A King’s Desperation (A Bible Study of Psalm 25:1-22)

​Going through the life of David, as we have been, we see what we might consider a great man. He was a man with great accomplishments. He was a man with great failures. He was a man with great opposition. But we know better, don’t we? And what we know is that David was anything but great. If there was any greatness in him, it could only be defined in the fact that David was a man with great sin, and because of that he was in desperate need of God’s mercy and grace.

​Here in Psalm 25, we see just that. We don’t see a great man at all. Instead we see a man that seems weak and helpless. Almost as if he’s caught in a trap, and can’t get out without help. There’s a certain desperation about the man writing this Psalm; one that I think we can all relate to.

Yet, what sets David apart; what sets all of us apart in times like these, is that he realizes that he’s helpless, and he realizes that he’s weak, and he realizes that he’s trapped, and that he can’t get out without help. Brother’s and Sister’s, the gospel is centered on that very core idea. That we are trapped, and cannot get out, and only by the help of another will we be saved.

This Psalm is built on that same foundation. David isn’t asking for strength or power here. No, David’s asking for God to come to his aid, to wield God’s own power, and to deliver him from all his troubles. The first two lines of this Psalm leave little doubt of that:

Psalm 25:1-2

1 To You, O LORD, I lift up my soul.

​2 O my God, I trust in You;

 David isn’t just committing his life to God, but his very soul. David takes that which is most precious to him, and he gives it to another. And why does he do that? Well, because when you have something that’s precious to you, you want to do whatever you can to keep it safe. When someone is about to have a child, they start looking for the best strollers, and the best car seats, and even the best car in some cases. That’s when people start to consider things they never thought of before, like electrical outlets, and coffee table corners, and cats. You see the world differently, because now you possess something that means the world to you, and you don’t want to see any harm come to it. And if you can’t take care of it, you give it to someone who can. People do this with their money all the time. ‘You know, I love my money, and I really don’t want anything bad to happen to it, so I’m going to give it to this investor guy, who knows what to do with it, so that I won’t loose it’.

 ​David is doing the same thing. “To You, O LORD, I lift up my soul. O my God, I trust in You” (Psalm 25:1-2). David is taking himself completely out of the equation. He’s pledging his life and his spirit to God; and furthermore, he’s committing his very faith in God to God Himself. David is not looking for a pat on the back here, he’s looking forward to his redemption in the Savior to come. That starts to come out more as we continue with verse 2:

 ​Psalm 25:2b-3

 ​2b Let me not be ashamed;

​ Let not my enemies triumph over me.

​3 Indeed, let no one who waits on You be ashamed;

​ Let those be ashamed who deal treacherously without cause.

 ​The NASB actually states verse 3 as an imperative. “Indeed, none of those who wait for You will be ashamed; Those who deal treacherously without cause will be ashamed” (Psalm 25:3). It’s not meant to be a request, but an absolute, unavoidable truth. No one who waits on the LORD will be put to shame.

 ​That word ‘wait’ in verse 3 isn’t just talking about patience. But it means ‘wait’ as in ‘to hope for’. David is hoping for God to spare him of his shame; the shame of his sin, and his wickedness. That’s what it means to be ashamed; it means to be a disgrace and to stand guilty. That’s why David is writing this Psalm to God. It’s deliverance from judgment that David is looking forward to. That’s what David is trusting in, that’s what he’s waiting for, that’s what he’s hoping for. We see this all throughout the Psalms, right? Consider what he says in Psalm 69:

 ​Psalm 69:1,5-7

 ​1 Save me, O God!

​ For the waters have come up to my neck.

​5 O God, You know my foolishness;

​ And my sins are not hidden from You.

​6 Let not those who wait for You,

​ O Lord GOD of hosts, be ashamed because of me;

​7 Because for Your sake I have borne reproach;

​ Shame has covered my face.
Now take a look at Psalm 6:

 Psalm 6:1-10

 ​1 O LORD, do not rebuke me in Your anger,

​ Nor chasten me in Your hot displeasure.

​2 Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am weak;

​ O LORD, heal me, for my bones are troubled.

​3 My soul also is greatly troubled:

​ But You, O LORD – how long?

​4 Return, O LORD, deliver me!

​ Oh, save me for Your mercies sake!

​5 For in death there is no remembrance of You;

​ In the grave who will give You thanks?

​6 I am weary with my groaning;

​ All night I make my bed swim;

​ I drench my couch with my tears.

​7 My eye wastes away because of grief;

​ It grows old because of all my enemies.

​8 Depart from me, all you workers of iniquity;

​ For the LORD has heard the voice of my weeping.

​9 The LORD has heard my supplication;

​ The LORD will receive my prayer.

​10 Let all my enemies be ashamed and greatly troubled;

​ Let them turn back and be ashamed suddenly.

 ​There’s no doubt that David was considering his sin before God, in fact, that seems to be David’s main concern. This Psalm isn’t just about hiding out from his enemies. It’s believed that this Psalm was written while David was on the run from King Saul, and that may be true, but if you’re reading this and thinking that is what David is talking about here, then you’re missing out on David’s whole meaning. David only brings up his enemies twice here in Psalm 25, and both times, he brings up his sin right along with it. Verse 2, “Let me not be ashamed (disgraced in sin); Let not my enemies triumph over me” (Psalm 25:2b). Verses 18 & 19, “Look on my affliction and my pain, And forgive all my sins. Consider my enemies, for they are many; and they hate me with a cruel hatred” (Psalm 25:18 &19).

​​David isn’t displaying a fear of his enemies here, he’s making a distinction between them and himself. He’s saying that these men are evil, and they do evil in Your sight, and they are being deliberate in breaking Your commandments, but I’m not like them; I am a sinner, yes, but I seek to follow Your commandments, and Your law. I desire to be upright and blameless, and I put my trust in You, because You’ve promised that You would deliver Your people from destruction. We see that as we continue in verses 4-7:

 Psalm 25:4-7

 ​4 Show me Your ways, O LORD;

​ Teach me Your paths.

​5 Lead me in Your truth and teach me,

​ For You are the God of my salvation;

​ On You I wait all the day.

​6 Remember, O LORD, Your tender mercies and Your

​ lovingkindness,

​ For they are from old.

​7 Do not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions;

​ According to Your mercy remember me,

​ For Your goodness’ sake, O LORD.

 ​Once again, we’re seeing the same things. ‘Show me Your ways, and Your paths, and Your truth’; and why? Because ‘You are the God of my salvation, and on You I wait all the day’. I’m putting my faith in You, because my salvation depends on You, and without You, I’m left to myself, and that’s a bad thing. And then we see, once again, David applying his salvation toward his own sins in verses 6 & 7, ‘Remember Your tender mercies and Your lovingkindness’, but ‘Don’t remember the sins of my youth, or my transgressions’.

 ​And how does David appeal to God here? “For Your goodness’ sake, O LORD” (Psalm 25:7). David is asking God to remember that he has been saved for God’s own glory, and that all of the promises that he made to the patriarchs were made for that purpose; so that God would be glorified in sparing the lives of His people, despite their wickedness. He’s making the same appeal to God that Moses did when he was present with God, and the Israelites were at the base of Mount Sinai, and made a golden calf to worship. We see that in the book of Exodus 32:

 ​Exodus 32:9-14

 ​9 And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people!

​10 “Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation.”

​11 Then Moses pleaded with the LORD his God, and said: “LORD, why does Your wrath burn hot against Your people whom You have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?

​12 “Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, ‘He brought them out to harm them, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your fierce wrath, and relent from this harm to Your people.

​13 “Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of I give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’”

​14 So the LORD relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people.

 ​Moses and David are making the same plea to God; ‘spare Your people from their deserved destruction, so that You would be glorified in keeping Your promises to them.’ And David can make this argument, why? Because he has the word of God, doesn’t he? He’s read the book of Exodus, just like the rest of us (or at least heard it read aloud). David is putting his trust in God, because he’s heard the word of God proclaim His goodness, and His faithfulness. David has heard about the Israelites in the wilderness, and he’s saying, ‘God kept them, and He fed them, and He led them to the promised land. He HAS done this. And He WILL do it again, because the same promise that He’s made to the Israelites, He’s made to me. That if I seek Him, and wait on Him, and put my faith in Him, and seek to keep His commandments, that I will be redeemed from all of my wickedness.’ That’s how David can go on in Psalm 25 to tell us, with such certainty, all that he speaks about God in the next few verses:

 ​Psalm 25:8-11

 ​8 Good and upright is the LORD;

​ Therefore He teaches sinners in the way.

​9 The humble He guides in justice,

​ And the humble He teaches His way.

​10 All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth,

​ To such as keep His covenant and His testimonies.

​11 For Your name’s sake, O LORD,

​ Pardon my iniquity, for it is great.

 ​There’s so much gospel in that little passage, isn’t there? “Good and upright is the LORD” (Psalm 25:8). And why is He good? Because ‘all of His paths are mercy and truth’. So therefore, He teaches sinners, and He guides the humble, and He shows them the way, so that they might keep His covenant and His testimonies. And so, knowing that, we come before Him to humble ourselves, and acknowledge our sin, so that we might be forgiven, and be taught His ways, so that we can proclaim His mercy and His truth.

 ​In the same way that David may have had Moses in mind when he wrote these words, I’d like to think that the tax collector that Jesus spoke about had David’s words in mind when he came to the temple to pray, and didn’t utter a single word to God in his own defense, but simply cried out, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” (Luke 18:13). That’s the prayer of a repentant sinner. That’s the prayer of a circumcised heart. That’s the prayer that David is praying. And once again, we see why. David continues in the next few verses to explain the new reality that he’s able to experience through the promises of God; the promises that he’s looking toward, and trusting in:

 ​Psalm 25:12-15

 ​12 Who is the man that fears the LORD?

​ Him shall He teach in the way He chooses.

​13 He himself shall dwell in prosperity,

​ And his descendants shall inherit the earth.

​14 The secret of the LORD is with those who fear Him,

​ And He will show them His covenant.

​15 My eyes are ever toward the LORD,

​ For He shall pluck my feet out of the net.

 ​This is what David is expecting through his faith, and his trust in God. In verse 12 we see that David knows that God is going to teach him; we saw that before in verses 8 & 9. Verse 13, David knows that God will preserve him. Once again, we’re being pointed back to the promise that God made to Abraham, and Isaac, and even the Israelites in the wilderness, when God preserved His people, and they never had need of anything. They were fed, and their clothes never wore away. David says in verse 14, that God will reveal Himself to him. How does that apply to us? Well, God has revealed His Son to us, and we now know the mystery of the gospel. And then we see that David understands that God will protect him. No matter what situation we’re faced with, the children of God will never have to worry about being stranded, or entangled. We may go through some hard times, but God will use that to teach us, and to reveal Himself to us, and He will preserve us through it all.

 ​David sees at this point, once again, that God is the only one he can turn to. God is the protector, God is the teacher, God is the Savior. And so David once again submits his plea to God, to save him, not just from trouble, but from death and separation from God.

 ​Psalm 25:16-21

 16 Turn Yourself to me, and have mercy on me,

​ For I am desolate and afflicted.

​17 The troubles of my heart have enlarged;

​ Bring me out of my distresses!

​18 Look on my affliction and my pain,

​ And forgive all my sins.

​19 Consider my enemies, for they are many;

​ And they hate me with cruel hatred.

​20 Keep my soul, and deliver me;

​ Let me not be ashamed, for I put my trust in You.

​21 Let integrity and uprightness preserve me,

​ For I wait for You.

 This passage sounds pretty familiar, doesn’t it? “Forgive all my sins” (Psalm 25:18), “Consider my enemies” (Psalm 25:19), “Keep my soul” (Psalm 25:20), “Let me not be ashamed” (Psalm 25:20), “I put my trust in You” (Psalm 25:20), “I wait for You” (Psalm 25:21). We’ve been reading those things all throughout this Psalm. But, once again, what I want us to focus in on here is what David seems to be focused on. Every appeal that we’ve seen from David is made to God, and is depending solely on God’s work to deliver him.

 ​Take a second and scan through this Psalm and you’ll see God is responsible for an awful lot here. ‘Keep me from shame’, “Show me Your ways” (Psalm 25:4), Teach me Your paths” (Psalm 25:4), “Lead me in Your truth” (Psalm 25:5), “Remember Your mercies’, ‘Do not remember my sins’, “He teaches sinners” (Psalm 25:8), ‘He guides the humble’, ‘He teaches the humble’, “Pardon my iniquity” (Psalm 25:11), “Teach in the way He chooses” (Psalm 25:12), “He will show them His covenant” (Psalm 25:14), “He shall pluck my feet out of the net” (Psalm 25:15), “Turn Yourself to me” (Psalm 25:16), “Bring me out of my distresses” (Psalm 25:17), “Look on my affliction” (Psalm 25:18), “forgive all my sins” (Psalm 25:18), “Consider my enemies” (Psalm 25:19), “Keep my soul” (Psalm 25:20), “deliver me” (Psalm 25:20), “Let me not be ashamed” (Psalm 25:20), “Let integrity and uprightness preserve me” (Psalm 25:21).

 ​That’s a lot different compared to what David’s doing, isn’t it?

Look again at what David’s doing this whole time. “To You, O LORD, I lift up my soul” (Psalm 25:1), “I trust in You” (Psalm 25:2), “Show me” (Psalm 25:4), “Teach me” (Psalm 25:4), “Lead me” (Psalm 25:5), “On You I wait” (Psalm 25:5), “Remember me” (Psalm 25:6), ‘Pardon me’, “My eyes are ever toward the LORD” (Psalm 25:15), “Have mercy on me” (Psalm 25:16), “I am desolate” (Psalm 25:16), “afflicted” (Psalm 25:16), ‘I have great troubles’, ‘I’m distressed’, ‘I’m in pain’, ‘I’m hated by my enemies’, “deliver me” (Psalm 25:20), “I put my trust in You” (Psalm 25:20), “I wait for You” (Psalm 25:21).

 Does that sound like a man expecting to get through things by his own power, or on his own merits? Of course not. David is completely dependent on God, on His mercy, on His grace, and on His work. It’s not at all hard to see when you juxtapose those two lists together like that. David is a man in desperate need, and God is the great God who provides for every need. David knows it. And more than that, David knows that God doesn’t just do this for him, but for all of God’s people. God has chosen a people, and they are His children, and HE does everything that we’ve just gone over, for every one of them; for every one of us. He keeps us from shame, He teaches us, He leads us, He remembers us, He protects us, He forgives us, and He will deliver us. All of us. We know that, because David ends this Psalm with that very idea in mind. Not just his own salvation, but the salvation of God’s entire unified church.

 Psalm 25:22

 ​22 Redeem Israel, O God,

​ Out of all their troubles!

 This is sort of the collective version of, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” (Luke 18:13), isn’t it? Redeem Your people, O God! Redeem us from all of our sins, and all of our failures. Save us from death, and from the corruption of this fallen world that, too, has been contorted by sin. Bring us out of the wilderness, and allow us to inherit the earth as You promised.

 ​When all is said and done, we’ll see the truth in all its fullness; that there are no great men, or great accomplishments. We are just this giant lot of sinners that were slated to be burned up and consumed; but the work of One truly good Man pulled us out of the fire, washed us clean, and gave us everything that was His. And so ‘To You, O LORD, we lift up our souls. O God, we trust in You’ [Psalm 25:1-2].

Four Lepers and a Funeral (A Bible Study of 2 Kings 7:1-20 NKJV)

The book of 2 Kings is, just as 1 Kings is, the chronicling of the Jewish kings after the death of King Solomon. The nation was split into two kingdoms, the southern kingdom being that of Judah and the northern kingdom of Israel. After about 80 years, or so, the northern kingdom of Israel, and in particular its capital city of Samaria was facing opposition from the nation of Syria. If you have a more accurate translation, it will refer to the Syrians as Assyrians. Assyria was the empire just north of Israel at this time. It was, in fact, the empire that eventually led the nation of Israel away to captivity, where it slowly wasted away to nothing. However, by the time that the nation of Judah was taken away to Babylon, Assyria had faded to nothing more than a tribal nation.

