The Red Words #13 March 12, 2019

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery and having set her in the midst of the courtyard, they said to Him, ‘Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act.  Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such a woman; what then do You say?’ They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up and said to them, ‘He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Again, He stooped down and wrote on the ground.  When they heard this, they began to go out, one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone and the woman, where she was, in the center of the courtyard. Straightening up, Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord’. And Jesus said, ‘I do not condemn you either. Go. From now on, sin no more.’  John 8: 3-11

In this account in John 8, Jesus confronts a band of cold, self-righteous religious leaders and a woman who was guilty of sexual sin, and He handles both with such wisdom and grace that we marvel at Him.

While some scholars argue over this passage, how much more important it is to meditate on ‘the Red Words’.

He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.

Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?

I do not condemn you either. Go. From now on, sin no more.

It is clear the Pharisees and Judges of the Law felt that they have Jesus trapped by this; they have an airtight case, this “let’s get-Jesus” committee!

You cannot read this, however, without asking yourself, “Where is the man in this adulterous union?” They had been caught “in the very act,” and yet only the woman is brought before Jesus. Some of the commentators suggest that perhaps they knew the man and let him go. We do not know. But this indicates that a double standard was very much in effect in those times just as it is today.

These scribes and Pharisees referred to the law in the book of Leviticus in which God, speaking through Moses, had said that adultery was to be punished by stoning. They knew that Jesus was “The Friend of Sinners,” that He was always on the side of the unfortunate and that He spent His time, not with the righteous, the wealthy or the respected, but with publicans and sinners. They obviously expected Him to forgive her and the minute He did, they would accuse Him of contradicting the law of Moses. They were sure they had Him trapped.

What he did was to stoop down and begin to write with his finger on the ground. Wouldn’t you love to know what He wrote?

Some have suggested that perhaps Jesus wrote a verse from Jeremiah: ‘O Lord, the Hope of Israel, all who forsake You will be put to shame. Those who turn away on earth will be written down because they have forsaken the fountain of living water, even the Lord.’   Jeremiah 17:13 .  This could be but we don’t know for sure.

Whatever he wrote, the scribes and Pharisees apparently misunderstood him. They thought he was stalling for time, and they kept pressing him, asking him again and again to answer them. So, standing up, Jesus looked them right in the eye and stunned them when He uttered these famous words, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” Actually the word he uses is “sinless,” “let him who is sinless…” This is the only time Jesus ever used this word.

Jesus does not minimize the seriousness of the sin, but He refuses to align Himself with the harsh and arrogant attitude of the Pharisees toward the sin. What He says, in effect, is, “You are no better than she is. Your hearts are filled with murder and hatred.”

adulterouswoman

The haughtiness and hatred for Jesus that was evident in their eyes and demeanor clearly revealed that they were willing to use this woman in order to ‘get’ Jesus.  They really cared nothing about her sin; she was a convenient means to their evil agenda.

Jesus saw right through them and addressed the corruption of their hearts.  When He stooped down to write, could it be that He quoted from the book of Daniel? “You are weighed in the balance and found wanting,” (Daniel 5:25-29).

Whatever it was that He wrote, it utterly derailed their carefully laid out plot.  One by one, they started walking away.

And you know the rest of the story.  With no one left to condemn the adulterous woman, Jesus uttered these remarkable words: ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.’

Notice how Jesus calls her attention to the fact that she has no human accusers. He has dismissed the jury; their own malice disqualified them to judge her.

As the only Sinless One, Jesus alone fulfilled the qualifications to stone her. But He did not do so because He clearly forgave her.

Without forgiveness, justice must be satisfied. God never dismisses sin as trivial. His own truth, his law, his holy character, demand that any deviation from righteousness be punished. Justice must be satisfied — unless sin is forgiven. So it is clear that the basis on which our Lord said these words is that he had found a way to forgive this woman her sin.

A legalist will protest, “How could he do this? There was no basis for it. In fact, she doesn’t even confess her sin, or repent of it, or even say she’s sorry. Didn’t Jesus himself go about preaching, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”? What do you say to that?

The answer is, “Yes, there must be repentance.” God is not a grandfatherly type who says, “That’s all right. Forget it. I won’t hold it against you.”  There must be repentance. Even God cannot forgive sin which is not acknowledged.

