This is a very good article which outlines some important points about the sacrificial system in the Old Testament and its importance.
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.
John 10:11 I am the good shepherd, and the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
Read John 10: 1-21
John 10:1-21 New King James Version (NKJV)
Jesus the True Shepherd
10 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.5 Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 Jesus used this illustration, but they did not understand the things which He spoke to them.
Jesus the Good Shepherd
7 Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.8 All who ever came before Me[a] are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.9 I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. 12 But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them.13 The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.
17 “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. 18 No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.”
19 Therefore there was a division again among the Jews because of these sayings. 20 And many of them said, “He has a demon and is mad. Why do you listen to Him?”
21 Others said, “These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”
Jesus talks about his qualities as a shepherd, and that his sheep are important enough to him that he would die for them. We are his sheep, and Jesus is our shepherd, who takes care of us and leads us as Jesus describes in these verses. However, we are sheep with a choice. We can chose to follow our shepherd, or not (and in that case be eaten by wolves aka Satan).
Jesus also talks about having sheep in other pastures. He is talking about people who are not Jews. Anyone who is not a Jew is a Gentile. People in other faiths can come to know Jesus as well as people who are raised in Judaism or Christianity. God loves all people, no matter what nationality, or race, or location you live in. If a person is seeking God, God will help that person to be led to Jesus. No matter which part of the world or what faith or lack of faith a person is raised, or invested in, if the person earnestly seeks God, then God will reveal himself to them. The Bible is all about God’s revealing of himself to mankind. So if you are seeking, Jesus will lead you like a shepherd leads his sheep to the good pasture of God’s word. As Christians we have to be open and not condemning of a person’s faith background.
John 14:6New King James Version (NKJV)
6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
As it says in John 10:16 There will be one flock and one shepherd that Jesus will bring the sheep from the other flocks together. The other flocks would be the people who are not Jewish, but they will still know who Jesus is and accept him as their shepherd. The thing that all these “flocks” will have in common is Jesus Christ and it will show in their love for God and their love for one another.
John 13:34-35 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
This does not mean that all religions will be one…don’t get confused! It has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with people who are seeking to know God. Jesus was a Jew from birth until the end of his life here on earth…All of Jesus’ original Disciples were Jewish and so was Paul. People of Christ were not called Christians until Antioch in Acts 11:26. This was when Paul was teaching them. (Though the Bible speaks of a one world religion…Revelation 17:1-18…that is a false religion and that is not what I am talking about here.)
Read Acts 8:26-40 (ESV)
Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch
26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south[a] to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. 27 And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” 30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this:
“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter
and like a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he opens not his mouth.
33 In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who can describe his generation?
For his life is taken away from the earth.”
34 And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. 36 And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?”[b] 38 And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. 39 And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing.
Now the thing about this story of the Ethiopian Eunuch is that the Eunuch was not Jewish, yet, God knew that his seeking of God, through trying to read scripture was sincere. God chose to honor that sincerity by providing a person who was knowledgeable in the scripture to help the Eunuch understand what he was reading. Thus the Ethiopian Eunuch was led to Christ, and became a part of the other flock that came under the same shepherd. Please note that there is nothing in the scripture that says that the Ethiopian Eunuch suddenly became Jewish. He did not. If he had we certainly would have been told this. He met God as he was, and became a sheep who followed the Good Shepherd. We don’t know what event or series of events inspired the Eunuch to start reading Isaiah, that is only known to the Holy Spirit who is the one who had a hand in it to begin with.
Read Psalm 23
Psalm 23 New King James Version (NKJV)
The Lord the Shepherd of His People
A Psalm of David.
23 The Lord is my shepherd;
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
Isaiah 53:1 Who has believed our message and to whom has the Arm of the Lord been revealed?
Read Isaiah 53 This is the prediction from the prophet Isaiah which describes Jesus’ life, and gives him a name which describes his function as the arm of the Lord.
Read John 12:37-50 This is where Jesus talks about the fulfillment of Isaiah 53. Jesus states that he only says what God tells him to say.
Note: In Isaiah’s prediction Jesus will be reviled and persecuted, and won’t be popular with many people, he won’t look pretty, or be attractive, there will be nothing in his humanity which will be attractive in and of itself. In John 12, Jesus clarifies that he only says what God tells him to say, and that many people will not hear him. He is not judging, but coming to save, and that those who are unaccepting of his words (which are coming straight from God) will be condemned by their lack of acceptance.