Ben-Hadad, the king of Assyria, had invaded Israel and then laid siege to the city of Samaria. The siege of Samaria eventually led to a famine in and around the city. And we learn in chapter 8 that this famine had been decreed by God to last for seven years. The famine became quite severe and we read in 2 Kings 6:26-30 that some of the people had even resorted to cannibalism. King Jehoram, who was king at this time in Israel, became enraged when he heard of this, and he sent one of his men to the prophet Elisha’s house to kill him, because he blamed him for the famine (2 Kings 6:31-33). And we read in these last few verses of chapter 6 what occurs to lead us directly into 2 Kings 7.

2 Kings 6:31-33:

31Then he [JEHORAM] said, “God do so to me and more also, if the head of Elisha the son of Shaphat remains on him today!”  32But Elisha was sitting in his house, and the elders were sitting with him. And the king sent a man ahead of him, but before the messenger came to him, he said to the elders, “Do you see how this son of a murderer has sent someone to take away my head? Look, when the messenger comes, shut the door, and hold him fast at the door. Is not the sound of his master’s feet behind him?”  33And while he was still talking with them, there was the messenger, coming down to him; and then the king said, “Surely this calamity is from the LORD; why should I wait for the LORD any longer?”

Now we arrive to our passage in 2 Kings 7. In verse 1 we see Elisha’s response to King Jehoram from the end of 2 Kings 6 with the first of two prophecies, and in verse 2 we see Elisha’s response to Jehoram’s doubtful officer with the second. We see the fulfillment of the first prophecy (2 Kings 7:1) in verses 3-16, and the fulfillment of the second prophecy (2 Kings 7:2) in verse 17. And finally, the last three verses (2 Kings 7:18-20) proclaim that these prophecies were indeed fulfilled as the Lord had spoken them.

So when you step back, and look at chapter 7 as a whole, you see that it’s all about fulfillment. God makes a proclamation through His prophet.  God fulfills what He has decreed; and finally, God declares that He is the One True God, because He, and He alone is able to make these promises and then bring them to pass. This is, in fact, the very thing that God tells us that we should require of Him. If we look back in the book of Deuteronomy, we read this:

Deuteronomy 18:21-22

 21 “And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?’  22 “When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.

So what were the promises? In 2 Kings 7:1 we read the first prophecy of Elisha in this passage: “Then Elisha said, “Hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord: ‘Tomorrow about this time a seah of fine flour shall be sold for a shekel, and two seahs of barley for a shekel, at the gate of Samaria.’” (2 Kings 7:1)

This prophecy clearly promises an end to a famine that had lasted for seven years in the span of only a day. If we look back at 2 Kings 6:25, we see that the price of food during the famine was “a donkey’s head was sold for eighty shekels of silver, and one fourth of a kab of dove droppings for five shekels of silver.”. A shekel of silver was worth approximately (and don’t hold me to this) $6.80. Meaning that a donkey’s head would have fetched about $544.00 and a fourth of a kab (or a fourth of a quart) of dove droppings would have cost about $34.00. And just consider for a moment the food mentioned. A donkey’s head was mostly skin, and bone, and cartilage. Just about everything except good quality edible meat. And don’t even get me started on dove droppings. There’s been a lot of suggestions as to what it is and for what purpose, but I just don’t know, and the scripture’s don’t tell us. All I do know, is they were pretty expensive.

Now, compare that with what we’re told food will go for after the famine.  ‘Tomorrow about this time a seah of fine flour shall be sold for a shekel, and two seahs of barley for a shekel, at the gate of Samaria.’ So a seah of fine flour, a seah being equivalent to about 7 quarts, and fine flour being flour which was used to make special breads, and considered a luxury item at this time, was to be sold for $6.80, as was fourteen quarts (or 2 seahs) of barley (which was unrefined wheat used for making common loaves of bread for most families).

Considering the condition that the Samarians were currently in, the idea that this famine would end so quickly and so completely must have come as a shock to them. In fact, in the very next verse we are introduced to the king’s unnamed officer who was so convinced that Elisha’s prophecy would not occur that he mocked him saying in verse 2: “Look, if the Lord would make windows in heaven, could this thing be?”. His insinuation being, most likely a reference to the description of the flood from Genesis 7:11 (“on that day all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.”), that God was going to open the heavens and rain down food from above.  Unfortunately for this officer, following his statement, Elisha announces the second prophecy, once again from verse 2: “In fact, you shall see it with your eyes, but you shall not eat of it.” (2 Kings 7:2). And these are the promises that God has made: that the famine would end within 24 hours, and that the officer who had doubted and mocked that it would be so, would not benefit from it.

From there, we’re taken into a new section of this passage. In verses 3-16 we see exactly how God has decided to end the famine and carry out His word. In verse 3 we meet four lepers who were camped at the entrance of the gate. This was typical for lepers at this time. In the book of Leviticus, God has given His people an entire set of laws concerning how to deal with leprous men and women. In Leviticus 13:45-46 we see this.

 Leviticus 13:45-46

45“Now the leper on whom the sore is, his clothes shall be torn and his head bare; and he shall cover his mustache, and cry, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’  46“He shall be unclean. All the days he has the sore he shall be unclean. He is unclean, and he shall dwell alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.

In verses 3 & 4 we see the lepers coming to the realization that they are in trouble.   At the end of verse 3 we read: “Why are we sitting here until we die?” (2 Kings 7:3), then continuing in verse 4, “If we say, ‘We will enter the city,’ the famine is in the city, and we shall die there. And if we sit here, we die also. Now therefore, come, let us surrender to the army of the Syrians. If they keep us alive, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall only die.”(2 Kings 7:4).

It’s important to ask a question here; Why are these men dying? Leprosy was a horrible disease and could reach a point where it could become debilitating, and that in itself could lead to someone’s death. But leprosy alone was not a guaranteed death sentence. In fact, back in Leviticus 14:1-32, there are a whole list of rituals associated with cleansing lepers, and the reintroduction of cleansed lepers back into the population. …

No, there was a substantial famine in the city and these lepers were stuck outside of it. How much more scarce do you think food would be outside of a starving city? These men were starving to death and we need to see that what was killing these men was also killing all the people within the city as well, and we’ll see that point made again in verse 13.

2 Kings 7:5-8

And they rose at twilight to go to the camp of the Syrians; and when they had come to the outskirts of the Syrian camp, to their surprise no one was there.  For the Lord had caused the army of the Syrians to hear the noise of chariots and the noise of horses—the noise of a great army; so they said to one another, “Look, the king of Israel has hired against us the kings of the Hittites and the kings of the Egyptians to attack us!”  Therefore they arose and fled at twilight, and left the camp intact—their tents, their horses, and their donkeys—and they fled for their lives.  And when these lepers came to the outskirts of the camp, they went into one tent and ate and drank, and carried from it silver and gold and clothing, and went and hid them; then they came back and entered another tent, and carried some from there also, and went and hid it.

Verses 5-8 show how the lepers went to the Assyrian camp. However, the lepers are shocked to discover that when they get to the camp, that it’s been completely deserted by the Assyrians (2 Kings 7:5). We then learn that God Himself has made this occur by causing the Assyrians to believe that they were about to be overrun by a mighty force in the middle of the night by hearing phantom sounds of a large army (2 Kings 7:6). So when the lepers arrive, instead of finding a camp filled with angry Assyrians, they find a deserted camp filled with horses and donkeys and tents and silver and gold and clothes and a whole bunch of food. So, as you would expect, the first thing they do is have a nice meal for themselves. Yet, they didn’t stop there, and they continued to then ransack the camp, taking from the tents gold and silver and hiding it, and then went back to take even more (2 Kings 7:8). But then, their attitude changes and we see a shift in verse 9:

2 Kings 7:9

 9Then they said to one another, “We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news, and we remain silent. If we wait until morning light, some punishment will come upon us. Now therefore, come, let us go and tell the king’s household.”

The lepers had just realized that what they found in the Assyrian camp was a gracious gift from God. They were hoping for pity, for mercy, maybe a meal, or at the least a far quicker death than the starvation they were currently suffering. And what did they find?… An abundance of food, drink, shelter, supplies and treasure.

Those whom God calls His own, He blesses with riches beyond all we can imagine. It may not be silver and gold… but, it’s treasure none the less. They had an obligation to share what was given to them with all those who needed it. Likewise, we too are commanded by Jesus Christ to preach His gospel to the world. We aren’t given the option, we aren’t encouraged to share the word with others if the mood strikes us. We are commanded!

Mark 16:15-16

 15And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.  16“He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.

The lepers realized as they were hiding their piles of worthless gold and silver that what they were doing was sin, so what would keep us silent? This too is a day of good news for us, and for every believer, and potentially for everyone who is dead in his or her sins against God. What does the end of Mark 16:16 say? “but he who does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16) Just as every lost person we pass on the street will be condemned when Christ returns. We read in John’s first epistle: If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?”(1 John 4:20). We show the world the love of Christ by spreading His gospel, as we’ve been commanded.

2 Kings 7:10-16

10 So they went and called to the gatekeepers of the city, and told them, saying, “We went to the Syrian camp, and surprisingly no one was there, not a human sound—only horses and donkeys tied, and the tents intact.”  11 And the gatekeepers called out, and they told it to the king’s household inside. 12 So the king arose in the night and said to his servants, “Let me now tell you what the Syrians have done to us. They know that we are hungry; therefore they have gone out of the camp to hide themselves in the field, saying, ‘When they come out of the city, we shall catch them alive, and get into the city.’  13 And one of his servants answered and said, “Please, let several men take five of the remaining horses which are left in the city. Look, they may either become like all the multitude of Israel that are left in it; or indeed, I say, they may become like all the multitude of Israel left from those who are consumed; so let us send them and see.”  14 Therefore they took two chariots with horses; and the king sent them in the direction of the Syrian army, saying, “Go and see.”  15 And they went after them to the Jordan; and indeed all the road was full of garments and weapons which the Syrians had thrown away in their haste. So the messengers returned and told the king.  16 Then the people went out and plundered the tents of the Syrians. So a seah of fine flour was sold for a shekel, and two seahs of barley for a shekel, according to the word of the Lord.

Moving into verses 10-16, we are told how the lepers go back to the city and spread the word that the Assyrian’s have withdrawn and left behind all their provisions. But in verse 12 we read that the king, being a bit paranoid, says to his servants: “Let me tell you what the Syrians have done to us. They know that we are hungry; therefore they have gone out of the camp to hide themselves in the field, saying ‘When they come out of the city, we shall catch them alive, and get into the city.’” (2 Kings 7:12) Be reminded, this is the same king who less than twenty-four hours ago was told by a prophet of God that the city would be delivered from the famine within the span of a day. Elisha spoke the words in verse 1 “Hear the word of the LORD” (2 Kings7:1), yet Jehoram completely discounts that and responds by saying “Let ME now tell you what the Syrians have done to us.” (2 Kings 7:12).

Still, as we continue into verse 13, we see that the king’s servants weren’t so skeptical. We read: “And one of his servants answered and said, “Please, let several men take five of the remaining horses which are left in the city. Look, they may either become like all the multitude of Israel who are left in it; or indeed, I say, they may become  like all the multitude of Israel left from those who are consumed; so let us send them and see.” (2 Kings 7:13)”.

This should sound a little familiar. Look back at verse 4 when the lepers realized that they were facing death in every direction: “If we say, ‘We will enter the city,’ the famine is in the city, and we shall die there. And if we sit here, we die also.” (2 Kings 7:4). For those perishing, it wasn’t their location or their status or even their heritage that was killing them. There was something that these people lacked. Something that they couldn’t get on their own no matter what they did.

Then, in verses 14-16, we see how the Samarian’s eventually go to the camp of the Assyrian’s and plunder the site, and as a result, we read in verse 16: “a seah of fine flour was sold for a shekel, and two seahs of barley for a shekel” (2 Kings 7:16). And with that, the first promise of God has been fulfilled.

This is unfortunate, however, for a certain king’s officer. God had kept His promise, but He didn’t make just one promise did He? No, there were two. The officer who mocked Elisha about the end of the famine in verse 2 was given a dreadful prediction by Elisha: “In fact, you shall see it with your eyes, but you shall not eat of it.” (2 Kings 7:2). And in verse 17, we see why that’s true: “Now the king had appointed the officer on whose hand he leaned to have charge of the gate. But the people trampled him in the gate, and he died, just as the man of God had said, who spoke when the king came down to him.” (2 Kings 7:17). This passage reminds me of an even more significant prediction made in the book of Revelation, chapter 1 verse 7: “Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.” (Revelation 1:7).  Those who do not believe in Jesus Christ as Lord will see Him return, and they will see His glory, and they will see His promise to redeem His children fulfilled, and then they will see His promise to punish the wicked fulfilled. Whether it be this passage, or the fullness of redemption, there are only two outcomes.

The faithful are fed, the perfidious are trampled,.. God gives us no third option.

2 Kings 7:18-20

18 So it happened just as the man of God had spoken to the king, saying, “Two seahs of barley for a shekel, and a seah of fine flour for a shekel, shall be sold tomorrow about this time in the gate of Samaria.  19 Then that officer had answered the man of God, and said, “Now look, if the Lord would make windows in heaven, could such a thing be?”, And he had said, “In fact, you shall see it with your eyes, but you shall not eat of it.”  20 And so it happened to him, for the people trampled him in the gate, and he died.

And finally, in verses 18-20, we see the promises of God restated and confirmed that they indeed took place just as the LORD had intended. And that should be what we take away from this passage, if nothing else. Our hope in God, and our hope in Christ flows through the promises that He’s made to us. And we can be encouraged that the gospel message is true, and that we can rejoice in our spreading of it because God keeps His promises. God kept His promise to Abraham that he would be the father of a nation and a people. God kept His promise to Moses that He would deliver His people from the hands of Pharaoh. God kept His promise to the people of Samaria that the famine of seven years would end in a day. And God will keep His promise to us when Jesus spoke and said, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. (John 6:37), And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:40). Christ accomplished all that we couldn’t on the cross. He gave His life to save ours, and we are, as the apostle Peter calls us, “His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;” (1 Peter 2:9). He has made that promise to us,.. and it WILL be fulfilled when Christ returns.

Whiners Whine, It’s What They Do ( A Bible Study of Numbers 11:1-35)

On August 23rd, 2005, a tropical storm began to form off the coast of the Bahamas. Over the next two days, that storm grew in intensity, only barely becoming a hurricane shortly before making landfall in Florida on the 25th. As you would expect, the hurricane began to lose its strength at that point, and was little more than a tropical storm when it passed through Florida and entered then into the Gulf of Mexico on the other side. But for those of you who might remember, the story doesn’t end there. The storm, now picking up moisture in the extremely warm waters of the Gulf began to reintensify, and on the 28th of August officially became the category 5 hurricane that we named “Katrina”. That hurricane made landfall again in the state of Louisiana on the following day of the 29th of August, 2005,.. and when it had dissipated, it had caused the deaths of at least 1,200 people, and cost damages over 108 billion dollars, making it the costliest natural disaster on record in the United States.

Furthermore, the tragedy of hurricane Katrina was only compounded by the fact that relief efforts, for the hundreds of thousands of those stranded by the flooding, never could meet the demand. Thousands of refugees had tried to find help at emergency shelters like the ones at the Louisiana Superdome and the New Orleans Civic Center, only to find that supplies were minimal at these facilities, and they had very limited working restrooms. Looting was reported as soon as the following day after the storm, but that didn’t stop some from dying even days later from thirst, and exhaustion, and even random acts of violence. FEMA had received applications from over 700,000 families, requesting assistance, but only about a fifth of that demand was ever able to be met,.. and over 300,000 of those families ended up relocating permanently. Immediately following the destruction, some organizations weren’t even allowed to enter into New Orleans because of safety concerns, and there was even an incident where 350,000 emergency meals sent by Great Britain, never reached the victims of the storm because of bureaucratic red tape regarding Mad Cow Disease.

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I hear about things like this, I say to myself,.. ‘These people may have something to complain about’. I’m not saying you’d expect everything to go smooth, per se. I mean, it was a natural disaster after all. 700,000 families affected, 60,000 people stranded in New Orleans alone. But when three, four, then five days start going by,.. you just want to scream, ‘Get those people water!’ We can see a real need there. We see the desperation and the stakes of failure. We see everything that we don’t see in our passage this evening. When we look at the Israelites in the wilderness, at this point in their journey, we don’t see the same kind of need, do we? We don’t see those without food, or shelter, or water, or even good leadership. No, we see the chosen people of God, being led by Him and by His faithful servant directly, being cared for, being provided for, being protected,.. and complaining.

