Last year I started the blog series “Who Is Jesus” (see the Categories list in the righthand column of the blog). In the first post of the series ( “Who Is Jesus? Really”) I said that there are 200 or so names and titles that give us insight into Jesus’ character. Those names include Christ, Alpha and Omega, Son of man, the Lamb of God, Lion of Judah, and others. However In all my writing I have never written about the name Jesus which is the Hebrew name Savior. I wrote that Jesus is our Savior but never what the name itself means.
In my reading today I read this excerpt adapted from J. C. Ryke’s Gospel of Matthew,
What Does the Name of Jesus Mean?
J. C. Ryle
The name Jesus means "Savior." It is the same name as Joshua* in the Old Testament.
It is given to our Lord because "He saves His people from their sins." This is His special role. He saves them from the guilt of sin, by cleansing them in His own atoning blood. He saves them from the dominion of sin by putting in their hearts the sanctifying Spirit. He saves them from the presence of sin, when He takes them out of this world to rest with Him. He will save them from all the consequences of sin, when He shall give them a glorious body at the last day.
Jesus is a very encouraging name to weighted-down sinners. He, who is the King of kings and the Lord of lords, might lawfully have taken some more high-sounding title. But He does not do so. The rulers of this world have often called themselves great, conquerors, bold, magnificent, and the like. The Son of God is content to call Himself Savior. Those seeking salvation may draw near to the Father with boldness, and have access with confidence through Christ. It is His role and His delight to show mercy. "For God didn't send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through him" (John 3:17).
Jesus is a name, which is especially sweet and precious to believers. It has often done them good. It has given them what money cannot buy - that is, inward peace. It has eased their wearied consciences and given rest to their heavy hearts. The Song of Solomon describes the experience of many, when it says, "Your name is oil poured forth" (Song of Solomon 1:3). Happy is the person who trusts not merely in vague notions of God's mercy and goodness, but in "Jesus."
Adapted from The Gospel of Matthew by J.C. Ryle (Chapter 1).
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*Editor’s Note: The English name "Joshua" is a rendering of the Hebrew language "Yehoshua", meaning "Yahweh is salvation".The vocalization of the second name component may be read as Hoshea—the name used in the Torah before Moses added the divine name (Numbers 13:16).
"Jesus" is the English derivative of the Greek transliteration of "Yehoshua" via Latin. In the Septuagint, all instances of the word "Yehoshua" are rendered as "Ἰησοῦς" (Iēsoūs), the closest Greek pronunciation of the Aramaic: ישוע Yeshua, Nehemiah 8:17). Thus, in Greek, Joshua is called "Jesus son of Naue" (τοῦ Ναυή) to differentiate him from Jesus Christ. This is also true in the Slavic languages following the Eastern Orthodox tradition (e.g. "Иисус Навин" (Iisús Navín) in Bulgarian and Russian). From Wikipedia
The Greek name Yehoshua or Ἰησοῦς is mentioned three times in the Septuagint. They are Joshua, Justus (Colossians 4:11 NLT Jesus (the one we call Justus) also sends his greetings. These are the only Jewish believers among my co-workers; they are working with me here for the Kingdom of God. And what a comfort they have been! ), and Jesus Christ.
Last year I wrote the post “That’s Not In The Bible - God Will Never Give You More Than You Can Bear”. In it I said that God will absolutely allow you to go through things that you can’t bear. He doesn’t give them but He does allow them. It’s also clear that God doesn’t expect any person to handle everything that comes to them alone. The Scriptures never say that God won’t give you more that you can handle what they do say is that if you trust God He will be with you through whatever is happening.
Here is an excerpt from that post;
We know how great a true follower of Jesus Paul was yet he faced trials and tribulations all the time, and at one time he admitted that, by himself, he couldn’t take it anymore.
2 Corinthians 1:8-10 (NKJV)8 For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life.9 Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead,10 who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us,
Let’s admit it we sometimes hurt so much that it is more than we can bear. There is a quote by Dr. Howard Hendricks, “Sometimes life gets so tough that you don’t just hit rock bottom - you crash through it”. Tough times come with living we can’t get around it and we’re not exempt from them.
The reality of Scripture is that God allows us to experience trials, tribulations, and hardships, sometimes even greater than we can bear by ourselves in order to push us toward true faith and submission.
James 1:2-8 (NKJV)2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.7 For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
The way you bear the burdens that come on you speaks volumes about your faith and commitment to trusting God. Paul, that great follower of Jesus asked, no pleaded, three times for God to take a burden from him. God’s answer wasn’t you can bear it Paul because I wouldn’t put more on you than you can bear. His answer was;
2 Corinthians 12:7-9 (NKJV)7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.9 And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
So rather than the phrase being “God will never give you more than you can bear” it really should be “The world and Satan will give you more than you can bear, but God will help you bear it if you’ll only trust in Him! Our faith can grow with each trial. All we have to do is continue trusting God. After all if you trust and have faith He is always present with you.
Deuteronomy 31:6 (NKJV)6 Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you."
The very last thing that Jesus said to His disciples, before He returned to heaven was that He would always be with them.
Matthew 28:18-20 (NKJV)18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.
There is nowhere we can go, no situation, no challenge, no relationship, no conversation where God isn’t present
Psalm 139:7-11 (NKJV)7 Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?8 If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.9 If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,10 Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me.11 If I say, "Surely the darkness shall fall on me," Even the night shall be light about me;
I just read a devotion by Rick Warren that's a great companion to that post. The title of that post was Every Storm Is a School, Every Trial a Teacher.
I hope it blesses you as much as a blessed me.
Every Storm Is a School, Every Trial a Teacher
By Rick Warren.
“This small and temporary trouble we suffer will bring us a tremendous and eternal glory, much greater than the trouble” (2 Corinthians 4:17 GNT).
When we go through difficulties in life, the first thing we often try to do is blame somebody else. But it doesn’t matter where your problem came from — God still has a purpose for it in your life. Even when you do stupid things, God can use it. Even when other people hurt you intentionally, he can use it. Even when the Devil plans bad things for your life, God can bring good out of it.
God’s purpose is greater than your problems and your pain. He has a plan! You need to look past the temporary pain and look instead at the long-term benefit in your life.
Romans 5:3-4 says, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that . . . they help us learn to be patient. And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady” (TLB).
What’s the purpose of your problems and difficulty? God wants you to learn something. Every storm is a school. Every trial is a teacher. Every experience is an education. Every difficulty is for your development.
