This is a very good article which outlines some important points about the sacrificial system in the Old Testament and its importance.
Genesis 26:4-5 I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed. (This is another reference to the coming Messiah).
Read Genesis 26:1-6 This is where God appears to Isaac, son of Abraham, to renew the covenant that he made with Abraham.
Genesis 26:1-6 New International Version (NIV)
Isaac and Abimelek
26 Now there was a famine in the land—besides the previous famine in Abraham’s time—and Isaac went to Abimelek king of the Philistines in Gerar. 2The Lord appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live. 3 Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham. 4 I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed,5 because Abraham obeyed me and did everything I required of him, keeping my commands, my decrees and my instructions.” 6 So Isaac stayed in Gerar.
Read Genesis 26:7-11 Isaac lies about Rebekah being his wife, and says she is his sister instead because he is afraid of being killed because men will want her due to her beauty.
Genesis 26:7-11 New International Version (NIV)
7 When the men of that place asked him about his wife, he said, “She is my sister,” because he was afraid to say, “She is my wife.” He thought, “The men of this place might kill me on account of Rebekah, because she is beautiful.”
8 When Isaac had been there a long time, Abimelek king of the Philistines looked down from a window and saw Isaac caressing his wife Rebekah. 9 So Abimelek summoned Isaac and said, “She is really your wife! Why did you say, ‘She is my sister’?”
Isaac answered him, “Because I thought I might lose my life on account of her.”
10 Then Abimelek said, “What is this you have done to us? One of the men might well have slept with your wife, and you would have brought guilt upon us.”
11 So Abimelek gave orders to all the people: “Anyone who harms this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.”
Read Genesis 26:12-35 This is where God blesses Isaac for keeping his covenant, he blessed Isaac with generally a long and peaceful life, with the exception of Esau’s marriage to the Hittite women.
Genesis 26:12-35 New International Version (NIV)
12 Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the Lord blessed him. 13 The man became rich, and his wealth continued to grow until he became very wealthy. 14 He had so many flocks and herds and servants that the Philistines envied him. 15 So all the wells that his father’s servants had dug in the time of his father Abraham, the Philistines stopped up, filling them with earth.
16 Then Abimelek said to Isaac, “Move away from us; you have become too powerful for us.”
17 So Isaac moved away from there and encamped in the Valley of Gerar, where he settled.18 Isaac reopened the wells that had been dug in the time of his father Abraham, which the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham died, and he gave them the same names his father had given them.
19 Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and discovered a well of fresh water there. 20 But the herders of Gerar quarreled with those of Isaac and said, “The water is ours!” So he named the well Esek,[a] because they disputed with him. 21 Then they dug another well, but they quarreled over that one also; so he named it Sitnah.[b] 22 He moved on from there and dug another well, and no one quarreled over it. He named it Rehoboth,[c] saying, “Now the Lordhas given us room and we will flourish in the land.”
23 From there he went up to Beersheba. 24 That night the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham.”
25 Isaac built an altar there and called on the name of the Lord. There he pitched his tent, and there his servants dug a well.
26 Meanwhile, Abimelek had come to him from Gerar, with Ahuzzath his personal adviser and Phicol the commander of his forces. 27 Isaac asked them, “Why have you come to me, since you were hostile to me and sent me away?”
28 They answered, “We saw clearly that the Lord was with you; so we said, ‘There ought to be a sworn agreement between us’—between us and you. Let us make a treaty with you29 that you will do us no harm, just as we did not harm you but always treated you well and sent you away peacefully. And now you are blessed by the Lord.”
30 Isaac then made a feast for them, and they ate and drank. 31 Early the next morning the men swore an oath to each other. Then Isaac sent them on their way, and they went away peacefully.
Jacob Takes Esau’s Blessing
34 When Esau was forty years old, he married Judith daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and also Basemath daughter of Elon the Hittite. 35 They were a source of grief to Isaac and Rebekah.
Read Genesis 35:27-29. Issac lived 180 years.
Genesis 35:27-29 New International Version (NIV)
27 Jacob came home to his father Isaac in Mamre, near Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron),where Abraham and Isaac had stayed. 28 Isaac lived a hundred and eighty years. 29 Then he breathed his last and died and was gathered to his people, old and full of years. And his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.
God not only renewed his covenant with Isaac, but he also uplifted and blessed him throughout his life, and included him in the ancestry of Jesus. God made a promise with Abraham, and he renewed the promise with Abraham’s son to show the world that even if the person with whom the promise is made passes away from the earth; God doesn’t forget or forsake his promises. Sometimes, human beings do forsake a promise if no one is there to remember it, or demand it be kept. This is not the case with God. God always remembers his promises, and he always keeps them. A new covenant, or new promise does not do away with the old promise. God is not like us who sometimes say, “well, that old agreement didn’t work out, so let’s make a new agreement!” This type of thing happens frequently in the world today, and has happened frequently through out history. We need look no further than some of the leaders we have in our countries, and some of the historical wars we have seen. Unlike us, God keeps his promises, from generation to generation when it is a multi-generational promise. We can take comfort in that; especially, when we read the Bible and see the promises laid out for us. Especially in our prayer lives…we pray for those around us to come to know God and draw closer to Him. Sometimes, we pray for that for the entire course of our lives, and we don’t live long enough to see it come to pass. Though we may have had it be made known to us that God has it in hand, and it will come to pass…we may not see it…however, we can count on God to keep his promise to us! Even if we are not here to see that promise be fulfilled!
Isn’t that a marvelous thing! To be able to have God be that reliable and trustworthy?!! We can always count on God to have our best interests at heart…even when we are going through a really hard time where every day seems like a major chore….God really is watching out for you, and being with you. It is just that sometimes we feel overwhelmed by life and fail to notice that God is still there.
Last night I had a dream. I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Across the sky flashed scenes from my life. For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand: one belonged to me, the other to the Lord.
After the last scene of my life flashed before me, I looked back at the footprints in the sand. I noticed that at many times along the path of my life, especially at the very lowest and saddest times, there was only one set of footprints.
This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it. “Lord, you said once I decided to follow you, You’d walk with me all the way. But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life, there was only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”
The Lord replied, “My son, my precious child, I love you and I would never leave you. During your times of suffering, when you could see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”
Genesis 17:1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty, walk before me and be blameless.”
Read Genesis 15:3-6, Gen. 16: 1-4, 15-16.
Genesis 15:3-6 New International Version (NIV)
3 And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”
4 Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” 5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring[a] be.”
6 Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
- Genesis 15:5 Or seed
Genesis 16:1-4 Hagar and Ishmael
16 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slavenamed Hagar; 2 so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.”