But when you say, “Yes, I did it. It’s wrong. I agree with you,” that is repentance. Then forgiveness can come. “But where does this woman do that?” someone may ask.

The answer has to be, “Within her heart!” Remember we are dealing with One who knows the hearts of men. He knows what is going on in the inner thoughts. He knew her heart. Somewhere in the course of this incident she had to have repented.

Perhaps it was when she saw how Jesus handles this crowd of hypocritical judges, and she sensed the mercy and love that was in His face. Perhaps it was then, in His presence, that she realized how wrong she was, that she had sinned, and she repented. When she did, Jesus forgave her, obviously anticipating his death upon the cross for her.

The cross is always an eternal event in the mind of God. In anticipation of that cross, Jesus forgave her sin. The proof of it is in the words he next said, “Go, and do not sin again.”

If we have acknowledged our guilt, and received God’s forgiveness, the Lord is saying to us, “Go, and do not sin again.” He could never have said that to this woman unless something had happened within her.

This amazing scene speaks to all of us. When our sins are forgiven it is to free us that we might begin to live a different lifestyle; never to go back to the things that we have left behind. Forgiveness is always designed to set us free. That is why it is given.

Mark this truth: When Jesus forgave this woman that is what he did: He set her free to be a different kind of person than she had been before.

He does the same for you and for me. Sin is sin; it will always be sin and the only remedy we have is to sincerely repent, receive God’s forgiveness because of what Jesus did on the Cross of Calvary and re-commit ourselves to the Lord and to His Word.

I love the chorus written several years ago by Bill Gaither:

Something beautiful, something good,
All my confusion he understood.

All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife,
But He made something beautiful of my life.

Perhaps it was a sentiment like this that lived on in that woman’s heart for the rest of her life.

If we have found forgiveness from the Lord, remember always that we are forgiven so that we, too, might “Go, and sin no more!”

Thank God for His amazing love!

The Presence of God #8 July 17, 2018

For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are you ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.  Isaiah 55:8-9

I have learned that God loves to show up in unpredictable ways. He is always the same God but manifests His presence in a multitude of ways, including some that surprise us. He has His reasons for doing so.

Godshowsup

If God showed up the same way all the time, no faith would be required of us to accept His ways. We might even take Him for granted.  Once He presented Himself as the fourth man in the furnace with the three Hebrew boys.  Another time He shut the mouths of lions to save Daniel’s life. In Hebrews 11 we read that ‘some were sawn in two…slain by the sword’ but others ‘escaped the edge of the sword’.  But God was with both groups – giving abundance of grace for martyrdom to those who were slain and abundance of grace to those who escaped.  As opposite as these two experiences are, both were accomplished through faith. His presence was as real to the martyrs as to those who escaped martyrdom and it is His presence that strengthened them all.

Believe it or not, if God showed up the same way all the time, we might get bored. Just look at Numbers 21:5 when the Israelites got tired of the manna falling from heaven every day. Think about it:  they were being nourished supernaturally every single day and they got tired of it!!!

God can do anything He pleases and may show up in our lives in a variety of ways but one thing is sure – every manifestation of His presence will be consistent with His Word in one way or another.

Is there a difference between the way Adam and Eve experienced His presence and how we do?

Adam and Eve ‘heard the sound of the Lord God’. it says in Gen. 3:8 Have you ever wondered what that ‘sound’ was?  It seems from the context that it was His voice for God called out, ‘Where are you?’ (vs. 9)  Was His voice angry? Was it sad?

Though they had walked with Him before, this time they hid themselves.  They felt shame for the first time because they knew they had sinned.  What made them conscious of their sin? The Presence of God.

Isaiah had a similar experience. In Isaiah 6 the prophet had a magnificent vision of the throne room. ‘I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple.’ vs. 1  Almost immediately the prophet cries out, ‘Woe is me, for I am ruined. Because I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips. For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.’  vs. 5  The manifest presence of God convicted Isaiah of his sinfulness.