Most of us are slow learners. If you don’t learn something, God will bring it up again in your life. It will come back, because God is more interested in your character than he is in your comfort. He is more interested in seeing you become more like Christ than he is in making things easy for you.
Maybe you are facing a major difficulty right now. It may be an illness or guilt or a financial problem or strain in a relationship. Does God have a word for you while you’re going through your difficulty? Absolutely. God is saying to you, “Don’t give up. Grow up.” Fulfill the purpose of your difficulty — becoming more and more the person he created you to be.
“This small and temporary trouble we suffer will bring us a tremendous and eternal glory, much greater than the trouble” (2 Corinthians 4:17 GNT).
This devotional © 2017 by Rick Warren. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Yesterday I published a post in which I said that God allows our trials, tribulations, and temptations and that they can benefit us. They can also benefit others through the example we provide while we are going through them. Jesus is our best example of how to respond to temptation and trouble. He didn’t panic.
Isaiah 53:3 (NLT) He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care.
He prayed and trusted His Father, even when asking the Father to not have Him go through the horrors of a “kangaroo court” trial, and crucifixion.
Matthew 26:39-44 (NLT)39 He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”40 Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour?41 Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!”42 Then Jesus left them a second time and prayed, “My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will be done.”43 When he returned to them again, he found them sleeping, for they couldn’t keep their eyes open.44 So he went to pray a third time, saying the same things again.
Even in death He trusted God.
Acts 2:25-28 (NLT)25 King David said this about him: ‘I see that the LORD is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.26 No wonder my heart is glad, and my tongue shouts his praises! My body rests in hope.27 For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your Holy One to rot in the grave.28 You have shown me the way of life, and you will fill me with the joy of your presence.’
The Bible is full of others who trusted God and were delivered from all their afflictions although sometimes deliverance doesn’t come until we are with the Lord.
Hebrews 11:32-40 (NLT)32 How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets.33 By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions,34 quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight.35 Women received their loved ones back again from death. But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection.36 Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons.37 Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated.38 They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.39 All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised.40 For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.
(See my post “Yes the Righteous are Delivered From All Their Afflictions”)
Paul wrote about much of the suffering he endured for the gospel and he shared it with us. Just as Paul is for us we can be examples for others.
I want share something from the YouVersion Jesus Bible Reading Plan, to encourage you. This will encourage you if you are going through difficult times now or when, and there will be a when, you go through trials, tribulations, and temptations.
SUFFERING FOR JESUS
Acts 14:19-20 NIV Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.
Paul was well acquainted with suffering. He was imprisoned, stoned, beaten, flogged, shipwrecked, starved, exhausted and endangered throughout his life as a follower of Christ (2Co 11:16 – 33). Because of his experiences, throughout his letters Paul was intent on reminding Christians that hardship is to be expected. He said it quite clearly in Philippians: “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him” (Php 1:29).
Though the typical human response is to avoid pain at all costs, Paul calls Christians to accept their trials in light of the fact that God suffers with us and because God causes good things to come from our difficulties (Ps 34:18; Ro 8:28). He says, “We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Ro 5:3 – 4). Furthermore, suffering is part of being united with Jesus (Php 3:10 – 11) and, thankfully, it is temporary: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2Co 4:16 – 17).
Jesus, help me to find joy in my pain, as it brings me closer to you. May others see me suffering and want to experience the peace that you have given me. Amen.
THANKS BE TO GOD, WHO DELIVERS ME
Romans 7:25 (NLT) 25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.
Romans 7 is nothing if not a verbal picture of struggle. In this chapter, readers get a firsthand glimpse into the inner thoughts of the apostle, which can either be uplifting and encouraging or crushing and discouraging depending on one’s perspective.
It might be discouraging to know that even Paul — who had experienced Jesus in a personal way and had seen the explosive growth of the early church — still struggled so violently with his own heart. But this chapter can also be encouraging for the same reason. When the weight of sin is particularly oppressive, Christians can take heart, knowing that all people struggle; even the apostle Paul battled mightily with sin. The New Testament never characterizes Christians as those who do not struggle with sin; rather they are those who stay in the fight.
When Christians feel the weight of sin’s burden; when they’re torn between righteousness and unrighteousness, between the desires of the Spirit and the desires of the flesh, then the only solution is Jesus. He is the only One who can deliver those who are dead in sin and, through the Holy Spirit, help his followers to resist sin. The Christian needs the gospel as much as the non-Christian does, for it is by the gospel God’s people were saved from their slavery to sin. It is the same gospel that reminds the believer that they are “more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Ro 8:37).
Jesus, thank you for Paul’s example. Help me to persevere against sin until I can join you in a sinless eternity. Amen.
Excerpted from the Jesus Bible 365 - Day Devotional Reading Plan Zondervan with Passion City Church.
The Jesus Bible sixty-six books. one story. all about one name.
Just a few days ago I posted the link to "Does God Test Christians?" , that was originally published in 2015. In that post I said that God does not initiate the trials, tribulations, and temptations that we face. I wrote that He does use these things for our benefit. Trials, tribulations, and temptations can come because of some action or inaction of ours, of others, the fact that some things just happen because we live in a fallen world, and of course they can come directly from Satan or his cohorts.
We Christians say that God is sovereign and in control of everything that happens. He could stop any trial, tribulation of temptation but He doesn’t. The question is why. I don’t think anybody can really answer that question with certainty although many of us try.
There are some answers that are better than others. In my devotion the other day tI read another answer to the question why. While I disagree with the the author's belief that God does initiate some tests, I do believe that He uses tests and temptations for our benefit. For that reason this is one of the best answers that I’ve heard or read. I want to share it with you. This is an excerpt from from a book written by Lance Hahn, The Master’s Mind. The excerpt is “Why God Allows Trial and Temptation”. I pray that it gives you something to hold on to as you look for the answer to a question that we as humans can’t answer and God hasn’t answered yet.
Why God Allows Trial and Temptation
God allows temptation and trial because they can be good for us.
The same Greek and Hebrew words are used in Scripture for both temptation and trial. The distinction depends on intent and motivation. Is the difficult situation for the purpose of tearing down? It’s a temptation. Is it for the purpose of building up? It’s a trial.
Temptation is a lure to sin. God doesn’t do that, but He does test.
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. — James 1:12-17
Remember, sin is that which is anti-God. Therefore, God will never lead someone to sin; doing so goes against His very nature.
However, He will test believers by putting them through difficult training that will both strengthen them and reveal their current conditions (like a refiner’s fire).
