Lucia's Blog: March 2014
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Isaiah 55:8-9

Isaiah 55:8-9

Monday, March 31, 2014

THE LONG AWAITED LAW OF CHRIST

And many peoples will come and say, 'Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; That He may teach us concerning His ways and that we may walk in His paths.'  For the law will go forth from Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.  
Isaiah 2:3



God had promised He would send His Messiah, Jesus, to teach us His LAWS in order that we might walk in His pathways.  Likewise, God promised the Law would come from Jerusalem from His Son, Jesus, to be taught in our hearts, the glory of God which is His righteousness, "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth."  John 1:14.  This is what the Scriptures say,  “Listen to Me, you who know righteousness, a people in whose heart is My law; do not fear the reproach of man, nor be dismayed at their revilings." Isaiah 51:7.  This Law of God planted in the hearts of those who would listen was to be the Law of God's Words.  This Law was to teach us the righteousness of God through Christ to everyone who believes, "but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law."  Romans 9:31; "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes."   Rom. 10:4.

This Law was to be the Law of His Son, Christ, which was of faith, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;  whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed;  for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.  Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one.  Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law."  Romans 3:23-32.  This Law of Christ was to be good, holy and righteous, "So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good...."  Romans 7:10-19.

The Law of God, the Law of Christ concerned the inner man, the law of the mind "For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man."  Romans 7:22.  The Law of Christ was to be the Law of God within our mind vs. the law of sin, the law of flesh, "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin."  Romans 7:25.  The Law of Christ was to be the law of the Spirit to set us free from the slavery of sin, "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit"  Romans 8:2-4.

This Law of Christ was to bear fruit pleasing to God, "Because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God."  Romans 8:7-8.  The Law of Christ was to be the law of practicing love and not of practicing evil, "Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law."  Romans 13:10.   This Law of Christ was to be the salvation of all men.  The Law of Moses directed the thinking of men to Christ, "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes."  Romans 10:4"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to every one who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek."  Romans 1:16.

It is through the Law of Christ that we are able to receive the promise of  our inheritance, our hope of heaven.  This Law of Christ was given because of our sins.  The Law of Moses was ordained by angels through a mediator until the promised seed should come, Christ our seed.   "Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made."  Gal. 3:19.  The Law of Christ, who is the "promised seed," was to give us life.  The Law of Moses served as the guardian of God's promises that Jesus Christ would fulfill, but the Law of Moses could not make anyone righteous without the blood of Christ. "Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law."  Galatians 3:21 ESV.

This Law of Christ was to be given to judge the unrighteous, the lawless, "But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and [g]immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers."
I Timothy 1:8-11.

The Law of Christ was to be the law of liberty that would judge the hearts of men, "But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does."  James 1:25.   "For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not commit murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.  So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty."  James 2:11-12.  "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart."  Hebrews 4:12 ESV.

The Law of Christ was to be the royal law and would have to be observed in order to be blameless, "If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself,' you are doing well.  But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all."  James 2:8-10.  We cannot neglect all of the LAWS of Jesus Christ and still claim to be blameless.

But we must OBEY IT with humility, "Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.  I Peter 5:6.   He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? 
Micah 6:8.  The Law of Christ was to be the law of kindness and justice.  The Law of Christ was to be the law of righteous judgment toward our neighbor, "Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it.  There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?"  James 4:10-12.

The Law of Christ provided the only way that man could have access to the blood which takes away the guilt of sin to those who OBEY IT, "And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.  Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.  You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him."  I John 3:1-6.   "If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."   1 John 1:6-9  Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, 'Brethren, what shall we do?'  Peter said to them, 'Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."  Acts 2:37-38.

But we must  TREASURE THE LAW OF CHRIST if we indeed are His children who practice His righteousness and are HOLY like HE IS, "Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous."  I John 3:7.  "As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”   I Peter 1:13-17.

The Law of Christ is the Law of God's commandments, testimonies, reverence(fear), statutes, precepts and judgements, "Because Abraham obeyed Me and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes and My laws.”   Gen. 26:5"The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.  The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.  The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether.  They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.  Moreover, by them Your servant is warned; In keeping them there is great reward."  Psalm 19:7-11. The PERFECT LAW of Christ is able to restore the soul to wisdom and purity.

Although the word LAW does not appear in John 12:48, the words of Jesus Christ that will judge us on the last day could as easily be called the Law of Christ, "The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day." 

CONCLUSION:

The Law of Christ, the Law of God is the Law that was to be planted in our minds, hearts and souls in order to be His children, His own special people, being called out of darkness into His Son's kingdom of light, purified for good deeds, “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel After those days, says the Lord:  I will put My laws into their minds, and I will write them on their hearts.   And I will be their God, And they shall be My people."  Hebrews 8:10.   "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy."  I Peter 2:9-10.  "For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds."  Titus 2:11-14.

Finally, the Law of Christ, the Law of God was to be the covenant between our God and those who would LISTEN AND OBEY IT.  He would write the Law in our hearts and erase our lawless deeds and make us into new creatures of righteousness, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord:  I will put My laws upon their heart, and on their mind I will write them,” He then says,  “And their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”  Hebrews 10:16-17.  "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come."  2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV. 

Thanks be to our Father in Heaven for sending us His Son, our Messiah, to teach us His Father's paths, His LAWS, in our hearts in order that we might have abundant life and the hope of eternity in heaven with HIM and His Son.  Thanks be to our Father for His PERFECT LAW that is able to restore the souls of men transferring them from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His Son Jesus, "For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son."  Colossians 1:13.  Thanks be to God for His Law, the Law of Christ which makes us wise through the simplicity and purity of His Gospel.  2 Corinthians 11:3.  Thanks be to God for Christ's Law because it is righteous altogether, enlightening the eyes of our heart with understanding and His righteousness, giving us a clean conscience and pure heart.  "How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?"   Hebrews 9:14. 

May our God help us to meditate and delight in His LAW, the LAW of Christ, with OBEDIENCE so that we may be acceptable in His sight and never be put to shame.



Luci

Thursday, March 27, 2014

THE ISRAELITES IN CANAAN: RUTH

But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.  Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.”
Ruth 1:16-17


THE BOOK OF RUTH

GIANTS OF THE FAITH:  RUTH

The Book of Ruth is such a breath of fresh air after all the sad and ugly events of the Book of Judges.  It is also such an inspiring, heart-felt Bible story of faith, loyalty and unconditional love.  The book begins with Naomi, a widow whose husband and sons have died, leaving her in despair without hope of an heir to carry on the family name.  Naomi also had a very unique and special daughter-in-law named Ruth.  The book ends with the same Naomi  holding her grandson who will become David’s grandfather hence one of Jesus' ancestors.  The Book of Ruth is one of my favorite Bible stories in the Old Testament because it is so rich with grace, mercy, beauty, loyalty and love.

