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God's Word by Carol Miller

For those who wish to digest the "strong [solid] meat,"
not just "the milk or meat," of the Word of God.
~ Hebrews 5:12-14

(Editor's simple question:  Do you know for what purpose man was created?)

Carol Miller

With occasional commentary by her husband Mark, aka The Trickster!

(Editor's note: Please go to Mark and Carol's  My Life Ministries
for more of their informative teachings!)

Exploring the Character of God by Carol Miller, aka The Trickster's Lovely Consort Queen

TOPIC INDEX LINKS:

 

LINKS to the Study of Hebrews by Dr. Mark Miller, aka The Trickster.

God is Forgiving
God Always Forgives When One Truly Repents
By Carol Miller of My Life Ministries

June 22, 2014

Video Points

Reconciliation is made possible by forgiveness from God.

1)  Forgiveness is an enormous issue involving millions of relationships and reconciliations.

2)  We desperately need reconciliation with God and others.  Reconciliation is forgiveness, and God offers total forgiveness.

3)  Forgiveness repairs brokenness and restores fellowship.  It’s not fake or legalistic—it is real.

4)  Being forgiven involves some difficult and serious actions.  One must face the music—tell the truth about ourselves.  Those who lie to themselves become spiritual charlatans.

5) "If we confess” makes confession a requirement for forgiveness.

6)  Forgiveness would not be possible except for Jesus’ sacrifice.

1 John 2:1-3 NASB

Tells us:

We can continue to sin as believers, but we can be forgiven.  This tells us God has the power to change lives.

The indwelling power of Christ has the power to overcome sin.

An Advocate represents us before the divine court of God.  He took our sins and can successfully plead our case.

Problem:  We can be forgiven and not feel forgiven due to accusations of the enemy, who is the accuser of the brethren according to Revelation 12:10 NASB.  Also there is often a continued unwillingness on our part to forgive ourselves, or another person may not be willing to forgive us, and that may cause us to feel unforgiven by God.

Problem:  Accepting forgiveness.  Satan accuses and condemns!  We must not allow Satan to control us. Too often we remind ourselves of our past disobedience due to faulty conscience, false spirit, etc.  We should feel forgiveness because we are forgiven.  God convicts, but does not condemn or shame us.

1 John 1:1-4 NASB

What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life.

and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us

what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.

These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete. (1 John 1:1-4 NASB)

1 John 1:1-4  Establishes the Person of Christ as the God -- Man, fully God -- fully human.

1 John 1:1  They saw, touched, handled Him.

1 John 1:2  He was the “eternal life” who was with the Father before being manifested to us.

1 John 1:3  Knowing this truth is necessary to having fellowship with the Father and other believers.

1 John 1:4  Joy won’t be complete trying to invent some Jesus of our own design.  He was neither a humanized God nor a defiled man.  He was 100% God and 100% Man.

Description of the Ark of the Covenant

Made of Acacia wood, a desert wood common to the Israelites in the wilderness.  It is slow to decay, strong, durable for construction and endures eons of time. 

And the Acacia wood is overlaid with gold. 

Acacia represents Humanity.  Gold represents Deity.

Think about how long the Ark stayed in the Tabernacle and the Temple -- and may still be somewhere on this earth.

(See Isaiah 53:2 “a root out of dry ground” in reference to Jesus.)

Forgiveness Scripture

The following verses are cleansers of conscience from “Guilt and Dead Works."

Who pardons all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases? (Psalms 103:3 NASB)

As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. (Psalms 103:12 NASB)

how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:14 NASB)

but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7 NASB)

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 NASB)

The following verses stress accepting the forgiveness, refusing condemnation and moving forward toward the goal.  Forget what is behind me!

that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;

in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:10-12 NASB)

Daily prayer – forgive us our debts and do so as we forgive.

'And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

'And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.)

"For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.

"But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions. (Matthew 6:12-15 NASB)

Infinitely forgive -- as God has me -- and recognize the “mercy principle”; that is, if you don’t forgive, it controls God’s justice over mercy towards you!

Then Peter came and said to Him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?"

Jesus *said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. (Matthew 18:21-22 NASB)

"Then summoning him, his lord *said to him, 'You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.

'Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?'

"And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him.

"My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart." (Matthew 18:21-22 NASB)

Forgive one another…

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:32 NASB)

Have faith…

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1-2 NASB)

The blood of Christ cleanses our conscience from dead works, to serve the living God.

how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:14 NASB)

Christ's blood and confession of sin purifies (cleanses) us from all sin, removes the desire to sin, prevents our receiving the enemy's condemnation, removes our sin legally [it’s gone] from our record, we have peace with God and we continue changing.  These are the benefits of forgiveness.

but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:7, 9 NASB)

We will gain desire to forgive others in turn if we are being transformed and being sanctified.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2 NASB)

(Aside - Pat's:  The endless list of do’s, do not’s, and taboos by churches invariably have to do with a metaschema, not a metamorphosis. Any effort on the part of Christians [self] to help the Spirit of God bring about the transformation of Romans 12:2 will always result in a pseudo-spirituality. God’s way is an inward change wrought through the power of the Spirit, not an outward change wrought through the power of the individual.

See The Metamorphosis in this site which provides detail commentary on transformation.)   

Draw near confidently to receive mercy and grace.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.

For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.

Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16 NASB)

Godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation of the soul; the sorrow of the world is not true repentance, but mere remorse.

For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.

For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong. In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter. (2 Corinthians 7:10-11 NASB)

In the following passages John gives several contrasts:  Darkness and light; Lying and the truth; Denying sin and confessing sin.

This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.

If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth;

but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.

If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:5-8 NASB)

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. (1 John 1:9-10 NASB)

Let’s think for a moment about what emotions we experience at the thought of confessing our sin.

Turn to page 43 in your study book and let’s look at barriers to forgiveness.  These things can stop us from confessing our sin to God and getting the benefit of inner freedom God wants to give us.

Circle any of these obstacles that you believe prevent you from confessing your sin and seeking God’s forgiveness.

Hypocrisy --  pride -- peer pressure -- addiction -- apathy -- guilt
desire -- reputation -- ignorance -- shame -- stubbornness.

Question:

What is a step you can take to move toward forgiveness? Confession!

For me, talking it out with God, maybe even on paper to clarify the issues.  I also try to remember, “God already knows all about this better than I do, so why should I resist telling Him?"

I do think He might require me to go to a person and set something right.  Am I not willing?  If not, do I realize I am blocking my fellowship with God, requiring reconciliation?  Not going to that person would be a costly, and prideful, thing to do to myself.

Remember, unwillingness to go to God would be my loss, because I could be receiving:

1) forgiveness,
2) inner peace, cleansing,
3) power to resist this same thing next time,
4) soul change -- as I confess, God changes me,
5) sanctification is where I want to go, not to block myself from going.

I could be receiving fellowship (strong common bond with God and other believers [common is in the root of the word restoration, reconciliation]).

1 John 1:9 NASB is such an important verse because it explains God’s provision through the forgiveness and cleansing of sin.

Some modern religious views of God either down-play or deny that God judges sin “because He is a loving God” and does not punish sin!  That is the same as saying there is no sin or Christians don’t have sin in the first place, and if there is no sin, then there is no reason for guilt.  John strongly denounces that idea in 1 John 1:8, 10 NASB, saying (1) we deceive ourselves, (2) make God out to be a liar and (3) don’t have His Word in us.

That is a terrible self-deception and will stop all our progress in the faith.

Because we have God’s Holy Spirit within us, we do have the empowering to refuse sin and overcome it, but that takes much practice and many experiences.  So we can expect that we will have many stumblings.

There is a difference between saying we are “sinners” and saying we “have sin”.

One thing is positional and the other is practical.

God condemns all sins, and sins they have just consequences, deservedly so.  The good news for us is that God has provided a remedy for those sins through the blood of Christ.

He forgives the sins of those who believe in Christ alone for salvation.  He forgives those sins we confess after we are justified on the condition of confession.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

If we confess our sins and call the sins what they are, God will forgive them.  He will also cleanse all the sins we are not able to recall or recognize.  He cleanses us from “all unrighteousness”.

Thought we receive forgiveness, we don’t always feel forgiven.  Some of the reasons are Satan is the accuser of the brethren; others don’t always forgive us and we won’t forgive ourselves; and we allow regret to dominate our thinking.

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;

and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. (1 John 2:1-2 NASB)

Advocate

A lawyer in Greek society defined someone who helped another in a legal case.
 
But none of the four uses of it in John’s gospel reference legal, but refer to the Holy Spirit.

But a heavenly court of judgment against sin fits the context of 1 John 2:1 NASB, since He is the propitiation for our sins, thus He is capable of advocating, for us  - on our behalf perfectly and winning.

The Point of our lesson, for me, is "God always forgives when I truly repent."

Aside:

Fellowship – Greek root word “common” koinonia, share things in common.

Advocate – (Lawyer) (verb) – Jesus or in the gospel, the Holy Spirit, encourage, exhort, counsel, comfort, help another in a legal case.

Atoning Sacrifice – Appeasement of God’s wrath against sin thru an appropriate sacrifice a holy payment that satisfies the righteous anger of God.

The following is additional commentary on 1 John 1:8-9 by Zane Hodges.

1 John 1:8  But when a believer is experiencing true fellowship with God he may then be tempted to think or say that he is, at that moment at least, free from sin.  John warned against this self-deluding conception.  If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If Christians understand the truth that god’s Word teaches about the depravity of the human heart, they know that just because they are not conscious of failure does not mean that they are free from it.  If the truth is “in” them as a controlling, motivation influence, this kind of self-deception will not take place.  Whether someone claims to be without sin for a brief period of time or claims it as a permanent attainment, the claim is false.

1 John 1:9  In view of verse 8, Christians ought to be ready at all times to acknowledge any failure which God’s light may expose to them.  Thus John wrote, If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  Though the words “forgive us” is quite admissible, “our” is not in the Greek text.  The phrase contains only an article and noun and it is conceivable that the article is the type which grammarians call “the article of previous reference.”  If so, there is a subtle contrast between this expression and the “all unrighteousness” which follows it.  John’s thought might be paraphrased, “If we confess our sins, He…will forgive the sins we confess and moreover will even cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  Each Christian, however, is responsible to acknowledge whatever the light makes him aware of, and when he does so, a complete and perfect cleansing is granted him.  There is thus no need to agonize over sins of which one is unaware.

Moreover, it is comforting to learn that the forgiveness which is promised here is both absolutely assured (because God “is faithful”) and also is in no way contrary to His holiness (He is “just”).  The word used here for “just” is the same one which is applied as a title to Christ in 2:1 where is it translated “the Righteous One.”

In modern times, some have occasionally denied that a Christian needs to confess his sins and ask forgiveness.  It is claimed that a believer already has forgiveness in Christ (Eph. 1:7).  But this point of view confuses the perfect position which he is even “seated with Him in the heavenly places”, (Eph. 2:6) with his needs as a failing individual on earth.  What is considered in 1 John 1:9 may be described as “familial” forgiveness.  It is perfectly understandable how a son may need to ask his father to forgive him for his faults while at the same time his position within the family is not in jeopardy.  A Christian who never asks his heavenly Father for forgiveness for his sins can hardly have much sensitivity to the ways in which he grieves his Father.  Furthermore, the Lord Jesus Himself taught His followers to seek forgiveness of their sins in a prayer that was obviously intended for daily use in Mat. 6:11-12.  The teaching that a Christian should not ask God for daily forgiveness is an aberration.  Moreover, confession of sin is never connected by John to the acquisition of eternal life, which is always conditioned on faith.  First John 1:9 is not spoken to the unsaved, and the effort to turn it into a soteriological affirmation is misguided.

It may also be said that so long as the idea of walking in the light or darkness is correctly understood on an experiential level, these concepts offer no difficulty.  “Darkness” has an ethical meaning.  When a Believer loses personal touch with the God of light, he begins to live in darkness.  But confession of sin is the way back into the light.

David offers us a beautiful example of the confession of sin, even if he was an Old Testament believer.

(Note: Links like the following are found throughout this website.  They take one to Word Documents in my computer which has virus protection.  They are SAFE to open!)

God is Faithful
By Carol Miller of My Life Ministries
July 7, 2014

Video Points

We live in a world and an age of over-promising and under-delivering.  Despite pre-nups, contracts, guarantees, vows, agreements, etc., people are not good at doing what they say they will do.  They 'talk the talk,' but don't 'walk the walk.'

A man’s word or handshake is no longer what it used to be…sadly!

God is not like this.  He always does what He says He will do, no exceptions, no excuses!

In our scripture passage for this lesson, Hebrews 6:17-18; 10:22-23, the writer is telling New Testament Jewish Christians that although the Old Testament people of God walked away from their covenant with Him, He had remained faithful.

The Central Point of this Lesson

We need to grasp that “God’s faithfulness in the past guarantees He will be faithful in the future.”

God can be trusted because He always does what He says He will do.

One reason we can trust God to be faithful is because His purposes are unchangeable.  He will fulfill His purpose.  His faithfulness will remain.

God faithfulness cannot be seen as similar in any way to human faithfulness.  There is no comparison.  His faithfulness is qualitatively and quantitatively different from any other faithfulness.  It cannot be sidetracked or derailed.  It is unshakable and immovable.  God must be faithful and loyal to His own truth.

SCRIPTURES – God is Faithful

1) Deut. 7:9 – The Faithful God.

2) Prov. 20:6 – Unlike man

3) Num. 23:19 – not a man, that…

4) Psa. 119:90 (and Psa. 119:75)

5) Lam. 3:19-24

6) Psa. 92:1-2

7) Rev. 19:11

8) Rev. 22:6

Balaam was being asked by the King of Moab to curse Israel.  He told Balak that was impossible, for God had SAID He would bless Israel, so there was no changing of His mind.   (Num. 23:16-26)

Hebrews 6:11-18

And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end,

so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

For when God made the promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself,

saying, "I WILL SURELY BLESS YOU AND I WILL SURELY MULTIPLY YOU."

And so, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise.

For men swear by one greater than themselves, and with them an oath given as confirmation is an end of every dispute.

In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath,

so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. (Hebrews 6:11-18 NASB)

As pastor Cardoza said, "The writer of Hebrews was encouraging his readers to 'press on' in their walk in Christ, since they were tempted to fall back in several ways."  He wanted them to inherit all God has promised to believers who keep faith like Abraham did.

He gives the example of Abraham as one who received a promise and an oath which God swore upon Himself and then patiently kept believing and waiting and received his promise. (Hebrews 6:17 NASB)

In the same way God gave the oath so that we, the heirs of Abraham’s promise by way of Christ, might have strong encouragement that God will be faithful to fulfill His promises to us if we “show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope to the end.”

Hebrews 6:19-20

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil,

where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 6:19-20 NASB)

This hope we have as an anchor of the soulAn anchor holds the boat where the Captain wants it to stay.  A boat without an anchor will drift out to sea and be lost or tossed and wrecked.  The soul is that part of us which contains the power of sin or the flesh.

For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. (Gal 5:17 NASB)

God has given us a “living hope” that is bound up in our salvation.  That "living hope" will work to help us “press on.” (More about this next week in 1 Peter 1:3-9, 13.)

(Going back to Abraham for a moment, realize that Abraham won his race and received his promise.  Christ came through Isaac’s line.  But Abraham has not seen that promise fulfilled with his own eyes yet.)

Genesis 22:17-18

indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies.

"In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice." (Genesis 22:17-18 NASB)

Sand is a metaphor for Israel--earthly people, while Stars is a metaphor for the church--heavenly people.

However, Abraham, the one to whom God is speaking, will see it [in the Kingdom Age.]

Flip over to Hebrews 11:8-14

By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.

By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise;

for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised.

Therefore there was born even of one man, and him as good as dead at that, as many descendants AS THE STARS OF HEAVEN IN NUMBER, AND INNUMERABLE AS THE SAND WHICH IS BY THE SEASHORE.

All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.

For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. (Hebrews 11:8-14 NASB)

Hebrews 11:39-40

And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised,

because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect. (Hebrews 11:39-40 NASB)

When we, the heirs of Abraham’s promise, see our promises fulfilled, Abraham will see his.  God's purpose was unchangeable.  He desired to bless Abraham and us as those heirs of the promise through Christ.  So the same promise and the same oath applies to us.  It is just further developed.  God is faithful, who will perform it for Abraham and for us.

Philippians 1:6

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6 NASB)

Paul could be confident because God is faithful.

Hebrews 6:19-20

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil,

where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 6:19-20 NASB)

Our hope causes us to enter into the holy of holies behind the veil in the heavenly holy of holies where Jesus is interceding for us as our High Priest.  As we dwell in this close communion with Him, we cannot miss the mark and drift away.

1 Timothy 1:19

keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith. (1 Timothy 1:19 NASB)

A boat that got un-anchored.

Hebrews 10:19-23

Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus,

by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh,

and since we have a great priest over the house of God,

let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; (Hebrews 10:19-23 NASB)

The veil – torn asunder in the actual temple when Christ dies on the Cross.

But the veil of his flesh is a metaphor symbolizing the opening up, through Christ’s bodily sacrifice, of the way into access to God in heaven.

Hebrews 10:21 adds the same idea as Hebrews 6:20.  Jesus is our forerunner into that place and is our High Priest now—and coming King!

(Note: Links like the following are found throughout this website.  They take one to Word Documents in my computer which has virus protection.  They are SAFE to open!)

Focused Faith
Standing Strong in the Midst of Suffering
July 14, 2014
By Carol Miller of My Life Ministries

"Standing strong in the midst of suffering" is a subject very relevant to our present time!  Our world, our country, the church, all are in crisis.  All are unraveling, making it a time of danger, a time for deliberate decision making.

Video Points

Mary Jo Sharp:  Our faith will be shaken from time to time.  We will take “hits.”

Think about what trials have tested your faith and how did they reveal the genuineness of it.

"Resiliency” is being able to recover quickly, bounce back, spring back after being bent, stretched or squashed.

Because of Jesus Christ, because of His sacrificial death and especially because of His resurrection, we can have a strong resilient faith.  We can stand strong regardless of what comes at us.

In the up-coming weeks, we will look at six qualities that we want to ask God to build into our faith.  This lesson is on a focused faith, but lessons on an active faith, an enduring faith, a ready faith, a joyful faith and a victorious faith are forthcoming.

1 Peter 1:3-9, 13

We’ll be examining the book of 1 Peter for these lessons.  In our passages for today, Peter says that faith is what is so precious to God, more than gold. (Gold He just uses to pave streets.) God loves tested faith that is proven, genuine after passing through the fire!

The author of Hebrews 11, the chapter we call “the Faith Chapter,” in Hebrews 11:6 writes that without faith it is impossible to please Him, for He who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.  That word “rewarder” ties in with what we are looking at in our lesson passage today in 1 Peter 1:3-9, 13.

Our topic today is focused faith, and the lesson point is that our faith is focused on the sure hope.

I would put it this way:  We have been given a great living hope, and if we set our focus on it, our faith will pass through the fires of testing and result in bringing praise, glory and honor to Jesus Christ at this revelation, which is the time of His second coming to earth, this time to reign as King for a thousand glorious years.

Let’s look at how Peter says it, how he presents that to us.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, (1 Peter 1:3 NASB)

We are saved by His mercy [grace] and at the same time born again to something.  We are not just born again period, but born again to a living hope.  And it happens through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

Peter before the Resurrection had a faith that could not stand, but after Peter saw Jesus Risen from the dead, and after he received the Holy Spirit, 40 days later at Pentecost, Peter had a living hope that strengthened his faith to heroic proportions.

to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, (1 Peter 1:4 NASB)

The hope, in verse 4 is “to obtain an inheritance which is (eternal), imperishable and is reserved (set apart) for you in heaven."

And part of the “inheritance conditions” are that as you walk by faith here in this life, the power of God protects you and your inheritance for you as you walk by faith, and it’s for you to see it be “revealed and receive it in the last time”.

The last time is at the Judgment Seat of Christ, and it will be “played out” for 1000 years in the fully manifested Kingdom of God in the Millennial Reign of Christ.

As your faith is focused on that living hope, it is able to be resilient, strong and getting purer, like gold that is refined by fire.

