Mercy and Not Sacrifice? #4

Monday, September 9, 2013

“But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day” (Matthew 12:7,8 KJV).

What did our Lord mean in today’s Scripture?

Genesis 2:1-3, Exodus 20:8-11, and Hebrews 4:3-11 explain how the Sabbath day (the day of God’s “rest”) was the sign of God’s earthly kingdom (God’s “rest”). Psalm 132:5,8,13,14, the words of King David, enlighten: “Until I find out a place for the LORD, an habitation for the mighty God of Jacob…. Arise, O LORD, into thy rest; thou, and the ark of thy strength…. For the LORD hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation. This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it.”

The Sabbath-day rest reminded Israel of God’s original purpose in creation, and her role in His plan to reclaim the earth. Had Adam not sinned, God’s earthly kingdom would have been established 6,000 years ago with Adam and Eve. God created the nation Israel to do what Adam failed to do in the earth, but Israel too fell into sin, so again, God’s earthly kingdom was postponed. That earthly kingdom was in David’s mind when he sought to build the Temple, God’s house (Psalm 132 in the previous paragraph, and note how God declared, “This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it.”).

Unfortunately, 600 years after David, at the close of the “Old Testament” Scriptures, sinful Israel has been scattered among the nations, JEHOVAH’S glory has left the Temple, and the Temple has been utterly destroyed. For the next 400 years, God is silent toward Israel (John the Baptist’s ministry breaks that silence).

When we come to the context of today’s Scripture, we find Jesus Christ, the LORD of Psalm 132, now come to His nation Israel. The mighty JEHOVAH has now arrived in human flesh to offer Himself as their King, to usher in that kingdom whose establishment has been repeatedly interrupted by sin.

The Pharisees, blinded by their religious fervor, fail to see Jesus as “Lord of the sabbath day….”

A Party Invitation to Ignore

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

“And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me” (Ruth 1:20 KJV).

Discard this invitation to Naomi’s self-pity party!

The Jewess Naomi, her husband Elimelech, and their two sons Mahlon and Chilion leave Bethlehemjudah due to famine, and they travel to Moab (on the opposite [or eastern] side of the Dead Sea). There, Elimelech dies, and Mahlon and Chilion intermarry with the Moabites. About ten years later, Mahlon and Chilion pass away, leaving widowed Naomi with two daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah, also widowed.

When Naomi hears the news that God has provided food for His people in Bethlehemjudah, she decides to leave Moab and return home. Naomi instructs her two daughters-in-law to return to their (pagan) families, for she is returning to Bethlehem. However, Ruth 1:16 says, “And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:”

Ruth accompanies Naomi back to Bethlehemjudah, and when the townspeople recognize Naomi, they ask in Ruth 1:19, “Is this Naomi?” Naomi replies, “Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me” (today’s Scripture). She has lost her husband and both sons, and is thus poverty-stricken, so she feels sorry for herself. Naomi (“pleasant”) prefers to be called “Mara,” Hebrew for “bitter.” Like many today, she is hurt and resentful, angry with God and blaming Him for her troubles. She cannot see with the eyes of faith—JEHOVAH has used her to rescue a former pagan (Ruth) from idolatry! God, for His own purposes, has used “poor” Naomi to reach out to lost Gentile Ruth.

Centuries after Naomi’s passing, we see her pity party was unjustified. Ruth 4:13-22 verifies Ruth became the mother of Obed, who was the father of Jesse, who was the father of King David, and King David was… the ancestor of Jesus Christ (Luke 1:32). Who is Naomi? Someone God used to establish the bloodline of Jesus Christ via Ruth!

A Vegetable Garden Worth Defending

Monday, April 8, 2013

“And after him was Shammah the son of Agee the Hararite. And the Philistines were gathered together into a troop, where was a piece of ground full of lentiles: and the people fled from the Philistines. But he stood in the midst of the ground, and defended it, and slew the Philistines: and the LORD wrought a great victory” (2 Samuel 23:11,12 KJV).