Both situations involve challenge. How do we know then if it’s a temptation or a trial? We don’t — that’s God’s business. In either situation, we are to remain faithful to the Lord and believe He will reveal the reason in due time. If we are obedient in a temptation, we will resist the Devil, and he will flee from us. If we’re obedient in a trial, we will emerge stronger than ever. We must believe by faith that God has our best interests in mind and not doubt His love or provision regardless of the circumstances we are going through.
Intent means everything. If I as a leader demanded that my followers run until they threw up, forced them to work for me in grueling circumstances to the detriment of their bodies, and humiliated them continually to destroy their hearts, I would be a monster. If I did it for their best interests, I would be a drill instructor.
If I rubbed acid on someone’s face so that it bubbled and hurt, and the person had to take meds for weeks just to deal with the burns I created, I would be a devil. If I did it because the person asked me to, I would be a dermatologist performing a chemical peel.
If I dropped heavy items on you that could crush you, only to force you to catch them and push them back up, I would be a tormentor. If I did it for the good of your body, I would be a personal trainer in the gym.
If I withheld your normal food for days on end and then only gave you small amounts of berries and vegetables even though there was a bounty of food around, you would call me selfish. If I did it for your health, I’d be a nutritionist helping you with a fast or cleanse.
As you can see, it’s not the brutal situation that makes something good or bad, but the motive behind it. That’s also true of troubles in our lives.
If we listen to Satan, we assume the worst of God; if we know who God is, we assume the best — and that changes everything about how we respond.
We can know He has a valuable reason for the trials we are facing.
Satan seeks to harm. He wants to take us down. He wants us to turn our back on God (1) and sin (2). Satan and his demons want to rip our faces off; the only reason they can’t do that is because God holds the leash. Why doesn’t God stop them completely and keep us safe? Because safe isn’t the pathway to either strength or revelation.
God’s intention is always for believers to emerge from a trial better than when they started, either in strength or in knowledge. He promises that every situation will have a way out — an escape hatch that can be utilized through obedience. (3)
The way out may not be easy, and we may not always take it, but its presence means that we will never be forced to sin. God will never do that.
We will experience temptation, but let me reiterate: temptation isn’t sin.
As we’ve seen, the Bible says that Jesus was tempted yet was without sin.(4)
It also says, In your anger do not sin. — Ephesians 4:26 NIV
This means that difficult, messy things are not always sin. Evil may surround us, but we can remain untouched internally, where it matters. Christians deal with too much self-condemnation for being tempted. The reality is that temptation is normal. It doesn’t mean we are bad people, only that we are human.
Too many times we think that because we struggle with something, we may as well just cave in. That’s a lie from the enemy. Of course we want to give in; that’s what temptation is. But not giving in is what resistance is.
When God tests humans, it’s always for our best. It was not an accident that the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was in the middle of the garden of Eden. God could have put it in the far corner, but He placed it squarely in the center so that Adam and Eve would have to walk past it no matter where they were headed. He was helping them develop patterns of obedience, which revealed their love for Him for the supernatural world to see. Did it cost Him? Yes, of course it did. God lost His beautiful intimacy with His brand-new creation. He lost the connection that was the very purpose for mankind’s design. But God used even Adam and Eve’s failure to demonstrate the most powerful act of love known to mankind: redemption.(5)
An often forgotten verse from the end of Christ’s desert temptation is found in Luke 4:14, and it speaks volumes:
And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee.
Jesus came out of the desert trial more powerful than He was before. He underwent temptations at the beginning of His public ministry so that His power would be present for His work. Obedience results in power. When we emerge from a trial successfully, not only is God glorified, but also we are strengthened in confidence and in the certainty of God’s will for our lives.
The Holy Spirit comes in and fills that empty spot (where we empty ourselves of our pride, our needs, our cravings, or our agendas) with Himself, and we are empowered even more. God brings trials to our lives for this outcome.
Excerpted with permission fromThe Master’s Mind by Lance Hahn, copyright Lance Hahn. Published by Thomas Nelson.
To order a copy of Lance’s book The Master’s Mind click this link, any others in the post, or the image at the end of the post or go the the FTE Resources Page.
Psalm 3 was written by David during the time he had to flee from an insurrection led by his son Absalom. It was his prayer for deliverance and protection at a time that he feared for his life. It can become the morning prayer of those of us facing dire circumstances with no apparent way out. Because we don’t see any way out we default to our trust in God who we know is in total control of everything even our dire circumstances. We rely on God’s because of His nature which is love. We rely on Him because He promises that He will never leave or forsake us.
Joshua 1:5 (NLT) No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you.
1 John 4:7-10 (NLT)7 Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.8 But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.9 God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him.10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
Our prayer each morning, as we face the uncertainties, of the day is one of trust. Trust that God will protect us no matter what may come our way. We have the promise of Jesus who said that although there will be trials in this life but we are to not become discouraged because He has overcome them.
John 16:33 (NLT) I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
The psalmist, David, ends his prayer and we can end ours confident that God will deliver us and we will emerge victorious.
Romans 8:37-39 (NLT)37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The Security Of God’s Protection
Psalm 3:1-8 (NLT)1 O LORD, I have so many enemies; so many are against me.2 So many are saying, “God will never rescue him!”
3 But you, O LORD, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.4 I cried out to the LORD, and he answered me from his holy mountain.
5 I lay down and slept, yet I woke up in safety, for the LORD was watching over me.
6 I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies who surround me on every side.7 Arise, O LORD! Rescue me, my God! Slap all my enemies in the face! Shatter the teeth of the wicked!8 Victory comes from you, O LORD. May you bless your people.
Thou, Oh Lord- Lyrics
Many are they increased that troubled me
Many are they that rise up against me
Many there be which say of my soul
There is no help for him in God
But Thou, oh Lord are a shield for me
My glory and the lifter of my head
Thou, oh Lord are a shield for me
My glory and the lifter of my head
I cried unto the Lord with my voice
And he heard me out of His holy hill
I laid me down and slept and awaked
For the Lord sustained, for he sustained me
Thou, oh Lord are a shield for me
My glory and the lifter of my head
Thou, oh Lord are shield for me
My glory and the lifter of my head
For Thou oh Lord are a shield for me
My glory and the lifter of my head
Of my head
With back-to-back-to back major hurricanes, two major earthquakes in Mexico, North Korea testing missiles every other week, and a nuclear bomb recently, concerns about terrorism, ethnic and racial strife, famines, wars, etc., I was asked if God is trying to tell us something? My answer was No! God has already told us everything that we need to know. He already told us in His word the Bible. There’s nothing else we need to know. Now it’s is up to us to know and understand what He has already said, to believe it, and to do what He says we need to do.
