Saturday, August 29, 2009

Bribery, Anger and Nostalgia

Eccl. 7:7 ¶ Surely oppression maketh a wise man mad; and a gift destroyeth the heart.

When I looked at the Hebrew, I felt like the NIV expressed this truth best: Extortion turns a wise man into a fool, and a bribe corrupts the heart.

This truth directly connects to the definition of a fool as stated in the previous verse. I’m sad to note that it’s a truth that is in evidence in our justice system today.

God had specifically instructed His people to make righteous judgments and avoid taking bribes, and that command is still valid today.

Deuteronomy 16:19 “Thou shalt not wrest judgment; thou shalt not respect persons, neither take a gift: for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous.”

Eccl. 7:8 Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.

I agree with Solomon; it is always fun and energizing to start a project, but it is even better to complete that project and enjoy the benefits of the finished product. As I continued to think on this verse, it occurred to me that the last half is being stated in direct reference to the first half. One who is willing to work with patience and perseverance will achieve a better result than one who is overconfident and presumptuous or rash (from Webster’s definition of proud).

Eccl. 7:9 Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools.

This is another very powerful truth in light of the culture in America today. We live in a time when the mantra of the day is, “It’s all about me.” Road rage is not uncommon, and the fear of someone going “postal” at the workplace is legitimate. Anger is poison to the spirit and will manifest itself in evil action if allowed to fester.

Psalms 37:8 “Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.”

Proverbs 29:22 “An angry man stirreth up strife, and a furious man aboundeth in transgression.”

Ephesians 4:26-27 “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil.”

Eccl. 7:10 Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not enquire wisely concerning this.

Solomon is basically stating his opinion that it is not wise to spend much time reflecting on the good old days in light of today. Why would he say that? I think because the past cannot be changed, and our focus should be on the present and what we can do to make it and ourselves better.

Hebrews 3:13 “But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”

The Apostle Paul states it this way: Philippians 3:13-14 “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Beginnings and Endings

I finally completed another chapter in Ecclesiastes. Since I am assisting my daughter in homeschooling this year, my progress may be slower than I would like.

Eccl. 7:1 ¶ A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth.

As I read through this chapter, it seems to take on more of the flavor of the book of Proverbs. Solomon seems to be thinking about the better things associated with life on this earth. He begins by making a comparison of things that are both good, but then determines that one is better than the other—a good name and precious ointment.

His conclusion is that a good name or reputation is a very valuable asset. When he referenced it as better than precious ointment, I couldn’t help but think of the story of Mary using the expensive ointment of spikenard to anoint Jesus’ feet (see John 12). Why would Solomon conclude that a good reputation is more valuable than the ointment/perfume? I think the most obvious reason is that the one only gives temporary benefit, while the other is of long-lasting benefit. Also of note is the truth that a good name is something to which every person—rich or poor—can aspire.

His next observation is that the day you die is better than the day of your birth. This conclusion fits right in with his observations made in the previous chapters regarding the vanity of life. At birth your life is a clean slate—unmarred by experience either good or bad. As one grows, he experiences life and its frustrations. When you die, you are relieved of those frustrations. This is obviously reasoning from a physical perspective of life.

As a Christian, I agree with Solomon’s conclusion; but that is because I know that death will usher in an even better life full of blessings beyond my ability to even imagine.

Isaiah 64:4 “For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him.”

Eccl. 7:2 It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.

Why would Solomon conclude that it is more beneficial for one to spend time with mourners rather than those who are partying? The man confronted with death is more focused on the serious realities of life than the man who is making merry and enjoying an escape from the cares of life. He realizes the importance of living life in light of coming death. From that perspective one is more likely to make wiser decisions in life. Maybe he was actually thinking with a spiritual perspective with this statement, since only the idea that there is spiritual accountability after death is an effective motivation for choosing to temper one’s lifestyle and live within godly parameters.

Eccl. 7:3 Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.

This proverb is closely related to the previous one. Experiencing sorrow causes one to think soberly and seriously about life. Again I think that Solomon is probably thinking from a spiritual perspective; if death is just annihilation, there is no motivation to choosing temperance. Scripture is clear in stating that godly sorrow is to our benefit.

2 Corinthians 7:10 “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.”

2 Corinthians 4:17 “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory….”

Romans 5:3-5 “…but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”

I think it is important to note that laughter is not bad; it is good.

