Tuesday, 30 October 2018

The Food Of Our God

Leviticus 20:1-21:24
The Lord calls us to be holy – because He is holy (Leviticus 20:26). We are to be like Him. He has set us apart as holy (Leviticus 21:8). We are “dedicated with the anointing oil of our God” (Leviticus 21:12). We may take this “anointing oil” as symbolic of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. We are to “eat the food of our God – what is holy and what is very holy” (Leviticus 21:22). Here, our attention is directed towards Christ, who is our spiritual food – “the Bread of Life” (John 6).

How Long, O Lord?

Psalm 13
The ‘how long’ questions are questions asked by a man who feels that God is far away. These questions must, however, be reversed, if we are to move beyond these feelings into the reality of knowing God. God says, ‘How long?’ The Lord is saying to us, “It doesn’t matter how long. Now is the time for a new beginning.” v.1a: “How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?” – Now is the time for forgetting the Lord no longer: “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead” (2 Timothy 2:8). v. 1b: ” How long will You hide Your face from me?” – Now is the time for hiding from the Lord no longer: “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). These blessings are hidden from those who, in proud arrogance, refuse to come to the Lord – “You have hidden these things from the wise and learned” (Matthew 11:25). They are “revealed” to those who “come” to the Lord with the sincerity and humility of ‘little children” (Matthew 11:25, 28). v. 2a: “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts … ? ” – Now is the time for wrestling with the Lord no longer: “Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be … ‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ’since I am a virgin?’ … ‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May it be to me as you have said.’” (Luke 1:29, 34, 38). v. 2b: “How long must I … every day have sorrow in my heart?“- Now is the time for sorrowing no longer: “I am the Resurrection and the Life” (John 10:25-27). Christ points us to the future. v. 2c: “How long will my enemy triumph over me?” – Now is the time for being defeated no longer: “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death … Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrews 2:14-15, 18). Now is the time for believing God’s promises. Now is the time for receiving His blessings. Now is the time for coming to the Saviour. vs. 3-4: “Look on me and answer, O LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death; my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.” Without God, we are overcome. vs. 5-6: “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me.” With God, there is trusting, rejoicing and singing – trusting in His unfailing love, rejoicing in His salvation, singing of His goodness. From verse 1 to verse 6, the Psalmist’s mood has changed dramatically. He wishes to lead us on this movement from life without God to life with God. God has come near to us in Christ. He is Emmanuel – God with us. God invites us to come near to Him. We come to Him through Christ. Through Him, we have this great testimony: “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).

Lord, we’re being pulled in two different directions ...

2 Kings 15:23-16:20
Lord, we’re being pulled in two different directions. You’re drawing us to Yourself. The world is pulling us away from You. Help us to confess our sin – we need to be better than we are. Help us to trust in Your power – You’re the only One who can make us better than we are.

Lord, we’re always making choices ...

2 Kings 14:17-15:22
Lord, we’re always making choices. Sometimes, we make good choices. Sometimes, we make bad choices. Life can be very confusing. We wonder, “What’s for the best? What are we to do?” Show us Your way. Lead us in Your way. Give us the strength that we  need to walk in Your way.

We compare ourselves to other people ...

2 Kings 13:1-14:16
We compare ourselves to other people. We like to think that we’re doing pretty well. What, Lord, do You think about all of this? Are You impressed? You’re saying to us, “What about Jesus? How do you compare to Him? Help us, Lord, to look at Jesus – and see where we need to be changed. Help us to look to Him – and be changed by Him.

Sometimes, Lord, it seems like You are far away from us.

2 Kings 9:1-37
Sometimes, Lord, it seems like You are far away from us. Why do we feel like this? It’s because we have wandered away from You. We’ve allowed something else to come between ourselves and You. Call us back to Yourself, back from the brink, back to a new beginning, back to the blessing that will grow stronger and stronger as we learn to trust You and say, from the heart, “The Lord is God. He is our God. He has blessed us, and we are glad.”

Lord, You speak to us the Word of condemnation ... You also speak to us the Word of compassion.

Deuteronomy 32:19-33:17
Lord, You speak to us the Word of condemnation. You tell us that we are "a perverse generation" You tell us that "You will hide Your face from us" (Deuteronomy 32:20). You also speak to us the Word of compassion - "The Lord will ... have compassion on His servants, when He sees their power is gone" (Deuteronomy 32:26). Help us, Lord, to hear the Word of condemnation - to know that "our power has gone", so that we can hear the Word of compassion, the Word that comes to us in our weakness, the Word that brings us into Your strength - "a new creation in Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Often, Lord, we feel trapped - trapped by our sin.

Exodus 12:29-13:16
Often, Lord, we feel trapped - trapped by our sin. We try to break free - but we can't make it happen. Our sin has such a strong hold on us. We wonder, "Is there a way to freedom?" Jesus says, "Yes. There is." He says to us, "I am the Way to freedom." Set us free, Lord, from our self-centredness. May there be less of self and more of You in our lives.

Truth - And Faith

John 17 - This is such a great prayer. At the heart of it, we have these great words, “Your Word is truth” (John 17:17). True prayer is always grounded in truth. There is a conversation between ourselves and God. God initiates this conversation. From Him, there is revelation. From us, there is response. Revelation comes first. He speaks to us. Then, we speak to Him. In our world, there are many voices. There is one voice which must not be drowned out: the voice of God.
“Your Word is truth” (John 17:17).Where does our faith come from? It comes from the Lord. He has spoken to us in His Word. He is still speaking to us. Are we listening to Him? We’re not to come to the Word of God with the attitude that says, “This is true. That’s not true.” On what basis do we say, “This is true. That’s not true”? We may come to some parts of the Bible and say, “That speaks to me.” We may come to other parts of the Bible and say, “That doesn’t speak to me.” What are we saying when we say this kind of thing? Are we saying something about God’s Word? or Are we saying something about our need to listen more carefully to what the Lord is saying to us through His Word? Let us learn to say, with our Lord Jesus Christ, “Your Word is truth” (John 17:17) and we will begin to say, more and more often, “That really speaks to me.” It’s not about our deciding what speaks to us and then saying, “That really is the Word of God.” It’s about our saying “Your Word is truth” and then discovering that God has a great deal to say to us when we are learning to say to Him, “Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:9-10).

Great Boldness And Great Blessing - From Our Great Saviour

Peter preached Christ with great boldness: ‘There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved’(Acts 4:12).
This boldness came from the Holy Spirit. Peter was ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’(Acts 4:8). Don’t say, ‘I‘m no Peter’. Peter failed his Lord and had to be restored (Matthew 26:69-75; John 21:15-17). Peter drew great strength from ‘the company of those who believed’. They ‘gathered together’ for prayer. They ‘were of one heart and soul’…’(Acts 4:31-33). Why did God deal so severely with Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11)? This was the start of something great. God refused to let His work be spoiled! There is a warning for us: Don’t pretend to be more holy than you really are. God sees what you’re really like. ‘Search me, O God…’(Psalm 139:23-24). There was great blessing: ‘More than ever believers were added to the Lord’(Acts 5:14). There was persecution (Acts 5:17-18). This did not hinder the advance of the Gospel (Acts 5:42). Satan was not going to give up easily. He came right back at the apostles (Acts 6:1). Satan was defeated. Through the Spirit of God and the Word of God, the victory was won. The apostles ‘devoted themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word’. They were supported by ‘seven men… known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom’(Acts 6:3-4). Armed with ‘the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God’, let us be ‘be strong in the Lord’- ‘filled with the Spirit’- as we ‘let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly’(Ephesians 6:17,10; 5:18; Colossians 3:16). Filled with His Spirit and obedient to His Word, let us look to God for His blessing (Acts 6:7).

A Change Of Direction

Christ brings a change of direction into our life.
This change of direction is described for us in Acts 2:42 -“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
Christ is preached. We believe the Gospel. We receive salvation. Life is no longer centred upon ourselves. It is centred upon Christ.

Jesus Is Risen. Jesus Is Lord.

“God raised Jesus Christ from the dead” (Acts 2:24).
Did this become true only because a lot of people said that it was true? Has it become false because many people refuse to believe that it’s true? No! It’s God’s great miracle. Death has been defeated. There is hope. Death will not triumph over us. Jesus Christ is Lord.

A Strong Faith? or A Strong God?

“Paul … strengthened  the faith of all the disciples” (Acts 18:23).
Strengthening the faith of all the disciples – This is such an important ministry. We are not to be content with the faith that we have. We are to press on to a stronger faith. What do we mean when we speak about a strong faith? What we mean is this: We’re learning to trust in our strong God. Our God is always stronger than our faith. It’s not so much our faith that’s strong. It’s our God who’s strong. The strengthening of our faith – This is about a growing awareness of our strong God. He is our strength. Our faith is growing stronger when we’re learning to look away from ourselves – we are always weak – to our God – He is always strong.