In Luke 5, Peter had been fishing all night and caught nothing, but when Jesus came on the scene,  he hauled in a boat load of fish. What did Peter say? ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!’ Luke 5:8  Did that ever strike you curiously? He didn’t burst out in praise for the large catch of fish which is what we might expect him to do.  Peter instead acknowledged his own sinfulness when confronted with the Presence of the Lord.

The greatest saints in church history saw themselves as the greatest sinners.  Yet in our day, we hear so little preaching about sin.

The presence of the Lord also manifests as joy.  ‘In Your presence is fullness of joy,’ David wrote in Psalm 16:11.  Nehemiah told the people of his day, ‘the joy of the Lord is your strength.’ Neh.8:10

God gets our attention by convicting us of sin but quickly forgives and restores us when we repent, which brings joy. Listen to David once again: ‘Purify me with hyssop and I will be clean; wash me and I will be whiter than snow.  Make me to hear joy and gladness, that the bones you have broken may rejoice.’ Psalm 51:3, 7-8  Forgiveness and restoration always being joy to the soul.

His presence may also introduce fear – the fear of the Lord which is completely different from human fear.  The fear of the Lord is both joyful and scary.  There IS a heaven and there IS a hell. God is merciful and He is also just. The fear of the Lord is a deep respect and awe for Who He is accompanied by a revelation of who we truly are in light of His transcendent glory.

Part of the fruit of Pentecost was that ‘fear came to every soul.’ Acts 2:43  When Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead, ‘great fear came on all those who heard these things.’ Acts 5:5  The early church knew the presence of the Lord in its various manifestations.

Another manifestation of His presence is in healing sick bodies.  There is something called ‘a healing presence’ that accompanied the ministry of Jesus and still manifests to this day. Luke 5:17 And the power of the Lord was present to heal the sick.

Many a disciple has sensed the presence of the Lord in their private prayer times, as well as in community worship. It is always such a blessed gift from heaven when God shows up in our worship services.  The more we praise, the more His presence is released to us, for God ‘inhabits the praises of His people.’

Perhaps one of the most thrilling experiences of the presence of the Lord is when He illuminates a passage of scripture to us. It may be something we’ve read 48 times but the 49th time, it leaps off the page and we ‘see’ in the verse that which we never saw before. Insight into His Word can come at any time.  I’ve had ‘light bulb’ experiences driving down the road or washing dishes. He can show up anytime for He is always with us. Grasping a deeper meaning of scripture than we previously had is one of the most exciting experiences with God and He often does it at the most unusual times.

His presence will also surprise us at times.  Remember when Peter and John were on their way to the temple in the afternoon? As they passed by a disabled beggar, the Spirit of the Lord stopped them and Peter said to the man, ‘Look at us.’ Then he added, ‘Silver and gold have I none, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.’ Acts 3:4-6  The beggar was instantly healed. I rather think that Peter was amazed.

Application:

By His wonderful presence God directs us, gives us inspiration, understanding and wisdom; He shares His joy with us and assures us of His love. There is nothing like the comfort that His presence brings.

May we each recognize His presence as it manifests in our lives and embrace it with our whole heart.

The Power of Words #9 May 1, 2018

Sooner or later it had to get to this – that uncomfortable topic of Self-Control.

self-control

The Bible describes it as a “fruit of the Spirit” though we prefer to dwell on other traits in that list, such as joy, peace, etc.  But surely one of the distinguishing characteristics of one who loves God and desires to follow Him is the evidence that we are no longer enslaved to sinful or inappropriate habits; i.e., we have developed self-control.

James writes: If anyone can control his tongue, it proves that he has perfect control over himself in every other way.  Jam. 3:2 TLB  If we read this verse carefully it’s pretty powerful.

Are we prone to excessive eating?  Excessive sleeping? Addicted to certain TV programs that we can’t bear to miss?  Driven to check Facebook before prayer in the morning and every fifteen minutes thereafter?  Enslaved – yes, enslaved – to our cell phones?

The Bible says: If anyone [that means you…and me] can control his tongue, it proves that he has perfect control over himself in EVERY OTHER way!

That’s a pretty daunting statement! The evidence that you and I possess self-control is determined by how we speak.  Whoa!