The Book of Ruth is divided into six sections.  This beautiful book offers several similarities between the first and sixth sections, the second and fifth sections and the third and fourth sections.  This literary scheme is called a "chiasm," and it is found throughout the Scriptures.  This was a way to draw attention or emphasize something.   This chiasm helped the listeners to remember Scriptures more easily.

NAOMI'S SORROW (Ruth 1:1-5):    Naomi, her husband and sons were from the line of Judah. Naomi’s family were from Ephrath, the old name for Bethlehem.  When a famine struck the land during the days the judges governed,  they sojourned in the land of Moab.  Although they are in a foreign land, they chose to remain godly people determined to reject and embrace the gods of the foreigners.  This beautiful story opens with the deaths of Naomi’s husband and two sons.  She finds herself left alone in despair and without hope, along with two widowed daughters-in-law far from her homeland.  Notice that both daughters-in-law are Moabites, Gentiles.

THE CHOICE (Ruth 1:6-22):    When the famine is over, Naomi decides to go back home, to the land of Judah, little Bethlehem.  It is then that she realized she had nothing to offer her two daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah so she tells them to go back to their own mothers' house in order that they might be able to find husbands for themselves.  At first they both refuse but when Naomi appeals a second time, one of the daughters-in-law, Orpah, agrees to leave, leaving her with the other daughter-in-law, Ruth, who chooses to stay loyal to her mother-in-law, even though that meant leaving her own home.  I am convinced that the reason why Ruth wanted to remain with Naomi was because of the faith, conviction and beauty of her mother-in-law's righteous life and faith.  This would allow Ruth to declare her own love and loyalty to Naomi and faith in her God Jehovah.  The following is Ruth's reply to Naomi when she asked her to leave: 

"But Ruth said, 'Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.  Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me."   This makes my eyes water!

The two women then arrived in Bethlehem.  Naomi told her people all of her sorrows and loss.  At this point Naomi and Ruth are destitute and alone.


RUTH MEETS BOAZ (Ruth 2):  Under the Old Testament law, the law stated that when one reaped his  harvest, he had to leave the corners of  the field, nor could he gather the gleanings of his harvest so that the alien, the orphan and the widow could go behind the harvesters and glean whatever was left, Leviticus 19:9 and Deuteronomy 24:19.  It turns out that Naomi had a rich relative named Boaz. By “chance” when Ruth went out to glean, she came upon his fields. Boaz treated her kindly for the sake of his kinsman and gave her food.  Finally hope had arrived for both Ruth and Naomi!  When Boaz saw Ruth, he praised her for her faithfulness and loyalty toward Naomi.  He blessed her for it.  Boaz arranged things so that Ruth would find more to glean than the average widow.  At mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come here, that you may eat of the bread and dip your piece of bread in the vinegar. So she sat beside the reapers; and he served her roasted grain, and she ate and was satisfied and had some left. When she rose to glean, Boaz commanded his servants, saying, 'Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not insult her. Also you shall purposely pull out for her some grain from the bundles and leave it that she may glean, and do not rebuke her.”  Ruth 2:14-16.

We can clearly see Boaz placing protection around Ruth and being kind to her.  When Ruth returned home she told Naomi everything.  When Naomi realized that Boaz was a kinsman redeemer, she praised God because He had not forgotten or forsaken them.  What a loving, kind and merciful God we serve!!!


RUTH PROPOSES TO BOAZ (Ruth 3):   Naomi encouraged Ruth into an action that would bring security to her daughter-in-law. Naomi sent Ruth to the threshing floor where the harvested grain was separated from the straw by threshing so that she could indicate to Boaz that she wanted him to redeem her.  Naomi coaxed Ruth into going to Boaz while he is sleeping , uncovering his feet and lying down at his  feet. When Boaz awoke, he said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth your maid. So spread your covering over your maid, for you are a close relative.” Then he said, “May you be blessed of the Lord, my daughter. You have shown your last kindness to be better than the first by not going after young men, whether poor or rich.  Now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you whatever you ask, for all my people in the city know that you are a woman of excellence.  Now it is true I am a close relative; however, there is a relative closer than I. Remain this night, and when morning comes, if he will redeem you, good; let him redeem you. But if he does not wish to redeem you, then I will redeem you, as the Lord lives.  Lie down until morning.”  Ruth 3:9-13.

When she left in the morning she told everything to Naomi.  Ruth said,  "These six measures of barley he gave to me, for he said, ‘Do not go to your mother-in-law empty-handed.’” Then she said, “Wait, my daughter, until you know how the matter turns out; for the man will not rest until he has settled it today.”  Ruth 3:17-18.

THE CHOICE (Ruth 4:1-12):    Boaz goes to the city gate, where business was usually conducted, and offers Naomi's land to the other relative, that was the closest kinsman redeemer, in the presence of a group of ten elders.  At first the kinsman redeemer wanted the land, but when he realized that Ruth was part of the deal, he refused to redeemer her.  Boaz then claimed his right to redeem the land and Ruth.  Boaz pledged himself to Ruth before the elders and all the people.  Finally, Ruth and Naomi were no longer alone and destitute!  God provided both a home and a heritage. 

NAOMI'S JOY (Ruth 4:13-22):    Boaz married Ruth and she bore him a son, Obed. Obed was the father of Jesse, father of David.  Naomi, the desolate widow, now had a grandchild from her husband’s line to love and cherish.  What a beautiful story of God's providence!

THE KINSMAN REDEEMER:    Something interesting to note under the Law of Moses, is that if a person was forced to sell his property or sell himself into slavery, his nearest kin were allowed to step in and buy back whatever he sold.  This buyer was known as the "kinsman redeemer."  Also, if a family member died without an heir, the kinsman redeemer could carry on his name by marrying his widow and rear any son in the name of the widow's dead husband, his kinsman.  You can read of this in Leviticus 25:25, 48; Deuteronomy 25:5; Genesis 38:8.


Notice that both of these factors came into play in this beautiful story of Ruth.  Ruth was a widow who had borne her husband no heir leaving her in need of a kinsman redeemer to carry on her husband's line.  Also, since she was a  widow, she was eligible to receive part of her husband's estate along with his other property, Ruth 4:4-5.  Ruth decided to take advantage of this law, when Naomi made it known to her that she was selling her son's land.  In this way God provided for the widows as long as faithful Israelites like Boaz upheld the law.