Salvation, Joy, Victory

Jesus is the way of salvation, joy and victory.
  • Jesus is the way of salvation – Concerning “the Name of Jesus Christ”, Peter tells us that “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:10, 12).
  • Jesus is the way of joy – Jesus tells us, “In the world, you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
  • Jesus is the way of victory – Paul gives to us this word of encouragement: “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).

Coming Home

In Luke 15:13, we read of the prodigal son going into the “far country”. In Luke 15:20-22, we read of the joy of his homecoming -“So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.”

A New Beginning - Based On What Had Gone Before

Mark 1:1-20
This was a new beginning (Mark 1:1), but it was based on what had gone before (Mark 1:2-3).
Those who speak of Jesus Christ, their Saviour, are "voices crying in the wilderness", but their ministry is blessed by the Lord (Mark 1:3,5).  
We must  never forget this, and we must pray that we will be like John - pointing away from ourselves to Jesus (Mark 1:7-8).
Whatever the world may say, we need more of Jesus, not less of Him. If we're going to have more of Jesus, we need more of the Word of God.
How can we get to know, love and serve Jesus better, if we're content with keeping everything shallow? 
The Spirit of the Lord descends whenever our chief focus of attention is on God's "beloved Son" (Mark 1:9-11).
It will not be easy to keep our attention on Jesus.
It wasn't easy for Jesus. It won't be easy for us (Mark 1:12-13).
John had been "arrested" (Mark 1:14). Would it be any easier for Jesus? Will it be any easier for us?
Will the call to "repent" be heard as "good news" (Mark 1:14-15)?
Many will say "No", but some will say "Yes" (Mark 1:16-20).
May God help us to follow Jesus, and call upon others to follow Him. 

There is hope.

Hosea 14:1-9

There is hope. There is a future. Hosea 14:9 - Conclusion: This is for us. The only way to live is the Lord’s way.
Repentance (Hosea 14:2) - It’s returning to the Lord (Hosea 14:1). It’s more than “words” (Hosea 14:2). It’s a way of life. As we walk with the Lord, we learn about repentance.
God speaks to us about forgiveness (Hosea 14:2). In love, He’s speaking to us. He speaks to us from the cross of Christ. The Spirit makes God’s love real to us. He brings Jesus to us. God’s love inspires our thinking and our living.
Our whole life is to be an expression of our love for the Lord, a heartfelt response to His love for us - a way of saying, “Thank You, Lord”, a way of offering to the Lord the praise and worship that arises from our hearts.
As we worship God, we must remember that He is not only love. He is also holiness.
This is to be seen in our “return to the Lord” (Hosea 14:1), our conversion. It’s not to be a partial conversion - paying lip-service to the Lord. It’s to be a full conversion - our hearts and our lives: the stirring of our hearts and the changing of our lives.

Return To The Lord ...

Hosea 6:1-3

 * “Let us return to the Lord” (Hosea 6:1). There are many blessings, waiting for us. We must come to the Lord and receive these blessings from Him.
 * “He will revive us” (Hosea 6:2). This is new life in Christ. It’s new life in the Spirit. We were dead. Now, we are alive, Glory to God!
 * “He will raise us up” (Hosea 6:2) - resurrection, not just a pick-me-up. God must do it. He alone can do it - and He does!
 * “He will come to us like the rain” (Hosea 6:3) - “the spring showers that water the land”: This will put a spring in our step. It will send us out, with joy and strength, to serve the Lord and bring others to Him (Psalm 126:5-6).

We sing to You, Lord.

Deuteronomy 31:14-32:18
We sing to You, Lord. We sing our song of praise. It's the song of Your salvation. It's the song that gives glory to You. May our song of praise be more than words. May it be the song that arises from our hearts. May it be the song that comes from lives that are being transformed by Your grace.

Lord, You are not a god who keeps his distance from us.

Deuteronomy 30:1-31:13
Lord, You are not a god who keeps his distance from us. You are not a god who keeps his silence.You come near to us. You speak Your Word to us (Deuteronomy 30:11-14). How do we know that You are near to us? How do we know that You speak Your Word to us? Jesus is "God with us" (Matthew 1:23). He is "the Word made flesh" (John 1:14). Thank You for Jesus - He comes near to us and He speaks to us. Help us, Lord, to treasure His presence and to respond to His Word.

Lord, Your Word speaks to us about the "secret things" and "the things that are revealed."

Deuteronomy 29:1-29
Lord, Your Word speaks to us about the "secret things" and "the things that are revealed" (Deuteronomy 29:29). There are some "things" that we will never understand. These "things" belong to You, Lord. Help us to focus our attention on "the things that are revealed", the teaching that comes to us from "the holy Scriptures", the Gospel which brings us to Jesus, our Saviour - calling us to put our faith in Him and live in obedience to Him (2 Timothy 3:14-17).

Why, Lord, do You speak to us the Word of warning and the promise of blessing?

Deuteronomy 28:25-68
Why, Lord, do You speak to us the Word of warning and the promise of blessing? There is a good way to which we must turn - and there's also a bad way from which we turn. How can we really appreciate and embrace the good way if we do not see the clear contrast between the good way and the bad way? Help us, Lord, to choose the good way - to choose Jesus, who is "the Way, the Truth and the Life" (John 14:6).

Lord, You have saved us. You call us, now, to live in obedience to Your Word.

Deuteronomy 26:1-27:10
Lord, You have saved us. You call us, now, to live in obedience to Your Word. Teach us Your way, Lord, and help us to walk in it. May the light of Your love shine upon us. May Your love for us fill us with more love for You.

We thank You, Lord, that You love us.

Deuteronomy 24:1-25:29
We thank You, Lord, that You love us. We thank You that You have done great things for us. We think of Your great love. We think of all that You have done for us - and we say, "To God be the glory."

Show us, Lord, what we really are - without You.

Deuteronomy 23:1-25
Show us, Lord, what we really are - without You. Make us, more truly and more fully, what You want us to become - by Your saving grace. Fill us with Your holiness - and fill us with Your love. You've lifted us out of our sin and into Your salvation. This is Your doing. It's not our own achievement. we're called to be Your holy people - but we dare not imagine that we're better than everyone else. We're set apart for You - but we must never forget that we'll never be anything more than sinners, saved by Your grace. Your love has reached. Your love changes us. Make us more like Jesus - walking with You on the pathway of holiness and reaching out, in love, to others, inviting them to receive the Saviour's love and respond to His call: "Follow Me" (Matthew 4:19).

A Great Future!

Daniel 7:13-14

What a future God has planned for His people. What a great future He is planning for His people. Coronation - What a day of celebration. This is better than any human coronation. It’s better than any human celebration.
When Christ comes, this will go beyond our ability to describe or even imagine: the great Kingdom - full of the glory of God; the great Saviour - full of the grace of God. Christ takes us from grace to glory.
In Matthew 26:75, we see what Peter was. In Acts 2, we see what He became. This is grace, calling us on to glory.

Those who fear You, Lord, have no need to live in fear of man.

Psalms 111:1-112:10 
'Praise the Lord... To Him belong eternal praise... Blessed is the man who fears the Lord... His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look in triumph on his foes...'(Psalm 111:1,10; Psalm 112:1,8). Those who 'fear' You, Lord, have no need to live in fear of man. Those who know that ‘eternal praise’ belongs to You, Lord, can face their enemies with confidence. Our confidence is not in ourselves. Our confidence is You. We know how good You have been to us - ‘He provided redemption for His people’. We thank You that we have heard and believed the Good News of Christ. We need not ‘fear’ any ‘bad news’ which the devil sends our way. We 'trust' in You, Lord, confident that the ‘light ‘will triumph over the ‘darkness’. We thank You that the Good News of Christ will triumph over the devil’s bad news (Psalm 111:9; Psalm 112:4,7).

Help us, Lord, to thank You for Your past blessings, and to trust You for Your future blessings.

Psalm 81:1-16
“Sing aloud to God; shout for joy to the God of Jacob” (Psalm 81:1). Teach us, Lord, to worship You with joy. You have blessed us in the past: “I am the Lord your God, who brings you out of the land of Egypt.” You will bless us in the future: “Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it” (Psalm 81:10). Help us, Lord, to thank You for Your past blessings, and to trust You for Your future blessings.

Lord, You did great things for Israel. You do great things for us.