Abram agreed to what Sarai said. 3 So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years,Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife.4 He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress.
15 So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne. 16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.(NIV)
God promises Abram a son, Sarah takes matters into her own hands by giving Abram her servant to get a child by, as Sarah doesn’t trust God to give Abram a son by her. This causes them a lot of grief and stress in their lives, but God is faithful and does provide Sarah with the pregnancy of Isaac.
Read Gen. 17:16-22, and Gen. 18:10-15, Gen. 21.
Genesis 17:16-22 New International Version (NIV)
16 I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”
17 Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” 18 And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”
19 Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac.[a] I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. 20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. 21 But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.” 22 When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him.
- Genesis 17:19 Isaac means he laughs.
Genesis 18:10-15 New International Version (NIV)
10 Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”
Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. 11 Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”
13 Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”
15 Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.”
But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.”
Genesis 21 New International Version (NIV)
The Birth of Isaac
21 Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. 2 Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. 3 Abraham gave the name Isaac[a] to the son Sarah bore him. 4 When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him. 5 Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.
6 Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” 7 And she added, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”
Hagar and Ishmael Sent Away
8 The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. 9 But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abrahamwas mocking, 10 and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.”
11 The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. 12 But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring[b] will be reckoned. 13 I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring.”
14 Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the Desert of Beersheba.
15 When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. 16 Then she went off and sat down about a bowshot away, for she thought, “I cannot watch the boy die.” And as she sat there, she[c] began to sob.
17 God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. 18 Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.”
19 Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.
20 God was with the boy as he grew up. He lived in the desert and became an archer.21 While he was living in the Desert of Paran, his mother got a wife for him from Egypt.
The Treaty at Beersheba
22 At that time Abimelek and Phicol the commander of his forces said to Abraham, “God is with you in everything you do. 23 Now swear to me here before God that you will not deal falsely with me or my children or my descendants. Show to me and the country where you now reside as a foreigner the same kindness I have shown to you.”
24 Abraham said, “I swear it.”
25 Then Abraham complained to Abimelek about a well of water that Abimelek’s servants had seized. 26 But Abimelek said, “I don’t know who has done this. You did not tell me, and I heard about it only today.”
27 So Abraham brought sheep and cattle and gave them to Abimelek, and the two men made a treaty. 28 Abraham set apart seven ewe lambs from the flock, 29 and Abimelek asked Abraham, “What is the meaning of these seven ewe lambs you have set apart by themselves?”
30 He replied, “Accept these seven lambs from my hand as a witness that I dug this well.”
31 So that place was called Beersheba,[d] because the two men swore an oath there.
32 After the treaty had been made at Beersheba, Abimelek and Phicol the commander of his forces returned to the land of the Philistines. 33 Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called on the name of the Lord, the Eternal God. 34 And Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines for a long time.
Abraham was faithful to God, and had a feast after Isaac was weaned. Note: Abraham cared about Ishmael as his son, and did not want to send him away, but God promised to make Ishmael a father of many nations also, but said that his covenant was with Abraham through Isaac, not through Ishmael. So, Isaac is the son of promise.
It is important to note that God was faithful to Abraham and Sarah, even when they were not patiently trusting of him. Sometimes we hear God, and we naturally want to make God’s words happen on our own and in our own way.
That is what happened with Sarah and Abraham. This sometimes causes us to sin. Sometimes, there are actions that we can take that are okay in preparing ourselves for God’s promise to be fulfilled. If that is the case we should take those actions, but there is never a time, when sin is the answer to making God’s promise come true.
We should always strive to remember that God’s timing isn’t always right away when he promises something. Sometimes we are just not ready for that fulfillment to take place. We may have some growing to do first on a spiritual level. Ultimately, the reason Isaac was the chosen child was that God had already determined that mankind needed a savior and who his chosen people were, and that the savior was going to be a member of his chosen people, I am sure that Abraham’s feast when Isaac was weaned was a feast of Thanksgiving.
Something to recognize is that God’s chosen people were chosen, not to Lord it over others, but in order to be developed into people who could show the world the character and love of God.
Sometimes, in our world, we find ourselves falling into the sin of jealousy and resentment whenever we hear someone has been chosen for something instead of ourselves…that is because we have the idea that if they are being chosen, then we are not being chosen, so we are being rejected. That is a worldly idea…God doesn’t reject people automatically, just because someone else is chosen for a particular task or mission. We each have our own task or mission to accomplish in our lives. No one person’s task is more important or notable than the one that each of us has been given. That is part of being in the body of Christ…we all have a task, and each task is important…if the foot is not there, then the body cannot move…the foot is not less important then the arm, or the head, or the body…each is important in its own right. We cannot forget that, we are all to work together for the good of the kingdom of God.
We just need to follow God and be blameless due to our willingness to follow God, and be faithful in this journey we have…just like Abraham. If you refer back to Matthew Chapter 1 you will see that Abraham was the first person listed in Jesus’ list of ancestors…yet Abraham was not a perfect person, he was a forgiven person!
John 5:24 I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.
Read Matthew Chapter 1:
Matthew 1 New International Version (NIV) (via Biblegateway.com)
The Genealogy of Jesus the Messiah
2 Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
3 Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,
Perez the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
4 Ram the father of Amminadab,
Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
5 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,
Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,
Obed the father of Jesse,
6 and Jesse the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,
7 Solomon the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah,
Abijah the father of Asa,
8 Asa the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram,
Jehoram the father of Uzziah,
9 Uzziah the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,
10 Hezekiah the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amon,
Amon the father of Josiah,
11 and Josiah the father of Jeconiah[c] and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.
12 After the exile to Babylon:
Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
13 Zerubbabel the father of Abihud,
Abihud the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
14 Azor the father of Zadok,
Zadok the father of Akim,
Akim the father of Elihud,
15 Elihud the father of Eleazar,
Eleazar the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob,
16 and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.
17 Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah.
Joseph Accepts Jesus as His Son
18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about[d]: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet[e]did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[f] because he will save his people from their sins.”
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”[g] (which means “God with us”).
24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
- Matthew 1:1 Or is an account of the origin
- Matthew 1:1 Or Jesus Christ. Messiah (Hebrew) and Christ (Greek) both mean Anointed One; also in verse 18.
- Matthew 1:11 That is, Jehoiachin; also in verse 12
- Matthew 1:18 Or The origin of Jesus the Messiah was like this
- Matthew 1:19 Or was a righteous man and
- Matthew 1:21 Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua, which means the Lord saves.
