God’s Attitude Adjustment

Psalm 18:27  You save the humble, but bring low those whose eyes are haughty.

4ce7c63384f45b9529a77272d490f52a

Read 1 Samuel 10:1 through 11:15.  This is the story of Saul being anointed as king of Israel, and being rejected by the men of Jabesh.  The Leaders of Jabesh had an attitude of why should you be king of us?  They were in effect rejecting God’s choice of leadership over them.  The next thing they knew they were embracing Saul as their king and rescuer.  Saul showed mercy to them and spared their lives because he didn’t want anyone’s death to take away from God’s Glorious Rescue.  This event did in fact result in Israel as a whole recognizing Saul’s kingship.

The back ground for this story is that Israel decided that they wanted a king so that they could “be like other nations.”  God told Samuel to go and anoint Saul as the first king of Israel.  Then Samuel prophecies to Saul about what will be happening shortly after his anointing as King.  Now Samuel was a well known and respected prophet of God, so it is not really surprising that God give Saul an experience of himself by having the Spirit of the Lord come upon him as he meets up with the prophets and becomes a person who is prophesying himself….Samuel tells him that he will “become a different person”.  Isn’t that the goal of all of us whenever we have the Holy Spirit dwell in us?

The funny thing is that Saul, even with this experience of God, did not seem to really accept the anointing.  After all, actions speak stronger than words, and Saul went home having had this magnificent experience of God and when his Uncle asked him what Samuel had said, he just mentioned the donkeys that they had been looking for, and never said a word about the anointing of himself as king.  Also when Samuel called all the tribes together to announce that God had chosen a king for them…Saul hid behind the supplies.  He had to be brought out…then a lot of the people were “Long live the King!”  Then Saul went on back home to work in the field as usual.  A few brave men inspired by God followed him.

Now in Saul’s defense…Israel had never had a king so it was probably a bit hard to accept.  I mean, how do you go about telling people that God made you king of them?  He certainly had some difficulty ahead.  Also we should keep in mind that a king in Saul’s time and area of the world was very different from a king in the European mindset that we all have.  It would probably be more appropriate to picture a Sheik at this point.  No grand palace was built, yet.  That had not come about.

Now, as we read, not everyone was accepting of Saul’s anointing.  It seems that some were quite skeptical of his ability to lead…after all, who is impressed with someone who just goes and hides when they are called upon?  They probably thought he was timid, and they were looking for someone to take care of business for them.  Even though Saul was the tallest most impressive person in looks…but his attitude was not what they were expecting.  As usual, there were some who were “scoundrels” who were not going to just follow along with God..they thought they knew better than God how things should be and they despised the person that God selected…and refused to bring him gifts as a show of recognition and acceptance of him as their anointed king.

Next thing you know, there is a problem with the city of Jabesh…it is besieged by a guy called Nahash the Ammonite.  Jabesh offers to become the subject of Nahash, but he doesn’t want that…he says only if he can gouge out their right eye as part of the treaty.  So the men of Jabesh stall Nahash, and send for help.  Now we get to see that Saul has what it takes to be king…the Spirit of the Lord comes upon him and he slaughters his oxen and uses them in a method that we might see as rather like something out of the movie “The Godfather”…by sending parts to every tribe in Israel with a threat…”Follow me or else!”   (This will be done to your oxen too!)  What a brutal attention getter, right?  The thing is that this is what it took to get all the people to rally around him as their king and go to war for their fellow Israelites well being.

Now there is an interesting parallel in this, at least to me, in Joel 3: 9-10.

9Proclaim this among the nations: Prepare a war; rouse the mighty men! Let all the soldiers draw near, let them come up! 10Beat your plowshares into swords And your pruning hooks into spears; Let the weak say, “I am a mighty man.”  (Bible Hub NIV)

swords_to_ploughshares_2This business of Saul ridding himself of his Oxen which were the tools of his farming life, and sending them off to threaten the “farming life” that all of the people of Israel embraced…it was necessary because Nahash was threatening the peace and life styles of all of Israel…he probably wouldn’t have stopped at just the city of Jabesh.  Saul was announcing that it was a “time of war”.  War is brutal and shocking…Saul wanted to make sure he made that clear to start with, but that in this case it was necessary to defend their people.  Suddenly, the “timid” “quiet man” who was a farmer was awakened as a “warrior king”.  Israel’s response is amazing and also gives us some numbers to think of:  330,000 men come in response to Saul’s call.  They go against Nahash and they succeed in rescuing Jabesh.

Suddenly, Israel is all, “Hey those men who were being against Our King Saul we need to find them and kill them! Look how great Our King Saul  is and how mighty a warrior he is..he can take care of business for us!”  Note that there is no thought of God in them, but all thoughts of Saul.

Saul is the one who admirably brings them back around to thinking about God…he says “No, there won’t be any killing today..this would take away from the Glory of the Lord who has given us victory today.”

So Samuel tells them that they should go and “renew” the kingship of Saul.

Now, this is really interesting because that is exactly what God wants from us…when we have rejected him, or his way of doing things, and we have been given an attitude adjustment in our thinking and we have come to see that God’s ideas and plans are superior to anything we could come up with…God wants us to go back to him and apologize and appreciate God and his love for us, and most importantly….Renew God’s kingship over our lives!  That is what God’s attitude adjustment is all about…renewing our relationship with him!

praying-hands-public-domain

1 Samuel 10

1Then Samuel took a flask of olive oil and poured it on Saul’s head and kissed him, saying, “Has not the Lord anointed you ruler over his inheritance?[a] When you leave me today, you will meet two men near Rachel’s tomb, at Zelzah on the border of Benjamin. They will say to you, ‘The donkeys you set out to look for have been found. And now your father has stopped thinking about them and is worried about you. He is asking, “What shall I do about my son?”’

“Then you will go on from there until you reach the great tree of Tabor. Three men going up to worship God at Bethel will meet you there. One will be carrying three young goats, another three loaves of bread, and another a skin of wine. They will greet you and offer you two loaves of bread, which you will accept from them.

“After that you will go to Gibeah of God, where there is a Philistine outpost. As you approach the town, you will meet a procession of prophets coming down from the high place with lyres, timbrels, pipes and harps being played before them, and they will be prophesying. The Spirit of the Lord will come powerfully upon you, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person. Once these signs are fulfilled, do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you.

“Go down ahead of me to Gilgal. I will surely come down to you to sacrifice burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, but you must wait seven days until I come to you and tell you what you are to do.”

Saul Made King

As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul’s heart, and all these signs were fulfilled that day. 10 When he and his servant arrived at Gibeah, a procession of prophets met him; the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he joined in their prophesying.11 When all those who had formerly known him saw him prophesying with the prophets, they asked each other, “What is this that has happened to the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?”

