Their Ebenezer, Our Ebenezer

Monday, January 5, 2015

“Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, Hitherto hath the LORD helped us” (1 Samuel 7:12 KJV).

Thankfully, Israel’s “Ebenezer” is our “Ebenezer” as well.

After some 20 years of pagan idol worship (verses 1,2), and at the order of Samuel the judge, priest, and prophet, “the children of Israel did put away Baalim and Ashtaroth, and served the LORD only” (verses 3,4). They had finally put their trust in the living and true God and renounced their dead, worthless, Canaanite idols. As Samuel promised them, JEHOVAH would now deliver them from the hands of their enemies the Philistines (just as He promised through Moses centuries before in Deuteronomy 28:1,2,7,14,15,25,49-58).

Samuel instructed all of Israel to gather and meet with him at Mizpeh (about 5 miles, or 8 kilometers, northwest of Jerusalem). There, he prayed for them to the LORD, confessing their national sin of idolatry; they then confessed their national sin, and let Samuel guide them into God’s truth (verses 5,6). The Philistines hear of Israel’s congregating in Mizpeh, and they go out to fight the Jews; Israel hears the news and grows afraid (verse 7). Israel is now wavering in their confidence in their God; they have lapsed into unbelief, forgetting His promise to help them win. The Jews beg Samuel to pray for them, that they may be delivered from the Philistines (verse 8).

Thus, Samuel offers a sucking (nursing) lamb by fire unto the LORD, and the LORD hears Samuel’s intercession for Israel (verse 9). As Samuel offers the burnt offering, the Philistines are coming closer, and JEHOVAH strikes them with a great thunder, confusing them, and Israel defeats the Philistines, never harassing Israel again during all of Samuel’s days!

Today’s Scripture states that Samuel thus set a stone between Mizpeh and Shen, and called it “Ebenezer,” from the Hebrew eben (“stone”) and ezer (“help”). That stone symbolized JEHOVAH, Israel’s “stone of help.” We are thus mindful of Paul’s words: “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31b). Saints, no matter what happens in life, we have complete, total victory in Lord Jesus Christ, our “Ebenezer!”

Hophni, Phinehas, and the Millennials

Friday, October 24, 2014

“Now Eli was very old, and heard all that his sons did unto all Israel; and how they lay with the women that assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And he said unto them, Why do ye such things? for I hear of your evil doings by all this people” (1 Samuel 2:22,23 KJV).

What a striking parallel to our 21st century world!

Born between 1980 and 2000, some 80 million Americans are called the “Millennials” (or “Generation Y”), and most of them are very skeptical of organized religion (as compared to their parents). In layman’s terms, many of them have very little to no time for anything “religious” or “spiritual.” Hence, Bible-believing Christians have raised concern as to the direction of our society once older generations have expired. The next few decades will be interesting indeed, to say the least!

Many grim news stories of which we hear and read involve the Millennials—drug and alcohol abuse, promiscuousness, abortions, gang violence, college riots, murder, warped political insight, et cetera. However, regarding the many who complain about the Millennials’ defiant and outlandish lifestyles, I always wonder how many ever attempted to impact those Millennials with God’s Word. Just think, had more parents spent as little as five minutes (!) with their Millennials over an open Bible, telling them how to be saved from their sins by simple faith in Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork, there would be fewer Millennials to arrest, imprison, indict, convict, and sentence to death!

Frankly, the priest Eli asked a very foolish question in today’s Scripture. He inquired why his sons, also priests, behaved so wickedly. According to the Scriptures, it was not until they were well into adulthood (actually, roughly the age of the Millennials!) that he—a “very old man!”—reprimanded their habitual, ungodly behavior (1 Samuel 2:22-25; cf. verses 12-17). We need not wonder why Hophni and Phinehas acted like they did!

Dear saints, the Millennials (including me!) need God’s Word more than ever. They are now adults, but God’s Word can penetrate even the most callous heart. May we be there to show them the Holy Bible when they realize they need answers to the mess in which they are! 🙂

Aerial Attack! #4

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

And let it be, when thou hearest the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees, that then thou shalt bestir thyself: for then shall the LORD go out before thee, to smite the host of the Philistines(2 Samuel 5:24 KJV).

Some 3,000 years ago, Israel had aerial military support, and it is only a preview of the “fighter jets” yet to come!

