Sinning in Ignorance

highpriestHebrews 5:1-2  Every high priest is selected from among men and is appointed to represent them in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.  He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness.

Read: 1 Samuel 14:1- 46  This is the story of Jonathon breaking a law in innocence, he didn’t know that there was a law, and God protected him from injustice. 

1Samuel 14: One day Jonathan son of Saul said to his young armor-bearer, “Come, let’s go over to the Philistine outpost on the other side.” But he did not tell his father.

Saul was staying on the outskirts of Gibeah under a pomegranate tree in Migron. With him were about six hundred men, among whom was Ahijah, who was wearing an ephod. He was a son of Ichabod’s brother Ahitub son of Phinehas, the son of Eli, the Lord’s priest in Shiloh. No one was aware that Jonathan had left.

On each side of the pass that Jonathan intended to cross to reach the Philistine outpost was a cliff; one was called Bozez and the other Seneh. One cliff stood to the north toward Mikmash, the other to the south toward Geba.

Jonathan said to his young armor-bearer, “Come, let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised men. Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few.”

“Do all that you have in mind,” his armor-bearer said. “Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul.”

Jonathan said, “Come on, then; we will cross over toward them and let them see us. If they say to us, ‘Wait there until we come to you,’ we will stay where we are and not go up to them. 10 But if they say, ‘Come up to us,’ we will climb up, because that will be our signthat the Lord has given them into our hands.”

11 So both of them showed themselves to the Philistine outpost. “Look!” said the Philistines. “The Hebrews are crawling out of the holes they were hiding in.” 12 The men of the outpost shouted to Jonathan and his armor-bearer, “Come up to us and we’ll teach you a lesson.”

So Jonathan said to his armor-bearer, “Climb up after me; the Lord has given them into the hand of Israel.”

13 Jonathan climbed up, using his hands and feet, with his armor-bearer right behind him. The Philistines fell before Jonathan, and his armor-bearer followed and killed behind him.14 In that first attack Jonathan and his armor-bearer killed some twenty men in an area of about half an acre.

Israel Routs the Philistines

15 Then panic struck the whole army—those in the camp and field, and those in the outposts and raiding parties—and the ground shook. It was a panic sent by God.[a]

16 Saul’s lookouts at Gibeah in Benjamin saw the army melting away in all directions.17 Then Saul said to the men who were with him, “Muster the forces and see who has left us.” When they did, it was Jonathan and his armor-bearer who were not there.

18 Saul said to Ahijah, “Bring the ark of God.” (At that time it was with the Israelites.)[b]19 While Saul was talking to the priest, the tumult in the Philistine camp increased more and more. So Saul said to the priest, “Withdraw your hand.”

20 Then Saul and all his men assembled and went to the battle. They found the Philistines in total confusion, striking each other with their swords. 21 Those Hebrews who had previously been with the Philistines and had gone up with them to their camp went over to the Israelites who were with Saul and Jonathan. 22 When all the Israelites who had hiddenin the hill country of Ephraim heard that the Philistines were on the run, they joined the battle in hot pursuit. 23 So on that day the Lord saved Israel, and the battle moved on beyond Beth Aven.

Jonathan Eats Honey

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24 Now the Israelites were in distress that day, because Saul had bound the people under an oath, saying, “Cursed be anyone who eats food before evening comes, before I have avenged myself on my enemies!” So none of the troops tasted food.

25 The entire army entered the woods, and there was honey on the ground. 26 When they went into the woods, they saw the honey oozing out; yet no one put his hand to his mouth, because they feared the oath. 27 But Jonathan had not heard that his father had bound the people with the oath, so he reached out the end of the staff that was in his hand and dipped it into the honeycomb. He raised his hand to his mouth, and his eyes brightened.[c]28 Then one of the soldiers told him, “Your father bound the army under a strict oath, saying, ‘Cursed be anyone who eats food today!’ That is why the men are faint.”

29 Jonathan said, “My father has made trouble for the country. See how my eyes brightened when I tasted a little of this honey. 30 How much better it would have been if the men had eaten today some of the plunder they took from their enemies. Would not the slaughter of the Philistines have been even greater?”

31 That day, after the Israelites had struck down the Philistines from Mikmash to Aijalon,they were exhausted. 32 They pounced on the plunder and, taking sheep, cattle and calves, they butchered them on the ground and ate them, together with the blood. 33 Then someone said to Saul, “Look, the men are sinning against the Lord by eating meat that has blood in it.”

“You have broken faith,” he said. “Roll a large stone over here at once.” 34 Then he said, “Go out among the men and tell them, ‘Each of you bring me your cattle and sheep, and slaughter them here and eat them. Do not sin against the Lord by eating meat with blood still in it.’”

So everyone brought his ox that night and slaughtered it there. 35 Then Saul built an altar to the Lord; it was the first time he had done this.

36 Saul said, “Let us go down and pursue the Philistines by night and plunder them till dawn, and let us not leave one of them alive.”

“Do whatever seems best to you,” they replied.

But the priest said, “Let us inquire of God here.”

37 So Saul asked God, “Shall I go down and pursue the Philistines? Will you give them into Israel’s hand?” But God did not answer him that day.