Jesus acts as the Arm of the Lord in his life. Whatever, our brain tells our arm to do, is what our arm does. Luckily for us that is an automatic thing. We just think of what we want to do like pick something up from the ground, and we do it. When Jesus was here as a human, he was listening to God as if he were a part of God’s body, such as the arm (which he was and is God,so he is a part of God).
Have you ever tried to be someone else’s arm? Here are a couple of things to try that can give you a picture of how tough it can be to act as someone else’s arm.
- With a Partner stand behind the person where you cannot see what you are doing and have them direct you on how to do some activity such as picking up some small things and putting them in a bowl. It would be best if you are blind folded so that you cannot at all see what you are doing and try to do this completely on the instruction of the other person.
- Another thing to try if you don’t have a partner is to try and copy a picture onto a paper while never looking at the paper. Just let your brain tell your arm what to draw.
In both of these activities you can see how difficult it is to do things solely on the instruction of another person without using your own sense of sight to do so. Yet we know that Jesus accomplished perfectly everything that God told him to do. That tells us just how perfect the communication was between God the Father and Jesus the Son. They were perfectly in tune with each other. Jesus’ complete goal in life was to accomplish just what God told him to do, and nothing else. They were always in communion together.
John 14:10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.
God wants us to always be in communion with him, through the Holy Spirit which dwells within us.
Romans 8:9 However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.
Isaiah 53 New International Version (NIV)
53 Who has believed our message
4 Surely he took up our pain
7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
John 12:37-50 New International Version (NIV)
Belief and Unbelief Among the Jews
37 Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. 38 This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet:
“Lord, who has believed our message
39 For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere:
40 “He has blinded their eyes
41 Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.
42 Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved human praise more than praise from God.
44 Then Jesus cried out, “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. 45 The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.
47 “If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 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.”
bible verses by way of Bible Gateway.com
Psalm 96:10 Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns.” The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity.
Read Isaiah 56:1-8 This is a statement of God’s acceptance of everyone who is upright and keeps his ways. That God answers their prayers and looks on them as equals in his sight. All of God’s people are equals. You are either God’s or satan’s. It doesn’t matter what nationality or gender you are, or what your physical body looks like.
Read Genesis 11:1-9 This is the story of the Tower of Babel. Note that these men suffered from pride, and they could all communicate well enough for building this tower. God took them down, by making them all speak different languages so that they could not communicate and continue building the tower. They were not acting in an upright manner, so God demonstrated his Godhood by forcing their plans to go awry in a very harsh way.
Salvation for Others
56 This is what the Lord says:
and do what is right,
for my salvation is close at hand
and my righteousness will soon be revealed.
2 Blessed is the one who does this—
the person who holds it fast,
who keeps the Sabbath without desecrating it,
and keeps their hands from doing any evil.”
3 Let no foreigner who is bound to the Lord say,
“The Lord will surely exclude me from his people.”
And let no eunuch complain,
“I am only a dry tree.”
4 For this is what the Lord says:
“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
who choose what pleases me
and hold fast to my covenant—
5 to them I will give within my temple and its walls
a memorial and a name
better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
that will endure forever.
6 And foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord
to minister to him,
to love the name of the Lord,
and to be his servants,
all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it
and who hold fast to my covenant—
7 these I will bring to my holy mountain
and give them joy in my house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house will be called
a house of prayer for all nations.”
8 The Sovereign Lord declares—
he who gathers the exiles of Israel:
“I will gather still others to them
besides those already gathered.”
Deuteronomy 8:3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
Read: Psalm 119:9, 11, 105, Isaiah 55:10-11, 2Samuel 22:31, Proverbs 12:25, 25:11, John 1:1-5, 14.
Read Matthew 4:1-4. This is Jesus answer to the first temptation.
9 How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
By living according to your word.
10 I seek you with all my heart;
do not let me stray from your commands.
11 I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.
105 Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path.
10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
2 Samuel 22:31
31 “As for God, his way is perfect:
The Lord’s word is flawless;
he shields all who take refuge in him.
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[a] it.
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.
4 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted[a] by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’[b]”
Proverbs 28:9 He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.