Proverbs 17:22 “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine….”

It’s just that the eternal spiritual benefits produced by sorrow are far greater.

Eccl. 7:4-6 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools. For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool: this also is vanity.

These verses give further commentary on the previous two verses. A wise person is one who looks at life seriously and realistically. He understands that rebuke or reproof from another wise person is of great benefit. This time the comparison is made in direct contrast. In other words, there is no benefit to listening to entertainment that is brainless, imprudent, indiscreet or contemptible (all synonyms of foolish); in fact, Webster defines a fool as one who “acts contrary to moral and religious wisdom; a wicked person.” The point being made in verse 6 is that the laughter of the fool is as short-lived as thorns in the fire heating a pot.

This truth will not be well embraced in the culture of America today. There is very little in the area of entertainment that does not fall in the category of foolish.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

God Protects His Own from Judgment

Isaiah 26:19 Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.

It seems that Isaiah is identifying with the dead of history who lived their lives following God in faith. He is confident that they will live again to sing the praises of God. This is the same faith expressed by Job:

Job 19:25-27 For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.

Isaiah 26:20-21 Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. For, behold, the LORD cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain.

These are very thought provoking verses. I would have to say that in context it seems to be addressing the people of Israel in particular regarding the day of the Lord, the 70th week of Daniel, the tribulation. This was introduced first in chapter 2. Along with bringing the nation of Israel to a position of repentance and acknowledgement of Jesus as Savior, that time will be a time of God’s wrath and vengeance against His enemies.

Jeremiah 46:10 For this is the day of the Lord GOD of hosts, a day of vengeance, that he may avenge him of his adversaries: and the sword shall devour, and it shall be satiate and made drunk with their blood: for the Lord GOD of hosts hath a sacrifice in the north country by the river Euphrates.

Nahum 1:2 God is jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and is furious; the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies.

Joel 2:30-32 And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call.

In that regard it would seem to apply to the remnant of Israel being preserved in the wilderness during the last half of the tribulation as described in Revelation 12.

Revelation 12:14 And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.

I have also heard these verses taught as a possible application to the believers who will be raptured before the tribulation starts. As I think about it, it could have a double application. Jesus speaks of going to prepare a place for those who trust in Him.

John 14:2-3 In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

Jesus also speaks of keeping believers from the time of temptation that is scheduled for those who dwell on earth.

Revelation 3:10 Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.

God has told us through the apostle Paul that believers are not appointed to wrath.

1Thessalonians 5:9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ…

I was reading an article by Jack Kelley at that contained an interesting perspective on these verses: “Notice how the pronouns change from second person when God speaks of His people to third person when He speaks of the people of the Earth. It means the two groups are different. One is told to hide because the other is going to be punished. (Note: The Hebrew word translated “Come” recalls the command to John in Revelation 4, “Come up here!” But the word has another primary meaning, and it is my favorite. It means vanish. “Vanish, my people!” Yes we will.)”

When reading through this section again in my Bible reading, all of a sudden a connection jumped out at me between verses 19-21 and 1Corinthians 15:52 and 1Thessalonians 4:16-17 in connection with the Rapture and the “day of the Lord,” the time of God’s wrath on planet earth as referenced in 1Thessalonians 5:9 above and Matthew 24.

1Corinthians 15:52 …and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

1Thessalonians 4:16-17 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

Matthew 24:21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.

Verse 19 references “Thy” dead men, in other words, men of faith. It speaks of the dead bodies of these men of faith being cast out of the earth. (Cf with the above verses in 1Corinthians and 1Thessalonians.) Immediately after that these people of faith enter “their” chambers (cf with John 14 above – “I will go and prepare a place for you.”) until the indignation is past. That indignation being defined in verse 26 and described in detail in Revelation. The thought of a possible connection to the Rapture was not new to me (as shown by previous comments), but I had not made a direct connection to 1Corinthians 15 and 1Thessalonians 4 with verse 19 in particular. Pretty amazing!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Israel--From Judgment to Restoration

Isaiah 26:15 Thou hast increased the nation, O LORD, thou hast increased the nation: thou art glorified: thou hadst removed it far unto all the ends of the earth.

Comparing translations helped on this verse. This seems to be talking of a time yet future when the borders of Israel will finally encompass the area promised by God to Abraham and the children of Israel.