Look at how the Passion Translation renders this verse: If we’re able to bridle the words we say, we are powerful enough to control ourselves in every way and that means our character is mature and fully developed.  Jam. 3:2 TPT

The Scripture is challenging us to overcome unguarded, impulsive and offensive language and comments.

Strength of character is refusing to say what you know in your heart will make things worse or offend those around you.

Strength of character is restraining ourselves from speaking in ways that can damage not only those around us, but also our own testimony of belonging to Christ.

Strength of character is refusing to say what the devil wants you to say and instead speaking what the Lord would say if he were right there in your place.  As a matter of fact, He is!  If you are born again, He lives within you by His Spirit.  One of the best deterrents to ungodly or coarse language is remembering Who lives inside of you. Would He speak like that?  And, if you could see Him with your naked eye, would you say ‘that’ in His presence?  I doubt it!  Then just don’t say it!

How we speak reveals the condition of our hearts. ‘Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.’ Matthew 12:35 NKJV  So if we really want to know what’s in our heart, we need to listen to how we talk.  Do it for a day and we’ll find lots of reason to repent.

Keep in mind that there is a difference between temptation and sin.  It is not a sin to have the thought of saying something nasty or vulgar.  That’s precisely where the self-control comes into play.  It’s when the thought of doing so comes out our mouths in words that do not reflect the indwelling Christ that we sin….and prove that we have yet to gain self-control.  At that point the only reasonable reaction is to repent, ask forgiveness and pray that the Holy Spirit will convict you quickly so you avoid making that mistake again.

If ungodly speaking is a habit, we need to take these scriptures very seriously and pray for the Lord’s help to break the habit of unkind, sarcastic, hurtful or inappropriate speaking.  Are we willing to make that commitment and see it through to victory?

Application:

The Father’s call on every one of us is that we be conformed into the image and likeness of His dear Son, the Lord Jesus.  A great proof that we are progressing in that pursuit is displayed in how we speak; what kind of words we use and our tone of voice.  The ‘perfect’ man or woman is the one who can ‘bridle’ his tongue and thereby ‘bridle’ his entire personality so that the light of Christ can be spread abroad through each of us.

I do believe that praying in the Spirit is a great help towards our goal of controlling our tongues.  I encourage you to make it a regular practice.

This is a journey we’ll be on for the rest of our lives but every day counts.  So let’s get on with it, shall we?  Today…let’s watch our words.  Today – it’s all we have right now – so today…let’s watch our tongues.  One day at a time.

 

 

Shadow of Things to Come #15 August 15, 2017

In last week’s lesson the brothers of Joseph prepared to return to Egypt for more provisions, this time taking Benjamin with them.  When Joseph saw his younger brother, the scripture records that ‘he was deeply stirred’.  He quickly left their presence for he did not want to weep in front of them.  He invited them to dinner at his own home and as portions of food were distributed to each of his brothers, he ordered that five times as much should be given to Benjamin.

After the meal he commanded his house steward to ‘Fill the men’s sacks with food, as much as they can carry, and put each man’s money in the mouth of his sack.  Put my cup, the silver cup, in the mouth of the sack of the youngest, and the money for his grain.’ Genesis 44:1-2  Joseph arranged yet another test to see how his brothers would react.

They had hardly left the city when Joseph sent his personal house steward after them to accuse them of stealing his silver cup.  When the brothers, horrified, protested vehemently that they would do no such thing, the steward starting examining the sacks til he found the silver cup in Benjamin’s. Their protests turned to shock and panic.  Hurriedly they made their way back into the city and to Joseph’s presence.  Keep in mind they still don’t know who he truly is.

Judah steps up and stands before the “Egyptian” to intercede on behalf of Benjamin for their father’s sake.  In response to the accusation, Judah confesses, ‘What can we say to my lord? What can we speak? And how can we justify ourselves? God has found out the iniquity of your servants.  Behold, we are my lord’s slaves both we and the one in whose sack the cup was found.’  Gen. 44:16

It is very important to note the word ‘iniquity’ in Judah’s confession.  There are three words used several places throughout the Torah and the Prophets: sin, transgression and iniquity.  Each has a specific meaning.