Why did Shammah passionately fight for such seemingly insignificant real estate?

The Bible says very little about this Sammah, but here is the description that God’s Word gives him. Firstly, he was one of King David’s “mighty men,” a brave man of war who served David (verses 8-39). Secondly, he engaged in a battle that, to us, seems ridiculous, but to Israel, was highly significant.

In today’s Scripture, we read of one of Israel’s many battles with the Philistines, a group of Gentiles who lived in the land of Canaan along the southeastern coastline of the Mediterranean Sea. The Philistines have gathered together where there is “a piece of ground full of lentiles.” A lentil is a bean plant that is grown for its seeds. In other words, the Philistine soldiers are standing near a vegetable garden, and Israel has fled in fear!

Shammah, however, literally stood his ground. He defended that “pea patch,” and killed these Philistine soldiers. Again, we ask, why would this mighty man of David passionately fight for a bean plant garden?

We find the answer back in Genesis 15:18, what we call the Palestinian Covenant: “In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates.” Circa 2100–2000 B.C., the God of heaven and earth gave the title deed of the Promised Land—much of the Middle East—to Abraham (later, to Abraham’s son Isaac, and Isaac’s son Jacob).

Even if it was a simple garden of beans, Shammah was willing to die for that holy land God had given his people—he was not about to let pagan Philistines have it! (Interestingly, the names “Palestine” and “Philistine” are etymologically related.)

The Spirit of God and the Word of God #5

Saturday, March 23, 2013

“Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth, comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Corinthians 2:13 KJV).

As today’s Scripture demonstrates, the Spirit of God never operates apart from the Word of God.

In the Old Testament, King David said, “The Spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue” (2 Samuel 23:2).

The Apostle Peter wrote of the Old Testament prophets: “Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ, which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow” (1 Peter 1:10,11).

Peter elaborates in 2 Peter 1:20,21: “Knowing this first, that no scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”

In Bible days, there were both preaching prophets and writing prophets. Some would speak forth God’s Word (Elijah, Elisha, et al.), others wrote it (David, Joel, et al.), and some prophets spoke it and wrote it (Daniel, Jeremiah, et cetera). Regardless of their ministry, it was the same Holy Spirit working in all of God’s prophets. This is true in both the Old and New Testament Scriptures.

When speaking of the spiritual gifts, 1 Corinthians 12:4,8,9,11 say: “Now there are many diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit…. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;… But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally [individually] as he will.”

The Holy Spirit gave believers spiritual gifts to further God’s Word before it was written down. Let us see how the Holy Ghost works today in light of the written, completed Holy Bible….

Let the LORD’s Saints Bless Him

Monday, March 18, 2013

“All thy works shall praise thee, O LORD; and thy saints shall bless thee” (Psalm 145:10 KJV).

Saints, bless the LORD!

Today’s Scripture is an excerpt from King David’s “psalm of praise.” The LORD had certainly been good to David: He had brought him countless military victories, He had appointed him as king over Israel, and He had guaranteed him that his royal bloodline would last forever (through Jesus Christ).

David certainly witnessed countless miraculous demonstrations of JEHOVAH. A poor, lowly shepherd boy from Bethlehem, turned out to be the most famous king of Israel, and one of the most well-known Bible characters—a miracle of the LORD in and of itself!

We members of the Church the Body of Christ can relate to David and the other ancient Jewish believers. We can join them in “blessing” (praising) the LORD. Just as God did wonderful things for them, He has done equally magnificent things for us. In fact, we are one of those magnificent works of the LORD!