Genesis 15:18 In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:

Deuteronomy 11:24 Every place whereon the soles of your feet shall tread shall be yours: from the wilderness and Lebanon, from the river, the river Euphrates, even unto the uttermost sea shall your coast be.

When this time comes, it will be a time of great praise and glory to YHWH, the covenant God of Israel. Isaiah is speaking with the boldness and faith of one who knows that God’s plans will come to pass. There are no ifs or maybes concerning God’s promises. The promise to Abraham was unconditional. The promise to the people of Israel in Deuteronomy was conditional:

Deuteronomy 11:22 For if ye shall diligently keep all these commandments which I command you, to do them, to love the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, and to cleave unto him…

At the time when God increases the nation of Israel, the people will be following Him according to the conditions He established. Scripture tells us that the Lord will not return until Israel calls upon Him in faith as their Messiah; He also tells us that at that time ALL Israel will be saved and will turn away from ungodliness.

Matthew 23:37-39 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.

Romans 11:26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:

Isaiah 26:16 LORD, in trouble have they visited thee, they poured out a prayer when thy chastening was upon them.

When God’s people are being disciplined through trouble/tribulation, it is natural for them to turn to God in prayer. The word for prayer indicates a whisper, a private prayer. This could be a reference to being so weak that they barely have the strength to call out to God in prayer.

Isaiah 26:17-18 Like as a woman with child, that draweth near the time of her delivery, is in pain, and crieth out in her pangs; so have we been in thy sight, O LORD. We have been with child, we have been in pain, we have as it were brought forth wind; we have not wrought any deliverance in the earth; neither have the inhabitants of the world fallen.

Now the Lord, through Isaiah, makes a comparison of Israel and a woman in childbirth that has not been able to deliver. She has gone through much pain and struggle, but has not accomplished delivery—in other words she has not been the example before the nations that God intended her to be. She was to teach the nations about God’s faithfulness and love to provoke them to salvation/deliverance.

Israel knew she had a responsibility before the other nations of the world as God’s chosen people. It was generally stated in God’s promise to Abram:

Genesis 12:2-3 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

They were aware that the people of other nations would learn about God through His dealings with His people. Moses used this argument with God when pleading for God’s mercy after the people had made and erected a golden calf to worship during the time that Moses was receiving the commandments of God.

Exodus 32:11-12 And Moses besought the LORD his God, and said, LORD, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand? Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people.

The Psalmist knew it.

Psalm 67:1-2 God be merciful unto us, and bless us; and cause his face to shine upon us; Selah. That thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations.

This truth was also affirmed by the prophet Ezekiel many years after the ministry of Isaiah.

Ezekiel 36:20-23 And when they entered unto the heathen, whither they went, they profaned my holy name, when they said to them, These are the people of the LORD, and are gone forth out of his land. But I had pity for mine holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the heathen, whither they went. Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name’s sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went. And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, saith the Lord GOD, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes.

Ezekiel 39:23-24 And the heathen shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity: because they trespassed against me, therefore hid I my face from them, and gave them into the hand of their enemies: so fell they all by the sword.According to their uncleanness and according to their transgressions have I done unto them, and hid my face from them.

The interesting thing is that the Lord has provided for His rebellious people by establishing a relationship with the Gentiles/heathen through the church to provoke His chosen people to jealousy to turn back to Him in faith. (church = all true believers in Christ from the time of His resurrection until He comes again at the time of the Rapture)

Romans 11:11 I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Forgiveness, Fidelity and Peace

Isaiah 26:12 LORD, thou wilt ordain peace for us: for thou also hast wrought all our works in us.

God’s plan for His people is to establish them in peace, safety and prosperity. That will happen when God’s people follow Him in submission and obedience. When we submit to Him and acknowledge Him as God, He empowers us to overcome the enemy and do the things that give Him pleasure—works of love, righteousness, mercy, and sacrifice. I am reminded of another scripture here:

John 15:5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

Isaiah 26:13-14 O LORD our God, other lords beside thee have had dominion over us: but by thee only will we make mention of thy name. They are dead, they shall not live; they are deceased, they shall not rise: therefore hast thou visited and destroyed them, and made all their memory to perish.