A FINAL NOTE ABOUT THE BOOK OF JUDGES AND RUTH
The Book of Judges begins with hope but deteriorates into despair, closing with the pronouncement that Israel had no king.  The Book of Ruth on the other hand, begins with despair and no hope which later changes into hope.  The Book of Ruth closes with a genealogy.  The last name listed is that of Israel's greatest king, yet to be born:  Ruth’s great-grandson.

JESUS ANCESTORS UP TO THIS POINT
Abraham - Isaac - Jacob - Judah and Tamar - Perez - Hezron - Ram - Amminadab - Nashon - Salmon and Rahab - Boaz and Ruth - Obed - Jesse - King David



This beautiful story of Ruth shows clearly what happens when God's people uphold His good laws.  In my next study we will consider the transition to government by kings.


Luci

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

THE ISRAELITES IN CANAAN: JUDGES

 "In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes."
Judges 21:25


The period of the Judges was discouraging as well as exhilarating. I invite you to think with me for a few moments over the things we learn from the Book of Judges. Our God is RIGHTEOUS but also MERCIFUL!


The Book of Judges is filled with shocking events and strange heroes.  It chronicles the various epochs in which Israel fell into rebellion and disobedience.  We see the everlasting faithfulness of God.  The two major themes of this book focus on the sinfulness of Israel and the faithfulness of God Jehovah.  It is amazing to me, as I read through the history of the Israelites and their relationship toward their God Jehovah, that this pattern of rebellion is repeated over and over again.  Notice the recurring pattern:  1)  The Israelites do evil before the LORD; 2)  The LORD allows some foreign king to oppress and/or enslave the Israelites;  3)  The Israelites cry out to God because of the oppression remembering their covenant with God; and finally, 4)  the LORD raises up a judge for them who delivers them because they are His people, the Israelites.  Although the Israelites broke their promise given to God before Joshua to never forsake the LORD, God never broke HIS promise!  By the time of Gideon in Judges 6, the Israelites are in severe decay, and it is more evident.  Even though a judge was a military leader as well as a hero, he was often a prophet and the judge who settled disputes.  The judge could come from any tribe.  Although this was a patriarchal society, there was one female judge named Deborah.  There were thirteen judges altogether.  Seven of them were considered major judges, heroes.

THE SEVEN MAJOR JUDGES:

OTHNIEL (Judges 3:7-11):  The Israelites began to commit evil before the eyes of the LORD, serving their idol gods.  The anger of the LORD was upon them selling them into the hands of an evil king from the north, Mesopotamia, who attacked them and defeated them, enslaving them for eight years.  The Israelites cried out to their LORD, and God heard them raising up Othniel, the son of  Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, who became Israel's judge.  He fought against the king of Mesopotamia, defeating him.  After the victory,  Israel was at peace for forty years.

EHUD (Judges 3:12-30):   Again, the Israelites did evil before the LORD, and the anger of the LORD was against them.  He raised up and strengthened Eglon, king of the Moabites as a sign of His judgment toward them.  The Moabites, the Ammonites and the Amalekites waged war against the Israelites and defeated them.  They took the Israelites captive for eighteen years.  Once again, the sons of Israel cried out to Jehovah their God for help and Jehovah God raised up Ehud, a Benjamite, who was left-handed.  Ehud killed the Moabite king defeating and driving out the invaders.  This time, the land was at peace for eighty years.

DEBORAH  (Judges 4):   The Israelites forgot what they had learned and began again to do evil before the eyes of Jehovah their God.  They provoked Him to judgment.  In this judgment, the LORD gave them into the hands of the king of Canaan, Jabin, who reigned in Hazor with his commander named Sisera.  Again the Israelites cried out to the LORD.  This king had an army of nine hundred mighty iron chariots with which he attacked and oppressed the Israelites for twenty years. The Israelites began to listen to a woman named Deborah, who was a prophetess and she judged them at that time.  She liked to sit under a palm tree between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim.  She sent for a man named Barak and said to him, “Behold, the Lord, the God of Israel, has commanded, ‘Go and march to Mount Tabor and take with you ten thousand men from the sons of Naphtali and from the sons of Zebulun.  I will draw out to you Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his many troops to the river Kishon, and I will give him into your hand.’”   Now Barak replied, “If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go.”  She said, “I will surely go with you; nevertheless, the honor shall not be yours on the journey that you are about to take, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hands of a woman.”   Barak was to be the man she chose to lead the army.  Barak insisted that she come with him to war against the enemies.  She agreed, but she also prophesied that a woman would get the glory for the victory.  In the end, it was the woman Jael who killed the Jabin’s commander by driving a peg through his head.  Deborah and Barak sang: "When leaders lead and people are willing, praise the LORD! Blessed is Jael; Let your enemies perish, O LORD!"  Once again the land was at peace for forty years.

GIDEON (Judges 6-8):   The Israelites did what was evil in the eyes of their God Jehovah, and He gave them into the hands of the Midianites for seven years.  The Midianites oppressed the Israelites with such severity that the Israelites had to hide in dens, caves, and strongholds in the mountains.  Once again the Israelites cried out to their God Jehovah for help, and the LORD sent them a prophet.  He said to them, "Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘It was I who brought you up from Egypt and brought you out from the house of slavery. I delivered you from the hands of the Egyptians and from the hands of all your oppressors, and dispossessed them before you and gave you their land, and I said to you,  'I am the Lord your God; you shall not fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you live. But you have not obeyed Me."  Judges 6:8-10.  Then the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon saying, "The Lord is with you, O valiant warrior.” Then Gideon said to him, 'O my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.'  The Lord looked at him and said, 'Go in this your strength and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian. Have I not sent you?'   He said to Him, 'O Lord, how shall I deliver Israel? Behold, my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s house.'  But the Lord said to him, 'Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat Midian as one man.'  So Gideon said to Him, 'If now I have found favor in Your sight, then show me a sign that it is You who speak with me.  Please do not depart from here, until I come back to You, and bring out my offering and lay it before You.' And He said, 'I will remain until you return."  Judges 6:12-18.