Isaiah 55:11 (NKJV)11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
2 Timothy 3:16 (NKJV) All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,
Psalm 119:105 (NKJV) Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.
Amos 3:7 (NKJV) Surely the Lord GOD does nothing, Unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.
2 Peter 1:2-4 (NKJV)2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord,3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
We are tempted to look at the things that are happening today, especially the natural disasters, wars, terrorism, new illnesses, crime, government corruption, and other unnerving headlines as messages from God. When these things happen you even hear some Christians say “God must be trying to tell us something”. There was even a gospel song some years ago sung by Tata Vega in The Color Purple, Maybe God Is Trying To Tell You Something.
Again I say, God never tries to tell us anything. He’s already said it. He didn't say it in headlines but through Scripture. Headlines change God’s Word never changes.
Luke 21:29-33 (NKJV)29 Then He spoke to them a parable: "Look at the fig tree, and all the trees.30 When they are already budding, you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near.31 So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near.32 Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place.33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away. (Bold mine)
We Christians often try to make Scripture fit the headlines, our imaginations, hopes, and dreams. That’s backward it should be the other way around the headlines, our imaginations, hope, and dreams should match Scripture.
2 Corinthians 10:4-6 (NKJV)4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds,5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,6 and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled. (Bold mine)
When we try to make Scripture match headlines we end up writing new Scriptures with every new headline or vision. Those are our words not God’s words.
Deuteronomy 4:2 (NKJV)2 You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.
Deuteronomy 12:32 (NKJV)32 Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.
Revelation 22:18-19 (NKJV)18 For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book;19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
While thinking about this post I ran across something written by Philip Yancy, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. The piece that I read is “Where is God in Times of Tragedy” from his book The Question That Never Goes Away: Why? What Philip says is that it’s useless trying to figure out why things happen the way that they do. What we can do is to trust the only one who is control no matter what happens. He’s already told you that.
Where is God in Times of Tragedy?
by Philip Yancey, from The Question That Never Goes Away: Why?
The apostle Paul said about a healthy community, “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” The Christian community, known worldwide by the symbol of a cross and by our regular partaking of a sacrament “in remembrance of Me,” should be able to make a unique contribution to those who suffer. Alas, as I have heard repeatedly, all too often “the church made it worse.”
When the Indonesian tsunami killed a quarter-million people on a sunny day in 2004, geologists blamed it on the rupture of an undersea mega-thrust on the sea floor, triggering the giant wave. Some televangelists credited it instead to God’s wrath against “pagan” nations in that region that had been persecuting Christians. Along the same line, one Christian leader traced the cause of the 2011 Japanese tsunami to the fact that “Japan is under control of the sun goddess.” When terrorists killed three thousand people by crashing airplanes into the World Trade Center, a prominent fundamentalist in Virginia blamed it on “the pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way... I point the thing in their face and say, you helped this happen.”
When twenty children and six staff died at the hands of a shooter in Newtown, a well-known radio personality attributed it to God who has “allowed judgment to fall upon us” for accepting things like abortion and gay marriage. Another radio pastor/politician said that God “chose not to stop the slaughter of these young innocents” because “we are keeping God out of schools.”
Such extreme statements by self-appointed spokespersons get widespread press coverage. And after any major disaster you can go on the Internet and read a wide variety of theological justifications, all attempting — like Job’s friends? — to explain what happened as an expression of God’s plan. (“Consider now,” Eliphaz urged Job, “Who, being innocent, has ever perished? Where were the upright ever destroyed?” — unaware at that point that he was participating in a drama of refutation.) Theories ascribing disasters to God’s judgment end up sounding more like karma than providence.
Why do we continue to think that good and evil, pain and pleasure, are doled out according to our merit when the Book of Job teaches just the opposite?
Committed Calvinists strain to explain catastrophes, along with everything else, as an expression of God’s sovereign will. I follow their arguments with some sympathy, yet wonder why Jesus never used such reasoning with the suffering people He encountered. Never do I see Jesus lecturing people on the need to accept blindness or lameness as an expression of God’s secret will; rather, He healed them. He taught us to pray, “Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven,” and directed us to work diligently toward that goal. Since we anticipate no wars, gun violence, terrorist acts, or natural disasters in Heaven — indeed, no tears or death — I choose to speak of God’s desire for humans on earth, leaving the intricacies of “God’s will” to the theologians. The aftermath of a catastrophe is probably the worst time to quote, “God is on the throne.”
Words, no matter how well-intentioned, may heap more pain on an already sad situation.
“There must be a reason,” we say when a family loses a job and sees their house go into foreclosure — yes, but what reason makes sense at such a time? “God doesn’t put on us more than we can bear” sounds hollow to someone at the breaking point. Kevin Costner’s movie The War includes a scene with another spiritual cliché. After a Vietnam veteran dies in a mining accident trying to save a friend’s life, his wife tries to comfort their son. “God needed him home,” she says. The son yells to sky: “Yeah, but I need him more than you do!” I prefer (and think more theologically correct) the reaction of the pastor at the funeral in Chicago, “Damn you, death!” If we are upset about the condition of this planet, I can only imagine how God feels.
Even a spiritual truth like “All things work together for good” can hit like a hammer blow if presented at the wrong time. Those who speak of suffering producing a greater good offer scant solace to ordinary people grieving their losses and wondering how to resume life. An angry woman recently wrote me about the “hijacking” of her mother’s funeral: “There were the missionaries who came up to me right after the service to tell me with a smile that ‘if one person accepted Christ during the service, then your mother’s death was worth it.’”
After the fertilizer plant explosion in Texas, CNN interviewed a woman who survived the collapse of her nursing home. “I thank my guardian angels,” she said, an understandable sentiment. I could not help wondering, though, how that comment sounded to the families of those who had not survived. Then I came across the story of Joe Berti, who crossed the finish line of the Boston Marathon just seconds before the first bomb went off. After several frantic hours trying to reunite with his family in the confusion, he flew home to Texas, where two days later on a business trip he witnessed the explosion of the fertilizer factory, a blast that rocked his car and rained debris around him.
Some called him the unluckiest man alive; some called him the luckiest. Berti’s wife had a wise and balanced reaction. “We’re grateful that God has been merciful to us,” she said. “We are just praying for the people who were so much less fortunate than we were.”