SIN means literally ‘to miss the mark.’ The Greek counterpart to the Hebrew word means ‘to miss the mark and not share in the prize’. So SIN causes man to lose a portion of the inheritance intended for him. SIN starts in the mind, in the motives, even before a physical action takes place.

TRANSGRESSION means to revolt or rebel, to break away from just authority; it implies a soul ready to pursue more and more evil; to step over the boundaries, cross over the lines into wickedness.

INIQUITY is of a different nature. Iniquity speaks not of a behavior or an individual sin but refers to the results of sin in your bloodline. Just as you inherit physical features from your ancestors, so you also inherit spiritual tendencies and inclinations.  The Scripture is very clear: ‘You shall not bow down and serve them for I, the LORD your GOD am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.’ Exodus 20:5-6   Notice very carefully, that it is NOT the sins or the transgressions of the fathers, but the INIQUITY – the ungodly tendencies and character traits that are handed down from generation to generation from ancestors who did not know God and/or did not repent of their wickedness.  To give a simple example: how many of you have heard someone say,  ‘I know I’m stubborn; everybody in my family is stubborn. It’s just the way we are.’ That is INIQUITY – an accepting and agreeing with something the Bible calls sin and considering it instead as a ‘family’ characteristic with no intent to change it.

Keeping this understanding in mind, look at what Judah said to Joseph: God has found out (or exposed) the iniquity of your servants.  Judah is declaring that a recurrent sin in the family line has met its ‘waterloo’.  What was that iniquity? The family tendency that has gone unchecked? The practice of covering up the truth – deception.

Abraham lied about his wife, not just once but twice.  Years later, Isaac did the same thing though he was not even born when Abraham had lied about Isaac’s mother! Jacob used deception in his relationship with his brother, his father and Laban.  The brothers deceived their father into thinking that Joseph was dead.  Do you see the line of ‘iniquity’ from generation to generation?

The time had come to stop it. How? By confession and repentance.  From verse 18 to verse 34, Judah comes clean on behalf of himself and his brothers and offers to remain as a slave of Joseph in place of Benjamin.

Standing there listening to his brother’s confession and seeing the terror on the faces of the others, Joseph could not control himself any longer.  He was now convinced that their repentance was sincere and therefore, he put everyone else out of the house.  Weeping he declared to the eleven men before him, ‘I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?’

Gen45

He drew them closer to him and explained everything that had happened since that fateful day when they sold him to the Ishmaelites. But here are the most important words he spoke to them in that moment:

‘Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life…God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant upon the earth and to keep you alive by a great deliverance.  Therefore it was not you who sent me here, it was God…’ vs. 5-8

We learn from Joseph certain characteristics of true forgiveness.

First of all, Joseph put everyone else out of the room before confronting his brothers with the truth of who he was.  He did not humiliate them in front of the Egyptian servants.

Secondly, he made NO reference to the pain he had personally endured, but instead focused on what he had learned through it; namely, that God had a purpose and a plan for sending him to Egypt and therefore he did not blame or condemn his brothers even though what they did was deeply hurtful to him on a personal level.

Thirdly, he ‘rewarded’ their betrayal with good! In verses 9-13 Joseph instructs his brothers to go quickly and bring their father down to Egypt.  He promises to care for them and provide for them for the rest of his life.

Application:

Joseph’s forgiveness of his brothers was expressed with kindness, protectiveness, and blessing.  Not a shred of self-righteousness or retaliation came out of his mouth.  The years of suffering had turned him into a man of God.  His message to us is loud and clear: Don’t waste your sorrows!  Let God use them to mature you, refine you and perfect you into the man or woman He created you to be.

 

Shadow of Things to Come – Lesson #5 May 30, 2017

Joseph, in his new life as a slave in Potiphar’s house, was experiencing success. Potiphar quickly recognized Joseph’s many talents and his reliability.  God gave Joseph favor in the eyes of his owner, so much so that in a relatively short time, Potiphar put Joseph in charge of his entire household for he recognized that Joseph’s presence was making a significant difference in the very atmosphere of the estate.  It came about that from the time he made him overseer in his house and over all that he owned, the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house on account of Joseph; thus the Lord’s blessing was on all that he owned in the house and in the field.  (Gen. 39:5)  I doubt that it ever entered Potiphar’s mind that Joseph was a threat to his marriage.