As you can see, Gideon objected at first but eventually he obeyed the LORD.  The LORD told him to tear down the altar of Baal and cut down the Asherah, a wooden totem.  When his people began to quarrel with him, his father Joash asked, “Will you contend for Baal?  Or will you save him?  Whoever contends for him shall be put to death by morning.  If he is a god let him contend for himself, because his altar has been broken down.”  That is how Gideon’s name was changed to Jerubaal, he who contends with Baal.  When the appropriate tribes were mustered for battle, the LORD told Gideon to send away all but 300 men. The 300 crept into the Midianite camp at night. They blew their trumpets and smashed their pitchers revealing burning torches.  They cried out, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!”  The Midianites fled.  Gideon defeated Zebah and Zalmunna and punished Succoth and Penuel.   Although this story ends on a positive note, because the land was at peace again for forty years, Gideon had to deal with a complaint from the tribe of Ephraim, because they were not called first.  With calm and wisdom, Gideon soothed their pride and vanity by reminding them of the “trophies” they had captured.  The Israelites asked Gideon to become their king believing that he had saved them from their enemies’ hands.  Actually, it was God who saved them.  In any case, he refused to change the pattern that God had ordained.  He refused to rule over them.  Although Gideon refused their offer, he did allow them to give him the golden earrings from the spoil with which he made an ephod of gold to place in Ophrah, and this became a snare to his family and all Israel who worshiped it.   When Gideon died Israel again served the Baals, especially the god Baal-Berith.

ABIMELECH (Judges 9):    Again, the Israelites did evil before their God.   Abimelech, one of Gideon's sons, raised himself up as Israel's king.  He killed his brothers, seventy men on one stone.  But Jotham, his youngest brother survived since he hid himself.  Then all the men of Shechem and all Beth-Millo assembled together, and they went and made Abimelech king, by the oak of the pillar which was in Shechem.  Judges 9:6.

Jothan cried out to the people from the top of Mount Gerizim saying, "Listen to me, O men of Shechem, that God may listen to you. Once the trees went forth to anoint a king over them, and they said to the olive tree, ‘Reign over us!’ But the olive tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my fatness with which God and men are honored, and go to wave over the trees?’  Then the trees said to the fig tree, ‘You come, reign over us!’ But the fig tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my sweetness and my good fruit, and go to wave over the trees?’ Then the trees said to the vine, ‘You come, reign over us!’  But the vine said to them, ‘Shall I leave my new wine, which cheers God and men, and go to wave over the trees?’ Finally, all the trees said to the bramble, ‘You come, reign over us!’ The bramble said to the trees, ‘If in truth you are anointing me as king over you, come and take refuge in my shade; but if not, may fire come out from the bramble and consume the cedars of Lebanon.’  'Now therefore, if you have dealt in truth and integrity in making Abimelech king, and if you have dealt well with Jerubbaal and his house, and have dealt with him as he deserved— for my father fought for you and risked his life and delivered you from the hand of Midian; but you have risen against my father’s house today and have killed his sons, seventy men, on one stone, and have made Abimelech, the son of his maidservant, king over the men of Shechem, because he is your relative— if then you have dealt in truth and integrity with Jerubbaal and his house this day, rejoice in Abimelech and let him also rejoice in you. But if not, let fire come out from Abimelech and consume the men of Shechem and Beth-millo; and let fire come out from the men of Shechem and from Beth-millo, and consume Abimelech."  Judges 9:7-20.  Afterward, Jotham escaped and fled and went to Beer and waited for Abimelech, his brother.

Abimelech ruled over Israel for over 3 years.  The LORD sent an evil spirit between the men of Shechem and Abimelech. These men of Shechem dealt with Abimelech falsely.  The blood of Abimelech's brothers was on him and on the men of Shechem.  God caused the Israelites to fight against Israelites in this shocking story.  In the end, Abimelech was defeated.  A man named Gaal aroused and was against them.  Abimelech destroyed Shechem but was killed by a woman who tossed a millstone from the wall down on his head.  In point of fact, he committed suicide so that it would not be said that a woman had killed him.  God repaid Abimelech's evil and the curse of Jotham his younger brother came upon the men of Shechem.  Judges 9:53-57.

JEPHTHAH (Judges 10:6-12:7):   Again, the Israelites did evil before the LORD.  The Israelites ended up being oppressed by the Philistines and the Amorites for eighteen years.  The Israelites cried out to the LORD saying, "We have sinned against You, for indeed, we have forsaken our God and served the Baals.” The Lord said to the sons of Israel, “Did I not deliver you from the Egyptians, the Amorites, the sons of Ammon, and the Philistines?   Also when the Sidonians, the Amalekites, and the Maonites oppressed you, you cried out to Me, and I delivered you from their hands.  Yet you have forsaken Me and served other gods; therefore I will no longer deliver you. Go and cry out to the gods which you have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your distress.”  The sons of Israel said to the Lord, “We have sinned, do to us whatever seems good to You; only please deliver us this day.”  Judges 10:10-15.   The LORD did not believe them, so they put away their idol gods and began serving the LORD.  They once again cried out to their God Jehovah, and the LORD raised up Jephthah, the son of a prostitute who had been rejected by his family.  The LORD has such a way of choosing his heroes!  Jephthah vowed to sacrifice whatever came out to meet him if he defeated the Ammonites. When he came home in victory, it was his daughter who came out to meet him with the joy of tambourines.  She was his only child, but to fulfill the vow he had to give her to the Lord.  The Ephraimites in their pride protested that Jephthah had not called them to fight their enemies.  They attacked Jephthah and Jephthah with the Gileadites defeated them.  They caught the survivors by making them say 'Shibboleth.'  Here again, the story ends sadly with Israelites fighting Israelites.

SAMSON (Judges 13-16):   Again the Israelites did evil before the LORD.  Thus the Philistines oppressed them for forty years.  Note that the Israelites did not cry to the LORD this time, yet the LORD still cared for them and showed mercy to them by raising up Samson.  This story is the longest story in the Book of Judges covering three chapters.  Samson was born of godly parents who raised him as a Nazarite, set apart for God from birth.  According to the Nazarite vow, he could not eat anything that came from the vine nor could he drink wine or strong drink, nor could he eat any unclean thing.  He could never cut his hair.  He had to observe all that the LORD commanded.

