Lucia's Blog: November 2015
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Isaiah 55:8-9

Isaiah 55:8-9

Saturday, November 21, 2015

HABAKKUK: IN GOD'S PROVIDENTIAL HANDS

For though the fig-tree shall not flourish, Neither shall fruit be in the vines; The labor of the olive shall fail, And the fields shall yield no food; The flock shall be cut off from the fold, And there shall be no herd in the stalls:  Yet I will rejoice in Jehovah, I will joy in the God of my salvation.  Jehovah, the Lord, is my strength; And he maketh my feet like hinds' feet, And will make me to walk upon my high places.  
Habakkuk 3:17-19



I am reposting this discussion because of the recent shootings at San Bernardino, California, which once again remind us that there are powerful forces at play that we cannot stop without the providential hand of God.  Our message from the prophet Habakkuk reminds us of how important it is that we rest in our confidence in God to fix all the evil forces of this earth through His world government.  He is King of kings and Lord of lords, and He reigns forever!

Habakkuk is one those prophecies that give panoramic insight into the way our God governs the kingdoms of men.  His words are medicine for our troubled souls. Let us see if we can make a practical application of the message to our times.

The brutal Paris bombings and slaughter and now the new slaughter at San Bernardino, CA reminded me that the Enemy is at work with an unbridled rage that is putting many stumbling blocks in the path of world evangelism, the furthering of the glorious gospel of Christ.  Those bloody images tell me that the world needs us to proclaim the gospel of the grace of our Lord Jesus more than ever.  We must pray for our leaders as well as their political adversaries that they might humbly seek and make wise decisions in the days to come to promote justice and peace rather than revenge.  I pray that we as Christians can reach out to those affected (families, friends, and neighbors) by this horrible massacre and help them to rebuild their lives but mostly to come to know the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Although the Muslim peoples perform indiscriminate acts of revenge that lead to much worse and threatening violence, my prayer is that the gospel of grace might reach out to them in kindness with a message of peace.

Many Muslims do not identify with these outrageous acts committed in the name of Islam.  Some of them by the grace of God have been drawn to faith in Jesus Christ.  Evil exists.  It abounds in the face of inconceivable and indiscriminate violence.  And that is why more than ever we must proclaim the gospel of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As I look at our nation and our world, I feel a heavy weight in my heart.  It afflicts me.  Every long-standing foundation seems to be collapsing.   Everyone is turning away from their faith, questioning the efficacy of the Scriptures more than ever.  Many are expressing doubts even unbelief.  Many just simply say there is no God and won't bother seeking the Truth.  They think chance put the world together. They don’t bother to know Him who made us and governs our universe.  They are blind to the working of God in the affairs of men.  That was exactly what afflicted the prophet Habakkuk.  He was puzzled by God's silence.  And in his ignorance, the prophet cried out to God for an answer as to why He was apparently unaware and not concerned about the unrighteousness of men.   What he did not know and found out later is that in God's time the unrighteous (the wicked) will be judged, and the righteous (the faithful) will be vindicated (Hab. 2:4).

Like Habakkuk, some call into question God's sovereignty, justice, and holiness.  The apparent inactivity of God in the face of wickedness (lawlessness and unrighteousness) troubles those who struggle to do what is right.  Some become bewildered and angered by God's supposed unwillingness to intervene on behalf of the righteous and judge the unrighteous.  We become anxious and discouraged because of God's lack of attention to our present situation.  Let us take heed lest we sin and be judged by the Almighty because of our lack of faith in His righteous government of the world.

We live in a world where evil seems to prevail.  We see a broad range of injustices:  
  • Abortion.
  • Oppressive governments. 
  • Terrorism and so on.  
So what can the faithful do when wrongs are not corrected?  

Theodicy (the vindication of divine goodness and providence given the existence of evil) has never been more crucial since the infamous 9/11 terrorist attack on our nation (the World Trade Center). Some wondered:  
  • Where was God?  
  • Why did He allow such an atrocity to happen?  
  • Was it His will or an act of His judgment?  

Sadly, both skeptics and ignorant Christians asked these questions.  Habakkuk experienced the same anxiety.  I sometimes wonder if our worries are not even worse than those of the prophet.  Our expectations of God do not match those of God's plan.  We are telling God when and how He should act.  How dare we do such a thing!  The church at times portrays God as the "big butler in the sky" waiting to attend to all our carnal and capricious impulses.  This theology suggests that if one asks God in faith, God is bound to give him what he asks.  We often respond the way Habakkuk did. Why?  Because when we pray that God may judge the wickedness of men (correcting the injustices) without getting an instant answer, we respond with a wavering doubting faith.  We start to question God's goodness and sovereignty over His creation as in Habakkuk's case.  There are many truths in Habakkuk that can be applied to the church today.

I am perplexed to see the reaction of many Christians on Facebook. Some express how they feel without using wisdom and common sense. They love to talk politics.  If I were to recollect all of their comments, links, comics and memes on Facebook, it would sound like this:

  1. "America is a Chrisitan nation."
  2. "We have lost our moral influence."
  3. "Political liberals are to blame."
  4. "But if the American people were to elect the right politically conservative (or libertarian) candidate, they would restore America's power, respect, success, and leadership.  Perhaps come to another great awakening."  

Let us be wise and not put stumbling blocks before the gospel of Christ.

Let us remember that we as Christians must never render to Caesar what is owed to God alone. Why?  Because we must reject the false gospel of American exceptionalism: the belief that America is special and unique.  A concept that can be useful but also problematic. To place our hope in any particular human government is at odds with the gospel of Christ.  American exceptionalism is a characteristic of civil religion whose primary purpose is to unite citizens with a common cause.  It is presumptuous to say that our nation is God’s chosen people like ancient Israel.  Civil religion must never be combined with revealed religion (God's sovereign plan) lest it be used to corrupt the Gospel. The most appropriate form of patriotism rejoices in our nation's strengths, acknowledging her shortcomings without conflicting with the teachings of Christ.

Therefore, we must reject all idolatrous forms of exceptionalism as false gospel especially when they appear to be religious.  Exceptionalism must be righteous and committed to the full authority of the revealed Scriptures as well as the transforming power of the gospel of the grace of Jesus Christ.  

I encourage you to put your trust in God's providential hands.  Let us not lean on our flesh, our human resources.  They are not strong enough to hold us.  Only God is our Rock.  Only He is strong enough to help us bear our heavy burdens and traumas.  He is our Rock of strength from everlasting to everlasting.   

Let us focus for a moment on the faith of a man called Habakkuk,  a man who learned to take every problem to God in prayer and who rejoiced in spite of the evil around him.  He, like Jeremiah, was disturbed and distraught over the sins of his people.  

The name Habakkuk means "embrace or embracer."  It is to me a book of comfort when I need it. It deepens my faith, understanding, and prayer, helping me find joy and strength in our Almighty God.


I.  The Theme of the Book

The book of Habakkuk begins by addressing the subject of God's righteousness in the face of man's unrighteousness.  This prophet struggled to understand God's lack of immediate judgment over sin. His affliction blinded him to God's longsuffering.  Habakkuk thought it was a sign of injustice that contradicted God's goodness, holiness, and righteousness.  He believed that God's silence was encouraging continued sin and weakening all law and justice (Habakkuk 1:3-4;13). 

As we read this short book, we cannot help but notice how Habakkuk moves from burden to blessing. From worry to worship.  From restlessness to rest.  From wrongly focusing on God being the problem to a focus on the Person of God.  And finally from a complaint to a consolation.  In the end, the prophet acknowledged that God can turn sighing into singing.  But we must be willing to wait on Him with constant prayer and meditation on His Word.

Habakkuk presents to us a conversation and prayer between the prophet and Jehovah God.  As the book opens, he asks God when He will respond to Judah's oppression of its poor.  Notice that the Law of Moses regarding protection for the poor and the weak was no longer practiced, so he cried out to God saying, 

"O Jehovah, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear? I cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save.  Why dost thou show me iniquity, and look upon perverseness? for destruction and violence are before me; and there is strife, and contention riseth up."  (Habakkuk 1:1-3).

Then the LORD responds explaining to Habakkuk that He has a plan.  He will raise up the Chaldeans (Babylonians):

"For, lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, that march through the breadth of the earth, to possess dwelling-places that are not theirs.  They are terrible and dreadful; their judgment and their dignity proceed from themselves." (Habakkuk 1:6-7).

When Habakkuk heard God's answer, he was shocked.  No matter how bad Judah had become, Babylon was certainly worse.  God told Habakkuk that in His time, justice would prevail for the wicked, of both Judah and Babylon.  God would use the Babylonians ("terrible and dreadful") to reprimand the evil of His chosen people.  Judah would not get away with her sin.  Habakkuk struggled to understand how a just and righteous God could use such a wicked nation as Babylon to accomplish His will.

  • The Babylonians (Chaldeans) were full of pride (Hab. 1:9-11; 2:4; Jer. 50:29-31).  
  • They worshiped the god of might (Hab. 1:10-11).   
  • A nation who killed, conquered and plundered other nations for "evil gain."  (Hab. 2:9).  