I reiterate, it’s the resurrection that makes it possible for us to have that living hope.  And because He is alive, He also lives in us who have received Him, and He Himself is our Hope of Glory, as Paul says in Colossians 1:27.

who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:5 NASB)

In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, (1 Peter 1:6 NASB)

Peter says that we greatly rejoice in this awaiting inheritance which is actually “a salvation ready to be revealed to us and everyone in the last time.

so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; (1 Peter 1:7 NASB)

and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, (1 Peter 1:8 NASB)

Here he shows us the resiliency of faith that is focused on the hope. You love Him though you have not seen Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,

obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:9)

and reach the desired outcome—the salvation of your soul. That is actually the completion of “your salvation out-working”.  It is the sanctification that comes with purified faith that goes through the fire and hangs on.  It is the maturing of the soul, which is that part of us that contains the flesh and gets tempted to selfishness and sin and drawn always by the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and boastful pride of life.

Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1Peter 1:13 NASB)

Again Peter says to focus on your hope and attach it or fix it firmly on the grace [mercy] that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

That grace which will be brought to you will be the power through Him to rule alongside Him in the coming Kingdom. 

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; (Philippians 2:12 NASB)

for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13 NASB)

This is grace (Power and Desire to do God’s Will) that is dynamic, active, not grace that is God’s unmerited favor as in Eph. 2:8-10.

Returning to 1 Peter 1:13, this is a new kind of grace that will be bestowed to the faithful so that they can rule with Christ.  The faithful, with powerauthority and God working in them, make them rulers with Christ.

The following are some other verses of Scripture that will reveal how focusing on the living hope of our inheritance will build a resilient faith.

Romans 8:24-25 (Future)

For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? (Romans 8:24 NASB)

But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. (Romans 8:25 NASB) 

Hope speaks of living our life in anticipation of the coming kingdom and obtaining a share of authority to rule and reign with Christ.  God intend for every believer to have this hope and to live in hope and gain the object of our hope.  It should be the normal Christian experience to live in hope and gain the overcoming victory which will produce the object of the hope at the end of one’s Christian life.

Our faith is built up, strengthened by this process.

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, (Rom 5:1 NASB) 

through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. (Rom 5:2 NASB) 

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; (Rom 5:3 NASB)

and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; (Rom 5:4 NASB)

and hope does not disappoint, because thee love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Rom 5:5 NASB)

We must “exult in the hope” and focus on it with joy.

And we exult in things that grow our hope as well as strengthen our faith all the more.

Hope and faith work together to produce the sanctification and deliver the inheritance.

Hope doesn’t disappoint.  Our object will be obtained, and the Love poured out in our hearts assures us we will “not be disappointed”.

For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings. (Hebrews 2:10 NASB)

For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, (Hebrews 2:11 NASB) 

This suffering process is leading to the glory shared with Christ.

to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Col 1:27 NASB)

We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. (Col 1:28 NASB)

For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me. (Col 1:29 NASB)

Completing of the process of Salvation – Paul.

Paul did not want a group of spiritual babies as his legacy.  He desired to bring each believer to completion in Christ.

This completion of salvation is our hope of glory.  There is glory at the end of it.  We focus our faith here.

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, (Ephesians 1:18 NASB)

and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might (Ephesians 1:19 NASB)

looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, (Titus 2:13 NASB)

He is our blessed hope.  And we look for the appearing of His glory when he returns.

But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. (1Thess 5:8 NASB)

Helmet – Hope of salvation

Hope protects the mind (a part of the soul) as we focus on it.

An anchor in Hebrews 6:19 (sure and steadfast) is a helmet in 1 Thess. 5:8.

Some examples of men of faith who focused on their hope very closely:

Job

"As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, And at the last He will take His stand on the earth. (Job 19:25)

David

He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows.
(Psalm 23:3-5)

Moses

By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter,
choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin,
considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.
(Hebrews 11:24-26)

James
Crown of life. Crown of rejoicing

Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. (James 1:12)

(Note: Links like the following are found throughout this website.  They take one to Word Documents in my computer which has virus protection.  They are safe to open!)

Active Faith
Prepare your minds for action
By Carol Miller of My Life Ministries
July 20, 2014

Last week we talked about focused faith and looked at passages about how we need to focus on our hope of glory, the living hope that we have for an eternal inheritance, so that our faith possesses a helmet for our minds and an anchor for our souls…tightly tied to Jesus Christ.

This week we are adding the quality of active faith that Pater makes reference to in 1 Peter 1:13 when he says “prepare you minds for action”.

Reading the applicable verses 1 Peter 1:13-19:

Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance,

but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior;

because it is written, "YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY."

If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth;

knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers,

but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. (1 Peter 1:13-19)

“Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

“Prepare your mind for action," the first action being to fix (or focus) our hope, but there is more.  Mary Jo Sharp described active faith as a faith that continues to move forward even though it is confronted, squeezed and beset by suffering, persecutions, and trials of various kinds.

Active faith could be described by Paul as the good fight of faith in 1 Tim. 6:12 NASB:  Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.  Because Paul understood what Mary Jo said about our natural tendency being to resort to our baser desires, or to withdraw into passivity and mindless re-actions instead of doing the contrary thing of pressing forward to show forth the transformation that God, by His Holy Spirit, has worked into our lives.

That is the first thing Peter addresses in our passage for today at 1 Peter 1:14-15 NASB.  He says, in effect, since you are obedient children, assuming you are, “as obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance:…those natural tendencies to fall back in passivity or mindless re-action or rebellion—but instead 1 Peter 1:15 NASB “like the Holy One who called you (“called,” kaleo) means “saved you,” behold yourselves in all your behavior.  Because it is written, “You shall be Holy for I am Holy.”  Active faith should focus on the hope of glory, and press forward purposefully to demonstrate the transformation toward holiness.

Romans 12:2 NASB:

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

Be ye transformed…

Romans 8:28-29 NASB:

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

Rom 8:29 NASB:

For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;

Conformed (not to the former lusts that were yours in ignorance [1Peter 1:14]) but conformed to the image of God’s Son and be one of many brethren who are just like Jesus.  This is really God’s ultimate goal for us.  And it is the same thing as saying that He will conform us to His holy character.  Those whom He foreknew, He predestined to be conformed to the image of His own holiness, so that Jesus (He) would be the firstborn among many (holy) brethren.

Personal Study Book, page 87:

Sometimes we think of holiness like picture #4.  Looks pretty but rather uninteresting for the rest of eternity and religious and boring, doesn’t it, like being “sweet” with halos and stepping out on a stained glass window.  Just what we’re all hoping for!  Right?  No, what we are all hoping for is like Psalm 45:6-7,

Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Your kingdom.

You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of joy above Your fellows. (Psalm 45:6-7 NASB)

to be filled and over-flowing with joy.  Jesus is anointed with joy above all His brethren, because He loved righteousness and hated wickedness.  To be holy results in an anointing of joy!  But pressing in on being holy while living in the world – hating wickedness – and doing righteousness will not always necessarily feel all that joyful in the present age in which we live.  Sometimes it can and will but not always, especially in a circumstance of persecution.

Let’s look at Jesus’ example as it is given in Hebrews 12:1-2 NASB for the best picture of active faith—exercised by the “author and perfecter of faith”:

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2 NASB)

We are told that He was focusing on the prize—the hope—the joy of the coming glory up ahead of Him.  That is how we must “prepare our minds for action.”

Now let's turn back to Hebrews 11 and remind ourselves of some things about active faith as exercised by the heroes of it. 

Active Faith

1. By it we gain God’s approval (Hebrews 11:1 NASB)

2. The active faith of an individual is eternal (Hebrews 11:2 NASB)

3. We understand (Hebrews 11:3 NASB)

4. He still speaks [Abel] (Hebrews 11:4 NASB)

5. Active faith makes us pleasing to God [Enoch] (Hebrews 11:5 NASB)

6. We cannot please God without it. (Hebrews 11:6 NASB)

7. These pleased God:

Hebrews 11:7 NASB Noah;
Hebrews 11:8-9 NASB Abraham;
Hebrews 11:11 NASB Sarah;
Hebrews 11:20 NASB Isaac and Jacob;
Hebrews 11:21 NASB Joseph;
Hebrews 11:23 NASB Moses;
Hebrews 11:31 NASB Rahab;
Hebrews 11:32 NASB Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David and Samuel.

Let’s remember:  If our life is being destroyed by a fiery trial and we can save one thing out of the fire, it needs to be our faith—whatever else is lost, we must reach inwardly, get hold of Jesus, hang onto our faith (exercise “active faith”) in response to our situation, whatever it is, and nothing else will really matter.

In 1 Peter 1:17, Peter says “if you address as Father the One who impartially judge according to each ones man’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth.”

An active faith and holy behavior are founded on “the fear of the Lord.”

Proverbs 16:6 – “by the fear of the Lord, men depart for evil.”

In the document on “Learning to Fear of the Lord” [I handed out], note the three levels:

1.  Not just natural consequences but spiritual consequences of tension, pressure, guilty conscience, anxiety or depression that result from sin.

2.  See Psalm 51:4a - against thee and thee only have I sinned.  This level makes the others seem as nothing.

3.  Read 1 Peter 1:18-20.  You heard Mary Jo Sharp’s comments on why Peter included the explanations of the high cost of our redemption and that it is good to explain the blood sacrifice as the payment necessary for the removal of our sin and to also include the Resurrection as the basis for our new life.  Christ conquered death, after sin had been abolished for us through His shedding of His blood.  So Jesus’ death redeems this creation that originally was good but has gone terribly astray.  Peter was calling us.  I believe, to fear the Lord, give Him profound respect because of the incalculable price He paid for our redemption.

Now let’s read 1 Peter 1:22-24:

Actively pursuing holiness and walking in the fear of the Lord will purify our souls.  It will increasingly sanctify us and conform us to the image of Christ.  When that is happening, the action of the Holy Spirit is to pour out love in our hearts, really for everyone, but especially for our brethren.

Romans 5:3-5:

In suffering and trials, we develop proven character, holiness, if we keep active faith and the love of God is poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Peter exhorts us to respond actively to that which is happening within us by the power of the Holy Spirit, and to fervently exercise that love toward one another.  It is supernaturally natural that we possess it; so do with it what you are supposed to do!  Show it, act on it from the heart, sincerely and fervently, toward all your brothers and sisters!

1 Peter 1:23:

Peter is telling us, I believe, that the life we have within us, which pours out God’s love in our hearts, is inexhaustible – we cannot use it up or exhaust it, or kill it, and that is because it is from an unkillable seed: the Word of God.

Peter quotes from Isaiah 40:8, “All flesh is like Grass and all its glory like the flower of grass, The grass withers and the flower falls off, But the Word of the Lord endures Forever.”

Psalms 103:15-16 says the same about man’s fleeting life.  But God’s Word is eternal—it will continue forever.

In the Beginning was the Word and so it will be forever and without end.  And the Word of God was active in the new birth of each of us.

Romans 10:17—faith comes by hearing the Word of God.  (The new birth involves hearing the specific part of the Word that explains the gospel)

James 1:18—The “Word of truth” is what God used to “bring us forth,” or to give us the new birth.

And the Scripture keeps feeding the new man.  In the next Chapter, (1 Peter 2) Peter tells us to “long for” the pure milk of the Word, (and the use of “milk” does not eliminate the “meat” of the Word in this passage but includes all of God’s Word.  An active faith needs to be nourished by the “Word of God.”

Scripture

1. 1 Tim 6:12
2. Romans 12:2
3. Romans 8:28-29
4. Psalms 45:4
5. Hebrews 12:1-2
6. Hebrews 11:1-6
7. Proverbs 16:6
8. Romans 5:3-5
9. Psalm 103:15-16
10. Romans 10-17
11. James 1:18

(Note: Links like the following are found throughout this website.  They take one to Word Documents in my computer which has virus protection.  They are safe to open!)

When we reward unwarranted hypersensitivity
surrounding religious ceremonies or beliefs,
we add fuel to the hatred and intolerance
that subsequently produces religious persecution.

Enduring Faith
By Carol Miller of My Life Ministries
7/27/14

The Point

Trust God in every circumstance.  This will take and build endurance.

Read page 94 in our Personal Study Guide about the Ironman Race – Spiritual tests of endurance have come and will come.

In 1 Peter 2:11-23, read 1 Peter 2:13. Since 1 Peter 2:13 begins with “Therefore,” read 1 Peter 2:11-12 also.

Background

1 Peter 2:11-12 informs us these Christians to whom Peter was writing were living in countries foreign to their homeland, as “pilgrims and sojourners,” in the same sense as we are living in this world today.  As Mary Jo said, "Their culture was pagan."  It was the Roman Empire where there was emperor worship and worship of various gods.  And our culture today is, disappointedly, similar. There are leaders or leadership with whom Christians, and others, do not agree.  These leaders' values are contrary to ours.  What Peter says to them certainly has great similarity and relevance for us Christians today.

They, like us, but to a greater extent, were living among people who did not yet believe they needed Jesus, some not even aware of Him, and who were looking for reasons to criticize and to oppose the spread of Christianity.  It was important for them, as it is for us, to maintain a good testimony in the face of skepticism and hostility of radically different mindsets from our own!

Peter especially is addressing a Christian’s proper response to governmental authorities (brought out in the video).  (Peter also addresses a proper response for a Christian to his master in that day [1 Peter 2:18-25]).

Peter was calling them and us:

1) To be God’s special people,

2) To live holy lives,

3) With active faith and steadfast endurance,

4) Remembering that our true home is not here, but heaven,

5) And we can bring glory to God through a right response to whatever we are called to suffer.

One of the classic references on endurance is James 1:2-4.  Testing of your faith (sufferings of all kinds) produces:

“Endurance” in the NASB (James 1:2-4 NASB)

“Patience” in the KJV (James 1:2-4 KJV)

“Perseverance in the NIV” (James 1:2-4 NIV)

All these are in the Greek definition in Strong’s Concordance.

James says “Endurance” will lead to perfection of our life so that we are “lacking in nothing”—from God’s point of view.

1 Peter 4:1-2, Suffered in the flesh, ceased from sin, equate to “lacking nothing”…spiritually speaking.  Only to live for God’s will!

In 1 Peter 4:13-15 Peter addresses their relationship to governmental civic law.  He calls on them to submit themselves to “every ordinance of man” or "every human authority”, whatever level.

Submit means to “give over to,” “to yield to” the power or authority of another.  To “surrender” or "subject" oneself to a person.  Our study book says “not slavery to” but rather “acknowledging the authority of" someone.

Special Area

Peter in 1 Peter 4:13 says it is “for the Lord’s sake”.  We saw already that the Christian’s were not the “in crowd,” but “suspect”.  People sought reasons to disapprove them, dislike them.  Therefore Christians needed to demonstrate a desire to do right, to be respectful, to pay their bills, pay their taxes, live quietly.  For us it is much the same.  Pay for licenses and keep up our inspection sticker, drive the speed limit, be respectful to officers of the law, demonstrate respect for all the rules and regulations even if we find them oppressive or unfair.  People will be convicted of the good in such behavior.

There comes a point though, where the Word of God says we “must obey God rather than men.”  Acts 4:18-20; 5:29.

When that point comes in the life of a believer, we have different examples of responses in God’s Word.

In Acts 5:17 we see that the apostles were imprisoned for refusing to stop ministering and preaching in Jesus’ Name.  But an angel opened the prison doors.

Likewise Paul and Silas were imprisoned for preaching and ministering in Macedonia [Acts 16:23-27], and again they were freed by a supernatural earthquake that opened the prison doors and loosed the prisoner’s chains.

Stephen was a deacon of excellent character with a gift of signs and wonders.  When some of the Jews disputed him and brought lying accusations of blasphemy against him, Stephen’s response was to submit to them, unto death, while answering their lies with the truth.  (Read Acts 6:8; 7:50 for the full story.)  His form of submission was unique, but approved by Jesus, Who stood up in heaven to honor Stephen as he prayed, “Father, do not hold this sin against them.”

Then, in the Old Testament there was David who submitted to Saul over and over, but finally ran for his life.  Over several years he showed Saul numerous times that he could have killed him, but did not.  David also honored Saul when Saul died in battle and tore his clothes when the report of Saul’s death came to him.  He honored Saul.

There was Daniel who always spoke carefully and with respect to King Nebuchadnezzar.  When confronted with the King’s rich food that did not agree with his Jewish laws, he appealed tactfully to the King’s subordinates.  And in the case of prayer, he continued praying despite the edict that would cause him to be thrown to the Lions.  He submitted to the law and God saved him.  The same with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.  In both cases the pre-incarnate Christ visited the scene and stopped the death of his faithful ones. 

In Nebuchadnezzar’s case he became a believer after a long relationship with Daniel.

They did not submit and were willing to pay the price.  In their case they could not escape.  In David’s case, he could, and he did.  Yet he respected Saul’s life.  He called Saul “the Lord’s anointed.”

Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil. (1 Peter 2:16 NASB) 

Also see Gal. 5:13-14 NASB.

In America today we have certain unique circumstances.  Our Republic is democratic and allows for free elections and voters the right and privilege to work to shape policies.  As is often said, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”  Satan will always work with the unbelieving to promote his evil agenda.

Good men must stand up for what is right.  They must weigh the issues for their relative importance, knowing that a growing practice of abortion and gay life style invite God’s judgment on any nation.  Therefore we have to speak truth and take stands where the Lord leads.  We know that a nation that curses Israel God will curse, so we must do what we can to educate others and effect change.  We will become known for these things.  We must support men and women who will lead in the right direction.  Men and women who deliberate policy with our constitution in mind as opposed to reelection.  Men and women who know our individual rights come from God, not from government.  Government rights come from the people.

I believe we stand in a place that is similar to where Dietrich Bonhoeffer stood when Nazi Germany was rising.  Bonhoeffer ultimately suffered imprisonment and execution as a political dissident although his basic beginning was as a pastor and Christian author of The Cost of Discipleship.  But he saw Hitler taking over their nation to curse the Jews and dominate the world by tyrannical power.  So he became a spy and an undercover worker in a plot to assassinate Hitler.  Some might say he was not submitting to authorities as a Christian should have, and many Christians did stay quiet.  (The following may be of interest: Dietrich Bonhoeffer Quotes.)

Others would say he believed he should obey God rather than men, and take action to stop a murderous and evil dictator.

We find ourselves, our nation, coming close to a similar situation in some ways.

I recommend Dr. Ben Carson You Tube Videos as good examples of how to express oneself in our situation.  One of his videos is National Prayer Breakfast with Obama Present.

For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." (Galatians 5:13-14 NASB)

Paul is saying just what Peter said.  We are set free from domination of sin.  Now we can relate to others who mistreat us or dislike us in a respectful way in order to demonstrate that we are God’s obedient children who wish to do good, obey the rules of society, love our fellow men.

In 1 Peter 2:17 Peter gives four commands:

1)  Show respect to everyone

2)  Love the family of believers

3)  Fear God

4)  Honor the king

1 Peter 2:18-20

Slaves in that culture endured hardships, sometimes beatings, regularly.  This was a hard trial through which Peter called on them to demonstrate the grace of God to their masters, so that they could see the life changes that enabled them to keep a humble spirit under pressure and unjust treatment.  We can do this same thing in employer / employee relationships where there may be unjust treatment.

This response allows God to convict consciences of those who are not so hardened that they are past the ability to repent.  Just as Jesus' death on the cross convicted the conscience of the Centurion and Stephen’s death the conscience of the on looking Saul of Tarsus.

Peter In 1 Peter 2:21-23 tells us “this kind of suffering is a calling” that comes to all of us who would become mature believers. 

"To this" in 1 Peter 2:21 refers to the times the believers had suffered for doing what was right.

“Called” pertains to the call God placed on believers' lives bringing them to

1)  faith

2)  salvation, and

3)  a lifestyle that would witness to Him.

Jesus is our example.  He suffered for us and gave us an example.  As long as we are in this world we will have some suffering and especially as we live that lifestyle we are called.  When others treat us unjustly we have that special calling to suffer patiently.

Christ gave us the pattern.  The Word example means a writing pattern.  It refers to children tracing over correctly formed patterns of the letters.  Jesus suffered because He was submitted to the One Who Sent Him and determined to do His will.

Peter cites Isaiah 53 and Jesus' response to suffering.

1)  He did not sin in speech

2)  He did not deceive or lie

3)  He did not retaliate with evil for evil

4)  He made not threats

He kept entrusting (active present participle) Himself to Him Who judges justly.