Read Jeremiah 7, and Jeremiah 11 These chapters illustrate how God feels about people who turn away from Him, then God doesn’t like that person’s prayers. However, God still loves us, even when we are in sin…He will love us straight to the gates of Hell and if you go through those gates, then God will still love you; but the separation is eternal. I think that permanent separation from God is what hell is actually all about. (That’s just my personal opinion to be sure.)
Just as a parent will allow their adult children to do the wrong things, and not approve, and also won’t stop them but still will love them. Even as you read these two chapters everything in them seems very harsh, doesn’t it? This tells us how much God wants us to show our love to him through obedience to his word. How much God hates the actions of those who say that they are his people, yet, don’t follow what he says to do.
Now, this is not about being legalistic in how you view God. There is absolutely nothing that you can do to gain God’s approval besides accepting his son. However, to accept his son, you also have to accept his son’s “yoke” or his son’s teachings. (Matthew 11:28-30) You cannot accept the blood sacrifice of Jesus and then go on about your merry way as you always have. If a person has really and truly accepted Jesus as their savior then there will be changes in them. Now, that does not mean that they are suddenly going to spring forth into perfection…no, but it does mean that they have a change of heart where they realize that they have been doing things that are (as my Pastor is fond of saying) “off the mark” of where they should be. Another way of saying that they are not on target for what God wishes in their lives. God is the one who changes the person by the Holy Spirit’s presence within them.
So, how does a person know what God wants of them? Well, Jesus stated it clearly: (Matthew 22:36-40)
1.) Love God with all your heart, mind and soul.
2.) Love your neighbor as you love yourself.
If you follow those two commandments, then you don’t have to worry about all of the rest of God’s law because you cannot follow those two commandments and still break any of God’s law at all. That is what Jesus’ taught.
Why is that? Well, because if you love God, then you won’t disrespect him or any of his creation in any way. That includes yourself and others.
If you love yourself (most people love themselves the most if they are honest…we see it all of the time…), then you want the best for yourself.
The best marriage, best home, best children, best friends, best of everything, right?!!
So it follows that if you love your neighbor as you love yourself, then you will want the best for them also: The best marriage, the best home, best children, best friends, best of everything, right?!!!
Now, in loving that person you also want them to have the most important thing…the best relationship with God that they could possibly have. You wouldn’t want that person to have anything bad in their lives, right?!!
This means that in loving them you celebrate with them, and mourn with them as they go through life, and you help them whenever they need it to the best of your ability.
It also means that you recognize that your neighbor may have different needs than you do when it comes to home and family life. After all, we are not clones of each other. We have individual desires in many respects, but there is one thing we all have in common on this earth. It is the desire to have the love and companionship of family and friends. We all want to be loved, and to be able to tell that we are loved.
Sometimes when we are “loving” others in the Christian way, we end up not so much loving them as “judging” them. We end up telling them what they should and should not do. Most people have enough people telling them how to live their lives…that is not what they need. People need the chance to make their own decisions and to realize that they will still be loved. That is the example that God gives us of loving.
God did not put us in charge of making the rest of the world behave. He told us to follow him…follow his example of loving others. God wants us to love people beyond their faults. Jesus shows us that example time and time again. He shows people that he recognizes that they have faults, but that he loves them anyway and that he cares about their needs. God is the one who will work on that person’s faults and bad decisions with them. We can help them with this, but we cannot condemn them..that is not our job or our responsibility. We have different responsibilities when dealing with another Christian who we see going astray as we are to correct each other..but for those who do not know Christ we are responsible to simply show them the love of Christ by our love for them and how we live that love out in our lives. (Matthew 18:15-17)
There is one time that we see Jesus demonstrating some anger to us…the context of that anger is simple…there are people in God’s very house, his temple, who are taking advantage of other people who are coming to worship God. They are giving them unfair exchanges for their money when they are coming from out of town, and they are charging them unreasonably high prices for the animals that they are buying for sacrifice in the temple. Jesus actually quotes Jeremiah 7:11 while he is overturning the money changers tables. Jesus is referring to the time when God proclaimed that empty worship is worthless worship, and telling those who are taking unfair advantage of others that God is watching them and sees what they do. The people whom Jesus was talking to most likely fully understood the reference…it probably scared them spitless! They knew that they were guilty in the eyes of God! (Matthew 21:12-13) (Now John 2 calls it a market place and focuses on the disrespect shown to God’s house by buying and selling in it.)