- Matthew 1:23 Isaiah 7:14
This is the genealogy of Jesus, a genealogy is a listing of ancestors, or a family tree. Many many people in the World are very interested in researching their family trees and finding out as much as they can about who their ancestors are…being Christians we are adopted into the family of Jesus Christ, so isn’t it nice that his family tree is laid out for us so neatly in the Bible? Jesus had some very interesting ancestors…funny thing is that until you start digging into them it would be easy to believe that if someone was honored enough to be an ancestor of Jesus’ then they must really be next to perfect, huh?!! Well, this is so far from the truth…they are, as it turns out like all of us…forgiven sinners.
In many of the next lessons we will be studying the people listed in Jesus’ family tree. My goal is to show you that God’s forgiveness is absolute. He does not hold your past against you in any way. All of the people (like all of us) in Jesus’ family tree are sinners who have believed in God, and been forgiven. Although John 5:24 is something that Jesus said, and all of his ancestors lived before him in John 5:24 Jesus states that those who believe in God (the one who sent Jesus) will have eternal life. This is how the people before Jesus birth were judged, by their righteousness and faith in God, by their adherence to the law. We are judged with grace, which means that we are judged by our faith in Jesus, and his ability as a sacrifice to cover our sins.
Grace as we have studied before is the giving of forgiveness when it is not deserved. Grace is not something that replaces God’s law. We are still to do our best to follow God’s law. However, neither before in the Old Testament, nor now, in the New Testament does the law offer salvation.
Matthew 5:17-20 17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus tells us that he did not come to replace or get rid of the law…he came to fulfill it, but not to remove or replace any part of it. Fulfilling something does not end it, except in the case of prophecy….once a prophecy is given and is completely and entirely fulfilled it is pretty much done..its value is then in the fact that people who had believed the prophecy know its fulfillment and have stronger faith for having seen that fulfillment. Laws are fulfilled every day, but we do not do away with them by fulfilling them.
God values faith, and is a forgiving God and this is demonstrated through Jesus’ family tree.
Info about your bible: There are over 400 years between the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament ends the era of God’s prophecy of Jesus’ coming. Matthew begins with Jesus is here, and spends much time proving that Jesus is the Messiah. The book of Matthew was written between 50 A.D. and 70 A.D. To be noted is that B.C. means the time period before Jesus’ birth, and A.D. means the time period from his birth onward. People get confused and think that A.D. means After Death, it does not. It actually is a latin term that stands for the words “Year of our Lord” or “Anno Domini” are the latin words. This means that the book of Matthew was written down shortly after Jesus’ death because Jesus’ died about 33 A.D. This is important so that you know that there were people around who lived during Jesus time and would say if Matthew wrote down things wrong or made any of the book of Matthew up. The time it is written means we can trust it to be truthful. The newest part of the New Testament was written by John the Apostle and it was written between 85 A.D. and 96 A.D. so still it was written with witnesses to the actual events still alive to say if any part of it was untrue. Therefore, you can trust that the New Testament is true also as is the Old Testament.
I hope you enjoy our upcoming exploration of Jesus’ ancestors!
Matthew 13:44 The Kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and in his joy he went and sold all that he had and bought the field.
The standard Christian teaching on this is that this man found the treasure of Salvation and realized how important it was, so he hid it and then went and bought the field so that he could have it. There is nothing inherently wrong about this teaching, but it has some moralistic problems to it. After all, Jesus focus was about sharing the love of God with others. In this parable we see a man who is not planning to share at all…if he was, then he would go running to town with the treasure in his arms and shout to all about it, wouldn’t he?!! Instead he hides it again, then goes and we presume deceptively purchases the field. We see this kind of thing happen in the world over and over again…some person will find out some facts about some land that makes it more valuable…maybe some plans for the surrounding area that is unknown to the landowner and so they go and offer an outrageous sum of money (in the land owner’s eyes), but still far less than it will actually be worth if the plans known only to the buyer happen. We call that “land speculation”…totally acceptable from a worldly standpoint, but rather an unChristian way of acting, right?!! Morally, as Christians we would have problems with this action…especially if we are the ones who get taken advantage of in the land selling process.
An interesting thing I have learned from Dave LeBlanc’s recent teaching on this parable is that the idea of ownership of something means that you have to work at it for 3 years before you have ownership. Ownership isn’t something that comes about by accident, just because you bought it. In Jewish terms, which means in the terms that Jewish Rabbi Jesus is teaching to his Jewish Disciples…ownership is acquired not just with money, but you have to actually do something with it, and do something with it consistently for 3 years. So if we take that idea and look at this parable again we can learn a few things:
1.) The man was walking on land that was not owned by a family..it was deserted land…fallow land. After all, if he found a treasure hidden in a field, it was probably buried in the first place and he found it from working the field with the intent to get ownership. (We know that the land of Israel did not have a lot of forests, it’s fields are good for olives and wine, and wheat.) So he was working the field and accidentally dug up a treasure, so he goes and reburies it and then since it is so valuable he must focus all of his wealth on acquiring it immediately. He does this.
Yet, under the law of Torah, he doesn’t actually own it until he has worked it for three years, now according to what Dave is telling us about Rabbinical Judaism it is not good enough to just buy the land with money, but to have to invest your time and energy into using it and bringing in a harvest…repeatedly. In other words, Land speculation is not allowed. You don’t just buy the land and say, “Look at me, I am wealthy I have all this land, but do nothing with it!” In our terms, we would say, “use it or lose it”…this makes a lot of sense for people of Jesus’ time. Land that lays fallow is not producing food. Israel was a land that occasionally had years of famine…so it was important to produce all that it could in the good years. After all, refrigeration, and freezing and canning as storage methods were not really around. The main methods of food storage were probably dehydration, pickling, or fermentation. According to the Old Testament there was a requirement of fallowness for land every 7 years….this was probably more about maintaining the nutrients and not exhausting the land by repeated growing of the same crop that would sap the same nutrients from the soil, so that the land was not worn out. Spiritually, it was about relying on the Lord for your well being in times of scarcity..every 7 years there was a reminder to Israel about this.
Also under the laws in Leviticus the selling of the land was not to be permanent…so you may say it was more of a renting out for the use of the land and its crop.
2.) So we also learn a deeper meaning if we apply this idea of having to work for something to our salvation and what Jesus was saying about the Kingdom of heaven being like this treasure found in a field. It was such a valuable treasure that the man was willing to immediately devote his entire wealth and life to attaining the rights to that treasure.