However, Potiphar’s wife had thoughts of her own about this Hebrew slave.  The Bible says that Joseph was ‘well-built and handsome’ (Gen. 39:6)  She had noticed that.  She had more than noticed it.  She clearly indulged unclean thoughts in her mind and the more she thought about it, the more her desires grew.

Potipharswife

Sin begins in the mind which is why the Scriptures exhort us to be careful how we think.  Unchecked thoughts create fantasies and fantasies urge us to action.  That’s exactly what happened with Potiphar’s wife.  So one day, when she and Joseph happened to be the only ones in the house, she made her move.

It came about after these events that his master’s wife looked with desire at Joseph and she said, ‘Lie with me’.  (Gen. 39:7)

Wow! Talk about being blind-sided! Here was a new kind of trial that Joseph had not faced before.  Just when things seemed to be looking up for Joseph, at least as far as his daily life was concerned, out of the blue here comes this seductive woman blatantly inviting him to sin with her.

Some people when tempted to adultery or immorality resist only because of what they stand to lose.  That was not Joseph’s situation at all.  It would have been so easy for him to get away with it. There was no family around for him to embarrass; he had no reputation to defend.  He was a slave, at the very bottom of society.  He was in a foreign country with no hope in the natural of ever seeing what good could come out of what had happened to him. And don’t forget: this was a healthy and handsome young man 18 or 19 years old, the age when such temptations are indeed powerful.

But look at his answer to Potiphar’s wife:  But he refused and said to his master’s wife, ‘Behold, with me here, my master does not concern himself with anything in the house and he has put all that he owns in my charge. There is no one greater in this house than I, and he has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife.  How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?’  (Gen. 39: 8-9)

Two principles emerge from this part of the story that we dare not miss.

  1. If you are facing a new trial or temptation that you’ve never faced before, God is paying you a high compliment.  It means first of all that you passed the last test with flying colors, because if you didn’t you’d be facing the same old test again and again.  If God allows a new kind of testing to come your way, it means He has plans for you.  He is preparing you for what is to come.  He watches every move we make, every decision to praise Him instead of complaining or grumbling.
  2. Some commentators have opined that Potiphar was not a good husband and that’s why his wife acted like this.  Rubbish! That is sheer speculation.  It has become fashionable to blame parents, teachers, background, upbringing and who knows what else for our own sinfulness.  No psychological or sociological reason justifies sin.  Sin is sin, plain and simple.  That’s why Joseph’s answer is so profound and powerful: How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?’

Young as he was, Joseph had it absolutely right! The only thing that will ultimately keep a person from falling into sin is his or her love for God.

When our love for God births a passion within us to avoid any thought, word or deed that would put a wedge between ourselves and Him, that, my friends, and that alone will keep us from sinning, not out of a self-serving or self-protecting motive, but for the right reason: Sin is abhorrent to GodWhen you love Him with all your heart, soul and strength, what is abhorrent to Him becomes abhorrent to you.

Young Joseph, faced with this new trial, resisted the temptation and soon experienced what Shakespeare would say many years later: ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.’ Perhaps it was Potiphar’s wife who inspired this comment in Shakespeare’s play!

Application:

Are you facing some kind of test or trial that you’ve never faced before? Be encouraged! It means that God isn’t finished with you yet.  His plan for your life means He is also the one who prepares you to fulfill that plan.  A new kind of test means you passed the last one.  That’s good news! As you face your day today, stand tall, head held high, shoulders back and declare with the psalmist: I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.  And with Joshua: As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD!

 

 

The Shepherd King #38 March 7, 2017

Eating humble pie – surely you’ve heard that phrase before.  It was the ‘dish of the day’ for a number of people as David made his way back to Jerusalem after the defeat and death of Absalom.  Interestingly, it was the tribes of Israel who called for David to return while David’s own tribe, Judah, remained coldly aloof.  (2 Samuel 19:9-10)  To bring them around, David did two things: he reminded them they were his own kinfolk and he made an ingenious diplomatic decision.