12 A man who lived there answered, “And who is their father?” So it became a saying: “Is Saul also among the prophets?” 13 After Saul stopped prophesying, he went to the high place.

14 Now Saul’s uncle asked him and his servant, “Where have you been?”

“Looking for the donkeys,” he said. “But when we saw they were not to be found, we went to Samuel.”

15 Saul’s uncle said, “Tell me what Samuel said to you.”

16 Saul replied, “He assured us that the donkeys had been found.” But he did not tell his uncle what Samuel had said about the kingship.

17 Samuel summoned the people of Israel to the Lord at Mizpah 18 and said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I brought Israel up out of Egypt, and I delivered you from the power of Egypt and all the kingdoms that oppressed you.’ 19 But you have now rejected your God, who saves you out of all your disasters and calamities. And you have said, ‘No, appoint a king over us.’ So now present yourselves before the Lord by your tribes and clans.”

20 When Samuel had all Israel come forward by tribes, the tribe of Benjamin was taken by lot. 21 Then he brought forward the tribe of Benjamin, clan by clan, and Matri’s clan was taken. Finally Saul son of Kish was taken. But when they looked for him, he was not to be found. 22 So they inquired further of the Lord, “Has the man come here yet?”

And the Lord said, “Yes, he has hidden himself among the supplies.”

23 They ran and brought him out, and as he stood among the people he was a head taller than any of the others. 24 Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see the man the Lord has chosen? There is no one like him among all the people.”

Then the people shouted, “Long live the king!”

25 Samuel explained to the people the rights and duties of kingship. He wrote them down on a scroll and deposited it before the Lord. Then Samuel dismissed the people to go to their own homes.

26 Saul also went to his home in Gibeah, accompanied by valiant men whose hearts God had touched. 27 But some scoundrels said, “How can this fellow save us?” They despised him and brought him no gifts. But Saul kept silent.

Saul Rescues the City of Jabesh

11 Nahash[a] the Ammonite went up and besieged Jabesh Gilead. And all the men of Jabesh said to him, “Make a treaty with us, and we will be subject to you.”

But Nahash the Ammonite replied, “I will make a treaty with you only on the condition that I gouge out the right eye of every one of you and so bring disgrace on all Israel.”

The elders of Jabesh said to him, “Give us seven days so we can send messengers throughout Israel; if no one comes to rescue us, we will surrender to you.”

When the messengers came to Gibeah of Saul and reported these terms to the people, they all wept aloud. Just then Saul was returning from the fields, behind his oxen, and he asked, “What is wrong with everyone? Why are they weeping?” Then they repeated to him what the men of Jabesh had said.

When Saul heard their words, the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he burned with anger. He took a pair of oxen, cut them into pieces, and sent the pieces by messengers throughout Israel, proclaiming, “This is what will be done to the oxen of anyone who does not follow Saul and Samuel.” Then the terror of the Lord fell on the people, and they came out together as one. When Saul mustered them at Bezek, the men of Israel numbered three hundred thousand and those of Judah thirty thousand.

They told the messengers who had come, “Say to the men of Jabesh Gilead, ‘By the time the sun is hot tomorrow, you will be rescued.’” When the messengers went and reported this to the men of Jabesh, they were elated. 10 They said to the Ammonites, “Tomorrow we will surrender to you, and you can do to us whatever you like.”

11 The next day Saul separated his men into three divisions; during the last watch of the night they broke into the camp of the Ammonites and slaughtered them until the heat of the day. Those who survived were scattered, so that no two of them were left together.

Saul Confirmed as King

12 The people then said to Samuel, “Who was it that asked, ‘Shall Saul reign over us?’ Turn these men over to us so that we may put them to death.”

13 But Saul said, “No one will be put to death today, for this day the Lord has rescued Israel.”

14 Then Samuel said to the people, “Come, let us go to Gilgal and there renew the kingship.” 15 So all the people went to Gilgal and made Saul king in the presence of the Lord. There they sacrificed fellowship offerings before the Lord, and Saul and all the Israelites held a great celebration.

Footnotes:
  1. 1 Samuel 10:1 Hebrew; Septuagint and Vulgate over his people Israel? You will reign over the Lord’s people and save them from the power of their enemies round about. And this will be a sign to you that the Lord has anointed you ruler over his inheritance.
  2. 1 Samuel 11:1 Masoretic Text; Dead Sea Scrolls gifts. Now Nahash king of the Ammonites oppressed the Gadites and Reubenites severely. He gouged out all their right eyes and struck terror and dread in Israel. Not a man remained among the Israelites beyond the Jordan whose right eye was not gouged out by Nahash king of the Ammonites, except that seven thousand men fled from the Ammonites and entered Jabesh Gilead. About a month later, Nahash

    New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Jesus -Son of Man

jesuspraying3

1 Cor 15:47 The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven.

Read 1 Cor 15:45-58  These verses explain that Adam was the first man who was born of earth or the natural man.  Jesus is the second man who is the divine man.  This is an explanation of the death and resurrection of Jesus, and how it is necessary to have a resurrected or imperishable or changed body in order to “over come” death.  If you need more explanation of the natural vs. the spiritual body then read from the beginning of 15.  For our purposes in this lesson you need to know that “Son of Man” is Jesus’ “racial” name meaning he is stating that he is fully a human being…part of the human race, and that he is God’s representative to mankind.  Son of David is Jesus’s Jewish name, and Son of God is Jesus’ Divine Name.  We will get into “Son of David” and “Son of God” in other lessons.  The term, “Son of Man” can also be used as a personal pronoun to show that the person is talking about themselves.  

Read Daniel 7:13-14 These verses are the first reference to Jesus as the “Son of Man.”  A title Jesus applied to himself.  He will be enthroned as ruler over the whole earth.  The whole earth which by Jesus’ time had been misruled by the 4 kingdoms of men.  (ie. Babylonia, Medo-Persian, Greece, and Rome).  Do you think our governments are doing a better job today? Or do you think that it is still being misruled?  What kind of impact do you think Jesus as the “Son of man” has had on humanity?  Remember, that Jesus still has to come again to judge for his eternal immortal kingdom on earth.  If you accept Jesus and live as his follower, then you will be judged forgiven, and accepted into his eternal kingdom.

BIBLE VERSES:  (From Bible Gateway.com)

1 Corinthians 15:45-48 New International Version (NIV)

45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”[a]; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual.47 The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven.