The prophet acknowledged that God has "ordained him (Babylon) for judgment and has established him for correction."  (Hab. 1:12).  God answered the prophet by explaining His sovereign power and control over the kingdoms of men, and all of His creation.  In Habakkuk 2:18-19, God explicitly warned Habakkuk about the man-made idols that His people were still trusting in.  Through Habakkuk, God continued to reveal Himself and His Laws to His chosen people.

The question remains:  Can a righteous God use a more wicked people to judge a people that is more righteous than their enemies?  (Hab. 1:3).  It seems to make more sense that Judah (a less wicked nation) should be the one to be used by God to punish a more wicked people (the Babylonians) and not vice versa.  Habakkuk saw God's plan as a conflict with His holiness and righteousness.  He thought it unjust (Hab. 1:13).  However, God reassured Him that Babylon would also be judged and punished for her sins only after He had used them as His vessel of punishment of Judah for her sins (Hab. 2:6-19).  All of God's creation is at His disposal to punish the wicked and his lawlessness, but He is a just God, who rewards the faithful.  The righteous who live by faith will be rewarded.  

"And Jehovah answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tablets, that he may run that readeth it.  For the vision is yet for the appointed time, and it hasteth toward the end, and shall not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not delay.   Behold, his soul is puffed up, it is not upright in him; but the righteous shall live by his faith."  (Hab. 2:2-4).

The purpose of the prophecy is to prove God's sovereignty and wisdom in His judgment and mercy in history.  That purpose is perceived only by those who walk in faith.  God's holiness and righteousness (justice) cannot be questioned!


II.  The Righteous Shall Live by Faith

Toward the end of the chapter, Habakkuk understood God's plan as well as His holiness and righteousness.  That understanding led him to compose a beautiful psalm of faith because of God's justice and what He had done in the past for His people.  The final chapter of Habakkuk (ch. 3) is his prayer to God.  Habakkuk's conversation with God was profitable.  As a result of his fervent prayer to God, he began to understand God's sovereignty as well as His care for the righteous.  He acknowledged that God's will was to destroy the wicked of Judah using a nation whose wickedness was much greater than theirs.  His conclusion is one of great faith.  Despite the approaching tribulation that was coming to God's chosen people, Habakkuk concluded with confidence, knowing that his God would keep His word and would demonstrate His righteousness as He had foretold.

"I heard, and my body trembled, My lips quivered at the voice; Rottenness entereth into my bones, and I tremble in my place; Because I must wait quietly for the day of trouble, For the coming up of the people that invadeth us.  For though the fig-tree shall not flourish, Neither shall fruit be in the vines; The labor of the olive shall fail, And the fields shall yield no food; The flock shall be cut off from the fold, And there shall be no herd in the stalls:  Yet I will rejoice in Jehovah, I will joy in the God of my salvation.  Jehovah, the Lord, is my strength; And he maketh my feet like hinds' feet, And will make me to walk upon my high places."  (Hab. 3:16-19).

How comforting is this passage to me in that it proves over and over God's everlasting promises, keeping us afloat in this wicked and godless world that we live in!  So let the righteous today "live by his faith" and hope on God's eternal promises (Hab. 2:4).  The strength of our faith is through Jesus our Lord (Phil. 4:13).  Lest we forget, God is aware of all unrighteousness (injustices) and will judge in His time and in His way all lawlessness of the wicked.  He has shown us in history that He will demonstrate His justice on all the nations.  The wicked will never go unpunished.  The righteous will be vindicated and rewarded!  

So, when you find yourself discouraged and your faith seems to be wavering, carry your struggles before the throne of the Almighty like Habakkuk did.  And no matter how awful things appear, we must rejoice in the God of our salvation with hope.  Why not have the courage to approach God with your doubt and confusion as well as your unbelief?  Why not seek our Heavenly Father in faith and understanding of His Word?  It is the faithful who dares to come near the throne of God in prayer for answers when his faith is weakened.  Let us not make the terrible mistake of keeping them to ourselves because Satan will take advantage of our doubt. Let us not put our understanding of the Word of God in a box.  His Words help us in our times of distress, confusion, doubt, and calamity. Therefore, let us trust in God and not in any systematic theology that we have invented about Him. The danger is that it will lead us to misunderstand Him and lead us to error.  I guarantee that if we do all this, you and I will come out victorious!

Consider how we can overcome our doubts, deepen our understanding, our faith, prayer and find joy and hope in our Almighty God in the midst of our distress, confusion, doubt, and calamity.


1.    All Christians have to wrestle with the problem of evil:

One of the most common questions among skeptics and even Christians is the problem of evil. Indeed, we live in a world where crime, war, disease and terror seems to dominate.  Some have mistakenly concluded that since we live in an imperfect world, there is nothing supreme and intelligent in the universe.  Otherwise, if there is a supreme and divine being out there, He would not be indifferent to good and evil.  Therefore, God lacks goodness and power over His creation.  What they don't realize is that they are making a god of their own understanding of what God should be. Some want a grandfather in heaven whose purpose is to see all His creation enjoy themselves without any consequence whatsoever.

Atheists have not failed to make known this problem either.  In fact, some go so far as to say the problem of evil proves that God does not exist.  They say that if something is right and good, that does not prove the existence of God.

  • So, how is it that when things go wrong, that proves that God does not exist, but then if something goes right, that also proves there is no God?  
  • So if there is no God, why is there so much good?  
  • If there is a God, why is there so much evil?"  

The question is not philosophical.  It is moral.  Read Psalm 14.

Psalm 73 wrestles with this problem of evil.  The Psalmist raises the question:  If there is a righteous and powerful God in heaven, why do evil men seem to prosper, but the godly suffer?  We see this portrayed in the NT with John the Baptist and Stephen.


Other skeptics outrageously say,

"If God is all powerful and loving, He would put a stop to evil and suffering.  Evil has not stopped.  Therefore, either God is not all powerful or He is not loving."

It is vital to know God accurately through His Word that one may understand the problem of evil. Many make the mistake of assuming that God is obligated to explain all that He does.  They expect to know God without examining the Scriptures carefully.  In Proverbs 25:2 we read that "It is the glory of God to conceal a thing; But the glory of kings is to search out a matter."  Again in Isaiah 55:8-9 we are told that, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith Jehovah.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."  

Indeed, it is hard to grasp all of God's ways.  There will be times when circumstances will not make sense to us and are hard to comprehend.  It is common to question God when one experiences evil and suffering.  Job felt this agony in Job 23:2-9.  David also did. (Psalm 13:1; Psalm 77:7-8).  Even our Lord Jesus felt this anguish on the cross (Mark 15:35).  Most of us have experienced some grief in our lives.  When evil or hardship afflict us, we feel as if God has let us down.  I have!!  But it is then that one must be careful not to allow Satan to take advantage of the moment to discourage us and make us abandon our trust in God.  It is crucial to recognize that trials, evil and sufferings are all part of the human experience.  The Bible is full of examples of heroes of the faith who underwent similar hardships.  Jesus told His disciples that even they should anticipate sufferings in John 16:33. The apostle Peter asserts this in I Peter 4:12-13.

When God created the universe, He acted freely and without compulsion.  We did not deserve to be created in His image.  Creation was an act of God's own free will.  We know this from Genesis 2:7. God provided life and a lush garden for man.  Likewise, God provided a special tree that offered eternal communion in His presence (Genesis 2:9).  He entrusted man with the care of His garden (Genesis 1:28-30).  He also gave man free will to choose between good and evil when He placed the forbidden tree in the middle of the garden.  He was not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:17)  God sees value in choice.  It gives us the freedom to express our love for God that we may have a relationship with Him.  God does not want to force us to love Him.

Now, there is a risk when we are given the power to choose.  We can choose the desire of the eyes, the desire of the flesh and the pride of life over a fellowship with God.  In other words, God will not prevent us from choosing evil (Romans 1:18-32).  It is when man rebels against God that he brings upon himself the wrath of God (Gen, 3:15-19; Romans 5:12l I Cor. 15:22).  Adam and Even rejected God's offer of communion when they asserted moral independence.  When God acts against sin, even the innocent suffer.  In Gen. 3 we see Satan as an evil alien force in God's creation.  He, Satan, is always opposing and frustrating  God's purposes.  He seeks to destroy God's harmony with His creation.  Therefore, there is always a contest over the hearts of men.

It is Satan who inflicts us with evil and suffering (Luke 13:16; Acts 10:38).  But God limits and controls his power.  Therefore, we must always pray that He not lead us into temptation and that He may keep us from all evil (Matt. 6:13).  Moreover, the Word of God teaches us that God's righteousness and holiness cannot commune with evil (Psalm 54).  God is faithful to His promises and warnings!  


2.   Use your struggles along with the problem of evil to go deeper in your understanding of God rather than withdrawing from Him.