If we apply this idea to our salvation, the we can and should be believing that as Christians we are not actually obtaining that salvation simply by “saying a prayer” and going on about our normal lives. If we do not plow the field of our salvation, or dig into our Bibles and take the word of the Lord into our hearts on a daily basis and apply it to how we are living out our daily lives, then we are as lost as the person who has never asked Jesus to come into our hearts. That takes us to another parable, the parable of the seeds:
Luke 8:4-15 New International Version (NIV)
4 While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: 5 “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. 6 Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture.7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.”
When he said this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
9 His disciples asked him what this parable meant. 10 He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that,
“‘though seeing, they may not see;
though hearing, they may not understand.’[a]
11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. 12 Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. 14 The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. 15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.
- Luke 8:10 Isaiah 6:9
Read Hebrews 12
12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
God Disciplines His Children
4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”[a]
7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 “Make level paths for your feet,”[b] so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.
Warning and Encouragement
14 Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. 16 See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son.17 Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.
The Mountain of Fear and the Mountain of Joy
18 You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; 19 to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, 20 because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.”[c] 21 The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”[d]
22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
25 See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.”[e] 27 The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.
28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”[f]
Recently I had an experience with my prayer life in that I was chastened by God about how I pray.
I have a list of people that I go through each night and pray for prior to falling asleep…though there are some nights that I fall asleep and wake up when my arms fall asleep too from leaning on them with my head! I figure God knows how tired I am, so I just start over with my prayer and then finish up and go to sleep for real. Sometimes we are tired and unable to focus or even comprehend all that we have to say to God.
Anyhow, one night I was prayer as usual, and when I got down to a certain person on my list..the Holy Spirit really pushed me to prayer intensely for this person. I began to seriously pour out my heart about this person and how much I would like to see them drawn toward God and see them become a much more happy person in the way a person who truly knows that he/she is loved by God will be happy….contentment and peace.
The next day, I was doing my daily tasks and the Lord whispered to me, “Do you know that this person doesn’t have anyone in their life to show them the Love of Christ?” “There is no person who loves them without expecting something in return….without wanting them to turn around and suit their needs, instead of just loving them as they are now.” I suddenly realized that it was true. This person whom we all love, but have not been loving toward because of their decisions in life. I realized that I was guilty of being judgmental and condemning toward that person.
I suddenly realized that there was another guilt that I had…in my prayers I had been praying for that person to be “guide, guard and protected”, but had not been praying with any real expectation beyond preservation of their life. I had been praying without expectation of any change in their life whatsoever. This is a terrible thing to realize.
I had been looking down on that person as someone whom God could not do anything to help them. Unconsciously, my prayers were tainted by my worldly opinion of the person. So, of course, the prayer would have very little if any power in that person’s life.
I felt quite devastated to realize that, although Jesus gave his Disciples the authority over things in earth and in heaven as far as casting out….I had never actually accepted that authority….the authority of change through prayer.
I mean, in my own life, and whenever someone would ask me to pray about something I did. I was really comfortable about that…I always through the years…have prayed that God would help me with this or that and then started looking for the help to happen and watching for how God would help me to deal with whatever issue I needed help with.
Unfortunately, in this particular person’s life I had no such expectation, so did not look. This meant that I was not praying with expectation of an answer. I was unconsciously saying, “God I don’t expect much because their life is really a mess!” Even though, I have met many people whose testimony about their lives told me that their life had really been a mess also, but God helped them to do something about it.
Yet, here I was looking at this person with the condemning eyes of the world, instead of the loving eyes of Christ. There is no where in the Bible which would uphold what I was doing.
Yes, there are people who chose to turn their backs on God, and yes they get condemned for it. The thing is, we, humans, have no way of telling who these people are. We do not know what God knows. We can only see that the person appears to be making unGodly choices with their life, we cannot know for sure, if they will continue to make those kinds of choices, or if something will happen to turn their heart toward God, and make them a huge minister for others around them.
God looks at us with, “where there is life…there is hope, I am a God of the living, not the dead”…attitude. “I love you, and I know the plans I have for you, to prosper you…” God is a good God always!
Satan looks at us with, “you are too bad to be saved, just rot in your guilt and sin…don’t expect anything else”
Our Pastor, in his sermons over the past 3 weeks, has been being used by God to help bring me to this knowledge of my own sin.
The thing is that the second I realized that I had been praying while looking down on someone, praying without expectation, I felt miserable, and really apologized to God for it, and promised never to pray in that manner again. The second I made the realization and the apology…I felt this magnificent feeling of power run through my body from toes to head..rising up through me…it felt like a huge release of power from the Holy Spirit in a big giant “atta girl! I am glad that you realize this! Now we can accomplish things with your prayers that we have never been able to accomplish before!”
Incidentally, the person lives over 600 miles from me, so at first I was not sure what I could do other than pray to have someone come into their life who can show them the love of Christ…but I realized that I could send them a care package and a card occasionally to give them a small bit of the love of Christ..kind of hoping to chip away at the pain and ice and anger in the person’s heart that they have received from being constantly looked down upon and condemned. It is not much, but I am hoping that it is a small start. It should improve my relationship with them also over time. I wrote to them and confessed my sin to them. Hopefully, they will as God does, forgive me my faults.
I am now praying with expectation every night, and usually at least some during the day…soon it will be without ceasing. I have a picture in my head of them living a wonderful life of joy….I am praying with expectation that this picture will become a fact!
Those whom God loves, God chastens….the thing is that the chastening is not the chastening of the world…the love in this chastening was evident immediately and it drove out the guilt. It was like God telling me, “I am revealing this to you so that you can draw closer to me…not so that you can be brought down by your guilt…it is to refine you into the person I created you to be. I love you. Don’t be upset, rejoice in the fact that I love you enough to tell you when you are doing the wrong thing.”
God is specific when he tells you what you are doing wrong, and he is gentle.
Satan is vague and uses guilt continually to remove your joy.
That is how you can tell them apart when you are not sure of what is going on.
Read Proverbs 3:
Proverbs 3 New International Version (NIV)
Wisdom Bestows Well-Being
3 My son, do not forget my teaching,
but keep my commands in your heart,
2 for they will prolong your life many years
and bring you peace and prosperity.
3 Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.
4 Then you will win favor and a good name
in the sight of God and man.
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.[a]
7 Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord and shun evil.
8 This will bring health to your body
and nourishment to your bones.
9 Honor the Lord with your wealth,
with the firstfruits of all your crops;
10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
and your vats will brim over with new wine.
11 My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline,
and do not resent his rebuke,
12 because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
as a father the son he delights in.[b]
13 Blessed are those who find wisdom,
those who gain understanding,
14 for she is more profitable than silver
and yields better returns than gold.
15 She is more precious than rubies;
nothing you desire can compare with her.
16 Long life is in her right hand;
in her left hand are riches and honor.
