Monday, November 29, 2021

Enter God's Courtroom

 Psalm 50

Many people like to watch courtroom dramas on TV.  I know that I occasionally watch some.  There are many to choose from.  There is Court TV, which broadcasts actual, real-life significant or prominent court cases.  Then there are the fictional legal dramas, such as Perry Mason, Matlock, The Practice, and Boston Legal to name just a few.  Whether actual or fictionalized court cases, they all have some things in common.  There are courtroom scenes, a judge, a defendant, and often a jury.  Our Scripture passage today from the Book of Psalms, also depicts something similar to a courtroom scene.  Let’s look at this psalm together.

As we enter the courtroom setting, we see that naturally, God is the judge (vs 1-6).  There are two defendants in the psalm.  The first are God’s people (vs. 4-15).  The second are the wicked, or unsaved people (vs. 16-22).  And the witnesses that God calls are both heaven and earth (vs. 4).  What are the charges that are brought against the defendants?  The charges brought against God’s people are about bringing sacrifices with no thanksgiving or faithfulness, that they are just going through religious rituals, but having no heart towards God.  The charges against the wicked are that they have never turned to the Lord or obeyed Him and His Word, and have led wicked lives.  Both groups are unfaithful in their own ways, and God calls all of nature, both heaven and earth, to witness towards these charges.

In our courtrooms, when the judge enters, everyone rises.  That is to show respect to the judge and his position.  Our psalm begins in a similar way by extolling the holiness, virtues, and grandeur of the Lord God (vs. 1-3).  Both defendants are before the Lord.  As we read in verse 5, God’s judgment begins with His own people (I Peter 4:17).

The charges that the Lord God brings against His own people are for treating Him lightly.  They are superficially religious, as they only go through the motions.  God didn’t condemn them for not bringing sacrifices.  Rather, it is their attitude when bringing the sacrifices that was offensive to Him.  The people were offering sacrifices, but they had forgotten the significance, and what these sacrifices were to mean (vs. 7-15).  Their hearts were not in it when they came to make the offering.  God does not like mere ritual, where the people do not honor Him with true praise and thanksgiving.  It is an abomination to Him.

God does not need anything, as He created everything on the earth (vs. 9-11).  God has no needs that have to be filled by mankind.  He certainly didn’t need to be fed by the sacrifices that were brought to the Temple.  It is because God loves us that He invites us to serve Him.  Are our religious activities mere habit and ritual, rather than being done out of heartfelt love for God, and obedience?  The “sacrifice” that always pleases God is thanksgiving (vs. 14, 23).  This is what the righteous Judge instructs this defendant.

The next defendant that is brought before the Bench is the wicked (vs. 16-22).  The Divine Judge charges the wicked for their evil words and immoral lives.  They need to repent of their sins and deeds, follow and obey His Word, the Bible.  They need to turn to God, and accept His Son, Jesus Christ, as their Savior.  They have an opportunity to repent before His destruction comes.  God will, indeed, show His mercy if they do.  His long-suffering grace must not be looked upon as laxity, though (vs. 21).  God’s day of reckoning will one day come forth.

When Jesus returns, He will arrive with mighty angels and flaming fire (vs. 3).  He will deal out retribution to those who refused to call upon Him or obey Him (II Thessalonians 1:7-8).  At Jesus’s first coming, He came as a meek and gentle Savior.  This time Jesus will come as a reigning King to judge the nations.  Now is the time to call upon Him for mercy and salvation.  It is available to you today!  When you stand before the Divine Judge, it will be too late.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

I Shall Return

 Zechariah 14:4-9

Many of you might remember a famous, historical quote “I shall return”, which was made by General Douglas MacArthur during World War II.  When the Philippines were invaded and occupied in 1942, General MacArthur had to evacuate the islands, but he promised the Philippine people that he would return and liberate them.  MacArthur kept that promise, and before the war was over, he did indeed return and liberate them from enemy occupation.  As he waded ashore from off his ship, he told the country, “People of the Philippines, I have returned.”  There is Someone else who made that promise, not just to one nation, but to the whole world.  In our Scripture today we read of when and how that promise will be fulfilled.

After Jesus’s resurrection, He spent the next 40 days giving His disciples some final teaching and instructions.  Then, bringing them to the Mount of Olives, Jesus visibly ascended up into heaven, with the promise that He would return (Acts 1:9-11).  In the closing chapter of the Book of Zechariah, the prophet describes when and how the Lord Jesus will return, and we can trust that it will happen just as he has prophesied it will.

Our portion of Scripture takes place during the final days of the Tribulation period.  During this time there will be persecution to Christians who have come to faith in the Lord Jesus during the Tribulation, and there will also be terrible persecution to the Jewish people, as well.  After having pretended to be their friend, the Antichrist will wage war against Israel.  At the end of the Tribulation, all of Israel’s enemies will band together and go to war against them.  This is the Battle of Armageddon.  Jerusalem will be defeated, homes ransacked, goods plundered, and many people killed.  We read that in the verses just prior to where our passage begins (Zechariah 14:1-3).  Just when all hope seems to be gone, Jesus will return and rescue His people.

When Jesus went back into heaven, it was from the Mount of Olives.  When He will return, it will be to precisely that some location (vs. 4).  He will stand on the Mount of Olives, from which He ascended.  The prophet describes a violent earthquake which will occur then, as well (vs. 4-5).  This violent earthquake will split the mountain, making a path going east to west, which will make a path of escape for God’s people.

Verse 8 speaks of living waters that will flow from Jerusalem after the Lord Jesus returns there.  The living water of the Lord Jesus brings eternal life (John 4:14; Revelation 22:17).  The Gospel will flow like a river all over the world, washing away the sins of all who partake of it in faith (Hebrews 10:22).

When the Messiah Jesus returns at the close of the Battle of Armageddon, He will destroy the armies of His enemies.  He will reign as King of the whole earth (vs. 9).  His dominion will be over all nations.  On that day every knee will bow and every tongue will swear allegiance, proclaiming Jesus is Lord (Philippians 2:9-11; Isaiah 45:23).  Jesus will do away with all false religions brought forth by Satan.  He will be universally acknowledged as Lord over all.  When Jesus came to earth the first time, it was to serve and to die for our sins.  This second time He will come to rule and to judge the entire earth.

Many people do not believe that Jesus will return, as His promise was made about 2,000 years ago, and the prophecy of Zechariah about 2,500 years ago.  Even some Christians have grown weary of waiting.  The over two years that the Filipino people waited for General MacArthur seemed long, and under harsh conditions.  If they could trust a human, a mortal man’s promise, we can certainly trust the Son of God’s promise.   Jesus will return, just as God’s Word, the Bible says He will.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Witness To The Truth

John 18:33-38

The truth is important.  We all want to be told the truth in every area.  That is one of the first things a parent tries to teach their children, “Always tell the truth.”  If they don’t, there will be consequences. Juries try to determine the truth in a legal case.  We hope that we are given the truth when in school, and from the news media, though that isn’t always the case.  Without the truth, we can become distrustful.  In our Scripture from the Gospel of John, we see that Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor of Israel, wanted to know the truth about some matters.