Footnotes:

  1. 1 Corinthians 15:45 Gen. 2:7

Daniel 7:13-14 New International Version (NIV)

13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man,[a] coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

Footnotes:

  1. Daniel 7:13 The Aramaic phrase bar enash means human being. The phrase son of man is retained here because of its use in the New Testament as a title of Jesus, probably based largely on this verse.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Read Matthew 20:25-28 This shows us that the son of man is a servant to mankind, it also shows that, in this case, Jesus used the term “Son of Man” to apply to himself as a personal pronoun like “I”..but also can tell us that he is referring to himself as the one who is described in Daniel 7.  His listeners would certainly have been familiar with Daniel’s writings.  It should also be noted that the Jewish people in Jesus’ time were not generally looking for a “divine” person to be their Messiah…they were looking for a human being appointed/anointed or sent by God who would save them from Roman rule.  We are shown over and over that the Disciples did not, at first, understand  what Jesus meant when he talked about his kingdom. They were not looking for God to come down in the person of the Messiah and live among them.  In the end, the Messiah, Jesus Christ, was much more than they were expecting!  Funny thing is, that here we are 2000+ years later, and Jesus is still much more than we are expecting…from the time we first believe and as we go through our lives as a “maturing” Christian (hopefully that is your goal)…we come to understand more and more about Jesus…and become more and more amazed and astounded by him and the depth of his teachings.  God is good enough to help us to understand and appreciate him more than we ever thought possible!  If you think that Jesus is awesome now…just wait…he becomes even more awesome as you get to know him more!

 Matthew 20:25-28 25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

I am The Alpha and the Omega…

IMG_0089Revelations: 22:13  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, The Beginning and the End

Read Genesis Chapter 1, and Revelation Chapter 22.  This is about both the beginning and the end of Man’s life on Earth as we know it.  God was there to create us, and as Chapter 22 in Revelations states He will be there to separate those who are to get into the Holy city of God, and those who don’t. 

The Alpha and the Omega…The First and the Last, The Beginning and the End…Those are very strong images.  They are images of an everlasting, timelessness that we as humans cannot really grasp.  Just like trying to grasp the mathematical number pi…3.1416 onward to infinity.  It is simply beyond my grasp to understand.  I sit and think to myself back when I first heard of such a number that I wonder who came up with it and how they discovered it and how they know that it is infinite.  Obviously, God would be the inventor of that number as well as all others as he is the creator of all things.  He simply revealed it to us humans as it became something that a few of us could almost grasp.  Funny thing is that mathematical pi has been known to have been in use in some form since the time of the Babylonians around 4000 B.C.  You might say that it is one of the remnants of the great Babylonian empire, though their number was a bit inaccurate.  Now for any who are reading this who don’t know what pi is…it is the relationship between the circumference of a circle (that is if you walked around the circle), and the diameter (if you walked across the circle).  I know it is used in formulas for this purpose, but don’t entirely understand it, not being a mathematician.  However, back to the topic at hand…

God, who is infinite (like walking around a circle..no beginning and no end) took a lot of trouble to present himself to us in a very linear, straight forward way.  He sent his son, Jesus Christ, to actually show us who God is in the flesh. Jesus has a whole lot of names listed in the Bible, both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament.

God knew that we were not capable of understanding all of who he is, so he decided to come and meet each and every one of us where we are on this earth.  Now, as with all meetings, you can make a friend of the one whom you meet with…or you can reject that friendship by either making an enemy, or by simply ignoring the hand of friendship.

When we read about what God created in Genesis chapter one…it is an awesome thing….he “spoke” the world into existence.  Most of us are really impressed that we can speak into a gps and tell it to plot a route, right?!!  The gps is already in existence and is programmed for  this purpose…God spoke the world into existence from absolutely nothing…We are told in Genesis 1 that The earth was formless and void, and there was darkness…

A God who can speak the world into existence from nothing can most certainly handle my problems, right?!!  God tells us that he will be there from beginning to end…to me that is a comforting statement.  Why?  Well, that is because I love God and I know that God loves me and the he considers me to be very precious to him.  God considers us all to be his very precious creations.  It is just that some people chose to accept God’s invitation to have a close and very personal relationship with him and others don’t.

When you choose to have a close relationship with God everything does not suddenly become perfect and rosy in your life.  Just look at the lives of the Disciples if you don’t understand what I am saying.  You are probably saying, “why not?”

Well, that is the thing, although we are precious to God, so are other people.  Once you have God’s saving grace, he wants to use you to glorify him by bringing other people into close relationship with him also.  Sometimes the process of being used by God for this purpose can be painful and hard to bear…sometimes you don’t even know when or how God is using you.  That is where faith comes in, you just follow God and know that he is with you where ever you go….from beginning to end….he has a purpose for everyone.  Our main purpose is to glorify God, and we are to love people first and foremost even when they are next to impossible to love.  I am sure we all have met some folks who are like that!

calvin_arguing

Just fill in the blank here….”I cannot love them because they are…or they did…”

Just remember that God is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End…he is there for your beginning and end and he is also there for their beginning and end…he knows exactly what it takes to love each and every one of us.

Matthew 5:44-46  

44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?

 

He knows how to help us to love the folks who are unlovable…and we are all in some ways hard to love at different times in our lives.  The thing that I have found over the years is that if you can look at things from the other person’s perspective and try to understand why they are acting they way they are acting, then you are well on your way to being able to love them with the love of Christ.

Most of us have met people and thought…”I can never be friends with them…they are so….” (fill in the blank)…then something happens that is unforeseen and we find that we have a common interest, or that we actually believe something in the same way and suddenly we are best friends with that person.  I have learned that you can never write off a person because at first they are not someone you instantly bond with.  Each person has their own unique characteristics and gifts, and their own unique backgrounds and life experiences…their own pains and pleasures in life which make up who they are.

God knows all of it….the Bible says that God knew us before we were in the womb, though the verse is talking to Jeremiah, God knows all of us the same way.

Jeremiah 1:5 – “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” NIV

If you read Revelation Chapter 22 then you see that God is expecting something from us all…it says he will reward each according to what they have done…this is not talking about how much money you have given, or how hard you have worked at work, or how many fund raisers you have done for your church…this is talking about how much you have loved others and how many people have come to know God because of your actions and your words.  Teaching people about who God is must be done with both words and actions…it must be an intentional act…to love that person enough to want them to truly understand the love of Christ.

91b875183d143d26fba2c536d2aed32b

Revelation 22 reminds us that people can be lost…because their focus is on themselves and their own pleasures and not on God.  This is a tragedy that God would like to avoid happening.

I read this verse in 2 Peter 3:9-12 about the type of people we should be as we wait for the Day of the Lord to come….we are to be conducting ourselves with godliness and holiness as we anticipate and “hasten” the day of the Lord.   

We are to “hasten” the day of the Lord by loving others and helping them to come to know who God is through knowledge and relationship with Jesus Christ.

As Peter tells us in verse 9, The Day of the Lord has not yet come because God does not wish anyone to be lost.  It isn’t because God doesn’t see the bad things that are happening, it’s because he wants to save as many as will turn to him.  God’s servants (that would be us) are those who can impact others to turn them toward God…that is what it means to hasten the coming Day of the Lord, or to move the Kingdom of God forward.