38 Saul therefore said, “Come here, all you who are leaders of the army, and let us find out what sin has been committed today. 39 As surely as the Lord who rescues Israel lives, even if the guilt lies with my son Jonathan, he must die.” But not one of them said a word.

40 Saul then said to all the Israelites, “You stand over there; I and Jonathan my son will stand over here.”

“Do what seems best to you,” they replied.

41 Then Saul prayed to the Lord, the God of Israel, “Why have you not answered your servant today? If the fault is in me or my son Jonathan, respond with Urim, but if the men of Israel are at fault,[d] respond with Thummim.” Jonathan and Saul were taken by lot, and the men were cleared. 42 Saul said, “Cast the lot between me and Jonathan my son.” And Jonathan was taken.

43 Then Saul said to Jonathan, “Tell me what you have done.”

So Jonathan told him, “I tasted a little honey with the end of my staff. And now I must die!”

44 Saul said, “May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if you do not die, Jonathan.”

45 But the men said to Saul, “Should Jonathan die—he who has brought about this great deliverance in Israel? Never! As surely as the Lord lives, not a hair of his head will fall to the ground, for he did this today with God’s help.” So the men rescued Jonathan, and he was not put to death.

46 Then Saul stopped pursuing the Philistines, and they withdrew to their own land.

Footnotes:

  1. 1 Samuel 14:15 Or a terrible panic
  2. 1 Samuel 14:18 Hebrew; Septuagint “Bring the ephod.” (At that time he wore the ephod before the Israelites.)
  3. 1 Samuel 14:27 Or his strength was renewed; similarly in verse 29
  4. 1 Samuel 14:41 Septuagint; Hebrew does not have “Why … at fault.
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.

I really like this story because it shows a lot about the character of Saul and of the character of Jonathon, his son, but most importantly it is a great illustration of the character of God.  We see many times when reading about Saul that he is actually more interested in what men think of him and how to get what he wants than he is in finding out what God wants.  In this story, the Priest had to remind him that they should seek God’s will in what they were doing.  Saul didn’t punish his men for breaking God’s law, (eating meat with blood still in it)but he was going to put his son to death for breaking an oath that he forced on his men…to fast until evening.  Yet, if you look at that oath Saul demanded of his men, he was asking them to expend a lot of physical energy and yet not be “fueled” physically for the job.  Saul’s temperament was very much that of an “in the moment” type of person…rapid decisions on the spot without taking God into account most of the time until after the fact.  Personally, I find that King Saul’s character was very harsh, seems like he would be an uncomfortable person to be around.

Jonathon, on the other hand in all the readings about him, seems to have been a very sweet, and contemplative person…who was steadfast toward his friends and toward his father.  A person of action, but actions that he considered beforehand, and  looked to God for his answers.  Even when we find that God has made David the anointed future King of Israel…Jonathon does not complain…he simply accepts what his God has ordained…he states that he knows that he will be “second in command”.  Imagine that kind of faith?  Jonathon knows that whatever God ordains will come to pass, and that it will be best for everyone.  He trusted God.  He was even ready to die for eating a bit of honey if that is what God ordained.  God did not so ordain and used the men around Jonathon to open Saul’s eyes that God had used his son that day in order to give them victory over the Philistines. The glory always belongs to God.

1Samuel 23:17  

17 “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this.” (NIV)

 

We need to always remember to seek God first…if our intention is to seek God and live the way that God wishes us to live, then we can be confident that God will understand our mistakes.  God knows who we are, and what our intentions toward him are in our lives.  If we commit a sin, and we don’t really understand that it is a sin, then God is a God of justice.  If a person is truly seeking the Lord, then he will eventually find a way to open that person’s eyes to their sin.  Even the unknown ones.

Imagine how hard it would be if we all in seeking God were suddenly faced with ALL of our wrong doings in life…ALL of the things that we were sinful in doing, AND expected to FIX them all immediately before being drawn into a relationship with God?

It would not just be hard, it would be impossible!  If that were the requirement then none of us would be able to draw close to God…ever!  Thankfully, we have a loving God who has provided a way for us, through Jesus the Christ, to turn away from our sins and draw closer to him.  God is merciful and allows us to be helped by him in working through our sinful issues one by one as we go through life.  It is an amazing thing to me…when I first really started actively drawing closer to God I had a mental list of what my sins were…now I can laugh at the small number of them (though I thought at the time they the number was large enough…after all one is too many…that is why we need Jesus!).

The thing is that we all have sins that we don’t even recognize yet…it takes time with God for him to reveal them to us.  It is his love for you and me that he does this for us.   As we are able to set aside and grow away from our sins one by one we can grow closer to God and grow into the peace of heart, mind and soul that God wishes us to have in our life.

We are just like babies in dealing with our sins and in dealing with God.  Babies don’t understand the concepts of friendship or sharing, but usually by the time they are, say, 10 years old, hopefully their parents have taught to understand how to be a good friend, and that people share things, and selfishness is wrong.

It is really important to remember that God loves us even when we are sinning, but that our sins separate us from God.  So as soon as we recognize a sin, we should ask God to forgive us, and help us to turn away from that sin.  Remember John 3:16

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

God does not  want anyone to perish!  God loves us…he is not mad at us…he wants what is best for us…and following is plan for our life is what is best, but in order to come to know that plan….we have to seek God out with all of our hearts!