As our Scripture begins today, Jesus has already been arrested by the Jewish religious leaders, and they have now brought Him before the Roman Governor Pilate.  They wanted to put Jesus to death, but being a country under Roman jurisdiction, any executions needed the approval and consent of the Roman officials.  These religious leaders knew that Rome couldn’t have cared less about their religious squabbles, and charges of blasphemy.  However, they would care if someone was trying to become a king in opposition to the Emperor, so that was the charge they accused Jesus of when they brought Him to Pilate.

This was a lie, and not the truth.  Jesus never sought to become king during His ministry.  When some of the crowds had talked about making Jesus a king, He had walked away, refusing to have any part of that (John 6:15).  Now He stood accused of that in front of Pontius Pilate.  Pilate proceeded to ask Jesus of these accusations, not because he accused Him, but because the religious leaders had (vs 33-35).

Jesus was not going to lie to the Governor, even if it meant He might be set free.  Jesus did not deny being a king, but proceeded to tell him that His kingdom was not of this world (vs. 36).  He was not going to take over a kingdom from Emperor Tiberius.  Jesus’s kingdom is not connected to earthly political and national entities.  Nor does His kingdom have its origin in the evil world system that is in rebellion against God.

If Jesus was what His enemies claimed Him to be, a usurper over Rome, His followers would have long since been incited to use force to bring Him to power.  This had never happened, as Jesus was not an earthly king.  One day, though, Jesus will return to earth to rule all nations (Revelation 2:27; 12:5; 19:15).  Until then, His kingdom focuses on redeeming the hearts of the lost.

As Jesus continued to talk with Pontius Pilate, He told him that He came into the world to bear witness to the truth (vs. 37).  Everyone who is of the truth will hear His words.  Society today is challenged by the idea of truth.  We constantly hear people question and challenge moral right and wrong.  They say that what is true for me might not be true for them, and that truth varies from circumstance to circumstance.  To many people, truth is relative.  It is whatever the majority of people agree with, or whatever helps advance their own personal agenda and goals.  Many even question the existence of objective truth.  Objective truth is something that is true in all times and in every place.  When there is no basis for truth, there is no basis for moral right and wrong.

The Bible clearly shows us that this is not correct.  In Jesus and His Word we have the standard for truth and for our moral behavior.  Jesus shows us that truth exists, and if we want to know what it is, we should look to Him, His actions, and His teachings.

When Jesus mentioned about truth, Pontius Pilate responded rhetorically, with cynicism, convinced that no answers existed to his question (vs. 38).  As our Scripture passage closes we read that Pilate sent Jesus back to the religious leaders.  He was not guilty of any sin or crime.  Jesus was sent back to those leaders by Pilate, telling them he found no fault in Him.  yet they were so intent that He be executed, they managed to twist Pilate’s arm.  Pilate was weak-willed and fearful, and he gave in.

As we close this Scripture we need to look and see if we are committed to the truth in every area of our life, with the Bible being our standard.  Also, are we prepared to welcome the Lord Jesus as King when He returns?  If not, you need to give your heart to the Lord Jesus, accepting Him as your Savior today.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Alpha And Omega

 Revelation 1:1-8

When I was a young girl growing up in the 1960’s, we had a large, complete set of Encyclopedia Britannica in our house.  There were well over two dozen large volumes which took up at least two shelves of a large bookcase.  This was decades before the Internet, and everything that anyone could possibly want to know about every subject was in those volumes.  A - Z lined up neatly on the shelf.  Everything from Aardvark to Zymurgy (the study of fermentation) and everything in between.  If one could learn and memorize everything in those books one would think they have all the knowledge, but even then they would fall far short.  There is One, though, who does have all knowledge, knowing everything from A - Z, the Lord Jesus Christ.  In our Scripture today we read of several titles Jesus holds, one being the Alpha and Omega, or A - Z.  Let’s take a look at them.

In the opening verses of this final book of the Bible, the Apostle John shares some descriptions of the Lord Jesus.  One of the titles that Jesus called Himself is “Alpha and Omega” (vs. 8).  These are the first and last letters in the Greek alphabet, the language that the New Testament was originally written in.  Jesus is the beginning and the end, and everything in between.  He is almighty.  His power is supreme over all events.  Jesus has control over every person, object, and event.  Nothing is outside of His dominion, and as the Divine Creator of everything that has ever existed, nothing is outside of His knowledge.  Everything contained in those many volumes of the encyclopedia are just a drop in the bucket to the knowledge that Jesus has.

Jesus is the beginning and the end, the eternal Lord and Ruler of past, present, and future (vs. 4).  God’s eternal presence is not limited by time.  He has always been present, and will be in the future.

Verse 5 gives us several titles that Jesus holds.  The first one that is mentioned is “Faithful Witness”.  Jesus came to earth to more fully reveal the character and ways of the Father (John 14:9).  He showed us the Father perfectly, and His earthly life was one of faultless and complete obedience.

Jesus is also called the Firstborn from the Dead (vs. 5).  He bore our sins and died on the Cross, was buried, and rose again on the third day.  His resurrection brought eternal life to all who call upon Him.  The Bible tells of others who were raised from the dead even before Jesus was, including those who Elijah and Elisha raised, and those who Jesus Himself raised from the dead.  However, each of these individuals had to die again later a second time.  Jesus was the first to rise from the dead in an imperishable body, never to die again.  He conquered death for all eternity, and everyone who believes in Him will live forever.

Another title is Ruler over the Kings of the Earth (vs. 5).  He raises people to power, and removes people from power (John 19:11; Romans 13:1).  It can be advantageous for someone to be friends with the ruler, however, as believers, we have access to a higher authority than any human leader.  Jesus was not just a humble, earthly teacher as some people state.  He is the glorious God.  He is the all-powerful King, victorious in battle and glorious in peace.

Jesus is our Great High Priest.  As believers, we are priests as well (vs. 6).  Part of what this means is that we have the tremendous privilege of interceding for one another in prayer, just as Jesus does.

When Jesus returns, all people everywhere will see Him (vs. 7).  He will return in clouds of glory, and will be visible and victorious.  Everyone will know that it is Jesus.  The Jewish people will then, at that time, know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Jesus is the Messiah and Lord.  There will be wailing because of the judgment Jesus will bring upon the world for its sin and shame.

The Apostle John gives us a warning that we should be ready at all times for Jesus’s return (vs. 3), for the Bible says the time is near.  We do not know when it will occur, but we should always be prepared.  It will happen quickly, and then when it does, there will be no second chance to turn to Him then.