1Corinthians 1:18  18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Closer to Thee, Lord

2f3abf49c62b1a7aef6c4ffc1a9b42d7
I liked this image of these ladies leaping in joy and excitement…it reminded me of John leaping in the womb at the nearness of Jesus also in the womb!

Psalm 84:2 My soul longeth yea even fainteth for the courts of the Lord, my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.

Psalm 84  This is a prayer for closeness to God.  The person is acknowledging that those who are close to God are blessed and joyful and strong.  In verse 2 the musician states that his soul is faint with longing for God.

Prayer is a way to grow closer to God and understand His plans for your life, you should not only pray to have closeness to God for yourself, you should also prayer for others to grow closer to God so that they can have the joy of knowing Him.

Read Luke 1:5-25  This is the story of Zacharias the priest and Elizabeth his wife and the promise of their coming child who is to be John the Baptist.   God’s angel comes and tells Zacharias that his prayers have been heard.  This is a good lesson on waiting for answered prayer that even when we have prayed for years and don’t see the answer that God has heard us and will answer our prayers.

Luke 1:5-25  In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.

Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.

11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”

21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.

23 When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25 “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.” (NIV)  

If you want to know more about the priestly divisions read 1 Chronicles 23 and 24.  The main thing to note about the priestly relationship of Zacharias is that the priestly division of Abijah was directly descended from Aaron, Mose’s brother, through his son Ithamar.  So was Elizabeth, Zacharias’ wife.  It is stated in Luke that both Zacharias and Elizabeth were righteous and blameless in the sight of the Lord; that they kept God’s commands and decrees. Now the fact that they kept his decrees does not mean that they never sinned, it is just that they were in their daily life and in their hearts devoted to God and doing everything that was required of them by law to the best of their abilities.  Blameless and righteous does not mean perfect and sinless.  God considered them righteous due to their faith, the same way that he considered Abraham righteous.  It was that they had a heart for God.

Now in the worldly view of things these people had no blessing of children and they were old.  This would have made the people of their world look down on them with pity, as carrying on the family name was of the utmost importance.  It was so important that when a man was married and died childless, his brother (if he had one) was commanded to marry the widow and raise up a child as if it were his brother’s child.  Apparently, Zacharias and Elizabeth were used to the idea that they were not going to have any children…after all they were old..they were probably resigned to the fact.  Most people would be when that much time had passed, wouldn’t they?!!

Yet, they continued to follow God in their daily lives.  Their faithfulness was not based on what God could do for them.  It was on the idea that, well, “God was God, and if he wanted them to have children he would make it happen, and if not then God was God; it wasn’t meant to be”

Their attitude of faith stood them in good stead and God recognized it and sent an angel to tell Zacharias that he and Elizabeth would be having a son.  Now, here is a hiccup for you…Zacharias didn’t actually believe the angel…he could not get past the idea that he and Elizabeth were too old to biologically have a child.  His doubt cost him.  He was struck dumb until the child was born and it was time for the naming of the baby.  Now, it doesn’t seem that he was deafened, as it says that he made signs to them, but that he could not speak.  The rest of the story is that he was not allowed to speak until the time came to name the baby and he said, “His name is John.”

John the Baptist was the cousin of Jesus the Christ…there is a lot more to this story.  As the story says John was filled with the Holy Spirit even before he was born, and that Holy Spirit recognized Jesus in the womb when Mary came to visit his Mother, Elizabeth right after she was told that she would bear a child….John the Baptist  “leaped in the womb.”  In other words, he was excited to see and be near Jesus even though neither of them had been born yet.  I find this to be a pretty awesome thing!  Holiness recognizing Holiness.

That is what we are to be to God, someone who can recognize him whenever we are around him or his people.  Someone who gets excited by being around and involved with God; by being in conversation and worship with him.  Just like John the Baptist in the womb recognizing Christ…we should endeavor to draw so close to God that we can recognize him by instinct before we even can work it out in our conscious thought processes.  We can know what God is asking of us and know that it is he who is speaking to us.

Deborah’s Leadership – Make a Joyful Noise

prayer-1427565125dg4

Psalm 66:1 Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands

Read Psalm 66  This is the psalm of praise of making a joyful noise to God. It is important to thank God for his gifts, and blessings, in the form of praying praises to God.  Just as you would thank a friend for a gift they have given you.  God gives you gifts and blessing all the time, you must thank Him in prayer.  God enjoys being appreciated.

Read Judges 4 thru Judges 5:3  This is the story of Israel being freed from captivity to Canaan, and take note of Deborah’s use of prophecy from God to bring this about, and that they praised God’s name for their deliverance.

Judges Chapter 4 – Judges 5:3  4 Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, now that Ehud was dead. So the Lord sold them into the hands of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. Sisera, the commander of his army, was based in Harosheth Haggoyim. Because he had nine hundred chariots fitted with iron and had cruelly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years, they cried to the Lord for help.

Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading[a] Israel at that time. She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided. She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mount Tabor. I will lead Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.’”

Barak said to her, “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.”

“Certainly I will go with you,” said Deborah. “But because of the course you are taking, the honor will not be yours, for the Lord will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.” So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh. 10 There Barak summoned Zebulun and Naphtali, and ten thousand men went up under his command. Deborah also went up with him.

11 Now Heber the Kenite had left the other Kenites, the descendants of Hobab, Moses’ brother-in-law,[b] and pitched his tent by the great tree in Zaanannim near Kedesh.

12 When they told Sisera that Barak son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor, 13 Sisera summoned from Harosheth Haggoyim to the Kishon River all his men and his nine hundred chariots fitted with iron.

14 Then Deborah said to Barak, “Go! This is the day the Lord has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the Lord gone ahead of you?” So Barak went down Mount Tabor, with ten thousand men following him. 15 At Barak’s advance, the Lord routed Sisera and all his chariots and army by the sword, and Sisera got down from his chariot and fled on foot.

16 Barak pursued the chariots and army as far as Harosheth Haggoyim, and all Sisera’s troops fell by the sword; not a man was left. 17 Sisera, meanwhile, fled on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, because there was an alliance between Jabin king of Hazor and the family of Heber the Kenite.

18 Jael went out to meet Sisera and said to him, “Come, my lord, come right in. Don’t be afraid.” So he entered her tent, and she covered him with a blanket.

19 “I’m thirsty,” he said. “Please give me some water.” She opened a skin of milk, gave him a drink, and covered him up.

20 “Stand in the doorway of the tent,” he told her. “If someone comes by and asks you, ‘Is anyone in there?’ say ‘No.’”