God will put everything right in the end.

Jesus trusted God in every situation.  We must trust God in every situation, committing ourselves and all the results to Him.

(Note: Links like the following are found throughout this website.  They take one to Word Documents in my computer which has virus protection.  They are safe to open!)

Shortly before my father died he said to me,
"Son, your mom and I were talking the other night about how long we have lived,
and in the process it occurred to us that most of our dear friends in Christ
died 10 or more years ago.
And that's when we realized that by now,
they must have all come to the conclusion that when we died, we went to hell!"
~Erwin Lutzer paraphrased

Ezra and Nehemiah
By Carol Miller of My Life Ministries
God Ordains Restoration and The Return from Captivity or Israel's Postexilic History

I.  Related Prophecies

1.  Jeremiah 25:11:  The Lord gives the number of years of captivity and the place.

2.  Jeremiah 29:10:  The Lord gives the number of years of captivity and the place.

3.  2 Chronicles 36:21:  The Lord tells the number of years of captivity and ties it to the breaking of the law of the Sabbath Year.

4.  Isaiah 44:28:  Isaiah predicted by name a pagan king, Cyrus, not born for 150 years afterward, through whom the people of Israel would be delivered from captivity in Babylon.

5.  Isaiah 45:1, 11-13:  Isaiah predicted a king named Cyrus would be God's “anointed” servant to set Israel free to return to their land after their captivity in Babylon.

6.  Jeremiah 23:3-6:  Jeremiah prophesies that God will gather the remnant and bring them back to the land.

7.  Ezekiel 11:17:  Ezekiel also prophesies that God will gather the people, assemble them and give them the land of Israel.

Thus the Lord foretold of the captivity, that it would be in Babylon, that it would last 70 years, and that God would again gather his people and bring them back to the land of Israel when 70 years were over.  He even foretold who would allow them to leave Persia.

II.  The Years of the Three Deportations from Judah to Babylon were as follows:

1.  In 605 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar destroyed much of Judah and took back to Babylon some of the articles in the House of God, and he also took back Daniel and other youths of noble birth, whom he made eunuchs and servants in the palace in Babylon.  They were part of Babylon's wise men.

2.  In 597 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar returned and took the remaining treasures of Jerusalem's Temple back to Babylon along with Ezekiel, the prophet, and King Jehoiachin [Jehoiachim's son] and 10,000 princes, officers, and chief men.

3.  In 586 B.C.  Nebuchadnezzar again returned to punish the rebellion of King Zedekiah, Judah's last king.  He broke the walls down, destroyed the Temple, burned the city down, killed the sons of Zedekiah, and took King Zedekiah to Babylon to die there.

All of this took place over a period of 19 years.

III.  Charts

A Chart of the Three Returns from Babylon (now Persia) to Judah accompanies this lesson along with a chart of the Five Kings of this time period along with their years and main events of their reigns. 

Note the purposes of the two books, Ezra and Nehemiah, written out at the bottom of the second chart.

The main characters involved in the Return and Restoration were Zerubbabel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and the two prophets Haggai and Zechariah. The books of the Bible that relate to this period in Israel's history are Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Esther, since the events of Esther's story occur during the period between the first and second returns, although they are about the Jews who remained in Persia rather than returning.  Malachi was written also toward the end of this period.

The three kings who aided Israel in returning to their land and rebuilding the Temple and the city of Jerusalem were Cyrus, Darius the Great, and Artaxerxes, who at first denied the Jews the right to rebuild (Ezra 4:18-23) but later gave both Ezra and Nehemiah permission to return to Jerusalem and ordered that all the Jews who wished to return should go back to Judah, and that they should have everything they needed to accomplish their purposes provided to them from the royal treasury.

The Return and Restoration which happened in three stages took place over approximately 93 years.

IV.  The First Deportation

The Years that are thought to be inclusive of the seventy years of captivity in Babylon are most often said to be from the first deportation in 605 B.C. to 538 B.C. when Cyrus of Persia issued a decree permitting the Jews to return to Judah.  Some others count the seventy  years from 586, the year of the third deportation from Judah to the year that the Temple rebuilding was finished, which was 515 B.C.  But it would seem that Daniel would have begun counting from the year that he was deported, which was 605 B.C., when he read in Jeremiah's book that there would be seventy years of captivity, and he began to realize that the time of completion of those years was very near; so he gave himself to deep prayer with fasting.  See Daniel 9.

V.  Who Was Ezra?

Ezra, the son of Seraiah, was both a priest and a scribe—we might think of him today as a theologian.  He was a distant descendant of Aaron, Moses' brother and first High Priest of Israel.  He also had three other high priests as well as other men of renown in his impressive ancestry.  See Ezra 7.  As a scribe, Ezra did much more than copy the Scriptures.  He became very skilled in the Law of Moses and was an interpreter and a teacher of the Law.  He had devoted his lifetime in Babylon and Persia to studying God's Word and living it out in his own life. Ezra 7:10 says, “For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.”  Ezra was a great student of history and a scripture historian.  It is believed that he compiled and wrote the history books I and II Chronicles, and wrote and compiled Ezra and Nehemiah, except for the personal memoirs of Nehemiah included in the book by his name.  He was deeply concerned about building a true spiritual foundation for God's people.  To further that purpose he compiled the Chronicles in order to emphasize the importance of racial and religious purity, the proper place of the law, the Temple and the priesthood.  Ezra had deep understanding of the rich heritage of God's people and the blessing of their covenant relationship with God.

Note that Ezra gives an Historical Account and a Biographical Account.  The Historical account of the Return under Zerubbalbel, up until the rebuilding of the Temple, is in Ezra 1-6.  The Biographical account is of the return of Ezra with those who accompanied him, and the reforms enacted by Ezra in Ezra 7-10.

VI.  The Contents of the Text of Ezra with memorable verses underlined:

Ezra 1:1-6:  The decree of Cyrus, King of Persia, allowing the Jews to go…..

Ezra 1:7-11:  The articles from the Temple returned to Zerubbabel to take home to Jerusalem.

Ezra 2:  A Census of the people who returned is given.  Leaders are named in Ezra 2:1-2.  The total was 49, 893.

Ezra 3:1-6:  They set up the altar on its original foundation in the seventh month and sacrificed on the Feast of Trumpets and celebrated the Feast of Booths 15 days later, and they offered burnt offerings continually, althoughthe foundation of the temple of the Lord had not been laid.”  Worship was of first importance.

Ezra 3:8-13:  In the second year, they laid the foundation of the Temple.  There was a great celebration with singing and instruments, yet the rejoicing was mixed with weeping because “the old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice.... the people could not distinguish the sound of the shout of joy from the sound of weeping of the people....and the sound was heard far away.”

Ezra 4:1-3:  The enemies of Judah try to work out a compromise with the Jews in building the house of God.  Zerubbabel and Jeshua tell them “NO.”

Ezra 4:4-5:  The enemies harass them when compromise does not work.

Ezra 4:6-16:  The enemies write to Artaxerxes to accuse the Jews of rebellion.

Ezra 4:17-24:  Artaxerxes orders the work stopped and the enemies use arms to enforce the command.  The work is stopped for a period of 15 years, until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.”(verse 24)

Ezra 5:1-2:  The prophets Haggai and Zechariah began to prophesy and the leaders, Zerubbabel and Jeshua, begin to rebuild the house of God.

Ezra 5:3-5:  Tattenai, the governor, demands to know who gave them permission.

Ezra 5:5:  “But the eye of their God was on the elders of the Jews, and they did not stop them until a report could come to Darius, and then a written reply be returned concerning it.”

Ezra 5:6-17:  The letter of Tattenai to Darius asking for a search to be made in order to know whether it was true that Cyrus had decreed that they should return and rebuild their Temple.

Ezra 6:1-2:  King Darius orders the search for the Cyrus document and it is found.

Ezra 6:3-5:  The contents of Darius' decree allow the Jews to rebuild.

Ezra 6:6-12:  Darius' instructions back to Tattenai are to allow the Jews to proceed in building the Temple and to furnish them all they will need in order to do the job, and to beware of trying to obstruct them in any way.

Ezra 6:13-14:  Tattenai and all his colleagues are diligent to help the Jews, just as they were instructed to do by Darius.

Ezra 6:15-22:  The sons of Israel complete the house of God in Darius' sixth year and dedicate the Temple with great joy.

Ezra 7:1-6:  Ezra was authorized to go up from Babylon to Jerusalem.  “...the hand of the Lord his God was upon him.”

Ezra 7:7-10:  Numerous others accompanied him, and they got to Jerusalem in four months because “the hand of the Lord his God was upon him."  For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.”

Ezra 7:11-26:  The letter of Artaxerxes giving full authority to Ezra.

Ezra 7:27-28:  Ezra blesses the Lord His God, “Thus I was strengthened according to the hand of the Lord my God upon me, and I gathered leading men from Israel to go up with me.”

Ezra 8:1-14:  A census of all those who traveled with Ezra to Jerusalem is given.

Ezra 8:15-20:  Ezra discovers that there is a need for more Levites and he sends to Casiphia for them to come to him.  And, “According to the good hand of our God upon us,” ministers for the house of God came to them and joined them.

Ezra 8:21-36:  Ezra proclaims a fast to ask God for safety in travel and the accomplishment of their purpose concerning the house of God.  God grants them their request and the new groups of returning exiles arrive in Jerusalem and offer burnt offerings and deliver the king's edicts to the authorities in the provinces.

Ezra 9:1-2:  The princes of the people report to Ezra that the people have intermarried with the peoples of the surrounding lands.  Many have had children with these foreign wives.

Ezra 9:3-4:  Ezra agonizes over the unfaithfulness of the people.

Ezra 9:5-15:  Similar to the prayer of Daniel in Daniel 9, Ezra prays a profound prayer of repentance, identifying himself with the unfaithfulness and guilt of his people.  This prayer is one of the most profound examples of a prayer of confession in the Bible.

Ezra 10:1-4:  Leaders of the people come to Ezra and confess their unfaithfulness to their God, the God of Israel.  They implore Ezra to assist them in making a new covenant with their God to put away their foreign wives and their children according to Ezra's counsel and those who tremble at the commandment of God.  They implore Ezra to arise and act, and they will be with him.

Ezra 10:5:  Ezra calls on all the priest and Levites to take an oath that they will do according to the proposal they presented to him, and they take the oath.

Ezra 10:6-8:  The priests issue a proclamation that all the people will assemble in Jerusalem in order to deal with this issue.

Ezra 10:9-16:  Ezra addresses those assembled in Jerusalem, instructing them to confess their sin and do His will and separate from their foreign wives.  The people answer that they will do as Ezra has instructed.  But the matter is complicated and must be dealt with in stages by a “committee” made up of heads of households.

Ezra 10:17-44:  The matter is investigated one person and one marriage at a time over a period of two months.  All those who had married foreign wives were listed in Ezra 10:18-44.  The book ends abruptly with this list of those who had committed the unfaithfulness but now set the matter right by divorcing these wives and children.

For the moment, the nation was purified, but the same sin returned 12 years later. 

(Note: Links like the following are found throughout this website.  They take one to Word Documents in my computer which has virus protection.  They are safe to open!)
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The events of Ezra / Nehemiah cover 93 years.  Their compilation was completed in about 430 B.C.

PURPOSE of EZRA / NEHEMIAH:

•  To reassure returning exiles God would keep His covenant with them [Neh. 9:32] and there was "hope for Israel" [Neh. 10:2].

•  To demonstrate the power of prayer [Ezra 9; 10 and Nehemiah 9] and the importance of The Word of God in times of crisis.  (Nehemiah makes several references to reading from the law.)

•  To show what can happen when just one person (Ezra / Nehemiah, respectively) takes a stand for the Lord.

(Note: Links like the following are found throughout this website.  They take one to Word Documents in my computer which has virus protection.  They are safe to open!)
Ezra and Nehemiah CHARTS.docx Ezra and Nehemiah CHARTS.docx
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Aside: A Chronology from the beginning [creation] may be of interest:  Chronology of Bible and World Events by Tyndale

Nehemiah
Lesson One
God Inspires the Work
The Third Returning Group from Exile in Persia Back to Jerusalem

By Carol Miller of My Life Ministries

Reminder:  The Three Groups of Exiles Who Returned

1.  Zerubbabel [Audio] and almost 50,000 returned in 538 B.C. They finished building the Temple in 515 B.C., giving the people great hope.

2.  Ezra and others returned in 458 B.C. to help bring about moral and spiritual reform, strengthening the peoples' obedience to the Lord.

3.  Nehemiah and another group returned in 445-444 B.C. to rebuild the city wall and its gates.

Who Was Nehemiah?

Nehemiah's name means consolation, repentance of the Lord, or comforted by Yahweh.  Possibly Nehemiah's parents believed that the birth of this son was a gift from God to comfort them during their difficult lifetime as captives living in a foreign land.  They surely did not know what a great comforter of his people their son was destined to become.  Nehemiah's father's name was Hacaliah (Nehemiah 1:1) and his brother was Hanani (Nehemiah 1:2).  Possibly his great-grandparents were taken into captivity when Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians. He was probably born in Persia sometime during or after Zerubbabel's [Audio] ministry in Jerusalem.  He had risen to a position of prominence in the king's court in Persia.  He was serving as cupbearer to King Artaxerxes [Audio], and it is the winter of the 20th year of this king's reign when the book of Nehemiah begins.

The Authorship of Nehemiah

Most authorities believe that Nehemiah wrote almost all of the book because it is his personal story told in the first person point of view (I, my), and the first verse says that these are the words of Nehemiah.  However, it originally made up one of two books with the books of Ezra and Chronicles. Possibly most of the book was his personal diary, and Ezra compiled it together with his own book to form Second Esdras [Gr. Ἔσδρας, a Greco-Latin variation of the name of the scribe Ezra].

Nehemiah 1:1-11

We do not yet learn that Nehemiah has a position as the cupbearer to King Artaxerxes.  We only hear that Nehemiah's brother Hanani came with some other men from Judah with news that Jerusalem and its returned captives are in much distress and reproach because the wall of the city is broken down and the gates have been burned with fire.  The news was so disturbing to Nehemiah that he wept and mourned for months with fasting and prayers before the God of Heaven.  His prayer is recorded in Nehemiah 1, and is a model of intercessory prayer.  It is a moving confession of sin in which Nehemiah identifies with his own people in having been disobedient and corrupt in not keeping the Lord's commandments given through Moses to the people.  He requests of the Lord to give him favor with King Artaxerxes and cause the king to have compassion upon him (Nehemiah 1:11).

Nehemiah 2:1-3.

Fourteen years have passed since the events in the book of Ezra ended.  However, an important aspect of restoration remained undone.  Remember they were in Susa, capital of the Media-Persian Empire.  And years earlier, according to Ezra 4:21 Artaxerxes had issued a decree to stop construction on the Temple.  He was the only person who could reverse that decree.  That is why Nehemiah had prayed that God would grant him success this day by granting him favor in the presence of this man.

You could say that Nehemiah was the king's “right hand man.” He was the official food and wine taster.  He served as the buffer between the public and the king. Only a man of wisdom, discretion, honesty, and trustworthiness could have been chosen for this position.

Four months have passed since Nehemiah heard the report from Hanani and the others and began praying.

What did the king notice about Nehemiah and say to him?

  • “Why is your face sad though you are not sick?

This is nothing but sadness of heart.” Nehemiah had not let his sadness show before the king for these past four months.

Why had Nehemiah disguised his sad emotions all this time?

  • Because it was very dangerous to be sad in the king's presence.  It suggested that there might be some dissatisfaction with the king, and that might threaten his position or even his life.  It was not tolerated to be sad in the king's presence.

What emotion overcame Nehemiah when the king confronted him?

  • He was fearful, afraid of upsetting the king.

How did Nehemiah tactfully respond to the king's question?

  • He appealed to the King's sense of “rightness” regarding the proper respect for the dead.  Nehemiah expressed deep concern and sadness over the condition of the city in ruins where his ancestors were buried, and the fact that the city's gates had been burned.

Notice that Nehemiah did not mention the name of the city, Jerusalem.

This same king had commissioned Ezra to restore spiritual order to Jerusalem only about 13 years earlier.  Yet Nehemiah described the city as lying in ruins.  This fact might have been politically sensitive to the king.

Nehemiah 2:4-5.

What was the king's question to Nehemiah after hearing his cupbearer's reason for sadness?

  • “What would you request?”

What action did Nehemiah take at this point?

  • He offered up a quick prayer.

What do you imagine this prayer was like?

  • Nehemiah had prayed and fasted for four months, pleading with God to honor His name and restore His covenant people.

But notice that Nehemiah did not blurt out his request.  He paused and prayed.  We are not told what he prayed, but doubtless he was asking God for wisdom and the best way to present his request, and for a favorable reply from the king.  Nehemiah was courageous; before him was the most powerful ruler in the world, but The God of Heaven was also on His throne.

What do you learn about prayer from Nehemiah's actions?

  • We will always find the best direction by stopping to take time to pray and find the mind of Christ and bring the Holy Spirit into the middle of our pursuits.

What can you learn by contrasting the prayer of Nehemiah 1 with this prayer here?

  • Both types of prayer are needed.  Nehemiah did not wait until the day of action to pray about what needed to happen.  But after a long period of prayer, he did not just blurt out to the king what he was seeking from him.  He was very conscious of his total dependence on God.

What might be an example of a time you could pray a short prayer like this?

  • Any immediately needed responses where a decision must be made or spontaneous talk with someone about the Lord.  Perhaps a friend calls you crying.  You need to be able to give some counsel.

What does Nehemiah's response to the king's question show that he had been doing besides praying for four months?

  • He had been forming a plan to head up a project of rebuilding the city of Jerusalem—primarily the walls and gates.

Notice that Nehemiah exhibits many qualities of a superb leader.   First of all, he has passion for God's work that needs to be completed.  Second, he understands the importance of serious prayer and seeking God for guidance and insight.  Third, he has courage to confront the odds that may be against the ability to complete the Lord's work, and he boldly attempts to undertake it despite the negatives.

Nehemiah 2:6-8.

Notice how thoroughly Nehemiah had been planning his rebuilding project for Jerusalem.

What had he been thinking about?

  • He was thinking about how long he might need to be gone to accomplish the task. He was thinking that he would need a number of letters for the governors of the provinces to allow him to pass through, and he would need supplies.  He had found out the name of the keeper of the king's forest, so that he could request timber with which to build the Lord's house.  He had even thought that he would have to build his own dwelling place to be able to stay and finish the work.  He had a (fourth quality) mind for all the details of the project.   He had done careful research.

Notice Nehemiah's (fifth quality) humble and respectful attitude.  He says to the king, “If it please the king, let. . . .”  Apparently he told the king how long he would be gone.  But that length of time must have been reconsidered later and extended because he stayed 12 years.

More qualities of an exceptional leader show up here:  a spirit of humility before a person in high position, and probably most important of all, (sixth quality) vision for what it will take to achieve the end result.  A great leader must have a vision.  He has vision that others do not have, but HE has it, and he knows how to (seventh quality) impart it to others and motivate them to help him accomplish it.

But Nehemiah did not boast in his own ability. He gave the credit to God (eighth quality). “The good hand of my God was on me.”

Nehemiah 2:9-10.

Did Nehemiah get what he had requested of the king?  Why?

  • The hand of God was on him.

Who traveled with Nehemiah on this journey to Jerusalem?

  • Officers of the army horsemen -- a military escort, which had not accompanied Ezra and his group.  Ezra had returned for religious purposes.  Nehemiah had a different kind of mission, but having a military escort does not mean he lacked faith for the journey.  This may have been entirely the king's idea.

Why do you think that Nehemiah might need an escort?

  • Sanballat and Tobiah found it very displeasing that someone had come to seek the welfare of the sons of Israel.

It is possible that this escort was for the purpose of convincing the peoples of the land that this project had the king's support.  Notice that Nehemiah seems to have expected opposition but he simply says, “SO I came to Jerusalem and was there three days.”  A great leader expects opposition and is not deterred by it.

Nehemiah 2:11-16 tell us that Nehemiah spent 3 days discerning what course to follow before  informing anyone of his plan.  Then, he wisely viewed the terrain in secret (the midnight ride of Nehemiah) and surveyed the southern end of the city, noting the broken and burnt conditions of the walls and gates.  A good leader will know exactly what he is going to be dealing with.