To put this in more blunt and modern terms…if you are just going to church and warming a pew so that you can tell the world how great you are that you go to church…that is worthless in God’s eyes. If you do not include God in your every day life then your actions of worship are worthless. God wants relationship with you, that is the way in which God will bless your life the most. Relationship with God on a day to day basis can get you through anything that happens in your life. It gives you an inexpressible strength.
Jeremiah Chapter 7 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 “Stand at the gate of the Lord’s house and there proclaim this message:
“‘Hear the word of the Lord, all you people of Judah who come through these gates to worship the Lord. 3 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place. 4 Do not trust in deceptive words and say, “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!” 5 If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, 6 if you do not oppress the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, 7 then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your ancestors for ever and ever. 8 But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless.
9 “‘Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury,[a] burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, 10 and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, “We are safe”—safe to do all these detestable things? 11 Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the Lord.
12 “‘Go now to the place in Shiloh where I first made a dwelling for my Name, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of my people Israel. 13 While you were doing all these things, declares the Lord, I spoke to you again and again, but you did not listen; I called you, but you did not answer. 14 Therefore, what I did to Shiloh I will now do to the house that bears my Name, the temple you trust in, the place I gave to you and your ancestors. 15 I will thrust you from my presence, just as I did all your fellow Israelites, the people of Ephraim.’
16 “So do not pray for this people nor offer any plea or petition for them; do not plead with me, for I will not listen to you. 17 Do you not see what they are doing in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? 18 The children gather wood, the fathers light the fire, and the women knead the dough and make cakes to offer to the Queen of Heaven. They pour out drink offerings to other gods to arouse my anger. 19 But am I the one they are provoking?declares the Lord. Are they not rather harming themselves, to their own shame?
20 “‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: My anger and my wrath will be poured out on this place—on man and beast, on the trees of the field and on the crops of your land—and it will burn and not be quenched.
21 “‘This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Go ahead, add your burnt offerings to your other sacrifices and eat the meat yourselves! 22 For when I brought your ancestors out of Egypt and spoke to them, I did not just give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices, 23 but I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you. 24 But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts. They went backward and not forward. 25 From the time your ancestors left Egypt until now, day after day, again and again I sent you my servants the prophets. 26 But they did not listen to me or pay attention. They were stiff-necked and did more evil than their ancestors.’
27 “When you tell them all this, they will not listen to you; when you call to them, they will not answer. 28 Therefore say to them, ‘This is the nation that has not obeyed the Lord its God or responded to correction. Truth has perished; it has vanished from their lips.
29 “‘Cut off your hair and throw it away; take up a lament on the barren heights, for the Lordhas rejected and abandoned this generation that is under his wrath.
The Valley of Slaughter
30 “‘The people of Judah have done evil in my eyes, declares the Lord. They have set up their detestable idols in the house that bears my Name and have defiled it. 31 They have built the high places of Topheth in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to burn their sons and daughters in the fire—something I did not command, nor did it enter my mind. 32 So beware, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when people will no longer call it Topheth or the Valley of Ben Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter, for they will bury the dead in Topheth until there is no more room. 33 Then the carcasses of this people will become food for the birds and the wild animals, and there will be no one to frighten them away. 34 I will bring an end to the soundsof joy and gladness and to the voices of bride and bridegroom in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem, for the land will become desolate.
- Jeremiah 7:9 Or and swear by false gods
The Covenant Is Broken
Jeremiah chapter 11 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 “Listen to the terms of this covenant and tell them to the people of Judah and to those who live in Jerusalem. 3 Tell them that this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Cursed is the one who does not obey the terms of this covenant— 4 the terms I commanded your ancestors when I brought them out of Egypt, out of the iron-smelting furnace.’ I said, ‘Obey me and do everything I command you, and you will be my people, and I will be your God. 5 Then I will fulfill the oath I swore to your ancestors, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey’—the land you possess today.”
I answered, “Amen, Lord.”