So, I think we should take some time to look at this passage. Let’s look at the scene, and let’s look at the attitudes, but most importantly let’s look at ourselves, because this passage is here to teach us something. And we really need to take the time to learn what that is, so that hopefully, we won’t make the same mistakes. We begin with the first six verses.

Numbers 11:1-6

1 Now the people became like those who complain of adversity in the hearing of the Lord; and when the Lord heard it, His anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.

The people therefore cried out to Moses, and Moses prayed to the Lord and the fire died out.

So the name of that place was called Taberah, because the fire of the Lord burned among them.

The rabble who were among them had greedy desires; and also the sons of Israel wept again and said, “Who will give us meat to eat?

We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic,

but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.”

So before we examine the text itself, let’s first just quickly recap what’s just been happening in the book of Numbers. Being the fourth book in the Pentateuch (or the Books of Moses), Numbers continues to tell us about the Israelites that were delivered from the hands of Pharaoh, while they were slaves in the land of Egypt. God sends His servant Moses to reveal the power of God to Pharaoh, and to the people of Egypt, and to the people of God. We had the ten plagues, then the first Passover, and then the final deliverance that took place at the Red Sea. Then the Israelites are led into the wilderness where they’re given the commandments at Mount Sinai, and they’re given the rest of the law, and their instructed very clearly on how to worship God, and how to observe the atonement for their sins. We see them fall short and stumble and anger God almost immediately and repeatedly; but through it all, God remains faithful, and continues to guide His people through the wilderness, and provide for all their needs.

This passage takes place just about 5 weeks after the observance of the second Passover feast. In Numbers, chapter 9, God commands Moses to be sure to observe the Passover meal at its appointed time, one year after the Israelites were led out of Egypt. They do so, and by doing so, the people of God are celebrating and remembering the provision that God had made to deliver them from the judgment of the tenth plague in the land of Egypt, the death of all the firstborn. A plague that would have destroyed them as well, had God not provided a way for them to be spared. And through this event, the Israelites were finally freed from their captivity, and allowed to leave Egypt. Shortly after, even being miraculously saved by the now pursuing Egyptians at the Red Sea; through a display of God’s power that we have rarely seen even in all of scripture, but one that these same chosen people saw with their own eyes.

So when God commands them to observe the Passover feast, one would think that all of these events would be running through their minds. That they would just have to be in such wonder and awe that they serve a true and all powerful God who commands the seas and has power over life and death. One who provides for them and protects them, and who has made a way for them to escape death and judgment. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. It seems as though these people have forgotten about what God has done, and just who God is. As I mentioned, this passage takes place about five weeks after this second Passover. Were told in Numbers chapter 9 that the Passover was observed on the 14th day of the first month, as it was appointed to (Numbers 9:1-3); and then we see in chapter 10 that on the 20th of the 2nd month, that they set out from Mount Sinai where they journeyed to the wilderness of Paran, and as we read in the last few verses of chapter 10, this took about three days.

Numbers 10:33-36

33 Thus they set out from the mount of the LORD three days’ journey, with the ark of the covenant of the LORD journeying in front of them for the three days, to seek out a resting place for them.

34 The cloud of the LORD was over them by day when they set out from the camp.

35 Then it came about when the ark set out that Moses said, “Rise up, O LORD! And let Your enemies be scattered, And let those who hate You flee before You.”

36 When it came to rest, he said, “Return, O LORD, To the myriad thousands of Israel.”

And with that, we then read in verse 1 of chapter 11, “Now the people became like those who complain of adversity in the hearing of the Lord; and when the Lord heard it, His anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.” (Numbers 11:1). And you just have to ask, ‘What happened?’ What changed in that 5 weeks? Was it the fact that they were on the move again? Or was it the weather, or the heat, or something else? Well, we aren’t told. We could speculate, but what’s the point? What difference does it make? If anything, I think that the fact that we aren’t given any specifics about their grumblings is just all the more to clue us in to the fact that these Israelites were complainers from way back. They were consistent and relentless in their ability to always look for the darkest cloud in the sky and then dwell on it. They complained about the water, they complained about the food, they complained about the journey, they complained about the obstacles in the very land that was going to be given to them. Plain and simple, they didn’t need a reason to complain because they were, by their very nature, complainers.

It shouldn’t shock us that the people of God were complaining. What should strike us is God’s response. After such a display of ingratitude and defiance, look how subdued Gods response truly is. “And when the Lord heard it, His anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.” (Numbers 11:1). Not all the people, not the entire camp, not even ‘most’ or ‘many’, but ‘some of the outskirts’. And then, as the people cried out in verse 2; and to whom did they cry out? Did they cry out to God? No, they cried to Moses. But Moses prayed to God, and God listened to his prayer, and the fire stopped. So this should be good, right? The people have essentially provoked the anger of God, the fire comes, they scream out for help, and by the intercession of Moses, the fire stops. All is well. The people repent from their wickedness, and turn back to God. Right? Oh, that’s right, no. They don’t repent at all, and instead, we read in verses 4 through 7 that they just keep on complaining.

Numbers 11:4-7

The rabble who were among them had greedy desires; and also the sons of Israel wept again and said, “Who will give us meat to eat?

We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic,

but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.”

Now, there’s two groups mentioned here; you have the rabble of those ’among’ the people of Israel. These were the non-Jewish people who left Egypt along with them during the Exodus and followed them into the wilderness, and then you have the people of Israel themselves. But it doesn’t seem to matter who we’re talking about, because they’re all complaining. The rabble had ‘greedy desires’, the sons of Israel ‘wept’ desiring to eat meat. Both are covetous, and greedy, and forgetful. Think for a second, what did we say took place just 5 weeks ago? The Passover feast. And what was the one thing that made the Passover what it was? The sacrificial lamb. The people of Israel may not have had many animals with them in the wilderness, but the Passover feast required a lamb to sacrifice and be eaten, and God expected them to eat meat on that day. When speaking to Moses in chapter 9, He makes provisions to allow those who have been defiled by a corpse to be allowed to partake in the Passover meal, and He says to Moses in chapter 9, verse 12, “They shall leave none of it until morning, nor break one of its bones. According to all the ordinances of the Passover they shall keep it.” (Numbers 9:12).

These people were eating meat less than 40 days ago, and yet what are they thinking about? What are they weeping about? “We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.” (Numbers 11:5-6). Apparently, Egyptian fish is delicious and really leaves an impact on your memories; enough to wipe out the memories of being flogged and beaten and slaved to death. Aside from that, the food’s pretty good. The people of God weren’t being beaten now though, were they? Were they being slaved or asked to bear heavy burdens. No. At this point in their journey we see them doing little more than two things. We see them traveling, in this case a mere 3-day journey. And we see them gathering and cooking the days’ manna that they would receive.

And at this point, for some reason, Moses decides to go into detail about that very process. He spends the next three verses talking about this manna. What it looks like, what it tastes like, how you cook it and prepare it, and finally that it was always there for them to eat. And just consider as you read this, the effort and work required to eat this manna compared to what it cost them to eat while they were slaves forced to work for Pharaoh in Egypt.

Numbers 11:7-9

Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its appearance like that of bdellium.

The people would go about and gather it and grind it between two millstones or beat it in the mortar, and boil it in the pot and make cakes with it; and its taste was as the taste of cakes baked with oil.

When the dew fell on the camp at night, the manna would fall with it.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I only see two ingredients mentioned here. I see manna and water. You gather the manna, grind it in a pot, put it in the water and boil it until it’s cooked enough to form cakes with. Yet it’s taste was like what, cakes baked with oil. It wasn’t tasteless like a porridge. It had flavor to it. And from what I can gather, didn’t seem too difficult to make. I’m sure it was a process that required an honest days’ effort, but does this sound like any kind of slave labor? Let’s not forget, since the beginning, even Adam was expected to work the land and gather his own food to eat. It’s been the way of life through all generations, even today in several parts of the world and in our American farms. People get up every day, and they spend their days working so that they can eat that day, and sleep in their homes. But the Israelites were not satisfied, and they were weeping. So now, we continue on to see how this affects Moses in verses 10 through 14.

           Numbers 11:10-14

 10 Now Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, each man at the doorway of his tent; and the anger of the Lord was kindled greatly, and Moses was displeased.

11 So Moses said to the Lord, “Why have You been so hard on Your servant? And why have I not found favor in Your sight, that You have laid the burden of all this people on me?

12 Was it I who conceived all this people? Was it I who brought them forth, that You should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom as a nurse carries a nursing infant, to the land which You swore to their fathers’?

13 Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me, saying, ‘Give us meat that we may eat!’

14 I alone am not able to carry all this people, because it is too burdensome for me.

15 So if You are going to deal thus with me, please kill me at once, if I have found favor in Your sight, and do not let me see my wretchedness.”

 So,.. Moses is complaining. As if we didn’t get enough from the children of Israel, and the rabble and the first complaints and the second; here we come to the one man that everyone is looking to, the one man that will know what to do. And he’s complaining. And when the man in charge starts complaining, you know you’re in real trouble. However, I think we’ll see that the complaints of Moses have one key difference than those of the people. There’s one thing that sets apart the response of Moses to anyone else that we’ve seen thus far. That difference being who he’s complaining to. There were no specific complaints mentioned back in verse 1, we just read that the people started complaining. There were no prayers being offered, no seeking counsel or guidance. The people just started complaining, because, as we said, they were complainers. Then, after God got angry and brought the fire upon them, who did the people cry out to? Moses, not God. And when they decided to keep on complaining, because they wanted to eat meat again, because they didn’t want the manna that was being supplied to them, supernaturally, by God Himself; who did they complain to. Once again, Moses.

But who does Moses go to? Moses goes to the only one that you go to when you have a problem. Moses went to the Lord. And when he does, I want us to see three things about what Moses says to God. First, Moses understands that everything that’s happening here is of God. Moses understands completely that God is in control of everything, and that even the complaints of God’s people have a purpose. “Why have I not found favor in Your sight, that You have laid the burden of all this people on me?” (Numbers 11:11). There’s no questioning of whether or not God could have prevented this or if God might be making some kind of mistake. Second, Moses doesn’t hesitate to bring his weakness to God. All too often we pray because we want something. Even if it’s something good, like greater faith, or obedience, or the ability to love one another more, we have this thing inside of us that wants to receive and to receive in greater quantities. Notice that Moses doesn’t ask for meat. He says to God, I can’t give these people meat, I have no way of solving this problem, I am inadequate to fulfill my role as the leader. He’s laying his burden before God, and asking to be relieved of it. Not given more, not given the ability to achieve the goal or complete the task but to simply have the problem go away. And third, I’d like us to see that Moses was not perfect. Moses knows that, and I know that most of us know that as well, but sometimes we have to be reminded of such things. It’s not easy to hear this wonderful man of faith ask God to kill him so that he won’t have to deal with God’s people anymore, but as a man, I understand. Moses is man who’s been put in a tough spot here, and we shouldn’t be surprised that he reacts as a man in a tough spot. What’s important to remember is that he didn’t try to fix it on his own, but he went to the Lord in prayer, as we all should.

But now, we get to see the response from God over everything that’s been going on. We’ll see Him respond to Moses first and then we’ll see how he responds to the people. And as you might expect, since Moses and the people approached God in two different ways,.. God responds to each in two very different ways.

          Numbers 11:16-17

 16 The Lord therefore said to Moses, “Gather for Me seventy men from the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and their officers and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you.

17 Then I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take of the Spirit who is upon you, and will put Him upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you will not bear it all alone.

So the Lord has heard Moses, and we see that He has allowed Moses to go out and gather elders from among the people to help aid Moses in the charge of caring for the people. God didn’t get angry with Moses. He didn’t say ‘I’ll give you all the power you need’ or ‘why can’t you take care of this’. No, He heard the prayer of his servant, and He provided for his needs. And not only that, but He indicates that He’ll put His Spirit upon them as well. He’s not only going to provide for Moses by allowing the elders to share the burden, but He’s going to supply them with the same Spirit. God will be with all of them, to give them wisdom and discernment and patience. Of course, he gives to the people as well. And, he gives the people what they desired. But, as He tells us, they’re going to be sorry that they did.

Numbers 11:18-23

18 Say to the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat; for you have wept in the ears of the Lord, saying, “Oh that someone would give us meat to eat! For we were well-off in Egypt.” Therefore the Lord will give you meat and you shall eat.

19 You shall eat, not one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days,

20 but a whole month, until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you; because you have rejected the Lord who is among you and have wept before Him, saying, “Why did we ever leave Egypt?”’”

21 But Moses said, “The people, among whom I am, are 600,000 on foot; yet You have said, ‘I will give them meat, so that they may eat for a whole month.’

22 Should flocks and herds be slaughtered for them, to be sufficient for them? Or should all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, to be sufficient for them?”

23 The Lord said to Moses, “Is the Lord’s power limited? Now you shall see whether My word will come true for you or not.”

You almost have to wonder if the people hearing this were happy for a minute. Maybe even excited. These were people that were just weeping over not having any meat to eat, and now they’re being told that they’re going to get a whole months’ worth. Even hearing the whole loathsome thing, they might have just said, ‘yeah, but that won’t happen till the end, at least we’ll have meat tomorrow’. I wonder if any one of them had any idea of just how miserable this experience was going to be, or that this was actually judgment on them, as opposed to a gift. Moses, however, was clearly still more concerned with the logistics of how this was supposed to happen, so he inquires of the Lord to ask how he’s supposed to accomplish this. But God responds by saying, ‘No, don’t worry, you and the 70 elders just sit back, I got this’. See, God was in control of the food. If Moses ordered flocks to be slaughtered, then when the people get tired of meat, you just go back to what you were eating before. But when manna’s being supplied daily by God. A substance that you can’t get on your own, and then He stops supplying that, and instead, offers you meat, and only meat; you have no choice but to eat it. And the people had no choice.

Numbers 11:24-30

24 So Moses went out and told the people the words of the Lord. Also, he gathered seventy men of the elders of the people, and stationed them around the tent.

25 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him; and He took of the Spirit who was upon him and placed Him upon the seventy elders. And when the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do it again.

26 But two men had remained in the camp; the name of one was Eldad and the name of the other Medad. And the Spirit rested upon them (now they were among those who had been registered, but had not gone out to the tent), and they prophesied in the camp.

27 So a young man ran and told Moses and said, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.”

28 Then Joshua the son of Nun, the attendant of Moses from his youth, said, “Moses, my lord, restrain them.”

29 But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!”

30 Then Moses returned to the camp, both he and the elders of Israel.

So here, we see God fulfill His promise to Moses. We see the elders brought forth, and the Lord come upon them and give of His Spirit, which was upon Moses, and give it to these men as well, and in response, we see these men prophesy and proclaim the word of God. Then we come to two men that we haven’t seen before named Eldad and Medad. There’s a little confusion for my part as to whether these men were part of the seventy or not. They aren’t referred to as elders, but the Spirit of God is given to them, and they are singled out because they had ‘not gone out to the tent’ which is where Moses had assembled the seventy elders. So for those two reasons, I would reason that these two men were part of the seventy (though I could be wrong), but through God’s providence, were restrained to prophecy in the middle of the camp. Either way, the important thing about this section isn’t the actions of these two men, but rather the response of Moses and Joshua to the news about their prophesying.

When Joshua and Moses are given the news of these two, Joshua immediately responds with ‘silence them’. Joshua was thinking that these men were stepping on Moses’ toes. He thought they were going to steal his thunder and that only he had the right to prophecy in the name of the Lord. But Moses, finally displaying his quality in this passage responds properly. He says in verse 29, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, that the LORD would put His Spirit upon them!” (Numbers 11:29). Moses understands that it’s not all about him. God’s glory is the priority, and God’s people are one of the ways in which God displays His glory. We’re so self-absorbed most of the time that God’s glory is little more than an afterthought. If only we would be more concerned with God’s glory than our own. If only we’d talk about the gospel before we’d talk about sports. If only we’d talk about the love of God before we talk about politics. We might understand what it looks like to put on display the glory of God in a fallen world.

But for those who don’t display God’s glory. For those who don’t care and would rather focus on the negative things and complain about everything, there is nothing but destruction waiting for them. There is judgment and death. God has told us that. God has revealed that to us. And He has even demonstrated that to us here in this passage, and in the next few verses.