Monday, November 22, 2021

A Living God

 Psalm 115

You’ve probably heard the phrase “I may as well be talking to the wall!”  Perhaps someone said it to you.  It implies that you didn’t hear a word the other person was saying to you.  When we have something important to say to another, perhaps something very critical, we want them to be listening, to hear what we say.  A wall, made of wood, brick, or stone, perhaps covered in plaster, can’t hear a thing we say, and will not respond.  We want our family and friends to hear us, and we soon find out who is a good listener, and who isn’t.  When we pray, we want God to hear us.  In our psalm today, the psalmist compares Yahweh, who hears and is attentive to us, to the pagan idols who don’t hear a thing.

Our psalmist first begins with something he feels is very important, and that is a reminder to all believers that Yahweh, alone, is deserving of all glory, and not ourselves (vs. 1).  God will not share His glory with anyone else, whether with some person, or with any pagan gods from some false religion.  It is never right to think it is okay for a Christian to mingle their faith with another religion or philosophy.  Whenever we do something noteworthy, we should point the praise to God, not to ourselves.  All glory belongs to Him, and He will not share that with anyone.

There are times when unbelievers scoff and deride us for an apparent lack of response from God to our prayers.  “Where is your God?  Why isn’t He answering your prayers?” they taunt (vs. 2).  Our God does hear and answer prayers, and as believers we need to give testimony to that fact.  Their pagan idols, however, are nothing more than wood or stone (vs. 4-8).  Just like the wall that doesn’t hear a word we say, neither do their idols.

We have all seen, either in photos or firsthand, idols of various deities that followers of false religions set up to worship in their homes, in their temples, and scattered around the countryside of their countries.  They are made from all sorts of materials, wood, stone, even gemstones.  They are cold and dead, though, with no life or power to them.  Those who worship these idols lay food out before them, but these objects made of wood or stone cannot eat it.  Small wild animals or birds will come and eat the food, or else it becomes moldy while they wait for their god to move.  Sometimes they even dress these idols because they can't dress themselves.  They cannot do anything, including ever helping those who vainly and hopelessly worship them.

These pagans worship dead gods of their own making, in the image of fallen creatures.  These spiritually blind and deluded people make up myths and stories about their gods, where they have fallen personalities of cruelty and violence, often promiscuous and debauched.  The worshippers of these deities become like the idols they worship, senseless, cruel, and impure.

Yahweh is alive and active in the world and in our lives.  He is not a cold, lifeless statue of wood or stone.  God is sovereign.  He has the power and wisdom to accomplish everything He desires.  All throughout Scripture we see and are reminded that He hears and answers our prayers, unlike an idol.  No matter what happens in our life, God is in absolute control.  We do not need to fall to pieces like the unsaved do.

There may be times when we think that God has forgotten us.  We feel alone and abandoned.  However, God remembers us.  He will never forget or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5; Isaiah 49:15).  He sees, He understands, and we are always in His mind (Psalm 139:17-18).  God also does not play favorites like people do.  He doesn’t just bless the powerful or famous (vs 13), nor just pastors or those in full-time Christian work.  If we fear the Lord and obey Him, He will bless us.

As we close our psalm for this week, let’s remember that we should always be glorifying God.  He is exalted when we show His mercy and truth in our lives.  When others see the Lord bringing us through hardships and answering our prayers, they will know there is something wonderful about Him.  Honor the Lord.  He alone is worthy.  Yahweh is not like the dead, lifeless, and worthless idols.  Trust in Him, because He will help us.  Praise the Lord because He is worthy.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

A Faith Like Daniel's

 Daniel 6:1-24

Today’s Scripture tells an account of Daniel being cast into the lion’s den.  Most of us first heard about Daniel when we were children from our parents or in Sunday School.  There are lessons here for us adults, as well, that can help strengthen our walk with the Lord.  Let’s take a look at this time in Daniel’s life and see what we can learn.

As our Scripture begins here, Daniel was now in his 80’s, an elderly man.  Because of his good spirit and godly wisdom, he had been an advisor to several rulers of both the Babylonian empire and its successor, the Persian empire (vs. 1-3).  However, as is often the case, many other government officials were jealous of Daniel.  He had enemies because he did a good and honest job, and they did not like it that a “foreigner” held such an important position.  These enemies looked for a way to bring Daniel down.  However, they had a difficult time finding any legitimate charges to bring against him.  Daniel was an upright, righteous man, who loved God and obeyed Him wholeheartedly, and was thus a law-abiding, moral, and ethical person.  When they couldn’t find anything about Daniel’s life to criticize, they attacked his faith (vs. 5-6).

These enemies of Daniel got together and came up with a plot that would ensure his downfall.  They came to the Emperor Darius, suggesting he proclaim a law, under penalty of death, that no one could pray to any other god than himself for a month, thus flattering him and feeding into his ego (vs. 6-9).  Ancient kings were often worshiped as gods in many cultures.  Once enacted, Medo-Persian law could not be changed, even by the king.  Because Daniel never hid his faith, they felt that they had him now.

When Daniel’s enemies tricked the king into making this decree, what did Daniel do?  Did he run to the king, and fight back by using his relationship with him?  No, he continued to pray to God as he always had (vs. 10).  He didn’t complain to God or say that it wasn’t fair that he would be arrested.  He praised God and gave thanks, even in the middle of a bad situation.  Daniel had a disciplined prayer life, coming to God in prayer three times a day (Psalm 55:16-17).  He knew that prayer was his lifeline to God.  Daniel made no attempt to now hide his daily prayer routine, even though he knew it would cost him his life.

Daniel would have been a very busy man, considering the high government position he had.  Yet he made it a priority to spend time with God a minimum of three times a day, a practice he had done throughout his long life.  He did not give God the crumbs of his day.  This routine helped him develop a strong faith that did not waver, even when he faced persecution and a death sentence.  He was committed to doing what was right in the eyes of the Lord, and he faced the consequences for his choices with a calm, Christ-like spirit, with no complaints or struggles.

His enemies quickly caught him, and brought it to the attention of the king.  Though the king deeply loved and respected Daniel, there was nothing he could do, and he was immediately thrown into the lion’s den (vs. 13-15).  Darius knew of Daniel’s faith, and it had made an impression upon him.  As Daniel was thrown to the lion’s, Darius called out to him to trust in his God (vs. 16).

Both men spent the night in prayer.  Darius was afraid and restless.  He could not eat or sleep (vs. 18).  Daniel, though, was not afraid.  Instead of prayers of fear, complaint, or vengeance, Daniel gave prayers of thanksgiving.  Thankfulness was a habit with him.  When we are thankful we are better able to fight fear.  We can’t always fix our circumstances, just like Daniel, but we can fix our eyes on God.

God openly honored Daniel’s faith for the purpose of showing His glory.  Darius’s small faith brought him to the opening of the lion’s den the next morning, fearfully calling out to see if he was still alive (vs. 19-20).  Daniel’s strong faith and belief kept the lions from harming him (vs. 23).  Daniel didn’t suddenly turn to God for help when his crisis came.  Instead, he had spent a lifetime making daily deposits of faith in his account with God, and when the time came for him to make a withdrawal, it was there for him.