6 The Lord said to me, “Proclaim all these words in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem: ‘Listen to the terms of this covenant and follow them. 7 From the time I brought your ancestors up from Egypt until today, I warned them again and again, saying, “Obey me.” 8 But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubbornness of their evil hearts. So I brought on them all the curses of the covenant I had commanded them to follow but that they did not keep.’”
9 Then the Lord said to me, “There is a conspiracy among the people of Judah and those who live in Jerusalem. 10 They have returned to the sins of their ancestors, who refused to listen to my words. They have followed other gods to serve them. Both Israel and Judah have broken the covenant I made with their ancestors. 11 Therefore this is what the Lordsays: ‘I will bring on them a disaster they cannot escape. Although they cry out to me, I will not listen to them. 12 The towns of Judah and the people of Jerusalem will go and cry out to the gods to whom they burn incense, but they will not help them at all when disaster strikes.13 You, Judah, have as many gods as you have towns; and the altars you have set up to burn incense to that shameful god Baal are as many as the streets of Jerusalem.’
14 “Do not pray for this people or offer any plea or petition for them, because I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their distress.
15 “What is my beloved doing in my temple
as she, with many others, works out her evil schemes?
Can consecrated meat avert your punishment?
When you engage in your wickedness,
then you rejoice.[a]”
16 The Lord called you a thriving olive tree
with fruit beautiful in form.
But with the roar of a mighty storm
he will set it on fire,
and its branches will be broken.
17 The Lord Almighty, who planted you, has decreed disaster for you, because the people of both Israel and Judah have done evil and aroused my anger by burning incense to Baal.
Plot Against Jeremiah
18 Because the Lord revealed their plot to me, I knew it, for at that time he showed me what they were doing. 19 I had been like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter; I did not realize that they had plotted against me, saying,
“Let us destroy the tree and its fruit;
let us cut him off from the land of the living,
that his name be remembered no more.”
20 But you, Lord Almighty, who judge righteously
and test the heart and mind,
let me see your vengeance on them,
for to you I have committed my cause.
21 Therefore this is what the Lord says about the people of Anathoth who are threatening to kill you, saying, “Do not prophesy in the name of the Lord or you will die by our hands”—22 therefore this is what the Lord Almighty says: “I will punish them. Their young men will die by the sword, their sons and daughters by famine. 23 Not even a remnant will be left to them, because I will bring disaster on the people of Anathoth in the year of their punishment.” (NIV via Bible gateway.com)
- Jeremiah 11:15 Or Could consecrated meat avert your punishment? / Then you would rejoice
2Samuel 24:24 No, I insist on paying for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing….
Read 2Samuel 24 and 1Chronicles 21 This is the story of David taking a Census of his men against God’s wishes and the penalty of doing so. This chapter is a good story to demonstrate that when you pray, you must listen to God’s answer, and that sometimes, there is some action you must take for the answer to take place. Note: There is confusion in these two verses, but when you realize that in 2Samuel God is angry against Israel then you can see that what is described in 1Chronicles 21 as Satan inciting David to take a census and in 2Sam 24 as God inciting David to go and take a census is simply two ways of saying that God is sovereign and everything that happens is at his control/command…God does have control of Satan also and when God’s wrath burned against the people of Israel he used Satan to tempt David to sin by taking a census of his people. David always had the option to not yield to temptation, which also would have lessened God’s wrath. However he chose to go ahead and sin. Then he had to pray to God for forgiveness to lessen God’s wrath. God gave him a task to do to show his sincerity of repentance. Let me be clear…the task is not what gained him the forgiveness…it was simply a demonstration of his sincerity and an obedience to God. God does not “need” us to do anything, but does sometimes require us to do things…not for the sake of repentance (beyond accepting Christ), but for our own sake so that we can “feel” (for lack of a better word, though faith is a decision that you make, not a feeling that you have) that we have repented or that we have connected closely with God and rebuilt our faith in God. Everything that God does or asks us to do has one goal….to bring us closer to him…to help us understand him better, and to bring others closer to him and to help them understand him better through us. God does these things out of his extreme love for us. After all, he is God why else would he bother with us, if he didn’t love us?!!