Nehemiah 2:17-18.

Do you think that as a leader, Nehemiah was an inspiring speaker?

  • Notice the emotional appeal of Nehemiah's words.

What did Nehemiah use to give the people confidence that they could do it?

  • He described how God had given him favor and he repeated the king's words to him.  He caused them to feel that God would be with them to accomplish His purpose.  He challenged them to a noble work that would honor God and remove His people's reproach.

We are just beginning to see Nehemiah's gift of leadership unfold. He drew the entire community of God's people into rebuilding the city.  He knew that to rebuild the city would also rebuild their self image.  The people responded with, “Let us arise and build.”  And they put their hands to the work.

Nehemiah 3 describes 41 (by my count) areas of the wall and gates that the people were assigned and soon completed.

Nehemiah 4 tells of how, despite fierce opposition, they completed the work in 52 days.

Nehemiah 6:15:  Here was a city wall that had lain in ruins for more than 120 years.  Because they had a great leader who had won permission for them from authorities, and would not quit when faced with mockery or conspiracy to kill them and destroy their work, they finished the work in 52 days.

Nehemiah persevered in prayer (Nehemiah 4:4-5, 9).

He became a general to an army of the populous who were so determined to build that they persevered with weapons, ready to fight, even while doing the work of building the wall.

See Nehemiah 4:12-23.  Read these verses when time permits. 

(Note: Links like the following are found throughout this website.  They take one to Word Documents in my computer which has virus protection.  They are safe to open!)

Nehemiah
Lesson Two
Faithfulness in Adversity
By Carol Miller of My Life Ministries

Nehemiah 1-5 Review and Summary

Nehemiah 1 contains Nehemiah's intercessory prayer (for four months) after hearing that the inhabitants of Jerusalem lived in distress and reproach.  With heaviness of heart, Nehemiah asks God to remember His promise to gather His people back to their land again after disciplining them for their sins.   He beseeches God to make him successful with the king and put compassion in the king's heart.  He is King Artaxerxes' cupbearer.

Nehemiah 2 relates how Nehemiah petitioned the king to return to his ancestral home to  rebuild the city of his forefathers and how he obtained favor to go.  It tells of his request for letters to pass through the provinces and timber with which to build.  It tells of his arrival in the city, his inspection of the wall, his speaking with the people and the leaders to encourage them to arise and build, and their positive response.  It begins to relate the rising up of opposition through Sanballat and Tobiah, who insinuate that rebuilding would be an act of rebellion against the king.

Nehemiah 3 details the entire project of repairing the wall and the gates, naming the people and showing how everybody worked with their families on the sections nearest to their own houses.  The various classes of the people are named, from perfumers and goldsmiths, to officials, Levites, priests, temple servants, and gatekeepers.  Notably, Nehemiah 3:12 tells of Shallum, who did not have sons, apparently, because his daughters worked with him. Only one mention is made of some who did not support the work - the nobles of the Tekoites, at Nehemiah 3:5.  I noted 41 different sections between Nehemiah 3:1 and Nehemiah 3:32 [Nehemiah 3:1-32].

In Nehemiah 1-3 we noted several superb qualities of leadership exhibited by Nehemiah.

• He was a man of much prayer.

• He had a passionate heart for God's will and purposes.

• He had courage and boldness.

• He was alert moment by moment to the leading of God's Spirit.

• He was humble and respectful of authority.

• He was a researcher, a planner, and he paid attention to details.

• He always gave God the glory.

• He had an ability to inspire others when he spoke. 

Nehemiah 4 gives us a thorough account of the opposition to the peoples' work of rebuilding the city.  Now that a simple threat and rebuke did not deter the people, Sanballat and Tobiah enlist others to join them in mocking the people for their “feeble effort with their pathetic, dusty, burned stones.” Nehemiah calls out to God against them, and the builders build the wall to half its planned height.

This mockery by their enemies calls forth Nehemiah's “imprecatory prayer” in Nehemiah 4:4-6:

“Do not forgive their iniquity and let not their sin be blotted out before You, for they have demoralized the builders.”

This might seem too harsh a prayer for a man of God to pray against anyone.  However, these enemies were threatening to stop a significant work of God which He had put in the hearts of all His people.

Since mocking the people did not stop them, Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites then conspire together to attack the workers.  This provokes Nehemiah's fierce determination in prayer and strategizing.

In Nehemiah 4:16-21 some of Nehemiah's strongest qualities of leadership begin to surface in the face of opposition and adversity. When he sees fear in the people, he encourages them in the Lord and exhorts them to fight and to endure hardship (Nehemiah 4:14, 21-23).  He is undeterred from accomplishing the work, persevering even in the face of an attack and threat of death to the people.  If he had been with the spies who entered the Promised Land to spy it out, he doubtless would have joined the ranks of Caleb and Joshua!

Nehemiah 5 tells us of a very complicated situation that came about in the Jewish society at this time.

Nehemiah 5:1:

“Now there was a great outcry of the people and of their wives against their Jewish brothers.” 

This time the trouble was within the ranks rather than from without.

Nehemiah recounts the details of a complicated situation involving economic stress and the crisis of a famine in Israel.  Certainly giving so much time to the building of the wall had already caused the Jews to be unable to spend enough time earning a living for their families.  It is uncertain whether the famine that is also spoken of here could have come during the 52 days of building the wall.  Some verses, however, seem to indicate that this was the case.  Perhaps it occurred just following those days.  But, at any rate, Nehemiah faced a kind of adversity that was worse in some ways than the attack of enemies from outside the Jewish population.  It was a situation in which some of the wealthier and more powerful Jews were taking advantage of the poorer ones in order to enrich themselves.  They were making their brethren pay them in property for food to live on, and they were charging their brethren usurious interest on loans, an action forbidden in the Law of Moses.  Because of high taxes to Persia and insufficiency of food, many families had to mortgage their homes and sell their land or even their children and themselves into slavery in order to have enough food.  Nehemiah was outraged that nobles and rulers would advantage themselves at the distress of their neighbors.

Nehemiah 5:6-19:

As a strong leader, Nehemiah exercised strong authority.  He did not shrink back from delivering an excoriating rebuke when it was needed. He became angry when anger was a justifiable emotion: serious sin was at the base of a near undoing of the people.  He told them of his own dedication to his people in buying back some Jews who had been sold into slavery and also about his having given them food and money.  He told them to immediately return what they had charged the people in property and food.  He demanded a response from the offenders and when they said they would comply, he brought them to the point of swearing an oath.  Then, he ceremonially warned them before the Lord that they should fulfill their promise or reap dire consequences.  Without his strong intervention, the people and God's plan for the work would have been completely demoralized.  Nehemiah closes out this chapter by telling his own testimony as a servant to his people, and asks the Lord God to remember him for good, according to all he had done for the Jewish people. 

Now to Nehemiah 6:1-19

Nehemiah 6:1-4:

Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem and their allies were men who had power and influence, wealth and political authority in the area.  The rebuilding of Jerusalem's wall could cause them to lose much of their coveted power and influence.  These three men and their allies were not fully Jews and would be benefited more if Jerusalem remained weak.

• What prompted these men to send Nehemiah a message to meet them outside of the city at Chephirim on the plain of Ono?

• What did Nehemiah sense that they were going to do?

• What was Nehemiah's response to their invitation to meet with them?

Nehemiah 6:5-9:

• How many time did they send message to him, and how did he respond?

• How was the fifth message to Nehemiah different from the other four?

• Why would Sanballat choose to send an “open letter” to Nehemiah the fifth time by way of his servant?
• Do you think rumors, innuendos, half-truths, and lies are effective?

• Do you think the devil is still using them today?

• How did Nehemiah answer the “open letter?”

Nehemiah 6:10-14:

It appears that Shemaiah had deceptively invited Nehemiah to come to his house to meet with him because he had some special revelation about a plot to take Nehemiah's life. It seems to be incidental that we are told he was confined at home.  Maybe Nehemiah just wants to tell his readers that he was complying with this request only out of courtesy to Shemaiah, who could not leave his house.

• What does Shemaiah tell Nehemiah is going to happen?

• What does he suggest to Nehemiah as a plan of escape?

• How does his suggestion reveal his deceitful motive?

There are really two things:  Would God ask Nehemiah to run away from the work when it was nearly finished.  Would a true prophet of God suggest that someone other than a priest should enter the Holy Place?

• What are the two reasons Nehemiah gives for refusing Shemaiah's advice?

• Was Nehemiah boasting at verse 11? “Why should a man like me flee?”

• What does Nehemiah discern about Shemaiah after this exchange with him?

Nehemiah 6:15-16:

• Recall how many days it had taken to travel from Susa to Jerusalem.

• How many days had it taken to rebuild the walls?

• How did the enemies of the Israelites react to the news that the walls of Jerusalem had been rebuilt?

The phrase “they lost their self confidence” literally means “they fell very greatly in their own eyes.”  Their pride vanished and they were afraid of the Jews. They realized that God had worked a miracle on behalf of His people in helping them to accomplish such a great feat.

Nehemiah 6:17-19:

These verses tell us that Tobiah was intermarried with influential families in Jerusalem.  He was an old enemy and people could not leave things alone.  It appears that there was a letter-writing campaign in Tobiah's circle of friends to discredit Nehemiah and to flatter Tobiah.  Nehemiah writes that they reported his words to Tobiah.  Apparently there was some gossip going back and forth.  Then Tobiah wrote and threatened Nehemiah, doubtless over some piece of gossip he had heard.  As the next chapter begins, it appears Nehemiah did not respond to the threats, but went forward with his work.  Probably he prayed once again as he did at verse 9b, “O God, strengthen my hands.

Note: Once again, in Nehemiah 6:6-9 how lies and false reports spread to the people are one of the enemy's chief methods of attack.  Nehemiah made short work of the situation and simply said, “Such things as you are saying have not been done, but you are inventing them in your own mind.”  I think he trusted in God to show the people the truth of the matter.  He then determined not to be deterred from his purpose and work.  He moved forward with a prayer to God to strengthen his hands, because there really was nothing to be accomplished by fighting with the messenger of falsehood. 

(Note: Links like the following are found throughout this website.  They take one to Word Documents in my computer which has virus protection.  They are safe to open!)

Nehemiah
Lesson Three

Doing Your Appointed Part
By Carol Miller of My Life Ministries

Nehemiah 7

Nehemiah 7 is a testimony of the tremendous effectiveness and success of God-inspired teamwork that takes place under God-inspired leadership.  We are a people who value independence very highly, but there are some tasks that require the effort, coordination, and strength of many people working together.  A sports team or a team of any kind, a corporation, or a church that works together toward a common goal can outperform any one person.  Nehemiah challenged individuals in his day to work as a team and do their part in God's kingdom work.  In Nehemiah 6 we saw how the people, during the heat of summer and in spite of intense opposition, completely rebuilt and connected the wall in only 52 days.  Nehemiah was uniquely used of God in guiding the people to accomplish this marvelous task.  His personal recounting of the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem and how it all came about is a one-of-a-kind book among all the books of the Bible.  And the story is not finished yet.  In chapter seven we will observe more about what kind of leader Nehemiah was and what the appointed roles of the people were.  Seeing these things might help us to examine and understand what roles we each have in the Christian community and in our community as a Christian who wants to shine the light of Christ to others.

Now to Nehemiah 7:1-8

Nehemiah 7:1-3:

Nehemiah continued to lead by setting in place the leaders for the priority activities of God's people.  He understood the importance of appointing leaders who would carry on capably if he were not present, and we remember that he had promised the king that he would return to Persia sometime in the future.  He knew he needed to teach and train disciples who would lead with the same character and skill that he himself possessed.  He began with the issue of greatest concern and importance—protection.  The people had to be protected from attack by their enemies.  Nehemiah knew the hostilities would not cease just because the wall and gates were finished.  He appointed gatekeepers and put Hananiah in place as the commander over the fortress.

Nehemiah 7:2:

He added his brother Hanani, who had been part of the restoration from the beginning, (whether he was a blood brother or simply a fellow-Israelite is a matter of differing opinion) to share with Hananiah by being in charge of the city of Jerusalem.  He says that he chose Hananiah because of his integrity; that is, he was a faithful man who feared God.  Nehemiah instructed these men and the gatekeepers carefully on security measures.  They were to have the gates open only a few hours each day, and the larger populous was also to stand guard at specific places during these hours.  It sounds a little like a “neighborhood watch,” but with a definite time and place involved on a daily basis, for all who were appointed to watch.

The second priority Nehemiah recognized and provided for was that of worship.  He set the singers into their position of leadership from the beginning.  Worship is one of the things that causes us to relate to God in an active way.  It is a little like prayer.  We sing of God and to God.  We are a God-centered people who walk and talk with God.  Psalm 22:3 states that “God is enthroned upon the praises of His people.”  Some people have translated that sentence to say that God “inhabits the praises of His people.”  Praising God in song does seem to pull God's presence down around His people and among His people, especially when they praise and sing to Him in a congregation.  Worshiping with singing is unique to Biblical people of the Old and New Testaments. Before he fell, Satan was a master musician and worship leader in heaven.  Imagine that some religions do not sing and even ban singing.  Worshiping God with singing is an ethereal activity that stands quite apart from most activities of living in this world.  It is a divine activity, and God is pleased when we sing and worship Him.  Without worship and music we would be greatly impoverished as God's people.

The third priority mentioned in Nehemiah 7:1 is that of teaching God's people His Word, which was particularly the assignment of the Levites.  Ezra was a priest and a Levite, and we have seen him teach the people when he returned to Jerusalem fourteen years before this time, and we will see him in that role again in Nehemiah 8.  It was the responsibility of the Levites to convey to the people the great realities of the faith they shared, and to help them understand God's Word and obey it.

Each person and each calling was assigned an important role and part to play in the continuing process of restoring God's nation to its proper position in God's plan for His people on the earth.  Each person needed to perceive his particular calling by God and respond willingly and enthusiastically in it.

Nehemiah 7:4-8:

As Nehemiah considered Jerusalem, he saw a large and spacious city with newly restored gates and walls, but he was very concerned because it was sparsely populated.  It would remain weak economically, militarily, and even spiritually as long as there was not a vibrant, growing population.  Most of the people lived in the region's villages and rural areas.  And there were no new or refurbished houses in Jerusalem for people to immediately move into.  It is possible that much of Jerusalem was still lying in heaps of rubble and debris in the same way that the wall and gates had been for decades after the Babylonian invasion.  Nehemiah could see that life inside the walls of the city would be more difficult and demanding than life outside in the villages; yet, it was imperative to build up Jerusalem to the point that it could develop a thriving population.  This would call for sacrifice on the part of some of the people for the sake of all of the people.

Nehemiah looked to God to show him what to do about this situation, and God put a plan in his heart.  The plan would begin with assembling the people and compiling an enrollment by genealogies of the people. Nehemiah located the genealogy of those who had come up first with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah (not this same Nehemiah), Azariah, Raamiah, Nahamani, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispereth, Bigvai, Nehum, and Baanah.  This list in Nehemiah 7:8-67 is close to but not entirely the same as the list in Ezra 2.  Nehemiah's number is larger, but it may be so because of including women and children or adding in some Jews from the Northern tribes who came and joined the remnant in Judah and Benjamin.  The descendants of these people would be of a pure ancestry that could begin the repopulation of Jerusalem. 

(Note: Links like the following are found throughout this website.  They take one to Word Documents in my computer which has virus protection.  They are safe to open!)

Nehemiah
Lesson Four

Get An Understanding
By Carol Miller of My Life Ministries

Nehemiah 8

Nehemiah 8:1:

The subject of repopulating the city of Jerusalem which began with Nehemiah 7:4-5, is put aside and we will not see it addressed again until Nehemiah 11:1.

Nehemiah 8-10 records for us another matter of restoration which needed to have priority before the physical repopulation of the city was accomplished.  At this point in time, for the genuine reestablishment of the Jewish society in Jerusalem and in the whole land, it was more important that the Jewish people regain an understanding of their covenant with God, grasp the full details of the Law He had given to them, and recommit themselves to obedience and purity in their lives, than simply to fill the city with people.  They needed to populate the city with people who would dedicate themselves to live holy lives.  They had experienced the pain of turning aside from God and going into captivity and they knew the cost of being casual in their hearts toward God. They needed to seek God in His Word, understand His laws and His ways, and regain a proper understanding of the marvelous privilege of their way of life and their very blessed position in God's plan for mankind.

It appears that Ezra's teaching of the people over fourteen years had moved them from a deplorable ignorance of their law to having a sincere response of wanting to hear God's Word and obey Him.  Yet, there had remained the lack of a deep desire and longing to hear and know God's Word fully, until Nehemiah's arrival in Jerusalem and the challenge they received to trust God to help them rebuild the walls of the city.  The 52 days of building the wall apparently motivated the people to want to know more of God's Law.  They themselves asked Ezra to continue his teaching ministry to them.  We are told in Nehemiah 7:73 “when the seventh month came, the sons of Israel were in their cities.”  Therefore, at Nehemiah 8, the people called an assembly of everyone “as one man” at the square in front of the Water Gate to hear Ezra read from the book of the Law of Moses.  It was the first day of the month of Tishri, the beginning of the new year in Israel, the time we now think of as Rosh Hashanah or Feast of Trumpets (Lev. 23:24; Num. 29:1).  It was like a New Year's celebration of their accomplishment and a renewal of their inner passion for being God's people.

Nehemiah 8:1-3:

Interestingly, the assembly met at the Water Gate for the hearing of God's Word.  Water is a symbol for God's Word throughout the Scriptures.  Men, women and children who were old enough to have understanding all met there and Ezra, who at this time is called the priest and not just the scribe, brought the Word of God to them. He read from “early morning until midday,” which must have been five or six hours, and “all the people were attentive to the book of the law.”  There was a unified response of attentiveness and interest from all the people.  They were not just sitting through a service.

• What do you think had brought about this spiritual awakening in the hearts of the people?

• Do you think we would listen attentively to God's Word being read for six hours?

• What will it take for American Christians to experience a renewal or awakening like this?

• How strong would you rate your desire to read or hear the Bible?

Nehemiah 8:4-6:

Nehemiah 8:4 seems to go back to the beginning of the meeting, whereas the first three verses had described the overall picture of what took place on that day.  Now we see how it happened step by step:  The square at the Water Gate evidently had a large raised platform for the purpose of hearing from the priest.  Here Nehemiah refers to Ezra as the scribe.  He says he was at the podium on the platform and was up higher than the people. Beside him were 13 other leaders of the people. The presence of these other 13 men would have added a great sense of importance and support to this occasion.  Ezra made an important moment of opening up the scroll in the sight of all the people, and at that moment, with their eyes fixed on Ezra and the scroll, all the people stood to their feet in unity in honor of God's Word.  Ezra then prayed before beginning to read.  His prayer was one of praise!  He “blessed the Lord the great God.”

The response of the people to the prayer of Ezra was to lift their hands and answer all together, “Amen, Amen!”  “Then they bowed low and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.”    

• Would you like it if we all regularly stood up to hear the reading of God's Word?

• How can we show great respect for God's Word?

Nehemiah 8:7-8:

In addition to the 13 leaders, the 13 Levites had been assigned to move among the people and explain the law to the people.  They appear to have been circulating among the people, both reading and explaining, “while the people remained in their place.”  Nehemiah 8:8 tells us that they were also having to translate the words from the Hebrew into other languages so that all of the people could understand the reading.

Nehemiah 8:9:

When the people heard and understood the words of the Law of God, they were moved to mourning and weeping.  This made me think of the verse in James 1:23, which speaks of God's word as a mirror.  We hear the Word of God and we see ourselves and so often do not measure up to God's standard.  We are deeply convicted, if our hearts are soft, and on this occasion the hearts of the people were ready to hear and learn the ways of the Lord.  But the leaders sensed that God did not want the people to grieve and mourn on this occasion. Therefore, Nehemiah, Ezra, and the Levites said to them all, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.”

• Why do you think the teachers told them that the day was holy to the Lord their God?