21 But Jael, Heber’s wife, picked up a tent peg and a hammer and went quietly to him while he lay fast asleep, exhausted. She drove the peg through his temple into the ground, and he died.

22 Just then Barak came by in pursuit of Sisera, and Jael went out to meet him. “Come,” she said, “I will show you the man you’re looking for.” So he went in with her, and there lay Sisera with the tent peg through his temple—dead.

23 On that day God subdued Jabin king of Canaan before the Israelites. 24 And the hand of the Israelites pressed harder and harder against Jabin king of Canaan until they destroyed him.  

Judges 5 On that day Deborah and Barak son of Abinoam sang this song:

“When the princes in Israel take the lead,
    when the people willingly offer themselves—
    praise the Lord!

“Hear this, you kings! Listen, you rulers!
    I, even I, will sing to[a] the Lord;
    I will praise the Lord, the God of Israel, in song.

 

Footnotes:

  1. Judges 4:4 Traditionally judging
  2. Judges 4:11 Or father-in-law
  3. Judges 5:3 Or of

***NIV via Biblegateway.com***

Now, I have run across many people over the years who are completely ignoring that Deborah was a woman who was the leader of Israel.  Not only was she a woman, but also a wife, and a prophetess of God.  It is evident that she was well respected in that position from the fact that she was able to send for Barak and tell him how many men to take and what to do with those men.  The fact that Barak actually came when she called for him, and refused to go to war without her presence shows us that he probably considered Deborah’s presence as a prophetess of God and the leader of their people to be like having God along in endorsement of the venture.

Now, Deborah’s reaction to his insistence of her going with him was that God looked upon that as a lack of faith and would give the enemy, Sisera, into the hand of a woman.  In other words, Barak wouldn’t get the glory for vanquishing Sisera.  Despite this, Barak did what he was told to do, and went forward faithfully into battle.  It came about as Deborah had said, and a woman named Jael was used by God to vanquish Sisera.  However, Barak and his men did conquer the rest of the “900 chariots” belonging to Sisera, so Sisera was running away trying to find a safe place to hide.  Jael was to Sisera like the saying of the spider to the fly…”come right in and you will be safe.”

Personally, I find this story of Deborah to fly in the face of many of the commonly held misconceptions passed down in the church about only men can lead.  Certain denominations still hold to that idea, and many are so caught up in it that they sometimes make the feminine members of their congregants feel as if they are lacking something.  There are many examples in the Bible of how important women are in God’s plans.

While the New Testament books are certainly written by men, there are many women in them also whom Jesus interacted with, and who very clearly lead their people to Christ.

We don’t have to look far…the woman at the well was responsible for leading many in her village to know the Messiah(John 4:1-42), and Jesus told Martha that her sister, Mary was doing what was important.  That is listening to Jesus and learning from him. (Luke 10:39-42) 

There are many other women in the Bible who fulfilled critical roles…Esther, Ruth, Rahab to name a few, and of course, Mary, the Mother of Jesus.

The common thing that we find with these women is that they all loved God, and recognized what a huge gift God’s love, forgiveness/grace was to them.

IMG_0878
When I see this teapot it gives the idea of sitting down at the table with a friend and having a chat…I get a warm feeling from the image, just as I get a warm feeling from the idea of having a chat with God.

Even Martha in her own way was trying to edify and serve God by being a good hostess to Jesus in her home.   What Jesus wanted most from her, though, was for her to give him her personal time and attention. (Another thing to take note of was that the resurrected Jesus first appeared to two women, Mary and Martha.)

When we spend time thanking God for what he has done for us, and praising him through prayer and song we are also to spend time listening and communing with him.  We are actually celebrating not just what God has done for us recently, but also celebrating our relationship with him while we are doing this.

I know this blog entry put emphasis on the women in the Bible and their relationship with God, but the act of praising God joyfully through song and prayer applies to everyone regardless of gender…the point is that God created us all differently, but wonderfully and we should always celebrate with him whatever role he has called us to fulfill in life.

Celebrate that he has loved us and given us a purpose to fulfill — to be in close relationship with him, and to help draw others into relationship with him by sharing what we know about God with them.

Psalm 16:11 You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand. (NIV)

The Breath of God

IMG_0607
Last year I borrowed an incubator from a friend and hatched some chicks..some hatched and some didn’t…only God could determine which would make it.  BTW many people don’t realize that the chick is made from the white part of the egg, and eats the yolk before hatching.  So obviously, the chicken came before the egg as God created man and animals with the ability to procreate it’s like.

Genesis 2:7 Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.

When I was sitting in church this weekend one of the speakers made a statement that caught my attention.  He said that we all have the breath of God in us.  I really had not given that idea a lot of thought, but it really reminded me of all the Bible verses which talk to us about God’s breath.  I looked up the word breath in all of its forms in my Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible and there are 53 lines of verses listed which use that word in some form.  When I looked up the word Spirit it has more than 3 pages.  My Strong’s is for the King James, so if you are reading a different version of the Bible you will get a slightly different count most likely.  However, no matter which version you use, the fact remains that the idea of breath is really important…especially when you read things like  Job 33:4  The Spirit of God has made me, And the breath of the Almighty gives me life.  and  Job 27:3-6 As surely as God lives, who has denied me justice, the Almighty, who has made my life bitter,3as long as I have life within me,the breath of God in my nostrils,4my lips will not say anything wicked,and my tongue will not utter lies.5I will never admit you are in the right;till I die, I will not deny my integrity.6I will maintain my innocence and never let go of it;my conscience will not reproach me as long as I live. (ref. NIV from Biblehub.com)

Job definitely recognized that God is the author and giver of life, right down to the breath in his body.  This kind of gives new meaning to the idea that your body is a temple of the Lord, doesn’t it?!!  I mean in the Old Testament God residing in the Holy of Holies so that gave man a fixed place to go and worship him…however, since God first created Adam and breathed life into his nostrils man has generation after generation been kept alive by the breath of God.  Even sinners are being kept alive by the breath of God, and God loves us even when we are sinning.  (Romans 5:8) However, that sin separates us from God, even while we are breathing with God’s very breath in our bodies.  No wonder it is so painful to be separated from God.

IMG_5637
2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness..The mist on Niagara falls reminds me of the vastness of the power of God…we could feel this mist up a tall hill and still another 15 stories above that through a window.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,

Here in the main portion of Paul’s speech to the people of Athens about the Unknown God. Paul reminds us of several things…1.)  God is not made of anything that man has created, 2.)  God made the world and everything in it, 3.) God doesn’t dwell in temples or buildings, 4.) God doesn’t actually need anything from us, 5.) God made all mankind from one blood, and he determines the length of everyone’s life, 6.) Once you have heard the gospel you need to take God seriously and make the decision to repent and draw closely to God, 7.)  There will be a day of judgement that only God knows when it is coming.