Let’s learn from Habakkuk's example.  He learned to take his questions and complaints to God through prayer, waiting on God to answer.  We must proceed with caution when we are faced with doubts and the problem of evil.  Many often withdraw from God and His people in depression and with a pouting expression.  Others prefer to be angry with God going back to the world, convincing themselves that God does not exist because if He did He wouldn't allow evil to happen.  Others hang on to their faith without going to God in prayer to help them solve their doubts and disturbing questions.  We must learn to live according to God's Word and let it work through our difficulties with prayer and hope in Him.  That is what  Habakkuk did.  He kept crying out to God in prayer for an answer.  When God's answer came, he said,

"I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will look forth to see what he will speak with me, and what I shall answer concerning my complaint."  (Hab. 2:1).  

Moreover, God's second response included the famous verse, "the righteous shall live by his faith." (Hab. 2:4).  So when Habakkuk reaches his final prayer of joy (Hab. 3:1-19), he still does not have all the answers, yet he rejoiced since he had grown in his understanding, faith, and prayer, acknowledging that God was his salvation and strength.  Let us always remember that our struggles will lead us to victory if we trust in God and His eternal Word.  There is a lot to gain from our struggles and calamities!


3.   God is Sovereign over all evil, and He uses evil to accomplish His purposes while holding the wicked accountable for their sins.

God's purposes are higher than any human being and our problems.  God explicitly told Habakkuk that He was raising up the Chaldeans and bringing Judah to judgment because of her sins.  He is the God of history, who raises up kings and peoples, taking them down again and again according to His sovereign purposes.  

I know that it is easy to lose our bearings when we are facing hardship, evil, pain, and suffering.  It was difficult for Habakkuk to grasp this when the Chaldeans were destroying the nation of Judah, leveling the city of Jerusalem and the Temple and slaughtering his nation.  The Babylonians had deported by force many of his people as slaves leaving behind a weak remnant in the land to care for it.  But he and the rest (the godly remnant) learned that they had to submit to God's greater purpose in kingdom history.  Likewise, we must view our lives within God's bigger picture and purpose in history.


4.   God is aware of all evil, and no evil person or nation will escape His judgment.

In an answer to the prophet's second question (How could God use an evil people like the Chaldeans to punish His people?) God shows the prophet that the Chaldean’s victims could take up a taunt song against them (Hab. 2:6).  There are five woes against the wicked that demonstrate that God is aware of their evil and that He will judge them for it.  Consider those woes:

  1. Woes against illegal gain (Hab. 2:6-8).
  2. Woes against trusting in illegal gain for security (Hab. 2:9-11).
  3. Woes against violence (Hab.2:12-14).
  4. Woes against seduction and rape (Hab. 2:15-17).
  5. Woes against idolatry (Hab. 2:18-20).

Take note that verse 20 says,  "But Jehovah is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him."  In His time, God will trample all evil nations and save His people (Hab. 3:12-13).  Therefore, let this be our confidence and not fear all evildoers since they cannot escape God's judgment and justice.  They will not!!!


5.  No evil person or wicked nation can thwart God's plans.  Rather God will use them to fulfill His plans is His time.

Habakkuk states,
"Art not thou from everlasting, O Jehovah my God, my Holy One? We shall not die. O Jehovah, thou hast ordained him for judgment; and thou, O Rock, hast established him for correction."  (Hab. 1:12).  
Also,
"For the vision is yet for the appointed time, and it hasteth toward the end, and shall not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not delay."  (Hab. 2:3).

Let us keep in mind that God has directed all history to bring His purpose to fruition in judging all nations and evil.  We must trust Him in our troubling current events, even if these events have adverse consequences on our lives and the lives of our loved ones.


6.   Even though God can use evil people and nations in His plans, He is completely apart from evil, and He is not responsible for it.

As Habakkuk 2:14 expresses it well, "For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of Jehovah, as the waters cover the sea."  He shows in his prayer (Hab. 3:14-15) how God was going to "woundest the head out of the house of the wicked man, Laying bare the foundation even unto the neck."  Dig deeply into this thought!

The point of the matter is that although we must wrestle with the problem of evil, it is vital for us to go deeper in our understanding of God's Word, His ways and thoughts as revealed in the Scriptures.


7.  We must pray in faith whenever we cannot understand evil.  We will find joy in God.

Although Habakkuk could not comprehend why God was going to use the Chaldeans against His people, he submitted to God's will by faith (Hab. 2:4,20).  His faith is expressed in joyful prayer in Hab. 3:1-19.  There are three lessons we can learn from all this.

  • Faith is vital to have communion with God.
"Behold, his soul is puffed up, it is not upright in him; but the righteous shall live by his faith."  (Hab. 2:4).  

The Chaldeans were proud.  Their pride led them to their downfall.  But the faithful or righteous will always live by their faith.  This statement is quoted three times in the NT (Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38).  Paul uses this statement to show that God justifies sinners through faith in His Son. The Hebrew word "emunah" is otherwise translated "faithfulness."  To be justified is to be made righteous by God.  No one is righteous before God since all have sinned and are in need of the blood of Christ. It is when we obey to the gospel of Christ (repenting, confessing and be baptized) that God forgives us and reconciles us back to Him.  To commune with God, we must live according to the teaching of His Son (1 John 1:7) remaining faithful even when evil things happen to us.  If we trust God completely and submit to His Son's Lordship and rule, He will reward us and bring punishment upon the wicked, if not in this life in eternity.

  • Faith and prayer are essential and helpful, but our strong emotions remain.
Habakkuk heeded God's words and submitted to the same Word by faith. He never prayed saying, "I see, LORD.  You are going to use these wicked terrorists to destroy our nation.  So be it!"  Instead, his prayer was "according to Shigionioth" (literally to fall back or stagger) (Hab. 3:1) even though he prayed in an emotionally poetic form.  Habakkuk affirms that when "I heard, and my body trembled, My lips quivered at the voice; Rottenness entereth into my bones, and I tremble in my place; Because I must wait quietly for the day of trouble, For the coming up of the people that invadeth us."  (Hab. 3:16).  Therefore he prays, "O Jehovah, I have heard the report of thee, and am afraid: O Jehovah, revive thy work in the midst of the years; In the midst of the years make it known; In wrath remember mercy."  (Hab. 3:2).

It is easy to see that the prophet was in terror, but nevertheless, he put his trust in the Almighty.  He honestly poured out all his strong emotions along with his fears before the throne of God.  He humbly and submissively trusted in His God.  Nowhere do we see the prophet railing in anger against His God.  He acknowledged that God is faithful and just, even when He is pouring out His wrath on the sinning people.  At the same time, he pled for God to revive his work and remember mercy in His wrath (Hab. 3:2).  He still trembled with fear about what was going to happen, even though he was trusting in God.  What is the application for us today?  That even when we go through calamities and severe trials, we can confidently approach God's throne with our struggles and intense emotions and still be submissive trusting all of His excellent ways.

  • We must find joy in the LORD in spite of current circumstances or events.  It is this joy that reflects the truth of our faith. 
Habakkuk had resolved to say, "Yet I will rejoice in Jehovah, I will joy in the God of my salvation.   Jehovah, the Lord, is my strength; And he maketh my feet like hinds' feet, And will make me to walk upon my high places."  (Hab. 3:18-19).  This reminds me of Paul's triumphant words in the closing words of Romans 8:24-39.  Paul affirms that absolutely nothing would separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (including evil, or death itself).  Such comforting words of hope!!

Habakkuk has just rehearsed for us how God has acted in history.  This book helps us understand God's hand in history.  God shows us that "all history was hastening to a conclusion that was certain as it was satisfying."  God was working behind the scenes as He has always been.  He was raising up a nation (the Chaldeans or Babylons) to punish (judge) Judah for her sins.   Take note that our God is not unaware of our circumstances nor of what is happening around us.  He is fully conscious of them and is always working to bring everything to a conclusion that fulfills His divine purpose.  And although we do not know what He has in store for us in the future, we know for sure that He will bring everything to a satisfying end where He and His faithful ones will triumph.

Habakkuk recites all the events that happened before the exodus of God's people.

  • The plagues (Hab. 3:5).
  • The crossing of the wilderness (Hab. 3:6).
  • The crossing of the Red Sea and the Jordan River (Hab. 3:8-10) and 
  • Joshua's long day when the moon and the sun stood still (Hab. 3:11).  

The prophet looked back to these events of the exodus and the conquest, remembering how God took part in past victories and exploits.  Habakkuk could not help but to see God's providential hand in all of history.  

Therefore, he resolved to trust confidently in His God to act again in his day like He had done in the past with Israel.  It is a great lesson for us today in the church, our nation, and our lives.  We too can have confidence in God's sovereignty and goodness.  Remember that God's ways and thoughts and timing are not the same as ours.  Did you know that the theme of the book of Revelation is the same: victory for those who trust in God and leave it to Him to avenge them?