Samson is an unlikely hero in spite of his great beginnings.  He was spoiled and selfish, living for the desires of his flesh despite his Nazarite vow.  Against his parents' counsel, he chose a  Philistine woman to be his wife.  In spite of all this negative part about him, God used him against the Philistines, empowering and strengthening him with tremendous physical strength.  He killed a lion and bees made honey in the carcass.  He posed a riddle to the wedding party based on the marvel of the lion and the bees, but his wife under duress revealed it. Samson's wife married another man, so Samson burned the Philistine crops. The Israelites bound him and delivered him to the Philistines, but he killed a thousand Philistines when they took him into custody.  Samson then met a Philistine woman called Delilah whom he loved.  This Delilah was used by the Philistines to bring him down.  She tricked Samson into revealing his secret about his strength in his uncut hair, the sign of his vow to God.  She later brought a man to subdue him having one of them cut his hair while he was sleeping.  She had his head shaved so that he lost his strength and was captured.  His eyes were gouged out, and he was forced to amuse them.  They made him stand between the pillars.  He died pulling down the Philistine temple. There was a boy who was holding his hand whom Samson asked,  "Let me feel the pillars on which the house rests, that I may lean against them.  Now the house was full of men and women, and all the lords of the Philistines were there. And about 3,000 men and women were on the roof looking on while Samson was amusing them."  Judges 16:25-27.

 In the end, Samson prays to “O Lord God, please remember me, and please strengthen me just this time, O God, that I may at once be avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes."  Judges 16:28.  God answers his prayers, and Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and braced himself against them, the one with his right hand and the other with his left.  And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” And he bent with all his might so that the house fell on the lords and all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he killed in his life. Then his brothers and all his father’s household came down, took him, brought him up and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of Manoah, his father. Thus he had judged Israel twenty years."  Judges 16:29-31.


ISRAEL'S DESCENT INTO UTTER CHAOS  (Judges 17-21)

The remainder of the Book of Judges, chapters 17-21, tells two shameful stories of Israel's lawlessness.  They were a nation without a king or a prophet.  They no longer worshiped and obeyed God Jehovah as a nation.  Most had turned to the foreign gods of the Canaanites.  The first story tells how a man makes his own idol and shrine, hiring his own personal priest to tend it.  Micah appointed a Levite as his priest.  Spies from Dan stayed with Micah.  The Danites from the Israelite tribe of Dan who should have known better, steal his idol and his priest for their own use.  When the Danites went against Laish, they took Micah's idol and his priest.  They named the city Dan.

The second story is even worse than the first, chapters 19-21.  When a Levite came to Gibeah, the men of the city raped his concubine until she died. He was so distraught that he cut up her body and sent a piece to each tribe.  In the ensuing war between Israel and the tribe of Benjamin,  the Benjamites were so decimated that only a few men survived while all the women were killed.  They had vowed to allow no daughters of their to marry a Benjamite, so they destroyed Jabesh-Gilead and captured wives for the remaining Benjaminites.  The Israelites had apparently failed to live up to their covenant with God during this period of Judges.  They descended into near moral chaos and lawlessness as a result of their rebellion and disobedience toward their God Jehovah.  The Book of Judges ends by saying, "In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes."  Judges 21:25.    The Book of Judges begins with hope and deteriorates into despair closing with the pronouncement that Israel had no king.  God wanted so much to be Israel's king, but since they chose to reject God's kingship, God would give them the human king that they longed for in the Book of Samuel.  The Book of Judges leads into what follows in the Book of Samuel, in which God chooses a prophet who finds a suitable king for Israel.

In my next study, we will study the Book of Ruth which begins with despair that changes into hope.  Ruth closes with a genealogy of David, Israel's greatest king, Ruth’s great-grandson.


Luci

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

THE ISRAELITES IN CANAAN: JOSHUA, JUDGES AND RUTH

THE BOOK OF JOSHUA


GIANTS OF THE FAITH: JOSHUA

After leaving Egypt, the Israelites were punished wandering in the wilderness for forty years because of their lack of faith and trust in their Jehovah God. They trusted more in their own flesh than in the Almighty God.

After forty years from the time of their Exodus from Egypt, all of the adults who were over the age of twenty were dead, except for Joshua and Caleb, Moses' best leaders. Notice that a new generation of Israelites had come into view, a generation with their hearts hardened and toughened by all the years of wilderness living. They had little or no memory of Egyptian slavery and the brutality of it. In other words, they had little memory of ever being oppressed slaves. They were more blessed in seeing all of God's provision for them, such as the daily manna. They had very little or no memory of the Egyptian gods, so their faith in their Jehovah was not contaminated by idolatry like that of their fathers. They were a group of men and women who had waited their entire lives to move into the land that was promised to their ancestors. Although they were disturbed and grieving over Moses' death, they were motivated enough with hope and joy that they were finally entering the Promised Land, Canaan. This conquest of the land, Canaan, finally happened around 1400 BC.

The Book of Joshua begins with the death of Moses and ends with the death of Joshua. Notice that it begins with God's promise to be their God and to take care of them and not forsake them. It ends with their covenant to follow and obey God. As we open the first page of this book, God is encouraging Joshua with these words:

"No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you." Joshua 1:5

As the book closes, Joshua reminds the Israelites that their God Jehovah had been with them all throughout their wandering in the wilderness and had set them free from Egyptian slavery. He exhorted them to choose to follow and obey Him. In response to this they made a vow to God:

Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. The people answered and said, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods; for the Lord our God is He who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and who did these great signs in our sight and preserved us through all the way in which we went and among all the peoples through whose midst we passed. The Lord drove out from before us all the peoples, even the Amorites who lived in the land. We also will serve the Lord, for He is our God.”  Joshua 24:14-18.

What remains of the Book of Joshua can be divided into two major sections:  the conquest and the dividing of the land.


THE CONQUEST (Joshua 1-12)
In order for the Israelites to enter the Promised Land, they had to cross the Jordan River. This river was at flood stage when they were setting out to cross it. The LORD parted the Jordan River just as He had parted the Reed/Red Sea. "It shall come about when the soles of the feet of the priests who carry the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan will be cut off, and the waters which are flowing down from above will stand in one heap. So when the people set out from their tents to cross the Jordan with the priests carrying the ark of the covenant before the people, and when those who carried the ark came into the Jordan, and the feet of the priests carrying the ark were dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks all the days of harvest), the waters which were flowing down from above stood and rose up in one heap, a great distance away at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan; and those which were flowing down toward the sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off. So the people crossed opposite Jericho. And the priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan while all Israel crossed on dry ground, until all the nation had finished crossing the Jordan." Joshua 3:13-17.

Joshua had already sent two spies to Jericho, the first Canaanite fortress they were planning to attack, Joshua 2.  The spies brought back the news that the Canaanites were terrified of the Israelites and the God they served. While in Jericho, these two spies, were protected by a Canaanite woman named Rahab who risked her life in order to save them from being discovered.