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Something to think about:   Are there times when you have done the wrong thing for what you think are the right reasons, but then you find out that you cannot justify doing the wrong thing for any reason?  

Is there a time  when you have unknowingly done the wrong thing?  For instance, you try to patch up some friends who are disagreeing and they get mad at you because of your methods.  Perhaps you tricked them into being in the same place at the same time, or you lied to them to get them to make up.  What happened when the lie came out? 

Perhaps you ate a piece of cake not knowing that the cake was supposed to go to a bake sale, and not be eaten at home.  You didn’t intentionally do the wrong thing, but it turned out that you had done the wrong thing.

God sees these kinds of things and realizes what we are doing…even if we think that no one sees us…God knows what is going on all of the time.  God sees things through the eyes of love!  

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This is my dog, Leia.  She is getting old now, but she is always happy to see me and just wants to be with me. I really appreciate  how God supplied me with pets who let me see such a simple and straight forward happiness. 

Paul’s Authority and Mission

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Dave makes some really wonderful points here about how Paul the Apostle is often taken out of context and seems to be at odds with the Apostles and Judaism with what he says.

I heard a sermon on the radio today in which the entire scope of the sermon was on how Paul was the “only” authorized Disciple to the Gentiles….it was presented that Paul was essentially the only one we as Christians needed to listen to and worry about listening to in our Bible.

Whether that was the Preacher’s intent or not…that is the message he was handing out quite passionately.  He completely ignored the fact that the first person to deal with the Gentiles aside from Jesus was Peter the Apostle (Acts 10) who went to see Cornelius the Gentile and his family.  Peter was called upon by the Holy Spirit to go and see Cornelius and his family, and the Holy Spirit told Cornelius to send some men to go and get Peter, whom he had never met before.  Peter witnessed this important thing when he went there, that although Cornelius and his people were all Gentiles (non-Jews) God gave them the Holy Spirit also.  This was an important thing when it came to the decision of the Apostles about how Gentiles could remain as they were (Gentiles) and still be included in the Salvation offered by God.

Many of our Christian Churches over the centuries and still today have doctrine that takes Paul out of context and forgets that Paul as well as the other Disciples and Jesus, himself…were all practicing Jews…they did not forsake the practice of their faith in order to accept Jesus..they still kept Sabbath and Passover, and the other Jewish Holidays….they were still Jewish until their deaths…although they had recognized and accepted the Messiah as the source of their salvation.  Jesus was a devout practicing Jew…he could not have kept the law perfectly if he had not been.

So what does this mean to us?  This means that Paul who was a Pharisee who was the son of a Pharisee, who was trained by a famous Pharisee (Gamaliel) was still a Pharisee even while he accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior.  He was still a Jew….he still honored Jewish traditions and laws, but he understood that the law is not the source of salvation. He understood that Repentance and acceptance of the Messiah, pursuing God was the source of salvation….relationship with God.  As Dave says in this Video…Paul was not a rogue who was separate from the Disciples.  He was under the Disciples authority…he was commissioned by them (as well as Jesus – Acts 22:21) to go and preach to the Gentiles. The Disciples understood that Paul had been authorized by Jesus as the Disciple to the Gentiles and they followed the Holy Spirit’s wishes and sent him out to them in obedience to God.

Paul tells us to be who we are…if we are Jews to be Jews who accept the Messiah, and if we are Gentiles to be Gentiles who accept the Messiah.  We are to accept Jesus where ever we are and be the person that God created us to be, as we are all unique individuals and God has a plan for each and every one of us in how we are to serve him.

Dave gets a lot deeper into this idea in his video and makes some very impressive points about Paul and his Mission/Ministry.  I encourage you to give it a watch.

It is interesting to look at the scripture in the context of how the Disciples would have understood things from their position as Jews.

Source: Paul’s Authority and Mission

Jesus – Son of David

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Luke 1:69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David.

Read 2 Samuel Ch. 7  This is God’s promise to David to make his kingdom and his house last forever. 

Read Matthew 1:1-17  This is the genealogy of Jesus Christ from Abraham onward.  So you can see that God kept his promise to Abraham to make his children as numberless as the stars, and to David to make his kingdom and house be eternal, through Jesus.

Read Luke 1:26-33  This is when the Angel Gabriel visits Mary and tells Mary that her son will be called the Son of the Most High, and he will rule on the throne of his father David and over the house of Jacob forever.

Note:  Jesus’s title of the Son of David is a racial title which reminds us that Jesus was a descendant of the Jewish King David who was a descendant of Abraham.  In short, it reminds us that Jesus is Jewish.

Genealogy is very important throughout the bible.  It demonstrates continuity of life.  It also gives us a glance at what a forgiving God we have.  Looking at the people listed in Jesus’ ancestry we see all kinds of sinners.  Yet, those people were so forgiven by God due to their faith that he put them in Jesus’ ancestry to show us how total and completely God forgives you.

We know that God keeps his promises, no matter how long it seems to take him to fulfill a promise…when God makes a promise…he keeps it…you can count on it!