17 Her ways are pleasant ways,
and all her paths are peace.
18 She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her;
those who hold her fast will be blessed.
19 By wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundations,
by understanding he set the heavens in place;
20 by his knowledge the watery depths were divided,
and the clouds let drop the dew.
21 My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight,
preserve sound judgment and discretion;
22 they will be life for you,
an ornament to grace your neck.
23 Then you will go on your way in safety,
and your foot will not stumble.
24 When you lie down, you will not be afraid;
when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
25 Have no fear of sudden disaster
or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked,
26 for the Lord will be at your side
and will keep your foot from being snared.
27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
when it is in your power to act.
28 Do not say to your neighbor,
“Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you”—
when you already have it with you.
29 Do not plot harm against your neighbor,
who lives trustfully near you.
30 Do not accuse anyone for no reason—
when they have done you no harm.
31 Do not envy the violent
or choose any of their ways.
32 For the Lord detests the perverse
but takes the upright into his confidence.
33 The Lord’s curse is on the house of the wicked,
but he blesses the home of the righteous.
34 He mocks proud mockers
but shows favor to the humble and oppressed.
35 The wise inherit honor,
but fools get only shame.
1John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
Many times when we accept that Jesus is our Lord and we have prayed for forgiveness we forget to accept that we are really forgiven.
Another way of thinking is that if your sins are a case in God’s court then when you accept Jesus Christ as your redeemer, you have apologized to God for your sins and Jesus has taken the blame for you…if Jesus is your “lawyer” in God’s court, then Jesus Christ has gotten the case of your sins thrown out of court. The thing is that Satan wants to stand in front of our house in his capacity as accuser and keep throwing the evidence up in front of us. Or in other words, Satan wants us to dwell on the sins that we have already had forgiven by God. If he can just keep us in bondage to our past sins then we cannot move forward in our lives and enjoy the peace of God. We cannot be the best servant we can be for God. Our lives do not reflect that freedom that God has given us.
Now, I know that all of this sounds really negative, but it isn’t. I thought to discuss this because after hearing our Pastor speak on the subject this week, I realized that hanging onto forgiven sins just makes a person stay in bondage to their past.
This world loves it when we stay in bondage to our past because then “we know our place”…we cannot be effective in telling and showing people who God is in our lives if we cannot accept that forgiveness has really occurred. People who don’t know God and have not accepted the redemption offered by Jesus Christ are in bondage to their sin…they have not been forgiven…so how can we show them the divine and freeing forgiveness of God if we cannot actually in our hearts and minds really accept that we are really truly forgiven and enter into the “rest” that Jesus has promised us?
I heard a really interesting example of this on Sunday when I was listening to my Pastor on this very idea. Here it is picture this in your mind. A man is in a dungeon prison cell. He has been locked up for life, and all he sees day in and day out are the damp stone walls, and the iron bars. A couple times a day a guard shows up with some kind of food for him, but other than that, he sees nothing but the walls, and the bars….and the hole in the corner for his waste. So what does this man long for? I think we would all answer that he wants his freedom more than anything else in the world, right?!!
So one day, the guard arrives and instead of food, the guard unlocks the door, and tells the man that he is free to leave anytime. Now, one would think that the man would just up and leave as soon as possible, right?!! The curious thing is that he does not…he turns his back toward the open door and looks the other way, and continues to dream of his freedom day after day.
When I heard this story, I thought how impossible! No one would really do that, right?!! That is the saddest idea I have ever heard.
Yet, millions of Christians do that very thing, every day!
We have the head knowledge that Jesus came to forgive our sins and draw us close to God, and we have accepted the head knowledge…but we fail to understand all of the ramifications of that head knowledge….we have to come to a “heart” knowledge understanding of this great freedom that has happened to us. (I know that in the world there are consequences to sin, if you steal you can end up in jail…that is not the freedom we are talking about here! Once a person serves their time in jail for that theft then they are freed from the condemnation for that item.) Jesus came to free us from condemnation by God or more accurately by Jesus himself, since God has given Jesus the authority to judge the world in the time to come.
The thing is that when we are forgiven, many times we continue to beat ourselves up over our past. I know that many of you have seen the Disney Movie called “The Lion King”….well, my favorite scene in that movie is where the baboon konks Simba on the head with his pole. Simba had been feeling sorry for himself and wallowing in his responsibility for his father’s death, which happened when he was a young cub. Anyway, he suddenly gets konked on the head with the pole and Simba says, “Ow! What was that for!” (a bit of paraphrasing here, but that is the gist of it.) The baboon’s response was amazing…I could just about hear God in the words…”Doesn’t matter…it’s in the past!”
When our sins are forgiven that is how God views it…”doesn’t matter”….or another way to say it….it is as if they never happened….they are not being held against us. There are worldly consequences, but God is not condemning us for them.
Read Psalm 103…focus on verse 12. It says that he has removed our sins from us as far as the East is from the West. (If you take into account that many people prior to Christopher Columbus’ time believed that the Earth was flat and that you could fall off of it if you went too far in one direction…this really gives you the idea that the meaning behind this statement is that your sins cannot ever meet up with you again, once they are forgiven! They are truly in the past and you are not to be looking into them as something you need to keep beating yourself up about.)
A psalm of David.
1Let all that I am praise the LORD;
with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.
2Let all that I am praise the LORD;
may I never forget the good things he does for me.
3He forgives all my sins
and heals all my diseases.
4He redeems me from death
and crowns me with love and tender mercies.
5He fills my life with good things.
My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!
6The LORD gives righteousness
and justice to all who are treated unfairly.
7He revealed his character to Moses
and his deeds to the people of Israel.
8The LORD is compassionate and merciful,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
9He will not constantly accuse us,
nor remain angry forever.
10He does not punish us for all our sins;
he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.
11For his unfailing love toward those who fear him
is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.
12He has removed our sins as far from us
as the east is from the west.
13The LORD is like a father to his children,
tender and compassionate to those who fear him.
14For he knows how weak we are;
he remembers we are only dust.
15Our days on earth are like grass;
like wildflowers, we bloom and die.
16The wind blows, and we are gone—
as though we had never been here.
17But the love of the LORD remains forever
with those who fear him.
His salvation extends to the children’s children
18of those who are faithful to his covenant,
of those who obey his commandments!
19The LORD has made the heavens his throne;
from there he rules over everything.
20Praise the LORD, you angels,
you mighty ones who carry out his plans,
listening for each of his commands.
21Yes, praise the LORD, you armies of angels
who serve him and do his will!
22Praise the LORD, everything he has created,
everything in all his kingdom.