Numbers 11:31-35

 31 Now there went forth a wind from the Lord and it brought quail from the sea, and let them fall beside the camp, about a day’s journey on this side and a day’s journey on the other side, all around the camp and about two cubits deep on the surface of the ground.

32 The people spent all day and all night and all the next day, and gathered the quail (he who gathered least gathered ten homers) and they spread them out for themselves all around the camp.

33 While the meat was still between their teeth, before it was chewed, the anger of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord struck the people with a very severe plague.

34 So the name of that place was called Kibroth-hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had been greedy.

35 From Kibroth-hattaavah the people set out for Hazeroth, and they remained at Hazeroth.

So, as God kept His promise to Moses, so too He keeps it here to the people. We see God cause a wind that stirs up what we can assume was hundreds of thousands of quail  from the seas for the people to eat. But notice first one difference between this quail and the manna that the people were given before. The manna fell everyday along with the dew, and the people would gather it in the morning, and then cook it for the day. That means that the manna had to be pretty close. But what about the quail. Verse 31 says that the quail fell, “about a day’s journey on this side and a day’s journey on the other side” (Numbers 11:31). Just to get the quail, the people had to journey an entire day just to get there, and then after gathering the quail, had to journey an entire day back, with a sack full of quail. On top of that, they had to make more than one trip. Verse 32 says that, “The people spent all day and all night and all the next day” gathering the quail. (Numbers 11:32). So the manna was right there. The quail, a day away, and you’ll have to back at least twice. We’re also told that the man who gathered the least gathered 10. So that means that you were walking a day’s journey at a time with the weight of at least 10 quail on your back. You were working and journeying at night, in the dark. These quail now had to de-feathered, cleaned and gutted, and then cooked. And how did it taste? Did it taste like the cakes made with oil? No. “While the meat was still between their teeth, before it was chewed, the anger of the LORD was kindled against the people, and the LORD struck the people with a very severe plague. Not one piece of that meat was enjoyed by anyone. After all that work, after all that labor, after all that weeping,.. they died. God will not be mocked.

Now, the question we need to ask here is, why is this here? Why are we reading this passage? Well, when we read passages like this, we might say these little things in our head such as, ‘How dare they’, and ‘What nerve’. We see God’s people acting in such ways, and we quickly evaluate ourselves by their actions. We want to distance ourselves from those kinds of actions and justify the way we behave. But I think that the next time you read this, you really should put yourself in the place of the people. Not Moses, you’re not Moses. Be one of the people. Consider how many times that you’ve be in a state of discontentment, when you should have been grateful. I’ll bet it’s happened more than a few times. More times than you’d care to admit. I can tell you that I just recently spent nearly 2 weeks in the hospital. I was being cared for, and I was being looked out for, and I was being provided for, and you know what I did? I complained. I wasn’t making a fuss or anything, but I told more than a few people about how bad the food was, with the powdered eggs and the instant coffee. I was being fed three square meals a day,.. something I don’t get outside of the hospital, and I complained. It’s so easy to lose sight of what’s important. We need to keep things in perspective.

But lastly, when trying to define what this passage is trying to tell us. I think we should let the scriptures themselves tell us. Psalm 78, written by Asaph, he tells us was written to remind us of this point in time, so that future generations would hear these things, and put their faith in God as opposed to themselves. It’s a fairly long Psalm, but I’d like to recount some of it for you.

Psalm 78:6-41

That the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, That they may arise and tell them to their children, That they should put their confidence in God And not forget the works of God, But keep His commandments, And not be like their fathers, A stubborn and rebellious generation, A generation that did not prepare its heart And whose spirit was not faithful to God.

The sons of Ephraim were archers equipped with bows, Yet they turned back in the day of battle. 10 They did not keep the covenant of God And refused to walk in His law; 11 They forgot His deeds And His miracles that He had shown them. 12 He wrought wonders before their fathers In the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan. 13 He divided the sea and caused them to pass through, And He made the waters stand up like a heap. 14 Then He led them with the cloud by day And all the night with a light of fire. 15 He split the rocks in the wilderness And gave them abundant drink like the ocean depths. 16 He brought forth streams also from the rock And caused waters to run down like rivers.

17 Yet they still continued to sin against Him, To rebel against the Most High in the desert. 18 And in their heart they put God to the test By asking food according to their desire. 19 Then they spoke against God; They said, “Can God prepare a table in the wilderness? 20 “Behold, He struck the rock so that waters gushed out, And streams were overflowing; Can He give bread also? Will He provide meat for His people?”

21 Therefore the Lord heard and was full of wrath; And a fire was kindled against Jacob And anger also mounted against Israel, 22 Because they did not believe in God And did not trust in His salvation. 23 Yet He commanded the clouds above And opened the doors of heaven; 24 He rained down manna upon them to eat And gave them food from heaven. 25 Man did eat the bread of angels; He sent them food in abundance. 26 He caused the east wind to blow in the heavens And by His power He directed the south wind. 27 When He rained meat upon them like the dust, Even winged fowl like the sand of the seas, 28 Then He let them fall in the midst of their camp, Round about their dwellings. 29 So they ate and were well filled, And their desire He gave to them. 30 Before they had satisfied their desire, While their food was in their mouths, 31 The anger of God rose against them And killed some of their stoutest ones, And subdued the choice men of Israel. 32 In spite of all this they still sinned And did not believe in His wonderful works. 33 So He brought their days to an end in futility And their years in sudden terror.

34 When He killed them, then they sought Him, And returned and searched diligently for God; 35 And they remembered that God was their rock, And the Most High God their Redeemer. 36 But they deceived Him with their mouth And lied to Him with their tongue. 37 For their heart was not steadfast toward Him, Nor were they faithful in His covenant. 38 But He, being compassionate, forgave their iniquity and did not destroy them; And often He restrained His anger And did not arouse all His wrath. 39 Thus He remembered that they were but flesh, A wind that passes and does not return.

40 How often they rebelled against Him in the wilderness And grieved Him in the desert! 41 Again and again they tempted God, And pained the Holy One of Israel.

When we read scripture, there’s typically two things that should always become very, very clear to us. The first is that God has revealed Himself to us as being holy and just and sovereign. The second is that we are not any of those things. Men are fallen, and stubborn, and cruel, and whinny. Once we know that, we can understand the gospel. God has given it to us as good news. A foreign concept to complainers. Thank God for His mercy towards us.

Amen!!

Jesus Christ, I Thee Wed

At some point over the past couple of months, while I’ve watched and read a lot of debate (some helpful, some not) over the issue of homosexual marriage; it occurred to me that we might be overlooking one aspect of marriage that we almost take for granted nowadays, the wedding itself. We talk about redefining marriage all the time now, but I’d like to take just a minute to consider the idea of redefining the wedding.

Why, you ask? Well, first of all, gay marriage is now legal in this country. The United States of America now recognizes the union of one man to another man, or one woman to another woman, in marriage, to be lawful and in the best interest of its citizens. I don’t like it, but there is nothing we can do about it. The only thing that can overrule the Supreme Court, is the Supreme Court itself. So unless some major changes happen in Washington, this reality is going to stick for quite some time. That doesn’t mean that we should abandon all our efforts to keep this agenda alive in D.C., but it means that this is pretty much out of our hands for the time being.

Now what do we do as Christians to set ourselves apart? Trying to demonstrate what a godly marriage is to the world hasn’t worked so far. Although men and women living out a godly, biblical marriage, exist to be sure; a marriage is a day to day, week to week, year to year ongoing relationship that grows and builds and has many private and intimate aspects that the world never sees. But the wedding that joins these two into that covenant is something that’s meant to be shared with others, openly. We invite people to join us in the celebration of it. Unfortunately, in my experience, if you’ve seen one wedding, you’ve seen them all. The same look, the same feel, the same old tired chicken dance, every wedding, every time.

So how are we, as Christians, to be salt and light? If we really cherish marriage as we say, shouldn’t we stand apart in marriage, even on the first, most public display of it? I know a lot of people will disagree with me on this, but the wedding has become little more than a tradition, a ceremony, bordering almost on a superstition at points. We watch and we gawk as irresponsible sums of money are thrown away in order to give a young woman her “special day”, or give a young man a day that represents his “entrance to manhood”, or giving the parents paying for all this a “heart attack”.

I’m sorry to tell you this, but your wedding is not all about you. It’s not a pretty dress. It’s not a perfect church building, or a stretched limousine. It’s not a three-tier cake, or a hip DJ. It’s not a flower girl, or a wedding album, or a bridal party, or a handful of rice. It’s not something old, something new, something borrowed, or something blue. A wedding represents the grace of God through His natural creation of man and woman for one another, and it represents the relationship that Christ has with His Church. In short, a wedding is about the glory of God shown to us through His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.

And I think it’s fair to ask how many weddings you’ve been to that actually focus on that? What sets your wedding, or the wedding of someone you know, apart from those of the world? A longer sermon? A few more scripture readings? A dry (non-alcoholic) reception? How many weddings have you been to lately that focus on Christ? I’m not saying this to criticize, well, I guess I am. But I’m really trying to open your eyes to the possibility that as believers, our Christian weddings can be so much more.

Lately, I’ve been thinking more and more about whether or not I’ll ever get married. I would love to meet a godly woman, and be a husband someday, but I honestly don’t know if that’s what God has planned for me. Nevertheless, I’ve wondered about what my wedding might look like. And to tell you the truth, I would love my wedding to resemble the day I was baptized.

That may sound strange, but on that day, we sang hymns, we read and studied God’s word, my pastor delivered a wonderful sermon, and my baptism took place right in the middle of it. It was an event, but it was an event that glorified God. For about five minutes, I stood in that water, and I gave my testimony, and I was baptized. Some of my family was there, but more importantly, my Church was there, my brothers and sisters in Christ were there. All together, we gathered that day to give glory to God, and that is exactly what we did.

I would want my wedding to feel the same way. Not front and center. Not the reason for gathering. Just another part of a much larger service. Right there, in my church, with my Church family, before God. No vanity, no flowers, no superstitions. Just two people committing to live godly for one another until the day they die. Proclaiming not only the gospel, but election, sacrifice, and grace.

You may think I’m insane, but you have to admit, the world won’t be having anything even close to resembling a wedding like that. Maybe, just maybe, they’ll start to see that when we say marriage, we mean something totally different than when they say it. Maybe there will even be a few who realize that a Savior (Husband) doesn’t join in union with another Savior (Husband), and a Church (Bride) doesn’t join to another Church (Bride). Christ, our Savior, has gone to prepare a place for us, His Church, and He will return for us, and we will be joined with Him for eternity (Marriage).

Revelation 19:7

“Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.”

Let’s look at the words of the apostle Paul. Every time the subject of husbands and wives comes up, Paul doesn’t just pass it by. He doesn’t equate it to something small, like a parable. No. He goes the other way, and he equates marriage with the biggest most profound concept we can grasp… That of the relationship between the Father and the Son, or Christ and His Church.

Ephesians 5:25

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her,

1 Corinthians 11:3

But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.

2 Corinthians 6:14-15

Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?

The relationship between husbands and wives is designed to represent the things of the highest order. Why would we want to cheapen that with a process that’s become so cookie-cutter, and cliché, that it’s all worth nothing?

I don’t expect this to appeal to many of you, if any. But ask yourselves why a Christian baker was forced to pay a gay couple thousands of dollars? Because we’ve reached a point where a cake is so much a part of the wedding ceremony, that to make one was, in their minds, to partake in it. A cake. Does a cake really mean anything to you? Does marriage? Let’s not give these foolish things any weight any longer. Let’s glorify God in these things, and die to self.

Amen!!

…ARE DOOMED To Repeat It (A Bible Study of Jude 1:14-25) – Part 2

Those who forget history, ARE doomed to repeat it. That’s what we began to see, in our last lesson, when we first opened the book of Jude, in its first thirteen verses. And we discovered that this epistle, was intended by its author, as a call to arms. A battle cry for the people of God, throughout all times, to ready themselves for war against the ungodly men who pervert the gospel, and deceive all who might listen to their false teachings.

We saw this demonstrated in three ways. First, we saw Jude draw a line in the sand, separating us, “the beloved”, from those whom he refers to as “the ungodly”. Those, being false teachers, and men, so in love with their sin, that they preached of its merits, instead of its abolishment. Second, we saw Jude begin to distinguish us from them. He begins right in verse 1, by addressing us as ‘called’, ‘sanctified’ and ‘preserved’; three words that assure us that he’s writing this epistle to true Christians. Then, in verse 3, he gives us our charge, which he says is for us, “to contend earnestly for the faith” (Jude 1:3). And the third thing we see, is Jude open up the scriptures, and make the assertion, that these men are condemned to destruction, just as many of the Old Testament examples of God’s judgment were. Including Sodom and Gomorrah, the fallen angels, and Cain.

Now, as we examine this second half of the book of Jude, we’re going to see ‘How’. We’re going to see How the ungodly are going to perish on the day of judgment. We’re going to see How, in practice, we differ from those ungodly men, who oppose the gospel, and our great God and Savior. And we’re going to see How we as Christians are “to contend earnestly for the faith” (Jude 1:3).

Jude 1:14-15

Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, “to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”

Well, that didn’t take long. Here we are, only two verses into this lesson, and already, I have to preface the exegesis with a note on Jude’s source material. But these things are important, so let’s get to it. As I spoke about in the first lesson, when we came to verse 9, regarding the dispute that Michael the archangel had with Satan over the body of Moses; we saw that Jude was most likely drawing this account from an apocryphal book known as “The Assumption of Moses.” And the fact that the source material was never considered scripture, coupled with the fact that this account isn’t found anywhere else in the bible, has led some to dispute whether the book of Jude is even a part of the cannon of scripture at all. And we run into the same issue here in verses 14 & 15.

This prophecy of Enoch too, is found nowhere else in the scriptures. And this prophecy, is also taken from an extra-biblical source. The work that Jude is referencing here is that of the book of Enoch. There’s a lot of speculative information about this book, so all I can say about it, is that it was a highly regarded collection of religious Jewish writings. And at the time this epistle was written, many of those reading this letter, would have been at least moderately familiar with the book. So it’s not completely out of left field that Jude would quote a passage from it. Often, when our pastor preaches, he’ll recite a poem, or a hymn, or a quote from a person of some distinction, within the context of the subject matter. Jude is doing the same thing here. The difference, is that Jude is acting under divine inspiration from the Holy Spirit. And by God’s will, this book, and this passage, was brought to Jude’s mind, and was included in this epistle. And so, we have to understand that the inclusion of this passage doesn’t validate the entire book of Enoch as authoritative. What it tells us, is that this passage, in this context, is the word of God. That’s it.

And with that said, we can now look at the passage itself. The first thing that we see is that Jude is still taking us back into history. Look how he starts the verse, “Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam,” (Jude 1:14). He wants us to know that this prophecy comes from way back, even before the flood. Back when, we’re told that, “the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). That’s where Jude is taking us; to a time when God’s wrath was being kindled against the whole world. But while everything up til now, in this epistle, has been a shadow of a judgment to come; now, Jude goes as far back as he can, so that he can reveal the final judgment itself. The prophecy begins, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints,” (Jude 1:14). And while, obviously, we see Christ here. After all, this is a prophecy about the second coming, when Jesus will return in judgment, and to bring about the new heavens and the new earth. Notice the focus of the passage; why does the Lord come? “To execute judgment on all…” (Jude 1:15). Jude is still focused on the ungodly men. He tells us that, “Enoch… prophesied about THESE men” (Jude 1:14). And look at what the prophecy says; if you wonder why Jude would choose this passage beyond the entirety of the rest of the scriptures, or any other work that he might have drawn from, consider what this passage says; and pay close attention to the words ‘all’ and ‘ungodly’, each of which are used four times. “To execute judgment on ALL, to convict ALL who are ungodly among them of ALL their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of ALL the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him” (Jude 1:15). What we see here is a complete, and final, and certain judgment on the ungodly,… ALL of them. We’ve seen this before in scripture, in the gospel of Matthew, and 2 Thessalonians. But we see a more complete view of Christ’s judgment, one that Jude is pointing us towards, affirmed by the apostle John, in the book of Revelation:

Revelation 19:11-14, 19-21

Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.

 And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who receive the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh.