After crossing the Jordan River, the Israelites built a monument that was made out of 12 stones taken from the river bed. After that Joshua had all the men circumcised as an oath to reaffirm their covenant with their God Jehovah. Then they celebrated the Passover. After they had the Passover meal, they ate produce from Canaan, and then the manna from heaven finally stopped after forty years, Joshua 4 and 5:1-14.

The rest of the conquest of the land section includes the following account stories of fascinating interest to read:

Joshua 5 & 6:  The LORD asks Joshua to have all the men circumcised. They called the place where they were staying Gilgal. Here the LORD asked the army to march around Jericho. The walls of the city came down on the seventh day of marching by the hand of God without any Israelite demolition!
Joshua 7:   Achan had taken some of the banned items during the battle of Jericho. When the army went out against Ai, they were defeated because of Achan's sin. When the LORD revealed the cause of their defeat, Achan and all of his house were stoned to death.
Joshua 8:1-29:  Total destruction of Ai as commanded by the LORD.
Joshua 8:30-35:  Joshua renewed the covenant with God by building an altar of uncut stones on Mt. Ebal, offering sacrifices and then writing on stones all of the Laws of Moses.
Joshua 9: The Gibeonites dressed up as distant foreigners in order to deceive Joshua into making a treaty of security contrary to the laws that God had given to Moses.
Joshua 10:  The five southern kings of the Amorites united together against the Gibeonites because of the treaty that they had made with Israel. Israel attacked the Amorite kings. The sun stood still in order for the Israelites to have enough daylight to destroy the Amorites. Joshua killed the five kings conquering their southern cities.
 Joshua 11:  Joshua turned north overcoming the northern cities. Hazor was totally destroyed like Ai and Jericho. Joshua took over the whole land.
Joshua 12:  Joshua defeated 31 kings. These were the kings from both sides of the Jordan river, the ones destroyed while Moses still led them on the east side and the ones destroyed by Joshua on the west side. God is amazing!  He was with Israel, Moses and Joshua giving them the victory.



DIVIDING THE LAND (Joshua 13-22) 
There were thirteen Israelite tribes.  Jacob had twelve sons, but he also adopted Joseph's two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. This would allow Joseph to receive a double portion of his father's estate, a firstborn's portion.

The Tribe of Levi, the priestly tribe, had a special provision: they were not given a separate division of land but rather received towns within each of the other tribes' divisions in order that they could live and minister among the people. For this reason the land was divided into twelve sections on both sides of the Jordan River (see map), even though they were thirteen tribes.


GIANTS OF THE FAITH: RAHAB

Rahab is an unusual and interesting character in the Bible. Remember, she protected the two Israelite spies from being discovered just before the conquest of the land of Canaan. I admire her profound understanding of their God Jehovah during this process of conquest. She secured her own protection through her bargain with these two spies. Although she was a Gentile woman, she is part of Jesus' genealogy!

Joshua sent two spies to investigate the land of Canaan especially Jericho. They were able to enter Jericho ending up in Rahab's house. Although, she is known as Rahab, the harlot, it is uncertain why the spies came into her house. I am pretty sure this was the hand of God Jehovah. When the king of Jericho heard that the Israelites had come to search out all the land, he sent word to Rahab demanding she bring out these two spies and be given into his hands. Instead, she lies, saying that she did not know where the men were from. She also said that the men escaped when it got dark and she did not know where they went. She urged the king’s men to pursue quickly and overtake them. As soon after the king’s men left, the gates were shut. Rahab, came to the spies on the roof where they were hiding and said to them, “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before you.  For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. When we heard it, our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.  Now therefore, please swear to me by the Lord, since I have dealt kindly with you, that you also will deal kindly with my father’s household, and give me a pledge of truth, and spare my father and my mother and my brothers and my sisters, with all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.” Joshua 2:9-13.  

Then she helped them escape through her window, down the wall with a rope and out of the city. That scarlet rope hanging out her window was to become the signal that saved her from the invading Israelites.
In return for her help, the spies and Rahab made a covenant to spare her life when the Israelites came to conquer Jericho. This promise was fulfilled:
 
"However, Rahab the harlot and her father’s household and all she had, Joshua spared; and she has lived in the midst of Israel to this day, for she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho."  Joshua 6:25.   Rahab’s faith in the true God was very rare among the polytheistic Cannanites.  It is stunning to me that although she was a prostitute and a Gentile when she cast her lot with the people of  God that God would receive her and honor her as a hero of faith.  

There is no more mention of Rahab's name again in the Bible until the New Testament. She is listed in the Gospel of Matthew as the mother of Boaz, the man who married Ruth. This makes her one of Jesus' ancestors. She appears again in the Book of Hebrews, in the chapter known as the “faith hall of fame.” She joints a list of heroes of the faith in God without ever seeing what they hoped for:

"By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace." Hebrews 11:31. Also, we read of her in James 2:25, "In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?"  God's ways are not our ways!


THE SAVAGERY OF THE ISRAELITES' CONQUEST OF THE PROMISED LAND
In both Joshua and Judges, the Israelites are charged by God not merely to drive out the inhabitants of the land, but to destroy them all. This would include all men, women and children. This might sound shocking and brutal to many. Some may dare to question God's unfairness in demanding that the Israelites should do all of this savagery and killing. Others perhaps might be wondering why a loving and merciful Jehovah God could demand the killing of all including children. In response or before any other speculations let us consider the following:
  • God is the Creator, Judge and Ruler of all creation.  He alone has the power to hold life in His hands.
  • As Judge, God has all rights to decide who or which nation has reached a level of sin that cannot be condoned.  Notice that the sins of these Canaanites had reached the climactic level. God is longsuffering, but not forever. The sins of the Canaanites are mentioned in Leviticus 18:1-24.  The list includes all manner of perverse sexual immorality as well as child sacrifice. These were abominations to our Jehovah God.
  • The destruction done by the Israelites was an act of DIVINE judgment. Don't forget that Israel became God's instrument for judging all of these nations. The destruction was not the Israelites' idea but rather it was God's judgment on them.
  • The Israelites did not destroy the Canaanites because of their own righteousness, but because the Canaanites were absolutely sinful, Deuteronomy 9.
  • God was not being arbitrary in His judgments. He had warned the Israelites that if they should commit these abominations, then they were going to meet the same judgment as the Canaanites, Leviticus 18:25-30.
  • Finally, since the Israelites disobeyed God’s instructions and allowed many Canaanites to remain, they were eventually led to their own death. Notice that they even married into some of the Canaanite families contrary to God’s specific orders.  Their stubbornness and lack of faith in Jehovah their God led them to go astray worshiping the Canaanite gods.  Eventually they were driven out of the land themselves.  Sadly, they trusted more in their own flesh than in their God Jehovah.  God is a jealous God!