 Look at the number of generations from Abraham to Jesus…Abraham did not live to see the promise kept, but God kept it anyway!

The same with David, King David did not live to see Jesus, hundreds of years later, still representing his throne, his authority, and kingship…yet, Jesus is an eternal King, to a Kingdom without any ending!  How is that for promise keeping?!!  Yes, there were times when the King was not actually sitting on the throne in Israel.  Just because a king is not actively sitting on the throne doesn’t mean there is no king.

Jesus told us that we are to preach the Kingdom come…because the Kingdom is here!   We refer to this as the gospel.   The word gospel means the good news!  The good news is that God loves us and sent his son so that those who believe in his son, Jesus the Christ, and ask for God’s forgiveness of their sins, can receive that forgiveness and begin a new life living for God with the Holy Spirit dwelling within them.  This is a promise that God made to us!  We can count on God to keep his promise!  That is one of the things that knowing Jesus as the “Son of David” means to us!

Luke 9:1-2   When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.

Psalm 103:10-12 New International Version (NIV)

10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

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Bible Verses listed in lesson from biblegateway.com

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2 Samuel 7 New International Version (NIV)

God’s Promise to David

After the king was settled in his palace and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.”

Nathan replied to the king, “Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the Lord is with you.”

But that night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, saying:

“Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’

“Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth. 10 And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning 11 and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders[a] over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies.

“‘The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: 12 When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands. 15 But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me[b]; your thronewill be established forever.’”

17 Nathan reported to David all the words of this entire revelation.

David’s Prayer

18 Then King David went in and sat before the Lord, and he said:

“Who am I, Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?19 And as if this were not enough in your sight, Sovereign Lord, you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant—and this decree, Sovereign Lord, is for a mere human![c]

20 “What more can David say to you? For you know your servant, Sovereign Lord. 21 For the sake of your word and according to your will, you have done this great thing and made it known to your servant.

22 “How great you are, Sovereign Lord! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears. 23 And who is like your people Israel—the one nation on earth that God went out to redeem as a people for himself, and to make a name for himself, and to perform great and awesome wonders by driving out nations and their gods from before your people, whom you redeemed from Egypt?[d] 24 You have established your people Israel as your very own forever, and you, Lord, have become their God.

25 “And now, Lord God, keep forever the promise you have made concerning your servant and his house. Do as you promised, 26 so that your name will be great forever. Then people will say, ‘The Lord Almighty is God over Israel!’ And the house of your servant David will be established in your sight.

27 Lord Almighty, God of Israel, you have revealed this to your servant, saying, ‘I will build a house for you.’ So your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to you.28 Sovereign Lord, you are God! Your covenant is trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant. 29 Now be pleased to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue forever in your sight; for you, Sovereign Lord, have spoken, and with your blessing the house of your servant will be blessed forever.”

Footnotes:

  1. 2 Samuel 7:11 Traditionally judges
  2. 2 Samuel 7:16 Some Hebrew manuscripts and Septuagint; most Hebrew manuscripts you
  3. 2 Samuel 7:19 Or for the human race
  4. 2 Samuel 7:23 See Septuagint and 1 Chron. 17:21; Hebrew wonders for your land and before your people, whom you redeemed from Egypt, from the nations and their gods.

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Matthew 1:1-17 New International Version (NIV)

The Genealogy of Jesus the Messiah

This is the genealogy[a] of Jesus the Messiah[b] the son of David, the son of Abraham:

Abraham was the father of Isaac,

Isaac the father of Jacob,

Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,

Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,

Perez the father of Hezron,

Hezron the father of Ram,

Ram the father of Amminadab,

Amminadab the father of Nahshon,

Nahshon the father of Salmon,

Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,

Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,

Obed the father of Jesse,

and Jesse the father of King David.

David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,

Solomon the father of Rehoboam,

Rehoboam the father of Abijah,

Abijah the father of Asa,

Asa the father of Jehoshaphat,

Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram,

Jehoram the father of Uzziah,

Uzziah the father of Jotham,

Jotham the father of Ahaz,

Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,

10 Hezekiah the father of Manasseh,

Manasseh the father of Amon,

Amon the father of Josiah,

11 and Josiah the father of Jeconiah[c] and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.

12 After the exile to Babylon:

Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel,

Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,

13 Zerubbabel the father of Abihud,

Abihud the father of Eliakim,

Eliakim the father of Azor,

14 Azor the father of Zadok,

Zadok the father of Akim,

Akim the father of Elihud,

15 Elihud the father of Eleazar,

Eleazar the father of Matthan,

Matthan the father of Jacob,

16 and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.

17 Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah.

Footnotes:

  1. Matthew 1:1Or is an account of the origin
  2. Matthew 1:1Or Jesus Christ. Messiah (Hebrew) and Christ (Greek) both mean Anointed One; also in verse 18.
  3. Matthew 1:11That is, Jehoiachin; also in verse 12

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Luke 1:26-33  New International Version (NIV)

The Birth of Jesus Foretold

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

 

 

Jesus – The Servant

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Isaiah 42:1- 4 Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations.  He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets.  A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.  In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged til he establishes justice on earth.  In his law the islands will put their hope. (Matthew 12:18-21 is the new testament version of Isaiah’s prophecy.)