Psalm 78:40-72
Lord, You led Your people out of Egypt, through the desert and into Your “holy land” (Psalm 78:52, 42-43,51,54-55). You did great things for Israel. You do great things for us – “You restore our soul. You lead us in the paths of righteousness for Your Name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3). We thank You, Lord, for Your many blessings – “peace with God”, standing in Your “grace”, “our hope of sharing the glory of God”, “Your love poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:1-5).

If We Are To Be True Followers Of Jesus ...

"Be careful! Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees!" (Matthew 17:6),. even after there us divine revelation (Matthew 16:17), the influence of evil can be felt (Matthew 16:23), The warning - "Be careful! Watch out ... !" must never be forgotten. Satan is looking for an opportunity to leads us away from the Lord. We must hear what Jesus is saying to us about discipleship (Matthew 16:24), and we must commit  ourselves to Him (Matthew 16:25). There is nothing more important than this (Matthew 16:26). If we are to be true followers of Jesus, we must learn to live our lives in the light of eternity (Matthew 16:27). We are to seek revelations of God's eternal Kingdom, revelations which will send us back, from the mountain-top, to live each day for Jesus.

So many people are turning away from You, Lord.

Psalm 79:1-13
So many people are turning away from You, Lord. They no longer worship You. We wonder, “Can things be turned around?” It would be so easy to give up and go the way of the world. “Help us, O God of our salvation” (Psalm 79:9) – to keep on praising You: “W, Your people, the flock which You shepherd, will give thanks to You forever. We will praise You throughout every generation” (Psalm 79:13).

Preaching God's Word: Matthew's Gospel

A Journey with Christ (Matthew 1:5-6; John 8:1-11)

(1) Christ’s Journey through history 
Before we even reach the opening chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, the Old Testament proclaims this message of hope: Christ is coming. The journey through the Old Testament  paves the way for the coming of Christ. The first 17 verses of Matthew’s Gospel gives us a brief outline of Old Testament history as a preparation for the coming of Christ. These verses present us with a family tree. It’s not particularly interesting reading. For this reason, these verses are often overlooked. There are, however, important lessons which we must not miss! Here are two interesting names in Christ’s family tree - Rahab (Matthew 1:5) and Solomon (Matthew 1:6). Who was Rahab? - a prostitute! Who was Solomon? - a child born out of an adulterous relationship! How did they get into Christ’s family tree? Was there some kind of mistake? - No! It must be stresses that the names of Rahab - a - prostitute - and Solomon - the child of an adulterous relationship - are found in Christ’s family tree so that we might learn that the love of God is greater than the sin of man. God forgives sinners! God restores the fallen. This is the message proclaimed to us by the inclusion of Rahab - the prostitute - in Christ’s family tree. God gives a new beginning.  This is the message proclaimed to us by the inclusion of Solomon - the son of an adulterous relationship - in Christ’s family tree.with the “meek soul”. Let us not think that Christ is brash and insensitive. He does not disregard our temperament and personality. He does not ignore our natural feelings. He does not take delight in embarrassing  us.
The circumstances can be so ordinary, yet the new birth is a miracle!

(2) Christ’s Journey to the Cross 
God restores the fallen. God gives a new beginning. These lessons are emphasized even more strongly when we turn our attention to Christ’s Journey to the Cross.
Throughout Jesus’ ministry, there is the conflict between Jesus and the religious leaders of his day. These religious leaders were so proud of themselves, so proud of their religion, so proud of their morality.
One instance of this conflict concerned “a woman caught in the very act of adultery” (John 8:3).”The scribes and the Pharisees” despised the poor woman. They were arrogant in their condemnation of her - “this woman has been caught in the very act of adultery” (John 8:4). They brought the woman to Jesus for one reason only. They brought her to Jesus for condemned. Jesus, however, did not condemn her. No condemnation! Forgiveness! This is the Good News of God’s grace.
The scribes and the Pharisees saw the woman as a no-hoper. She was beyond hope - so they thought! They wanted to stone her.
With one simple yet devastating sentence, Jesus exposed their hypocrisy: “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7). With the strikingly simple and devastatingly direct sentence, Jesus brought the proud accusers down to earth - “when they heard it, they went away, one by one” (John 8:9) .
Jesus was left alone with the woman. He did not condemn her, but He did say to her, “Do not sin again” (John 8:9-11).
This conflict continued throughout Jesus’ life as He made His way to the Cross. The scribes and the Pharisees sent Christ - the sinless Son of God - to the Cross. There Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them …".

(3) Christ’s Journey into our lives 
This is beautifully described in the words of the Christmas carol, “O little town of Bethlehem”:
“How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.”
Jesus’ way is so unlike the way of the world. He is not demonstrative. He is not showy. He does not make a fuss. There is nothing spectacular about His way with us. There is nothing sensational about His entrance into our lives.
The world, obsessed with the dramatic, might say of Jesus’ way, “How cold! How unexciting! How uneventful! How unimpressive!” Let us  not be preoccupied with outward appearances. Let us recognize the presence of Christ in the quiet way - “No ear may hear His coming.” This is Christ’s way.

Jesus Christ - “God with us” (Matthew 1:23) - is truly God and truly Man.

Jesus Christ is not merely the greatest man who ever lived. He is “God with us” - truly God and truly Man.
* God says, “I am who I am” (Exodus 3:14). Jesus says, “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58).
We cannot how Jesus Christ can be “God with us”. We cannot understand how He can be truly God and truly man.
We do not, however, have the right to say, “A true man cannot at the same time be truly God.”
We must acknowledge the truth of God’s Word which says, “”With God nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1:37).
Looking at the Man, Jesus Christ, we have no right to say that His life began at Bethlehem.
We must acknowledge the truth of Jesus’ words, “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). These words indicate to us that Jesus Christ is the eternal God.
We have no right to say that God cannot take on human form. Who are we to say what God can do and what God cannot do?
If we believe that God is Almighty, how can we doubt His power to become Man in the person of Jesus Christ?
Scripture makes it clear that Jesus Christ is more than a mere man since He is no less than God Almighty.
The words of Karl Barth are helpful - “in countless passages the New Testament speaks about Jesus of Nazareth as the Lord Jesus … using the same word which the Old Testament expresses by ‘Jehovah’. This Jesus of Nazareth, who passes through the cities and villages of Galilee and wanders to Jerusalem, who is there accused and condemned and crucified, this man is the Jehovah of the Old Testament … the Creator …God Himself … yet (He) does not cease to be a human being … The Creator Himself (remaining fully God) becomes not an angel, but … very really a man” (Dogmatics in Outline, p. 84).
* God is “the Saviour” (Isaiah 45:15). Jesus saves the people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).
Jesus Christ came down from heaven for us - men and women - and for our salvation.
The personal name, “Jesus”, means “Saviour” or “Jehovah (the God of Israel) helps.” Jesus does not simply point to the God of salvation. Jesus is the God of salvation: “He is God the Saviour. He is Christ the Lord, ever to be worshipped, trusted and adored.”
If Jesus Christ was no more than the greatest man who ever lived, the greatest witness to God’s salvation, it would be utterly blasphemous to call Him, “the Saviour.” By calling Jesus “Saviour”, we are not saying that man saves himself. We are saying that the Man, Jesus, is God the Saviour: “When we call Him Saviour, we call Him by His Name.”
When the Bible says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31), this is entirely different from a call to have the same faith which Jesus had. We are called to put our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ was not a sinner, who, like us, needed to receive salvation from God. Jesus Christ is the perfect Saviour from whom believing sinners receive eternal salvation.
* In Isaiah 40:8, we learn that “the Word of our God will stand for ever”. Jesus says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away” (Mark 13:31).
The Word which Jesus Christ speaks to us now is nothing less than the Word of God.
- We are born again through His Word (1 Peter 1:23-25).
- We grow in Christ through His Word (1 Peter 2:1-3).
- There must be no compromising of our faithfulness to His Word (2 John 7-11).

The Message of Numbers

Numbers is the fourth book of (i) the Pentateuch; (ii) the Old Testament; and (iii) the Bible.

(i) Numbers is the fourth book of the Pentateuch. It follows on from Genesis, Exodus and Leviticus. It is followed by Deuteronomy. The word, ‘Pentateuch’, is a Greek word. It means ‘five books’. In the Pentateuch, there are five books – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. To understand Numbers, we must go back to Genesis, Exodus and Leviticus and we must move beyond Numbers to Deuteronomy.

Genesis is ‘the book of beginnings’. It tells us about the beginning of creation (chapters 1-2). It tells us about the beginning of sin (chapter 3). It tells us about the beginning of salvation. In 3:15, we have the first promise of the Saviour.