King David sent this message to Zadok and Abiathar, the priests: ‘Ask the elders of Judah, Why should you be the last to bring the king back to his palace, since what is being said throughout Israel has reached the king at his quarters? You are my brothers,my own flesh and blood. So why should you be the last to bring back the King? And say to Amasa [former commander under Absalom] ‘Are you not my flesh and blood?  May God deal with me be it ever so severely, if from now on you are not the commander of my army in place of Joav.’2 Sam. 19:11-13

By appointing Amasa commander, David appeased those who had supported Absalom and regained their loyalty.

He won over the hearts of all the men of Judah as though they were one man.  They sent word to the king, ‘Return, you and all your men.’ (vs. 14)

His diplomacy succeeded but there can be no doubt that it must have saddened David to have been put in a position where he needed to persuade his own people to support his return to the palace.  But to Judah’s credit, they did ‘eat humble pie’, albeit though it was sweetened with David’s graciousness.

But they were not the only ones.

You may remember Shimei, the man who had cursed David as he climbed the Mt. of Olives fleeing from Absalom.  He certainly would have most to fear that King David was again ruling in Jerusalem.  However, we see something very different, even surprising.

Now the men of Judah had come to Gilgal to go out and meet the king and bring him across the Jordan. Shimei, son of Gera, the Benhamite from Bahurim, hurried down with the men of Judah to meet King David…When Shimei, son of Gera, crossed the Jordan, he fell prostrate before the king and said to him, ‘May my lord not hold me guilty. Do not remember how your servant did wrong on the day my lord the king left Jerusalem. May the king put it out of his mind. For I your servant know that I have sinned, but today I have come here as the first of the whole house of Joseph to come down and meet my lord the king.’  (vs. 15-20)

Shimei

Note the underlined words – I know that I have sinned…Shimei recognized his sin, admitted it to the king and repented, asking for forgiveness.  This little known biblical figure calls to every generation to do as he did – to ‘eat humble pie’ before those whom we have offended or abused.  In our present society, the responsibility to acknowledge and admit our failures is too little taught, even less carried out.  Under the guise of ‘freedom of speech’ we say things unbecoming to our calling as the people of God. Sadly we often don’t even recognize that our speech is offensive not only to others, but also to God Himself.

Freedom is not the ability to do whatever we want.  The greatest freedom is living in obedience to the Word and Ways of our God.

There’s still one more person who had to ‘eat humble pie.’  His name was Abishai.  He was incensed that David might forgive Shimei and welcome him back into the kingdom. Abishai had taken up an offense against Shimei because of what he had said to the King.

When Abishai questioned David, ‘Shouldn’t Shimei but put to death for this? He cursed the Lord’s anointed!’ (2 Sam. 19:21) the king’s answer put him in his place.

What do you and I have in common, you sons of Zeruiah? This day you have become my adversaries! Should anyone be put to death in Israel today? Do I not know that today I am king over Israel?  (Vs. 22)

Then the king turned to Shimei and said, ‘You shall not die.’ And the king promised him with an oath. (Vs. 23)

The Torah teaches that sin brings death. Yet King David, having been humbled himself when forgiven by God for his sin with Bathsheba, knew well the power of repentance.  Seeing it in Shimei, he gave to Shimei the same forgiveness that he himself had received earlier in his life.

Getting our feelings hurt is part of life.  It happens to all of us at one time or another.  Conflicts with others inevitably arise and wounded egos have a choice. We either massage our hurts and they swell out of proportion in our minds; or we forgive and put it behind us like King David.

People sometimes say, ‘It’s hard to forgive.’ I suggest to you today that:  NO, it’s not hard to forgive…IF WE REMEMBER that we ourselves have been forgiven by a loving God.  There is no person alive who has not sinned at some time or other.  We know from the word of God that if we return to Him with sincere repentance, He forgives us – He promised to do that in His infallible Word.  We are enjoined to imitate His behavior towards us by forgiving those who offend or hurt us.

Application:

King David demonstrated what I like to call Total Forgiveness. He not only forgave Shimei’s despicable behavior towards him, David even refused to apply any punishment for it.  He graciously welcomed the one who spoke evil against him back into the kingdom with no conditions or stipulations.  That, my friend, is how God forgives.  And the same God said to us: You shall be holy as I am holy.