Read  Matthew 18:1-5, John 13:1-17, John 3:1-7

Matthew 18:1-5 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

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John 13:1-7  It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

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John 3:1-7  Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.[a]

“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit[b] gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You[c] must be born again.’

(Bible Verses are from Biblegateway.com) NIV

 Think about what you have just read.  Jesus describes greatness, and how to be clean.  Soap and water are not really what Jesus is talking about.  He is not just washing their feet because they have mud on their feet; though that is part of the hospitality of the culture of his time.  It is a symbolic washing of the feet, meant to show how being washed by Jesus makes you truly clean on the inside and out.  You are forgiven if you have been washed by Jesus.  We use baptism as a symbol to show that we have accepted Jesus into our hearts, and been washed by Jesus.  In John 3, Jesus talks to Nicodemus about being born again.  It is important to understand that being born of water is your original birth from your mother, and that being born again is to be born of the spirit of God, which only comes from acceptance of Jesus.

In the culture of Jesus’ time when a person entered a house as a guest their feet were dusty and dirty.  After all, the footwear was a type of sandal and the roads filled with dust.  It was the custom to have someone there (usually a servant) to wash the guest’s feet.  Most folks back then did not sit at a table in a chair, but reclined next to a low table and ate in that manner.  This being so, the person’s feet were a lot closer to the table than we experience from sitting in a chair.  Just like us, most people back then didn’t like having dirt in close proximity to their food!  It was just plain good hospitality to wash the feet of the guests.

Jesus was showing his disciples that there is no shame in being a servant, and that there is no job that in the service of others is too lowly.  He was showing the disciples that if there is a job which will help people in a loving way, then it should be done with a loving spirit.  We are not to think too highly of ourselves that we would ignore the needs of others!

God’s Good Works are Completed

female-easter-tiger-swallow-tail-butterflyPhilippians 1:1-6 Paul and Timothy servants of Christ Jesus to all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi together with the overseers and deacons grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  I thank my God every time I remember you and all my prayers for all of you.  I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Read Luke 8:2, Matthew 27:56-61,Luke 24:1-10 in this order, they are about Mary Magdalene.  As you can see from the verses God began a good work in her and it continued.

Luke 8:2  and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out. (NIV)

Matthew 27:56-61 (ESV)

56 among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee. 57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. 58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59 And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud 60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

Luke 24:1-10 (NIV)

24 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ Then they remembered his words.

When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles.

Sometimes it is hard for us to see when God is doing a good work in someone.  This is especially true if we are a person who has been hurt by other people.  The tendency is to remain skeptical about changes in other people until they are proven.  Recently in this regard I was asked by someone when I said that I was still observing a person for change, “when will you know they have changed?  How can you be sure?”  Well, I personally had figured out a goal that when I observe it I would know that particular person had truly changed.  The Bible tells us to be wary of being deceived.  We are told to put on the full armor of God among the armor of God is the belt of truth.  (Ephesians 6:14)

The only way to be sure a person has changed, is to have this belt of truth on and observe.  The thing is the belt of truth can also protect us from deceiving ourselves in thinking that a person in whom God has completed a good work has not changed at all.  We can deceive ourselves by refusing to see that change.  Then that becomes a form of pride, as it causes us to believe that we are superior to that person in some way, and this is also a disobedience of the 2nd great commandment that Jesus gave us…to love your neighbor as you love yourself.  Titus 3 Reminds us that we are only saved through the mercy of God and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ…so there is no need for any of us to get a big head about our salvation.  The fact is that most of the good work that God has done in us is still continuing to be done.  There was a t-shirt slogan that came out when I was a kid…”Wait!  God isn’t done with me yet!”  Some of God’s good works are immediately evident, and some take more time to come to fruition…so don’t write off a “good work in progress” as a “good work gone bad”.

Titus 3:3-6 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,

The God of Everyone

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The Areopagus where Paul preached the Unknown God to the people of Athens…Paul knew what it was to be cleaned by God!

Mark 11:17  And as he taught them he said, Is it not written, my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations, but you have made it a den of robbers.

This statement about God’s house being a house of prayer for all nations first appeared in Isaiah 56:7.  This angered the chief priests and scribes so they wanted to destroy Jesus because he threatened their way of life.  The main idea is that everyone no matter what nation or race can talk to God through prayer, that He is the God of everyone, not just the God of the Jews.  God also accepts anyone who repents and turns to him.  

I learned the extent of God’s forgiveness myself in a rather shocking way.  I was sitting in a church once and a guy shouted out to the pastor that he was sure that God would never forgive him because he was a mercenary and killed people for a living.  Now I was pretty young in my knowledge of God, and really still thinking that this was probably true…after all, why would God forgive someone who hurt people for money?!!  So I was pretty shocked to hear the minister tell him that yes, God would forgive him, if he asked for forgiveness sincerely!  Then, an interesting thing happened to me, the idea was so shocking, that it got me thinking…really thinking…is this the truth…and you know what…I had been limiting God’s forgiveness…many times we go along and we limit God’s forgiveness based on what we think is bad or worse, or not so bad.  The fact is that we are saved by the grace of God, and God doesn’t limit that…as Peter saw in his vision!  What God makes clean is clean indeed….therefore…who are we to hold a person’s past over them?!!  We are not to do that…if a person is steadfast and fruitful in their faith, as Cornelius the Centurion was, then we are to treat that person as a brother or sister in Christ with us….an equal to us…equally loved by God.  God equally listens to their prayers…the Bible is full of sinners who have done terrible things, and some in our human judgement who have done some not so bad things, but God forgives and he forgives absolutely!  We would do well to remember that and not fall into the trap of thinking like the world view that some people are too bad to be forgiven..after all…the Bible tells us that God would have no one be lost!