Acts 17:23-30 For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, To The Unknown God. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.24 God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;25 Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;26 And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;27 That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:28 For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.29 Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:31 Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. (Bible Gateway KJV)  

IMG_1116If we go and read Isaiah 40 we can be lifted up and comforted by the power of God, even though people are described as being like grass and their faith like flowers which wither at the breath of God. I found that statement to be rather disheartening when I first read it.  It can be interpreted as mankind being delicate and temporary, easily destroyed by God.  However, though grass and flowers are temporary and delicate, God still cares for them, (Luke 12:27), and when we continue reading Isaiah 40 we find that God cares for and loves his people and he is strong enough to protect them.  (Besides, if you think of it the same wind or breath of God that can destroy also brings in the clouds which causes rain to fall and nourish the grass and flowers.)  Going on in Isaiah 40:10 we find that we are told not to be afraid, but to shout out and proclaim God and who he is to those around us.

Isaiah 40: 1Comfort, comfort my people,
    says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
    and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
    that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
    double for all her sins.

A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
    the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
    a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
    every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
    the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
    and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

A voice says, “Cry out.”
    And I said, “What shall I cry?”

“All people are like grass,
    and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
    because the breath of the Lord blows on them.
    Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
    but the word of our God endures forever.”

You who bring good news to Zion,
    go up on a high mountain.
You who bring good news to Jerusalem,
    lift up your voice with a shout,
lift it up, do not be afraid;
    say to the towns of Judah,
    “Here is your God!”
10 See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power,
    and he rules with a mighty arm.
See, his reward is with him,
    and his recompense accompanies him.
11 He tends his flock like a shepherd:
    He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
    he gently leads those that have young.

12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand,
    or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens?
Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket,
    or weighed the mountains on the scales
    and the hills in a balance?
13 Who can fathom the Spirit of the Lord,
    or instruct the Lord as his counselor?
14 Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten him,
    and who taught him the right way?
Who was it that taught him knowledge,
    or showed him the path of understanding?

15 Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket;
    they are regarded as dust on the scales;
    he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust.
16 Lebanon is not sufficient for altar fires,
    nor its animals enough for burnt offerings.
17 Before him all the nations are as nothing;
    they are regarded by him as worthless
    and less than nothing.

18 With whom, then, will you compare God?
    To what image will you liken him?
19 As for an idol, a metalworker casts it,
    and a goldsmith overlays it with gold
    and fashions silver chains for it.
20 A person too poor to present such an offering
    selects wood that will not rot;
they look for a skilled worker
    to set up an idol that will not topple.

21 Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
    Have you not understood since the earth was founded?
22 He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,
    and its people are like grasshoppers.
He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,
    and spreads them out like a tent to live in.
23 He brings princes to naught
    and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.
24 No sooner are they planted,
    no sooner are they sown,
    no sooner do they take root in the ground,
than he blows on them and they wither,
    and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.

25 “To whom will you compare me?
    Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.
26 Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
    Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one
    and calls forth each of them by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
    not one of them is missing.

27 Why do you complain, Jacob?
    Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord;
    my cause is disregarded by my God”?
28 Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

Now Isaiah 40 is a prophecy about the coming of the Messiah, but it is also a message to those of us who are living today.  It tells us to be bold that God gives us the strength of his breath…we can run and not be tired, we can walk and not be faint…why?  because we have the breath of God living in us…in the form of the Holy Spirit.  We are literally God breathed and God supported.  So when the world is running madly around and you are racing along with it…remember to fill your lungs with the breath of God and pursue with your full heart to do God’s work in your life…tell others who God is just as Paul did, and be bold about it!  God will give you the words to say!  As in Luke 21:15 For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. 

God’s breath is the breath of life, and it is powerful….count on it and be faithful and bold!

Hezekiah’s Distress and Comfort

ac5ffc464795de53209f0461333f54f5_xl
This is a tunnel to the pool of Siloam that Hezekiah had built so that the city of Jerusalem could withstand a siege.  Amazingly, people can still go and walk through this tunnel today!

2Kings 19:34 I will defend this city and save it, for my sake and the sake of David my servant.

Read 2Kings 18:17, 33, 19:1, 14-19 King Sennacherib of Assyria threatens Jerusalem and says that he has an army and that it isn’t good to trust in God because no other city’s god helped them resist his onslaught, that they should surrender, Hezekiah, King of Judah, receives message and tears his clothes and put on sackcloth, and prayed and God told him not worry.  Then Hezekiah received the threat in writing, and took it to the Temple where God was residing and laid it out before God and prayed humbly for protection.

Read 2Kings 19:32-37 God tells Hezekiah that he hears him, and that he is not to worry about the King of Assyria, that no arrow would be shot, no shields will come against the city, that there would be no entrance into the city, and no siege either, that the King of Assyria would go back the way he came, and be killed in his own land.

————————————————————————-

A bit of background on Hezekiah and what was going on around him during this time.  Hezekiah was 25 years old when he became King, and he was the son of King Ahaz who did a lot of idol worship.  King Ahaz was not someone after God’s own heart at all.  He is not to be confused with King Ahab who was the one mixed up with Jezebel.  King Ahab was a King of the Northern Kingdom of Israel after the split of the Kingdom of Israel into the two Kingdoms: Northern Kingdom of Israel, and the Southern Kingdom which included Judah and Benjamin.  King Ahab was even worse than King Ahaz, but I will get into that another time.  Anyway, apparently, Hezekiah whose mother was Abijah (daughter of Zechariah the prophet) must have been taught very well about the Lord from his mother and his Grandfather, as he was considered to be “good King Hezekiah”.

————————————————————————–

I once did a study with some teenagers on the books of 1st and 2nd Kings and 1st and 2nd Chronicles, by way of making a list of the Kings of Israel and Judah and writing beside the names either the word “good king” or “bad king”  it was really interesting.  There were definitely in both cases far more bad than good.  Those that were “good” had one common trait…they all followed the Lord.  Now being Christians we would expect to define a good leader that way, but this is the Bible telling us that they were either “good or bad” not us deciding it for ourselves.

————————————————————————–

Well that was just a short aside for you…now back to Hezekiah.

Hezekiah is talked about at length in both 2Kings starting in chapter 18, and 2Chronicles starting in chapter 29 in the case that you really want to know more about him on your own. The Book of Isaiah chapters 36-39 also speak of Hezekiah.

I really like Hezekiah, and knowing how he really full relied on God when he had an insurmountable problem really helped me to realize just how “big” the God of Hezekiah (who is also my own God) really is.  The Kingdom of Judah was already a vassal of the Assyrian Empire when Hezekiah took the throne.  Well, Hezekiah decided that he was not going to have his Kingdom pay tithes to Assyria anymore, he tore down the asherah poles and removed all the idols from the high places.  He also broke Moses bronze staff of a snake into pieces because people had been worshipping it.  He did all of this pretty much right away when he became King.