Following the flood of judgment and the ark of salvation (chapters 6-9), the story moves on to God’s choice of Abraham. God’s promise was given to Abraham – ‘I will make of you a great nation’ (12:2). The nation of Israel, to whom the book of Numbers is addressed, is the fulfilment of this promise of God. Behind the nation of Israel, there is the God who chooses. As we read the book of Numbers, we must remember that God addresses Israel as His chosen people.

In Exodus, we see God as the God of redemption and Israel as His redeemed people. The people of
Israel have been chosen by God. They have been redeemed by Him. He has brought them out of their slavery in Egypt.

Leviticus emphasizes that God’s chosen people are called to be holy. Redeemed by the Lord, they are called to live as His holy people. The key idea in Leviticus is expressed in 11:45 – ‘you shall be holy, for I am holy’.

In Genesis, Exodus and Leviticus, the people of Israel are described as a chosen people, a redeemed people and a holy people. In the opening chapter of Numbers, we learn that the people of God are to wage war for God. Notice the recurring phrase – ‘every man able to go forth to war’. If God’s purpose is to be fulfilled among the people of Israel, His people must be ready for warfare – spiritual warfare in which ‘the tabernacle of the testimony’ is to be at the heart of Israel’s life. The worship of God and the work of God are to be the chief priorities among the people of God.

Following Numbers, we have the fifth book of the Pentateuch – Deuteronomy. Numbers takes Israel to the borders of the Promised Land. Deuteronomy contains further instructions given to Israel as they prepared to enter the Promised Land. Deuteronomy provides the link between the first four books of the Pentateuch and the remainder of the Old Testament.

(ii) Numbers is the fourth book of the Old Testament. Following its first five books, the Old Testament story continues, in the book of Joshua, with the conquest of Canaan. As we read of Israel’s warfare for God, we will understand why the first chapter of Numbers laid such emphasis on ‘every man able to go forth to war’. The Old Testament story continues through times of rebellion and times of revival. It ends with the distinct impression of incompleteness. The final words of the Old Testament are words of promise concerning what God is going to do in the future.

(iii) Numbers is the fourth book of the Bible. We do not look back to the book of Numbers because we want to become Old Testament Jews. We look back to the book of Numbers because it is part of the context out of which the Christian Faith has grown. To understand our Christian Faith, we need to go back to the Old Testament. We need to go back to the Pentateuch. As we do this, we will come to the book of Numbers.

This book will help us to see the divine significance of events. It will help us to see the bigger picture. Looking at the bigger picture – God’s saving purpose – we will see beyond the wilderness. We will look beyond the wilderness to the Promised Land. We will look beyond the Promised Land. We will catch a glimpse of something greater than ‘the land flowing with milk and honey’. Looking beyond the Promised Land, we will catch a glimpse of the promised Saviour – our Lord Jesus Christ.

The name, ‘Numbers’ comes from the fact that this book contains numberings, notably in chapters 1 and 26. In the fifth word of the first line of the Hebrew text, we have a far more appropriate title – ‘in the wilderness.’ What is the meaning of the events which took place while Israel was ‘in the wilderness?’ This is the question we must ask as we read the book of Numbers. From this book, we learn that the wilderness was both a place of promise and a place of danger. There was the Promised Land, lying ahead of them. There were the dangers which kept them ‘in the wilderness’ for much longer than they really needed to be.

The story of Numbers begins two years after Israel’s Exodus from Egypt. The people, who had been brought out of slavery in Egypt, are now learning to trust God in the wilderness. They are not, however, very good learners. For thirty-eight years, they were virtually at a standstill. As we read of their wilderness wanderings, their failure to move forward in faith and obedience, we are challenged regarding our own spiritual progress. If God’s people had advanced in their obedience to God, they would not have wandered in the wilderness for such a long time. Numbers tells us about their wilderness wanderings so that we might learn from their mistakes.

The events in the wilderness speak of danger, the danger of standing still when God wants His people to move forward. The events in the wilderness speak of promise, the encouraging assurance that God did not give up on His wayward people. In His sight, they were chosen, redeemed and holy.

Apply this to today’s Church. Where will we be thirty-eight years from now? There is the danger of drifting into years of spiritual wandering with no significant forward movement in God’s work. There is the promise of God’s faithfulness, the assurance that He will provide us with all that we need to carry His work forward. We must believe the promise and overcome the dangers.

How are we to enjoy God’s blessing? In chapter 2, we learn that God’s people were to be united around the tabernacle with no gaps in the ranks. This is a vital lesson for today’s Church. We are not to pull in different directions. We are to pull together, embodying in our worship and witness the beautiful spirit of co-operation which we see in chapter 7. If the work of the Lord is to make progress, there needs to be unity and co-operation. Everyone has their place in the ongoing work of the Lord. All who are willing to serve the Lord will find a place in His service.

Before we ever had thoughts of serving the Lord, He had thoughts of calling us into His service. Chapter 3, with its emphasis on numbering ‘every male from a month old and upward’, underlines the fact that God had been calling us into His service long before we ever had thoughts of serving Him. In chapter 4, we read about the numbering of ‘the sons from thirty years old to fifty years old, all who can enter the service, to do the work in the tent of meeting’. This emphasizes that the service of the Lord calls for maturity. There are two lessons for us here. (i) The Lord laid His hand upon us in salvation long before we ever reached out our hands for Him in service. (ii) If we are to be worthy servants of the Lord, we must press on to spiritual maturity.

Why is it that so many people, upon whom God’s hand has been laid early in life, never attain their true spiritual stature? Is it not because they have been distracted, allowing ‘self’ to intrude where only God should be? This was the problem with the people of Israel in the wilderness. Instead of God-centred blessing, they chose self-centred rebellion.

God wants to bless us. He wants us to enjoy the blessing, described in 6:24-26 – ‘The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace’. This blessing is given to us in the Name of the Lord (v. 27). Notice the threefold repetition of the Name of the Lord – ‘The Lord …’ (v. 24), ‘The Lord …’ (v. 25), ‘The Lord …’ (v.26). Scripture teaches us to think of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Reading this blessing in terms of our faith in God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we read it thus: ‘May the Father bless …’ (v. 24), ‘May the Lord Jesus make …’ (v. 25), ‘May the Holy Spirit lift …’ (v. 26). There is no greater blessing than the blessing of the Lord. There is no greater Person to give the blessing than the Lord. What is the blessing the Lord wants to give to us? Three short words sum up the Lord’s blessing – keep (v. 24), shine (v. 25) and peace (v. 26).

* The Lord keeps us. What is it that keeps us going in the way of faith? Is it our own will-power? – ‘I will keep going. I will never give up.’ God’s Word tells us that there is something else. There is something much more important. It is the power of God. We are ‘kept by the power of God’ (1 Peter 1:5).

* The Lord makes His face to shine upon us. ‘The Lord will smile on you and be kind to you’. The Lord is a smiling God. He smiles upon us. He smiles upon us because He loves us. His smile is an expression of His love. The Lord gives us His joy – ‘unutterable and exalted joy’ (1 Peter 1:8). Look to the Lord. He will keep you believing. He will keep you rejoicing.

* The Lord gives us His peace. From ‘the God of peace’, we receive ‘the peace of God’. You may be having a tough time. You may not understand what’s going on in your life. You can, however, receive ‘the peace of God that passes all understanding’ (Philippians 4:7). We look at what’s happening to us. It causes us deep distress. We look beyond all of that. We catch a glimpse of something very much more wonderful. God is at work. He is working in our lives. He is doing a work which will bring ‘praise, glory and honour’ to Him. God is fulfilling His purpose – ‘the salvation of our souls’ (1 Peter 1:6-7, 9).

‘The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace’ (6:24-26). The people of Israel had heard these wonderful words. This was God’s Word to them in the wilderness. This was His promise of blessing. Sadly, they soon forgot the Word of the Lord. In 11:4, God’s people are described as ‘the rabble’. We read of their longing to go back to Egypt. Here, we are challenged concerning our own consecration. Do we long to go on with God? Do we long to go back to the world? The sad story of ‘the rabble’ is contained in the Word of God so that we might learn to avoid the dangers of going back to the world. We are to learn from their mistakes. We are to learn to go on with God.

The contrast between believing the promise of God and giving in to the dangers around us is brought out clearly in the story told in chapter 13. The twelve spies are sent into the land of Canaan. They are to spy out the land. The majority report was negative. It was only the minority –the believing minority – who came back with a stirring message which called the people on to greater heights of faith and obedience.