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.

Read Acts chapter 10.  This is the story of Cornelius the Centurion whom God used to pour the Holy Spirit out onto the Gentiles also.

Acts Chapter 10 At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!”

Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked.

The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.”

When the angel who spoke to him had gone, Cornelius called two of his servants and a devout soldier who was one of his attendants. He told them everything that had happened and sent them to Joppa.

About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. 12 It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. 13 Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”

14 “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”

15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

16 This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.

17 While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Corneliusfound out where Simon’s house was and stopped at the gate. 18 They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there.

19 While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three[a] men are looking for you. 20 So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.”

21 Peter went down and said to the men, “I’m the one you’re looking for. Why have you come?”

22 The men replied, “We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to ask you to come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say.” 23 Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests.

The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the believers from Joppa went along.24 The following day he arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. 26 But Peter made him get up. “Stand up,” he said, “I am only a man myself.”

27 While talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. 28 He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean. 29 So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?”

30 Cornelius answered: “Three days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me 31 and said, ‘Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. 32 Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner, who lives by the sea.’33 So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.”

34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. 36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37 You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— 38 how God anointedJesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.

39 “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, 40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. 41 He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. 46 For they heard them speaking in tongues[b] and praising God.

Then Peter said, 47 “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water.They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” 48 So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.

Footnotes: (NIV by way of Bible Gateway)

  1. Acts 10:19 One early manuscript two; other manuscripts do not have the number.
  2. Acts 10:46 Or other languages  

Closer to Thee, Lord

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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

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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.

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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)

God’s still small voice…rest for your souls

IMG_1339Matthew Chapter 11 (NIV)

 After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee.When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciplesto ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”

Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”

As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written:

“‘I will send my messenger ahead of you,
    who will prepare your way before you.’

11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. 14 And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. 15 Whoever has ears, let them hear.

16 “To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:

17 “‘We played the pipe for you,
    and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
    and you did not mourn.’

18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.”

Woe on Unrepentant Towns

20 Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida!For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades.[e] For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”

The Father Revealed in the Son

25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.

27 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (NIV)

Deuteronomy 18:15-22 (NIV)

15 The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. 16 For this is what you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.”

17 The Lord said to me: “What they say is good. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. 19 I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name. 20 But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods,is to be put to death.”

21 You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?” 22 If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed.

When I was in church this morning Matthew 11 was the text and what caught my attention at the time was verse 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it.

There are many ways to look at this verse, but another translation of it is to say, “the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully moving forward”.  It is rather hard to wrap my mind around the Kingdom of heaven being “subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it”  after all, the Kingdom of heaven is in heaven, right?!!

However, if you look at it from the standpoint of it “forcefully moving forward” that gives a different idea, at least in the mind of the Pastor who was preaching this morning’s message, and also I can see and understand that what he is saying may be a way to look at it.  It gives the idea of God’s will be done by passionately intense people who have subjected themselves to God and the spreading of his word.  The following of his plan.  The Pastor this morning spoke about the idea that God does not want people to stand still in their faith.  He wants people to passionately reach out to others in love and compassion to show them the character of God.

What happens if all you need to do is accept Jesus and be baptized?  Then why bother with going to church, or praying or anything else? After all, “you” have been saved, so why bother with anything else?  You are not going to be any “more” saved by going to church are you?  You are not going to be any “more” saved by doing good works!  Jesus did it all and all you have to do is accept it and do nothing the rest of your life, right?!!

While it is true you are “saved” simply by accepting Jesus, you cannot just accept part of Jesus and be saved.  Jesus was/is looking for people who accept all of Him, and all of what he says.  People who are willing to give “all” of themselves to God’s service.

 Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

People who give all of themselves to God are people who are also concerned for obeying God here on earth while they are living, not just concerned for their afterlife.  They are also not just concerned for their own salvation, but are concerned for the salvation of others.

Matthew 28:19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…

This doesn’t mean that God is asking everyone to become ministers or pastors or give up their families and communities and run off across the world to be a missionary!  There are some people whom he asks that of, but for most people your missionary field is in your own backyard, neighborhood, place of work, people you meet!

This also doesn’t mean that you have to jump on everyone you meet and beat them over the head with God and God’s word as you know it!  God speaks in a still small voice, so that is the example he gives us in dealing with others. Gentleness, not being wishy washy, but being non-condemning and gentile in your explanation of who God is and what he is looking to bring into their lives!