In the fourteenth year of the reign of Hezekiah the Assyrians attacked some of the fortified cities of Judah.   Hezekiah attempted to make peace and get them to back off by paying the Assyrian’s off (or in essence paying the fees that they were expecting from Judah whom they still considered their vassal).  Sennecherib of Assyria took the gold, but then didn’t back off.  He was on the war path, literally.  King Sennecherib sent some messengers to Judah to tell not only Hezekiah, but all the common people also that he was coming to take their city by siege and that they shouldn’t bother to trust their God because after all, the gods of all the other kingdoms and cities around them hadn’t been able to stop Sennecherib.  Sennecherib said that if Hezekiah said that God could help them that he was a liar.

Now in all fairness, Sennecherib really had a reason to think this was true.  He had his own god, but it was a man-made god of wood and stone.   Hezekiah believed in the one true God, and believed in his power to save.  All of Hezekiah’s people did not answer Sennecherib’s messengers because they trusted their leader when he told them not to answer.  They trusted that Hezekiah had God on his side, and that everything would be all right.  Hezekiah led his people with God constantly in his mind.

This is really evident from Hezekiah’s reaction to Sennecherib.  He took the message that was given to him by his men and took it to the temple.  I can just see him in great distress, wearing sackcloth and ashes on his head, and literally laying out the papers in front of God in the temple and saying to God, “What are you going to do about this, Lord?  I have paid Sennecherib, but he isn’t backing off.  This guy says that you are not great enough to hold him off.  That’s insulting.  But Lord, I trust you.  You are the most powerful God.  Tell me what you want me to do about this situation…I am absolutely helpless.  I have done what I can do, but we really need your help now.”

The prophet Isaiah sends word to Hezekiah that God says, “Don’t worry about a thing.  You won’t even have to fire an arrow off, but Sennecherib will go on back home and he will be killed in his own temple by his family members.” (This is paraphrased, of course!)

So the next morning we are told that when Hezekiah got up the Angel of the Lord had hit Sennecherib’s army very hard, it had killed off 185,000 men in one night, and Sennecherib had broken camp and run home.  Later we read that Sennecherib was killed by his sons while worshipping in the temple of his god.

Now, I call Hezekiah’s God a God of power.  He is a big God!  A God who can handle a problem of that magnitude can certainly handle any problems I encounter in my life, right?!!  That is really something to lean upon for all of us as we walk our Christian walk in relationship with God.

Hezekiah’s faith and his method of praying to God…he literally laid his problem down on paper (scrolls I’m sure) and then spoke to God about it.  Now he could have just gone in there without the problem in writing, but he took the problem in the form that it arrived and took it straight to God.  He didn’t wait or hesitate.  The scrolls gave him something to focus his prayer on, but it wasn’t necessary.  Hezekiah treated God like someone he was close to, didn’t he?!!  He humbled himself so we know that Hezekiah recognize God’s sovereignty over him, but he still felt comfortable going right to God and figuratively, sitting down on the steps next to God’s throne as a child would next to their parent when asking for help. 

James 1:2-8 says  2Count it all joy, my brothers,when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (ESV)

King Hezekiah did ask in complete faith and expectation that God would take care of his problem.  We can approach God humbly with our problems.  This is what God wants us to do, take our problems directly to him as soon as we know that we have a problem.  That is the best time and it is the best way to grow our faith through answered prayer.  We have to ask for help, or we often won’t recognize who is giving us our help and may give the credit to someone other than God.  God loves us and loves to help us with our problems.  So approach his throne with confidence!

Hebrews 4:16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

hezekiah
Hezekiah spread it out before the Lord. 

A Star of Jacob – Blessed are those who obey

rembrandt_harmensz-_van_rijn_122
The Prophet Balaam and the Ass, by Rembrandt van Rijn, 1626.

Ephesians 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved through faith – and this is not from yourselves it is a gift of God.

Read Ephesians 1:6-7, 2:5-9 We are accepted through God’s grace.  You are saved through grace and not by any work that you may do.  If you were saved by something that you did, then you could boast about it, and would not be glorifying God.  So God used his grace as the only means of your being saved, so that you would recognize who your savior is, and give God the glory.

Read Numbers Chapter 22 thru Chapter 24 The story of Balaam.  Take note of the fact that Balaam is not an Israelite/Hebrew.  Balaam is a Sorcerer/Enchanter/Diviner who acknowledges that all of his gifts come from God, and tries to serve God, but doesn’t have a complete knowledge of God.  He completely doesn’t understand God’s grace.

When Balak, King of the Moabites saw the Israelites who came out of the Egypt camping near his borders he felt panicked, and decided to call on the local Sorcerer (Balaam) to come and put a curse on the Israelites. 

The first time Balak sends a group of men to get Balaam, Balaam sends them home after consulting with God. He tells them to tell Balak that  he could only say what God would have him say, even if Balak offered his house full of silver. 

Balak doesn’t take no for answer, and sends a more impressive group to see Balaam with an offer of great honor if he will just come and curse the Israelites.  God tells Balaam he can go with this group to see Balak, but he must ONLY SAY WHAT GOD SAYS FOR HIM TO SAY AND NOTHING ELSE, so they sleep on it.

The next day Balaam sets out with the group.  God knows what is in Balaam’s mind, that the Israelites will be cursed so he sends an angel to stop him from going.  That is when Balaam beats his donkey three times, because the donkey keeps moving away as it sees an angel and Balaam doesn’t see it.  The angel eventually shows up to where Balaam can see him. He tells Balaam that his donkey saved his life, that if the donkey had not turned aside, then he would have slain Balaam.  So Balaam offers to go back home because he still doesn’t understand what he did wrong (which was to plan for what to say, as opposed to waiting for God’s words.) 

The angel then warns Balaam to continue, but that he is only to say the words that God gives him to say.  (Now this is where this story really starts to get pretty humorous as if it wasn’t enough to have the situation with the donkey.) 

So Balaam meets Balak, and they sacrifice 7 Bullocks and Rams on 7 fires.  Then Balaam consults with God, and returns to stand by Balak, then proceeds to attempt to curse Israel, but God changes the words into blessings for Israel. 

Balak is mad of course, and says lets go someplace else and try this again.  The 7 sacrifices happen two more times in two different places, and each time Balaam utters blessings as God tells him.  Balak is extremely angry and tells Balaam that he blew it, that God took away the honors he was going to give him because he wouldn’t curse Israel.  Balaam reminded Balak that he had told him he couldn’t say anything that God didn’t put in his mouth, even for a house full of silver.  Then Balak told Balaam to go home.  