JOSHUA AND MOSES
The following are some interesting similarities between Moses and Joshua:

  • Both were called by God who directly promised each one that He would never forsake them.
  • Both were God's instruments used to speak to His people.
  • Both led the Israelites across water that God parted for them to cross.
  • Both had encounters with God in which they were told to remove their shoes.
  • Both presented stone tablets to the people with the law written on them. 
  • Both were given tasks that seemed impossible for any men.
  • Both were witnesses of Jehovah God's mighty acts of power over nature.
  • Both are mentioned in Hebrews 11 as heroes of the faith, in the "hall of fame."
     
In my next study we will be discussing the Book of Judges.

Luci

Monday, March 17, 2014

THE NEW JERUSALEM, BRIDE OF THE LAMB

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them,  and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”   And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He *said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.”  Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.  He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.  But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.... and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life."   Revelation 21.


Many years ago when I was searching and seeking for the Truth, I began reading my Bible for the first time.  I had heard my mother read it.  I heard the liturgies and catechism, but never took the time to dig into the Bible.  It was at that time that in my heart I knew I had to pursue something bigger.  Although she was a devout Catholic, my mother encouraged me to start walking, searching, and digging into the pathways of God because she was searching also.  I don't know why, but the first book I began reading seriously was the Book of Revelation.  As I read through, I was more aware that my present state was condemned before God.  As I read, I began to worry that I would never be able to be forgiven of my sins.  But when I got toward the end, the last chapters of the Book of Revelation, especially chapters 21-22, I found hope!  It captured my hungry and thirsty soul.  I began wishing and hoping to go to that New Jerusalem, the holy city, where the bride, the wife of the Lamb was.  She came down from heaven, having all the glory of God, brilliant like a valuable and precious stone.  At that time, I thought this was a prophecy of something future, but as I have learned more of the language of the New Testament, I realize that this beautiful language is meant to describe the glory of the Lord's church today,  " But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels,  and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect."  Hebrews 12:22-24

 When I began reading the description of this New Jerusalem, this precious city, with all its majesty, splendor, and glory,  I was speechless.  Everything about this beautiful city was majestic.  It was filled with all precious stones, the 24 pillars that were the 12 apostles and the 12 tribes of Israel.  I was astounded when I kept reading that there was no temple but that our Lord God Almighty and the Lamb were its temple and we, His church, are God's building, the holy Tabernacle as described in Ephesians 2:18-22, "for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.  So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord,  in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit."  In the kingdom parables of Jesus as recorded in Matthew chapters 13,18,22 and 25, the church is called the kingdom of heaven.  The church is the heavenly city.  It became more desirable and precious in my heart as I read that it had no need of the sun or moon to shine on it because the glory of God was enough to enlighten it, having our Lamb, Jesus as the main lamp.  This lamp would make all peoples walk in His light bringing glory to it.  Its gates will not be closed because they will be there to bring the glory and honor of the nations into it.  I longed to enter the gates of this city!

As I finished reading chapters 21 and 22, I felt relief because there was hope for me, a sinner, to wash the clothes filled with all the dirt of sin, with the precious and powerful blood of the Lamb.  "Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city." Revelation 22:14 "The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost." Revelation 22:17.  I was motivated to begin seeking diligently for the Truth in the Scriptures because I wanted to partake of this New Jerusalem, the holy city.  I wanted to save my soul and be received by our Father and His Lamb into Their everlasting kingdom.  I fell in love with it.  These two chapters were my inspiration in seeking the Truth to set me free from sin.  It took a while before I found the church of the Lamb.  But God through His everlasting Grace put in my way someone who taught me the WAY.  I sincerely think that those hearts that are sincerely and diligently seeking the LORD will find the Truth to set them free from sin.  I was one of them!  The Book of Revelation is very dear to my heart because it brought hope to my dying soul.  Please, don't be afraid of this precious book.  In spite of all of the speculation and error and difficult symbols, the message shines through to the humble seeker.  It is a powerful message that gives hope to the dying and saves the soul.  It is a great shout of victory.

May our Lord help all of those good and honest hearts who seek to find the heavenly city, the church of the Lamb.

Luci

Thursday, March 13, 2014

FOR I AM NOT ASHAMED OF PRACTICING MY FAITH


"Come, let us worship and bow down, Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker." 
 Psalm 95:6


PRAYING

If we are indeed children of God who delight in His ways, then we must never be ashamed of praying anywhere and everywhere.  Prayer is vital to our daily walk with God.  Therefore, we must purpose in our hearts to pray everywhere and at all times if the occasion calls for it.  We can pray silently as in the case of Nehemiah when he was in the presence of King Artaxerxes and was asked why he looked sad.  Nehemiah was very disturbed by the sufferings of his people.  His city was desolate, consumed by fire.  When the king heard of this, he immediately asked Nehemiah "What would you request?"  Nehemiah 2:2-4. Notice that Nehemiah did not hesitate to go to God in prayer right there before the king.  He knew only God could intervene in helping his people.

The apostle Paul says, 
"When our days there were ended, we left and started on our journey, while they all, with wives and children, escorted us until we were out of the city. After kneeling down on the beach and praying, we said farewell to one another." Acts 21:5.  
"When he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all." Acts 20:36. 

None of these prayers where done during worship services, but in public because the occasion demanded it. The brethren at Tyre prayed together with Paul.  They not only prayed together, but kneeled down and prayed.  It is easy to pray in your heart quietly in public when no one knows or notices that you are praying, but to kneel down and pray in public is a different story.  I am not trying to show off when praying, but I know there are many times when the occasion calls for urgent prayers where kneeling is the most appropriate thing to do.

In Jeremiah 29:7 we read, 


"Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare."  

Here we see that Jeremiah is encouraging the Jews who were living as exiles in Babylon to pray for the well-being of the city.  This way of praying should motivate us to pray for those who live within our reach; for those souls who are still living in darkness who need to come to repentance and freedom from sin, even if we think they are not worthy.  Remember that Daniel was among those who were living in exile, but obeyed kneeling three times a day to pray, 
"Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and supplication before his God. Then they approached and spoke before the king about the king’s injunction, ‘Did you not sign an injunction that any man who makes a petition to any god or man besides you, O king, for thirty days, is to be cast into the lions’ den?’ The king replied, ‘The statement is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which may not be revoked.’  Then they answered and spoke before the king, ‘Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or to the injunction which you signed, but keeps making his petition three times a day."  Daniel; 6:11-13.  