The majority gave a true report: ‘The people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified, and very large’ (13:28). The problem with their report was that it had a great deal to say about the difficulties and very little to say about the possibilities. This is always the way with unbelief. The focus of their attention was on the dangers. They should have paying more attention to the promise of God. The more we talk about the difficulties, the more we line up excuses for our own unbelief. If we are to move forward with God, we must learn to eliminate negative thinking. We must learn to be possibility thinkers. We must look beyond the difficulties to the God who has given His promise – ‘The Lord bless you and keep you’.

We learn the positive attitude of faith from Caleb and Joshua. Following the negative report of the majority, ‘Caleb quietened the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once, and occupy it; for we are well able to overcome it’ (13:30).

As we read of the contrast between the unbelieving majority report and the believing report given by Caleb and Joshua, we must ask ourselves the question: ‘Am I going with the crowd or am I taking my stand alongside ‘the faithful few who fought bravely to guard the nation’s life?’

The contrast between the unbelieving majority of ten and the believing testimony of two faithful men became the contrast between the older generation, whose heart was still in Egypt, and the new generation, who were looking forward to the new life in Canaan. Concerning the old generation and the new generation, God says, in 14:29-31, ‘Of all your number, numbered from twenty years old and upward, who have murmured against Me, not one shall come into the land where I swore that I would make you dwell, except Caleb … and Joshua … But your little ones … I will bring in, and they shall know the land which you have despised.’

This is the contrast between the old life and the new life. Before the new life can begin, the old life must die. The little ones, uncorrupted by Egyptian influences, had grown up under the nurture of God in the wilderness. They were to enter the land. They did not carry with them the corruption of the old life. They carried with them the promise of the new life.

If we are preoccupied with the old life, we will echo the complaining words of Israel: ‘Why have You made us come up out of Egypt, to bring us to this evil place?’ (20:5). If, on the other hand, we are rejoicing in the gift of new life in Christ, new life in the Spirit, we will read the words of 21:9 concerning looking to the bronze serpent for healing and life, and we will rejoice in the words of John 3:14-15: ‘As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.’ If we are truly seeking to live the new life of the Spirit, we will read the words of 21:17 – ‘Spring up, o well!’ – and we will pray for a deeper experience of the ‘rivers of living water’ of which Jesus speaks in John 7:38.

The importance of continuing to live the new life and refusing to go back to the old life is highlighted in the exclusion of Moses and Aaron from the Promised Land. At Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin, Moses and Aaron sinned against the Lord at the waters of Meribah (Contention). There was ‘strife’ among the congregation who were rebelling against the Lord (20:10; 27:14). Moses and Aaron failed to believe God and they failed to obey God. At the time of this incident, God drew attention to their unbelief – ‘You did not believe in Me’ (20:12). Later on, in 27:14, God focuses our attention on their disobedience – ‘You rebelled against My Word.’ The leaders of God’s people – Moses and Aaron – were guilty of unbelief and disobedience. This emphasizes for us that there is never any room for resting on our laurels. As we read of the exclusion of Moses and Aaron from the Promised Land, we must hear and heed the challenge of God’s Word when He says to us, ‘Having begun with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh?’ (Galatians 3:3). The way of blessing is not the way of the flesh. It is the way of the Spirit.

The words of Don Francisco’s song, ‘Holiness’ (from the album of the same name, 1984) bring out well the lessons God was teaching His people, Israel, while they were in the wilderness. He was teaching them about holiness. He was showing them the way of blessing.
“When God took His people to the promised land, He gave them their freedom and He gave a command. He said, west of the Jordan you can have all you see, but beware of their idols and be holy to me.
Holiness, holiness. It’s the only life that the Lord can bless. Holiness, holiness. It’s the Lord’s command, not the Lord’s request.

They heard the commandment but did not obey. They hardened their hearts and wandered away from the goodness of God and the blessings He gave to the traditions of men and the yoke of a slave.
Holiness, holiness. It’s the only life that the Lord can bless. Holiness, holiness. It’s the life apart from the world’s excess. For the people of God there remains a rest. Holiness, holiness.
Jesus is calling you. Come, take My hand. I’ll lead you away from the wilderness land to a place full of goodness as far as you can see, but remember who brought you and be holy to Me.
Holiness, holiness. It’s not your food or drink. It’s not the way you dress. Holiness, holiness. It’s to hear the Lord and to answer Yes. Holiness, holiness. It’s the only life that the Lord can bless. For the people of God there remains a rest. Holiness, holiness.”

The importance of following the way of the Spirit is highlighted for us in the description of the new leader, Joshua. He is described as “a man in whom is the Spirit” (27:18). As we read, in the Book of Joshua, of Joshua’s leadership, we may be tempted to think that it was primarily a military leadership. This would, however, be a mistaken impression. Joshua was a spiritual leader, a man empowered by the Spirit of God, a man who led the people forward in the ways of God.

The spiritual character of Israel’s military exploits in the land of Canaan is made clear in 33:52. At the heart of Israel’s warfare was this holy purpose of giving worship to the one true God: “you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their figured stones, and destroy all their molten images, and demolish all their high places.”

Why were the inhabitants of the land to be driven out? Their whole life was bound up with idolatry. Why were the figured stones, molten images and high places to be destroyed? Worship was to be given to the Lord alone.

Joshua was a military leader because, first and foremost, he was a spiritual leader.

Numbers is a kind of “Old Testament in miniature”. It is a story of glorious victory - God leading His people into the promised Land. It is also a story of sad failure - God’s people preferring the old worldly way of life rather than the new life of the Spirit.

Here, we learn of the continuing conflict between the flesh and the Spirit – “the desires of the flesh are aginst the pirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh” (Galatians 5:17).

This is the conflict from which we are never free. To our dying day, we will face this conflict. If, however, we have begun to walk in the way of the Spirit, there will always be, within us, a longing for our promised future, our final deliverance from the world, the flesh and the devil.Numbers is incomplete. There is a looking forward to the Promised Land. The Old Testament is incomplete. There is a looking forward to the promised Saviour. Our earthly life is incomplete. There is a looking forward to our promised “eternal redemption”.

Looking Forward to the Promised Land

Beyond the wilderness, there was the Promised Land. Life would not be easy in the Promised Land. There were many battles to be fought.When we read of Israel’s warfare in the land of Canaan, there is both glorious victory and sad failure. God’s charge to Israel to drive out the heathen from Canaan was never completely obeyed. The contaminating influence of false religion was never entirely eradicated from the land of Canaan. This incomplete obedience hastened Israel’s religious apostacy and led, in time, to Israel being taken captive by the Babylonians. As we read on through the Old Testament, there is an increasing sense that God is leading us people on to something more wonderful than the Promised Land. Beyond the Promised Land, there is another promise. It is the promise of the Saviour and His “eternal redemption”.

Looking Forward to the Saviour

There is, in Numbers, a great deal of instruction regarding the sacrifices and feast of Israel. These sacrifices and feasts are full of prophetic significance, pointing forward to the Lord Jesus Christ for their fuller meaning. In the letter to the Hebrews, it is emphasized that our Lord Jesus Christ is both the Priest, who offers the sacrifice, and the Sacrifice which is offered.

In Hebrews, we learn that Jesus is the Great High Priest. He presents the Sacrifice to God His Father. The Sacrifice which He offers is the Sacrifice of Himself – “for all time a single sacrifice for sins” (10:12). As we study Hebrews, it becomes clear to us that we do not need to repeat the Old Testament sacrifices – “it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins” (10:4).

The testimony of the letter to the Hebrews may be summed up in the words of 9:11-12 – “When Christ appeared as a High Priest … He entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but His own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption”.

Looking Forward to our “Eternal Redemption”

As we read about the “eternal redemption”, secured by the shedding of the precious blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, we may turn, in Numbers, the Balaam / Balak passages (chapters 22-24) for a verse of Scripture which encourages us to believe that God will not let us down. He is faithful. He will fulfil His promise to us: “God is not a man, that He should lie, or a son of man that He should change His mind. Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not fulfil it?” (23:19).

In this important respect, God is very different from human beings. We make promises. Very often, we fail to keep them. God never breaks His promises. In Christ, He has provided an “eternal redemption”. He has promised that all who trust Christ will enjoy this “eternal redemption”. This is a great promise upon which can confidently take our stand. It is a promise given to us by the God who never fails to fulfil His promises.

We are “en route” to our “eternal redemption”. As we press on towards our heavenly destination, we require instruction on regarding the life of faith and obedience. Numbers gives us a great deal of detailed instruction concerning behaviour. We need not concern ourselves with all the details. We are not called to reproduce Old Testament Israel in the Church of today. We must, however, preserve the emphasis on holiness.