Here Isaiah is expressing the acknowledgement of the people that they had allowed other lords/masters to rule them. I thought it was interesting that the Hebrew for dominion included marriage. Basically, this was a statement of admission of spiritual adultery on their part. The second part of verse 13 seems to be a statement of renewed commitment to use God’s name with reverence in reference to YHWH, the covenant God of Israel, the one true God.

Regarding the false gods they had served, God’s people are declaring them dead. They had only lived because of their servitude to them. God’s people are declaring here that they will not again give them life through rebellion and disobedience to God. Through the power of His judgment, God has made the people realize the uselessness of serving false gods, gods with no power to protect or provide. As far as His people are concerned, they want a new start; they want to forget about the past.

Boy do I identify with those thoughts. It’s a wonderful thing to know that as far as the Lord is concerned, our sins are forgiven and forgotten.

Psalm 103:12 As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.

1John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Hebrews 8:10-17 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Judgment Teaches Righteousness

Isaiah 26:8 Yea, in the way of thy judgments, O LORD, have we waited for thee; the desire of our soul is to thy name, and to the remembrance of thee.

After looking up the main words in Hebrew, Isaiah seems to be expressing that God’s people waited with expectation for God’s decreed punishment/judgment to be completed. They looked forward to again being in a position of fellowship with their God. They knew that that time of restoration would come based upon His character and His word. God’s name represents His character and authority and uniqueness.

Isaiah 26:9 With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early: for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.

As he so often does, Isaiah’s message becomes personal. It reflects the thoughts and feelings of all those who truly love the Lord and honor Him as their God. He is basically saying that with his whole being he desires fellowship and connection with the Lord in the night (including the times when evil seems to have sway), the early hours just before dawn. The dawn is sure, and God’s victory over evil just as sure. He realizes that it is through God’s judgments on Israel in particular, that the people of the world are made to understand righteousness.

God set Israel apart as a nation to demonstrate Who He Is and the benefits of submission to and fellowship with Him. When they chose to rebel and turn away from Him, they were the object lesson to the world of the consequences of rejecting Him. Mankind needs to understand that as a holy and righteous God, He must punish sin. A loving God does so with the intent to draw the sinner to a position of repentance and renewed fellowship. A merciful and gracious God is longsuffering and patient as He allows us to learn and grow in our relationship to and experience with Him.

Isaiah 26:10 Let favour be shewed to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness: in the land of uprightness will he deal unjustly, and will not behold the majesty of the LORD.

In context with verse 9, this verse seems to be saying that it takes the judgment of God to produce righteousness in man. If God were to only exhibit kindness and mercy, man would never learn right living; he would continue selfishly in his sin and would never discern the person of God or experience the excellent things that accompany a right relationship to Him.

I think any parent could confirm that principle. A child left undisciplined will only become more selfish and hurtful to others; he will become more and more sinful. He won’t learn to love his parents, but to disdain and ridicule them. I believe that just as we have a sin nature that makes us more apt to choose sinful things based on the desires of the flesh, we also have an inner desire to experience love that is proved through nurture, admonition and correction.

Isaiah 26:11 LORD, when thy hand is lifted up, they will not see: but they shall see, and be ashamed for their envy at the people; yea, the fire of thine enemies shall devour them.

The reference to God’s hand being lifted up is a reference to His getting in position to bring it down in judgment. I think that is a true statement in reference to the enemies of God’s people, as well as in reference to those of God’s people who have turned away from Him and are rejecting Him. Somehow, we always seem to think that we are going to get away with sin. In the case of those who don’t accept God as GOD, they don’t even consider the possibility that they are acting in such a way that would call for judgment; they just don’t acknowledge their sin as sin.

“they shall see….” – This phrase is a statement that sinful, rebellious man will be brought to a position of envy/jealousy when they see God’s blessing upon those who choose to follow Him in submission and obedience.

“the fire…” – This phrase seems to be a statement of the principle of sowing and reaping. This principle is often emphasized in scripture, and presented itself recently in my studies of Habakkuk and Obadiah.

Job 4:8 Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same.

Galatians 6:7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

God is not going to let sin go unpunished.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

God Gives Strength and Direction

Isaiah 26:4 Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength:

How long are we to trust in God? Forever, time without end. When we choose to place our trust in the Lord, we will find the strength and energy we need to do the things He would have us do—to meet the trials of life without fear—to gain victory over sin—to serve Him by serving others. The Hebrew for the word “strength” includes the idea of God as our refuge, our protection in danger and distress. That describes a position of strength—not fear.