Nehemiah 8:10-11:

Either Nehemiah or Ezra told the people to return to their homes and enjoy their provisions of food, both meat and wine, and think of someone who did not have much to enjoy and share with them.  This was an occasion to rejoice in realizing that they now can understand and follow the Lord's precepts, whereas they did not have a proper knowledge before this.  Their hearts were right in repenting and in desiring the Lord, so they should now rejoice in a new start and not grieve and weep.  And this particular day was set aside as holy and was to be enjoyed.  After all, the joy of the Lord—taking joy in Him, knowing you belong to Him, being able to learn His Word and grow in it, being glad for the godly way of life and an opportunity to live it and share it—is our strength.  The greatest strength they could have was not the newly rebuilt stronghold of the city, but the stronghold of the Lord's presence in their lives.

• Is the joy of the Lord your strength?  If not, can you figure out how to arrive at that point in your Christian life?

• What days do you recognize as holy to the Lord?

• As a church, what are some occasions on which we have expressed joy and celebration in the Lord?

Nehemiah 8:12:

The people stopped grieving and went away to do exactly what they had been instructed to do.  And it was not hard for them to do because they were filled with gratitude that “they understood the words which had been made known to them.” They really were rejoicing inside.  This is probably the greatest joy producer of all of life — understanding God's Word and how it applies and can live in our lives.  Seeing how it comes from God who created everything and created us, and seeing how it works and produces goodness and righteousness and a productive, happy life is a joy-giving thing in the spirit that can only be understood by one who accepts and walks with God and seeks after Him in everything.

If the Word of God is not as exciting for you on a daily basis as you know it should be, make it a matter of daily prayer this week that God would reveal to you what you need to do to make His Word your delight. 

(Note: Links like the following are found throughout this website.  They take one to Word Documents in my computer which has virus protection.  They are safe to open!)

Nehemiah
Lesson Five

Return to the Restoring God
By Carol Miller of My Life Ministries

Nehemiah 9:32-38

Introduction:

Following their experience of hearing and understanding God's Word at the “Water Gate Revival” on the first day of the new year, the Israelites had returned joyfully to their homes for an afternoon and evening of feasting and merry-making.  Now, Nehemiah tells us more about the Israelites' continued desire to learn all they possibly could about God's Word from Ezra and the Levites, and of their great eagerness to respond in obedience to what they were learning.

Nehemiah 8:13-18:

The very next day, the second day of the new year, the heads of the households returned to Ezra to hear and learn more.  That day they learned in God's Word that The Feast of Booths or Tabernacles was supposed to be celebrated from the 15th to the 22nd of the month of Tishri.  So, immediately they decided to take the next two weeks to spread the word about the celebration of the feast and to prepare for it and celebrate it.  The people went out and collected branches of various kinds of trees and built booths or little shelters in various places—on their rooftops, in the courts of their homes and of the house of God, on the square at the Water Gate, and on the square at the Gate of Ephraim.  This feast was for the purpose of remembering how God had provided for them during their wilderness wandering. We are told at Nehemiah 8:17-18 that the sons of Israel had not celebrated The Feast of Booths all together in this complete a manner since the days of Joshua.  We remember that Ezra recorded that when the first group of returned captives finished rebuilding the altar, they celebrated this feast, but it was with much less elaborate preparation and participation than the way they entered into it at this time, following the conclusion of building the walls.  They spent time looking back and thanking God for His faithfulness in the past; they took time to count their present blessings; and they looked ahead and realized they were not to put their trust in those blessings - that is, the walls and the prospects of a renewed city of Jerusalem on this earth.  They were to put their trust in the Lord of an eternal city with whom they had a magnificent covenant!  Revival was taking a deep root in them during this week of feasting and celebrating and reading the Word of God every day.

Nehemiah 9:1-4:

The day after the festival was finished with its regular solemn assembly on the 8th day, they came, as they had made a decision to do, for another full assembly of the people in order to start making things completely right with their God.  They fully understood now their need to hear from God again by continued reading of the Word.  And they recognized their need for repentance, contrition, confession and acknowledgment of their sins before their holy, yet gracious and compassionate God.  So on the 24th day they came fasting, wearing sackcloth, and throwing dirt over their heads. These traditional outward expressions of mourning and humility were actions which produced discomfort in the flesh (sackcloth is made of goat hair and is very scratchy) and symbolized their deep inward repentance.  They separated themselves from the non-Jews because they were confessing the sins of their own people.  They read for a fourth of the day, and for another fourth of the day they confessed and worshiped.

Normally, according to the Law, this spirit of mourning, humiliation, and repentance took place over the “ten days of awe” as the new year began and particularly on the 10th of the month, the Day of Atonement, but at this time in their history, their renewed understanding of what was in the Word of God and their observance of the Feast of Booths naturally led them into a desire to spend more time repenting and returning to God.  So at this time there was a small reversal in the order of the days.  We can see in this particular instance of history that God is not a legalist about days (see Colossians 2:16 ff), but is more interested in the condition of the heart.

The next 34 verses of chapter nine (Nehemiah 9:5-38) encompass the longest recorded prayer in the Bible.  Interestingly, three of Israel's great “national” prayers are recorded in Ezra 9, Nehemiah 9, and Daniel 9. This prayer in Nehemiah 9 brings to mind the very same tone and the same subjects that are included in both Ezra's and Daniel's prayers.  Behind each of these prayers is the promise of 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

This is a prayer that reveals both the majesty of God and the depravity of man.  It paints a vivid portrait of the awful sinfulness of man and the awesome grace of God.  It is a prayer marked by humility and honesty, guilt and grace, pity and praise. It brings to mind the lamentations of Jeremiah as it concludes with its plaintiff address to God, laying the helpless condition of the people and their distress before Him.  It is a prayer of contrition that shows us a people getting things right with God.

Nehemiah 9:5-15:

The prayer begins with a recognition of Who God is.  He is the Creator.  He is also the God of Israelite history who chose Abram, calling of him out of Ur to the land of Canaan.  He is also the One who kept covenant and performed the deliverance of Abraham's descendents from slavery in Egypt with many mighty acts in bringing them out and through the wilderness, and giving them the Law and the promised land to possess.  All of this is brought out in this section of the prayer of adoration and praise.  In some ways this prayer sounds like the historical psalms such as Psalms 78; 105; 106; 135; 136.

Nehemiah 9:16-18:

The sins of the Israelites during this time period of their history are confessed here.  And the forgiveness and loving kindness of God in continuing to provide for them and not forsake them for forty years is acknowledged.

Nehemiah 9:19-25:

In these verses the goodness and the mighty acts of God to the second generation in the wilderness, who conquered the kings around Canaan and took possession of the land, are recounted.  Also the blessings of the fertile land that they took possession of are enumerated—houses, hewn cisterns, vineyards, olive groves, fruit trees in abundance, as they remember before God all His goodness and bountiful blessings bestowed upon them.

Nehemiah 9:26-31:

Now the sins of this new generation are recounted - their rebellion, their blasphemies, their murdering of His prophets.  The many times that God rescued them only to receive evil and arrogance from them are listed. Yet, even when God gave them over to chastisement, it was for the purpose of eventually restoring them. Each time the sins are listed, the continuing forbearance of God is extolled ---- “Nevertheless in your great compassion You did not make an end of them or forsake them, For You are a great and compassionate God.”

• Why do you think this prayer is recorded?

Perhaps it is to give us a model of how to pray for our own nation.  Perhaps it is to show us the great value of looking back.

• How long has it been since you took some time just to reflect on what God has done in your life in past years, with you and for you?

If we take the time to remember what God has done in the past, we are built up in faith to face the present, and we can much better avoid being brought down by present circumstances.

If you go through this prayer making two lists—the things that God did and the things that man did—each of the two parties stands out with special clarity against the background of the other.  Sin abounds, grace super-abounds.

Nehemiah 9:32-38

Nehemiah 9:32:

• What was the people's view of God in this verse?

• What words or phrases describe His power, His covenant relationship with His people?

• Which people were influenced by sin?

• How long had it been affecting them?

Nehemiah 9:33-35:

• What did the people recognize about God's judgment in verse 33?

• Who do the people say led them into their sinful ways?

Hosea the prophet once stated, “Like people, like priests.”  (Hosea 4:9)

Nehemiah 9:36-37:

• What do the people express about how they feel about being back in their homeland with a rebuilt wall and temple?

The return from Persia to Judah and the resettling of Jerusalem were great blessings, and in returning they knew they had obeyed the Lord; yet there was a bittersweet flavor to the life they had.  The homes they had established, the farms and vineyards they had cultivated, the harvest they had reaped, all their abundance went to the kings God had allowed to be over them.  They were still under the oppressive rule of Persia and a pagan empire. Their independence was stripped from them.  Artaxerxes and the Persian officials and satraps could do as they wished with them, it seemed.

• Does anything about this situation bear any resemblance to things we see happening to us in our land?  Are any foreigners oppressing us?

• Does the chastisement of God in the 5th century B.C. look anything like the chastisement God brings upon a disobedient nation in the 21st century?

• How did they conclude their prayer?

With a confession of their need for Him:  “We are in great distress.”

Nehemiah 9:38:

“Because of all this” seems to refer to God's faithfulness to them despite all their unfaithfulness to Him, because the people express their desire to return to Him in faithfulness and obedience, trusting in that continued faithfulness from Him to deliver them when He finds them walking in a right relationship with Him.  The evidence of their desire to follow Him and not repeat the sins of their fathers will be a signed agreement with all their names on it.

“We are making an agreement in writing.”  An agreement, or covenant, was a binding contract between two parties.  It was a formalized relationship with commitments to loyalty.  In this case, the nation was the initiator of the covenant agreement with God.

This piece from Blue Letter Bible - Morning and Evening Devotional Guide by C. H. Spurgeon has some wonderful thoughts about renewing our covenant with God:

“There are many occasions when we may very rightly benefit from renewing our covenant with God....after a recovery from sickness, you may have had a new term of years added to your life; after any deliverance from trouble, when joy fills your soul.  By visiting the foot of the cross we can renew our consecration.  We need to do this especially when our sins grieve the Holy Spirit, or bring dishonor upon the cause of Christ; let us then look to that blood which can make us whiter than snow, and again offer ourselves unto the Lord.  We should not only let our troubles confirm our dedication to God, but our prosperity should do the same.  If we ever meet with occasions which deserve to be called “crowning mercies,” then surely, if He hath crowned us, we ought to crown our God; let us bring forth anew all the jewels of the divine regalia which have been stored in the jewel-closet of our heart, and let our God sit upon the throne of our love, arrayed in royal apparel.  If we would learn to profit by our prosperity, we should not need so much adversity.  Have we lately received some blessing which we little expected?  Has the Lord put our feet in a large room?  Can we sing of the mercies multiplied?  Then this is the day to put our hands upon the horns of the altar and say, “Bind me here, my God; bind me here with cords, even for ever.”  Inasmuch as we need the fulfillment of new promises from God, let us offer renewed prayers that our old vows may not be dishonored.  Let us make with Him a sure covenant, because of the pains of Jesus which He took for us on the cross.” 

(Note: Links like the following are found throughout this website.  They take one to Word Documents in my computer which has virus protection.  They are safe to open!)

Nehemiah
Lesson Six
Commit Your Way to the Lord
By Carol Miller of My Life Ministries

Nehemiah 10

Review and Summary:

Under Nehemiah's exceptional leadership, the Israelites who had returned to Jerusalem from captivity in Babylon (now Persia) had experienced the miraculous accomplishment of rebuilding their city wall in only 52 days.  They knew they had experienced a miracle through their God.  They knew that He had given them this wonderful leader and had allowed them to hold back the attacks of their enemies while working together to complete a great achievement as God's people that had been impossible to accomplish for 150 years before Nehemiah's arrival in the city.  As God's timing would have it, they finished their task just as the new year was approaching, and the joy that filled their hearts led them to call on Ezra and their Levites to once again renew them in God's Word and deepen in them their understanding of the laws they had gotten so out of touch with during their years of captivity.  God was now moving mightily in their hearts and revival was building within them.  They prepared for and enjoyed their Feast of Tabernacles once again as a whole nation of Israelites (that is, those now living in Jerusalem and Judah), and following that, they longed to come to the Lord with fasting, repentance, confession, and recommitment to their mighty and compassionate God.  So they took another full day to come together and read God's Word for one fourth of the day and confess their sins and worship God for another fourth of the day.  Then their Levites had led them in a mighty prayer to their amazing God, acknowledging His majesty, power, loving kindness, and compassion and their own unfaithfulness, sinfulness, ungratefulness, and rebellion against Him, not just once, but over and over again throughout their history as His people. The prayer recorded in chapter nine is the longest and most comprehensive prayer of repentance and confession recorded in the Bible and concludes with a heart cry to God that He would not let their present distress and hard life as vassals of the king of Persia seem insignificant to Him, but that He would receive them back as His people and bless them once again.  And as a result of this prayer, they conclude that they desire to recommit themselves to obey God's laws and to reinforce their decision with a solemn vow and a “binding agreement,” and to put their agreement in writing, sign it, and seal it before God.

There are many examples in Scripture of people making vows. The first time we see it is in Genesis when Jacob has wrestled with the Angel of the Lord and then vows, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father's household, then the Lord will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God's house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.”  Like Jacob, who had been forced to flee from his brother Esau on threat of death, people don't usually make vows until they are in trouble and backed into a corner.  Others of God's people who made vows were Nazarites (Numbers 6:2), Jephthah (Judges 11:30), Hannah (1 Samuel 1:11), David (Psalm 56:12), Jonah (Jonah 2:9), and the apostle Paul (Acts 18:18).  Making a vow is a very serious transaction and fulfilling your part of it is critical. (Eccl. 5:4, Numbers, and in particular Numbers 30:2). But, as your lesson guide said, “While we sometimes fall short of fulfilling our words of commitment, we need to remember that no effective dedication to God ever began without a conscious decision to commit ourselves to God.  The words of commitment in themselves do not constitute a change in a person's obedience to God.  Without the words of dedication and a sincere desire to obey God, however, a substantive change in our obedience will not become reality.”

At this time in their history, the Israelites could hardly have been more sincere and passionate in their desire to return to God and obey Him with full heartfelt commitment.  We will see that for many of them, however, their commitment did not last very long at all.  But God knew all along how it would be.  And He had a plan that would make both an inward and an outward change possible.  He sent His Son, Jesus, to die for our sins and for our sinful nature, and to make it possible for us to be born again by the Holy Spirit and become true sons of God.  And for the Israelites, He also gave a promise that would come a little bit later in human history, “And I shall give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them.  And I shall take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep my ordinances and do them.  Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God.” (Ezekiel 11:19-20; 36:24-38)  In the Old Covenant, we are expected to live up to our end completely and everything depends on our doing so.  In the New Covenant, nothing comes from us, and everything comes from Jesus.  Because of His grace, we can surrender, submit and obey out of love, not fear.  Whenever we find it helpful to make a vow or serious commitment to God, we need to remember that we don't succeed as a Christian because we make promises to God, but because we believe the promises of God and act upon them.

Nehemiah 10

Nehemiah 10:1-3:

Before we look at the vow the Israelites made, let's look at the list of four groups who affixed their seal (legal assent to the written agreement) to the agreement of Nehemiah 9:38.  The first were the civil leaders, the Levites, and the priests.  Notice that Nehemiah's name appears first as the governor. Then came Zedekiah.  Notice that this is the only time in the list where the word “and” is used.  It sets off the two who represent the civil government.  Then there are 21 priestly names in Nehemiah 10:2-8, Ezra's name is not listed, but it is probably because he was the son of Seraiah.  Then there are 17 Levites listed, followed by 44 heads of families, or “chiefs of the people.” All these affixed their seal to the document.

Nehemiah 10:28-30:

In these verses we learn that the rest of the people,  i.e. the rest of the priests and the Levites not listed above, the gatekeepers, the singers, the temple servant and all those who had separated themselves from the peoples of the lands - joined with the first groups, but not by affixing a seal. Who were these people?  They included first, people who had stayed in the land and had never joined themselves to any heathen, plus those who had followed the demand of Ezra and Nehemiah to divorce pagan spouses. These took an oath, which included stating what they promised along with a curse which called down calamity on themselves if they failed to keep it.  They may have been thinking, through their newly renewed knowledge of the Law of Moses, of the specific curses from Deuteronomy 28:15-68.

Now, let's identify the specifics of the vow they were making, beginning with Nehemiah 10:28-30.

Vow #1  Submission to God's Word

Nehemiah 10:29 it is clearly stated “all these now join their brothers...to follow the Law of God.”  They submitted themselves to the Giver of the covenant and the Revealer of the Law.  The Law's power lay in its source.  They acknowledged Moses as being God's servant who delivered the Word of God.  The commitment included all of the Lord's commands, ordinances, and statutes.

Vow #2  Separation from the World

Nehemiah 10:28 says:

“The rest of the people---priests, Levites, gatekeepers, singers, temple servants and all who separated themselves from the neighboring peoples for the sake of the Law of God, their sons and their daughters, all those who had knowledge and understanding.”

• How serious were the Israelites in their desire to devote themselves to everything that was spelled out in the Scriptures?

Here the people are saying that they are so seriously submitted to God and His Word that they are willing for the curses of God to fall on them if they do not carefully obey what He says.  Could we say the same?

• What does Nehemiah 10:30 tell us about their seriousness of separating themselves from the world?

They were not going to intermarry with the people around them in the land.

• Why would Jews want to marry pagan Gentiles in the first place?

Apart from affection, which should have been controlled at the outset, perhaps they would marry outside of the Israelite community for social status (Nehemiah 13:28) or to get ahead in business.  Like some believers today who marry unbelievers, these Jews may have argued that marriage would give them opportunity to convert their mate to the true faith, although it usually happens the other way around.

• Why were marriages with pagan people so disastrous?

First, there were clear scriptural warnings.  When two people in the ancient world made a marriage agreement, they normally confirmed their commitment in the presence of their gods and gave each other's idols a prominent place in their new home.  Joshua 23:13 states that heathen spouses would become “snares and traps for you, whips on your backs and thorns in your eyes....”  Also, there was abundant historical evidence that unequally yoked marriages led to a decline in Israel's spiritual and moral life.  Nehemiah 13:26 asks the question, “Was it not because of marriages like these that Solomon king of Israel sinned?"  Among the many nations there was no king like him.  He was loved by His God, and God made him king over all Israel, but even he was led into sin by foreign women.”  Mixed marriages were a danger then, and they are a danger now.  God's concern is that when a believer marries a non-believer, the stage is set for conflict, compromise, and at times, outright conformity.  2 Corinthians 6:14 clearly states, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.  For what do righteousness and wickedness have in commonOr what fellowship can light have with darkness?”

Nehemiah 10:31:

Vow #3Keep the Sabbath Holy

This verse speaks of the day of rest.  Life is meant to be enjoyed, not simply endured or worked through. 

Keeping the Sabbath Day holy was an important part of the people's covenant with the Lord.  As one of the Ten Commandments, the holiness of God's Sabbath represented people's trust and obedience.  By setting aside one day each week for rest and spiritual reflection, they trusted in God to provide for their needs through their labor on the other six days of the weeks.  After pledging to submit to God's word and to live separate lives, the believers renewed their covenant with a third vow, to do those things that would Keep the Sabbath Holy.  In Nehemiah's day, it was necessary for God's law about the Sabbath to be clearly understood.

(1) This day was to be set aside to honor God,

(2) It is to be a day of rest,

(3) It is a day to help others, and

(4) It is a day to declare truth.

• If the commitment of the Jews was serious, to refuse to buy or trade on the Sabbath Day, what effect might it have on the unbelieving merchants?

Without customers, they might be forced to close their business. 

• Are there any successful businesses in America that close on Sunday?  Why do they close on Sunday?

• What other two things did the people say they would do in Nehemiah 10:31 to honor the “sabbath principle”?

They would leave the land uncultivated every seventh year, allowing it to rest. In this way, they would demonstrate their faith that God would provide enough harvest during the other years to sustain them through the seventh year.

Another aspect of the Sabbath Year involved canceling debts (Deut. 15:1-2).  This practice made a way for poor people to get a new start and demonstrated gracious responsibility for all people in the faith community.

Nehemiah 10:32-39:

Vow #4Support for God's Work

What phrase do you see repeated nine times in this passage?  The phrase “house of our God” is used nine times in this section and refers to the restored Temple.  The people were promising to follow God's priorities by submitting to Him, by separating from the world, by keeping the Sabbath, and by supporting the work of God.  Nehemiah 10:39 sums up their commitment:  “We will not neglect the house of our God.”