Can’t you just picture the frustration of Balak?  I can picture him stomping around and saying, “Wait just a minute!  Why did you bless them!  I’m going to go and get 7 more bulls and rams, and set up 7 more altars and this time you better get it right!!!”  He was probably jumping up and down wanting to run Balaam through with the sword by the time he had done that the 3rd time!  Balaam is totally between a rock and a hard place…his trust is in God because he knows that God will definitely kill him if he doesn’t say what God gives him to say, and he knows that Balak may decide to do kill him too.  Ultimately Balaam recognizes God’s higher authority (being a seer) and subconsciously trusts that God will not let him be hurt by Balak.

There are several noteworthy things about this story: 

1) Balaam was not Hebrew, he was a sorcerer/diviner/enchanter who acknowledged God for his gifts, and tried to serve God, but was doing so without understanding.

2)  God used Balaam to bless Israel even though he was a heathen, and also used Balaam to prophesy the coming of Jesus in the phrase “A Star will come out of Jacob, a sceptre will rise out of Israel, he will crush the foreheads of Moab, the skulls of all the sons of Sheth….”

3)  Balaam did not understand God’s grace even though it was active in his own life.  He thought that he when God gave him permission to go to Balak that he was going to do as Balak asked.  He was expecting that God would curse Israel.  However, he received a lesson in God’s grace with his donkey and the angel, and again with the blessing of Israel. 

4) Balaam acknowledged that God was supreme over any enchantment or divination that he himself could do. God was his acknowledged supreme power of the universe.

5) Balaam does not have a good end, despite having had this opportunity to draw closer to God he later chose to go up against God in a sneaky way.  You can read about him being killed because he thought to circumvent God by trying to make God take his blessing away from Israel by sending Moabite women in to tempt the Hebrew men into fornication and idolatry. (Numbers 31:16 and Joshua 13:22 and Revelation 2:14)  This teaches us about trying to go in through the back door to accomplish a goal that God has told you not to do.  Balaam was clearly made to understand that God was blessing Israel, but he decided that maybe he could make God “unbless” Israel if he could just tempt them to do ungodly things! That was his downfall.

God promised Abram (Abraham) in Genesis 12:3 that he would bless those who bless him and curse those who curse him.  That was part of God’s covenant with Abraham about him and his descendants.  We as Christians are adopted in to this same blessing.  That is what it means to be grafted onto the Vine.  The Vine being Israel, and us Gentiles are those who are grafted. (Romans 11:11-31)

To put it more simply Luke 11:28 says: But He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

Balaam heard directly from God and did not in the end obey.

The Power of Grace

IMG_3619
This is the Roman road in Ephesus that Paul walked on…it is probably similar to the one going to Damascus as the city was redesigned entirely by the Romans after Pompey conquered it.

Acts 4:33 And with great power gave the Apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, and great grace was upon them all.

Read Acts 9:1-20  Saul met Jesus on the road to Damascus, and was converted to Christianity, and God’s grace was upon him because he accepted Jesus, and was humbled before God.  Then Saul set out to be obedient to God’s wishes for his life, and continued to live under God’s grace and forgiveness.  Although Saul who became known as Paul after his conversion, was a known persecutor of Christians, and held the cloak of the people who stoned Stephen, the first martyr.  You know the funny (ironic) thing about Paul is that the whole time he was killing Christians he was doing it for God.  He thought that they were heretics and that as a honorable, faithful Jew he should do all in his power to stamp out those of the new religion who were causing so many of his fellow Jews to convert to Christianity and believe in this Jesus as their Messiah.  Paul who was trained really well from childhood as a Pharisee, and knew his scriptures extremely well.  He was trained by a well known Pharisee/scholar named Gamaliel.  Being trained by Gamaliel would probably be the equivalent of being taught about Einstein’s theory of relativity by Einstein himself.  Gamaliel was probably just about as famous in scholarly circles in Paul’s time as Einstein is in scientific circles today.  This just goes to show that even if you are taught the truth, of the scriptures, you can miss the main point.  Paul had the message of the Messiah right there in the scriptures, yet he did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah until Jesus showed up in front of him on the road to Damascus.  There are more than 400 prophecies about the Messiah throughout the Old Testament of the Bible and Jesus fulfilled every single one of them without exception.  

Now there are some people who might say, “Well, Jesus probably knew what they were and he just set out to fulfill them all….”

Well, I am here to tell you, that even if a person tried to do so, they could never have enough control over their own circumstances to fulfill all of those prophecies even if they set out to do so.

 I know, the next question is, “Why not?!!”  Well, the thing is a lot of those prophecies had to do with the circumstances, time and place of Jesus’ birth, and with his death and resurrection, and with the performing of miracles.  No one can control where they are born, or who their parents are related to, no one can control whether or not they rise from the dead.  Also here is a really concrete couple of examples of prophecies about Messiah, the casting of lots for his clothes, the rejection and persecution by his people (the Jews), and that he would die without having any broken bones, and that water would run out of his side.  These are just a few prophecies that would be uncontrollable by a person setting out to prove to people that they were the Messiah.  Psalm 22 is full of prophecy descriptions of the Messiah’s death. Isaiah 53:9 talks about a sinless person who was put to death with the wicked, yet buried with the rich.  There are many many verses about the Messiah in the Old Testament. I won’t overburden you with them here.  If you care to look them up, they are easily available on the web, you can search through them yourself.  I believe that I have made my point at any rate.  Jesus could never have chosen to fulfill all of the prophecies about the Messiah because a large number of them are not controllable by man.  Only God with his infinite power could control the timing of and the person in whom those prophecies were fulfilled.  That person was none other that Jesus the Christ.

God actually made it so that anyone who knows the scriptures should be able to recognize the truth of Jesus Christ as the Messiah.  Yet, we have Saul of Tarsus, who was a well trained person who willfully refused to accept what was right in front of his nose and locked in his head because he was probably afraid to closely examine what he had been taught, and to go against his elders who were telling him that the Christians were a bad lot…who were heretics.  Jesus had to show up right in front of him to get his attention, and even when he did, he just asked Saul (Paul) why he was persecuting his children; oh yeah, and he blinded Saul/Paul to get his attention completely on him.  I find the blinding to be another dose of irony…knowing Paul’s intelligence he no doubt would have noticed this irony also.  The irony that the person who was spiritually blind, yet thought they were acting in a very spiritual way on God’s behalf, was now physically blinded in order to be made able to see things in a spiritually clear manner, and truly start acting as God’s servant in bringing more people to know God through testifying about his son, Jesus Christ.  Isn’t God awesome?!!

I noticed a long time ago, that God really has an awesome sense of humor at times when he is trying to get your attention, or test your faith (really what he is doing is teaching you about the amount of faith you have and helping you to have stronger faith.)