Let all that I am praise the LORD.
Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007.
2 Samuel 12:1-13 New King James Version (NKJV)
Nathan’s Parable and David’s Confession
12 Then the Lord sent Nathan to David. And he came to him, and said to him: “There were two men in one city, one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had exceedingly many flocks and herds. 3 But the poor man had nothing, except one little ewe lamb which he had bought and nourished; and it grew up together with him and with his children. It ate of his own food and drank from his own cup and lay in his bosom; and it was like a daughter to him. 4 And a traveler came to the rich man, who refused to take from his own flock and from his own herd to prepare one for the wayfaring man who had come to him; but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.”
5 So David’s anger was greatly aroused against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this shall surely die! 6 And he shall restore fourfold for the lamb, because he did this thing and because he had no pity.”
7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. 8 I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your keeping, and gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if that had been too little, I also would have given you much more! 9 Why have you despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in His sight? You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the people of Ammon. 10 Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ 11 Thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will raise up adversity against you from your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. 12 For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, before the sun.’”
13 So David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”
And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die.
Genesis 4:7 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”
Read John 8:1-11 The story of the sinful woman.
John 8 1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
11 “No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
Read John 5:1-15
The Healing at the Pool
5 Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. * 5 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
7 “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
8 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, 10 and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.”
11 But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ”
12 So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?”
13 The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.
14 Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well.
*verse 4 is in some versions that an angel of the Lord went down occasionally and stirred the waters.
If you look at these two stories in the Bible they both have something in common. Jesus did not condemn the person, but the sin instead. He showed love and understanding to the person, even while telling them the truth about their sin. In both cases these people are apparently in a state of sin. The woman is an adulterer, and we are not told what the man’s sin is, but it is apparent that he is in a state of sin from Jesus telling him to leave his life of sin before something worse happens to him.
In both cases, these people are in a very lonely state. We know this because, other than Jesus, there is no one to stand up for the woman who is about to be stoned…she has no friends. In the case of the man who was paralyzed we know he also has no one who cares about him, as he tells Jesus that there is no one to help him into the pool to get healed. In both of these cases, not only did their sin separate them from God, but also separated them from their fellow humans.
So we can see that both in our heavenly relationship and our earthly relationships sin plays a big part. That is why God laid out some rules for living in community with each other in the Old Testament. Now, just because God laid out a rule addressing a situation doesn’t mean he is approving of the situation…sometimes the rules that God has laid down on a subject are there because he knows the situation is going to exist as long as mankind is separated from God. Thus, God laid out rules about things like slavery, and divorce. Even though, Jesus clearly tells us that divorce is not something that God wants to happen…God recognizes that such things will happen so he lays out a rule about it.
The same thing goes for slavery…God gave rules to govern it because at the time of Moses it existed every where! God did not approve of slavery…he just knew that it existed and so he laid out rules on the treatment of slaves. Slaves had no rights at all prior to these rules….they had no hope for redemption…God’s rules were laid down to show that he recognized that the slaves were human beings who were his creations and they were to be treated a certain way with some dignity..and given hope for freedom from slavery. God did not want or approve of bondage of any kind, just as he did not approve of divorce, theft, murder, sexual promiscuity, lying, or any of the other sins listed in the old testament. It would probably be more accurate to say that God was resigned to the fact that mankind, in general, is selfish and self centered and immature and without rules will govern things according to what most benefits himself…even if it is at the expense of others. As long as man is separated from God, man needs rules to govern his relationship with others. These rules are a gift and should not be thought of as a punishment or a burden.
So, now, let us go back to how Jesus treated the people in the above two situations…the first thing to take note of again is that Jesus did not beat either one of these people over the head with their sins! He didn’t ignore the sin either…after all Jesus said that he did not come to condemn the world, but to save it! Beating someone who is in a state of sin over the head with their sin does not save them! Jesus knew this very well…he helped them each in the way that they needed help, and then he said, “Go and sin no more!”
The implication of this statement from Jesus is that we humans are capable of setting aside our sins…we are capable of self control…that God expects us to use self control in dealing with our sins! God does not accept the excuse that “the devil made me do it!”
Now, this may be an idea that is hard to swallow, but Jesus is not a liar…so we have to accept that we are capable of living lives that are not full of daily continual sin.
Does this mean that we will never sin? No, it means that once we know that something we are doing is a sin, then we have a responsibility before God to not continue to do that sin. We all have sin in our lives that we are not even aware of…God is good to reveal our sins little by little as we go through life so that we are not overwhelmed by them all at once. They are also revealed to us in such a manner and time that we are able to understand how that sin is hurting us, or hurting others around us.
Frequently, our sin is revealed to us by our gaining more knowledge of the nature of God, and maturing more and more in our relationship with God by following Jesus.
For example: A person who look at their horoscope in the paper each day, thinks to themselves that it doesn’t hurt anything to look at it and see how the “stars” say their day is going to go. However, when that person starts getting to know God, they realize that God is clear about this kind of thing in the Bible: Leviticus 19:31 31 “ ‘Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God.
The person starts to understand from reading up on the subject in the Word that God does not want anyone or anything to stand in between them and Him. So oops! Suddenly, the person realizes that by looking to see how the “stars” say their day is going, they have fallen into a state of looking to an idol, looking toward someone or something that is not God.
Think about it, if the person finds that the horoscope is right, and on occasion it will be by the law of averages, and that they are actually written so vaguely that they can be interpreted to be able to impact anyone….suddenly, that person is not making a move without consulting their daily horoscope, or palm reader, or something like that! That is a form of worship…God says not to worship anyone, but Him. (Commandment #1)
So here is this person who has been living in ignorance of their sin, thinking that it is harmless…who suddenly realizes as they seek after God, that this really is a sin, and it is a serious sin at that! (Not that all sin is not serious…in God’s eyes sin is sin.)
Now, they have the option to continue in that sin with their new knowledge, or to do as Jesus tells the man and the woman in the stories above…”Go and Sin no more!” Or another way to say it is, “now that you know what you have been doing wrong, stop doing that!”
Another two points to be made here: 1.) Temptation is not sin! (Jesus was tempted, yet he did not sin!), 2.) We are not born already filled with sin because our parents were sinful-that idea of “original sin” was not introduced into the church until Augustine introduced it which was well after the time of Jesus and his Disciples! Jesus and his Disciples believed in the idea of an “age of accountability” (Isaiah 7:14-16 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.15“He will eat curds and honey at the time He knows enough to refuse evil and choose good. 16 “For before the boy will know enough to refuse evil and choose good, the land whose two kings you dread will be forsaken.”)
