership to ensure their lives are being lived with integrity before the Church and those who are in the community. It is the pastors, elders, and deacons responsibility to demonstrate godly wisdom and judgments that are consistent with the Word of God and His character.

            When the leaders and the entire body of Christ work together in harmony, Christ is lifted up and unity is broadcast as a powerful testimony to the authority and presence of Christ in His people. There can be no resolution, peace, unity, and harmony in matters of controversy where there is no clear answer that will satisfy people.

            The hypothetical case of an unsolved murder would have caused suspicion to be upon strangers; fear to be in that area of the murder, and the devil to whisper superstitious thoughts into the minds of the community. The ceremony of atonement designed by God allowed for the people to come to closure over the violent act that took place and cleanse the land of the disharmony it suffered from this sin. The consciousness of the people would have been freed from the fear and doubt of the matter so it would not be a hindrance in the worship of God because they dealt with the matter as God prescribed from them to do.

            The elements of the ceremony described here by God shows the elements of the work of Christ who would in the future bring the reconciliation between God and mankind. The heifer was spotless and innocence which was represented in its virginity and inexperience of being worked. This animal died in place of the one who committed the murder; the innocence suffered in the place of the guilty. This is a beautiful picture of Christ dying for the sins committed by people who have done so intentionally, unintentionally, and unknowingly. This calls to remembrance of what John was inspired to write in his first letter to the believers after his Gospel writings, “8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:8-10, NKJV).

            The place where the ceremony was to take place also had significance. The flowing water represented the washing away of sin. It symbolized God removing the guilt of the people away farther than they could see as the water continued on its course. The land itself was set apart. It was not tilled or lived upon by anyone and knowing only the rest of its Creator. The idea of the land having rest and being unspoiled is seen in the commands and warnings God gives His people,

4 but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the Lord. You shall neither sow your field nor prune your vineyard…

33 I will scatter you among the nations and draw out a sword after you;

your land shall be desolate and your cities waste.

34 Then the land shall enjoy its Sabbaths as long as it lies desolate and you are in your enemies’ land;

then the land shall rest and enjoy its Sabbaths.

35 As long as it lies desolate it shall rest—

for the time it did not rest on your Sabbaths when you dwelt in it. (Leviticus 25:4, 26:33-35).

            The elders breaking the neck of the animal was a sign of responsibility accepted by the whole community which the leaders represent. Leadership carries the responsibility for what happens in the community in which they lead. The priests come and hear the confession of the elders as God’s representatives who have been “chosen them to minister to Him and to bless in the name of the Lord” by affirming their innocence as they wash their hands over the animal. Washing their hands over the animal who died on behalf of the guilty symbolizes they had nothing to do with or knowledge of the murderer. All this was in order to “…put away the guilt of innocent blood from among you when you do what is right in the sight of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 21:9, NKJV).

            Jesus did more than merely “put away the guilt”; He has completely restored people in Himself through His atoning sacrifice. The guilt that causes God’s people to be out of fellowship with their Lord has been put away from the children of God. They are justified before the Father through the righteousness of Christ blood that was shed on their behalf and have been washed by the acceptance of His sacrifice on their behalf.

            Feelings of guilt are good because they reveal sin in our lives that is both intentional, unintentional, and completely recognized to those in Christ. Guilt should cause the people of God to run into the arms of the Lord by the power of the Spirit. When they do, the guilt must be put away and not lingered on for the forgiveness of God brings restoration of fellowship to the believer who has fallen into sin regardless of how they arrived there. Guilt remains when we forget what forgiveness brings about in the child of God’s life.

9 …Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11, NKJV)

19 Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:19-22, NKJV)

            There is no reason for the children of God to carry around guilty feelings about the past when they have accepted the forgiveness of God through faith in Christ, having confessed their sin to God and trusting in Christ’s atoning work on the cross. Forgiveness is putting away the guilt and not allowing the devil to constantly remind us of what God has chosen to forget about because of the work of Christ on our behalf.

            Therefore, let the body of Christ be free of the weight of guilt and replace it with the joy of the Lord as they live in harmony with the order God has established in His creation. In this way the Church will reveal God’s glory, character and presence as we live in the forgiveness of our sins Christ has provided for us.


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