The New Testament – no less than the Old Testament – encourages us to “Strive … for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). Whatever differences the may be between the Old and New Testaments, there is complete agreement here: God’s people are to be a holy people.

Why should we spend time studying this obscure Old Testament book?

The answer to this question may be summed up in one sentence: “these things were written down for our instruction” (1 Corinthians 10:11).

What is the central message of Numbers for today’s Church?

Once again, a sentence from Paul gives us the answer to our question: “these things are warnings for us, not to desire evil as they did” (1 Corinthians 10:6).

“In the wilderness” – this is the Hebrew title of Numbers.

“In the wilderness” – this is the situation in which we are called to lives as disciples of Jesus Christ.

We are ‘en route’ to our eternal destiny, but we are not there yet. We have not arrived. We are still ‘in the wilderness’.

For us, no less than the ancient Israelites, the wilderness is a place of promise and a place of danger.

For them and for us, there is “good news” – “the promise of entering His rest” (Hebrews 4:1).

For them and for us, there is the danger of failing “to enter that rest”. For the older generation, always looking back wistfully to Egypt, the promise was not fulfilled because they did not believe: “the message which they heard did not benefit them, because it did not meet with faith in the hearers” (Hebrews 4:2). This is the danger that faces us -the danger of missing out on God’s blessing. The older generation of Israelites did not believe (Hebrews 4:2). They were disobedient (Hebrews 4:6). These things happened such a long time ago, yet they are filled with contemporary relevance.

There is never a “Today” when we do not need to hear these words: “Today, when you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 4:7). There will never be a “Today” when we can say, “I no longer need to hear the words, ‘Today, when you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts’ (Hebrews 4:7)”.

Every day is “the day of salvation”. Every day is the day in which God, in grace, mercy and love, is patiently looking for our response of faith – faith in Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord.

Having read about those who failed to reach the Promised Land, we must give careful attention to the Word of God when it says to us: “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience” (Hebrews 4:11).

We are aware of the many dangers which face us. Let us pray that we will be even more aware of the presence of the God who will bring us safely home to our eternal destiny: “O Jesus, I have promised to serve Thee to the end … O give me grace to follow my Master and my Friend”.

Some thoughts on preaching

“The bigger the truth we try to speak the smaller the words we should use, and the shorter the sentences” (Ian Pitt-Watson).
Good preaching does its hearers good. Our concern is not to impress people with our eloquence. Our goal is to direct attention away from ourselves to the Saviour. We should aim to be simple, sincere and spiritual.

God Loves Us. He Calls Us To Be His Faithful People.

Malachi 1:1-2:17  –  God looks upon us in our sin. What does He see? He sees ‘the Wicked Land. He sees ‘a people always under the wrath of the Lord’ (1:4). He looks at what Christ has done for us – ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’; ‘While we were still sinners, Christ died for us’; ‘Christ died for our sins’ (1 Timothy 1:15; Romans 5:8; 1 Corinthians 15:3). God looks upon us in Christ – and everything is so very different: ‘God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God’ (2 Corinthians 5:21). There, at the Cross of Christ, we hear God’s Word of love – ‘I have loved you’; ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love’ (1:2; Jeremiah 31:3).      

Malachi 3:1-4:6  –  God calls us to be His faithful people. He says, ‘Return to Me’. He promises to bless those who return to Him: ‘I will return to you’. God calls us to honour Him with our ‘tithes and offerings: ‘Bring the whole tithe (tenth) into the storehouse…’. When we honour the Lord, He has promised that He will honour us: ‘Those who honour Me, I will honour’. When we honour the Lord with our obedience, He promises that He will honour us with His blessing. He promises to ‘open the windows of heaven and pour down for us an overflowing blessing’. Satan – ‘the devourer’ – will be defeated. We will ‘serve God’. He will take ‘delight’ in us. We will be His ‘treasured possession’ (3:8-12,17-19; 1 Samuel 2:30).     
An additional note on tithing
After this article was posted, I received an important comment from
Dr Russell Kelly. Rather than posting Dr Kelly’s detailed comment on this blog, I have decided to add my own note. Dr Kelly has discussed, at length, the question, “Should the Church teach Tithing?”. He has reached the conclusion that “Tithing is not a Christian Doctrine”.
Also of interest is Stuart Murray’s book, “Beyond Tithing” (Paternoster Press, 2000). Murray adopts a similar position (though his exposition of Scripture is less detailed than Russ Kelly’s). In his discussion of Malachi 3:8-12, he writes, “Tithing is an important, although somewhat obscure component in the worship life and social legislation of the nation of Israel. Nothing more. … It is not a fundamental principle that can or should be transferred from its Old Testament context into the experience of Christians and churches today.” (p. 88).
I appreciate the work of Russ Kelly and Stuart Murray. I hope that, by adding this note, I have indicated that I am aware of the importance of taking great care in our interpretation of Malachi’s words regarding tithing. Whatever our answer to the question, “Should the Church teach Tithing?”, I hope that all of us will hear the words of Malachi as a call to consecrate ourselves fully to the Lord our God. 

The New Birth

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew (from above), he cannot see the Kingdom of God” (John 3:3).
(1) The absolute need of the new birth – because of sin (Romans 3:23);
(2) The Gospel basis for the new birth is the death of Christ for us (Titus 3:3-7).
(3) The indispensable condition for the new birth is personal faith in Christ (John 1:12-13).
(4) The spiritual character of the new birth – by the Spirit through the Word (1 Peter 1:23-25);
(5) The spiritual benefits of the new birth:
     (a) a child of God (Galatians 4:4-6);
     (b) a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17);
     (c) partaker of the divine nature (2 Peter 1;3-4);
     (d) sharing in Christ’s victory (1 John 5:4-5);
     (e) eternal life (1 John 5:11-12).

Saturday, 27 October 2018

Look at the rainbow. Look beyond the rainbow.

Genesis 9:8-17
We look at the rainbow. We see the love of God. We look beyond the rainbow. We look to the Cross. There, we see the supreme demonstration of the love of God. There, we see Jesus, suffering for us. His suffering is the suffering of love. It wasn't the nails that held Him to the Cross. It was His love for us that sent Him to the Cross. It was His love for us that kept Him on the Cross.

Worship Your Saviour.

The Lord comes to us as our Saviour - “When I said, ‘My feet are slipping’, Your mercy, O Lord, continued to hold me up. When I worried about many things, Your assuring words soothed my soul... The Lord has become my Stronghold. My God has become my Rock of refuge” (Psalm 94:18-19,22). We are to come to him as His worshippers - “Come, let’s sing joyfully to the Lord. Let’s shout happily to the rock of our salvation.Let’s come into His presence with a song of thanksgiving. Let’s come, let’s worship and bow down. Let’s kneel before the Lord, our Maker” (Psalm 95:6). “Sing to the Lord a new song! Sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord! Praise His Name!” (Psalm 96:1).

God’s Blessing .

“The Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake” (Genesis 39:5).
God’s blessing overflows. We go back to Genesis 39:2 – “the Lord was with Joseph.” God was blessing Joseph – and His blessing overflowed to others.

Praise the Lord.

“Praise the Lord” (Psalm 134:1). “Praise the Name of the Lord” (Psalm 135:1). “Give thanks to the Lord” (Psalm 136:1). God is calling us to worship Him. In a world where worshipping the Lord has been abandoned by so many people, it isn’t easy to keep on worshipping Him - “How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” (Psalm 137:4). Even though many people have stopped worshipping God, we must renew our commitment to Him: “I will give thanks to you with all my heart” (Psalm 138:1). “If no one joins, still I will worship. No turning back.”

"God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20).

Sometimes, when we’re going through the mill, it can be difficult to see God in the things that are happening to us – but that doesn’t mean that He isn’t there. It just means that we can’t see Him. We’re looking for Him, but we can’t find Him. Is He hiding from us? Is He trying to confuse us? No! He’s waiting in the background – “From a distance, God is watching us.” When we see nothing but clouds in our sky, we must keep on believing that the sun is waiting to shine. God is there. His Son is there. His Spirit is giving the strength that we need. There is light at the end of the tunnel. God is leading us out of our dark times. He’s leading us to the place, where we will see that He never left us. He was there all the time, leading us to the place where we will say, “God meant it for good.”

Lord, we thank You for the rainbow – It tells us that You love us!