How about us?  Do we wait for a crisis to turn to God, and expect a supply of faith and help at our disposal?  That would not have been of much help to Daniel.  He had built a lifetime relationship with the Lord, a lifetime of prayer and faith.  When the crisis came, he stood firm, and the Lord honored him.

Friday, November 19, 2021

Be Watchful

 Mark 13:32-37

With the Christmas holidays approaching, many people are preparing their homes for holiday visitors.  We want to be sure our homes are clean and inviting for our guests.  If we know the date of their arrival, we plan accordingly.  However, what if we don’t know exactly when they will arrive? What if we heard that a very important guest was planning to visit our home on some date throughout the year, but we didn’t know when?  If we are serious about making a good impression, and not be caught embarrassed, we will make sure our home is continually clean and presentable every day.  We keep ourselves prepared.

In our Scripture today from the Gospel of Mark, Jesus spoke to the disciples of His return to earth at the Second Coming.  This is a date that most Christians are anxiously awaiting, just as we would a special, upcoming event.  Jesus, though, tells us here that we don’t know when He will return, and thus, we need to always be ready.

We have all heard when various people, often religious cult leaders, set a date for Jesus’s return.  Not too many years ago one such self-proclaimed prognosticator set a specific date of when he claimed he knew when Jesus would return.  He boldly proclaimed to all when this event would happen.  However, the day came and went.  This person then excused his mistake, and said his calculations were off a bit, and gave a second date.  Again, Jesus did not return then, either.  There have been times in the past when whole groups of people felt it would be on this or that day, and anxiously quit their jobs and sat out waiting for Him, only to be mistaken.

Scripture warns us very clearly here that no one knows the exact date of His return (vs. 32).  Jesus, because of the self-imposed limitations of the Incarnation, did not know the date of His Second Coming.  The angels do not know.  What makes some people think that they are so privileged as to be given that information?  The Bible says no one knows.  We cannot predict the exact date by certain Scripture verses, by science, or by history.  Jesus has revealed certain signs to show when the day is drawing near, just as we can tell that spring is coming, or that winter is drawing near.  But of the exact date, no one can tell.  If we hear that someone has come up with a specific date, then we can be completely certain that they are wrong, and are either willfully ignoring or not believing the Scriptures.

Jesus tells us that in light of His approaching return, we need to be in a state of watchfulness (vs. 33).   Some of you might remember the days when you were in school, and the teacher stepped out for a few minutes.  She told the class to work on their assignments.  There were always a few students, though, who used the time to act up.  When the teacher came back unexpectedly, they were caught.  Those who were behaving and doing their work were rewarded.  What about those employees who think they can catch a nap when the boss steps out?  When he returns unexpectedly, there is trouble for those snoozing co-workers!  And there is embarrassment when our houseguest arrives, but we aren’t prepared and the house is a mess.  We don’t know when Jesus will return, but He warns us to be prepared at all times.

God has given each believer our own work to do for Him, and He expects us to be faithfully discharging whatever duties He has assigned to us (Ephesians 2:10).  We don’t want to be caught napping or acting up when He returns, do we?  (vs. 34-36).  Instead, we should remain vigilant and watch for Jesus’s return.  Our watchfulness should be seasoned with prayer (vs. 33).

So many in the Church today are spiritually asleep, not knowing or realizing the lateness of the hour.  Though we do not and cannot know the exact date, the clock is ticking.  Our focus should not be so much on which exact day it will be, but rather on the need for watchfulness.  Preparation, not calculation, is needed.  We need to be prepared for Jesus’s return.  When He comes, I want Him to find me doing the work that He has given me to do, don’t you?

Wednesday, November 17, 2021


 Hebrews 10:31-39

Have you ever felt like just quitting?  Sometimes in a sport or game we played as a child, when it looked like we were losing, we might have been tempted to quit.  Perhaps in college when a class was too difficult we wanted to withdraw and give up.  There are more serious things that people are tempted to quit at as well, such as their job when it becomes unpleasant, or their marriage.  People even give up on life.  In our Scripture for today from the Book of Hebrews, we will read about some people who also were ready to quit.

The Book of Hebrews was written primarily to Christians from Jewish backgrounds, living in the land of Judea.  These Christians faced a lot of animosity, hostility and persecution from other Jews who rejected Jesus as the Messiah.  At this time in history, many Jewish Christians were cast out from their families.  They were literally disowned by Jewish parents, divorced by spouses, and thrust out from their homes.  Many lost their employment.  Often the persecution got even worse.  Life became very difficult for them.

When things become quite difficult, what do people often do?  Frequently they give up, and this was what some of these Jewish believers were doing.  The persecution was harsh, and their families and friends had turned against them.  Many gave up their Christian faith and returned to the Jewish religion so that they might be taken back into their families, homes, and jobs.

The writer to the Hebrews in this Epistle gave those in the various churches in Judea who were considering doing this a warning not to return to Judaism.  Throughout this Epistle, the writer was stressing how Jesus is superior to anything in Judaism.  Now he was telling them to recall all that Jesus had brought them through, and the nearness of their coming reward.  The writer stressed how displeased God would be if they did abandon their faith because of any persecution.

As we all know, hostility and persecution because of our faith is just as prevalent today as it was back in the first century, and it is not limited to those from a Jewish background.  Many people today, from all different ethnic and faith backgrounds, experience varying degrees of animosity from family and friends when they accept Jesus.  If it gets a little strong, some may feel like giving up.  They do not want the scorn of their parents, spouse, or other family.  They feel hurt when friends turn away from them.  Though in most western nations loss of employment wouldn’t likely happen, it does in some countries where Christians are a minority.  Like those in the first century, some may feel like giving up and abandoning their faith.

As this was happening to those from Jewish backgrounds in increasing numbers, the writer of Hebrews tried to bring encouragement to them to persevere in their faith and conduct when facing the persecution and pressure they were going through.  He told them, and those today who may feel the same temptation, to not abandon their faith in times of persecution, but to show by their endurance that their faith was real.  If they truly had accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior, they need to stand strong and not turn away in apostasy.

Apostasy is abandoning or renouncing one’s faith and beliefs, recanting what one had originally pledged a belief in.  The opposite of apostasy is faith.  Faith pleases God.  If one turns away from their faith, or draws back, one must wonder if their faith was genuine to begin with.

The warning in our Scripture is that when we go through persecution and distressing times we not become tempted to give up and abandon our faith.  We are told that this is no time to turn back, for we are closer than ever to our eternal reward.  Hold strong to your faith in Jesus, for God is faithful to His promises.

Monday, November 15, 2021

If The Foundations Are Destroyed

 Psalm 11

Every once in a while we hear on the news of a building collapsing, or is in danger of doing so.  There could be various reasons for this, and sometimes it is because the foundation wasn’t laid properly or was not strong enough to support the size of the building.  Having a good, strong, and firm foundation is important for the safety of a building, as any architect or construction manager will tell you.  Without attention to the foundation, a structure is at great risk.  This is true both in the physical realm with buildings, in a society with morals and values, and also the spiritual realm.  David, who wrote our psalm for this week, knew this.