We are not told what this exact age is, and from study, I have concluded that it is different for each person, it is dependent on the moment when a person realizes what is right from wrong…or what is good and what is evil…what is sin and what is not. We all know that this is not an age set in concrete…even our court systems recognize this…that is why sometimes there are people who commit crimes, yet are found to not be responsible for their actions…we recognize that everyone is not the same in maturity…some folks may have mental disabilities that mean they can never be held responsible for what they do because they cannot understand right from wrong.
We can know that the idea of “original sin” is not a credible idea because if we were all born sinful because our parents were sinful, then Jesus would have been automatically been born filled with sin and he would not have been a good example to us, nor an acceptable sacrifice for us..simply because he was born of a human woman. We know that Jesus was not guilty of any sin, therefore we have to reject the idea of original sin…we have to reject the idea of being helpless to stop sinning! That idea comes from the evil one’s desire to keep us in bondage to sin…after all if we cannot help our sin then we can simply claim we have no responsibility for ourselves.
Don’t get me wrong here, I am not saying that any person can get salvation for themselves without Jesus Christ…that is not the case…Salvation from sin comes through Jesus Christ and Christ alone…that is the forgiveness for sins…I am talking about the thought that we are helpless to keep from sinning on and on when we know something is a sin. Jesus clearly tells us that we can stop sinning!
2Corinthians 5:21 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
I will leave you with this thought: God loves you…you are his precious child. In response to the love God has for you…turn away from sin….go and sin no more…take salvation seriously…glorify God with the way you live your life. When you become aware of a sin…repent promptly…asking his forgiveness in the name of Christ…and return to your task of living a life which glorifies God. Don’t let the evil one bind you with a lie about who you are based on what you have done.
3 So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”4 When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” 5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (NIV)
30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” 31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. (NIV)
When we look at Moses and Jacob they both had personal experience in meeting God. In the case of Moses he met with God and the first thing he was told was to take off his shoes…God announced himself by reminding Moses of his Holiness. Holy ground…I think a lot of time we forget to recognize God’s Holiness. We take it for granted that he is Holy, but we don’t really take the time to recognize it, to truly be awed by it! In other words, I think sometimes we treat God much too lightly. To truly know God, then we must first recognize his Holiness, his sovereignty and his power as our creator. Then we must recognize his overwhelming love for us…his creation.
Jacob and Moses both recognized these things about God. They didn’t just randomly believe that God existed on some cerebral level. They experienced God and by experiencing God….learned to understand exactly who God was in their lives….that God was present in a very real and personal way…right there with them…walking with them each day…only a prayer away.
There are so many people who believe in God and believe that God exists, but do not actually know who God is…they have never actually experienced God’s presence for themselves. I find that to be one of the saddest things to realize. I imagine that God finds it even more distressing that I do. So many people who don’t actually seek God out and actively search to find who he is in their own lives. They are content to just listen to others tell them who God is, or to never even give God a moment’s thought. Many of them are intimidated by the Word of God…and are so afraid of misunderstanding it that they don’t even want to open it up and try to read it….although there are so many translations these days which are so much easier to read and understand…and there are so many great studies that can be done to understand it.
So, how can a person experience God and not just know about him intellectually with head knowledge?
The answer is very simple….pray…talk to God…talk to God with reverence, but not distance…recognize that we were created in God’s own image to serve God…to be in companionship with God….
Genesis 1:27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
Isaiah 43:5-7 “Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, And gather you from the west. “I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ And to the south, ‘Do not hold them back ‘ Bring My sons from afar And My daughters from the ends of the earth, Everyone who is called by My name, And whom I have created for My glory, Whom I have formed, even whom I have made.”
Jesus tells us that all of us who accept who he is, as our Redeemer and King…all of us who chose to become Disciples and follow what Jesus taught are given the right to be called the sons and daughters of God…we are adopted in as God’s children.
12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Jesus also said that his Disciples are not his servants, but his friends.
John 15:13-15 13Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not understand what his master is doing. But I have called you friends, because everything I have learned from My Father I have made known to you.
The most quoted verse from the Bible is John 3:16, but frequently it is only partially quoted…or partially understood…there is a very important part of that verse that is frequently over looked, or misunderstood. The idea of “believes in him”…this is not a simple idea of just believing that Jesus exists and that he came to die in order to redeem us. There is a more crucial deeper meaning….Meaning that believing that not only did Jesus the Christ exist, and come to die for people, but actually believing it to the point that you realize that you are counting on it being true to the depths of your soul. You are not just believing because someone told you that it was a good idea and that you should believe it. You are believe it because God has said that it is so and you believe God. You are believing in God’s love for you. The first part of that verse is “God so loved the world…”
God loves us all so much that our continued separation from him is unthinkable…he went to such lengths as to send his dearly loved son to live a human life, and be tortured and abused…all for the purpose of redeeming us back to him…of showing us who God is and how strong God’s love for us is, in a personal, living and breathing way.
Redemption: Where something is given in order to get something. Jesus gave his life in every way…he devoted his living and breathing life to showing us who God is, and drew his last breath showing us who God is, then was resurrected to show us even more the power of God…who God is to us.
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
So what did we learn from Jesus about who God is? We learned that God is healing, loving, understanding, forgiving, holy and powerful.
We learned from Jesus that God wants us to be the same way toward our fellow man…loving, understanding, forgiving, holy and filled with the powerful, holy Spirit of God.
Jesus told his Disciples that every word he speaks and every action he does is only what God tells him to say and do.
John 12:48-50 48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. 49 For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. 50 I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”
John 5:19 Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.
There are many places in the Bible which tell us about God, we can see all through it how God worked in the lives of every day average people. Most of us today are just every day average people…God is still working in our lives…he is still there for us to experience his companionship and love…we just have to seek him out…pray and God will reveal himself to you..each person travels a personal and individual road in getting to know God.
Just as no two people can get to know another person in exactly the same way…every friendship is different between people. I have many friends, and each of our relationships are very individual…some of my friends know each other, and their relationships are also very individual. We didn’t all get to know each other the same way because we all bring different personalities and life experiences to the friendship.
This is the same when we are seeking to build a relationship with God…we all have different levels of knowledge about God and we all have different backgrounds and experiences. God created us as unique individuals…so our relationship with him is also unique and individual.
I really love hearing from different people about their relationship with God and how they have come to know him, and experience him in their lives. It is so awesome to hear about the various ways that God has revealed himself to them, and how they have grown in faith.
There are many sincere worshippers who have never taken the step to seek out God…I implore you…if you are one of those folks…please take a moment and say a prayer to God asking him to reveal himself to you. You will not regret seeking to draw closer to God. It will give you God’s peace and contentment if you do. Man’s peace is just the absence of war, God’s peace is an internal peace…a true peace.