For example: There is a story (not in the Bible) of a man who was living in a place where a flood was coming. He was warned by the news, but he told his friends and neighbors who were packing up their cars to evacuate that he was going to wait for God to answer his prayer. He was praying about it and that God would make everything all right. After a while, the police came by and told him that he must evacuate that the water was rising quickly and he was losing time. He assured the police that he was praying and that God would take care of the situation. (I know that sometimes the police will force an evacuation…but this is an illustration.) More time went by and the water had risen to the point where the man was having to go to his upstairs room. Someone came by with a boat and offered to let him join them in the boat and get him safely away. The man answered that he was waiting on the Lord that the Lord would rescue him as he had been praying about this situation. The man in the boat left. A couple hours later the man was forced to move up to his roof. A helicopter came by, and dropped a rope for him, and told him to climb up. The man repeated that he had been praying and was waiting on the Lord to answer him. He refused to climb up. You can probably guess the fate of the man, right?!! He drowned. Then he is standing in front of the Lord, and he asked, “Lord, I prayed to you and you did not answer me. Why not? Why didn’t you listen to me?”
The Lord responded to the man, “Son, my child…I did answer you, when you first prayed, I sent you the news that there was a need to leave because it was dangerous for you there. Then when you did not leave, I sent you some police officers to make certain that you saw the authority in the order to leave. You still did not listen. So as things became more dangerous and perilous for you, I tried to rescue you once more in the form of a man with a boat, but you refused to get into the boat. Finally, I sent some other rescuers with a helicopter and they practically begged you to cling to the ladder and be flown out of there. Son, I made four attempts to show you my answer and provide for your safety, but you were so stubborn that you were only looking for the answer that you wanted. You were not really looking for the answer I was providing. I love you and it saddens me that you valued your home more than your life and more than your relationship with me. That is why you perished.”
Sometimes, we just don’t recognize the answer that God is giving to us. We are either too stubborn (in wanting our own way) to recognize it, or our prayer life and our relationship with God is taking a back seat to other “idols” in our life. An idol can be anything in a person’s life which interferes with your relationship with God. In the illustration above, the idol of the man’s life seems to be his home.
The illustration is an extreme example of someone who the Bible would describe as “stiff necked”. Think for a minute about what it means to be stiff necked. I have had a stiff neck at times, and it makes it really hard to look around. A stiff necked person in spiritual terms is someone who refuses to turn back from their own agenda, and follow God. There are many times that the people of Israel were called a “stiff necked people”. Set in their own ways, and unable or unwilling to see the truth that God reveals for them. Now a days we would call that person stubborn and unyielding.
Think about yourself…is there a time that you have been too stiff necked about what you wanted? That you haven’t been able or willing to understand that God has answered your prayer perhaps because the prayer’s answer was not what you wanted it to be? I know that I have had times in my life like that. Then there may have been times when you take an action to make something turn out the way you wanted it…ask yourself..how did that turn out for you? I know that for myself the answer would be that it usually didn’t turn out too well. In the Bible it also didn’t turn out well when God promised something, and then told them to wait upon him….there are many examples of that…King Saul, Abraham and Sarah just to name a couple of examples.
Genesis 16:1-2 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named 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.”
In the case of Sarai/Sarah she came to regret her decision because it caused her to have trouble in her home and she suffered from jealousy and her slave, Hagar, started looking down upon Sarah. Sarah tried to rush the God, instead of waiting on him.
This is in contrast to David, who was told to go and make an offering to God. David had to buy the threshing floor where he was told to make the offering. How great the temptation must have been to accept the place for free when it was offered. However, David sets an example to us…if we are going to make an offering to God it should be something that belongs to us, or costs us in some way.
Sometimes we simply need to do something in order for a request to be fulfilled. If you are looking for a new home, or a new job, and you pray for God to help you with that…you cannot expect the Lord to magically beam you to the new job or the new home, right? You still have to go out and look for that new home or new job. God will guide you to the place that will fulfill the desires of your heart. He actually knows better than we do what the desires of our heart really are in life.
Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.
The key thing about this verse is that you need to delight yourself in the Lord first….that way your desires will line up with the Lord’s wishes for your life and happiness.
Roman’s 9:15-16 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then, it does not depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.