1Kings 19:11-13  And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but theLord was not in the earthquake:

12 And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.

13 And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?

 

I remember when I was in high school and my band was doing a car wash fund raiser.  There was a woman there who got right up in my little 9th grade face and said, “Have you been born again!!!”  The way she said it actually made me feel like I had done something wrong..it felt threatening, especially because at that point I had never heard of the idea of being born again.  I looked at her really scared like and nervous, and said that I didn’t know what she meant.  She again pounced on me and said that you had to be born again to go to heaven and that if I wasn’t born again then I wasn’t going to heaven!  Now, I was not a big church goer as a child because we moved a lot, and my family didn’t go to church.  I usually went with one of my Great Aunts when I was around her and really loved going with her.  I was especially enamored with the felt board and how those little figures would stick to it was mesmerizing!  I loved Bible stories and read them a lot in the children’s Bible.  I had prayed that Jesus was going to live in my heart when I was about 4 years old, and I knew who Jesus was and trusted him.  However, the Jesus I knew was not a person who would yell in someone’s face that the needed to get born again to go to heaven.

The Jesus that I knew called to people out of trees and told them that he was going to have lunch with them.  He called to people who were fishing and told them to come along that he would make them a different kind of fisherman.  Sometimes, Jesus spoke in riddles that I didn’t understand as well as I thought I should, but he was gentle and loving with people who were trying to understand the kingdom of God, and trying to follow him.

Now Jesus was very tough on those who weren’t going to follow him, or who misused God’s word to make other people’s lives harder.  He was really tough and very direct if people who were supposed to be representing God to his people were misrepresenting God to them.

I am sure that this woman, who never got around to explaining anything about being born again to me…because I saw a car that desperately needed my attention to wash right then…had the best of intentions and was very passionate about her faith, and really wanted to share it with me.  The problem was that she was literally ferocious in her approach!  When she was talking to me, it felt violent!

There is a fine line between being passionate and sharing what you know with all the joy in your heart, and literally pouncing on an unsuspecting person and beating them over the head with the Word of God!  With most people it is much more productive to share things with a sentence here or there, in relation to a comment they have made about something than it is to just pounce out there out of the blue with the word of God.

Ex.  Someone says to you something like, “hi! How have you been today?” and it happens to be Sunday, and you have gone to church.  You can respond, “Oh, I am having a great day so far, I went to church this morning and we talked about… and this is how I feel about it or what I got out of it…” then wait for their response, you will either hear, “Oh, that’s nice! and they will change the subject…at which point that means that you give it up and move on to another conversation…or as Jesus tells us, “shake off your sandals and move on out of town.”

You may also hear another response, such as, “Oh, that’s interesting….I went to church also and we talked about thus and so today…” or “Oh, really, so I have been looking for a church around here, what is your church like…”  or “Oh, I really don’t know much about God, but I always thought that….”

There are so many responses, or so many openings and you just have to calmly carry on a conversation with the person…get them to asking questions about God and talking about what they believe, then gently tell them what your beliefs are and why you believe what you do.  Sometimes they are under the impression that “churches are filled with hypocrites” or “I am trying to fix myself up to be better before I go to church…I need to get right with God”.

The truth is that churches are filled with people who have been “saved” they have been “born again” meaning they have taken on a new life through their belief in Jesus Christ.  Churches are also filled with sinners who have yet to be saved..people who are there for different reasons than to worship God.  Churches are filled with all types of people, but there is one type of person who you will never find in a church….not til Jesus comes back, and then there will be no need for churches as he will be here…that person whom you will never find in a church is…wait for it…here it comes…”the perfect person!”  There are no perfect people in churches anywhere…there are no perfect people out of churches either.  Churches are full of all kinds of people, but there are no perfect ones…the perfect person doesn’t exist except in the body of Jesus Christ.

Face it, all of us would like to be “perfect” and if all it took to make people perfect was for them to attend church, then there would be lines of people around the block outside of churches all over the world waiting to get in so that they could be perfect too!  The fact that there are not tells us that the people in the church are only different in the fact of their acceptance of Jesus Christ as their savior, right?!!  So what does this mean?

Jesus tells us to be Romans 12:2 people who live in the world, but are not part of the world.  This means that we should be noticeably different from the non-Christian in our character and our way of life.  We cannot help but be living in the world…and God doesn’t want us to sequester ourselves away from the world.  After all, how can we reach out if we don’t interact with it?

We are told that Romans 5:7-9 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

If God loved us while we were yet sinners, doesn’t that mean he loves others who are still sinners and who have not yet accepted salvation through Christ?!! Of course it does!  Our participation in God’s kingdom is to passionately proclaim his word to others…being passionate does not mean yelling at people or getting in their face.  What it means to be passionate is that we love God, and we love his Word, and we cannot get enough of talking about God to others and sharing our joy!  If you look at Jesus’ disciples that is what we see over and over with them.  They loved God and it showed in every fiber of their being…they gave all of themselves over to God to use in bringing others to know who God is and what he did for them by way of his Son, Jesus Christ!