Our present is uncertain and scary, but we must also trust in our God Almighty.  Looking back at the past, we have the assurance that He will show His sovereignty and righteousness and bring all nations under His feet.  We know this because we read it in His beloved book.  I am fully confident that those who follow Him, walking in righteousness will be vindicated, and the unrighteous will be judged. Don't lose hope!  Wait on the God of our salvation!  We must remember that when doubts cloud our minds and hearts because of hardship, tragedies, pain, suffering and so on, we must go back to the truth of how God has worked in history.  His greatest work was in the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior.  When we stand in the God of our salvation, we can firmly stand since He is our Rock and hiding place.

Let us unite our voices of joy with Paul as he sang in prison and enemies everywhere (Christians and non-Christians) he still could say,
"Rejoice in the Lord always: again I will say, Rejoice.  Let your forbearance be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.   In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.   And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus."  (Phil. 4:4-7)  

Let these words sink deeply into your hearts!!


CONCLUSION

Habakkuk's journey was not just one man's journey.  Many before him had walked that path as they still do today.  It is a journey that we must walk at some point in our lives.  Like Habakkuk, we can be confident that our God will keep His promises as well as His warnings.  Our God can shake nations and destroy kingdoms.  He is sovereign and almighty.  Our God has shown us this pattern throughout history.  He is all wise, and He knows what He is doing, and we must understand this.

The book of Habakkuk highlights God's omnipotence, sovereignty and righteousness for us.  All nations are under His control.  We are at His disposal.  We must be still in faith and know that He is at work.  We can rest assured that He will judge the wicked along with their lawlessness. And even if we cannot see it now, He is still on the throne of this universe and will eventually do so.   He will defend His holiness and righteousness His way and in His own time.  

We must face all the evil in the world, adversities, calamities, pain, suffering, etc. with a deep faith and hope in Him.   Both are vital to our walk and communion with Him.  A man of faith does not live by human reasoning.  Let us be wise and not get trapped into living this way in the name of Christianity.  Many think that our job (the church) is to put political pressure on the leaders of this nation and those of the world to enforce righteousness.  This is not our Christian job; it is God's job.

Don't get me wrong here!  I am not suggesting that we should not help those in need.  God expects us to do it.  But when one depends on human forces to bring justice and peace it is wrong.  The Word of God does not teach us that.  Look at how different are the heroes of the faith that we read about in the book of Hebrews.  They changed the world because they endured as seeing one who is invisible. Their hope was not in man but God.  They waited patiently on God to work or act, and He always did the work right.  As God worked, things began to change.  History is a witness of how He worked, how He amazingly worked through men and women, how He stopped the mouths of lions, subdued kingdoms, overthrew thrones, won empires and finally changed the course of history by faith.

Habakkuk 3:2 and 3:16-29, are one of the most beautiful and poetic passages in Scriptures for me.

"O Jehovah, I have heard the report of thee, and am afraid: O Jehovah, revive thy work in the midst of the years; In the midst of the years make it known; In wrath remember mercy."

I encourage you to read them to see how God acts and how God worked in the past.  I believe with all my heart Habakkuk 3:2 is what changed and convinced the prophet's heart.  He could rest because the events that had occurred in the past were governed by God's providential hand.  History as acts of God cannot be questioned, shaken or taken away.  The truth is that God has already moved in human history, and our faith must rest on this assurance.  We walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7). We have a supreme and almighty God, who has acted righteously in time and space.  He has recorded His will in the history of all human events.

We must always focus on Habakkuk 3:16-19,

"I heard, and my body trembled, My lips quivered at the voice; Rottenness entereth into my bones, and I tremble in my place; Because I must wait quietly for the day of trouble, For the coming up of the people that invadeth us.  For though the fig-tree shall not flourish, Neither shall fruit be in the vines; The labor of the olive shall fail, And the fields shall yield no food; The flock shall be cut off from the fold, And there shall be no herd in the stalls:  Yet I will rejoice in Jehovah, I will joy in the God of my salvation.  Jehovah, the Lord, is my strength; And he maketh my feet like hinds' feet, And will make me to walk upon my high places."

Oh, how I love this passage!  It calms my soul with trust in God enabling us to go to the heights of God:

  • Where He takes us to higher places with Him.
  • Where we are set apart from the world's suffering, adversities, tragedies, and sorrow.
  • Where we can rest with confidence and trust in our almighty God and finally, 
  • Where we can develop into what He wants us to be.

Like Habakkuk we must find our strength in our God, His Word and prayer to understand God's ways.  That does not guarantee us that our problems are going to go away.  Jesus declared that the problems would remain.  Let us walk like Habakkuk and all those who walked before him and after him with faith, prayer, and joy in the Almighty God of all.

"These things have I spoken unto you, that in me ye may have peace. In the world ye have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."  (John 3:16).  

This world of evil, distress, difficulties, suffering and pain is not our world since we are just passing through.  We, Christians must keep our eyes fixed on our final destination (Romans 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:17). This world is just our training and preparation for eternity.  

May we always trust in God with all of our heart, soul and strength since He has shown us through His revealed Word that He is the God of history.  May He help us to lift our eyes to Him alone, rejoicing in the midst of our trials, problems, calamities, pain, and suffering.  May we always remember that He is the God of our salvation and strength, the God, who "maketh my feet like hinds' feet, And will make me to walk upon my high places."


Luci

Friday, November 13, 2015

GET BEHIND ME, SATAN!

"From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.  Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, 'God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.'  But He turned and said to Peter, 'Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s."'     
Matthew 16:21-23


God's purposes are higher than ours.  We always get into trouble when we let Satan take advantage of our lower wants and dreams.  As great a disciple as Peter was, in the beginning, his carnal dreams closed his eyes and ears to the divine purposes that Jesus pursued.  Peter stumbled, but Jesus' vision was clear and true even as He pressed toward the terrible suffering and death of the cross; beyond that, the joys prepared by the Father.


I.   JESUS REBUKES PETER

After Peter had made the great confession that Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus began to explain certain things about His approaching death.  Jesus had been teaching about the kingdom of God for awhile but had not revealed much to His disciples regarding His suffering, death, and resurrection (John 2:19-22;3:14; Matt. 12:38-40).  Although Peter had made his confession, the apostles still needed to be instructed on God's eternal plan for the Christ. It is amazing how little they understood about His ministry, especially His death and resurrection.

Since Peter did not comprehend what Jesus had said (Matthew 16:21-23), he impulsively took Jesus aside and began to rebuke Him saying,  "God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You."   You see, Peter's biggest problem was that he failed to comprehend fully Jesus' prophecy and the promise of His resurrection.  Why?  Because of his misconceptions.  Jesus predicted Peter's denial saying, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat;  but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32).   Prayer is vital when rebuking Satan to get behind us!

Although Peter's actions were misleading, they were unquestionably done with good intentions.  In his misconception, Peter thought Jesus needed encouragement and comfort.  He did not want Jesus' words to dishearten the rest of the disciples.  Peter's failure was in overstepping Jesus' authority. Why?  Because he assumed he knew better than Jesus, the Christ (the one he had just confessed as the Messiah, the Son of the living God!).  And although Peter had confessed Jesus as the Christ, he did not have a good grasp of the work of the Messiah. 

Jesus' response to Peter ('"Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s") might have been shocking to all who were present. He labeled Peter as "Satan" since he was behaving as the "adversary," though he did not know it. In Matthew 26:39, Jesus as man did not want to suffer and die.  Peter needed to encourage Him to complete His Father's mission, not discourage Him!  Satan used him as Jesus' adversary to oppose the work of suffering and dying to save mankind.  Peter had become an offense to Jesus since he was tempting Him to not fulfill the purpose which He came to accomplish here on Earth ("For the Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost").  (Luke 19:10).  Peter did not comprehend God's will fully since he was being misguided by his own judgment and carnal emotions.

Satan is undeniably our adversary.  When Jesus called Peter "Satan," He was not telling Peter he was actually Satan but rather that when Peter rebuked the Lord, he was doing Satan's work.  When Jesus told Peter to get behind Him, He desired Peter to be His follower and not a servant (agent) of Satan. Notice that when Jesus reprimanded Peter, He did not scold him like He did Satan in Matthew 4:10 ("Away with you, Satan!").  When Jesus told Peter to get behind Him, He wanted Peter to be His follower and not Satan's servant.  Satan, the adversary, was the source of Peter's stumbling words.  By saying these words, Peter was not minding the work of God but rather thinking as an earthly man.


II.   A TRUE FOLLOWER OF JESUS

Soon after Jesus had rebuked Peter firmly, He continued,
"Then Jesus said to His disciples, 'If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.  For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?  For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. '  Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.'"   (Matthew 16:24-28)
This text is speaking of what it means to be a faithful disciple of Jesus our Lord.  Consider the steps that Jesus requires in our daily walk with Him ("come after me").