Isaiah 26:5-6 For he bringeth down them that dwell on high; the lofty city, he layeth it low; he layeth it low, even to the ground; he bringeth it even to the dust. The foot shall tread it down, even the feet of the poor, and the steps of the needy.

The reference to those that dwell on high has been referencing those who are proud—those who feel they are self-sufficient.

“The lofty city” – The last city we referenced was Babylon and the last nation referenced was Moab. I don’t think it is important to be able to identify the particular city. The point is that God hates pride, and He is the one that is sovereign and is the ultimate authority regarding the destiny of a man, a city, or a nation. When He chooses to humble or bring down, He does so completely.

“the poor…the needy” – This seems to be referencing verse 4 of chapter 25 in reference to the conquered Jews and on into the future to men of faith in the kingdom of Antichrist. They will one day be in a position to exalt in the defeat of their enemies.

Isaiah 26:7 The way of the just is uprightness: thou, most upright, dost weigh the path of the just.

The way (path, manner) of the just (lawful, righteous, clean) man is uprightness (evenness, prosperity, straightness, pleasant). The word “weigh” indicates “prepares.” There are two verses from Psalms that apply here I think.

Psalm 37:23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD:

Psalm 18:36 Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip.

God is the most upright; He sets the standard against which we judge what is just and righteous. Those who choose to walk/live a clean life according to His standards will find that his/her path in life has been prepared by the Lord. The prosperity experienced may include material blessing and honor from men, but it most assuredly applies to spiritual blessings for eternity. When God orders the steps of those who are His, it is to accomplish His purposes. When he enlarges the steps of a man, He is empowering that man not to fall--to be an overcomer.

There was an interesting article from by Rabbi David Aaron entitled “Discovering Your Unique Path.” In it he made a thought-provoking comparison between a “way” and a “path,” that fits right in with the Hebrew for this verse.

“….Vilna Gaon, one of the greatest Jewish sages of the 18th century…. quotes Ecclesiastes: "In all your ways know God, and He will straighten your path." Then Vilna Gaon explains the difference between a "way" and a "path": A "way" is known to everyone. Everyone knows where the highway is. It's the highway, a public thoroughfare. But a "path" is off the beaten track. A path is not public. It is the private and unique way for the individual.

There are certain ways that we serve God that are common to us all. These ways are not unique to any of us. They are the highways of life. You can't get anywhere unless you get on those highways. However, once you get on the public highway, suddenly you will see a sign that says, ‘David -- exit 3 miles left.’ That is where David turns off to continue his journey to fulfill his mission. Now Jan who was also on the highway sees David get off and feels a little jealous. "Lucky guy! He found his path." But with some patience Jan plods forward until she discovers her path. And sure enough there's a sign for her too. ‘Jan, 5 miles exit left.’”

Saturday, August 8, 2009

How to Find Peace

It looks like I am going to need a bit more time before resuming Ecclesiastes. This summer has been happily full of much activity and family fellowship. This next series of blogs is from the chapter that contains my life verse—Isaiah 26:3. I pray that the thoughts the Lord gave me in this section will encourage you as well.

Isaiah 26:1 In that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah; We have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks.

“In that day” = The day when the Lord is ruling from Mount Zion, the people of Israel have been restored in fellowship to God, and His hand is at rest in Jerusalem.

Isaiah is forseeing a time when all Israel will be singing the praise of God for making Jerusalem a place of security and provision for His people.

Isaiah 26:2 Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in.

Jerusalem will be a city of open gates, ready to welcome the Jews returning home from the diaspora as well as peoples from other nations who are righteous before God and who safeguard His truth.

Isaiah 26:3 Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.

This has been my life verse for a long time. I was drawn to this verse initially because of the godly example of my mother-in-law who claimed this verse as her life verse. If this was the verse that motivated and encouraged her to become the woman of God that she was, that was the verse I wanted. Through the years the Lord has impressed upon me the significance and power of the truth of this verse in growing in faith and continuing to strive to become the woman of God He would have me be.