After spending time in Japan and Newtown, I have adopted a two-part test I keep in mind before offering counsel to a suffering person. First, I ask myself how these words would sound to a mother who kissed her daughter goodbye as she put her on the school bus and then later that day was called to identify her bloody body. Would my words bring comfort or compound the pain?
Then I ask myself what Jesus would say to that mother. Few theological explanations pass those tests. The only way I know to respond with comfort and healing, as Jesus did, is to fully embrace the mother’s grief and to assure her that God feels more grieved than she does. In the words of David Bentley Hart, who is a theologian, “When I see the death of a child, I do not see the face of God but the face of His enemy... and that rather than showing us how the tears of a small girl suffering in the dark were necessary for the building of the Kingdom, He will instead raise her up and wipe away all tears from her eyes.”
In sum, I avoid trying to answer the Why? question because any attempt will inevitably fall short and may even rub salt in an open wound. As Jesus’ followers, we can instead offer a loving and sympathetic presence that may help bind wounds and heal a broken heart.
Thankfully, I have seen the church do just that. I went to Newtown at the invitation of a church that sent four counselors to the firehouse where anxious parents awaited news of their children’s fate and that has raised a large sum of money to provide ongoing counseling for the families. Since the tragedy, six mothers of slain children have begun participating in regular gatherings at that church, one of many that reached out to them.
In Japan I met teams from the Philippines, Germany, Singapore, and the U.S. involved in reconstruction. Organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and Samaritan’s Purse mobilized immediately after the earthquake and a year later were still sending crews to aid in recovery. Although the church in Japan represents only one percent of the population, Christian organizations took a lead in rebuilding efforts, and some Japanese churches became distribution centers for food and supplies. One church sheltered more than a thousand evacuees the first few months after the tsunami.
I met some of the retired contractors and construction workers who had signed on with Samaritan’s Purse to rebuild houses swept away by the tsunami. They were living in cramped communal housing and working long hours without pay. “We don’t proselytize,” one told me. “We don’t need to — the people know why we’re here. We’re simply followers of Jesus trying to live out His commands. Just before handing owners the key to their new home, we ask if we can pray a blessing on the house. So far no one has turned us down.” As a counterbalance to the list of seven deadly sins, the church in the Middle Ages came up with a list of seven works of mercy: to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, house the homeless, visit the sick, ransom the captive, bury the dead. Every day a small army of relief workers and volunteers in Tohoku put into practice those works of mercy. Not all of us can serve on the front lines of mercy, however.
As I reminded the staff of my publisher in Tokyo the day I left, the church later came up with an additional list of spiritual works of mercy: to instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, admonish sinners, bear wrongs patiently, forgive offences willingly, comfort the afflicted, pray for the living and the dead. The church in Japan, a tiny minority in a distressed nation, is endeavoring to practice those less-visible works as well.
John Marks, a producer for television’s 60 Minutes, went on a two-year quest to investigate evangelicals, the group he had grown up among and later rejected. He wrote a book about the quest called Reasons to Believe: One Man’s Journey Among the Evangelicals and the Faith He Left Behind. The church’s response to Hurricane Katrina turned the corner for him and became a key reason to believe. One Baptist church in Baton Rouge fed 16,000 people a day for weeks; another housed 700 homeless evacuees.
Years after the hurricane, and long after federal assistance had dried up, a network of churches in surrounding states was still sending regular teams to help rebuild houses. Most impressively to Marks, all these church efforts crossed racial lines and barriers in the Deep South. As one worker told him, “We had whites, blacks, Hispanics, Vietnamese, good old Cajun... We just tried to say, ‘hey, let’s help people. This is our state. We’ll let everybody else sort out that other stuff. We’ve got to cook some rice.’”
I would argue that this was a watershed moment in the history of American Christianity... nothing spoke more eloquently to believers, and to nonbelievers who were paying attention, than the success of a population of believing volunteers measured against the massive and near-total collapse of secular government efforts. The storm laid bare an unmistakable truth.
More and more Christians have decided that the only way to reconquer America is through service.
The faith no longer travels by the word. It moves by the deed.
Excerpted with permission from The Question That Never Goes Away: Why? by Philip Yancey, copyright Philip Yancey and SCCT. Published by Zondervan.
*To get your copy ofThe Question That Never Goes Away: Why? click or touch any highlighted link or go to the FTE Resources Page.
We hear over and over that we should be specific when we pray. Jesus told His disciples that they should be persistent and specific when they pray. In what we know as the Lord’s prayer Jesus could have said to pray, “bless us” or “help us.” But he didn’t. He said,
Matthew 6:11-13 (NKJV) Give us this day our daily bread.
That’s a specific request. To his first followers, bread was central to life. It was a staple. A necessity. So Jesus said, “Pray for bread.”
Here’s a specific request made to Jesus.
Luke 18:35-43 (NLT)35 As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind beggar was sitting beside the road.36 When he heard the noise of a crowd going past, he asked what was happening.37 They told him that Jesus the Nazarene was going by.38 So he began shouting, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”39 “Be quiet!” the people in front yelled at him. But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”40 When Jesus heard him, he stopped and ordered that the man be brought to him. As the man came near, Jesus asked him,41 “What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord,” he said, “I want to see!”42 And Jesus said, “All right, receive your sight! Your faith has healed you.”43 Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus, praising God. And all who saw it praised God, too.
Here the blind man, Bartimaeus was asking for mercy. That’s great and important, but it’s a very general request. Jesus could have had somebody give him some money, or food or any number of things which would have been acts of mercy. However Jesus asked him what he wanted specifically. He asked him “what do you want me to do for you”. Then Bartimaeus got specific. “I want to see”
Here is a specific request made by three times by Jesus.
Matthew 26:36-44 (NKJV)36 Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, "Sit here while I go and pray over there."37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed.38 Then He said to them, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me."39 He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, "O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will."40 Then He came to the disciples and found them asleep, and said to Peter, "What? Could you not watch with Me one hour?41 Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."42 Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, "O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done."43 And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy.44 So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. (Bold mine)
When we get specific in prayer we get all the other clutter out so that we can spell out and spill out what it is we really want to ask.
Being specific in prayer has several advantages. In “Prayer, Not Despair”, an excerpt, from his book Anxious for Nothing, Max Lucado points out three benefits of being specific in prayer. To get a copy of the book click any of the Anxious for Nothing links or the image of the book after the blog post.
Prayer, Not Despair
by Max Lucado from Anxious for Nothing
Peace happens when people pray.
I like the story of the father who was teaching his three-year-old daughter the Lord’s Prayer. She would repeat the lines after him. Finally she decided to go solo. He listened with pride as she carefully enunciated each word, right up to the end of the prayer. “Lead us not into temptation,” she prayed, “but deliver us from e-mail.”