Lord, we thank You for the rainbow – It tells us that You love us!
Sometimes, we see a rainbow. Do we wonder about it? Does it have a message for us? We look at the rainbow. Help us to look beyond the rainbow – to the Cross. There’s a great children’s song about the rainbow (it’s sung to the tune, “Early one morning just as the sun was rising … ). It’s a song about God’s love. “When you see a rainbow, remember God is love. When you see a rainbow, remember God is love. Yes, God is love. Yes, God is love. When you see a rainbow, remember God is love.” When the sun is rising … when the rainbow is in the sky … at all times of the day, help us to remember that You love us. Help us to look beyond the rising sun to the risen Son. Help us to look beyond the rainbow to the Cross: “upon the Cross we see, in shining letters, ‘God is love.’” Help us, when there’s no rainbow and there’s no sunshine, to keep on “singing the praise of Him who died, of Him who died upon the Cross” (Thomas Kelly).

When I was in trouble ...

We call upon the Lord, and He answers us - “When I was in trouble, I cried out to the Lord, and He answered me” (Psalm 120:1). The Lord is our Helper - “My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:2). We worship the Lord - “I was glad when they said to me, Let’s go to the House of the Lord” (Psalm 122:1). We put our trust in the Lord - “we depend on the Lord our God” (Psalm 123:2).

Thanks be to God!

“Our God is a God of victories. The Almighty Lord is our escape from death ... He gives strength and power to His people. Thanks be to God!” (Psalm 68:20,35). These words turn our thoughts to the great words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:57 - “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” This victory is the triumph of Christ, risen from the dead. The risen Christ - our Saviour and Lord - gives us victory over our greatest enemy - “death” (1 Corinthians 15:26). It is Christ’s triumph over the devil - “Jesus took on flesh and blood. He did this so that, by dying, He would destroy the one who had power over death (that is, the devil)”; “The reason that the Son of God appeared was to destroy what the devil does” (Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 3:8).

Praise and thanksgiving - to God

The Psalmist calls upon all of us to offer our praise and thanksgiving to God - "Shout happily to God, all the earth! Make music to praise the glory of His Name. Make His praise glorious" (Psalm 66:1-2). "Let everyone give thanks to You. Let the nations be glad and sing joyfully ... Let the people give thanks to You, O God. Let all the people give thanks to You" (Psalm 67:3,5).

Great Distress, Great Mercy

Out of a situation of great distress, the Psalmist prays to the Lord: “O God, out of the greatness of Your mercy, answer me with the truth of Your salvation” (Psalm 69:13). “Answer me, O Lord, because Your mercy is good. Out of your unlimited compassion, turn to me” (Psalm 69:16). “Let Your saving power protect me, O God” (Psalm 69:29). When God answers our  prayer for salvation, this is cause for much praise and thanksgiving: “I want to praise the Name of God with a song. I want to praise its greatness with a song of thanksgiving” (Psalm 69:30). “Let heaven and earth, the seas and everything that moves in them, praise Him” (Psalm 69:34).

Pain And Praise

The Psalmist is calling upon the Lord to be his “help and Saviour.” He is looking to the Lord for an immediate response - “Come quickly to rescue me, O God! Come quickly to help me, O Lord! ... O God, come quickly to me ... O Lord, do not delay” (Psalm 70:1,5). The Psalmist continues to pray for the Lord’s help: “”O God, do not be so distant from me, O my God, come quickly to me” (Psalm 71:12). In these prayers, we become aware of the Psalmist’s great pain. He speaks of “those who seek his life” and “want his downfall” (Psalm 70:2), his “enemies” who “talk about him” as “they watch him and plot to take his life” (Psalm 71:10). Through all his suffering, we see the light of faith shining brightly - “Because of Your faithfulness, O my God, even I will give thanks to You, as I play on a lyre. I will make music with a harp to praise You, O Holy One of Israel. My lips will sing with joy when I make music to praise You. My lips, which you have rescued, also will sing joyfully. My tongue will tell about Your righteousness all day long” (Psalm 71:22-24).

The Name Of Jesus

“May His Name endure forever. May His Name continue as long as the sun shines” (Psalm 72:17); “May He rule from sea to sea” (Psalm 72:8) - These words inspired the hymn, “Jesus shall reign ... “ The words of this Psalm find a glorious echo in the triumphant words of Philippians 2:9-11 - “At the Name of Jesus every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord.”

God Is Great.

“God is known in Judah. His name is great in Israel ... What god is as great as our God” (Psalm 76:1; Psalm 77:13). God is great. He’s greater than we can put into words, or even imagine. As we think of the greatness of God, we worship Him, singing, “How great Thou art”, “Great is Thy faithfulness.” To the Lord be all glory for all that He is, all that He has done for us, and all that He says to us.

Friday, 26 October 2018

When, Lord, we turn aside from Your Word ...

2 Kings 10:1-36
When, Lord, we turn aside from Your Word, we start to think that we’re quite all right – without You. This is what we think – and we’re wrong! We need to be reminded of what we really are: sinners who need to be saved – saved by You, saved for You. Lift us, Lord, out of what we are in ourselves – and into what You are making us by Your saving grace.

Eternal Life

John 3:16; John 10:10
What does it mean to have eternal life? There are two important dimensions in eternal life. There is life after death and there is life before death. There are a great many people who never give any thought to an after-life. The question, “Is there life after death?” rarely crosses their mind. they are content to live from day to day, taking each day as it comes. These people are, however, interested in another question: Is there life before death? When they hear of Jesus Christ, they ask, “Can He change my life here and now? Can He make a difference in my life right now? The Gospel answer to that question is an emphatic “Yes”. Jesus Christ does not only give us heaven. He give us new life here and now. The two sides of the life which Christ gives to us must be emphasized. There is life before death. Jesus calls this: “abundant life” (John 10:10). There is life after death. Here, Jesus speaks of “everlasting life” (John 3:16, Authorized Version).
Eternal life has a beginning, but it has no end. It begins when we come in faith to Jesus Christ to receive from Him the new life which He alone can give, the abundant life which is far better than life without Christ. Without Christ, life is empty. In Christ, there is abundant life. Apart from Christ, we have mere existence, just going on from day to day with no real sense of meaning, purpose and direction. With Christ, everything is different. This great change is well described in the words of the hymn: “What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought since Jesus came into my heart!” Jesus makes a difference here and now. He also gives us a life which has no end. This is also emphasized in this hymn: “I’m possessed of a hope that is steadfast and sure, since Jesus came into my heart!”
Eternal life is life with a new quality. It is life with an everlasting duration. When we think of the abundant quality of eternal life, we can testify with the hymnwriter: “All that thrills my soul is Jesus; He is more than life to me.” When we think of the everlasting duration of eternal life, we rejoice in these words from the hymn, “Amazing grace”: “When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we first begun.” When we read the words of our Lord Jesus Christ in John 10:28 – “I give them eternal life”, our hearts are filled with joy – the joy of the Lord. When we read the rest of the verse, our hearts are filled with even greater joy: “they shall never perish.” These are great words! The truth of Jesus’ promise is presented very effectively in a Gospel song: “He didn’t bring us this far to leave us. He didn’t teach us to swim to let us drown. He didn’t build His home in us to move away. He didn’t lift us up to let us down.” When we read the words, “they shall never perish”, we may be painfully aware of the many temptations which we face. we are aware of the Lord’s presence, but we are also aware of the activity of Satan. He is always seeking to snatch us out of the Lord’s hands. What does Jesus say to us about Satan? – “No one (not even Satan himself) shall snatch you out of My hand.”
Years ago, on a mission in Brodick, on the island of Arran, I heard an interesting song, the words of which have remained in my mind: “Why do Christians never turn back? They could, if they desired. Or, could it be that Christians are permanently fired with a love for a life they’ve found to be so real? They’ve found the perfect living in a God who is ideal for today.” Jesus has given us abundant life. When we are tempted to turn back from following Jesus, we find, in our hearts, an echo of the words of Peter: “Lord, to whom shall we go?You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Through faith in Jesus Christ, we look forward to life after death. Our sense of expectation is greatly increased by the marvellous fact that we have received life before death: “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine: O what a foretaste of glory divine!” Abundant life, here on earth, is a foretatse of life, in heavenly glory, with the Lord. We are not in heaven yet, but we have been heaven in our hearts, because we have Jesus in our hearts: “Heaven came down, and glory filled my soul, when, at the cross, the Saviour made me whole. My sins were washed away, and my night was turned to day. Heaven came down, and glory filled my soul.” It is a wonderful thing to know that eternal life has begun. It is an even more wonderful thing to know that it shall never end.
Many Christians have come to faith in Christ through a little booklet entitled, “Journey into Life.” This is a good description of what it means to become a Christian. Becoming a Christian means beginning a journey into life. this journey is a never-ending journey. The life, which Christ gives, is not only abundant life. It is also everlasting life. Have you begun the journey into life? If not, you can begin, today, your own personal journey into life. Let Jesus Christ lead you into this journey into life.