Sometimes when life gets difficult, many people wish they could just run away and escape.  They would like to flee and leave all of their problems behind.  They may even wish they could grow a pair of wings like a bird, and fly off into the woods or the mountains.  There nobody could find them or bother them with problems.  Sometimes that sounds good!  As king, David faced a lot of problems, some quite overwhelming.  At the time of the writing of Psalm 11, he was facing some unspecified problems, and some of his counsellors were suggesting to him that because of how overwhelmed he was, he might just want to run off and leave it all behind (vs. 1).

Did David take the advice of his friends?  No.  Instead he reminded them that his trust and faith was in the Lord God.  They were panicking, but he was not.  David was at peace with God.  Faith in God keeps us from losing hope, and helps us resist fear.  David’s advisors were afraid because they saw only frightening circumstances and crumbling foundations.  David was comforted and optimistic because he knew God was greater than anything his enemies could bring against him.  David told his well-meaning, but wrong-advising friends that his soul was not on the run, that his spirit had not capsized, because he always took refuge in the Lord.

It is here, though, that God’s Word, through the pen of David, warns us about keeping a sure foundation in our life, both morally and spiritually (vs. 3).  Just as every building needs a good foundation or else it falls, so does our life.  Destroy the building’s foundation and it will topple.  This is equally so in our life.  Those who have put their faith and trust in the Lord Jesus and His Word are standing upon a firm foundation.  As long as our faith and trust remain steady and sure upon Jesus, our foundation will be secure, and so will we.

In today’s world we see the very foundations of society being destroyed.  The Bible, God’s Word, is tossed out, along with everything it stands for.  Those who believe and follow Jesus are mocked, and in many places even persecuted.  Even basic morality is so often lost and missing in our society.  Society’s foundations are being destroyed.  Even in many churches we see God’s Word being put aside for what a godless society feels and says is correct.  As David asked, what can a righteous person do?

We do not need to fear.  God is still on His throne (vs. 4).  He will hold the wicked accountable.  He is not aloof, but is carefully examining everyone on earth.  We can have faith in our all-holy God.  Even during the times when it seems as if the Lord is doing nothing, He sees all, both the good and the bad.  When we feel like running, run to God!

As believers, we need to make sure that our foundation is built solely upon the Lord Jesus Christ, and Him alone.  Jesus gave us a parable about the wise man who built his house upon the rock, while the foolish man built his upon sand (Matthew 7:24-27).  Our foundation needs to be upon the Rock, the Lord Jesus Christ, not built upon the shifting, unstable, and ultimately failing sand of the wicked world system and society of today.  Jesus and His Word will stand firm forever.  Those who follow the ways of society today will come crashing down.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Is Your Name Written There?

 Daniel 12:1-4

Years ago, when I was back in school, often the teachers would put the names of the students who got an “A” on a big test up on a list, taping it to the wall.  All the students would anxiously gather around to see if their name was on that list.  They would do that again at the end of the school year.  The names of all the students who passed the class would be on a list.  “Is my name on that list?  Oh, I hope so!” everyone would say.  Many like to see their name on a list of those invited to a party or wedding of friends.  It can be a big let-down if your name is not on the list.  There is another list, written in a book, that it is very important that one finds their name on, and it will be worse than any let-down or failing a class if one’s name is not there.  Let’s read our Scripture for today from the prophet Daniel.

As we read this passage, Daniel is prophesying about the end times, right at the end of the Great Tribulation.  During the Great Tribulation there will be an unprecedented attack to exterminate all who have come to faith in the Lord Jesus during that time, and especially against the Jewish people (vs. 1).  God’s people, throughout every age, have always been under attack from the enemies of God, going all the way back to righteous Abel being attacked by wicked Cain. During these days at the end times, though, the persecution will be worse than anything the world has ever seen before.  Michael the Archangel will fight for believers then, or else it might have been possible for every believer to be exterminated.

Daniel then mentions a book where names are written.  Those whose names are written in this book will be delivered.  They will be delivered from eternal death, delivered from eternal destruction.  This is a book that we read about in several other passages of Scripture.  The Prophet Malachi calls it a Book of Remembrance, where he says that the names of all those who fear the Lord are listed (Malachi 3:16).  Jesus spoke of a list of the names of all believers written in heaven (Luke 10:20).  The Book of Revelation mentions a book like this several times.  We read about it in Revelation 13:8; 17:8; 20:12-15; and 21:27, and it is called the Lamb’s Book of Life.  The names of all believers who are saved and granted a place in heaven are listed there.  Those whose names are not found there will find eternal damnation.

After these end time persecutions we briefly read in Daniel’s prophecy about the resurrection of the just and unjust (vs. 2).   Two groups will rise from death.  Those who are saved will rise to eternal life.  The unsaved will rise to eternal torment.  The final chapters of the Book of Revelation describe this time in more detail.

Daniel describes how those who are wise will shine like bright stars in the sky (vs 3).  Have you ever wanted to be a star?  Many have desired to be a star in the sense of a movie star from Hollywood.  However, Hollywood is not the place to look to in order to find true glory.  When believers die, they won’t become a literal celestial object burning brightly out in the universe.  However, Scripture says we will shine like a star does.  God’s Word tells us that if we turn people to righteousness, in other words, lead people to faith in the Lord Jesus, we will shine like a star for God.  Do you want to be wise and be a star?  Bring others to faith in Jesus.  That is showing real wisdom, and we can be a greater star than anything Hollywood puts out!

Today people are running hither and yon, trying to find answers, trying to find truth, and answers to world problems (vs. 4).  They may feel that knowledge and science is increasing, but unless they find their answers and the truth in the Bible, it is nothing.  It is all in vain.

The wise are those who have accepted Jesus as Savior when the offer was open.  There will come a time when that offer is closed, and it is too late.  The offer is open now, but won’t always remain so.  Do you know whether your name is written down in the Lamb’s Book of Life?  As the great old-time hymn says:

Is my name written there

On the page white and fair?

In the book of Thy kingdom,

Is my name written there?

Friday, November 12, 2021

A Scribe And A Widow

 Mark 12:38-44

Have you ever had to be around a really proud person, one who felt he or she was better than everyone else?  It’s not too pleasant!  They think they’re smarter than anyone around them, and better looking.  Their job is better, along with their house, and their car.  They live in a better community, have a better spouse, children, etc.  You get the picture.  And it’s even worse when they think they should have special honors from others because of their greatness.  Jesus was not impressed with these people, as we will see in our Scripture for today.

As today’s Scripture passage begins, Jesus warned His listeners to beware, watch out, and guard against the evil influences of others.  In this case, Jesus warned against allowing the examples of the scribes to influence them (vs. 28-40).  Scribes in the time of Jesus were well-educated men who would write and interpret legal documents and manuscripts, and who knew the Jewish religious law.  In a society where not everyone was well-literate, their services were in high demand.