  1. Desire.  Yearning to become His disciple is a prerequisite (precondition) to truly becoming one.
  2. Deny Self.  One must be willing to love God with all his heart, mind, soul and strength in all facets of life (seeking His kingdom and His righteousness first, Matt. 6:33) to genuinely serve God.  God must be our first priority and nothing else.  Our own needs and desires must become secondary to the will of God.  We must crucify self and let God live in us by faith in His Son.  (Gal. 2:20; I Cor. 6:19-20). 
  3. Take up One's Cross in Our Daily Walk With Him.  Faithfulness and godliness are only accomplished when one counts the cost of discipleship and bears his own burdens.  (Gal. 6:5; 2 Tim. 3:12).
  4. Follow Jesus.  To follow Jesus demands:
    • The desire to willingly deny self.
    • To count the cost.
    • To willingly suffer (persecution or death).
By meeting all of these requirements, one is then able to:
    • Genuinely follow Jesus.
    • Obey God's will in everything.
    • Imitate Christ (1 Cor. 11:1).
    • It is impossible to follow Jesus if one does not meet first the three requirements.

I would surely have been interesting to see Peter's reaction to Jesus' words here in Matthew 16:24-28. After all, it seems that Peter had rejected the concept of suffering and dying for Jesus.  Jesus had not only rebuked Peter but had also declared that His true followers must be willing to suffer with Him!  Indeed those who claim to be true followers of Jesus must sacrificially deny themselves and bear the burdens that accompany faithfulness and godliness.  As Jesus our Lord was willing to deny Himself and lose His life for mankind, so we must be willing to do the same for Him.

"He that findeth his life shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it."  (Matt. 10:39)

One who refuses to follow Jesus and does not lose his life, and does not die to self to serve Him will lose his life and die spiritually.  On the contrary, one who freely gives his life for Jesus and dies to self to serve Him will find spiritual life (Phil. 1:21).  When one is genuinely a true follower of Jesus, there is nothing in this world that can prevent him from serving Him faithfully.  Even when man tries to sever his spirit from his body, his spirit lives on!

"For what shall a man be profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and forfeit his life? or what shall a man give in exchange for his life?"  (Matt. 16:26).  

What would have profited Peter and the Jews to have gained a physical kingdom (the one they were waiting for) and yet lost their souls?   Jesus was trying to highlight the inefficiency of a physical, earthly kingdom in comparison to the heavenly one.  To Jesus man's soul is more valuable than all the riches of this world.  Thus, to sell one's soul at any price in this world is foolishness!  It is vital that we understand what is truly of value and have the same attitude that Moses presented.

"By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; choosing rather to share ill treatment with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; accounting the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt: for he looked unto the recompense of reward."  (Hebrews 11:24-26).   
Likewise, our Lord declared in Matthew 16:27 that each one of us would be rewarded or punished according to our works (the life we have lived) when He comes again.  (Rom. 6:26; 2 Cor. 5:10).

In Matthew 16:28, Jesus closes by saying,

"Verily I say unto you, there are some of them that stand here, who shall in no wise taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom."
Even though Jesus had already been talking about His coming in final judgment, His listeners were still thinking of an earthly kingdom with an earthly Messiah.  Therefore, He assured them He would not fail in establishing His kingdom although He had already foretold His death.  Jesus also reassured them that some would not die until they should see "the kingdom of God come with power."  (Mark 9:1).

It is amazing to me that some today would have the audacity to claim that the kingdom of God is not yet established.  What they don't acknowledge is that in order to maintain that position, they must deceitfully believe that some of those of whom Jesus spoke are still alive after 2,000 years.  It is absurd since that is not the case here.  They ignore that Jesus established his kingdom with power in the first century.  In Acts 1:8 we learn that the apostles received power when the Holy Spirit came upon them.  Indeed, the Holy Spirit came upon them with power on Pentecost (Acts 2:1).  Therefore, the kingdom was established on that day, the day of Pentecost.  The church is that kingdom where 3,000 souls repented, were baptized, were forgiven and were added to it.

"They then that received his word were baptized: and there were added unto them in that day about three thousand souls."   (Acts 2:41).

III.   THE TEMPTING OF JESUS

Soon after Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan River, He was "led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil."  (Matt. 4:1).  God's will was for Jesus to be tempted by Satan. Why?  Because it was absolutely necessary that Jesus "was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin," so as to be our High Priest who could be sympathetic to our weaknesses.  (Hebrews 4:15).  When we are tempted to sin, it does not mean that we have sinned.  Why?  Because it would suggest that Jesus was not tempted as we have read in Matthew 4:11 and other occasions.  It is when one willfully surrenders to the desires of the flesh, becoming enticed by them, that sin is born, resulting in spiritual death.  (James 4:1-14-15).

In Matthew 4:2 we learn that Jesus was hungry after He had fasted for forty days.
"And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry."

Some believe that a fast of that magnitude is impossible without divine help.  What they don't acknowledge is that in modern times men have accomplished this (even when there is only water).  In the Bible we read of two other men who fasted for forty days.  They are Moses and Elijah.  Isn't it interesting that both appeared talking to Jesus at His transfiguration?  (Matt. 17:3; Exo. 34:28; I Kings 19:8).  Undoubtedly, those who share in Christ's suffering shall also be glorified with Him! (Romans 8:17).

From a physiological point of view when one fasts for an extended period of time, one's body does not yet need food even though our stomachs start growling.  This "growling" sound is merely the emptying of one's stomach.  Next, the body begins to nourish itself by consuming deposits of fatty tissue.  Of course, if one fasts for a longer period of time, all of the fatty tissues start to become exhausted and eventually the body begins to feed on muscle tissue.  It is then at this point that the body starts to experience real hunger pains as the body consumes itself, literally.  Jesus had definitely entered this stage at the end of His forty days fast.  His fleshly body was intensely yearning for food at this point. Indeed, Jesus was both weak and vulnerable, more than at any other time.  Can you doubt for a moment that Satan knew this was his great opportunity to tempt the Son of God?  Satan tried earnestly to cause our Lord to yield to his temptations.  He astutely and blatantly assaulted Jesus our Lord with all of his crafty schemes.  Yet in the end, Jesus the Son of God resisted the tempter, submitting to God and caused Satan to flee.  (James 4:7).  This moves me deeply!  What a marvelous Savior we serve!

Undoubtedly, Satan tempts man through three main avenues:

  1. The lust of the flesh.
  2. The lust of the eyes and
  3. The pride of life.
Our Lord and Savior was tempted in all these ways, YET He never sinned!  He endured all of Satan's temptations, trusting and doing His Father's will.

Consider these three avenues by which the devil tempts man:

  • The Lust of the Flesh:   First Temptation 
"If thou art the Son of God, command that these stones become bread."  (Matt. 4:3)

Satan is the king of stumbling blocks that lead us into temptation if we are not standing firm in our faith with the full armor of God and His righteousness.  Consider how Satan first tempted Jesus in the wilderness.

  • He took advantage of our Lord's physical condition.  Jesus was hungry since he had fasted for forty days.  
  • Satan tempted Him to abuse His divine powers by turning stones into bread.   Satan is ASTUTE!  He put a stumbling block before the Son of God.  
"Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And He ate nothing during those days, and when they had ended, He became hungry.  And the devil said to Him, 'If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.'   And Jesus answered him, 'It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.'"  (Luke 4:1-4).

His first attempt was to strike Jesus' faith using the word "if."  And although God the Father had declared earlier the Sonship of Jesus, Satan (the devil) boldly questioned the truthfulness of His Word, the same way he did Eve back in the garden (Gen. 3:1-5).  The tempter was shamelessly trying to say, "Surely, Jesus, if you really are God's Son, then You shouldn't have to suffer like this! Make Yourself some bread.  That isn't too difficult for You, is it?"  This same crafty serpent demanded that Jesus prove Himself.  Without a doubt, this was a subtle stab at Jesus' ego.  It was brazenly thrown out with the purpose of provoking Jesus to demonstrate or verify His identity.  How?  By providing for His physical needs through divine power.  Indeed, this must have been a strong temptation to Jesus since His body was yearning for food.  Take note that Jesus could have easily done this.

Furthermore, Satan's tempting was skilfully disguised, making his suggestion even more appealing to the flesh.  Such an act would have been a misuse of Jesus's divine powers which were never intended to provide for the desires of His flesh.  There is nowhere in the Bible where one can find anyone performing a miracle or sign to obtain food as a personal benefit.  Miracles and signs were always performed to confirm the efficacy and truthfulness of the Word (the message being delivered).  (John 20:31-31; Mark 16:20).

What was Jesus' weapon against Satan's temptation?  Merely by citing the Word of God.  Notice how He quoted the Scriptures:  "It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'"  (Matt. 4:4; Deut. 8:3).  The main point behind all this is that God's will is more important than food or any physical need.  If Jesus had really turned the stone into bread, it would have surely elevated the physical above the spiritual.  He would have surrendered and satisfied the desires of His flesh in a manner not authorized by God.  Jesus, the Christ, refused to yield to such enticement.  He instead trusted His Father.  The Father led the Son into the wilderness, just like He led the Israelites into the wilderness where there was no bread. The only difference is that they sinned when they murmured against Him.  (Ex. 16).  Christ could have committed the same sin had He not trusted His Father and had actually turned the stones into bread.  Jesus had no reason to not trust God.  Neither do we!!  We have abundant reasons to confidently trust in the Almighty God of heaven.  Why?  Simply, because He is the giver and sustainer of life.  He gave His Son to redeem us from our sins (the propitiation for man's sins).  (Acts 17:25; I John 2:2).  Man's primary job is to seek "first the kingdom of God and His righteousness."  (Matt. 6:33).  May we never elevate our physical needs above our spiritual ones.  If we do, we will eventually die spiritually rather than physically.