The Temple in Jerusalem stood at the heart of the country's religious, moral, and spiritual life.  In symbolic terms it proclaimed the presence and power of God among His people and the centrality of spiritual matters. This passage covers an impressive series of promises to support God's work in a variety of different ways and gives us seven insights into how our giving can support God's work today, which of course He expects us to do.

1.  It was responsible giving.  If you notice in Nehemiah 10:32, the people say, “We place ourselves under obligation” or “we assume responsibility,” they meant that they would give what they owned because they considered it their privilege and responsibility.

2.  It was obedient giving.  They did not practice “impulse giving” but instead gave as an expression of practical obedience.  Those who love Him will do what He says.  They were “carrying out the commands to give” (Nehemiah 10:32), “as it is written in the Law” (Nehemiah 10:34, 36). There was nothing remotely optional about the support of God's work.  God had been good to them, and generosity was expected from them.  Everyone was required to give in one form or another. It was one more way to demonstrate that God came first in their lives.

3.  It was systematic.  There was nothing haphazard about their giving.  Nehemiah 10:32 says that they were to bring a third of a silver shekel each year.  Nehemiah 10:34 states that lots were drawn to determine when families were to bring a contribution of wood at set times each year.  Verse 35 says that first fruits were brought each year.  There was orderliness about these offerings and a system that was followed.  The people knew precisely what was expected of them.  The New Testament teaches systematic giving as well, in 1 Corinthians 16:2, “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income....”

4.  It was proportionate.  The reference to the wood offering suggests that many poor people in Israel had an opportunity to make a gift to the Lord that would demand time rather than money.  The temple needed a regular supply of firewood to keep the sacrificial fires burning.  Everyone, regardless of income, could gather wood and take it to the Temple.

5.  It was sacrificial.  They were to bring to God's house the “first fruits” of their crops “and of every fruit tree” (Nehemiah 10:35).  To offer the first of their crops was to declare that God was the giver of all things, that everything belongs to Him, and that He is worthy of the best we can offer Him.  Here's a helpful principle to remember:  while not everyone can give the same amount, everyone can make the same sacrifice.  Not equal giving, but equal sacrifice is the heart of the matter.  It was Mother Teresa who said, “If you give what you do not need, it isn't giving.”

6.  It was comprehensive.  They were to not only bring their crops and their money; they were also to bring their first-born sons and their animals to the Lord (Nehemiah 10:36).  God is not only interested in our money; He wants our hearts.  Actually, He wants everything.

7.  It was prescribed.  They were not only to bring their “first,” but a “tithe” of their crops to the Lord (Nehemiah 10:37). Even the Levites, who collected the tithe from the people, gave a tenth of what they received for the support of the priests.  They made their donation through the storerooms of the temple treasury. Giving a tenth of their produce or income to the Lord has a long and dignified history among believers and is an appropriate guide for Christian giving.  As someone has said, “the tithe is a great place to start.”  Actually, the tithe is the minimum we should be giving to support the Lord's work.

There are some very simple—but life-changing—principles that we can glean from these verses in Nehemiah 10. First, serious thought precedes any significant change.  WE can never change areas of our lives that have not been given serious thought.  We need to schedule some quiet times in our lives, times for thinking and reflection.

For many people, Christian living is about trying really hard to be and do good.  They might not ever communicate it that way, but that is how they think about it.  Fortunately, we have 2000 years of Old Testament history to demonstrate that trying really hard to be good and do good doesn't work.  We need the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, and no one is exempted.

• Why does trying hard to be good seldom work?

The Bible teaches we are transformed by the renewing of our mind (*Romans 12:2).  We are not transformed by trying really hard to be good.  We become more loving by thinking of the value of love, and by meditating on how to be more loving, and by crying out to God to fill us with His love, which we do not naturally have.

• What else is necessary to really successful Christian living?

Read the Bible every day is not enough.  Praying every day is not enough.  We must be doers of the Word and not hearers only.  We must read for application.  The question not, “What did you read in the Word today?”  That is a start, but it is only a start.  The question is really, “What did you do about what you read in the Word yesterday?”

From the book of Nehemiah, we learned that prayer expands our vision.  We need to pray and allow God to expand our vision.

Also, we learned from Nehemiah, that we must trust God to provide and protect us in the midst of our troubles.  If we do, others will also be inspired to put more trust in God as well.

Teamwork is essential for the completion of major tasks.  Do you have a task that seems overwhelming?  It probably is, if you are attempting to do it alone.  Any task has more chance of completion if you enlist the help of others.

Nehemiah was an effective leader. He was skilled in planning, motivating, organizing, delegating, and all the other functions of leadership.  But the real secret of Nehemiah's effectiveness was not his skills but his prayers.  In his prayers, he identified with the needs of the people whom he led as well as God's purposes.  Nehemiah was a man of action, yet his prayers show that he relied on God.  Finally, this effective leader showed that he served not for any reward that God's people could provide, but for the approval of the God whom he worshiped and loved.

(Editor's note:  The following may add to this lesson: *The Metamorphosis, Maturity in the Faith, The Neshamah of God, The Whole Armor of God and Holy Spirit – Ministries and Filling! in this site.)

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 Nehemiah's Jerusalem

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Nahum
God Is: Some Less-Often-Pondered Attributes of God
By Carol Miller of
My Life Ministries

March 1, 2015

Nahum 1:1-8

Introduction and Background

There are 12 books that we call the Minor Prophets in the Old Testament.  We will study seven of them during this coming quarter of the year. These prophets are called minor prophets only because they wrote messages that are very short by comparison to the messages written by the prophets we call the Major Prophets—Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel.

Nahum is only 3 chapters of just 47 verses in length.  Most of us have never heard a sermon that used Nahum as its text.  Placed close to the end of the Old Testament, Nahum is possibly the most overlooked book in the Bible.  However, Nahum's message is major in content, and it contains some exciting, powerful, inspired words from God which can add a lot of fire to our faith!

Particularly unique to Nahum are the first eight verses of the book, which precede the prophecy against Nineveh.  These verses vividly describe an impressive group of God's attributes which we less often ponder but which are essential to our understanding of Who He is and what He is like.  Knowing these attributes will help us to trust God as our refuge and strength in times of difficulty.  These will be the focus of our lesson today.

The Theme of Nahum

Our lesson writers have suggested that we also read the book of Joel in connection with our study of Nahum, probably because the theme of both books is the judgment of God.  Joel's prophecy concerns the coming “great and terrible Day of the Lord,” the day when Christ will personally intervene in history, destroying His enemies, and giving rest and blessing to His people.  Nahum's message is of God's approaching judgment of Nineveh, the capital of the mighty Assyrian empire.  When Nahum speaks of Nineveh, Nineveh really symbolizes the entire empire. The judgment Nahum had prophesied came in 612 B. C., and it was a judgment so thorough and complete that in our human reckoning we might not see much difference between it and the judgment that will occur during the great and terrible Day of the Lord.  Nahum was speaking his prophecy, sometime between 663 and 612 B.C., not only as an announcement of judgment to Nineveh, but also as a word of comfort to the nation of Judah, which had lived in dread and fear of the Assyrians for many years, especially since 722 B.C. when Assyria destroyed and took captive the northern kingdom of Israel and then continued to assault and threaten Judah.

Nineveh was situated on the Tigris River close to the modern Iraqi city of Mosul.  It was a large metropolis filled with many people.  God called it “the great city” in Jonah 1:2; 3:2.  You recall that Jonah promptly headed in the directly opposite    direction when God called him to go and preach to the Ninevites.  This was because the Assyrians were one of the cruelest, vilest, most powerful and most idolatrous empires in the world.  Their reputation was fearsome, even legendary for cruelty.  They did every evil thing that ISIS does today, which is interesting, because although it is drawing people from all over the world, ISIS originally derived from that very area, near to ancient Nineveh.  The ancient Assyrians beheaded their enemies, and they burned young men and maidens alike in fire.  They put them in cages, dismembered, skinned alive, and mutilated them, stacked their heads into tall pillars up against the city walls of the conquered, and much, much more.  No wonder Nahum called Nineveh the “city of blood.” (Nahum 3:1)  As it happened, God amazingly repented of His decision to destroy Nineveh at that time, because all of its citizens, from the king down to the lowest peasants put on sackcloth and repented of their wickedness.  However, they failed to transfer their faith in the one true God to their children, and within a generation, Nineveh had returned to its former wickedness and cruelty.

One of the most dramatic faith stories in the Old Testament concerning Assyria took place in the days of Hezekiah, King of Judah, about 700 B.C., when Sennacherib was king of Assyria.  The story told in 2 Kings 18; 19 and Isaiah 36; 37 is of the Lord's victory over Assyrian troops on behalf of King Hezekiah and the land of Judah.  Because of Hezekiah's prayer and his faith and the prophecy of Isaiah, the resident prophet in Judah at the time, The Angel of the Lord moved in power during the night to slay 185,000 of the Assyrian soldiers who were surrounding Jerusalem and holding the city under siege.  It was about 150 years after Jonah's preaching and Nineveh’s revival and about 90 years after King Hezekiah's reign that Nahum's prophecy of judgment on Nineveh came to pass.

Nahum 1:1-3a:

Nahum's name, similar to Nehemiah's name, means “comfort.”  His prophecy, which revealed to his people the oracle and vision the Lord had given him, comforted the people of Judah in their fear and their outrage against the horrible, terrorizing deeds of the Assyrians.

The only other thing that is known about Nahum is that he came from a place named Elkosh.  He called himself the Elkoshite, but the exact location of Elkosh is not certain.  But one thing that is certain is that Nahum's heart was with the people of Judah, and God gave him a message to bring consolation to their hearts

In Nahum 1:1, the Hebrew word oracle means “burden.” It is used elsewhere in the Old Testament to describe any kind of heavy load.  The weightiness of the prophecy Nahum has to deliver makes it a very heavy burden of responsibility. It was a terrifying prophecy that told of a violent overthrow of the world superpower of the day.

Nahum 1:2, Nahum boldly proclaimed four of the greatest truths about God in the Bible.

• What was the first one?

The Lord is a jealous God.

• What is your initial reaction to this statement? Do you agree or disagree?

• In today's society how is jealousy usually seen?

Often in a negative light.  Someone is jealous because of the stuff or the relationships someone else has.

• What example can you give where jealousy represents love or devotion?

A husband or a wife who doesn't like someone competing for the heart of his or her spouse.

God's jealousy is different from man's jealousy because it is based on perfect motives and God is perfect.  His jealousy is revealed in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:5) and also at Exodus 34:14.  He deeply cherishes His relationships with His children and wants nothing to get in the way of their devotion to Him.  He will not sit idly by when His people shift their interest and devotion away from Him to something or someone else.  He will arise in judgment when his jealousy is sufficiently provoked.  The proper kind of jealousy is a positive trait, not a negative trait.  A proper kind of jealousy brings people the greatest good.  In having no others gods besides Yahweh, we gain the greatest benefit that we can have—a relationship with God and eternal life in His kingdom. 

• What is the second great truth in Nahum 1:2?

The Lord is an avenging God.  That is, He is a God who punishes wrongdoing.  The Lord is never morally neutral.  He actively defends moral boundaries He established for humanity.  God's justice, like God's jealousy, is an eternal characteristic.  He didn't suddenly become in Nahum's day a God who punishes wrongdoing.  He demonstrated this trait in the beginning days of human history, and later in the time of Moses.  He has this trait now, and He will display it in full force at the end of time.  It will always be a core trait of the Lord's nature.

• What is the third great truth in Nahum 1:2?

The Lord is fierce in wrath.

• What is the fourth great truth?

The Lord is furious with His enemies.

• Who is God's wrath directed toward in particular?

Vengeance and wrath are directed at God's “enemies” or “adversaries,” who, in this context, are the Assyrians in Nineveh.  Earlier, God responded this way to the people of Noah's day (Genesis 7:23) and also against rebellious Korah and his family (Numbers 16:32).

• Can God's wrath also display grace and patience?

While God's wrath is always just, warranted, and necessary, verse 3 tells us that God is also full of mercy and grace in that He is “slow to anger.”  Remember that He sent Jonah to Nineveh about 100 years before Nahum prophesied.  God withheld His judgment and vengeance on the people for that long.  God's patience has one particular purpose that we should always recognize:  God is patient toward sinners, because, as Peter declared, He does not want anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9).  If men realized the terrible punishment awaiting those who die in their sins, they would be ever grateful that God is patient toward sinners, even sinners other than themselves.  Nahum added right away that God is “great in power” because he did not want people to think God was weak and that was why He often allowed injustice to go on for a long time.  It may appear that God allows shamelessly wicked people to escape justice, but His justice will always ultimately prevail.  (See Exodus 34:7)  Nahum could take comfort in the fact that Nineveh would someday experience the fiery blast of divine wrath.   

Nahum 1:3-6 [3b]:

These verses remind us that God is sovereign; He is “in charge.”  His power is staggering and dominates the sky, the waters of the earth, and the land.  God created everything and all of it is subject to Him.  He can use all the things He created whenever and however He wants.

His strength is as untameable as a tornado or a thunderstorm.  Powerful sandstorms with their stinging blasts are nothing more than the dust kicked up by his feet.  They are effortless displays of His wrath.  Remember that one day He will burn up the entire earth with fire and create a new one.

Just as He is in charge of the land, He is in charge of rivers and seas.  He rebukes the sea and it dries up.  Rivers shrivel up at His command.  This word would have frightened the Ninevites, because they dwelled alongside the mighty Tigris River, which was the most important source of their life and prosperity.  What would happen to them if God decided to make it waterless and dry?

The land, which God created to blossom and bloom and bring forth delicious vineyards and fruit trees, is subject to God's judgment also.  Bashan and Carmel were symbols of agricultural prosperity.  Lebanon was legendary for its forests and fields.  But at the breath of God's nostrils, they would fade and wither.

• What do you think was the point of Nahum using these illustrations of God's power over nature?

He is using them to build up to his point in Nahum 1:3-6—that if God is sovereign over nature, He also is more than powerful enough to bring His just wrath upon those who deserve it.

• Do you think that people today fully recognize the sovereignty of God over nature?  Why or why not?

They think only in natural terms, not supernatural.

In Nahum 1:3a, we read that, “the Lord will not (by no means) leave the guilty unpunished.”

• Why does God make a pledge to act in judgment?

According to what we can draw from reading the rest of Nahum, God will act for two reasons.  One is a God-ward reason and another is a man-ward reason.

First, there is grave sin against God:  pride.  This was the Assyrians' main sin.  They were not just prideful; they were prideful against Almighty God.  Reading about Sennacherib's invasion of Jerusalem in the passages mentioned above, you will see that the Assyrians mocked God's sovereign control over His creation. They mocked the God of Israel, saying He could not deliver them from an Assyrian victory over them.  They said that King Hezekiah should not trust in the Lord to deliver him.  They said that the god of no nation had ever delivered them from the hand of the Assyrians. 

Secondly there is a grave sin against man:  cruelty.  We can see this is Nahum 3:1-4.  The Assyrians were notorious for their cruelty and oppression toward their fellow men. These were the two great sins of Assyrian and the two main reasons God acts in judgment.  Interestingly, these two sins almost always go together.  Where there is pride against God, there is usually cruelty toward other people.  Jesus taught that the two greatest commandments were to love God wholeheartedly and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt. 22:37-39).  When people do this, they are not prideful or cruel.  God judges to punish pride and to protect people.

• When does God judge?

Again, we can look at the answer from two sides, God's and man's.  God judges after He exercises long patience.  God had waited a long time since the people of Nineveh repented under Jonah's preaching then returned to their former cruelty and pride.  It had been about a hundred years.  From man's viewpoint, God judges when sin becomes exceedingly sinful.  He waits for men to repent, and if they do not, He steps in to judge.  Recall that God did not judge the Canaanites for 400 years, during the Israelites' time in Egypt, because “the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet full” (Genesis 15:16). 

• How does God act in vengeance?

God's method in judging Nineveh was to use both natural and supernatural forces.  He used forces of nature and he used warring people.  He uses the same things today, and if we can see God's hand and are not too natural-minded to be unable to see it, we can see that our own country has recently suffered far more devastating and frequent fires, floods, hurricanes, tornados, snowstorms, than has been the case for many decades.  We have also been attacked by warring peoples invading our borders, and by the exponential growth of crime, drug use, suicide, pornography, infanticide, and other painful things such as homelessness and insufficient food in many areas of the country.

Nahum 1:7:

Now, in the midst of a mostly dark portrait of God, Nahum makes a few strokes of a lighter, brighter color.  He pauses to remind his reader that God is good. This truth was one that was greatly valued by the Israelites.  It is mentioned numerous times in the Psalms, Jeremiah 33:11 and Lamentations 3:25.  The goodness of God could refer either to God's moral character or to the work of His hands.

Secondly, the Lord is said to be a “stronghold in the day of distress” (a “refuge in times of trouble”).  A stronghold is a strong, fortified place.  When earthly fortresses fail to protect us, God's Word to us is that we can depend on God to protect us.  God never promised to put a magical wall all around us to protect us from every kind of physical, financial, and emotional trouble, but as we live in faith, trust in Him and run to Him, He will be an unfailing source of strength and confidence for us.  The people of Nineveh thought that their man-made fortifications would always protect them, but their security was short-lived compared to the safety God provides for His people.

Thirdly, The Lord genuinely cares for those who take refuge in Him or place their trust in Him.  He knows every detail of our lives, inside and out, past, present, and future, and He takes all of who we are and will be into account as He works out His will in our lives.

Nahum 1:8:

In Scripture, a flood is always (since the flood of Noah's day) a symbol of a great judgment.  An “overwhelming” flood is a devastating torrent of judgment.  In several places, this phrase is used to describe the annihilating effects of an invading army (Daniel 11:10).  Nahum says it will make an end of Nineveh.  Historical evidence suggests that God used both actual floodwaters and also massive armies in bringing the city of Nineveh to a catastrophic end in 612 B.C.  God did not allow Nineveh to simply perish from the natural consequences of its evil practices or collapse under the weight of its own excesses.  Instead, He had decided to became personally involved and would “chase His enemies into darkness.”  Darkness probably means death.  Nineveh became a heap of ruins.

• In what way is this verse a comfort?

Christians can be comforted in knowing that God's wrath is focused on His enemies.  Also, there is comfort in knowing that those who do evil and do not repent will face the consequences of their actions.

One commentator, Dr. Thomas L. Constable, wrote an insightful resume about the message of Nahum:

Nahum teaches the reader that to believe in God's love is to be sure of His wrath.  If God is never angry, he does not really love.  His anger grows out of His love.  Can we look at sin, pride, oppression, and cruelty and not be moved?  Then we do not love.  Do we not care that Christians are being persecuted for their faith and are being killed daily in over 50 countries in the world, like the 21 Christians who were beheaded and the 43 Christians burned to death most recently?  Do we not care that pride is keeping people from acknowledging their need for Christ in our country?  Do we not care that women are being abused and children neglected by fathers who are so selfish that they think only of their own pleasures? If not, we are incapable of love.  If God cannot burn with hatred, He is a God incapable of love. To believe in His love is to be sure of His wrath.”

Sonic Light - Dr. Constable's Notes on Nahum, Page 8

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The Promised Messiah
Zechariah 8:1-8; 9:9-12
By Carol Miller of My Life Ministries

March 26, 2015

The minor prophet Zechariah predicted more about Messiah, both of His first and His second coming, than any other prophet except Isaiah. George L. Robinson, a great student of Scripture, is often quoted as having said the Book of Zechariah is “the most messianic (of or relating to a messiah; messianic hopes), the most truly apocalyptic (forecasting the ultimate destiny of the world; prophetic), and eschatological (the part of theology concerned with end-times events of history, or the ultimate destiny of humanity) of all the writings of the Old Testament.” (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.  Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1956).

Like Jeremiah and Ezekiel before him, Zechariah was both a prophet and a priest.  He was born the son of Berekiah and the grandson of Iddo.  Both Ezra and Nehemiah referred to him as the descendant of Iddo, a Levite who came up with Zerubbabel (Ezra 5:1; 6:14; Neh. 12:4, 16).  It seems probable that his father died early and that Zechariah then was thought of as his grandfather's successor.  According to tradition, Zechariah was a member of the Great Synagogue, a council of 120 priests, originated by Nehemiah and presided over by Ezra. Jesus, speaking to the Pharisees five centuries later, made reference to this Zechariah as having died as a martyr.   As recorded in Matthew 23:35, Jesus said, “. . . that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.”