I think the key phrase is “whose mind is stayed on thee.” When our mind is focused on Jesus/God, the enemy has no room for attack and the flesh is in submission. Just like Peter—When our focus is on the Lord we are empowered to act in the supernatural, but the moment we allow our focus to be misdirected, we will begin sinking to the depths of defeat. (cf Matthew 14:25-31) It’s when we take our focus off Jesus, that the door is opened to the attack of the enemy and we experience battle with our sin nature.

This promise is a statement of fact—If you keep your mind on Jesus, you will have perfect peace. I thought the Hebrew for the word “mind” was quite enlightening—

3336. rRx´y yetser, yay´-tser; from 3335; a form; figuratively, conception (i.e. purpose):—frame, thing framed, imagination, mind, work.
3335. rAxÎy yatsar, yaw-tsar´…to mould into a form; especially as a potter; figuratively, to determine (i.e. form a resolution)…

And from good old Webster—
The intellectual or rational faculty in man; the understanding; the intellect; the power that conceives, judges, or reasons; also, the entire spiritual nature; the soul; — often in distinction from the body.

“stayed” = to lean upon or take hold of, lay, lean, lie hard, rest self, set self, sustain.

As I look at these different definitions, it makes a powerful word picture. Our mind, our imagination, should be in a position comparable to clay in the hands of a potter. Our ideas, judgments and logic should have their foundation in the person and character of God and in His word. We should be resting in confidence and sustained by our faith in God and His word. This mindset is a position of choice and determination that results in action.

When we act on that choice and determination, God gives us “perfect peace.” The Hebrew for this phrase includes “safety, happiness, health, prosperity, restoration and reward.” This is not a formula to apply to our physical condition/circumstances. The importance of this investment is in our spiritual condition and well-being. The culture of today has been so trained/conditioned to think in terms of the physical/material, that we have lost sight of the fact that it is spiritual/eternal preparation and provision that is most important, most valuable. I had never thought of the word restoration in connection with this peace before. The truth is that the “emptiness” in our life caused by sin is an evidence for the need and desire of restored fellowship with our Creator.

As I look at the Hebrew, I think the better translation would be—“whose mind is stayed on and trusteth in thee.” The Hebrew for trust includes confidence, boldness and security. We place ourselves in a position of clay with confidence in the Potter. We are secure in our position because of His character, Who He is. That confidence and security will produce a bold testimony before the world.

The more I meditate on this verse, the more powerfully it speaks to me.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Security of God’s Love

Romans 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

Paul loves to ask rhetorical questions. The obvious answer is that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. (He answers his own question in the last two verses of this chapter.) Some of my favorite verses regarding the security of my relationship to God are found in John 10.

John 10:27-30 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one.

I also love the verses in 1Peter.

1Peter 1:3-5 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

According to these sections of scripture, I am secure in the grasp of the Father’s hand and I am kept by the power God. No grasp is stronger and no power is greater.

As I looked back over this verse, I checked the Greek for “who” and feel it would be better translated “what” in context of the rest of the verse.

Romans 8:36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

“As it is written” – Where?

Psalm 44:22 Yea, for thy sake are we killed all the day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter.

At first I couldn’t make a connection with this verse. As I continued to read the different translations, it hit me that this is in direct reference to the verse before. The child of God will face tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril and sword either singly or in varying combinations. That can make one feel like they are facing death daily, like they are sheep being driven to slaughter.

Romans 8:37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

Paul now declares the glorious truth; we need fear nothing that life may throw at us. We are more than conquerors through Jesus. What does it mean to be more than a conqueror? At first thought, it would seem you are either a conqueror or you are not. I’m from a family that loves athletics. In sports, you can either squeak out a win or you can win decisively. I think the same application can be made to the Christian life. You can either get to heaven “so as by fire” or you can look forward to great reward based on your service in love before God.

1Corinthians 3:1-15 If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

Romans 8:38-39 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Paul now gives an emphatic answer to his question in verse 35. Nothing and no one can separate us from the love of God. Reminder – Paul is talking to the believer, the person of faith. Death certainly can’t separate us from God’s love; it is just a graduation into His presence for eternity. Life may throw us many obstacles and testings, but it is filled with many evidences of God’s love for us as He provides, comforts, sustains and strengthens. Angels are God’s messengers to us; they were created to minister/serve/relieve the child of God; they are another one of the benefits of the love of God.

Hebrews 1:13-14 But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?