Prayer is simple….just start out: Dear God….and tell God what is in your heart. God already knows, so you may as well say it out loud and be honest…you won’t regret it! Bare your soul to God!
Read Genesis Chapter 3
3 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”
13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
14 So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,
“Cursed are you above all livestock
and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
and you will eat dust
all the days of your life.
15 And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.”
16 To the woman he said,
“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.”
17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’
“Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it
all the days of your life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.”
20 Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.
21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. 22 And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” 23 So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.
Looking at the Garden of Eden God mankind gained the knowledge of Good and Evil from eating the forbidden fruit….but does this mean that they while knowing that there is Good and there is Evil (which destroyed their innocence) that they understood what is good and what is evil? No, it doesn’t seem so. For instance, it obviously was not a sin in the Garden of Eden to be in a state of nakedness…if it was then God would have clothed man right off the bat, wouldn’t he? Yet, their response to this new “knowledge of good and evil” was to notice that they were naked and go and hide from God…in fear.
I kind of picture this as the same reaction as a deer when the headlights of an oncoming car get into its face….it knows that something is outside of the norm and knows that this is scary, but doesn’t know exactly why or what to do about it.
Another way to examine this issue is to think what it is like whenever we have to go to a place where we don’t know anyone. Most of us feel quite a bit of concern and stress, anxiety and fear even about these kind of new situations. I ran into a person at my church this past weekend….she came into the door, and told us that she had passed by many times, but was really afraid to come in.
To hear this, you would think that we were not a nice place, or had a bad reputation, but that is not the case at all. The lady was simply verbalizing the common fear almost all of us have of new groups and situations.
The question is why do we have this fear? If we really analyze it the answer is clear….anytime we enter a new group of any kind and especially when we don’t know anyone there…we have a very tough situation…a tough question must be answered…we ask ourselves: “What if I don’t fit in? What are the rules of this group?…how do I learn them?…What if I make a mistake because I don’t know the rules?!! How uncomfortable will I become? How embarrassed will I become?”
So now, let us revisit the Garden of Eden situation here…doesn’t it seem like that even though they were suddenly aware that Good and Evil existed that they did not really understand what Good and what Evil were?
When God deals with them there are certainly consequences to their disobedience…they obviously knew that they had disobeyed, but the mindset they had was not one of sorrow and repentance…it was the mindset of “who can I blame that will let me off the hook?” (Doesn’t seem like much has changed for mankind in all these centuries since Adam and Eve’s time, does it?!)
The thing is that God sent them out of the Garden and their act of disobedience definitely had consequences…hard labor both for Adam and for Eve….the earth itself was put under a curse. The peculiar thing is that it seems that God is saying that the curse was because of Adam and Eve and the serpent….it doesn’t say that God was “kicking them out of the garden because he was mad at them”. It does tell us that God was sending them out of the garden to keep them from eating from the tree of life.
Now I have heard the idea that this was a protection for them, so that their state of sin would not be permanent. Mankind and the earth would not be permanently cursed. I think we have all seen movies and read stories about immortals who are self-centered and destructive…after all what have they got to lose…they are not able to be killed so they can do anything they want. That is the problem with someone who lives forever, but has no moral compass, no compassion, no love for others.
One of the things not mentioned in Genesis 3 is anything about love. Desire is mentioned…desire for the apple, desire for the husband…all of these are fleshly desires, but no mention is made of tender love and concern for one another. There is no evidence of it at all…just desire, and blame.
John 15:1-25 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prune so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.
The World Hates the Disciples
18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’
The thing is we are all born as selfish and self centered human beings…we have to be taught how to love and care for others and put their needs above our own. By setting Adam and Eve outside the garden in a situation where they had to struggle in their everyday life God put them into a situation where they would learn to rely on one another and need each other…where they would have to learn to care about the other person for their own survival. Now, some of you may think this is just plain mean…but to be truthful…it is tough parenting…God style. They could have obeyed and remained in the Garden, yet they chose not to do so. God was not surprised by this choice!
So, now we have people struggling day after day to figure out what is good and what is evil. Another way of saying it is…”What are the rules? So that I don’t get into trouble?”
2 Cor 10: 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
In a parenting magazine when my first child was born I read what turned out to be very sound advice: “Kids like to know that you are in charge…because if you are not in charge, then they are in charge, and being in charge is scary…therefore, kids like routine because it is comforting and shows that you have things under control and that you are in charge.” Or “kids like rules and boundaries.”
To God we are all children, and God is a wonderful parent. So he lovingly gave us a set of rules to live by…the rules were not given to us so that we can feel condemned or hemmed in, or constrained. Though many times that is the attitude we hear from people about God’s rules. People many times have been given the impression that God is mad, and mean, and just gave us a bunch of dos and don’ts so that we can be kept under control and have no fun at all in life! Nothing could be further from the truth!
God gave us his laws so that we would not be like the deer standing in the head lights…scared and confused and unsure of what to do…or how to please God. God gave us his laws because he loves us and wants to clear up the issue of exactly what is Good and what is Evil? How can we tell one thing from the other. He sent his son to further clarify what is Good and what is Evil by living out for us in a normal day to day life how to abide by God’s law. While we were in a state of sin, outside the Garden of Eden, God loved us so much that he gave us both his laws, and his son. His laws so that we can live together in peace and harmony in a Godly way, and his son so that we can understand how to draw close to God and what God considers important in our daily walk with him.
I am a parent, both my children are adults, and I can tell you that no matter how many of the rules my children broke or what they do in their lives I will always, always love them. Yes, sometimes, I have been mad at them and disappointed in them..as I am sure my parents were at times mad at me and disappointed in me…but there has never been a moment that I have not loved my children. There never will be a moment when I won’t love them.
That is how God, the Father, feels about me and about you…sometimes we don’t follow his law…we miss the mark (sin) or even, willfully, disobey a command, but when we turn back to God, the Father, with a heart of sorrow and apologize…God forgives…just like we earthly parents forgive our children.
There are penalties to sin that cannot be avoided on this earth…if you steal you can be put in jail, if you kill you can be put in jail, or killed yourself, if you lie, then you lose the trust of those you have lied to…etc. There are some penalties or responsibilities that have to be taken for doing the wrong things, but God is gracious to forgive and restore your place in relationship with him regardless of the penalties you have to face. God says, I will be with you always to the ends of the age. (Matthew 28:20)
God’s law is a law of love..he gave us those laws because he loves us…unendingly…eternally…God loves us! Each and every one of us!
John 3:16-21 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.