Read 1Samuel 1:10-11 Hannah prayed for the Blessing of a son, and promised God that she would give him back to God for all the days of his life, and his hair would never be cut. God answered her prayer and Samuel was born and given to Eli the Priest at the Temple after he was weaned (1Samuel 1:22, 26-28) God blessed Hannah with many more children after Samuel. (1Samuel 2:5) Note that Hannah’s prayer was answered and she was blessed with more children for her faithfulness to her promise. Hannah’s prayer included an offer of personal sacrifice of the thing wanted most. Sometimes when a prayer is really important we can fast and sacrifice our meals or give up fun activities in order to honor the seriousness of the prayer. We do this most often either for healing of someone or ourselves, or during the season of Lent in an effort to experience a small part of Jesus’ sacrifice for us. Sometimes when a matter of prayer is crucial to you, you feel that just prayer alone is not enough, then it is appropriate to fast so that you can concentrate on God more.
Read Judges 11 Here is the story of another person who wanted a blessing from God, and made a vow to God. However, this is a case where there is a lot of controversy. We can learn a lot from Jephthah’s wild seemingly ill considered vow. He vows that if God will let him win a war, then he will offer to or sacrifice to God whatever first comes out of his house when he returns safely.
Have you ever made a vow or promise that you wish you had never made? I don’t think there is a person alive who hasn’t. I am sure that Jephthah had regrets…as his one and only child…his daughter is the one who first came out to meet him. Now there is controversy among scholars about whether he actually burned his daughter as a sacrifice, or if she was just offered as in the case of Hannah offering Samuel to God as a servant in the temple, or maybe she was just set aside and never allowed to marry, but stayed in her father’s house. I am going with the idea that Jephthah was known to be a man of God and knowing that God had prohibited human sacrifice he would never go against God. (Deuteronomy 12:29-32) After all, he was chosen as a leader of his people by God. That is why he is mentioned in Judges in the first place.
Also his daughter mourns her virginity and it tells us she never knew a man. So her mourning of her virginity in this case would be the never having a husband and children. For a Jewish woman of her time, that was a horrible fate to have. A woman’s worth as told to us in the story of Hannah and many other women throughout the Old Testament was based on whether she could provide sons for her husband so that his lineage could continue. The same could be said of a Jewish man, having a son was his top obligation. So much so that if his brother had a wife and died without a son, then he was to marry the widow and raise up a son as his brother’s child so that he would have a son to carry on his line. (Deuteronomy 25:5-6)
So when we see this story of Hannah, she was miserable and she wanted a son to validate her worth. Jephthah had only a daughter and he, undoubtedly loved his daughter as we can see from his response to her appearance. Jephthah was someone who had no proper family when he was growing up, and was actually rejected and ejected from his father’s house, so family was probably doubly important to him over others who were raised in a family where their Mother was respected and loved. Saying this, it seems to me that his vow to God really was a painful burden to him. As his daughter would not be able to provide him with a continuation of his family line, and she was his only child.
Unlike in the story of Hannah and her son, Samuel, we are not told that Jephthah suddenly started having other children.
So both of these people prayed for a blessing and tried to give something to God in return. Hannah ended up with the greater blessing, as the scorn she received from her husband’s second wife was abated and she had many children. The way I feel when I read Hannah’s story is that she is a woman in misery, and is praying for God with all the humbleness of her heart to remove her misery.
On the other hand, when I read of Jephthah, he seems like a person of great pride. He is a person who is a bargainer. When his family called him back he bargains with them to become the head of the family if he fights for them and prevails. Then he offers God a bargain, that he will give God a sacrifice of whatever comes out of his house first if God will just let him win against his enemies. Jephthah was not miserable in the sense that Hannah was, but he was also looked down upon by members of his family and community. He was a “can do” type of person, his relationship with God was almost completely different from Hannah’s. Hannah was a “can’t do anything about it” person. She was humble and laid her problem out to God. Jephthah on the other hand probably would have gone into battle anyway, and hoped for the best; but felt that if he offered God something that maybe God would make certain of his victory.
The thing is in both cases, God did bless these people with the desires of their hearts. Jephthah in the end needed and desired the respect of his family after the way he had grown up. By offering his daughter to God, he also gained more community respect. We are told that for four days a year the Jewish girls would go into the desert to lament his daughter’s virginity. In this case, to honor it, as well as mourn her sacrifice of having no family. Another thing about not having a son, is that there was no one to care for her in her old age….though, as she was a “living sacrifice” to God I am sure that God made sure she was cared for. Just as he will care for us if we make ourselves into “living sacrifices” to him. For us to be living sacrifices means that we are living our lives fully invested in following God’s plan for our lives. We are setting aside our selfishness and our need to control things, and allowing God to work in us.