The beast’s armies here, “the rest who were killed with the sword” (Revelation 19:21), are these ungodly men that Enoch prophesied about; the same men that Jude has been writing about, and is still writing about. Jude is showing us two things about these men. One, is that they can not win. Jesus wins. For all their efforts, and all their scheming, they end up facing an everlasting torment, which they can never escape. The second thing that Jude is showing us, the same thing he’s been showing us since verse 4, is what these men look like. The reason that Jude is doing this, is because he wants us to be able to recognize these men when we see them. To recognize these men for what they are, so that we can separate ourselves from them, and to separate them from the rest of the church, for the sake of preserving the unity of the body. He wants us to know these men so well, that he goes into even more detail describing them in the next section, beginning in verse 16:

Jude 1:16-19

These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage. But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts. These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit.

 Jude has now spent well over half this epistle describing who these ungodly men are, which he concludes with this passage. He’s been showing us how these men differ from us, and why they’re not of us. And all of this, being an explanation of why he felt he couldn’t write about that which he desired to in the first place, which he explains in verse 3. “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). And from that compulsion, Jude goes on for the next sixteen verses to describe these ungodly men who, he says, “have crept in unnoticed” (Jude 1:4). Which seems like a rather odd statement considering just how much Jude has told us about them.

Let’s quickly look at all of the traits that Jude has shared with us about these men. He says they “turn the grace of God into lewdness” (v.4), “they deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ” (v.4). He says that they’re “dreamers” (v.8), that they “defile the flesh” (v.8), “reject authority” (v.8), “speak evil of dignitaries” (v.8), which we saw means “revile angelic majesties” (v.8 NASB). We’re told they “speak evil of whatever they do not know” (v.10), and that they ‘corrupt themselves in what they know naturally’ (v.10). “They have gone in the way of Cain” (v.11), they’re ‘greedy’ (v.11), ‘rebellious’ (v.11), they “feast with [us] without fear” (v.12), “[serve] only themselves” (v.12). He refers to them as “spots in [our] love feasts” (v.12), “clouds without water” (v.12), ‘twice dead trees, without fruit’ (v.12), ‘waves foaming up shame’ (v.13), and “wandering stars” (v.13). He says they ‘commit ungodly deeds in an ungodly way’ (v.15), ‘they speak harsh things against [God]’ (v.15). They’re ‘grumblers and complainers’ (v.16), they “walk according to their own [ungodly] lusts” (vv. 16 & 18), “they mouth great swelling words” (v.16) and they ‘flatter people to gain advantage’ (v.16). Jude calls them “mockers” (v.18), and says that they are “sensual persons, who cause divisions” (v.19), and that they ‘do not have the Spirit’ (v.19). And with all that said, Jude still tells us that they “have crept in unnoticed” (Jude 1:4). It seems to me, that if men like this are creeping into any church unnoticed, then they people of God just aren’t looking hard enough, if at all. Just listen to this quote from John Calvin:

“And at this day I wish there were more judgment in some good men, who, by seeking to be extremely kind to wicked men, bring great damage to the whole church.”Calvin’s Commentaries Vol.XXII, pg.441

Now, I’m not saying that you have a problem with that, in your church. But we always need to be on our guard. Look back again briefly at verse 16, to a couple of things Jude says about these men. They’re “grumblers, complainers” (Jude 1:16), “they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage” (Jude 1:16). Then in verse 19, “These are sensual persons, who cause divisions” (Jude 1:19). These men are obviously talking to somebody. It shouldn’t be all that impossible to recognize them. So we need to be on the lookout. Cause if we let our guards down, who knows what kind of wolf we might let in the door. Just look around at the news we see in the church today, and you’ll get the point. Churches are starting to overlook sins, redefine marriage, teach doctrines that are purposely found outside of the scriptures. And not just liberal churches anymore, not just the charismatic movement. What used to be evangelical, bible believing churches, are going down the same road. And where do you think something like that starts, and how? It starts with each and every one of us, not the least of all, your pastor. So let’s be sure to keep our pastors, and our church, and The Church in our prayers.

In case you missed it, this is the entire reason that Jude is writing this. He’s showing us what to look for. So that we might be equipped to deal with any false teaching, or any ungodly individual that walks through our doors. Remember verse 3, “I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith” (Jude 1:3). So how do we do that? How do we contend earnestly for the faith? Luckily, Jude gives us some instruction. The first, he gives in verse 17, which we already read, “But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:17). Just as we saw back in verse 5. The first thing that Jude turned to, the first thing that we all need to turn to, is the word of God; to the scriptures. The scriptures themselves, tell us this, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for ever good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Which stands to reason, that without the word of God, we can’t be corrected, we can’t be instructed, we may not be complete, and we won’t be equipped. Keep in mind, that’s why we’re reading this right now. To be equipped, and to be instructed by God, through Jude, on how to contend for our faith. Jude spends the next few verses to do just that, to give us instruction.

Jude 1:20-23

But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.

So we see here that Jude starts off by telling us that we need to “[build] yourselves up on your most holy faith” (Jude 1:20). And we kind of run into the same problem that we had in our last lesson. How do we build ourselves up on a faith that we’re supposed to be contending for? And I believe that we need to look at this question the same way we did there. We shouldn’t look at ‘faith’ here as solely being our own personal faith. We’re not contending for ‘our’ faith, or ‘a’ faith, but “the faith” (Jude 1:3). And what foundation is the Christian faith built upon? The gospel. That is the “most holy faith” (Jude 1:20), given by God to unify us all. Paul writes this very thing to the Ephesians, when he says, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Ephesians 4:4-6). So the gospel is what we build ourselves up on. It’s foundational; all of our understanding gets built on the gospel, otherwise it could be knocked down by a breeze. By increasing our knowledge of it, we are more equipped to contend for it.

Yet, our knowledge of the gospel is not something that we attain on our own. That’s why Jude gives us the next instruction; to be “praying in the Holy Spirit” (Jude 1:20). All of our strength, and ability, and wisdom, and understanding, all come from our Father, through Christ, and through His Spirit. Without communion with Him in prayer, our efforts are just broken cups; they can’t hold water. But with God; when we truly seek to do His will, there is no failure. As I said, Jude is calling us to raise up arms. We’re told the exact same thing by the apostle Paul, who tells us to, “Put on the whole armor of God” (Ephesians 6:11).

Ephesians 6:13-18

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints–

Paul and Jude are giving us the same instructions. We’ve already seen Jude tell us that we always need to hold fast to the word of God, and Paul says the same thing in verse 17, which Paul calls “the sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17). Then Jude tells us to build ourselves up in the faith of the gospel. Verse 15 calls it “the preparation of the gospel” (Ephesians 6:15); but notice the terms ‘build up on’ and ‘preparation’, notice how they both have a foundational quality to them; they’re both ‘step one’. And they both tell us to be in prayer in the Spirit. If we seek to serve God, we also have to realize that His Spirit is within us. It’s not something we’re still waiting for; the Spirit is within me, and within you, and within the whole church of God. If we would just submit to the Spirit within us, we’d be so much closer to knowing something about the glory of God. Especially when it comes to reading God’s word, we need to be in prayer, seeking the will of God through His Spirit. I know it’s tempting to just move on, and read the next passage, or chapter, or book; but how many times have you just stopped and taken ten minutes, to just sit, and think about what you just read. Let God’s word really get into your thoughts and in your hearts. Meditate on these things,.. day and night as we’re told in Joshua 1:9. That’s when we’ll succeed in truly serving God.

Jude also tells us in verse 21 to, “keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (Jude 1:21). Jude here is talking about the hope that we find in our faith. Note how it says “in the love of God” (Jude 1:21), not our love, not a general love. No. This is the love of God, and therefore it’s a perfect love. John says in his first epistle, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). God poured out His wrath on Christ so that we would be sparred. In God’s perfect love, He showed us mercy, by killing His only Son. That’s what we hope in. Matthew Henry said, “Mercy is our only plea, not merit; or if merit, not our own, but another’s.” We “keep [ourselves] in the love of God” (Jude 1:21), by putting our trust in the blood of Christ, and by always seeking His mercy with repentant hearts. By that, we know that eternal life awaits us.

From there, Jude gives us some instructions on how we are to help others deal with these ungodly men, and to contend for the faith. He says, “And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh” (Jude 1:22-23). It doesn’t seem as though Jude is talking about believers here, but instead, he’s talking about those who are being swayed by the false teachings, and divisions being sown by the ungodly. Others, who may even be engaging in the sins that these men promote. So Jude tells us to “have compassion” (Jude 1:22) on some, and to “pull [others] out of the fire” (Jude 1:23). So what might Jude mean by this? If these are truly unbelievers, how else would we try to bring them out of the darkness? We only have one option, that being the gospel. We preach the gospel to these people. But we don’t do it the same way for both. Jude tells us to “[make] a distinction” (Jude 1:22). So what’s the distinction?

Ray Comfort, the evangelist who created the Way of the Master program, relates this question to a verse of scripture found in the book of James. James 4:6 says that “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). Mr. Comfort expresses it this way, “With the law, God breaks the hard heart, and with the gospel, He heals the broken heart.” I think we can look at this passage the same way. We show compassion to those who’ve already humbled themselves. If someone is willing to receive the word, and be taught of the saving grace that can only be found in Christ, then that’s what we tell them. But if someone, is living in sin, and won’t receive the gospel, understanding their need for mercy; then we tell them about God’s judgment, and the wrath to come. Someone who has no repentance, isn’t going to respond to the gospel. They suppress the truth, so that they can go on enjoying their sin. But those with humility, who already know that God is holy, and that they are separated from Him by their sin, they need only that Jesus died on the cross to pay that penalty for them. And the language that Jude uses in verse 23, points us to Christ’s saving work, from a different perspective.

Zechariah 3:1-4

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to oppose him. And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?” Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and was standing before the Angel. Then He answered and spoke to those who stood before him, saying, “Take away the filthy garments from him.” And to him He said, “See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes.”

We can see so much of Jude in this passage. We see first, the opposition of Satan to the Lord. We see the same rebuke that Michael gave to Satan “The Lord rebuke you!” (Jude 1:9, Zechariah 3:2). We see that same action of being ‘plucked’ or ‘pulled’ from the fire. And we see the filthy garments, and that through Christ, our iniquity is removed, and we now stand before Him as holy, and justified. All of this imagery, Jude uses to give us, as a demonstration of what God is doing through us, and for us. Jude completes this epistle with that very idea in the last two verses:

Jude 1:24-25

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.

We see Jude begin this doxology with an affirmation of what we just saw in Zechariah. We are presented before the Lord Jesus Christ as holy, and blameless, and righteous, and spotless, and faultless. And we stand in His presence, and in His glory; for no other reason than because of what He’s done for us. ‘He has kept us from stumbling’ (Jude 1:24). He has removed our filthy garments. Add to that, He’s the one who presents us. The reality of that, in light of how we see ourselves now, in this fallen world, is beyond our complete comprehension, and yet, that’s what we hope in. We hope in “God, our Savior, who alone is wise” (Jude 1:25).

We have to hope in that. Because I don’t know about you, but I feel very small when I read those last words. When I read that God alone is wise, and to Him be glory and majesty, dominion and power. I used to define those words differently before I was saved. And now, I know that I may never be able to define them while I live here on this earth. Sure, I still see splendor, and power, and authority, and honor. But when I filter those words through the work of Christ on the cross, I know that I’m only seeing the slightest piece of what awaits us all in the age to come. And to know that that age is ageless. The New American Standard Bible, working from a different Greek text, translates the last sentence in verse 15 as “Before all time, now and forever” (Jude 1:25 NASB). God has no beginning, no end. And when we are presented to Him, we will be able to experience His glory, and worship Him forever. There’s still a part of me that can’t grasp the concept of ‘forever’, so how could I possibly grasp the concept of infinite wisdom, infinite glory, infinite majesty, infinite power. Well, I hope in Christ, and therefore, I don’t have to understand. I know very little about the future that awaits me, or the rest of us. But I do know the One whom I get to spend it with. The One who is unchangeable, holy, perfect and just. The One who will keep every promise He’s ever made to us, and ‘we will dwell in His house forever’ (Psalm 23:6)!

Amen!!

Those Who Forget History… (A Bible Study of Jude 1:1-13) – Part 1

My worst subject in school was always history. After all the years that I spent half asleep in my history classes, I can only tell you three things about history. George Washington had wooden teeth. Lincoln freed the slaves. And we landed on the moon. And I’m totally guessing that it happened in that order. The remaining laundry list of dates and places and people saying really important things is all but lost to me. And I think that I have a reason why. I believe that it’s because we spend too much time trying to get the dates and the places and the names right that we avoid the ‘Why’ question. It’s easy to ask a child, ‘When was the Declaration of Independence signed?’. It’s a completely different question to ask, ‘why?’. The bible is unique in that way. It’s always dealing with the ‘Why’, and from our understanding of why something happened, we also remember who, and where, and when.

So when our long departed brother, Jude felt the urgency to write this epistle, he does so by taking the ‘Why’, and applying it to several similar examples that can be found throughout all of biblical history, and some beyond that. But everything that we read in Jude, is written not to expand our knowledge of biblical history, nor is it written to appeal to our fantastical ideas about the realm of spiritual beings. If you read Jude carefully, you will see that every verse is meant to address one very important and timely topic. One that we as a church, have been dealing with ever since this epistle was written. Jude is writing to Christians to, as he puts it, “Contend earnestly for the faith” (Jude 1:3), as apostates, and false teachers had now made their way into the church, and were threatening to undermine the grace of God, and sway unbelievers from the truth of the gospel. And it is extremely important that we keep that in mind as we begin to explore this amazing book of scripture, here in the first two verses.

Jude 1:1-2

Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to those who are called, sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ. Mercy, peace and love be multiplied to you.

So the first question that you probably find yourself asking is, ‘Who is Jude?’ Well, he tells us that he is “a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James,” (Jude 1:1), which gives us a clue. In chapter 13 of the gospel of Matthew, when Jesus went to His hometown of Nazareth, and preached in the synagogue there. The scripture tell us, “They were astonished and said, “Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon and Judas?”” (Matthew 13:54-55). And the name ‘Jude’ is the English version of ‘Judas’. And we know that some of Jesus’ brothers came to faith after His resurrection, and were serving the body along with the other apostles. So we know that Jude, was the half-brother of Jesus Christ, and total brother of James, who is the author of the book of James.

As for the audience, Jude claims that he’s writing this letter “To those who are called, sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ:” (Jude 1:1). ‘Called’, ‘Sanctified’, and ‘Preserved’,.. Those are words that tell us that he’s writing this to true Christians, but the vague way in which he addresses this letter, demonstrates to us that the content of this epistle can apply to all Christians; both those whom Jude was writing to, as well as all of us right now. All of us have been ‘called’. All of us have been ‘sanctified’. And all of us have the promise of God that we will all be ‘preserved’ until our Lord returns. This isn’t written to one person, or one church; it’s written to all of us. And everything that Jude says here needs to be taken seriously, by all of us.

Jude 1:3-4

Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

So here, we see Jude’s purpose for writing this epistle. Jude sees that false teachers have made their way into the church. And Jude knows, that if these men are allowed to remain in fellowship with the church, then the damage can get much, much worse. Yet, the way Jude words this verse almost comes off as oxymoronic, doesn’t it? “I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 1:3). So it begs the question, why would we have to contend for a faith that has already been delivered once for all to the saints? Well, I don’t believe Jude is telling us to worry about our own personal salvation. That’s one aspect of it, but the faith that Jude is speaking of here is the gospel preached. Our faith hinges on the gospel of Jesus Christ, that’s true. They’re inseparable. But what we’re contending for is to maintain that the truth of that gospel be unabated by those who attempt to twist and contort its beauty, effectively making it worthless upon the ears of unbelievers.

And we see this more fully as Jude explains exactly who he’s talking about in verse 4. “For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Jude 1:4). Paul warned us of this very thing, in the book of Acts, when Paul had gone to the elders in the church of Ephesus, to bid them farewell.

Acts 20:28-30

Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.

Satan has let loose the wolves into the church. And they are doing whatever they can to draw away disciples from Christ, to ruin the witness of true believers, and to satisfy their own lusts. This entire epistle from Jude is a call to arms. He is calling upon God’s elect to entrench themselves in the truth of the gospel, against the ungodly. You see him constantly making distinctions between us, “The Beloved”, and the apostates that he refers to as “the ungodly”. He’s drawing the battle lines. He’s setting up the chess pieces. He’s girding us up for battle.