Because of this, they, along with the Pharisees, would frequently exalt themselves in public.  They wanted homage and reverence shown when greeted in public, with accolades extolling their honor.  They dressed in rich, expensive clothes, indicating their wealth and status.  Wherever they went, whether to the synagogue on the Sabbath, or to restaurants or public gatherings, the scribes would expect the best seats in the house.  They felt they were so much better than anyone else.  As Jesus pointed out, though, many of them got a lot of their wealth through dishonest dealings and scams with the poor and vulnerable in society, particularly widows.  And in spite of their shady dealings and overwhelming pride, the worst thing was that the scribes tried to look devout and holy in the eyes of others (vs. 40).

The religious leaders at this time were responsible for shaping the faith of the people.  Instead, they put heavy burdens on them, with unnecessary legalistic rules.  They swindled the poor for money.  Their behavior oppressed and misled the very people they were supposed to lead.  We see people who act like the scribes did today, as well.  Jesus warned us against following their example.  Doing religious activities, such as reading the Bible or praying in public, can be phony if the motive for doing them is to be noticed or given honor, as the scribes wanted.  God wants us to live for Him even when no one is looking.  He will also harshly judge those who take advantage of the poor and vulnerable, as He continually warns throughout all of the Bible.

As our Scripture continues, Jesus went to the area in the Temple where the offering boxes were, and sat where He would have a view of the people as they gave their offerings (vs. 41-44).  A number of the people made a big show of how much they were giving.  They wanted to attract attention, and receive the smiles and words of approval from the people for the size of their offering.  This did not impress Jesus one bit.  So many people, both then and today, want people to know what they give to the church and other charities.  They want others to pat them on the back, telling them how wonderful and great they are for the big amounts of money they give.

God does not measure giving by our human standards.  When Jesus saw a poor widow come and drop in two mites, He was impressed.  A mite is just a fraction of one cent, the smallest coin.  Jesus knew she was poor.  She was a widow.  In Biblical times widows had no way of supporting themselves.  Unless they had children who were willing to take them in, they could literally starve to death.  The Greek word “poor” used in verse 42 is “ptochos”, which would mean a pauper, someone who was more than just plain poor.  This woman was destitute.  The little she gave was all that she had.

In the Lord’s eyes, this poor widow gave more than all the others put together.  The value of a gift is not determined by its amount, but by the spirit in which it is given.  A gift given grudgingly, or for recognition, loses its value.  She gave because she loved the Lord, not because she expected any applause.  What is the motive behind our giving?  Is it for recognition, or because of a grudging sense of duty?  God honors us when we give out of love and gratitude for Him.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

The Real Thing

 Hebrews 9:24-28

One TV show that we occasionally watch in our house is Antiques Roadshow, a show where one can bring in items that one hopes are worth something and have them appraised, hopefully for many dollars.  Maybe that item in our house is worth something, or perhaps it is only an imitation.  Imitations have some value, though never nearly as much as an original.   I would certainly not mind owning a copy of a Van Gogh or a Rembrandt painting.  However, owning an original would be of infinitely more value.  In our Scripture passage today from the Book of Hebrews, we see a comparison between an original and a copy, and how important that is.

Shortly after the people of Israel were freed from years of slavery in Egypt, they journeyed to Mt. Sinai, where God gave them His Law.  He also gave Moses a pattern from which to build the Tabernacle.  The pattern of the Tabernacle was taken from the original in heaven with God, and later Solomon built the Temple in Jerusalem, which was patterned after the first earthly Tabernacle.  Within the Tabernacle were the sacrificial altar, and the Holy of Holies, where the Ark of the Covenant was.

It was there that the Jewish High Priest would offer the blood of the sacrifice for forgiveness of sins.  Once a year he would come with the sacrificial blood to make atonement for the sins of the people.  However, this altar, this tabernacle were only copies of the original in heaven.  The blood of animals could never fully atone for sin.  The earthly holy places in the tabernacle were only copies of the real abode of God in heaven (vs. 24).  The Jewish priests only entered the copies.  Jesus, the Son of God and the Messiah, went into the real thing in heaven, offering His sinless Blood to make atonement for our sins.

The priests needed to make numerous sacrifices, day after day, year after year.  That is because the blood of bulls, lambs, and goats could not sufficiently atone for our sins.  Jesus died once for all (vs. 25-26).  He did not enter into a copy of the Holy Place, which the priests did.  Instead, He brought His Blood into the true Holy Place, in heaven itself.  His sinless Blood, offered upon the true Altar, would bring forgiveness to all who called upon Him.

Jesus’s sacrifice does not need to be continually repeated, like the Jewish sacrifices.  He died only once, and that was sufficient to atone for the sins of mankind.  We are completely forgiven of the penalty of our sins through the sufficient, substitutionary death of Jesus Christ.  Jesus is our Mediator, appearing in God’s presence on our behalf.  He is on our side, at God’s side.  He is there, interceding on our behalf.

As we continue on in this passage, we read in verse 27 that all will stand before God on Judgment Day.  We also see that except for those alive when Jesus returns for us, everyone must die sometime.  Everyone will answer to God at the Judgment.  When we stand before His absolute holiness, we will not be able to say anything in our own defense.  The only question will be whether we trusted in Jesus to be our Savior, or whether we’ve chosen to pay our sin debt on our own.  There are no works sufficient enough to pay one’s sin debt, nor any amount of money.  We either accept Jesus’s sacrifice or be eternally condemned.

The Bible clearly states here that there is no reincarnation (vs. 27).  Every person gets one chance to prepare for judgment.  We also see here the falsehood of the belief many people hold to, that of “universal reconciliation”, the hope that all men will be saved, whether they accept Jesus in this life or not.  This is a false doctrinal error.  God will not deny His holiness and justice to reward men who’ve rejected His love and grace.

Jesus is our great sin-bearer.  It is only through Him that we have forgiveness and freedom from sin.  Accept today the sacrifice He made of His Blood on our behalf, before it is too late, for Judgment Day is coming for all.  You may not like to think about that, just like you try not to think about the days of a dreaded doctor appointment, difficult test, meeting with the boss, or tax day.  But those days eventually come around, and this one will, as well.

Monday, November 8, 2021

Pleasing To God

 Psalm 149

Sometimes when we’re asked to fill out a questionnaire about ourselves, we might be asked what we enjoy doing, what gives us pleasure.  We might list some hobbies or pastimes.   Perhaps we might even think of certain people whose company we enjoy and who gives us pleasure.  It is also nice to know that other people might feel the same way about us, that our company would give them pleasure.  As we open up our psalm for this week, we will see Someone who does, indeed, find pleasure with us.

The last several psalms in the Bible are praise psalms, ones that call upon us to bring all sorts of praise to God.  They encourage us to sing songs of praise to the Lord (vs. 1-3).  If you have a hymnal, look up some of the many hymns.  Put on some Christian music, and sing along.  These psalms also list all sorts of musical instruments with which to praise the Lord.  Those who have musical ability should use that talent, and praise the Lord with it.  Sometimes when we are praising the Lord those less inhibited might just feel like getting up and dancing (vs. 3).  King David did (II Samuel 6:14-15).  These are different ways that the psalms tell us we can use to express how we feel about the Lord.