These days that seems like an appropriate request. God calls us to pray about everything. The terms prayer, supplication, and requests are similar but not identical. Prayer is a general devotion; the word includes worship and adoration. Supplication suggests humility. We are the supplicants in the sense that we make no demands; we simply offer humble requests. A request is exactly that — a specific petition. We tell God exactly what we want. We pray the particulars of our problems.
What Jesus said to the blind man, he says to us:
What do you want Me to do for you? — Luke 18:41 NIV
One would think the answer would be obvious. When a sightless man requests Jesus’ help, isn’t it apparent what he needs? Yet Jesus wanted to hear the man articulate his specific requests.
He wants the same from us. “Let your requests be made known to God.” When the wedding ran low on wine, Mary wasn’t content to say, “Help us, Jesus.” She was specific:
They have no more wine. — John 2:3 NIV
The needy man in Jesus’ parable requested,
Friend, lend me three loaves. — Luke 11:5 NIV
Not just “Give me something to eat” or “Can you help me out?” He made a specific request. Even Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane prayed specifically,
Take this cup from Me. — Luke 22:42 NIV
Why does this matter? I can think of three reasons.
“O Lord, God of my master, Abraham,” he prayed. “Please give me success today, and show unfailing love to my master, Abraham. See, I am standing here beside this spring, and the young women of the town are coming out to draw water. This is my request. I will ask one of them, ‘Please give me a drink from your jug.’ If she says, ‘Yes, have a drink, and I will water your camels, too!’—let her be the one you have selected as Isaac’s wife. is how I will know that you have shown unfailing love to my master.” — Genesis 24:12–14 NLT
Could the servant have been more detailed? He asked for success in his endeavor. He envisioned an exact dialogue, and then he stepped forth in faith. Scripture says,
Before he had finished speaking, Rebekah appeared. — Genesis 24:15 ISV
She said the words. The servant had an answered prayer. He saw God at work.
This is no endorsement of the demanding, conditional prayer that presumes to tell God what to do and when. Nor do I suggest that the power of prayer resides in chanting the right formula or quoting some secret code. Do not think for a moment that the power of prayer resides in the way we present it. God is not manipulated or impressed by our formulas or eloquence. But He is moved by the sincere request. After all, is He not our Father? As His children we honor Him when we tell him exactly what we need.
On my good days I begin my morning with a cup of coffee and a conversation with God. I look ahead into the day and make my requests. I am meeting with so-and-so at 10:00 a.m. Would You give me wisdom? This afternoon I need to finish my sermon. Would You please go ahead of me? Then if a sense of stress surfaces during the day, I remind myself, Oh, I gave this challenge to God earlier today. He has already taken responsibility for the situation. I can be grateful, not fretful.
Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. — 1 Peter 5:7 NIV
Casting is an intentional act to relocate an object. When the disciples prepared Jesus to ride into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, they “cast their garments upon the colt” (Luke 19:35 KJV). The crowd removed the garments off their backs and spread them in the path of Christ. Let this “throwing” be your first response to bad news. As you sense anxiety welling up inside you, cast it in the direction of Christ. Do so specifically and immediately.
I did a good job of “casting my problems” in a high school algebra class. My brain scans reveal a missing region marked by the sign “Intended for Algebra.” I can remember sitting in the class and staring at the textbook as if it were a novel written in Mandarin Chinese.
Fortunately I had a wonderful, patient teacher. He issued this invitation and stuck to it. “If you cannot solve a problem, come to me and I will help you.” I wore a trail into the floor between his desk and mine. Each time I had a question, I would approach his desk and remind him, “Remember how you promised you would help?” When he said yes, instant gratitude and relief kicked in. I still had the problem, mind you, but I had entrusted the problem to one who knew how to solve it.
Do the same. Take your problem to Christ and tell Him, “You said you would help me. Would You?”
The path to peace is paved with prayer.
Less consternation, more supplication. Fewer anxious thoughts, more prayer-filled thoughts. As you pray, the peace of God will guard your heart and mind. And, in the end, what could be better?
Excerpted with permission from Anxious for Nothing by Max Lucado, copyright Max Lucado.
The writer of Psalm 143 was depressed. Because of his past actions his enemies and persecutors had done everything but taken his life. He admits his guilt as a sinner, and repents of his sins. He was now asking that God deliver him. He needed an immediate answer, and he believed that God would come to his aid before it was too late.
This should be our prayer whenever we face daunting circumstances no matter their origin. Our first cry for help should be to God who is the only one who can deliver a permanent solution. If where we are is our fault all we need to do is confess, ask forgiveness, know that God will forgive and deliver us. He has promised two things He will forgive and will never leave or forsake us.
Deuteronomy 31:6 (NIV) Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
1 John 1:9 (NIV) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
A Cry For Help
Psalm 143:1-12 )NIV) Lord , hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief. Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you. The enemy pursues me, he crushes me to the ground; he makes me dwell in the darkness like those long dead. So my spirit grows faint within me; my heart within me is dismayed. I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done. I spread out my hands to you; I thirst for you like a parched land. Answer me quickly, Lord ; my spirit fails. Do not hide your face from me or I will be like those who go down to the pit. Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. Rescue me from my enemies, Lord , for I hide myself in you. Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground. For your name’s sake, Lord , preserve my life; in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble. In your unfailing love, silence my enemies; destroy all my foes, for I am your servant.
Meals and food have always played a major role in the relationship between God and His people.
When God visited Abraham to tell him again that he and Sarah would have a child, and to also tell him that He was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham prepared a meal for his three guests.
Genesis 18:3-8 (NLT)3 “My lord,” he said, “if it pleases you, stop here for a while.4 Rest in the shade of this tree while water is brought to wash your feet.5 And since you’ve honored your servant with this visit, let me prepare some food to refresh you before you continue on your journey.” “All right,” they said. “Do as you have said.”6 So Abraham ran back to the tent and said to Sarah, “Hurry! Get three large measures of your best flour, knead it into dough, and bake some bread.”7 Then Abraham ran out to the herd and chose a tender calf and gave it to his servant, who quickly prepared it.8 When the food was ready, Abraham took some yogurt and milk and the roasted meat, and he served it to the men. As they ate, Abraham waited on them in the shade of the trees.
Before Isaac blessed Jacob (although his intention was to bless Esau) he asked him to prepare a meal.