Zechariah was born in Babylon, but he was among the group of some 50,000 Jews who returned to Judah after 539 B. C. when Cyrus the Great decreed that the Jews could return to Jerusalem to rebuild their temple.  The returned exiles completed the altar and re instituted their worship and also laid the foundation of the Temple.  But after that, the work on the rebuilding of the temple was halted and/or neglected for about 16 years, until both Haggai and Zechariah began to prophecy (520 B.C.) to the people and encourage them to proceed with the rebuilding.  Through receiving this prophetic encouragement, the people arose and finished rebuilding the temple in 515 B.C, only five short years later.  Zechariah's prophecies were extremely encouraging to the people because (1) they issued a clarion call to repentance, reminding the people that each generation of Israelites needed to be obedient to God in order to experience His promised blessings; then, (2) they went on to gloriously set forth God's beautiful plans for Israel's future.  The name Zechariah means “Yahweh (the LORD) remembers.” The name and its meaning suits the prophet well because he encouraged his people to have confidence that their God had made an enduring covenant with them, and He would remember and be faithful to keep it. He would be zealous for His glory, He would show mercy, and he would save and restore them.

Like Daniel, Zechariah's writing contains symbolic visions from the Lord.  Daniel saw the statue of Nebuchadnezzar's dream, a vision related to the progression of Gentile powers on the earth, and many visions of beasts that also represented the Gentile nations from another point of view.  Zechariah saw ten end-times dream visions in one night and all of them are recorded in the first six chapters of his book (Zechariah1-6).  This is the part that is particularly apocalyptic.  Zechariah 7; 8 are dealing with the answer to a question raised by a delegation of people who came from Bethel as to whether the people needed to continue to practice a national fast that they had been observing for many years in remembrance of Jerusalem's destruction.  In light of the fact that the Temple had been completed and God was reassuring the people of His blessing upon their future, was it necessary to continue a period of fasting that they had long observed?  In Zechariah 7, the answer is “no” with two messages, but in chapter 8 it is answered “yes” with two more messages.  The main point of all of this section of four messages is to exhort the people to live righteously. 

In Zechariah 8, where our lesson begins, Zechariah is continuing his response to the delegation from Bethel, and contrasts Israel's past judgment with the promised future restoration.  In light of past captivity, the nation was to repent and live righteously.  In light of promised future blessings, Israel is to repent and live righteously.

Zechariah 8:1-8.

Zechariah 8:1 expresses one of the most mysterious but important truths in the Bible, “The word of the LORD of Hosts came.”  The mighty Creator, God of the Universe, is a God who speaks.  His words and thoughts are so much higher than ours; yet He finds a way to express His thoughts in language that we might understand them.

Literally, this verse says, “And then the word of the LORD of Armies was (or, occurred), to say.”  This wording suggests that a God-sent miracle occurred in the life of the prophet.  One moment, the word was not there.  Suddenly—apart from the prophet's own activity—the message was there.

The phrase the LORD of Hosts is significant.  It was one of Zechariah's favorite titles for God and is used some 50 times throughout his book.  It can also be translated “YAHWEH of Armies.”  This powerful designation conveys two important truths:

First, the use of the name YAHWEH (written as the LORD in most English Bibles) affirms that the God who spoke to Zechariah is the same God who spoke to Abram/Abraham, the patriarch, and Moses, the deliverer, and David, the beloved king of Israel.

Second, the term Hosts, or “Armies,” conveys the truth that God is all-powerful.  He has all the resources available to make sure that His decrees are carried out.  In its plural form this term reveals that YAHWEH has not just one supernatural army but countless heavenly armies consisting of angels, the sun, moon, and stars, and occasionally Israel.

Zechariah 8 contains a series of seven separate, brief prophecies—future happenings or predictions.  Five of these prophecies are found in Zechariah 8:2-8 and feature the following introductory declaration:  “The LORD Almighty says” (Zechariah 8:2-8 NIV); “The LORD of Hosts says” (Zechariah 8:2-8 NASB, NKJV), or “The LORD of Heaven's Armies says” (Zechariah 8:2-8 NLT).  Taken together, they speak of wonderful affirmations and blessings for God's people.

Zechariah 8:2:  Two key ideas are found in this prophecy: 

First, the Lord is passionately jealous for Zion.  This word often portrays God's desire for exclusive worship from His children.  But it also speaks of His burning anger against the nations who oppose Israel.  The term Zion refers not only to Jerusalem and the temple but to the covenant relationship between the Lord and Israel. 

The second key idea is the Lord's great wrath.  The Lord's exclusive relationship with His people was under attack, and He was gearing up to restore and protect it.

Zechariah 8:3:  God's resumed presence with His people when He will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem has not yet been fulfilled but anticipates millennial fulfillment through the personal reign of Jesus Christ on the throne of David.  In that Day, Jerusalem will be called The Faithful City, or, some translations say The City of Truth.  The temple mount of the Lord will be called the Holy Mountain.  The Lord's bride will live in devotion to her spiritual Husband in Israel's most glorious city.  It is not yet a present reality.  But the Lord has promised to do a wondrous thing in the future:  faithfulness will characterize the people's response to the covenant the Lord had made with them. Zechariah portrayed “The Holy Mountain” as the Lord's personal abode, described as “holy” because the Lord will dwell in it and because it belongs (is set apart) to God.

The prophet Ezekiel received a prophetic vision of the Lord's glory departing from the temple in connection with the Babylonian siege of 587/586 B.C.  See Ezekiel 10:18-19; 11:22-25.  Later he saw a vision of the return of the Lord's glory to the temple (See Ezekiel 43:1-5).  Zechariah confirmed, with this word from the Lord, what Ezekiel had seen.

Zechariah 8:4-5:  These two verses shift the perspective from spiritual to some of the material benefits God's blessings will provide.  The Lord promised that Jerusalem residents would experience political peace and security.  Elderly citizens—men and women—lounging peacefully along the streets of the city is the first touching scene that represents the fulfillment of many dreams.  Men would be able to live to an advanced age, not having died on battlefields.  Women would have been protected from dying in childbirth and had been shielded from disasters such as famine, plague, and war.  God had defended the people from every threat and supplied every need.

Similarly, the touching scene of children playing in the streets assumes the presence of growing families living in the city and playing unafraid and unharmed by disease or famine.  God's goodness surrounds His people at every stage of life.

Such an idyllic scene exceeded Judah's fondest hopes during Zechariah's day and certainly remains an unfulfilled promise today.  Only a miraculous act by God will bring this picture of tranquility to pass.

Zechariah 8:6:  This fourth prophetic message is in the form of a question.  The inquiry concerns the remnant of His people. It speaks of in those days (future). 

In Zechariah's day, certainly the people saw themselves as weak and without sufficient resources to rebuild the temple, restore the city, and thrive again as God's covenant people.  But they forgot that nothing is impossible with God. 

In that future day when this prophecy is ultimately fulfilled, the people will even more see themselves as too weak and without resources to thrive again as the nation belonging to God and favored of Him.  The destruction that will precede that day will be so great that no one will likely imagine the miracle that is about to occur with Jesus' return.  But again, even this is not too hard or unimaginable for God.

Zechariah 8:7-8:  The fifth message is that God will save His people from the land of the east and the land of the west.  Here the word save refers to deliverance from exile.  The Lord promised to bring His people back to their land no matter how far removed they might be.  In Zechariah's day He had brought them back and would continue to bring more of them back from the eastern region known as Babylon and Persia.  He was also bringing some back from Egypt, although perhaps we don't think of that as really west.  Ultimately the east and the west represent areas all over the world.  God will bring the Israelites back into the land that was promised to Abraham.  They will be brought back from all of the countries of the world, and they will no longer live in dispersion.  Saying He would bring them back to live “in Jerusalem” probably means in Israel as a whole, and it will be a much larger expanse of territory than it now is.

This regathering will also institute a restored relationship between God and Israel in which God's righteousness and faithfulness will be more evident than ever!

Zechariah 9:9-12

Zechariah 9 of the Book of Zechariah differs from earlier chapters.  It is another prophecy, but it is written very poetically.  Verses one through eight tell of the Lord's judgment against the enemies of Israel.  Zechariah 9:9-12 are a prophecy of the first coming Messiah.  This is the focus of our lesson today and the ideal passage from Zechariah for Palm Sunday.

When the prophet speaks to the “Daughter of Zion” and the “Daughter of Jerusalem he is really speaking to the entire nation of Israel.  He exhorts them to “rejoice greatly” because their king is coming!  He has received a dramatic revelation from the Lord about a coming Ruler who would usher in a new day for the people of Israel.  The Jews who had returned to Jerusalem around 538 B.C. Had faced many hardships and frustrations; but the prophet's word gave them hope for a much better day. 

The Hebrew word for rejoice is very emphatic.  It suggests that someone would be so happy about some good news that they would break forth into dancing.  Then the command is to add to the rejoicing with shouting in triumph! They should rejoice and shout in triumph because once again they would have a king.  Not only that, but this king would be One of impeccable character.  The Israelites had not had a king since the Babylonians had destroyed Jerusalem. 

Zechariah disclosed the character of the coming Messiah in Zechariah 9:9 and his accomplishments in Zechariah 9:10.  Before focusing on his accomplishments, Zechariah called attention to the Messiah's four prominent character traits: 

First, he would be righteous.  In its theological sense, righteousness reflects moral standards that rest on the character of God Himself.  Isaiah 9:6-7 provides a broader picture of this righteous Messiah:

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;  And the government will rest on His shoulders;  And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.  There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over His kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore.  The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.”

The second characteristic is the Messiah come “having salvation,” that is, bringing salvation to his people.  For the people of Zechariah's day, a messiah who came “bearing salvation” would have been an unimaginable promise of great hope.

Third, the messiah Zechariah described would show himself to be “humble” or “lowly.”  Messianic prophecies in Isaiah prominently state both the Messiah's righteousness and his humility The Messiah's lowly and humble attitude figures especially prominently in Isaiah 53.

Fourth, Zechariah foretold a messiah who would come to his people “riding on a donkey, on a colt, even the foal of a donkey.” What significance did the donkey have?  Why would Messiah arrive on a donkey?  It was not unusual for kings in the biblical times to mount donkeys.  David rode a donkey when fleeing from one of Saul's onslaughts.  The important distinction to note is the difference between riding a donkey and riding a horse.  Horses represented one of the most advanced military weapons of the day.  But Psalm 147:10 states that the Lord's “pleasure is not in the strength of the horse.”  A messiah riding a beast of burden, not an animal known for its military value, underscores the peaceable kingdom over which the Messiah will rule.  Thus the symbolism of riding a donkey emphasizes the peaceable mission of the Messiah.

Matthew's Gospel reveals to us the name of this prophesied king.  His name is Jesus Christ (Matthew 21:4-5).  The events surrounding Jesus' entry into Jerusalem just before Passover and his crucifixion made it clear that He knew He was the prophesied Messiah, the King of Israel, and He wanted others to know it also. The Jews of Jesus' day would have been familiar with Zechariah's prophecy.  They understood the claim that Jesus was making for Himself. 

Zechariah 9:10:

The great King of which Zechariah spoke would enter Jerusalem as King of the Jews, but His kingdom would extend far beyond Israel's borders.  In fact, His dominion will extend from sea to sea—that is, all around the world.  It will reach from the Euphrates River, the northern boundary of the land promised to Abraham and his descendants (Genesis 15:18)--to the ends of the earth.

The Kingdom will be a peaceful one because after He has become the victorious conqueror over all His foes, the Messiah-King will proclaim peace to the nations.  Since there will be no more war, there will be no need for the equipment of war, including chariots or war horses.  The implements of battle will all be removed, because they will no longer be needed.  (See Micah 5:10)

Zechariah 9:11-12:

In Zechariah 9:11, the Lord spoke directly to His beloved “daughter,” Jerusalem.  The Lord had a covenant relationship with the nation that claimed Jerusalem as its capital.  The blood covenant that existed between God and His people meant that special obligations and privileges existed between the two parties.  Ultimately, the “blood covenant” was fulfilled in the new covenant established by Jesus through His atoning death on the cross. 

Because of the Lord's commitment to His beloved Israel, He would not abandon them in their day of distress.  A day will come when Israel will be overwhelmed by an enemy and her people will be taken captive, but God will be there to help.  He will release the prisoners from their waterless pit of exile. 

Israel will be blessed in the future not because of her faithfulness through the centuries, but because of God's unfailing devotion to His covenant of blood made with Abraham, which is in force as long as God lives.  God's faithfulness to His covenant with Israel is His basis for delivering her from worldwide dispersion.  The ones who are immediately addressed in these verses may have been Jewish exiles still in Babylon, but the covenant-fulfillment theme suggests an ultimate reference to Israel's end-time re-gathering.  At least the nation's future hope (messianic deliverance) was the basis for contemporary encouragement in Zechariah's day.

God can be trusted to provide a sure salvation.  Jesus is the promised Messiah in whom we find salvation.  We can only find peace, freedom from sin, and restoration through faith in Jesus.

Through Zechariah, God speaks to His suffering people, telling them to look beyond their immediate circumstances to the time when there will be no more war, all God's enemies will be conquered, and the whole earth will acknowledge the Messiah as the rightful King.

(Note: Links like the following are found throughout this website.  They take one to Word Documents in my computer which has virus protection.  They are safe to open!)

True Hope
Malachi 1:1-11
By Carol Miller of
My Life Ministries 

May 17, 2015

Revive It By Giving God Your Best in Every Way

Thinking What God Might Be Thinking As We Study Malachi.

Let's think about the differences in the levels of our human relationships in this life.

We might describe the relationships we have formed as some “acquaintances,” come “co-workers,” some “teachers and mentors,” some “friends,” a “best friend,” a “soul-mate,” some “beloved-and-delighted-in children and grandchildren,” other “family members, such as brothers and sisters,” and, hopefully at the top, “a beloved spouse with whom we have kept a sacred covenant of marriage for many years.”

As we picture each one of these, we also picture what goes into that relationship in terms of personal involvement.  All of these relationships demand some degree of commitment and certain kinds of investment.  If we want to improve the relationships we have, those are the two things we must always re-evaluate and reconsider:  how much commitment, (and what kind of commitment), and how much investment (and what kind of investments) do I need to make to maintain or improve on these relationships?  The greater kind of commitment there is, the greater the investment should be.

Lots of modern helps have been written on the subject of improving important relationships, such as, for instance, The Five Love Languages, which would help us to ponder the best way to show love and develop an intimate relationship with a special person by discerning which expression of love makes that person feel most special and most loved.  Only a person who really cares to develop a relationship to a higher level will invest the time to read such a book and then find ways to put it into practice with that special person.

God's relationship with His people was a relationship based on an everlasting, unbreakable covenant of mutual love and commitment—the strongest, most sacred, most intimate, most time-committed, most invested-in relationship in existence.  In our lesson today, we find God feeling rejected and on the verge of anger with His covenant people because of their indifference and their shabby treatment of Him. He has considered the covenant sacred and kept it perfectly, no matter how they acted; but they have not.  He has now raised up His messenger, Malachi, to confront His people bluntly, question them thoroughly and call them into account regarding their unacceptable attitude towards Him.  (This is adapted from Lifeway: Explore the Bible Commentary by Bryan Beyer; you might prefer to use the comparison of children's responses to rebukes from adults in the Coleman Notes.)

Date of Malachi's Ministry

Some scholars place the ministry of Malachi somewhere between the completion of the temple in 516 B. C. and the arrival of Ezra in 458 B.C.  But others believe it came somewhat later, more like 450 to 400 B.C. The contents of the book tend to uphold the second view that the ministry of Malachi took place sometime during the second half of the fifth century, closer to the time of Nehemiah's return to Jerusalem, and that would definitely make Malachi the last Old Testament prophet.  It is likely that he was a contemporary of Nehemiah because the issues he addresses are similar to those prevailing during the era of Nehemiah (444-432 B.C.).  References to a Persian governor in Malachi 1:8, and Malachi's rebuke of the priests' malpractice in the temple surely indicate that his ministry came after the temple had been rebuilt and the priesthood well-established.  However, both Ezra (returning in 458 B.C.) and Nehemiah, (returning in 444 B.C.) addressed such issues as intermarriage with Gentiles, the peoples' lack of support for the Levites, oppression of the poor, neglect of the tithe, and general spiritual malaise.  So, either Malachi was speaking to the same generation Ezra and Nehemiah spoke to, or he spoke to the very next generation. Because the reference to a governor in Malachi 1:8 is probably not Nehemiah, possibly Malachi wrote his prophecy after Nehemiah left Jerusalem to go back to Persia in 432 B.C. but before he returned in about 430 and resumed his governorship. During that time of his absence, serious violations began to occur in the observances of Mosaic Law, which we see Malachi addressing.

Life and Historical Setting

The life of the people continued to be hard as a small province under the political oppression of the Persian Empire, and there was also the continuing hardship of simply producing a livelihood in an agricultural society.  Of course, Israel always had enemies in the neighboring countries around them, and there was no exception during this period.  Perhaps one of the greatest contributors to a lackluster and mechanical spirituality among the priesthood, as well as the people, was a lost hope in God's covenant promise of bringing to pass the establishing the kingdom and the restoring the glory of their nation.  Both Haggai and Zechariah, as well as earlier prophets, had prophesied the coming of the Messiah, and a future glory beyond anything they had known in the past.  Priest and people alike longed to see this prophecy fulfilled in their day.  But God had not yet come to His temple in majesty and power to exalt his Kingdom in the sight of the nations.  Thus, the people began to doubt God's love for them.

Theme or Message

Malachi's message is a two-fold: (1) a rebuke to the people for the neglect of true and heart-felt worship of the Lord, and (2) a call to repentance and a return to covenant faithfulness.

His message can be viewed as a miniature study of the entire Old Testament.  It covers five key truths:  (1) The selection of Israel by God, (2) the transgression of Israel against God, (3) the manifestation of Messiah, (4) tribulation upon the nations and (5) purification of Israel at last.

Moses gives us the first Old Testament prophecy concerning Messiah in Genesis 3:15, and Malachi gives us the last Old Testament prophecy concerning Messiah in Malachi 4:2.  (See Wilmington's Guide to the Bible)

Malachi's method is unique to him.  It is dialectical and disputational (a method of arriving at the truth by exchange of logical arguments.)  It is “discussion and reasoning by dialogue.”

Malachi makes 14 statements to Israel from God, and they make 10 rebellious and sarcastic answers back to God, either in actual words or in their thoughts.

1.  I have loved you, says the Lord, yet you say, Wherein have you loved us?
2.  The priests despise my Name, and you say, Wherein have we despised Your name?
3.  You offer polluted bread upon My altar, and you say, Wherein have we polluted you?
4.  You have profaned My table.  You say, The table of the Lord is polluted . . His meat is contemptible.
5.   You said also, 'What weariness it is,' and you have snuffed at it.
6.  You brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick for offerings.  Should I accept such offerings?
7.  Judah has dealt treacherously.
8.  Judah has profaned the holiness of the Lord which He loved.
9.  You have practiced hypocrisy—weeping and crying in insincerity so that He will not regard your offerings, yet you say, Wherefore?
10.  You have wearied the Lord with your words, Yet you say, Wherein have we wearied Him?
11.  Even from the days of your fathers you have gone away from My ordinances, and have not kept them.  Return to Me and I will return unto you, But you said, Wherein shall we return?
12.  Will a man rob God?  Yet you have robbed Me.  But you say, Wherein have we robbed You?  In tithes and offerings.
13.  Your words have been stout against Me, yet you say, 'What have we spoken so much against You?'
14.  You have said, 'It is vain to serve God, and what profit is it that we have kept His ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of hosts?'

(Malachi’s 14 statements are from Dake's Annotated Reference Bible, Dake Bible Sales Incorporated.)

Malachi 1:1-5 are concerning True Love.

Malachi 1:1.  The word oracle or burden is the Hebrew massa, meaning “the thing to be lifted up.”  It sets the tone of the book as being very sober, anxious, or foreboding.  There are actually burdens, plural, in Malachi; six of them.  The prophet's burden, singular, in verse one, was to deliver the word of the Lord.  “Israel” is addressed here, although really only Judah remains at this time in history.  However, the name of Israel emphasizes the aspect of God's covenant people.