  • The Pride of Life:   Second Temptation
"Then the devil taketh him into the holy city; and he set him on the pinnacle of the temple."  (Matt. 4:5)

Satan tempted Jesus this time when he placed Him on the pinnacle of the Temple and challenged Him to throw Himself down proving that God would rescue Him before the eyes of everyone just as it was written in the Psalms.  Jesus again put Satan behind Him by quoting the Scripture which said, "You shall not put the Lord your God to the test."

The devil tried to literally exercise control over Jesus' body when he set Him on the pinnacle of the temple.  Notice what he said to Jesus:

"If thou art the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and, On their hands they shall bear thee up, Lest haply thou dash thy foot against a stone."  (Matt. 4:6)

Isn't it something that the devil tried to imitate  Jesus when he quoted the Scriptures found in Psalm 91:11-12?   However, the tempter misapplied the Scriptures, and thus his conclusion was incorrect. Although he is full of Scriptures, it profits him nothing.  For his heart is empty of it!  The main target of Satan's first temptation was to prove his overconfidence and presumption and lack of confidence in God.  He seemed to be saying, "If you really are God's Son, prove it to me by throwing Yourself down.  After all, God won't let You get hurt; His angels will protect You."

Jesus understood the true meaning of Psalm 91:11-12.  He acknowledged that God would care for His faithful ones.  It did not imply that God would be forced to prove His love.  Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:16 used in Matthew 4:7.  This was not done to contradict God's Word (what Satan spoke) but rather to point out that what Satan had quoted as a promise was qualified by the precept.
"You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah."

In Exodus 17:1-7, the Israelites were thirsty and began accusing Moses of having brought them out of Egypt to die in the wilderness.  They demanded Moses to give them water to prove to them that God was indeed with them.  They blatantly tested God to prove to them that He was indeed in their presence.  In doing all this, they sinned.  Had the Father commanded Jesus to jump, He would have done so, but He didn't.  Jesus knew better and had no intention of putting Himself in such a dangerous position, hoping to obtain a loving deliverance.  If Jesus had cast Himself down, He would have demanded of the Father an unnecessary miracle in order to prove His Sonship.  He would have put God's love to a needless test.  Jesus would not surrender to this temptation of pride.

  • The Lust of the Eyes:   Third Temptation
 "Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory."  (Matt. 4:8)
Satan spoke again saying, "All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me."  (Matt. 4:9).

Satan again tempted Jesus by enticing Him to reject His work of redemption for all humanity in exchange for the power and the glory of this world's kingdoms.  But our Lord and Savior Jesus put Satan behind Him saying,  “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.’”  (Luke 4:8).

I am sure Satan had hoped that Jesus' weakness of the flesh would have caused Him to succumb to his wiles. It is as if Satan was saying, "Just bow down and worship me, and everything Your eyes can see will be Yours!"  Surely, Satan had the power to fulfill God's promise otherwise he would have not tempted Jesus this way.  Satan was shamelessly demanding the Son of God to hand over His loyalty to God to him.  He desired Christ to make him, the devil, His god in return for all the kingdoms of the world.  (John 12:31).

What would have happened if our Lord and Savior had surrendered to Satan, rejecting the work our God had given Him to finish so that through Him all humanity might have redemption? It would have meant no less than the loss for all mankind of the only opportunity and hope for redemption.  Instead, Jesus our Lord surrendered to His Father in heaven through obedience.  Jesus was determined to bring to fruition the work His Father had commanded Him to do.  He had purposed in His heart to finish that work.  Jesus remained faithful to His work and His Father in spite of Satan's many stumbling blocks.  "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”  (Luke 19:10).

Despite all that the tempter offered to our Lord, He remained faithful to God's will.  Our Lord Jesus Christ did not surrender to Satan, not even for all the riches of the world (Matt. 16:26).  Instead, Jesus rebuked Satan by paraphrasing Deuteronomy 10:20.  "Thou shalt fear Jehovah thy God; him shalt thou serve."   (Matt. 4:10).  By serving God, Jesus received all authority in heaven and earth instead of what Satan could have offered Him.  (Matt. 28:18).  Let us always be faithful to God rather than to Satan lest we perish.  (Romans 6:23).
"Then the devil leaveth him; and behold, angels came and ministered unto him."  (Matt. 4:11)
Notice the order here:  first, there is suffering, and then there is comfort.  This applies to us today the same way.  It is indeed a battle to fight against the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, but we must do it if we want to save our souls and abide with God forever.  (1 John 2:15-17). Let us also not grow "weary" in doing good.   (Gal. 6:9).  Remember that we shall enter His "rest" later.  (Heb. 4:1-10).

Luke adds more regarding the tempting of Jesus:

"And when the devil had completed every temptation, he departed from him for a season."  (Luke 4:13)

As we can see, Satan ultimately failed to thwart Jesus' mission in putting stumbling blocks in His way. His mission was the redemption of mankind.

"For the Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost."  (Luke 4:13).

The phrase, "he departed from him for a season," implies that Satan did not intend to end his efforts of putting many stumbling blocks in Jesus' way.  Satan earnestly wanted to ruin God's eternal plan of redemption.  Of course, the tempter would return and persist in all his wicked ways at a more convenient time.  This is exactly what he does to God's faithful ones.  He takes advantage of our weaknesses (physical or spiritual) and then starts attacking us in order to destroy us.  He is crafty and never sits still.  So, let us follow our Lord's example of resisting Him so that he will flee from us.  He flees from us when we are armed entirely with the Sword of the Spirit (Word of God).  We must also love righteousness and hate all evil (lawlessness).  Let us take heed!  Jesus has left us an abundance of weapons of warfare in order to defeat him.


CONCLUSION

It is indisputably true that Satan put many stumbling blocks in Christ's way to destroy God's eternal plan of redemption for mankind.  In Matthew 16, our Lord Jesus predicted His sufferings at the hands of the priests and scribes as well as His death on the cross and His resurrection.  Peter rebuked Him saying "God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You."   Jesus rebuked Peter in the same way that He had rebuked Satan in the wilderness at the beginning of His ministry.  Jesus simply said, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s."   (Matthew 16:23).

Satan is our  "adversary."   He used Peter to put a stumbling block before the Lord.  Peter was doing the same thing that Satan did when he tempted Jesus to reject the work that His Father had given Him to finish.  In the Garden of Gethsemane, this temptation became even more intense.  There, Jesus as the man felt deeply grieved and distressed.  He prayed fervently to the Father saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew 26:39)

The lesson for us is that we must treat Satan the same way that Jesus did as if to say "get behind me," when he attempts to enter our heart, as he did Judas Iscariot (John 13:26-27) How do we do this?  Simply by not surrendering to him.  We must do the will of God.  By fighting him off with "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."  (Eph. 6:17).  If Jesus our Lord could overcome temptation without any supernatural help from the Spirit, surely we Christians can do so today.  We must treasure the Word of God in our hearts, as did Jesus so that we might reject temptation and overcome sin.

Satan is our persecutor and accuser before our God.  Remember when he asked permission to test Job taking all that he possessed, even his family.  He afflicted Job miserably.  He urged Job to curse God.

"Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.  And he took a potsherd to scrape himself while he was sitting among the ashes."  (Job 2:7).

Although our Lord Jesus had the Spirit without measure (John 3:34), He did not receive any direct or supernatural strength from the Holy Spirit to resist Satan's temptations.  Rather, He always drew His strength from the Word of God, saying:  "It is written."  (Matt. 4:4,7,10).   He has left us a perfect example by the way He rejected temptation.  His weapon of defense against Satan was "the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.  (Eph. 6:17)  It means that we Christians can as well.

In our days, evil is often abstract.  But let me tell you that evil is real, and so is Satan. We continually find ourselves on the battlefield of our souls and all the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
"For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places."  (Ephesians 6:12).  

We must fight tooth and nail!  We cannot afford to allow Satan to get his way.  This is what he wants!  Unfortunately, Satan sometimes uses our own brethren as weapons of evil warfare, our loved ones, our earthly treasures, the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, the pride of life and everything that is against doing the will of God.  The only way to crush him and defeat him is by loving the TRUTH and ALL RIGHTEOUSNESS.

Let us heed Peter's words of warning.  He had to learn the hard way how to defeat Satan.  Let these words sink into our hearts.  
"Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour."  (I Peter 5:8).