How does the Lord feel about us, His Blood-bought children?  We read in verse 4 that the Lord takes pleasure in His children.  For some of us who might have low self-esteem, or who think little of themselves, this is some special news.  God delights in you!  He takes pleasure in you!  God doesn’t just simply accept you, or put up with you.  He takes pleasure and delights in you, just as a groom does over his bride (Isaiah 62:5).

People usually have some type of qualifier for those that they would choose to delight in.  They would have to look just right.  They would have to do various things to please the other, have some sort of talent or ability, and have the right background.  Our family background, looks, education, or income may matter to other people in whether they accept us or like us.  However this is not the case with God.  His love is unconditional and irrevocable.

God will never look at you and decide He doesn’t love you because of how you look or how intelligent you are.  He thinks you are beautiful!  We are made in His image.  God knew what He was doing when He knit us together in the womb (Psalm 139:13).  Those who have accepted His Son as their Savior are clothed with the garments of His righteousness and grace (Isaiah 61:10).

We read that the Lord will also beautify us (vs. 4).  Many people are conscious of how they look, and women in particular seek to look beautiful. Some feel that if they don’t look just perfect, their hair, their fingernails, clothes, and weight, they will not be accepted or loved.  Believers do not need to worry, as the Lord has promised to beautify us.  We read that He will beautify the humble or meek.  Meekness does not mean weakness, or being easily walked upon.  It is an attitude or quality of heart, whereby a person is willing to accept and submit to the will of God with a quiet and gentle spirit.  The humble and meek are willing to acknowledge that they can do nothing to earn God’s favor.  It is something that He freely bestows upon those who have accepted Jesus and His death upon the cross for their salvation.  That is what He will beautify us with, the garment of salvation, and not anything that the world offers in their attempt to look good.

As our psalm continues on, we read that God’s Word tells us to keep a praise to Him in our mouth, and a two-edged sword in our hands (vs. 6).  The two-edged sword reminds me of a sword mentioned in Hebrews 4:12.  There it talks about a two-edged sword, but not just any sword.  Hebrews tells us that the Word of God is sharper than a two-edged sword.  God’s Word cuts deep into our soul with its truth.  When the Apostle Paul describes the spiritual armor that Christians are to wear, he also calls the Word of God our sword (Ephesians 6:17).  When our enemies come upon us, we aren’t to literally pull out a sword or a gun and kill them.  We are to bring them the message of the Gospel and salvation from God’s Word, the Bible.

There will come a day when God will bring His vengeance upon His enemies, and they will be destroyed.  In the meantime, though, our sword is to be His Word.  Let us be diligent in telling others that God wishes to be pleased and delighted with them, as well.

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Down To Her Last Bite

I Kings 17:8-16 

There’s only one piece of cake left, and both you and your spouse, or a friend, want it.  You might offer to let them have it, or even split the piece.  It’s not a big deal.  However, what if it is the last of an important, needed, and necessary item, and being poor, you have no way to replace it?  What if it is the last slice of bread, or the last glass of water?  We might be much more protective of sharing those.  Those are important, and not that many people would just willingly give them to someone who asks, if there is no way to get more.  Today we’ll meet a woman who was asked to give the very last thing that she had during the most desperate time in her life, and how she responded.

As our Scripture opens, the Lord had instructed the prophet Elijah to leave where he had been hiding himself and travel to a far location.  Elijah had been hiding because he had pronounced God’s judgment of a severe drought upon the nation of Israel due to their pagan worship.  When the drought began, King Ahab and his wife Jezebel sought to kill him, and he was hiding by a creek, where the Lord sent a raven to bring him food.  Now the creek has dried up, and the Lord sent Elijah to the Phoenician city of Zarephath (vs. 8-9).  Zarephath was a village on the Mediterranean, about 7 miles south of the major city of Sidon.  Sidon was ruled by the pagan king Ethbaal, who was the father of Jezebel.  Elijah brought the Word of God, and showed the power of God in a very pagan culture.

This drought was widespread, and quite severe.  As Elijah entered the village, he met a widow woman who was gathering some sticks.  He asked her to bring him a drink and some food.  The widow then explained to him that she had nothing, she was just getting some wood to make a fire, bake her last bite of food for herself and her young son, and then wait to die (vs. 10-12).  She was down to her very last provision and expected the worst.  Elijah, though, spoke to her the promise of God.  He told her to bring him what she had, and if she would do that, God would ensure that she would have all that she needed (vs. 13-14). The widow had her eyes on the impossibilities.  Elijah focused only on God and what He could do.  He told her not to fear, but to go and make the biscuits for him, her, and the boy.  God would provide.

The woman had God’s promise before her.  Would she believe and act upon it?  What would you do?  What would I do?  Would we give the very last that we had, believing that God would provide?  Let’s continue and see what this widow did.  Elijah’s word from God sparked faith in her spirit.  She believed his words and the God of Israel.  She went and made Elijah a meal with her last bit of food, and according to Scripture, God miraculously ensured the food lasted until the drought was over (vs. 15-16).  When the widow met Elijah she thought she was preparing her last meal.  By a simple act of faith, she gave all she had.  She believed Elijah and acted.

If the woman and her son had eaten the last of their food, they would have died. She had the choice of feeding the man of God or herself.  Her obedience brought them life.  God would have provided for Elijah some other way, but she and her son would have died.   The woman told him she had little.  Elijah rebuked her fear, and told her to give what she had.  In return, God supplied what she needed, and the food lasted.

We should never be hard-hearted or tight-fisted with what we have (Deuteronomy 15:7).  The one who gives to the poor will lack nothing from God (Proverbs 28:27).  Jesus promised to repay an overflowing amount (Luke 6:38).  Believe God, who tells us not to fear.  Give because we believe in God’s promises.  When we give up our last resource, we can only lean upon God.  Do we trust that He is in charge, and will work out the best plan for us?  When genuine faith is tested, it brings glory to God.  This woman, a Gentile, had genuine faith, unlike so many in Elijah’s homeland of Israel.  She even merited a mention by the Lord Jesus (Luke 4:25-26).

God has help for us where we least expect it.  He provides for us in ways that go beyond our expectations.  He provided for Elijah through a Gentile widow, and earlier through a raven.  No matter how hopeless our situation, we should look to God.  His promises are just as sure today as they were then.  Seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto us (Matthew 6:33).

Do not fear!  God hears when we are scraping the bottom of the barrel!  He will supply all of our needs - one day at a time.

Friday, November 5, 2021

The Greatest Commandment

 Mark 12:28-34

When reporters or talk show hosts interview a public figure that they are opposed to, they frequently try to entrap them into saying something that will make them look bad in the eyes of the public.  They may not come across as overtly argumentative, but their motives are none the less sinister.  Jesus occasionally found Himself in a similar situation with His enemies.  Our Gospel reading today details one such time.  Let’s read the passage and see how He answered His adversaries.