Principalities and powers seem to represent the evil forces of wickedness that ever are on the attack against the child of God. No matter how vicious their attack, the child of God is empowered for victory through the love of God.

Ephesians 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

1John 5:4-5 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?

I’m not sure how things present and things to come differ from life. Maybe it is a reference to the new challenges the child of God will encounter as man continues to advance in technology and false teaching becomes more prominent and all the “birth pains” associated with His coming begin to be more intense and frequent. Again, if our hearts are focused on the Lord, then we will view the fulfillment of prophecy as another affirmation of the love of God. We will grow in eager anticipation of physically being in His presence and ruling with Him as priests and kings.

“nor height, nor depth” – As I thought about these two words, I thought about the many levels of society and the difference in the wealthy and poor. God’s love is the same for each and every believer, no matter how powerful or how weak, no matter how rich or how poor. These words can also reference distance. There is no place on earth that the believer can go that will separate him from the love of God. That makes me think of those wonderful verses in Psalms.

Psalm 139:10 Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.

“nor any other creature” – This takes me back to the verses in John 10 quoted previously. Not one thing in God’s creation can deprive the child of God of His love.

What is the primary evidence of God’s love for us? The gift of His Son, Christ Jesus our Lord. Without His loving sacrifice, we could never experience the wonderful love of God; in fact, we would be forever separated from the love of God.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

If God Be For Us

Romans 8:31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?

I think Paul is saying, “So what should we conclude?” Although the next part of the verse is stated as a question, the answer is obvious. If God is for us, no one can be against us. Obviously, this is not saying that we will not face enemies and temptations. It does mean that whatever we do face, we have the power to be victorious on our side. Our job is to keep our focus on Jesus, to run the race of life with the focus on the finish line and the reward that awaits.

Romans 8:32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

“He” = God the Father

I like the way it is stated in the Complete Jewish Bible: “He who did not spare even his own Son, but gave him up on behalf of us all — is it possible that, having given us his Son, he would not give us everything else too?”

The Father gave His very best, His most precious possession, His only Son, to redeem us from our sin. He valued our fellowship so much that He gave all. In light of that sacrifice, how could we possibly think that He would not follow through on the rest of His promises! The gift of His Son was offered to all without cost; one just has to accept the gift. Through acceptance of that gift, one becomes a joint-heir with Christ. Heirs do not pay for what they inherit. It is freely given to them.

Romans 8:33 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.

“elect” = select, favorite, chosen

Verses 29 and 30 have already explained the process of being elect/chosen. Once God has declared us righteous, no one has any grounds upon which to accuse us. God is the righteous judge; His judgments are true.

Psalm 19:9 … the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

Psalm 96:13 Before the LORD: for he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth.

Jeremiah 9:24 But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.

Revelation 16:7 And I heard another out of the altar say, Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments.

Romans 8:34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.

John tells us that the Father has committed all judgment to the Son.

John 5:22 For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son:

In a court of law, the judge is appointed the task of declaring guilt or innocence, of pronouncing condemnation or absolution. Who is the judge? Christ. The same Christ, the Son of God, that died on the cross and rose from the dead three days later and who now sits at the right hand of God.

Matthew 22:42-44 Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The Son of David. He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? (cf Psalm 110:1)

Mark 14:61-62 But he held his peace, and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.

Mark 16:19 So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.

Jesus boldly declared that He was the Christ who would sit at the right hand of God the Father. The Spirit declares through the scripture that Jesus took His position at the right hand of God when He ascended to heaven after communing with His disciples for 40 days after the resurrection.

Hebrews 7 affirms the truth that Jesus is interceding for us (His brethren, those who come to God through faith in His Son) before the Father.

Hebrews 7:25 Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.

Why is Jesus always interceding for us? Because we are not yet perfect; we are still in bodies of flesh with a sin nature. We still do things that are wrong. As our intercessor, Jesus is always pleading on our behalf and working to reconcile us in fellowship.

As I read through this section this time I was reminded of Jesus’ prayer for His disciples. I believe they tell us much about how He is interceding for us now.

Luke 22:31-32 And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.

John 17:15 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.
John 17:17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
John 17:21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
John 17:24 Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world

Just a thought—Yes, Christ will make the formal declaration of condemnation or absolution. But the scripture basically tells us that we condemn ourselves by choosing to reject the Savior, Jesus, the Son of God.

John 3:17-19 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.