It is imperative that we come to our senses and recognize who Satan really IS.  He is:
  • Our adversary.
  • Our enemy.
  • Our accuser.
  • The evil one.
  • The biggest liar.
  • The serpent and
  • The dragon.  
Let us be sober because he and his demonic hosts really do exist.  He is astute and deceitful.  His sole purpose is to harm us by making us lose our souls eternally.  He will destroy us if we allow him any opportunity.  He has many evil tactics!  He attacks unmercifully with fiery darts.  He delights in afflicting us with thorns in the flesh.  But we must:

  • Attack him with the sword of the Spirit.
  • Arm ourselves with the whole armor of God so that we may be able to stand firm against all of his wicked ways. 
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.  Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;  in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints."   (Ephesians 6:10-19).

 Remember always that Satan did not hesitate to tempt the very Son of God by putting stumbling blocks in His path.

May we treasure the Word of God in our heart so that we might not sin against our God.  May we always strive to do God's will and keep the stumbling blocks behind us.  May we remain faithful, the way Jesus did despite Satan's many stumbling blocks.  May we follow Jesus' example so that Satan will flee from us.  May we put on the whole armor of God so that we may stand firm.


Luci

Thursday, November 5, 2015

THE TRUE ANCHOR

"Wherein God, being minded to show more abundantly unto the heirs of the promise the immutability of his counsel, interposed with an oath; that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have a strong encouragement, who havefled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us:  which we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and entering into that which is within the veil..."  
Hebrews 6:17-19


Many of us are frightened by the changes that we see in our culture.  We see a dramatic increase in violence, crime and the immorality of our youth.  We live in troubled times.  Many are saying that we live in a hopeless time, but we have an anchor that “keeps our soul steadfast and sure while the billows roar.”  The Gospel gives us hope in spite of the troubled world that roars all around us.  Let's think about what our Lord has provided to anchor our souls and bring us calm in the midst of the storms.

What does the word "anchor" in Hebrews 6:19 mean?  It is "to make secure or to fasten."  We live in an insecure world where everyone is desperately trying to latch on to something they can believe in and find security. Many ships have weathered storms by anchoring to a solid rock for the safety and survival of the ship and its crew.  Anchors are vital since they stabilize, hold fast and keep the ship from drifting.  When the anchor is fastened firmly in the deep, ships can weather the raging storms that so often destroy.  The anchors of our soul have the same effect in our lives.  

Sadly, we often anchor our lives to the wrong things.  We place our hope in things such as our jobs, success, money, relationships, possessions, social standing, power and so on.  We plant ourselves in shifting sand, leaving our ship adrift and in danger of sinking.  You see, people are desperately trying to fasten themselves to an insecure world forgetting the true anchor that is secure, grounded in the deep. Indeed, this world, like a restless sea, can be a cruel and dangerous place filled with storms, tribulations, trials and pain.  

We all have stormy seasons that rage fiercely, turning everything upside down.   They are:
  • The storms of doubt, discouragement, despair, and defeat as well as the winds of temptation, trials, and sorrows that tear at our sails.  
  • The seas of sin, sorrow and sickness leave us wounded and discouraged.  
  • Our barriers of fear, frustration, and failures can cause us to lose our joy, hope and peace as well.  
We start to wonder if we are going to make it or not.
  • Will your anchor hold steadfastly or drift away when adversities touch your life?  
  • Will your faith survive?

Jesus, our Anchor, will steady our ship when we anchor our life to Him.  He will calm the storms of our life that batter our ship and set it adrift in the violent seas.  He will hold fast our ship and keep it from drifting, as He sees us safely home.  He is our anchor of hope, our daily motivation, and encouragement when we place our faith in Him. God in His loving-kindness has provided us with other anchors as well, to help us when our way grows uneven and dark.  God had given us many anchors:  
  1. His Word is an anchor in troubled times.
  2. Prayer also anchors us to the Rock.
  3. The church in some ways also anchors to Him when our world is troubled.
  4. The hope itself anchors us in different ways: 
    • We hope in the resurrection.
    • We hope for eternal life in heaven.
    • We hope in the work of Jesus Christ our High Priest. 
  5. Our God-given homes also provide an anchor in the storms of life.  


I.  God's Word is an Anchor in Troubled Times

When we throw our anchor of faith into the waters of the Word of God, it will be embedded in the Rock of Ages, Jesus Christ.  This anchor will hold us firmly.  God's Word gives us the stability, confidence, and protection that we need so much in our troubled times.  Take note that our Lord Jesus took hold of this anchor (God's Word) when Satan besieged him in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11).

"The tempter came."  When the tempter comes to besiege you as he did our Lord Jesus, what will you use as your anchor?  

In 2 Samuel 23:9-10 we read of King David's mighty warriors.  Among them was a man named Eleazar who was famous for his courage and valor in battle.  He showed his bravery when Israel's army confronted their enemies, the Philistines.  When the men of Israel fled, he stood firm.  He fought single-handed.  "He arose, and smote the Philistines until his hand was weary, and his hand clave unto the sword."

What is the lesson here?  

  1. We must cling to the sword of the Spirit in our personal lives.  We must seek God's counsel in our everyday decisions (family, jobs, schools, etc.). 
  2. We must not walk following the course of this world (Ephesians 2:2), relying on what is popular or what others are doing that feels right.  Instead, we must examine everything with the Word of God, asking ourselves, "How can I best apply the Word of God to my circumstances?
  3. We must let our hand cling to the sword of the Spirit (the Word of God) for counsel in our lives.  What a priceless anchor this is in our times of trouble!
  4. Likewise, we must cling to the same sword when the church needs counsel.  We all know what happens when the church sets aside the book of life, operates without God's guidance, and relies on tradition or faulty human wisdom.  It is the Word of God, our anchor that keeps us from drifting.

II.  Prayer as an Anchor in Troubled Times

In I Thessalonians 5:17 the apostle Paul encourages us to "pray without ceasing."  Again in Philippians 4:6 he writes,  "do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."

Consider some Bible heroes who effectively used prayer as their solid anchor:
  1. Hannah who in the bitterness of her soul, prayed to God for a son and God answered her prayer of affliction.  (1 Samuel 1:10-11).
  2. Nehemiah who when he saw the condition of Jerusalem "sat down and wept, and mourned certain days; and I fasted and prayed before the God of heaven."  (Nehemiah 1:4-11).
  3. Hezekiah, who when he was sick unto death wept and "turned his face to the wall, and prayed unto Jehovah" for more time to live.  (2 Kings 2:2-6).
  4. Jesus, who "fell on his face, and prayed, saying, My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass away from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt." (Matt. 26:39).
  5. The church that when afflicted, abused and persecuted prayed to God lifting up their voices with one accord.  (Acts 4:23-31).

What an anchor we have with God through prayer!

As Christians, we have a unique relationship with God, a Father/son relationship.  We can confidently draw near to God's throne and pour out our soul to Him in prayer.   Strength comes from such encounters, and the bitterness that ferments in our hearts is purged allowing us to go on.  Prayer, as a powerful anchor, has this effect in our life.  I don't know where my faith would be today if it were not for such a powerful anchor in my life.

Prayer is the soul's unfeigned desire, unspoken or expressed, the motion of a hidden fire that flickers in our soul.  Likewise, prayer is the burden of a sigh, the falling of a tear, the upward gaze of the eye, when none but God is near.


III.   The Church as an Anchor in Troubled Times
  1. The church is greater than any human institution, sectarian or fraternal.
  2. The church is God's building, a holy temple against which the gates of hell will not prevail, (Matthew 16:18-19).  We, the church, are the real habitation or dwelling of God in the Spirit.  (Eph. 2:22).  We are a spiritual house.  (1 Peter 2:5).
  3. The church is the family of God. (Eph. 2:19).  The household of faith (Gal. 6:10).  So, who can better understand our struggles and our sufferings than another Christian?  
  4. The church is a body.  (1 Cor. 12:12).  "Everyone members one of another."  (Romans 12:5). So, who can better understand our pain, our sorrows, and our heartaches than another member of the body of Christ?
  5. If one member suffers or hurts, the whole body hurts also.  "And whether one member suffereth, all the members suffer with it; or one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it."  (1 Cor. 12:26).

What an anchor is the church in times of trouble!  It is our soul's refuge in times of stormy seas and unrest.

An anchor:  The church was planned by God and not man.  It is a spiritual house rather than carnal. Its operation transcends time and extends to eternity.  It is governed by divine standards and not by a changing or human standard.  The blood of Christ purchased it.  There never has been enough money in the world to pay for it.  (1 Peter 1:19; Hebrews 9:12-14; Hebrews 10:3-14; Hebrews 13:11-12; Romans 3:25; Ephesians 1:7; Revelation 7:14; Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 1:1-2; Revelation 5:9-10; Romans 3:25-26; Romans 5:9) .


IV.  Our Hope as an Anchor in Troubled Times
  • What is the meaning of hope to the Christian?  
  • How does the Bible define hope?  
Hope is crucial to the Christian.  The hope that the Bible speaks of is not an “I-hope-so,” but rather an “I-know-so.”  It does not wish for the best.  It is not waiting to see what happens and hope that it turns out well.  Hope is not a feeling or emotion.  Hope is the knowledge of facts.   The Bible defines hope as the sure anchor of the soul.  Human hope is insignificant in comparison to the hope of the Bible.