And in the context of this epistle, Jude is speaking of a specific, yet all too common, group of wolves that he’s been made aware of. Verse 4 says these are, “ungodly men, who turn the grace of God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Jude 1:4). These men are using the sacrifice of Christ’s blood as a “Get out of Jail Free Card” so that they can continue to commit whatever sins they desire. And by being completely devoid of any true repentance, and denying the commands of God to follow Christ, and to sin no more, and to keep His commandments, they deny both God, and Jesus Christ, not to mention the gospel.

But now, Jude wants to show us the reality of what becomes of such men. So here, Jude decides to give us a little history lesson. In verses 5 through verse 11, he compares these ungodly men to six different biblical accounts. The first three being entire communities of ungodly men, and the last three being specific individuals. He uses the first three examples, in verses 5-8 to establish that these men are guilty of the worst offenses toward God, and that judgment awaits them.

Jude 1:5-8

But I want to remind you, though you once knew this, that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day; as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries.

So Jude starts this section in verse 5 by stating, “But I want to remind you, though you once knew this,” (Jude 1:5). So, it would seem, that Jude wants to “remind” us of something. He wants us to remember something that we may have forgotten. So what might he be reminding us of? When you put all of this together, what does it all point to? Well, it points us right to God’s word and to the scriptures. Jude knows that we, though we are saved, still live in these bodies of flesh. And being flesh in a fallen world, we tend to forget things, especially the things of God. That’s why we need to hear the gospel every Lord’s Day, and that’s why we have discipleship classes and why Pastor leads three bible studies a week and our book group. We put ourselves in grave danger when we neglect the word of God. So Jude is opening up the truth found in God’s word for us, and showing us how to apply it to this situation. So, if you’ll join me, let’s open up our history books, and see what God has to show us.

We begin in the book of Numbers, chapter 14. After the Israelites are miraculously saved by God’s power from the Egyptians, they’ve been in the wilderness, making their way to Canaan, the land promised to Abraham by God. And Moses has just sent a group of men into the land of Canaan to spy on the people who live there, and they come back, and all but two of them are just broken. And they say, ‘This land will devour us. We saw giants, and we are like grasshoppers by comparison’ [Numbers 13:32-33]. So, God hears these Israelites, once again, defy His word, and call Him a liar through their disbelief, and God says, ‘I’m gonna wipe them all out’, but Moses intercedes and asks God to spare them for His own namesake. And God responds here in verse 20:

Numbers 14:20-23

Then the Lord said: “I have pardoned, according to your word; “but truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord- “because all these men who have seen my glory and the signs which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have put me to the test now these ten times, and have not heeded My voice, “they certainly shall not see the land of which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who rejected Me see it.”

Next, Jude compares these men to a group that we don’t often hear about. In verse 6, he writes, “And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day” (Jude 1:6). But let me remind you of what I stated early on in this lesson. Everything that Jude is bringing up, isn’t meant to stir up our curiosity about the spiritual realm. Jude is citing examples of scripture that he says directly relate to these apostates that have crept into the church. So the important thing isn’t to understand all of the details as to why these angels left their own abode, as Jude puts it. The important thing is that they left. Their proper domain was in heaven, serving God. But they were deserters, and they left. And now, they’ve been chained with the condemnation of everlasting fire that awaits them at the judgment. That being said, it is a fair question to ask, ‘Where do we see this in scripture?’ Well, there are few passages in the Old Testament that deal exclusively with this topic, so it would be very difficult to piece together a narrative here. But we do have the “whole council of God” that we can utilize, and there is a place we can turn, that talks specifically about these angels, and that is found in the book of Revelation.

Revelation 12:7-9

And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

But, as I said, keep in mind that, while these things are fantastic to read about, Jude is trying to demonstrate what these apostates look like. It seems as though, when you walk down the Christian section of the book store, that if you aren’t looking at a bunch of “Self-Help” garbage, then you’re looking at books about heaven and angels and demons and hell. Those are distractions written by the very people that we’re talking about here in Jude. They’re trying to get your mind off of Jesus, and off of the judgment of God. Jude says, ‘No!’ That’s exactly what these things should be pointing you to. The point is, these angels chose the wrong side, they rejected God, and they deserted their home. And when we read about them here, we should see these apostates doing the same thing.

But maybe with that in mind, just to get our heads out of the clouds, Jude decides to bring us back to one of the most commonly referred to accounts of biblical judgment that we have in the Old Testament. That being the account of Sodom and Gomorrah. And being that it’s one of the most popular passages in the scriptures, it spares us from having to read through the whole account. But, remember, Jude is making it a point to remind us of this. So I’ll just briefly recount for you, that Abraham was told by God that He was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave” (Genesis 18:20). Their sin being sexual immorality, and defiling their flesh with other men. But Abraham intercedes, and asks if God would spare the city if He found fifty righteous men, or forty, or even twenty. And God says that he would not even destroy the city if even ten men were found in it that were righteous. Yet, even ten men could not be found in Sodom, and when two angels were sent to seek for any righteous within the city, the men of the city tried to attack them, so that they could violate them sexually. And only Lot, and his family, who were in the city, were spared, and everyone else perished in the brimstone and fire that the Lord rained down from heaven.

This story is used all throughout the scriptures as a picture of God’s judgment against wicked men. It’s referred to over 20 times, always in a negative way. You most definitely didn’t want someone to compare you to Sodom and Gomorrah. Jude, himself explains this in verse 7 when he says, “[They] are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” (Jude 1:7). The apostle Peter says pretty much the same thing about false teachers in his second epistle when he writes, “[By] turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, [God] condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly” (2 Peter 2:6). Peter also compares these men to fallen angels, as well as to the entire ancient world, where sin had gotten so grave, that there were only eight saved in the flood, that wiped out everyone else. And he compares them to Sodom and Gomorrah, just as Jude does, and says that Sodom and Gomorrah is a picture of the fate that awaits these apostates.

And here is where Jude brings it all together in verse 8. He says, “Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries” (Jude 1:8). Here, Jude brings up three specific sins, each of which correlates to one of the three groups we’ve just been looking at. He says that these apostates “defile the flesh,” (Jude 1:8) just as those who lived in Sodom and Gomorrah. They “reject authority,” (Jude 1:8) just as the angels rejected the will of God, and were cast out of heaven. And that they “speak evil of dignitaries” (Jude 1:8). That last one is best translated in the NASB as “revile angelic majesties”. But, either way it works. Some see the word ‘dignitaries’ as being more applicable, since the Israelites were constantly questioning the words of Moses. Others believe that, since the law of God was given through His angels, and since the Israelites rejected God’s law, that they were also rejecting the message of the angels. But as I said, either way, the point here, is that you should be very careful to question, or accuse, or speak ill of anyone that’s above your station. God is always at work, and God decides who gets authority in this world, and how much, and for how long. Even Satan has been given authority. We’ve seen that before in the book of Job. And even Jude uses him as an example in the next verse.

Jude 1:9

Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”

And here we come, once again to an area that we don’t often see. In fact, this account of Moses’ body isn’t found anywhere else in scripture. We’re told at the end of Deuteronomy, in chapter 34 that, “Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord. And He buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth Peor; but no one knows his grave to this day” (Deuteronomy 34:5-6). And that’s it. We aren’t told anything about Michael or Satan or this dispute. It actually comes, many believe, from a work titled “The Assumption of Moses.” A work that, due to both time and providence, has been mostly lost to us. But this was never considered a God inspired work. Still, we know that this encounter took place, because it’s here in our bibles, stated as fact. But that doesn’t give us the authority to then include the rest of this work, or any other ancient manuscript into our bibles. The Jewish people never saw these books as being inspired, and so, neither should we. But we can say that Jude was inspired to include this account into his epistle, and give us more revelation then we had before.

But once again, why does Jude include this story? Is he trying to tell us more about Moses, or Michael, or Satan? No. He’s trying to demonstrate to us how we are to behave as Christians, and how we are to react when faced with those who defy God. Once again, he’s making a contrast between the words of Michael with those of the ungodly. The ungodly “revile angelic majesties” (Jude 1:8 NASB), but how did Michael respond? “[He] dared not bring a reviling accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (Jude 1:9). What we see in this dispute between Michael and Satan, is the same thing that we see in the gospel of Luke, when Christ says, “Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy” (Luke 10:19). And what is our authority? Well, it’s to go forth into all the world, and preach the word of God. We have the gospel. That is our authority. We are commanded to confess it, and to proclaim it, and to share it with every living creature. No evil can stand up against us while we proclaim the gospel. Sure, we might get yelled at, or scoffed at, called some names, or even get hit once or twice. Even still, we have the authority to preach it. But the ungodly don’t know the gospel. They don’t know truth. Jude points that out to us in the next two verses.

Jude 1:10-11

But these speak evil of whatever they do not know; and whatever they know naturally, like brute beasts, in these things they corrupt themselves. Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.

Jude says that these men corrupt themselves in what they know naturally. They rely on the flesh and instinct to guide how they act and behave. Tell me that isn’t what we see with the rise of Atheism in our day. ‘No, I’m not guilty of any sin. I do what I do because that’s just how humans behave, we’re not really that different from monkeys.’ Jude says that if these men believe that and have the audacity to claim that they have the Spirit of God inside of them, then they are headed down a road of total destruction. And once again, he expands on that by comparing these men to three more historical accounts. He begins by saying that, “they have gone in the way of Cain,” (Jude 1:11). We’re told in Genesis that after Cain murdered his brother, that he spoke with the Lord and said, “it will happen that anyone who finds me will kill me” (Genesis 4:14). But after that, God put a mark on Cain to protect him from being murdered himself. And did Cain thank the Lord, or repent, or try to make things right? No. We’re told in the next verse, “Then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord and dwelt in the land of Nod on the east of Eden” (Genesis 4:16). That is the way of Cain. To depart from His presence. To turn your back on Him. And to put your faith in yourself.

Continuing on, “They have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit” (Jude 1:11). In Numbers, chapter 22 we see the account of Balaam, the prophet; where the king of the Moabites, King Balak sent men to ask Balaam to curse the Israelites for him. And God comes to Balaam and says, “You shall not curse the people, for they are blessed” (Numbers 22:12). Yet, Balak sends men again to Balaam, and even though Balaam knows what God has commanded him on this matter; when the elders come again to ask Balaam to curse the Israelites, does he just say ‘no’? No. He says, ‘Hey, why don’t you stay the night. Maybe God will tell me something different tomorrow’ [Numbers 22:19]. You see, Balak kept offering Balaam all these riches if he would just curse God’s people. And Balaam really wanted that money, so he was hoping that God might change His mind on the subject. He put his greed ahead of God’s will. And these “ungodly” men are doing the same thing. They love their sin. And they are willing to go against God’s will to have it, because they think they’re safe. But they are not safe.

The “rebellion of Korah” (Jude 1:11) also takes place in the book of Numbers. In chapter 16, we read how Korah stood up against Moses and Aaron, along with a large number of followers, and said to him, “You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?” (Numbers 16:3). Remember what we said about speaking out against those that God has put in authority? Well, this didn’t work out too well for Korah. We read later in the chapter that Moses, spoke a word saying ‘If I come in the name of the Lord, then I say that the Lord will cause the earth to open up, and swallow Korah, and all his followers whole’ [Numbers 16:28-29]. And that’s exactly what happened. As soon as Moses finished speaking, “the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the men with Korah, with all their goods” (Numbers 16:32). All these men, Jude equates with the apostates.

Jude says, “Woe to them!” (Jude 1:11). And, very much like with Sodom and Gomorrah, You did not want anyone telling you ‘Woe!’. Woe is a word of pending judgment, and does not mean anything good for you. Without faith in Christ and a repentant heart, there’s no escaping the judgment of God. And we see that demonstrated here in this verse as well. We see that these apostates “HAVE GONE in the way of Cain, HAVE RUN greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and PERISHED [Past Tense] in the rebellion of Korah” (Jude 1:11). Their fate is already decided. Remember what we were told about them in verse 4, “[They] who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men” (Jude 1:4). And yet, these men were in the church. These men were so close to the truth, and yet, they couldn’t have been any further away. Thank god for what he’s done for us!

But, if there had been any doubts in anyone’s mind at this point as to whether or not these men had any good within them. If Jude hadn’t quite explained it thoroughly enough by all these examples he’s given us. He decides to go into even more detail about what these men are in verses 12 & 13.

Jude 12-13

These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.

Here, Jude talks about the effect these men have on the fellowship within the church. He uses four natural examples to describe these men. One in the air, one on the land, one in the sea, and one in the heavens. First, he says that, “They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds” (Jude 1:12). These men make the same kinds of promises as clouds that you might hope will water your crops, but the rain doesn’t come, and the clouds move on. These men are those clouds, and they offer you nothing. Second, they are, “late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots” (Jude 1:12). If a farmer spots one of his trees not bearing him any fruit when it should, then he knows that the tree is dead. So what does he do? He pulls at the root, and he pulls the tree right out of the ground, so that it doesn’t damage the healthy trees. Third, Jude compares them to, “raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame” (Jude 1:13). On a stormy day, when the currents are twisting, and the tides are changing, and all that garbage on the bottom of the sea floor gets stirred up, you’ll see the waves develop this foam on the top that makes it look very unpleasant. Ungodly men do the same thing, when they try to sow divisions, and dilute the gospel, and get everyone stirred up with debates that are really unnecessary.

Finally, Jude compares these men with, “wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever” (Jude 1:13). ‘Wandering stars’ here is actually referring to planets. When sailor’s would travel from one land to another, the only way that they knew where they were going was by looking up, and getting there position by looking at where the stars were. But the planets would change where their position was in the sky. So you couldn’t use them to help you navigate, because they would take you totally in the wrong direction. These apostates are seeking to lead us down the wrong path as well. They don’t want us to follow Christ. They don’t want us to believe the gospel. They do however, want us to follow them. But that won’t do us any good. Because Jude tells us that for these men is “reserved the blackness of darkness forever” (Jude 1:13). We know where they’re headed. And to follow them, would lead us to the same place. We are Christians. We follow Christ. No matter where He may lead us in this life. And we know that we can trust Him, and that He will never depart from us. Because His word tells us, “Thou art with me” (Psalm 23:4).

 

Stray Dogs

There were two issues that it took me some time to come to terms with after I became a Christian. Having been a dispensationalist, the first was to get over my unbiblical understanding of eschatology (But that is an issue that I’ll save for a later post). The other was an issue that seemed small on the surface. It was just something that annoyed me. But when I came to understand the nature of the scriptures and the doctrines of grace, I saw this as being a much larger issue. In fact, it was a gospel issue, and absolutely worth our time, our understanding, and our scrutiny. I’m talking about ‘altar calls’.

I struggled with this issue for a time after my conversion, but I quickly came to realize that my own pride was what was causing all my confusion. I thought, ‘clearly I must have the will to chose God or not, right?’ But, I was never looking in the scriptures to see what God says about how free my will really is. When I finally did, I was shocked. The bible is more than clear on this issue. While there are several passages of scripture which speak of the will of men, there are none which claim that this will is free. Unfortunately, many see the very presence of will at all as implying its own freedom. And therefore, we invite men to come to the altar, and choose.

So, let me just state this as clearly as I can. The gospel is not an invitation,.. it is a revelation!

Galatians 1:11-12

But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.

1 Thessalonians 1:5

For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake.

Maybe it’s our American heritage, and our “Land of the Free” mentality that coaxes us into believing that a life without freedom is a life that isn’t worth having… Hogwash!! Personally, I pray for the day that I can say, as the New Testament writers do, that I am a bondservant of Jesus Christ. That my will might be conformed to His will and that all my steps will walk in His truth. Now, that is a hope that won’t be fully realized until Christ returns, but the desire is still there. And it’s a far cry from the New Hampshire motto of “Live Free Or Die”.

The Christian life is one of submission, and it’s one that we’re all called to. Submission to God, submission to Christ, submission to the influence of the Holy Spirit, submission to the word, submission to our elders, submission to our husbands and wives, submission to one another, submission to our employers, submission to our authorities; we are called to a life of submission, not freedom.

Let me put it this way. I drive around a lot for my job. And on occasion, I’ll spot a dog on the side of the road. A stray. Being the huge dog lover that I am, I pull right over, in the hopes that I can find a collar with a tag so that I can call whatever number I find, and get this dog back with its owner. Of course, this all hinges on one very important thing. Whether or not I can get the dog to come to me.