"The Word Made Flesh" - Then And Now

“The Word became flesh” then so that He might be made flesh in us now (John 1:14). 
The Son of God became “Emmanuel” (God with us) so that He might be “God with us” here-and-now.
“Jesus … has risen” (Matthew 28:5-6) – so that, as the living Christ, He might live in us.
Our faith is grounded in the great facts of the Gospel: The Word became flesh, Jesus has risen. The Saviour was born for us. He lived for us. He died for us. He rose for us.
All that He has done for us must become a powerful reality in us. This is the work of the Holy Spirit.
‘For us’ – we must never forget this. We do not jump straight to ‘In us.’
To those who speak of a inner spirituality which is not grounded in the historical reality of the great events of the Gospel, the Word of God says, “Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God” (1 John 4:2-3),  “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17).
There is no ‘Christ of faith’ without ‘the Jesus of history.” A ‘Christ of faith’ who is not also ‘the Jesus of history’ is very different from the Jesus Christ of the Bible.
‘In us’ – we must never forget this. We are not to rest content with a Jesus who belongs to a world that is both far away and long ago.
The Gospel does not leave us in the past. Jesus comes to us from the past. He comes as the living Saviour.

Saved By The Lord, Let Us Serve Him.

Salvation and service
* Salvation leads to service.
Those who have been saved by the Lord are to serve Him.
* Service arises out of salvation.
When we serve the Lord, we must never forget that we have been saved by Him.

* What God must do for us – He must save : “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16-17).
* What we must do for God – We must serve: “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8).

Jesus is “the light of the world” (John 8:12).

Life without Christ is very different from life with Christ. He is “the Light of the world” (John 8:12). When Christ shines His light into our hearts, the whole of life is so much brighter than it could ever be without Him. We could compare the world to a jigsaw. We don’t see the complete picture until we have all the pieces in place. For many people, Christ is “the missing piece.” He’s not just one small missing piece that doesn’t really matter very much if it’s not there. He is the Centre of everything. Take Him away, and everything else looks very different. Put Him in His proper place, at the centre of our life, and we begin to see the complete picture. Everything is centred on Him. When we see the whole of life in relation to Christ, our whole life starts to make sense in a way that it doesn’t when Christ is taken out of the picture.

We thank You, Lord, that You are greater than all our problems.

Deuteronomy 2:1-37
We thank You, Lord, that You are greater than all our problems. As we look back on the way You've led us, help us to say, "Grace brought me safe this far." As we look to You to lead us into the future, help us to say, "Grace will lead me home." Thank You, Lord for Your "amazing grace."

We thank You, Lord, that "we do not live by bread alone."

Deuteronomy 8:1-9:21
We thank You, Lord, that "we do not live by bread alone" (Deuteronomy 8:3). We need bread for the body. We also need Jesus, the Bread of Life (John 6:35). Help us, Lord, not to become too easily satisfied by the things of this world. Help us never to forget that we need Jesus. Without Him, there will always be something missing. With Him, there will be a new - eternal - sense of meaning, purpose and direction.

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Help us, Lord, to listen to You and live for You, to speak to You and speak for You.

Deuteronomy 9:22-10:22
Help us, Lord, to listen to You and live for You, to speak to You and speak for You. Help us to receive from You and respond to You. Help us not to get caught up in the "What do I get out of it?" way of thinking. Help us to ask the more important question: "How can I give myself more fully to You, Lord?"

Lord, You give us Your promises and Your warnings.

Deuteronomy 11:1-32
Lord, You give us Your promises and Your warnings. You show us the better way - and You say to us, "Make sure that You don't go back to the old way of living, back to the world's way of living, back to the way of life that will never satisfy."

Who chooses what is important to us?

Deuteronomy 12:1-32
Who chooses what is important to us? Is it You, Lord? or Are we the ones who are in control?  Help us, Lord, not to pay lip-service to You - without really opening our hearts to You and giving You first place in our lives.

Lord, You call us to belong to You.

Deuteronomy 14:22-15:23
Lord, You call us to belong to You. This is wonderful. It makes our hearts glad. You also call us to serve You. We're not to remain what we were before we became Your redeemed people. We're to be renewed - "beholding the glory of the Lord, we are being changed into His likeness from one degree of glory to another" (2 Corinthians 3:18).

By Your grace, Lord, You call us to be Your soldiers and servants.

Deuteronomy 19:1-20:9
By Your grace, Lord, You call us to be Your soldiers and servants. Help us not to be "fearful and fainthearted" (Deuteronomy 19:19). Help us to be "good soldiers of Jesus Christ" (2 Timothy 2:3). When we hear your challenging question: "Who is on the Lord's side?", may we give our committed answer: "By Thy call of mercy, by Thy grace divine, we are on the Lord's side; Saviour, we are Thine."

Lord, we are surrounded by so many temptations.

Exodus 13:17-14:31
Lord, we are surrounded by so many temptations. We cannot avoid this. There's no getting away from it. It's part-and-parcel of our life in this world. What are we to do when temptation comes our way? What are we to do when we feel the powerful pull of the world, drawing us away from You? Lord, help us to turn to You. Help us to renew our strength - in You.

We think, Lord, of Your redemption, and our hearts are filled with thanksgiving - and hope.

Exodus 15:1-21
We think, Lord, of Your redemption, and our hearts are filled with thanksgiving - and hope. We think - and we thank. we look back on all that You have done for us, and we say, "Thank You, Lord." Give us the spirit of thanksgiving, the attitude of gratitude - and, with it, give us the confidence to face the future, knowing that it is more than our future. It is Your future for us.

Lord, it's not easy to keep on praying, "Your will be done."

Judges 17:1-18:13
Lord, it's not easy to keep on praying, "Your will be done." Our will gets in the way. We start thinking about what we want - and we forget about what You want. We try to get the best of both worlds - pleasing You and pleasing ourselves. We become "lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God" (2 Timothy 3:4). Help us to become more like Jesus; "I seek not My own will but the will of Him who sent Me" (John 5:30).

Monday, 22 October 2018

We come to You, Lord, in our weakness, and You ‘renew our strength.’

Psalm 110:1-7 
‘The Lord says to my Lord: ‘Sit at My right hand...’(Psalm 110:1). Lord, we read these words, and we think of our Lord Jesus Christ: When ‘He was taken up into heaven, He sat at the right hand of God’(Mark 16:19). When Jesus ascended to Your Father’s right hand, the Holy Spirit was sent down from heaven to fill our lives with Your blessing (John 7:37-39). Through the power of the Holy Spirit, our lives are changed: ‘In the Day of Your power, Your people will come to You willingly...’. We come to You, Lord, in our weakness, and You ‘renew our strength’. We come to You in our weariness, and we are ‘refreshed’ by Your ‘streams of living water’(Psalm 110,7). ‘Come, Thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing Thy grace. Streams of mercy never ceasing call for songs of loudest praise.’

Lord, Your Word makes such a difference!

Psalm 119:49-72 
Lord, Your Word makes such a difference! When everything seems so hopeless, we turn to Your Word,  and we find that there is ‘hope’ (Psalm 119:49). When we are going through a time of  terrible ‘suffering’, we turn to Your Word, and we find ‘comfort’ (Psalm 119:50,52). When everything seems to be going so badly, help us, Lord, to keep on reading Your Word: ‘The wicked have laid a trap for me, but I do not forget Your law’ (Psalm 119:61). Through Your Word, You are teaching us to see Your purpose in our sufferings: ‘The punishment You gave me was the best thing that could have happened to me, for it taught me to pay attention to Your laws’ (Psalm 119:71). You, Lord, are showing us what is really important: ‘The law that You gave means more to me than all the money in the world’ (Psalm 119:72). Teach us to see Your ‘love’ in every part of our life (Psalm 119:64).

The Lord's Great Love

Psalm 89:1-37
‘I will sing of the Lord’s great love for ever; with my mouth I will make known Your faithfulness through all generations’(Psalm 89:1). Lord, we read these words from so long ago. Many generations have come and gone since these words were written. The years come and go. The centuries run their course. One generation gives way to another generation. Time moves on relentlessly. None of us can halt the march of time. Many changes have taken place over the course of time. We thank You, Lord, that there is something that has never changed – Your great love for us. As we think of Your great love, may we say, in our hearts – The Lord is to be praised ‘for ever.’ He is to be praised ‘through all generations.’ Help us to look back and remember that Jesus Christ was crucified for us, that  He has risen for us. We thank You, Lord, for the Good News which inspires our praise: ‘I will sing of the Lord’s great love for ever…’

Keep On Worshipping The Lord.

" And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good works, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the ...