Genesis 27:1-10 , 17-18, 25-27 (NLT)1 One day when Isaac was old and turning blind, he called for Esau, his older son, and said, “My son.” “Yes, Father?” Esau replied.2 “I am an old man now,” Isaac said, “and I don’t know when I may die.3 Take your bow and a quiver full of arrows, and go out into the open country to hunt some wild game for me.4 Prepare my favorite dish, and bring it here for me to eat. Then I will pronounce the blessing that belongs to you, my firstborn son, before I die.”5 But Rebekah overheard what Isaac had said to his son Esau. So when Esau left to hunt for the wild game,6 she said to her son Jacob, “Listen. I overheard your father say to Esau,7 ‘Bring me some wild game and prepare me a delicious meal. Then I will bless you in the LORD’s presence before I die.’8 Now, my son, listen to me. Do exactly as I tell you.9 Go out to the flocks, and bring me two fine young goats. I’ll use them to prepare your father’s favorite dish.10 Then take the food to your father so he can eat it and bless you before he dies.” 17 Then she gave Jacob the delicious meal, including freshly baked bread.18 So Jacob took the food to his father. “My father?” he said. “Yes, my son,” Isaac answered. “Who are you—Esau or Jacob?”25 Then Isaac said, “Now, my son, bring me the wild game. Let me eat it, and then I will give you my blessing.” So Jacob took the food to his father, and Isaac ate it. He also drank the wine that Jacob served him. Then Isaac said to Jacob,26 “Please come a little closer and kiss me, my son.”27 So Jacob went over and kissed him. And when Isaac caught the smell of his clothes, he was finally convinced, and he blessed his son. He said, “Ah! The smell of my son is like the smell of the outdoors, which the LORD has blessed!
Joseph ate with his brothers and later revealed himself to them.
Genesis 43:24-26 , 33-34, 45:1 (NLT)24 The manager then led the men into Joseph’s palace. He gave them water to wash their feet and provided food for their donkeys.25 They were told they would be eating there, so they prepared their gifts for Joseph’s arrival at noon.26 When Joseph came home, they gave him the gifts they had brought him, then bowed low to the ground before him. 33 Joseph told each of his brothers where to sit, and to their amazement, he seated them according to age, from oldest to youngest.34 And Joseph filled their plates with food from his own table, giving Benjamin five times as much as he gave the others. So they feasted and drank freely with him. 1 Joseph could stand it no longer. There were many people in the room, and he said to his attendants, “Out, all of you!” So he was alone with his brothers when he told them who he was.
God gave Moses instructions for the meal the Israelites were to eat before leaving Egypt.
Exodus 12:1-13 (NLT)1 While the Israelites were still in the land of Egypt, the LORD gave the following instructions to Moses and Aaron:2 “From now on, this month will be the first month of the year for you.3 Announce to the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each family must choose a lamb or a young goat for a sacrifice, one animal for each household.4 If a family is too small to eat a whole animal, let them share with another family in the neighborhood. Divide the animal according to the size of each family and how much they can eat.5 The animal you select must be a one-year-old male, either a sheep or a goat, with no defects.6 “Take special care of this chosen animal until the evening of the fourteenth day of this first month. Then the whole assembly of the community of Israel must slaughter their lamb or young goat at twilight.7 They are to take some of the blood and smear it on the sides and top of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the animal.8 That same night they must roast the meat over a fire and eat it along with bitter salad greens and bread made without yeast.9 Do not eat any of the meat raw or boiled in water. The whole animal—including the head, legs, and internal organs—must be roasted over a fire.10 Do not leave any of it until the next morning. Burn whatever is not eaten before morning.11 “These are your instructions for eating this meal: Be fully dressed, wear your sandals, and carry your walking stick in your hand. Eat the meal with urgency, for this is the LORD’s Passover.12 On that night I will pass through the land of Egypt and strike down every firstborn son and firstborn male animal in the land of Egypt. I will execute judgment against all the gods of Egypt, for I am the LORD!13 But the blood on your doorposts will serve as a sign, marking the houses where you are staying. When I see the blood, I will pass over you. This plague of death will not touch you when I strike the land of Egypt.
The Mosaic law included rules on who was to eat the portions left from sacrifices, and the required feasts and festivals.
Exodus 12:1-5 (NLT)1 While the Israelites were still in the land of Egypt, the LORD gave the following instructions to Moses and Aaron:2 “From now on, this month will be the first month of the year for you.3 Announce to the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each family must choose a lamb or a young goat for a sacrifice, one animal for each household.4 If a family is too small to eat a whole animal, let them share with another family in the neighborhood. Divide the animal according to the size of each family and how much they can eat.5 The animal you select must be a one-year-old male, either a sheep or a goat, with no defects.
There were also instructions on which things not to eat. Leviticus 11
Jesus’ ministry included meals and food
During Jesus' ministry He ate with sinners and outcasts.
Matthew 9:10-13 (NLT)10 Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners.11 But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?”12 When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.”13 Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
Mark 2:15-17 (NLT)15 Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.)16 But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?”17 When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
Jesus fed thousands.
Matthew 14:19-21 (NLT)19 Then he told the people to sit down on the grass. Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he gave the bread to the disciples, who distributed it to the people.20 They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftovers.21 About 5,000 men were fed that day, in addition to all the women and children!
Matthew 15:35-38 (NLT)35 So Jesus told all the people to sit down on the ground.36 Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, thanked God for them, and broke them into pieces. He gave them to the disciples, who distributed the food to the crowd.37 They all ate as much as they wanted. Afterward, the disciples picked up seven large baskets of leftover food.38 There were 4,000 men who were fed that day, in addition to all the women and children.
There’s the meal with His disciples the evening before His crucifixion that included what we now call the “Lord's Supper.
Mark 14:17-26 (NLT)17 In the evening Jesus arrived with the twelve disciples.18 As they were at the table eating, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, one of you eating with me here will betray me.”19 Greatly distressed, each one asked in turn, “Am I the one?”20 He replied, “It is one of you twelve who is eating from this bowl with me.21 For the Son of Man must die, as the Scriptures declared long ago. But how terrible it will be for the one who betrays him. It would be far better for that man if he had never been born!”22 As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take it, for this is my body.”23 And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them, and they all drank from it.24 And he said to them, “This is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice for many.25 I tell you the truth, I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new in the Kingdom of God.”26 Then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives.
After Jesus’ resurrection He ate with His disciples.