 

The Shepherd King – Part 27 December 20, 2016

When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him.  After the time of mourning, David had her brought to his house and she became his wife and bore him a son.  The thing David had done displeased the Lord. 2 Samuel 11:26-27

We saw last week how David failed to overcome temptation and committed adultery.  To cover up his sin, he then had Joav, his commander, place Bathseba’s husband, Uriah, in the thick of the battle to assure his demise.

One thing David forgot:  his sin was clearly apparent to God.  No cover up would work in the eyes of the Almighty.  It startles us when we think about it for here is a ‘man after God’s own heart’ who not only sinned grievously but appears to have no remorse!  How can that be? It was because the most blatant sin is also the most blinding. The conscious mind has a defense mechanism that blanks out information too painful to deal with. Psychology calls this ‘repression’.

However before we wag our heads or point a finger at David, we must look at ourselves.  The prophet Isaiah said: We all, like sheep, have gone astray; each of us has turned to his own way. Isaiah 53:6  We often need someone else to help us see through ourselves and the humility to listen and receive their correction.

David was blessed with such a person.  Nathan, the prophet of God, came to the king and confronted him with his sin by telling him a ‘parable’ which is recorded in 2 Samuel 12: 1-7

‘There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a large number of sheep and cattle but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb that he had bought. He raised it and it grew up with him and his children.  It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.  Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own shepp and cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him.  Instead, he took the one ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.’

David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan: ‘As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this deserves to die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.’

Then Nathan said to David: ‘You are the man’.

Nathan models for us what a true man (or woman) of God is like.  This is the kind of person you want for a friend.

First, a true man/woman of God knows how to be objective and will confront people with their sin, not with harshness but in a spirit of humility, knowing full well that they can also be tempted.  They will also do so in God’s timing.  Nathan confronted David nearly two years after the affair.  God’s desire and expectation is that when a person ‘after his heart’ sins, repentance would follow quickly.  David had time to repent.  God was patient. But when repentance was not forthcoming, he sent the prophet.  If we are to walk in the ways of God and sincerely long to have an intimate relationship with Him, then we must be willing to listen when a caring friend brings correction.  That is wisdom – and, by the way, humility which is a virtue near and dear to the heart of God.  At that moment, your friend is doing you a great favor.

Second, a true man/woman of God is concerned with God’s honor.  In vs. 14, Nathan said to the king, ‘By doing this, you have made the enemies of the Lord show utter contempt.’  Nathan was grieved that God’s enemies had heard what David had done and scoffed at him.

Third, a true man/woman of God will apply the Word of God to the situation, not his or her personal feelings or opinions.  The chief aim of Nathan’s parable was to expose David’s sin and he had the grace to know that it would be easier for the king to repent if he approached him with a story rather than a harsh confrontation.

It is amazing that David didn’t see the point right away!  However, he was oblivious to his sin.  Could it be because of self-righteousness?  Had he justified (rationalized) it?

David’s initial reaction to Nathan’s parable teaches us three things about people who are self-righteous.

They are judgmental.  David was quick to point the finger at the rich man in the parable.

They are quick to see sin in others but often fail to see their own sin. Self-righteousness blinds us to the truth about ourselves, making it easy to criticize others.

They are unforgiving. David said the rich man ‘deserves to die’.  Note this: the inability or unwillingness to forgive is a sin just as heinous in God’s eyes as the person whose sin we are condemning.

Application:

God has three methods for disciplining His children.

First, He has told us in His Word what He expects of us so that we will recognize our own failures and repent.

Second, if we’re not paying attention to God’s Word, He may use adverse circumstances or difficulties to get our attention. Jonah experienced this when he refused to go to Nineveh.

Thirdly – and sadly – if we persist in our self-righteous rationalizing, we will face God’s judgment eventually when we stand before Him.  By then it will be too late to repent and we will have forfeited many blessings that could have been ours.

Let us be quick to repent, slow to justify our failures and seek after God with everything in us.

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In a few days, some of you will celebrate Hanukkah while others will celebrate Christmas.

To all of you, I send my warmest wish that in your celebrations you remember most the Holy One of Israel Whose love, kindness and compassion is new every morning for great is HIS faithfulness to His people.