Firstly, God Almighty has given us breath, for without it, we would not have physical life: “[He] neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things (Acts 17:25). Secondly, when we trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as our personal Saviour, God Almighty made us “new creatures in Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:17): He has also given us spiritual life! That life is to produce fruit: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

Dear saints, remember, praising our Lord does not merely involve our lips, but our lifestyles too! When we walk by faith in the sound Pauline doctrine found in God’s Word, we are worshipping Jesus Christ, for that doctrine is His life. The Holy Spirit uses that doctrine to manifest that life in and through us. Let us praise the Lord that He would even let us—His former enemies—participate in accomplishing His marvelous will. Let us bless the Lord, not only with our lips, but with our lives! 🙂

Bethlehem of Judaea

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

“But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2 KJV).

Today’s Scripture, written about 700 B.C., prophesies the exact birthplace of Israel’s Messiah.

Notice the Bible is very specific: “Bethlehem Ephratah pinpoints the Bethlehem in southern Israel (there was another Bethlehem, in Galilee, northern Israel). Bethlehem of Judaea, as today’s Scripture teaches, is “little among the thousands of Judah” (a little-known village).

The Bible tells us that Bethlehem Ephratah was the birthplace of King David (1 Samuel 16:1-18). John 7:42 reads: “Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was?” Jesus Christ will inherit His father David’s throne, and David is a type/preview/shadow of Christ (Isaiah 9:6,7; Luke 1:31-33). Thus, they share Bethlehem Ephratah as their birthplace (cf. Luke 2:4).

“Bethlehem” is an interesting term. Jesus Christ likened Himself to the manna of the Old Testament. He claimed, “For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world…. I am that bread of life: I am the bread which came down from heaven…. I am that bread of life” (John 6:33,35,41,48). Jesus was born in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1,5,6): “Bethlehem” is Hebrew for “house of bread.” Thus, the “Bread of Life,” Jesus Christ, was born in the “House of Bread,” Bethlehem. Fascinating!

Furthermore, Joseph (Jesus’ legal father) lived in Nazareth. When Roman emperor Caesar Augustus sent out a decree for taxing the people of the empire (conducting a census), Joseph had to leave Nazareth and go to Bethlehem of Judaea, taking pregnant Mary with him (Luke 2:1-5). Christ was born there in Bethlehem. Some 700 years beforehand, the Bible knew Joseph and Mary would not be in Nazareth for Christ’s birth, but in Bethlehem, thereby fulfilling the prophecy of today’s Scripture. Amazing!

These are evidences that the Bible is a supernatural Book—indeed, it is God’s Book.

Perfect Timing

Sunday, December 16, 2012

“But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Galatians 4:4,5 KJV).

As today’s Scripture indicates, the birth of Jesus Christ was no accident—God planned its exact moment from eternity past.

When God placed the first man, Adam, on earth, He purposed that man would “subdue [control] it,” to “have dominion” over it and everything on it (Genesis 1:28). Nevertheless, Adam sinned by joining Satan in his rebellion against God. Because of sin, man was now unable to accomplish on earth what God originally created him to do. God left the human race a promise, however, that there would come a Man, who would do what Adam failed to do. Instead of cooperating with God’s adversary like Adam had, this “seed of the woman” would “bruise [Satan’s] head” (Genesis 3:15).

As we travel up through the Scriptures, we note how God lays the groundwork for that seedline. In Genesis 12:1-3, or 2,000 years after Adam’s sin, we read God’s covenant with Abraham, that through Abraham a nation, Israel, will be born, and salvation and blessing will flow to the Gentiles through Israel. The seed of the woman has now become the seed of Abraham (Galatians 3:16).

In 2 Samuel 7:12-16, and 1,000 years after Abraham, we read of God’s covenant with King David, that “his seed” will inherit his throne and reign forever. Now the seed of the woman and the seed of Abraham is the seed of David.

About 1,000 years after David, Matthew 1:1 speaks of Christ’s birth, and declares, “…Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” This is exactly what God had promised for thousands of years!

Jesus Christ’s birth was not some haphazard event of nature. God the Father had preplanned the exact moment of the incarnation of His Son, Jesus Christ (today’s Scripture). Over a period of some 4,000 years, the three members of the Godhead worked to bring about the birth of man’s Redeemer, a plan they had even before man was created! Amazing!