The thing is that there is nothing other than ourselves that we can offer to God…God does not do bargains. He listens to our prayers and our repentance of our sins, and he wants to give us the desires of our hearts. Just like any parent wants to give their children the desires of their hearts….without any bargaining! God does not bargain…he blesses whom he will bless and he curses whom he will curse. Generally, he blesses those who love him…maybe not the way they wish to be blessed on the surface, but he gives what the person really needs to help them grow closer to him, and to fulfill their plan. The thing is we don’t always understand the actual blessing that God has given us when it is given to us. Sometimes, we have to have time to see it.
Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:33-37 Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil. (ESV)
Genesis 18:32 Then he said May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only 10 can be found there?
Read Genesis 18:20-33 God tells Abraham that he will destroy Sodom and Gomorrah that their sin is too great. Abraham prays to God that he not destroy the city of Sodom if 10 righteous men could be found in either one of them. God agreed, but could only find 1 righteous man, Lot, and so saved Lot and his family and still destroyed the city. So although the city was destroyed, God listened to Abraham, and looked for righteous people first thereby saving Lot. Without Abraham’s intercessory prayer, God may have destroyed the entire city. Prayer affected the outcome for Lot.
There is a bunch of history between Abraham and Lot. Lot is Abraham’s nephew by one of his deceased brothers. When God told Abraham to pick up and move to a new country with his wife and family, Abraham took Lot along. He and Lot ended up having to go their separate ways after a while because their family groups were too large and their flocks were too large. This caused a bunch of fighting between their herdsmen. Abraham was kind enough to let Lot choose which of the new land he wanted for himself. Lot demonstrates a bit of his character to us by choosing the best and greenest land, and leaving the desert area for Abraham. Later his area is raided and he and his family members are kidnapped…Abraham goes to the rescue with a few hundred men and gets them back.
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” (NKJV -Biblegateway)
Now in this story we find that the town that Lot is living in (Sodom) is about to be destroyed by God. God has found the town to be so filled with sin that he considers it irredeemable. In our society there is a belief that everyone is going to be redeemed. That is simply not true. It is purely wishful thinking…however, it is good that we have that desire to see everyone redeemed. God has the same desire, and wants us to have that desire also. He wants us to love others to that point where we wish the best for them, and would like to help them achieve it.
2Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
The promise that is spoken about in 2Peter 3:9 is the return of the Lord…he is not slow in returning because he wants us to suffer more, but because more can have time to make the decision to follow Jesus, and gain their salvation and restored relationship with God. God leaves people here on earth who have already gained their salvation so that they can be instrumental through their knowledge of God, and through the way they live out their faith….in bringing others to the knowledge of salvation also.
Abraham always loved Lot and wanted him to be saved, but he also did not want the people of Sodom to be destroyed either…he was hoping that there would be enough people in the town of Sodom that Lot could continue to live his life there, and that God would not destroy the town. That there were enough people still in Sodom that they could witness to those who were living in sin and thus help them to repent and return to God. However, as we know from the Bible, Lot was the only person left in that town whom God considered to be righteous. If you read more about Lot in the Old Testament you will find that he wasn’t really all that righteous…he had a knowledge of God, but not necessarily a very strong character. He tried to be obedient to God, but he didn’t seem to cling to him the way he should. It is a good thing that Abraham was around to look out for his nephew, and to pray to God for him. God wants us to look out for others, especially for other Christians who may be new to the faith, or weaker spiritually. We are to lift them up in prayer and bolster their faith as much as we can.
Notice that God never got mad at Abraham for how he questioned him repeatedly about his actions. God does not get mad at us either for wondering about what his plan is and what he is doing. God wants relationship with us, if we have a question about what God is wanting us to do, or what is happening or why…we should feel free to pray and ask God to help us to resolve these questions, and to have a closer understanding of him and his plan. God is gracious and loving and understands us more than we understand ourselves. Use prayer to relate to him and he will give you answers and contentment about how he is doing things. When there isn’t prayer/communication..there isn’t understanding either. So pray and ask God what is going on and how to proceed whenever you are in doubt…it will definitely build your faith up…beyond your dreams!