As our Scripture opens, both the Pharisees and Sadducees had tried to entangle Jesus in religious arguments, attempting to turn the people against Him, or even get Him to speak some words that they could charge as blasphemy.  Now a scribe (a supposed expert in the Jewish religious Law) thought he would take a shot at entrapping Jesus with a Biblical or religious question (vs. 28).  If this scribe could come up with something where, no matter how Jesus answered He would be in hot water, then he would have Him, and they could bring Him down.  So this scribe came up to Jesus and asked Him a question.  Both Matthew and Luke indicate that he was not sincere in his questioning, but was trying to trap Jesus (Matthew 22:35; Luke 10:25).

The scribe asked Jesus which of the Jewish Laws in the Old Testament was the greatest.  There were approximately 613 laws given in the Old Testament.  The various scribes, rabbis, Pharisees, and Sadducees would often argue among themselves as to their order of greatness and importance.  Each group felt that some laws were more important than the other, and even among themselves the groups didn’t always agree.  This scribe was trying to get Jesus to incriminate Himself by picking any certain law above the others.  The scribe felt that no matter what way Jesus would answer, He would get someone angry.

Jesus, though, is God, and the Bible is His Word.  He couldn’t entrap Jesus with His own Word!  Jesus didn’t try to come up with some snappy answer.  Instead, He used God’s own Word to answer the question.  Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:4-5 to the scribe (vs. 29), a portion of Scripture that devout Jews would recite every day.  This same thought is also found in Deuteronomy 10:12, and 30:6.  Jesus said to love the Lord God with all of our heart is the greatest commandment of God’s Law (vs. 30).

Jesus didn’t stop there, though (vs. 31).  He took the scribe’s question one step further with a second commandment, and quoted from Leviticus 19:18.  Genuine love for God is followed by a genuine love for other people.  If someone truly loves God, they will show love and concern for others.  On the other hand, though, caring for people without love for God is an empty shell, and ultimately worthless.

The Savior showed here that rather than tallying up all 613 Jewish laws, from the most important to the least, they could all be summed up with two laws.  God’s laws are not burdensome, with trying to keep track of hundreds, and seeing if we have fulfilled each one.  They can be reduced to two simple principles - love for God and love for others.  When we love God completely, and care for others as we care for ourselves, then we have fulfilled the intent of the Ten Commandments and other Old Testament laws.  These two commandments that Jesus gave to the scribe summarized all of God’s laws.

The scribe, though originally intending to trap Jesus, was impressed with His wise and true answer (vs. 32-33). Jesus then gave the scribe a challenge (vs. 34).  Even though this man knew and understood his Scripture, he was not saved.  He was not yet in the Kingdom.  He needed to take that final step, and accept Jesus as the Messiah.

Many may know plenty of facts about the Bible, even having memorized plenty of verses, yet they still are not in the Kingdom, just like this scribe wasn’t.  Would that describe some of you?  You may have read the Bible, know certain things, and can recite some verses.  You are “not far from the kingdom of God”, but not yet in, as Jesus described the scribe.  Take that final step today.  Confess your sins, realizing that there is nothing that you can do on your own to merit heaven, and accept the Lord Jesus as your personal Savior.  Don’t linger just outside the Kingdom, but come in through the only way, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

The Once-For-All Sacrifice

Hebrews 7:23-28

Having to repeat the same task over and over again can get to be a nuisance.  Hang a picture upon the wall, and we don’t want to keep coming back day after day to rehang it because the hook keeps coming out.  It would be nice if our floors would stay clean.  Mop them once and be done with it for good!  Same with our clothes and dishes.  We don’t like to have to keep cleaning them, and keep cleaning them.  We want to hang the picture and it stays put, clean the item and it stays clean.  In the spiritual realm people would want to come to the priest for forgiveness, and then stay forgiven, not having to keep coming back and keep coming back.  In our portion of Scripture today from the Book of Hebrews we read how this is possible.

In the Old Testament, every time a Jewish person would sin, they would need to go to the priest, and bring an offering, a sacrifice for the forgiveness of their sins.  The priest would take it, make the sacrifice, and the person was forgiven from their sin.  This would be repeated over and over again, all throughout the person’s life.  Also, once a year, on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest would bring a sacrifice into the Holy of Holies, offering that sacrifice upon the altar for the sins of the whole nation.  This was done every year, year after year after year.  The High Priest, and all of the priests would need to make sacrifices, not only for the people, but also for themselves, as well.  There was never one sacrifice that would do it all, one sacrifice that would take care of everything, once and for all.  That is, not until Jesus.

The blood of bulls and goats could never truly atone for mankind’s sins (Hebrews 10:4), which is why the sacrifices needed to be done over and over again.  The Old Testament priests were also sinners, who had to make sacrifices for themselves on an ongoing basis.  We needed a sacrifice from someone who had never sinned, and that could only be found in the Lord Jesus Christ.   Jesus, alone, has made the only true atonement for sin upon the cross.  He did not have to atone for His own sins because He never sinned (vs. 26-27).  Because of this, Jesus only needed to atone for us once, not many times.  He saves us once for all.

Jesus is the perfect high priest.  Unlike the human high priests, He is completely holy, innocent of having ever committed sin.  Jesus’s death upon the cross atoned for all sins - past, present, and future, making no further sacrifices necessary.  We don’t have to look for another way to have our sins forgiven, and repeat that over and over again.  Jesus Christ was the final sacrifice for us.  Unlike what some people falsely teach and believe, Jesus did not become a sinner on the cross. Rather, He was the sin-offering (vs. 26).  Now He is seated at the right hand of the Father, the most exalted position in heaven or earth.

Every Old Testament priest, including the High Priest, would eventually die, and a new priest would need to step in the position.  By the time of Jesus, there had been at least several dozen High Priests since the time of Aaron.  Jesus is eternal, and His priestly office is eternal and unchangeable (vs. 24).

Jesus’s death opened the way for us to have immediate, unhindered admittance to the Father’s presence.  When Jesus finished His work in making the final priestly sacrifice, the veil in the Temple, which closed off the Holy of Holies from man, was torn in two (Mark 15:38).  This symbolized the spiritual truth that access to God was now open to all who believe.  Through the Holy Spirit we have the right to talk to God directly without a human intermediary (Ephesians 2:18).  Jesus says to ask for what we need, and gives us authority to enter the throne room at any time, and speak with the Father.

Everyone who trusts Jesus, has the Savior praying for them.  Jesus is seated at the right hand of God, where He intercedes for us (vs. 25).  What a blessed truth, knowing that Jesus is praying for me!  When the storms get rough and the clouds get dark, Jesus is praying for us!  When temptations come, Jesus is praying for us!  We don’t have to worry about our future since Jesus is going to the Father on our behalf!  We will overcome whatever it is that is confronting us right now, for Jesus is praying for us.