But how do you call a stray dog? Do you invite him to come with you? Do you suggest it? I would hope not. Dogs are domesticated animals. They respond to commands. You may say it softly, but you say ‘Come’. The same way you’d call your own dog to you. ‘Come’, ‘Come here’! Then, there’s the moment of truth. Will the dog recognize your authority, or not?

If I call a dog, and he’s willing to submit, and come to me, then I’ll take care of him, and take him home. If not, then he’s left to world as he was before I got there. He can go any way he wants, but he won’t be cared for, and he won’t get home. I would equate it to Joshua’s words to Israel, shortly before his death.

Joshua 24:15

And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

It’s just like when Jesus spoke saying, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it (Matthew 7:13). That’s freedom. You can pick any way to hell you want. That is the extent of your free will. Which is ironic, when you consider the motto we brought up earlier. The motto that I’ve seen on flags and T-shirts, and even tattooed on the occasional arm. “Live Free Or Die”,.. when the truth is, if you’re living free, you’re already dead.

God has told us, that when He calls, you will respond as your heart allows. But we are not in control of our own hearts. We either respond with the hearts of stone that we were born with, or we respond with the broken hearts of flesh that were given to us by God’s grace.

John 1:12-13

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born , not of blood, nor the will of the flesh, nor the will of man, but of God.

Case closed! It amazes me that we would even have to go past this passage since it completely describes the source of salvation by distinguishing the will of God from the will of man. Yet, time and time again, those who believe that man has free will put the emphasis on the wrong words. They’ll slow down at the words ‘Received’ and ‘Believe’, not even putting two and two together. Those who received ARE those who believed, who ARE those who are born; and they ARE those born of God, not the will of man.

But do we have any other place we can go to more fully describe this process of being born? Oh that’s right, just a couple of pages forward in John 3. And let’s take a moment to remember that chapter numbers and passage divisions were not in the original scriptures, so this connection of birth spoken of in John 1 is the exact same birth spoken of in John 3. There is nothing to indicate that the term means anything different over the course of two chapters, or even throughout the rest of the scriptures. The analogy of birth is consistently used to illustrate our entrance into our new life as new creatures.

John 3:3-5

Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

Unless we are born again, BORN OF GOD, we cannot enter or even see the kingdom of God. The same way we were born in the flesh, against our will, completely dependent on God. So too were we brought into the kingdom of God, through Faith.

Oh, if only there were some scriptural assurance of God’s sovereignty that could give us comfort that our own free will is just a fabrication invented by the enemy…

Psalm 135:6

Whatever the Lord pleases He does, In heaven and in earth, In the seas and in all deep places.

Psalm 115:3

But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.

Isaiah 45:9-10

Woe to him who strives with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth! Shall the clay say to him that forms it, ‘What are you making?’ Or shall your handiwork say, ‘He has no hands’? Woe who says to his father, ‘What are you begetting?’ Or to the woman, ‘What have you brought forth’?

Daniel 4:35

All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven And among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand Or say to Him, “What have You done?”

Romans 9:19-21

You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?” But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?

Luke 1:37

For with God nothing will be impossible.

Ephesians 3:20-21

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be the glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Please hear those words. Read them again. Read them carefully. Know that God is indeed sovereign and in complete control. Don’t burden yourselves with the fruits of pride and your own petty need for control. Submit to your Lord and rest your cares on Him. He is calling you, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest(Matthew 11:28).

Come. Sit. Stay.

Amen!!

What Has My Blamelessness Done For Me Lately: A Bible Study on Job 35:1-8

The first thing that typically comes to one’s mind when they hear the name ‘Job’, is Job himself. Others might say the word ‘Suffering’, which is also fitting since the name ‘Job’ literally means “One who is persecuted”. We tend to think of ‘the man’ who lost everything he had and persevered to the end in faith, giving glory to God. Yet, everything that happened to Job; all the suffering that he endured by losing all that he had, and then being afflicted with a painful disease all takes place in only the first two chapters of this forty-two chapter poem. The rest is just mostly a long conversation between Job and his three friends, followed by a speech by a young man named Elihu, and finally God comes to speak with Job directly.

So what is it that we’re meant to see in the following forty chapters? Well, I think it’s clear that what we’re supposed to see is God Himself. He is the center of the book. He is the both the Author and the Topic, much like within the bible itself. And in this passage that we’ve just read, we see that point being made. In a way these eight verses provide a short, albeit crude summation of the entire book of Job, or at least it’s main focus. So, let’s quickly review the book up to this point, so we can get our bearings.

For those of you who haven’t read Job in a while, you may remember that Job was, as we’re told in Chapter 1, “blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1). And then we’re given an account of all that Job had; including a great deal of sheep, camels, oxen, donkeys, and very many servants (Job 1:2-3). He also had stature in the community which we see in chapter 1 verse 3 where it says “this man was the greatest of all the people of the east” (Job 1:3). And finally we see that Job was a man of great faith and sought to lead his children in the ways of God, even acting as a sort of priest by offering sacrifices and prayers to God on their behalf (Job 1:4-5).

After this, we’re given an account that takes place in heaven (also known as the “Divine Council”), in which Satan, or “the Adversary” comes before God seeking to accuse men of their sins, and God’s reply is to set before him Job as an example of one without cause for reproach.

Job 1:6-12

          Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. And the Lord said to Satan, “From where do you come?” So Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.” Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?” So Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does God fear Job for nothing? Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!” And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.

          So, as we just read, God allows Satan to attack Job and take all he had except his health. And we read in verses 13-19 how, nearly all at once, Job lost all that he had delighted in; all his possessions, and his ten children. And what follows in verse 21 is Job’s well known response where he remains faithful and says, “Naked I came from my mother’s whom, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). So once again, in chapter 2, we see Satan come before God again and accuse Job of not being truly righteous, but one whom would curse God, if his health were taken from him also. So God, gives Satan permission to do just that, and Satan attacks Job with an illness which had caused painful boils to appear over Job’s entire body. Even Job’s wife begins to burden and lash out at Job and tells him to “Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9). Yet, still, Job held fast to his faith in God, and up to that point, we’re told in verse 10 of chapter 2, “In all this Job did not sin with his lips” (Job 2:10).

However, after months of dealing with this loss (Job 7:3), Job seems to be finding less and less comfort in his faith. So much so that Job’s three friends appear to him, to both mourn with him, but ultimately to comfort and help council him. And what follows from that point on is a series of dialogues between Job and his three friends Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. From chapters 3-31, Job is repeatedly refuting his friends’ attempts to try and convince Job that he has wronged God in some way and that his suffering is a form of punishment. His friends believe that God is one who ‘slays the wicked’, and ‘upholds the righteous’. But Job says, ‘I’ve done nothing wrong!’.

By the end of chapter 31, Job has silenced all his friends and shown that, indeed, he hasn’t done anything by their standards to warrant God’s punishment. At that point, in chapter 32, a young man named Elihu (whom we don’t see before this point, but apparently was there listening the whole time), enters the conversation and rebukes Job’s friends for accusing Job, and not having any proof to back up their claims, and then turns to rebuke Job himself for justifying himself instead of God. See, up to this point, no one seems to be speaking on God’s behalf. Everyone has been making statements regarding who they think God is, and through all their theology, they’ve been merely justifying themselves. Elihu says ‘Wait! Let’s not assume to know the entire depth of God. How could we? What we need to do is seek God’s character before we fall into sin with our words.’. If we don’t understand God through that which He’s revealed Himself to us, then we’ll be in grave error.

And this passage, that we’re focused on, begins right at the halfway point of Elihu’s speeches. And we read as he continues his defense of God’s justice by now challenging the insinuation of Job’s own words as we begin in verses 1-3:

          Job 35: 1-3

          Moreover Elihu answered and said: Do you think this is right? Do you say, ‘My righteousness is more than God’s’? For you say, ‘What advantage will it be to you? What profit shall I have, more than if I had sinned?’

          Now, in truth, Job never said either of these things. Job never said ‘My righteousness is more than God’s.’, nor did he ever ask the question ‘[How has my righteousness granted me more than if I had sinned]?’, at least not as if it was his own question. But I think what Elihu is doing here is challenging Job in asking, ‘Do you really want to go down this road?’. Job may not have said these things, but he came very close in several points and if left unchecked may have eventually said something that he would have regretted; which is actually what happened as we read in chapter 42, when Job repents before God. In addition, the word ‘say’ here is the Hebrew word ‘āmar”. It means to say, speak, OR think ([as in to] say to oneself). It is a very common word in the Old Testament; used over 5300 times and translated 64 different ways. Among those, it’s been translated, in the KJV at least, as ‘verily thought’, ‘desired’, ‘desireth’, ‘intendest’, ‘suppose’, and ‘thinking’. So, I don’t think that Elihu means to say that Job said these actual words. I think he’s probing Job’s intentions, so as to ask, ‘Is this what you mean to say’. And we’ll see in just a bit, another way in which Elihu interprets Job’s statements. So, let’s just go through a couple of these passages regarding Job’s righteousness as he sees it, and how he might compare it to God’s:

          Job 6:24&29

          “Teach me, and I will hold my tongue; Cause me to understand wherein I have erred. Yield now, let there be no injustice! Yes, concede, my righteousness still stands!”

          Job 7:20-21

          “Have I sinned? What have I done to You, O watcher of men? Why have You set me as Your target, So that I am a burden to myself? Why then do you not pardon my transgression, And take away my iniquity? For now I will lie down in the dust, And You will seek me diligently, But I will no longer be.”

          Job 10:5-7

          Are Your days like the days of a mortal man? Are Your years like the days of a mighty man, That You should seek for my iniquity And search out my sin, Although You know that I am not wicked, And there is no one who can deliver from Your hand?

          Job 27:2-6

          “As God lives, who has taken away my justice, And the Almighty, who has made my soul bitter, As long as my breath is in me, And the breath of God in my nostrils, My lips will not speak wickedness, Nor my tongue utter deceit. Far be it from me That I should say you are right; Till I die I will not put away my integrity from me. My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let go; My heart shall not reproach me as long as I live.

          I think it’s plain to see here that Job was emphatic as to his own righteousness. But what about God’s? Job doesn’t seem to be proclaiming God’s righteousness here, in any way. In fact if I had to characterize Job’s description of God at this point, I’d use the word ‘Confused’. Job seems confused and almost a little defiant towards God. Still, Job hasn’t flat out denied the righteousness of God. But Elihu never said that he had. Look back at Job 35:2,.. Elihu asks Job, “Do you think this is right? DO YOU SAY, ‘my righteousness is more than God’s?’” (Job 35:2). And why is he assuming that from Job? Well, he tells us by probing Job’s motivation even further in verse 3. FOR YOU SAY, ‘What advantage will it be to You? What profit shall I have, more than if I had sinned?’” (Job 35:3).

Now, like I said earlier, Job never asked this specific question as his own. But back in chapter 34 verse 9, Elihu phrases Job’s intent a little differently. He paraphrases Job this way, “For he has said, ‘It profits a man nothing that he should delight in God.’” (Job 34:9). It’s a little different there. In 34:9, Elihu says that Job said this as a statement, and then in 35:3, Elihu phrases it as a question. So, again, I think this shows that Elihu wasn’t quoting Job verbatim, but instead was paraphrasing Job’s ultimate point when it came to his righteousness, and God’s justice. So if we examine just a few more passages from Job, I think we’ll see where Elihu is finding this theme.

          Job 9:29-31

          If I am condemned, Why then do I labor in vain? If I wash myself with snow water, And cleanse my hands with soap, Yet You will plunge me into the pit, And my own clothes will abhor me.

          Job 10:2-3

          I will say to God, ‘Do not condemn me; Show me why You contend with me. Does it seem good to You that You should oppress, That You should despise the work of Your hands, And smile on the counsel of the wicked?

          Job 21:7-16

          Why do the wicked live and become old, Yes, become mighty in power? Their descendants are established with them in their sight, And their offspring before their eyes. Their houses are safe from fear, Neither is the rod of God upon them. Their bull breeds without failure; Their cow calves without miscarriage. They send forth their little ones like a flock, And their children dance. They sing to the tambourine and harp, And rejoice to the sound of the flute. They spend their days in wealth, And in a moment go down to the grave. Yet they say to God, ‘Depart from us, For we do not desire the knowledge of Your ways. Who is the Almighty, that we should serve Him? And what profit do we have if we pray to Him?’ Indeed their prosperity is not in their hand; The counsel of the wicked is far from me.

          Job 24:1-12

          “Since times are not hidden from the Almighty, Why do those who know Him see not His days? “Some remove landmarks; They seize flocks violently and feed on them; They drive away the donkey of the fatherless; They take the widow’s ox as a pledge. They push the needy off the road; All the poor of the land are forced to hide. Indeed, like wild donkeys in the desert, They go out to their work, searching for food. The wilderness yields food for them and for their children. They gather their fodder in the field And glean in the vineyard of the wicked. They spend the night naked, without clothing, And have no covering in the cold. They are wet with the showers of the mountains, And huddle around the rock for want of shelter. Some snatch the fatherless from the breast, And take a pledge from the poor. They cause the poor to go naked, without clothing; And they take away the sheaves from the hungry. They press out the oil within their walls, And tread winepresses, yet suffer thirst. The dying groan in the city, And the souls of the wounded cry out; Yet God does not charge them with wrong.

          I know it’s not always easy to see in this book, but I think that’s the point, ‘confusion’. Once again, Job seems confused. He’s talking about how wretched the world is, and he doesn’t see God doing much of anything to stop it. He doesn’t understand the true nature of God’s righteousness. Time and time again, he rebuked his friends when they tried to tell Job that God only punishes the wicked. But in trying to convince them of just the opposite, he backed himself into a corner, by now proclaiming that God punishes everyone as He wills, in a random or even erratic way. And I think there is one passage we can look at that sums up all of the points that we’ve looked at so far. It shows Job’s complete confidence in his own righteousness and a complete misunderstanding of God’s justice, and that would be Job 9:21-24:

          Job 9:21-24

          “I am blameless, yet I do not know myself; I despise my life. It is all one thing; Therefore I say, ‘He destroys the blameless and the wicked.’ If the scourge slays suddenly, He laughs at the plight of the innocent. The earth is given into the hand of the wicked. He covers the faces of its judges. If it is not He, who else could it be?

          So Elihu has been listening to all of these things that Job has been saying and he’s starting to connect the dots. If Job is proclaiming his own righteousness, and at the same time, stating in a very subtle way that God may be acting unreasonably, then how can he plead his case of righteousness with an unreasonable judge? Think about it. If you were in a courtroom and saw two men being charged with the same crime, that had equal evidence against them, and one man was sent free, yet the other was sent away to prison for life,.. you’d probably be petrified to walk up to that judge and plead your case. You’d have no idea how the judge was going to act. The wind blows one way or the other and you could end up walking home free, or limping toward a cell in shackles.

Now, it is important to note here however, that Job truly did have faith in God, and ultimately in His justice. He says it many times that he wished to plead his case before God, and in chapter 13 verses 15 & 18 he says, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. Even so, I will defend my own ways before Him.” and then in verse 18 he says, “See now, I have prepared my case, I know that I shall be vindicated.” (Job 13:15 & 18). Job held to his faith in God throughout all the conversations with his three friends, but when you put all his words together, as we have, I think you can see why Elihu was so concerned with Job. And unlike Job’s friends, Elihu had the evidence of Job’s own words, or at least his sentiments, with which to show Job where he was treading on thin ice.

And before we move on, I think we should all be mindful of this as well. With all that’s going on in the world, and even in our own lives; I think we’ve all asked the same questions that Job has, at one point or another. We see the rich, and we see the powerful, and we see the wicked defining our culture; and we see them succeed and prosper. They hate us, and our values, and we look at what we’re struggling with and we think ‘Why’? But we worship a sovereign God. And we must remember that God is in complete control of everything. He gives the rich their wealth, and He gives the powerful their illusion of control, and He gives the wicked over to their lusts and desires. The end of every one of those roads is death and destruction. God’s wrath is stored up for them on the Last Day, and we should be praying for them, out of pity. And if given the opportunity, preach to them the gospel of salvation through Christ alone.