Just as David and Israel’s army heard their God flying overhead to defend them against the Philistines (today’s Scripture), so Israel and her enemies will hear similar rushing or marching sounds above, as Jesus Christ returns to planet Earth to defend Israel and defeat her adversaries, abolish Satan’s evil world system, redeem Israel from sin and death, and establish His literal, physical, visible, earthly kingdom. While the Apostle John merely summarized Christ’s Second Coming in Revelation 19:11-21, the Old Testament prophets detailed it.

Consider Jeremiah 23:19,20: “Behold, a whirlwind of the LORD is gone forth in fury, even a grievous whirlwind: it shall fall grievously upon the head of the wicked. The anger of the LORD shall not return, until he have executed, and till he have performed the thoughts of his heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it perfectly” (cf. Jeremiah 30:22-24).

Read the Prophet Zechariah’s words that speak of Messiah’s coming to save Israel: “[14] And the LORD shall be seen over them, and his arrow shall go forth as the lightning: and the Lord GOD shall blow the trumpet, and shall go with whirlwinds of the south. [15] The LORD of hosts shall defend them; and they shall devour, and subdue with sling stones; and they shall drink, and make a noise as through wine; and they shall be filled like bowls, and as the corners of the altar. [16] And the LORD their God shall save them in that day as the flock of his people: for they shall be as the stones of a crown, lifted up as an ensign upon his land” (9:14-16).

In addition to whishing sounds (due to whirlwinds, violent air movements caused by Jesus Christ passing through Earth’s atmosphere), a consuming fire will precede the King of kings as He returns for battle….

Iniquity Not Yet Full #2

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

“But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full” (Genesis 15:16 KJV).

Today’s Scripture expressly declares why the God of the Bible “takes His time” when dealing with sinful mankind.

The God of the Bible is very orderly; He is organized and does not act on haphazard whims. On one hand, His justice demands that sin be punished in full, and His wrath inflicts a punishment to satisfy His offended righteousness (ultimately, everlasting hellfire, banished from His presence forever). On the other hand, His mercy, love, and grace provide a means so that the sinner can escape that wrath via substitutionary atonement (ultimately, the sinner can come by faith alone in Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork, where Christ suffered God’s wrath on our behalf, and be accepted of God). Whether operating in wrath or in grace, the God of the Bible is completely fair and wise in every deed.

Certain limits must be breached before God’s wrath falls on the sinner, and while only God Himself knows those parameters, the entire Bible’s canon demonstrates that this is how He deals with wicked humanity. For example, consider three major events of sin in the book of Genesis:

  • God could have destroyed Adam and Eve immediately after they sinned; however, He responded to them in mercy and grace, seeking them while they hid from Him, and then killing animals to cover them physically with those skins, as well as clothe them spiritually with animals’ blood (a type of Jesus’ blood which was shed millennia later) (Genesis 3:21).
  • Before the Great Flood of Noah’s Day, some 1,700 years after creation, God gave sinful mankind 120 years to straighten up (Genesis 6:3), and then His judgment came and swept them all away (excluding Noah and his family on the ark)!
  • It was not until Sodom and Gomorrah had reached their limit of sin that God finally sent two angels to destroy those two wicked cities (Genesis 18:20,21; Genesis 19:13).

Let us continue skimming the Scriptures for other instances of the longsuffering, yea, the patience, of God…

Heart Service #11

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

“But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you” (Romans 6:17 KJV).

Today’s Scripture is the key to being delivered from and guarded against today’s apostate Christendom.

Christendom’s greatest blunder has been to willfully disregard Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon, and prefer other Bible books and/or extra-Biblical church tradition. Beloved, once we abandon Paul’s epistles, we have nothing but the Bible’s legalistic (Law-keeping) passages—almsgiving, food restrictions, water baptism, fasting, tithing, prosperity prayer promises, confession of sins, Sabbath-day and feast-day observances, et cetera—the very practices and ceremonies Christendom loves. No wonder Christendom avoids Paul—the doctrine God revealed through him does not profit their denominations (yea, that doctrine would literally bankrupt their systems instead)!