Luke 24:35-43 (NLT) 35 Then the two from Emmaus told their story of how Jesus had appeared to them as they were walking along the road, and how they had recognized him as he was breaking the bread.36 And just as they were telling about it, Jesus himself was suddenly standing there among them. “Peace be with you,” he said.37 But the whole group was startled and frightened, thinking they were seeing a ghost!38 “Why are you frightened?” he asked. “Why are your hearts filled with doubt?39 Look at my hands. Look at my feet. You can see that it’s really me. Touch me and make sure that I am not a ghost, because ghosts don’t have bodies, as you see that I do.”40 As he spoke, he showed them his hands and his feet.41 Still they stood there in disbelief, filled with joy and wonder. Then he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?”42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish,43 and he ate it as they watched.
The final meal in the Bible is the wedding banquet of Christ, and His bride, the Church.
Revelation 19:6-7 (NLT)6 Then I heard again what sounded like the shout of a vast crowd or the roar of mighty ocean waves or the crash of loud thunder: “Praise the LORD! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.7 Let us be glad and rejoice, and let us give honor to him. For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb, and his bride has prepared herself.
And let’s not forget we love church potlucks and banquets today!
There are other many other references to food and eating, but there is one other one that I did not mention and it’s the meal David talks about in the 23rd Psalm.
Psalm 23:5 (NLT)5 You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.
That meal is part of the YouVersion”Reading Plan, Like: A Journey Through Psalm 23, provided by Athens Church of Athens, GA. I want to share the devotion written about the meal prepared for you by God to be eaten in the midst of trials and tribulation. A meal overflowing with wonder, love, praise, joy, hope, and love.
A Meal In The Valley Of The Shadow Of Death
Picture your favorite actor, athlete, or celebrity.
What if you found out that they were coming to YOUR house in just a few days?
What would you do?
The house would be spotless. Candles lit in every room. The meal you have spent hours preparing sits ready on the table, and you yourself are overcome with joy and excitement, gushing at the thought of spending time with this person.
That is how God looks at us.
When we begin a growing relationship with Jesus, it’s like we become an honored guest at a banquet. During the days this was written, an honored guest would be anointed with a fragrant perfume and also given a cup full of choice—the royal treatment. Our enemies may pursue us and intend to destroy us, yet there is this safe table—already prepared, awaiting us.
Because of Jesus, we have an opportunity to sit at this table. His hand is seen in everything from first to last. The table is the Lord’s. The bread is His body; the wine is His blood. It's all a reminder of just how much He's for you. But not only has He prepared the table, but also the guests.
When we think of what we were and what we are- of what we deserved and of what we have received—it is with wonder, love, and praise that we say, “You prepare a table before me.” We have enemies, but they have not prevailed. We have fears, but they have no hold on us any longer. We can even love and forgive those enemies. And when we do face them, we face them without fear, because greater is He that is in us, than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).
The future is bright with hope. The dark valley is behind us. The present table here points to the future table above, and Jesus is the sole provider of our overflowing cup.
So what if we began to live in this hope?
What if we began to live as an overflowing cup?
What does an overflowing cup do?
Picture yourself as an overflowing cup, spilling the joy, hope, and love of Jesus on everyone that bumps into you today.
The Bible tell us that the only person or thing that we should fear is God. In fact we are commanded to “Fear Not”.
Fear of God isn’t the emotion that usually comes to mind when we think of fear. That emotion is fright, which is a sudden intense feeling of fear. Synonyms of this type fear are fearfulness, terror, horror, alarm, panic, dread, trepidation, dismay, nervousness, apprehension, apprehensiveness, perturbation, and disquiet. The fear of God is a reverential respect of God’s power and glory. Fear of God is the result of His love for mankind and the grace that He has given to those who, in faith, believe on His Son, Jesus Christ.
Apart from this fear of God we are commanded to “fear not”. We are commanded to “fear not” because God has made promises to those who believe in Jesus. He’s promised to protect them, to provide for them, and to give them eternal life with Him.
Psalm 91:1-4 (NLT) 1 Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.2 This I declare about the LORD: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him.3 For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease.4 He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
Matthew 6:31-33 (NLT) 31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
John 3:16 (NLT) “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
1 John 2:24-25 (NLT) 24 So you must remain faithful to what you have been taught from the beginning. If you do, you will remain in fellowship with the Son and with the Father.25 And in this fellowship we enjoy the eternal life he promised us.
As I continue to look at fear and its debilitating effect on believers I will add posts to my series “Fear Not Is A Command”. In a devotion that I read recently by Dr. Charles Stanley I realized that fear in addition to being debilitating in itself, it also has side effects. In his devotion, Dr. Stanley identifies these side effects;
His conclusion is while fear is real that we should remember who God is and that He will never leave us or forsake us and that He will supply everything that we need.
Deuteronomy 31:6 (NKJV) Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you."
Isaiah 41:10 (NKJV) Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.'
Philippians 4:6-7 (NKJV)6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Dr. Stanley’s complete devotion follows.
The Side Effects of Fear
(Editor's Note: the complete text of the referenced scripture was included by the Editor and not Dr. Stanley or In Touch Ministries)
Matthew 6:25-34 (NKJV)25 "Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?28 So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin;29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?31 Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Fear obviously produces anxiety, but it also creates chaos in our lives and even affects those around us.
Fear stifles our thinking and actions. It creates indecisiveness that results in stagnation. I have known talented people who procrastinate indefinitely rather than risk failure. Lost opportunities cause erosion of confidence, and the downward spiral begins.
Fear hinders us from becoming the people God wants us to be. When we are dominated by negative emotions, we cannot achieve the goals He has in mind for us. A lack of self-confidence stymies our belief in what the Lord can do with our lives.
Fear can drive people to destructive habits. To numb the pain of overbearing distress and foreboding, some turn to things like drugs and alcohol for artificial relief.
Fear steals peace and contentment. When we're always afraid, our life becomes centered on pessimism and gloom.
Fear creates doubt. God promises us an abundant life, but if we surrender instead to the chains of fear, our prayers won’t be worth very much.
What are you afraid of--loss, rejection, poverty, or death? Everybody will face such realities at some point. All you need to know is, God will never reject you. Whether you accept Him is your decision.
The Bible tells us that God will meet all our needs. He feeds the birds of the air and clothes the grass with the splendor of lilies. How much more, then, will He care for us, who are made in His image? Our only concern is to obey the heavenly Father and leave the consequences to Him.
Used with permission from In Touch Ministries, Inc. © 2016 All Rights Reserved.
For more from Dr. Charles Stanley go to our Resources Page.
Donald Jacobs is an ordained minister with the spiritual gift of teaching. He is the Associate Pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles, CA.