Our hope allows us to desire and expect what God has in store for us.  

"Wherein God, being minded to show more abundantly unto the heirs of the promise the immutability of his counsel, interposed with an oath; that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have a strong encouragement, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us:  which we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and entering into that which is within the veil; whither as a forerunner Jesus entered for us, having become a high priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek."  (Hebrews 6:17-20).

1.   The hope we have as Christians is based on "two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie."  Consider them:

  • God's promise.
  • God's oath.

So, what is this promise, and what is this oath?  The promise is the one given to Abraham that his seed should be blessed, and in this seed should all nations of the earth be blessed. The questions are:  
  • To whom was the promise made? 
  • Who are the “seed”?  
The Seed is our Lord Jesus, through whom all nations are blessed.  This promise was made not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.  We Christians are the seed of Abraham since our Father is the God of the faithful.  Therefore, God's promise is established securely for all who are faithful to Him like Abraham, who believed in Him.  All who are faithful to Christ Himself will be blessed.

So what is the oath?  It is the oath that the Lord swore to Abraham after he had offered his son Isaac as a sacrifice to God.  This is the oath of His priesthood.  Our Lord Jesus is our Priest, who has finished His sacrificial work and has already gone within the veil and is now seated at the right hand of God, the Father forever.  His priesthood is abiding in eternal efficacy!  

What a blessed anchor to the soul it is to know our Lord and Savior is within the veil.  That our King of righteousness and peace is now seated before the throne of our Father in heaven, interceding for us.  Therefore, I have that hope of assurance and security in Him.  
  • What better Anchor can the faithful have?  
  • What a consolation that we can be heirs of such a promise! 
  • What hope it is for His faithful ones to rely on His oath and promise!  

Our Anchor, Jesus, is drawing us home to Himself, not downward beneath raging and devouring waves, but upward to blissful joys.  Our hope is nearer than when we first believed.  It is near to its fruition!  We are anchored to heaven's precious promises.  (Hebrews 6:18).  And the foundation of our hope, our joy, and our peace is our confidence in the unfailing promises of God.  His promises are evident in His Word.  (Hebrews 6:13-15).


2.   Our hope as an anchor.  The hope of the Bible is compared to a ship on the sea that is threatened by raging storms that drive the ship from its intended course.  As the ship's anchor reaches down to the sea floor, out of sight, so the Christian's anchor rises out of sight into heaven.  When it strikes solid ground there, it is fixed.

3.  The purpose of the anchor is to hold us fast to our God.  Our hope gives us stability in the stormy times.  Read with me the words of this beautiful song.

Will Your Anchor Hold?

Will your anchor hold in the storms of life,
when the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift, and the cables strain,
will your anchor drift, or firm remain?
[Refrain:]

We have an anchor that keeps the soul
steadfast and sure while the billows roll;
fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love!

Will your anchor hold in the straits of fear,
when the breakers roar and the reef is near?
While the surges rave, and the wild winds blow,
shall the angry waves then your bark o'erflow? [Refrain]

Will your anchor hold in the floods of death,
when the waters cold chill your latest breath?
On the rising tide you can never fail,
while your anchor holds within the veil. [Refrain]

Will your eyes behold through the morning light
the city of gold and the harbour bright?
Will you anchor safe by the heavenly shore,
when life's storms are past for evermore? [Refrain]


4.  The Christian's Hope.   The Christian's definition of hope is far superior to that of the world.  A Christian knows that his hope is based on solid, concrete evidence because it is grounded in the Word of God and we know that God cannot lie (Heb 6:18; Num 23:19). The Christian has a faith that is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1).  It is the hope of faith that will not be shaken or moved by circumstances or what the eyes see because an unseen God is seen in His faithfulness.  

In Romans 8:24-25, Paul tells us that "For in hope were we saved: but hope that is seen is not hope: for who hopeth for that which he seeth?  But if we hope for that which we see not, then do we with patience wait for it."  

“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 5:5)

  • It is the hope of resurrection.  "the hope and resurrection of the dead."  (Acts 23:6).  "So also is the resurrection of the dead.  It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:  it is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power:  it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body."  (1 Cor. 15:42-43).  

We have this assured hope (confidence) since Jesus was raised.  Therefore, we know that:
  •  “The Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.  Therefore encourage one another with these words” (1 Thess 4:16-18).  
  • We know that Christ "was buried; and that he hath been raised on the third day according to the scriptures."  (1 Cor 15:4) and "in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep."  (1 Cor 15:20).  So let us encourage one another with this hope of assurance (confidence).
"Yea, we are found false witnesses of God; because we witnessed of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead are not raised."  (1 Corinthians 15:15).
"The wicked is driven away in his wickedness: but the righteous hath hope in his death."  (Proverbs 14:32).
  •  The hope of eternal life in heaven.  Peter encouraged those who were suffering persecution saying, “According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”  (1 Pet 1:3-5).  
  • Jesus Christ is Our Hope.  Our hope is not in mankind, circumstances, or in any other thing but “we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe,” (1 Tim 4:10) because “Christ Jesus, who is our hope.” (1 Tim 1:1; 2 Cor. 1:20).  Our Lord Jesus Christ is God's guarantee that His promises will be kept.  Peter spoke of this faith by quoting David in Acts 2:26. “My heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope.” That is exactly why Paul told the Roman Christians to “rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Rom. 5:2) and desired that “the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”  (Rom. 15:13).

Therefore, in the resurrection, 
  1. The just shall live again and have eternal life.  (John 11:15; John 6:40).
  2. We will be raised up by God's power.  (1 Corinthians 6:14; Romans 8:11).
  3. All of us will be changed from corruptible to incorruptible.  (1 Cor. 15:51-54).
  4. So shall we (those who died in Christ) ever be with the Lord.  (1 Thess. 4:17)
  5. We all will appear before the Supreme Judge of all to be judged according to our deeds.  (2 Corinthians 5:9; Philippians 3:20-21).
  6. The just will be repaid.  (Luke 14:14).
  7. There will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust. (Acts 24:15).
  8. We will be free from pain.  (Revelation 21:4).
  9. We will rest from our labors.  (Revelation 14:13).
  10. We will drink of the water of life.  (Revelation 21:6).
  11. We will eat of the tree of life.  (Revelation 22:2)

What hope and anchor in troubled times!


V.  Our Homes as an Anchor in Troubled Times

The world is in desperate need of homes where God is recognized as the Head; His Word as the only guiding light; and His glory as the only motivating power.  Apart from these Biblical principles to govern the home, our homes and family system are in danger of collapsing altogether.  We are breeding a blatant ignorance of authority that is flourishing in decadent societies.  God calls for faithful parents to guide, nurture and train their children in His way as His perfect arrangement.  (Proverbs 22:6; Ephesians 6:4; I Timothy 5:14).  The godly home is our last line of defense against the ills that overtake the world. 

Godly homes and the instruction of godly parents are vital tethers in our walk with Christ.  We must never detach ourselves from them.  They are vital because of their teaching and influence.  These anchors protect us from the enemy and the storms of life.  Our homes are where we teach our children an unfeigned faith that will remain with them forever.  The prodigal son in Luke 15 "came to himself" in a far country and said, "I will arise and go to my father..."  Moses is a great example of a son whose mother taught her children the fear of God, a doctrine that remained with them for life.


CONCLUSION:

Our God has provided us many spiritual anchors to hold us fast lest we be shipwrecked, unhappy, unstable, useless, and hopeless. Jesus, our Lord, is God's perfect provision for us.  He is our City of Refuge!  The true Anchor holds because,
  • Our Father in Heaven has provided us with hope (Heb. 6:19).
  • We have a home, and our anchor is secured in heaven, in the Holy of Holies since Jesus is there as our High Priest.  (Heb. 6:19-22; Heb. 9:11-12).
  • Our anchors are set firmly in the regions above, and every step of our journey is bringing us closer to our heavenly destination.
  • We are anchored to heaven's peerless Priest (Heb. 6:20).
  • Our peerless Priest has proceeded to heaven before us and is our "forerunner."  (Heb. 6:19-20).
  • Heaven's peerless Priest has perfected us by redeeming us and is sitting at the right hand of God's throne interceding for us.  (Heb. 10:12-14).
  • Heaven's peerless Priest is preparing for us a place.  (Heb. 6:20).
  • Our anchor holds since it is anchored to the Solid Rock, Jesus Christ, the one whose name is above all names.


May we make sure our anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock, Jesus our Lord.  May we be fastened to the Solid Rock that "keeps the soul steadfast and sure while the billows roll."  May our anchor hold to the Rock, which "cannot move, grounded firm and deep in the Savior's love."  Our only hope! May the church and our homes be our anchors in times of trouble as our soul's refuge during the times of “stormy seas” and unrest.  May God's Word and our prayer be our anchors in all of our troubled times.  May all these spiritual anchors hold us fast lest we drift away.  May we all be encouraged by the hope that is set before us which we have as an anchor of the soul.


Luci