But moving on in verses 4-8, we see Elihu’s preemptive rebuke to Job. He want’s Job and anyone who might agree with him, to rethink their understanding of God. He wants to reintroduce Job to the Creator. In hopes that Job might fully understand who it is that he might be accusing of wrongdoing. That’s what he means in verses 4 & 5 when he says:

          Job 35:4-5

          I will answer you, And your companions with you. Look to the heavens and see; And behold the clouds– They are higher than you.

          I thought initially, that Elihu was talking to Job and his three friends here. But the consensus among the commentators is that Elihu is talking to anyone who also shares the same opinion as Job. So, he begins his answer by reminding Job of his relationship to God by comparing him first to the creation. He’s telling Job, ‘Take just a moment and look up’. ‘Look at the trees, look at the oceans, look at the sky; and then look at the night’s sky’. ‘Contemplate for just a moment on how truly small you are’. ‘Think for a second on just how unknowably big the universe is’. ‘God created all of that’. When God, Himself comes to speak with Job, in just a few more chapters, He appeals to Job the same way. He asks Job seventy questions, all of which are rhetorical, and many related to God’s sovereignty over creation. He begins asking Job in chapter 38:

          Job 38:4-7

          Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid it’s cornerstone, When the morning stars sang together, And all the sons of God shouted for joy?

          Job 40:8-10

          Would you indeed annul My judgment? Would you condemn Me that you may be justified? Have you an arm like God? Or can you thunder with a voice like His? Then adorn yourself with majesty and splendor, And array yourself with glory and beauty.

          God and Elihu are making the same point, namely, that God is awesome! Not awesome in the ‘tween’, ‘high-schooler’ kind of way, but God is Awesome! When you look around, and think of all that God has done with this immense, yet temporary universe that we’re told is fading away. You just have to sit back in complete awe of God. It’s a lot harder, in fact, no, it’s impossible to build yourself up when faced with the all powerful, all knowing, one, true, holy God. We’ve seen that a time or two in scripture, haven’t we? Remember Isaiah? How did he respond when faced with God? Let’s look there in Isaiah 6:1-5:

          Isaiah 6:1-5

          In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!” And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke.  So I said: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The Lord of hosts.”

          In his book “The holiness of God”, R.C. Sproul gives, in my opinion, the definitive commentary on these verses in Isaiah. He says:

“He [Isaiah] saw the holiness of God. For the first time in his life Isaiah really understood who God was. At the same instant, for the first time Isaiah really understood who Isaiah was.”

          Elihu wants Job to really understand who Job is. So he’s trying to show him who God really is. God is the Creator. God is sovereign. God is just. God is holy. Job is none of those things. But this is just the beginning. Elihu is just getting warmed up. He concludes this passage in verses 6-8 to demonstrate the impact both sin and righteousness would have on God, if any:

          Job 35:6-8

          If you sin, what do you accomplish against Him? Or, if your transgressions are multiplied, what do you do to Him? If you are righteous, what do you give Him? Or what does He receive from your hand? Your wickedness affects a man such as you, And your righteousness a son of man.

          I know the questions asked in verses 6 & 7 are rhetorical questions, but just to be clear, the answer to all of them is ‘Nothing’. There is no sin we can commit that will ever damage God, or hurt Him, or cause Him to stumble. God is perfect and guides the steps of us all. Sin, even the worst of sins, happens only at His discretion, and in accordance with His decreed and perfect will. As does our righteousness. Any act that is truly righteous is one done in faith, and God is “the Author and Finisher of our faith,” (Hebrews 12:2). Now, if you look in your references, as it seems so many of the commentators I read did. You may notice that the point being made here was also brought up by Job’s friend Eliphaz in chapter 22:2-3. Many commentaries suggested that this alone was enough reason to discount and ignore what they call,‘Elihu’s redundant advice’. But remember, Eliphaz was making this statement only to convince Job that he was guilty of some sort of sin, and needed to repent. Elihu is trying to point Job towards the glory of God. Eliphaz was just trying to justify his own understanding of who he thought God was. As you’ll find in most of the book of Job, there’s some very good theology and sound proverbs being completely misappropriated by Job’s friends, and by Job himself in a few places, as we’ve seen.

So, if our sin and our good deeds do not affect God, then why should we concern ourselves with such things? Job seemed baffled as to this very issue. Even bible commentator Matthew Henry saw this and made the point that, ‘If God doesn’t profit from our good deeds, then why would Job expect to profit from them himself?’. Job couldn’t figure it out. Whereas, if you just read this passage alone, you might think that Elihu was saying that we should only concern ourselves with sin and righteousness for the sake of men, when he says in verse 8, Your wickedness affects a man such as you, And your righteousness a son of man” (Job 35:8). So, should we take this verse to mean that God just dispenses justice and has no true investment in the deeds of men? Well, no.

While it’s true that our deeds affect men and women, and that our good and bad deeds can have long lasting consequences that extend far beyond our short little lives; sin is defined as the breaking of God’s law. We learn that in 1 John 3:4 where John says, “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness” (1John 3:4). Breaking the laws of men is just crime. In Psalm 51, David sings about the true nature of sin when he writes, “Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in your sight– That You may be found just when You speak, And blameless when You judge” (Psalms 51:4). As did Joseph, when tempted with Potiphar’s wife, and said, “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9b).

And what of our righteousness? Do our good deeds change or affect God? No. But God still delights in them. Why? Because God has decided to use our good works to glorify Himself. It’s yet another manifestation of His lovingkindness toward us. We don’t earn anything with our deeds. We don’t earn salvation, we don’t justify ourselves. We don’t make God our debtor. We glorify God. What book are we reading from? Job. Who presented Job to Satan in the first place? God. And Why? Because through Job’s suffering, and through all the dialogues that take place afterward, and ultimately through Job’s repentance and restoration, God was glorified. Just as He is through each and every one of us that has been baptized by the Holy Spirit. We are witnesses to His grace, and His mercy, and to the change that He’s done in our lives and in our hearts, by bringing us to His Son, Jesus Christ in repentance and faith in His gospel. And we, in response, as the Apostle Paul writes, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

The plain and simple truth of it is, that God DOES concern himself with us. By His grace, “God so loved the world” (John 3:16). The Psalmist, David wrote about it when he said in Psalms 8:4-5, “What is man that you are mindful of him? And the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor” (Psalms 8:4-5). God created us from clay, yet He crowns us with glory, and calls us His children. Look up, and remember all that He’s done, and then remember all that He’s done for you.

Amen!!

The Goldilocks Obituary

A big part of growing up is learning. Some lessons you learn by hearing, some you learn by seeing, some you learn by doing. And other lessons are learned by reading some whacked out stories about wolves and pigs and little girls with baskets. That’s right, I’m talking about children’s stories. Stories about animals doing people things so that little people can learn important things about growing into big people.

Personally, those are my favorites. I’m thoroughly convinced that my social life in high school would’ve gone much smoother if only we had a nice fable about dating; with a fox and a possum and a 6-foot ball player named Doug. But that’s just me.

Stories, and fables, and nursery rhymes always made things very easy to understand. “The Tortoise and the Hare” taught us that not giving up is a more successful attitude than arrogance. “The Three Little Pigs” taught us the benefits of good old fashioned brick-pointing, and “Hansel and Gretel” taught us that leaving a trail of breadcrumbs to follow is a good way to attract bugs,.. or maybe that was my Mother.

Of all the children’s stories however, there was always one that I never quite got; “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”. I’m sure you remember it. There is this house in a forest inhabited by three bears. A Poppa  bear, a Momma bear, and a Baby bear. Well, one day these bears all sit down to eat their porage, but no one is happy with it, so they decide to let it sit for a while as they all go for a walk. There we meet Goldilocks, a young girl who was walking through the forest when she stumbles onto the bears house. For whatever reason, she decides to eat the bears porage. But the Poppa bear’s was too hot, and the Momma bear’s was too cold, but the Baby’s was just right, so she ate it all. Then she decides to take a nap, but the Poppa bear’s bed was too hard, and the Momma bear’s bed was too soft, but the Baby’s was just right, so she goes to sleep. Unfortunately, the bears return to the house to see that someone has been in their home, and eaten their porage and slept in their beds. And when they discover the young girl in the Baby bears bed, they eat her instead of the porage, and live happily ever after,.. The End!

So what’s the moral of the story? Uninvited house guests deserve to die? Sleeping after a meal is a great way to confuse your metabolism? Only YOU can prevent home invasions? I can’t be sure. But that was until I read what Jesus had to say to the church of Laodicea in the book of Revelation:

Revelation 3:14-22

“And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the Creation of God: “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’ – and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked – I council you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’”

The Laodiceans didn’t seem to like things hot or cold either. They wanted everything to be just right. They didn’t want any more of God or any less of God. They had their salvation, their ticket to heaven, and that’s all they needed. That’s all they wanted. I know a lot of Christians that seem to act like this today. They call themselves Christian. They may even go to church. But when you peek just below the surface, you’ll see a Christianity that’s empty, and hollow.

The gospel however, is anything but empty, or hollow, or lukewarm. The gospel is something that you are going to react to. It’s too hot for some, it’s too cold for others. That’s what Paul means when he writes to the Corinthians, “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased  God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (1 Corinthians 1:21-25)

We preach Christ crucified! That is our message. That is the message that saves. But what were the Laodiceans preaching? “I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing.” (Revelation 3:17) Today, you could slap that sentence on the cover of a book, put it in the Christian section, and no one would know the difference. This is a church of Christ that Jesus is speaking to, one of the seven lampstands, and these people were doing very well. Yet, how does Christ define them?.. “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17), and what’s worse is, they didn’t know it. Would you?

If you’re focusing on what God has blessed you with in this life, then you are only leaving yourself open to disappointment. Not that we shouldn’t praise God for every gift He gives to us, but we should be more grateful for the Giver. The church at Laodicea says, ‘I… have need of nothing’. (Revelation 3:17) As a Christian, I say, ‘I am constantly dependent on Your mercy and Your grace, Father!’

And we too, as Christians need to hunger and thirst for righteousness, not comfort. We aren’t promised comfort anyway. We are however, promised that we will be hated by others for our testimony, and for the gospel that we are called to preach. Just look at what Jesus tells us in the gospel of Matthew, chapter 10; “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” (verse 16), “And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.” (verse 22), “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.” (verses 38 & 39) Comfort is the last thing we should expect. But it’s all the Laodiceans wanted, and it’s all that Goldilocks wanted as well.

What would Goldilocks obituary read? Sweet little girl, wandered into the woods. She was looking for something comfortable. She wanted something lukewarm. And she died for it. What a sad story.

But it doesn’t have to end the same way for us. The Holy Spirit is still at work within us. And Christ gives us a warning, not to stray any further: “Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 3:19b-22)

If we would just repent from the sin of comfort, and seek God with all our hearts, then we will overcome this world, and we will live in union with Christ,.. happily ever after.

Amen!!

Searching For God

Have you ever played the Google Search Game? It’s where you start typing a phrase into Google and take a look at the search recommendations it gives back to you. The suggestions are based on actual searches done by others. For instance, if you go to Google and type in “Why do babies” into the search box; Google will suggest that you might be searching for, “Why do babies cry” or “Why do babies sleep so much” or “Why do babies drool”. Likewise, if you entered the phrase “Why do women”, then you’ll see more varied suggestions; from very serious ones like, “Why do women cheat” and “Why do women stay in abusive relationships” to more humorous ones like “Why do women play Peter Pan”.

But when you type in the phrase “Why does God”, then the suggestions are rather telling. Here are the suggestions Google recommended:

“Why does God allow suffering?”

“Why does God let bad things happen?”

“Why does God hate me?”

These questions pretty much sum up the entire collective depraved human heart as it exists in every nonbeliever right now. They show that people have no idea who God really is. They’ve been blinded to truth, and the gospel is but a word to them. But let’s see if we can give them some answers.

Why does God allow suffering?

Right at the outset, the question is flawed because it implies that God’s role is a passive one. Nothing could be further from the truth. God is active, not passive. In fact, God is the only one who is completely independent from everything else. God was not created, He is the Creator. From every star and every galaxy, to every atom and subatomic particle, as well as the forces that hold it all together; God created and maintains it all.

Jeremiah 10:12-13

He has made the earth by His power, He has established the world by His wisdom, and has stretched out the heavens at His direction. When He utters His voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens: “And He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth. He makes lightning for the rain, He brings the wind out of His treasuries.”

John 1:3

All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

God is always at work. Jesus Himself tells us this when He spoke to the Jews saying, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working” (John 5:17). Nothing happens outside of God’s sovereign will. God is active, and God is acting, and God’s actions have purpose. That would mean that God does not allow suffering, He has a purpose for it. The better question would be, ‘What is God’s purpose for suffering?’. Next question…

Why does God let bad things happen?

The first thing you would have to ask here is, what do you consider a bad thing? How do you distinguish it from good things, and what is your standard for doing so? Another way you might find this question phrased is, ‘Why does God let bad things happen to good people?’. And again, I would ask how do you decide which things are good, and which things are bad? The Rich Young Ruler came to Jesus saying “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17), but Jesus answered him saying, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.” (Mark 10:18). Paul reminds us of this in the book of Romans:

Romans 3:10-12

As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no not one.”

It would seem clear that the standard is God. God is good. There are no good or innocent people to be found on earth. All of us have turned away from God. Just as we’re told later in the book of Romans, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). It’s sin that has come into the world; that has also corrupted all of creation. The sin of Adam, which has been carried all the way down to each and every one of us, is the source of all bad and evil things. All pain, all disease, all treachery, all hatred, all lust,.. all of these things are a result of our sin. And sin is what separates us from God, and so all our acts that are not done in faith are sin, and so, are also bad. That’s how you define ‘bad’. To ask why God allows bad things to happen is to ask why God doesn’t wipe us all from the face of the earth for continuing to disobey and turn away from Him with such spitefulness? Last question…

Why does God hate me?

There are many who would answer this question by saying, ‘God doesn’t hate you,.. He loves you!’. But we have to be very careful not to go outside what is defined for us in scripture. In fact, although the love of God is talked about in many ways; in most translations of scripture the phrase, ‘God loves you’ is nowhere to be found.

Many people would stop me here and bring up very popular verses like John 3:16:

John 3:16

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

But what is this verse saying? ‘God so loved the world’; “the world” doesn’t mean “all people”. We know that because we have the rest of the verse to explain “that whoever believes in Him should not perish”; which would mean that all those who do not believe in Him will perish in hell. It’s almost like me saying that I love baseball. That doesn’t mean that I love all teams and all players. Actually, if I were to say the phrase ‘I love baseball’, then the next question I’d likely be asked is, ‘What is your favorite team’?

God loves the world He created, but the world as He created it was a world without death or sin. It wasn’t until Adam and Eve broke God’s command that the curse of death came into it. But continue the verse, ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son,’. God didn’t love the world to let those who live in it do whatever they want. He didn’t love the world, and so decide to forgive everyone of their sins. God so loved the world that He sent His Son Jesus Christ here, so that He could give His life, and take upon Himself the wrath that God had stored up for us. And why did God do this? “That whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

Romans 5:8

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

But read those verses carefully. “Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8), “whoever believes in Him” (John 3:16). Christ didn’t die to save everyone, but He sacrificed Himself so that “everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and [He] will raise [them] up on the last day” (John 6:40). Christ made it clear when He said “I am the good shepherd; and I know my sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:14 & 15). So who are Christ’s sheep? Whoever repents of his sins and trusts in the name Jesus as the only way to salvation; those are His sheep.

Acts 17:30

Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent.

If God hates you, it’s because you do not believe in Him. You have turned away from Him and have disobeyed His commands. You hate Him. But if you’re reading this right now, and you know that I’m describing you, then God still commands you. Repent, and put your trust in Jesus. If you do that, you will be saved. If you will not believe, and reject the gospel, and reject Jesus, then you are condemned already.

Acts 17:31

Because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.

Romans 2:5-8

But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who “will render to each one according to his deeds”: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey truth, but obey unrighteousness – indignation and wrath

So what are you searching for? If it’s another excuse to disbelieve the promises of Him who is unchanging and unshakable; then I’m sure you’ll come up with something. But if you are truly seeking truth, and salvation, then look no further than Christ on the cross. Yes, there is death there, but there is life too. The question is, is it your death, or the death of Christ that leads to life everlasting? I’ll be praying for you.

John 11:25

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

Amen!!