In the books of Romans through Philemon, Paul, “the apostle of the Gentiles” (Romans 11:13), tells us what the risen, ascended, and glorified Lord Jesus Christ has to say to us on this side of Calvary’s cross (not in the Old Testament); in this, the Dispensation of Grace (not the Dispensation of Law); as members of this, the Church the Body of Christ (not the nation Israel); in this, the mystery program (not the prophetic program); and in this, God’s heavenly plan (not His earthly plan). Dispensational Bible study—“rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15)—allows us to recognize the passages that describe how the Christian life operates today.

Just as we trusted Paul’s Gospel—Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection as the fully-satisfying payment for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3,4)—to be saved from everlasting hellfire, so we trust in it to be saved from daily sins. When Jesus Christ resurrected, He was raised to give us new life, eternal life (Romans 6:1-23, the context of today’s Scripture), life “filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:11). We are righteous before God in Christ; by Jesus Christ’s resurrection life, God will produce fruit in our lives to reflect that identity. The indwelling Holy Spirit is the Person who (literally!) “brings to life” the life of Jesus Christ in our lives….

Holy Land to Go

Monday, April 21, 2014

And Naaman said, Shall there not then, I pray thee, be given to thy servant two mules’ burden of earth? for thy servant will henceforth offer neither burnt offering nor sacrifice unto other gods, but unto the LORD” (2 Kings 5:17 KJV).

What valuable lesson did Naaman learn before he desired to have some Holy Land “to go?”

Captain of the Syrian army, Naaman (a Gentile, non-Jew), is “a mighty man in valour [courage, heroism]” and “a leper” (suffering from a skin disease) (verse 1). When Naaman hears of a prophet (Elisha) in Israel who can heal him of his disease, the king of Syria permits Naaman to visit the land of Israel (verses 2-9). Naaman arrives at Elisha’s home to hear some rather strange advice: he is to wash in the (filthy) Jordan River seven times and be healed of JEHOVAH (verses 10,11). Naaman questions, “Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage” (verse 12). Upset and disappointed, Naaman refuses to go to Jordan.

A servant of Naaman reasons with him, encouraging him to obey God’s Word through Elisha (verse 13). Naaman finally goes to the Jordan River, still thinking Israel’s God is quite bizarre. “Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean” (verse 14).

Naaman, utterly shocked, returns to give Elisha a gift, but the prophet refuses (verses 15,16). Representative of the few Gentiles who have faith in Israel’s God, Naaman confesses, “Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel.” Earlier, recall that Naaman said Syria’s rivers were better than all of Israel’s bodies of waters (verse 12). After his healing, Naaman recognized JEHOVAH, Israel’s God, was the one true God (today’s Scripture). He learned that the land of Israel was unique because the God of Israel was incomparable. In fact, he asked if he could take two loads of Israel’s holy soil back home to Syria!

Bible Study 101 #13

Friday, January 17, 2014

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15 KJV).

The only verse that tells you to study the Bible also tells you how to study the Bible!

Religious tradition has completely destroyed the clarity of the rightly divided Word of God. Hence, many apostasies and heresies (denominations, sects, cults, et cetera) afflict Christendom. By following what God did in the past, we are not doing what God is doing today, and if we are not doing God’s will today, then Satan’s work is accomplished. Thus, dispensational Bible study is critical to understanding God’s plan of salvation for today as well as recognizing his plan for the Christian today.

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16). All of the Bible is God’s Word, so we study all 66 books of the King James Bible (Genesis to Revelation). But, unlike most churches and professing Christians, we study the entire Bible according to the “revelation of the mystery” (in light of Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon; Romans 16:25,26).

We must stop grabbing and claiming Israel’s verses (Genesis through Malachi, Matthew through John, early Acts, and Hebrews through Revelation), and we must get into the meat of the Scriptures written to us (Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon). All of the Bible is for us, but not all of the Bible is to us or about us (remember, most of Scripture is written to and is about the nation Israel, not us). We follow God’s design for Christian edification, and we seek God’s approval, not man’s approval (today’s Scripture).

When studying a particular Bible passage, you first need to establish the following, in this order:

  1. who is writing/speaking,
  2. to whom are they writing, and
  3. what are they writing.

Again, remember that Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon, are what God has to say to you, and the rest of the Bible deals with another program, Israel’s program. If Paul does not instruct you to do it, then God does not expect you to practice it in your life. This is the key to doing God’s will for you….