The line in Matthew 11 that most caught my attention is this:  Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”  I asked myself how does one stumble on account of Jesus?  The answer seems rather obvious….if you hear about him and you refuse to accept him, then you have stumbled!  Or if someone misleads you about who Jesus is, then you can stumble.  The nice thing about stumbling is that it isn’t a fall…that means that sometimes you can catch yourself, or someone else can catch you before you fall.Operation Unified Response

That leads to my favorite verses in Matthew 11:28-30  28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (NIV)

 

 

Upholding Man’s Freewill

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John 8:34-36 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (NIV)

Read John 8:34-36 and 1 Samuel Chapter 8, Jesus talks about being a slave to sin and how to escape that slavery. The people of Israel wanted a king, so Samuel took it to God in prayer, and God told him to give them a king, and sent him to anoint Saul.  God upholds mankind’s freedom of choice, even when we are wrong. 

Why do you think that the Israelites asked for a King? I mean they already had God personally available to them through his prophets and through prayer. If you think about it, the only thing they didn’t have was the Holy Spirit living within them and salvation through Christ.  However, when Jesus came he died for all who accept him, whether they died before he was born and was sacrificed or not.  

I know, you are say, “How does that work?”  “How could they have accepted Jesus as their savior if Jesus had not been born yet?!!”

I know it seems a difficult concept, but if you realize that God is timeless, and that time is not an issue for Him, then it becomes more easily acceptable.  The main thing is that the Jews were living with the prophets and the prophecies that were being made about the Messiah and they accepted that there would be a Messiah who would come to save them.  Although for the most part they didn’t understand what to expect from that Messiah, and believed that he would form an earthly kingdom in the there and then when he came.  The most important thing is that they had faith that what God said would happen would happen, so they accepted the Messiah, Immanuel – God with Us, would come and save them.  God gave them “credit” for following him and believing in him and his promises.

We are told that God justified those in the Old Testament who followed and believed in Him by their faith.  Habakkuk 2:4 Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him;
But the just shall live by his faith. (NKJV) and Galatians 3:11 quotes Habakkuk in this to reiterate what is said in the Old Testament  But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. In Romans 4:3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” we are further told that it is faith that justifies not anything that we can physically do for God.  However, to show that we love God we are told that the way to do that is to be obedient to him…John 14:23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.

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So now, back to the idea of a King…why would anyone want one?  If you look at all the things that God had Samuel tell the Israelites would happen to them when they got a King it is a daunting list of undesirables.  Samuel was heartbroken about them wanting a King, but God told him that it wasn’t his fault..that the one who was being rejected was God himself, not Samuel who was only God’s prophet.  The person who conveyed God’s words to the people.  

So looking at the Bible we were told that the primary reason the Israelites wanted a King was “so that we can be just like everyone else around us….just like our neighbors”  1Samuel 8:4-5 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, “Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.” (NKJV)

So if we look at what they are saying, 1) they wanted to be just like the people around them in the neighboring nations, and 2)  they didn’t trust God to provide another good prophet for them.

After all, just because Samuel’s sons were the sons of a prophet and Samuel appointed them to be judges over the people, does not necessarily mean that God would make them his prophets…or let them remain the corrupt judges that they were.  Samuel should have understood that from what happened with Eli’s sons.  They didn’t get to take over for him either…God took care of that situation.  Apparently, Samuel wasn’t any better at parenting and teaching his sons to be honest and Godly than Eli was…they were bribe takers.

Now God, chose Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the people of Israel to be his people so that they could be different from the nations around them.  He wanted them to be in close contact with Him so that they could be living examples of God’s grace and love to the other nations.  So that they could show the other nations the character of God and bring the other nations closer to God.  God wanted them to trust Him and let Him lead them.

By asking for a King they were failing to trust God in all circumstances.  They were not trusting God for the future…they were trying to plan around Samuel’s sons.   They should have done that by praying and then asking Samuel to tell them what God was going to do about the future when he, Samuel, wasn’t there to lead them anymore.  That would have been the correct response of trust in God.  However, they didn’t and so we have the Israelites distancing themselves from God instead of drawing closer to Him.

God is kind enough to warn them of the consequences of their actions…but they don’t listen.  This is kind of like when a parent tells the kid not to eat too much candy, that it will make them sick to their stomach.  Then allowing the kid to eat too much candy anyway because they keep insisting on more candy.  This is a case of the parent allowing the kid to learn their lesson the hard way.

God was doing the same thing, allowing the Israelites their “freewill choice” of accepting or rejecting God.  He was allowing them to have a King and see that it was just as bad as He said it would be.

How many of us in our various nations are still looking for that next “leader” who will “fix” everything?  I know that my own nation is doing that.  Every time there is an election everyone talks about the candidates and what they are and are not going to do.  Although they are elected instead of appointed, they are still our leader….in a smaller vein we find in work places and churches and groups when things are not going so well that people are more likely to look to finding a new work place, church, or group, or finding a new “leader” for that work place, church, or group, than they are to sit down as a group and pray and look to God to see how the group can be made to be functional and unified and Godly again.  So it appears that it is rather hard to sit in “judgment” on the Israelites in this case, as man has not changed…people are still looking in the wrong place for leadership.  God keeps allowing that, because He wants us to voluntarily without reservation choose to follow him. He doesn’t want servants who are reluctant, God wants his people to love him and obey him because they want to do so!  God does not want people who are obeying him because someone else made them do it, but by their own free will.  The choice is always up to us.

Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (NIV)

Hebrews 12:2 Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (NASB)

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