Yet, he continued to pray even when there was a law against it putting his life in danger.  Can we stand up like Daniel?  Would you be the one to take the first step?  Will I?


CHILDREN

We must never be ashamed of having children:  
"Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth.  How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; they WILL NOT BE ASHAMED, when they speak with their enemies in the gate."  Psalm 127:4-5.  

It appears to me that our culture tries to shame those who have children, especially those families who choose to have more than the typical standard one or two children.  Honestly, who is the unusual one?  It is the one who intentionally chooses to limit his family!  Don't get me wrong here! I am not talking about those that because of health problems are physically unable to have children.  I am speaking about those who intentionally don't want to get married and have children or those who deliberately stop having children.  This is contrary to what it is written in God's Word.  God says, that those who decide to have many children are blessed rather than cursed, responsible rather than irresponsible, mature rather than childish.

Imagine how much blessing it would be for the kingdom, the church:  to raise children as mighty warriors who know the Truth, speak the Truth and give a defense of the Truth.  These are the arrows that will attack the enemy of the kingdom, the church.  They are molding children for eternity.  No, they don't need ever to be ashamed!  They can surely lift their heads up for they are walking in righteousness doing their Father's will. It is shameful that we have raised two or three generations that are too materialistic and self-absorbed to have and raise many children.  It is a shame that our churches and our culture are dying for lack of children to carry on our beliefs and convictions (our faith).  When we lack the faith, we will be ashamed in the gate.


WE MUST NOT BE ASHAMED OF TRUSTING THE LORD

"You will have plenty to eat and be satisfied and praise the name of the Lord your God, Who has dealt wondrously with you; then My people will never be put to shame.  Thus you will know that I  am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God, and there is no other; and My people  will never be put to shame."  Joel 2:26-27.

What do you do when you don't seem to find a solution to your problems?  What do you do when you cannot see any way out, and your circumstances seem impossible?  There is ONLY one way out of your problems, and that is to trust in the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul and strength.  This is the best and only wise thing to do, because when you trust the Lord, you will never be ashamed. For God is faithful.  He can never go against His promises; it is not in His nature to do so.  It is impossible for God to lie!

God keeps us waiting. His answers and His ways are very different from our expectations.  We become impatient.  We are overwhelmed.  We start wondering why we are not getting our answers immediately.  But don't forget that God is teaching us patience.  He is also perfecting our faith. Likewise, God is working in our hearts.  He is also teaching us to trust Him more and more.  He is working for our good, even when we cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel.


"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28.

David confesses, 
"O my God, in You I trust, do not let me be ashamed; do not let my enemies exult over me.  Indeed, none of those who wait for You will be ashamed; those who deal treacherously without cause will be ashamed."  Psalm 25:2-3.  
"In You, O Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be ashamed; in Your righteousness deliver me."  Psalm 31:1.  
"May those who wait for You not be ashamed through me, O Lord God of hosts; may those who seek You not be dishonored through me, O God of Israel."  Psalm 69:6.

David also stated in Psalm 34:5, 
"They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces will never be ashamed." 
God promises to Isaiah, 
"Kings will be your guardians, and their princesses your nurses.  They will bow down to you with their faces to the earth and lick the dust of your feet; and you will know that I am the Lord; those who hopefully wait for Me will not be put to shame." Isaiah 49:23.

So with all this about learning to trust God and not be ashamed,

  • Let us trust Him during our toughest storms. 
  • Let us trust Him when dark days assail us.  
  • Let us trust Him when our faith seems to be small.  
  • Let us trust Him when the best and simplest thing to do is to trust Him.  
  • Indeed, these are the hardest things to do for us, His children!

WE MUST NEVER BE ASHAMED OF OUR HOPE

The word HOPE means to expect what we desire:  to believe that God is going to do something good. Sadly, it is when we do not hope that we do not understand who God is, for He is a good and loving God.  Everything He does is good!  He is a wise God.  His ways and thoughts are not the same as ours.

"And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us."  Romans 5:3-5.   

So my question is:   What teaches us HOPE?  Simply our hardships and tribulations.  It is in these that our God is working out everything for our good.  Each trial and experience gives us more and more hope. It is in our hardship that God is working everything out for our good.   We cannot help but become overwhelmed without HOPE.  We will certainly know that we will not be ashamed, even when others think we are crazy for hoping in Him, just as it is written,


“Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.”  Romans 9:33.  
For the Scripture says, 
“Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.”  Romans 10:11.  "Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit" Romans 15:13.  
"According to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death."   Philippians 1:20.

Let us remember when God promised Abraham, he was going to receive a son in his old age, 


"In hope against hope he believed, so that he might become a father of many nations according to that which had been spoken, 'So shall your descendants be.”'   Romans 4:18.

WE MUST NOT BE ASHAMED OF SUFFERING FOR CHRIST

Paul states in 2 Timothy 1:12


"For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day."  
The Apostle Peter says, 
"but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name."  I Peter 4:16.

WE MUST NEVER BE ASHAMED OF THE SAINTS WHO ARE SUFFERING FOR CHRIST AND HIS GOSPEL

"Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God."  2 Timothy 1:8  
"The Lord grant mercy to the house of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains."  2 Timothy 1:16.

WE MUST NEVER BE ASHAMED OF THE BLOOD OF CHRIST

Lest we forget, there is no OTHER WAY to obtain salvation except through the precious blood of Christ.  Lest we forget, we could have never been reconciled to the Father if it were not for His cruel death on the cross.  Lest we forget, it is through His death and His blood that we have access to His Father's promises.  Lest we forget that had it not been for His death and His victory over death and the ENEMY, we could not have overcome the ENEMY.  REMEMBER, let us never be ashamed of His precious, pure and powerful blood that was shed on the cross for our sins.

"And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death." Revelation 12:11

WE MUST NEVER BE ASHAMED IN HARD TIMES


"The Lord knows the days of the blameless,  and their inheritance will be forever.  They will not be ashamed in the time of evil, and in the days of famine they will have abundance."  Psalm 37:18-19

What wonderful promises!  Even though we do not know what is lying ahead of us in the future, we certainly have His promise.  His promise to us is that if we walk free from blemishes and spots, faultless and blameless, He will never have to be ashamed of us.

May our Lord help us always to trust in Him and never be ashamed.  May we find the strength in Him, the Rock on which we can lean all of our heavy weight.

Luci