The passage that follows is intense and intimate, somewhat like a lover's quarrel between a jealous husband who deeply cares for his wife and is expressing his hurt and making his case, and a flippant, annoyed, and disinterested wife.  The husband argues his case eloquently and specifically, but the wife answers with slang, cliches, and growing annoyance.  It is a bit of a shock to the reader that Israel could be so impertinent with God, and God still forgive and love her.

Malachi means “my messenger.”  This is all we know about Malachi.  Some scholars have felt that since the name written here is in a form that is not that of a proper name, the word is an anonymous designation for the prophet, whoever he was.  This is not likely, though, because no other prophetic book in the Bible is anonymous, and the use of the same Hebrew word again in Malachi 3:1 translated  “My Messenger,” is probably simply a play on words using the prophet's name.

Malachi 1:2a.   “I have loved you,” declares the Lord. This statement is the foundation for the all of Malachi's message.  It is a statement of fact with the Lord, but it has become a matter of dispute with the people, because they have really begun not to believe God's love for them. The forthright statement evokes some sense of sadness as it calls to mind Isaiah 43:4, “You are precious in my sight, since you are honored and I love you,” or Hosea's declaration, “When Israel was youth, I loved him... I taught Ephraim to walk, I took them in my arms. .. .I led them with cords of love... I became to them as one who lifts the yoke from their jaws; and I bent down and fed them.” (Hosea 11:3-5).   God loved Israel, elected Israel, made a singular covenant with Israel, over and over again miraculously delivered them, and dwelled in their midst; yet, Israel disputes with God, “How have You loved us?”  They actually want God to prove to them that He loves them and how so!

Can you think of any reasons why the people might have doubted or not have trusted God's love for them or questioned His faithfulness to the covenant?

Possibly the delay of the coming in of the kingdom of glory and of the Messiah was wearing them down spiritually as they experienced many hardships of life and servitude under Persian domination.  Basically, however, they were simply beset with the sin of unbelief, the same sin that plagued them throughout their wilderness wanderings.  At that time and at this present time, it was their own disobedience that brought God's chastening.  They needed to repent and re-commit to their covenant with Him.

Why did God still love Israel?  Why do you think He even stooped to answer their provocative question?

God was patient with them and condescended to give them an answer because He had made an unbreakable covenant with them.  He took them back to the beginning, when He chose them and made His everlasting covenant with them.

Read Malachi 1:2-5 [2b].

Malachi 1:2-4 [2b].  God answers Israel's doubts by going back to the making of the covenant, the determined choice of them, and the necessary rejection, or non-choosing, of other nations.  He says first of all His love for them began with a free choice.  He chose or elected Jacob, and that choice of them necessitated that He reject Esau as far as a special covenant was concerned.  The use of “love” and “hate” here simply refers to choice or election of one over another for a covenant relationship. There is no implication of eternal destiny in the words themselves as God uses them.  Nor does the use of the word “hate,” mean an emotional feeling of repulsion or disgust or hostility.  Sometimes the biblical term “hate” means “second best” or “not loved as much,” as with Leah and Rachel.

God did not begin by cursing Esau.  He blessed Esau with many descendants who settled in Seir or Edom, a land area south of the Dead Sea.  But as the events of history proceeded, God treated the two nations that descended from Jacob and Esau differently.  Both nations received God's judgment for their rebellion at the hands of Babylon in the sixth century.  But God dealt differently with “Jacob” than He did “Esau.”  Esau or Edom, God condemned forever to complete destruction; but Israel, He restored repeatedly because, in His perfect love, He would not fail to keep His covenant towards them forever.

God says that He turned Edom's mountains into wasteland and left his inheritance to the jackals of the desert.  And even if they rebuilt, according to their bold boasting, He would demolish it again.  He said that men would call their territory The Wicked Territory (as opposed to Israel being The Holy Land) and refer to them as the people that God is indignant or wrathful toward forever.

The Edomites were continuously rebellious towards God and often acted in hostility towards Israel.  When Israel needed to pass through Edom on the way to “the promised land”, the Edomites refused to grant them permission. And hostility between the Edomites and the Israelites continued for centuries.  They aided and abetted Israel's enemies.

Esau himself was devoid of any spiritual hunger for the things of God.  He sold his birthright for a single meal.”  According to the writer of Hebrews, he was an immoral and “godless” man. (Hebrews 12:17)  His progeny continued to display the same spiritual deficiency.

Malachi 1:5.

God tells Israel that He will show them how He loves them:  this generation of people will see His destruction of Edom “with their own eyes.”  He appears to be telling them that this will occur in their lifetime.  When they see it, they will acknowledge the Lord's greatness and sovereignty over matters beyond the borders of Israel. (At that time, many people believed that the god of a nation only had power within that nation's borders.)  Israel will then also realize that they deserved the same treatment, or perhaps they deserved even worse treatment because of the privilege He had bestowed upon them.  (“From those to whom much is given, much shall be expected.”)  Yet, He had treated them differently and restored them rather than destroying them, because of the covenants with Abraham, with Jacob, with the people at Mt. Sinai (through Moses), and with David, but not because of anything morally superior in them.  Then, they will react with an expression of gratitude and praise toward Him.  They will say, “The Lord be magnified,” instead of asking, “How have You loved us?”

Malachi 1:6-10 are concerning True Worship.

Who is God speaking to in Malachi 1:6?  (Particularly to the priests. The casual treatment of God, indifference and disregard for God's holiness and greatness had by this time permeated the priesthood.)

This segment speaks to the failure of the priests in Israel to honor God properly in the sacrificial offerings.  In Malachi 1:6, without yet naming the offense, Malachi, speaking for God, appeals to the priests' understanding of important behavior patterns in matters of the relationship between children and parents, servants and masters.  They certainly know the commandment of God to honor parents.  And they know the censure that would befall a servant who did not respect and honor his master. They also knew Israel was a nation considered to be God's son. So God asks the questions, “Where is my honor as your Father, if I am a Father, and where is my fear or respect from my servants, if I am a Master, says the Lord of Hosts to you, O  priests who despise my name, but you say 'How have we despised Your name?'”

The verb “to despise” is a strong verb.  Probably the priests never ever thought of what they were doing as “despising” the Lord.  They had become accustomed to the things that did in offering sacrifices of the people, and they had now become hardened.  Probably they never thought of it as sin anymore. They seem to ask the question out of shock at the The Lord's use of such a strong word.

Do you think there are any sins that you commit that you are oblivious of?  Are there some things you think of as casual, small, careless omissions or sins, but not as the really serious sins that they are?

The Lord of Hosts is a title for the Lord that uses all capitals in our Bible translations of the word LORD, to indicate Jehovah or Yahweh, the sovereign, self-'existent, redemptive God, together with the word Sabaoth, which is a Hebrew word meaning “armies.”  The reference is to the angelic armies of heaven.  Jehovah Sabaoth is commander of the armies of heaven.  He is a mighty military commander who can summon rank upon rank of protective power.  The priests whom God is addressing knew full well the meaning of that title, and they knew respect and honor were due to Him.

It is sad that the Lord must charge the priests who had been in exile previously with failure to honor Him. The words “My name” stand for God Himself.  They actually despised Him, then.  If they failed to honor God, by whom would the people be taught to honor Him?

Malachi 1:7.

The priests were presenting defiled food upon God's altar.  “Defiled food” would have been any kind of defective sacrifice, and those kinds of sacrifices would have been clearly defined in Leviticus 22.  To do such a thing meant they were profaning and defiling God's name.  It would seem that they only way this could happen would be that they were accepting defective sacrifices from the people rather than instructing the people to bring a proper sacrifice that would honor God.  All offerings were called “food” because in Leviticus 21:6, all offerings were referred to as “the food of their God.”  “My Altar” and “My table” are likely both references to the altar of burnt offering.  Of course, the priests were not literally saying, “The table of the Lord is to be despised.”  God meant that by disregarding God's requirements, they were “calling it” or “rendering it” contemptible or to be despised.  Remember, too, that they themselves ate from these sacrifices, which defiled them.  This showed even greater contempt.

Malachi 1:8.

God gets more specific as He shows the priests how they are despising Him.  He names the blind, lame, sick or diseased (Malachi 1:14 refers to any blemished animal) animals as unfit to be sacrificed to Him, and calls such an act “evil.”  It is the opposite of good, acceptable, and perfect, which the sacrifice to the Lord ought to be.  The debate is getting stronger:  God (Malachi for God) now injects brilliantly timed piece of sarcasm:  “Why not offer it to your governor?” The governor's table was a lavish table, spread with elegant delicacies that also included “offerings” from the people.  The governor would obviously have rejected it.  But God (through Malachi) asks them the question, “Would he receive you kindly (or show favor towards you)?” because He intends to bring up the matter of their coming to entreat or ask a favor of Him.

How much of your prayer time is an offering of unblemished sacrifices of praise to God?  How much of it is spent asking favors, large and small?

Malachi 1:9.

Malachi speaks strongly for God, Now, what will you do when you think of something you want from God?  “Will you now beseech Him kindly (or entreat His favor)?”  “With that kind of offering from you,” or “since this is what has come from your hands,” Will He regard you, (favor you, act kindly towards you)?  Obviously, God would not be predisposed to answer graciously, although they did not consider it presuming upon His grace to ask.  He finishes again with “says The Lord of Hosts.”  One more reminder of Who they are dealing with.

Malachi 1:10.

Malachi is speaking for God:  God would prefer just to shut down the whole procedure and close the gates to His altar. God expresses His heartfelt wish (“Oh, that there were one...) that one priest would have the courage to stand up and act boldly--- shut the gates and forbid fire to be kindled on the altar. It is an offense to offer dishonorable sacrifices to a great God.   It would be better to close down the system than to act hypocritically and “go through the motions,” without any true worship and adoration of Almighty God. God says it is useless.  If they are doing what is not pleasing to Him, of what use is it?  Worship is a sacrifice, a sacrifice is worship, and worship means Worth-ship. All of this has been forgotten.  God declares forthrightly that He is not pleased with them, and will not accept their offerings.

Are we just going through the motions in any of our activities related to God?  Is there anything we should just quit doing because it is only to please other people, but our heart is not in it?

How would we feel if God closed the doors of our church because He no longer respected our worship?

This section speaks of True Greatness

Malachi 1:11.

This verse is a great memory verse.

God uses the conjunction “For” because He is going to state why He will refuse these defiled offerings.  The reason is that He is a Great God, and it would not be fitting or possible for Him to continue to accept them.  If Israel would not worship Him as He deserved, other people in other nations would do so one day.

Malachi, speaking for God, prophecies of the future day, The Day of the Lord, when God's Name will be great even in the nations that were totally pagan and unbelieving at that time.  “From the rising of the sun to its setting” indicates from east to west.  Isaiah wrote, “I am the Lord, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God.  I will gird you, though you have not known Me; that men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun that there is no one besides Me.  I am the Lord, and there is no other.” (Isaiah 45:5-6).  God is truly great because, for one thing, He is the Only, and there is no other. Besides this fact, He established His covenant with Abraham, promising him not only descendants as numerous and the grains of sand by the seashore, but also as numerous as the stars in the heavens, and He would accomplish that feat.  Those descendants would populate those nations from the east to the west in that future day.   All of that would come about through the new covenant in Jesus Christ and the preaching of the gospel to the ends of the earth. When Jesus is King over all the earth, believers in all nations will worship Him. This passage teaches a future universal pure religion.  The third chapter of Malachi speaks of a future day when the Lord will return and bring about pure worship in Israel.  There is a need for the word “in” to be translated “from” where it says that “in every place incense is going to be offered to MY name, and a grain offering that is pure.”  The Hebrew preposition translated “in” can also be translated “from,” and in this case it ought to be translated “from.”  Incense, often indicating “prayer,” can be given or made from every place, and if offerings means “praise,” it can be given in every place.  But the “desire of every nation” or the “wealth of every nation,” as we learned about in Haggai last week, are offerings that will be brought to the Lord in Jerusalem.

Malachi 1:12-14 bring out more about the attitudes with which the sacrifices were being offered.  God uses the words “You say” to mean “in your mind or in your heart, this is what you really think and feel.”  He says that they profane His name by offering those sacrifices.  God uses the words “contemptible” and “disdainful” of their attitude towards the kinds of sacrifices they are presenting to Him.  He points to their attitude of boredom and drudgery. “What a weariness and what a burden,” is what you say.  And “you sniff at it,” or take it lightly. If they knew in their hearts that the Lord's altar was being defiled they should have set it right, but they did not want to go to the trouble.

The Coleman notes make several good contemporary comparisons for application.  The people's stinginess with God could be compared to a Christian putting “loose change” and “tips” into the offering plate rather than acknowledging God as the owner of all that he has, or a grocery store owner bringing spoiled milk, brown lettuce leaves, wormy apples, and out-of-date cereal to the church food pantry.  The grudging worship practices of Malachi's day can be compared to worshiping “from time to time,” when someone “has nothing better to do,” or “going to church by television.”  “What a weariness this is,” might be compared to “I didn't get anything out of it.”  The response might be that “Worship is boring only to those who don't do it.”

The best way to have true Biblical hope is to give God our best in every way.

(Note: Links like the following are found throughout this website.  They take one to Word Documents in my computer which has virus protection.  They are safe to open!)

A Pure People
Malachi 3:1-7, 16-18; 4:1-2
By Carol Miller of
My Life Ministries 

May 31, 2015

Background

Malachi was a close contemporary of Ezra and Nehemiah (about 450-400 B. C.), and he prophesied to the people concerning the problems Ezra and Nehemiah had confronted.  But especially Malachi addressed the priests and warned them that they were corrupting their office and would have their blessings turned to curses.  Malachi used a unique disputational method of address to the people with six commands or charges, and the people questioned five of them.  Malachi then spoke the evidence of their offenses against the Lord.

As the last Old Testament prophet, Malachi prophesied about the first New Testament prophet, John the Baptist, whom he referred to as “My messenger” in Malachi 3:1 and as Elijah in 4:5.  It would be 400 years after Malachi addressed Israel that John the Baptist would appear preaching repentance, referring to himself as a voice crying in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord.” (Isa. 40:3)

Review

In Malachi 1; 2, the prophet delivered the first three of the charges and dealt with the peoples' impertinent questionings and responses.

First, God charged the people to respond to His love for them (Malachi 1:2-5).  They questioned how He had loved them, and God answered that He had chosen Jacob to be his covenant people.  He had treated Israel with compassion and restored them over and over, but Esau or Edom, He had consigned to destruction.  He said that Israel would learn that He is a mighty God and will be praised beyond the territory of Israel's borders.  How much more should they, His own people of the covenant, praise and magnify Him?

Second, God disputed the matter of His honor with the priests and charged them to honor Him (Malachi 1:6-2:9).  The priests asked how they had despised or dishonored Him.  He replied that they offered defective sacrifices on His altar. They took their office lightly and had corrupted it to the extent that the Lord said the sacrifices were “useless,” since they did not please Him or offer Him true worship.  God said He would turn their blessings into curses.

Third, The Lord charged the people to be faithful as His covenant people (Malachi 2:10-16).  He charged them with unfaithfulness because they were divorcing the wives of their youth and they were marrying the “daughters of foreign gods.”  Thus they were bringing foreign religion into their homes by marrying these women, and they desecrated His Temple by entering it in that kind of relationship condition.  God said He would no longer accept their sacrificial offerings.  He had to enforce the covenant.  He charged them to guard their spirit and be faithful in their marriages because they were “covering their garment” with wrong.

Fourth, The Lord charged the people with wearying Him by doubting His justice.  They accused Him of blessing and delighting in evildoers and believed there was no reward or profit in serving the Lord.

Summary of Today's Lesson

In today's lesson in Malachi 3; 4, the Lord tells them that His justice is coming.  It is coming in the future, but it is certainly coming.  For many years the people had looked forward to the coming of the Messiah.  They believed that God would come one day and destroy their enemies and reinstate Israel as the greatest kingdom on earth, ruled over by their Messiah.  They would enjoy peace and prosperity forever.  But they did not equate this coming kingdom of the Messiah with a day of purification for God's people.  Malachi is now going to deliver God's message that the coming Day of the Lord will prove to them that God is a God of justice who punishes the wicked and rewards the faithful. However, they do not expect the elements of discipline, refining, difficulty, and distress that will be a part of the Day of the Lord.  Before the bringing in of peace, prosperity, blessing, joy, and the rule of the Prince of Peace, there would be God's discipline of His own people.

Read Malachi 3:1-5.

Malachi 3:1.  Malachi answers the peoples' resentful, faithless, hopeless question by saying that God is about to send out His messenger to clear the way before His own coming.  There are two personages mentioned here, first, “my messenger,” who will come to clear the way or make preparation.  The second is “the Lord whom you seek,” who is equated with “the messenger of the covenant.”  Many have thought that this first messenger is Malachi himself or a future prophet.  It is best to see him as a future prophet, and Jesus Himself identified this messenger as John the Baptist (Matt.11:7-10).  See also Mark 1:2 and Isaiah 40:3. John the Baptist preached a message of repentance, like Elijah.

The second personage, “my messenger,” the “messenger of the covenant in whom you delight,” is Jesus.   In the first phase of a two-fold eschatological event, Jesus would come, following the clearing of the way by John the Baptist.  As God's messenger in His first coming, He would seek to purify the Temple of its ministers in preparation for the coming of God, the Judge, who will not come until His house is set in order.

But in His Day or His Second Coming, Jesus would suddenly appear in His Temple.  This would answer the priests' question about God's justice.  Zechariah said that the Lord would come to Zion and would dwell there (Zech. 8:3) (Zech. 14:3-4) and Ezekiel predicted the return of the glory of God to the Temple (Ezek. 43:1-5).

Some have said that “His Temple” in this verse was the temple in Jesus' Day, and that this is made clear when Jesus said He was exempt from the tax because He was the Son of God, a member of the royal family, and as such would not need to pay taxes.  See Matt. 17:24-27.  As far as this being a reference to the temple of the Lord's first coming, it does not seem that He “suddenly appeared” as in judgment, and the reference to “one that you seek” would have to be The Lord in His coming as their victorious King and their King of Peace.  They did not know to seek His coming to die for their sins.

Malachi 3:2-4.  The day of the Lord's second coming will be a day of judgment on the whole world, a day of disaster and death (Isa. 2:12; Joel 3:11-16; Amos 5:18-21; Zech. 1:14-18).  Malachi would speak of it as “coming like a furnace or an oven, and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze.”  Fire is very often connected with judgment, as when fire fell on Sodom and Gomorrah.

The images of fuller's soap and refiner's fire are very similar in meaning.  A fuller's soap separates dirt from cloth, shrinking and thickening it.  A refiner of silver or gold heats the metal to a high temperature to force the impurities out and retain the precious, pure metal.  Both of these things separate.  God will separate the wicked from the righteous.  Then the Lord will once again be pleased with the offerings as in the days of old and years gone by.

Malachi 3:5.  The Lord's judgment will include more than the Levites.  He will come near to the entire house of Israel for judgment.  He will judge lawbreakers—sorcerers (those who practice the occult), adulterers, those who swear falsely (everything from white lies to perjury in a high court), and those who are unjust and hard-hearted and show it by withholding the wages of the wage earner, by mistreating orphans and widows, and by refusing to help the alien.  In general, this would include all who do not “fear the Lord.”

How have you seen God working in your life to purify your life and refine your faith?

Who is my neighbor?  (Anyone I know who has a need that I am able to meet.)

Malachi 3:6-7.  These verse begin Malachi's fifth charge or command to the people, which was to Obey The Lord. Specific covenant-breaking sins are named and a means of repenting and returning is provided. The special charge against them is that they are robbing God in tithes and offerings.  This is made clear in Malachi 3:8.

The conjunction “for” or “because” used here in Malachi 3:6 shows that the truth spoken is related to what came before.  God has not changed.  He is the same as He has always been, and He will punish sin as He has always punished sin, unless there is genuine repentance.  God is a holy God and cannot countenance sin.  He will deal with it in His own people as well as in unbelievers.

However, because God does not change, He also does not simply consume His people who keep going astray.  He has patience, and He says that although you have gone astray from My statutes and have not kept them since the days of your fathers, I will still allow you to return to Me, if you will.  And He provides the opportunity to them of bringing to Him the full tithe and offerings as a demonstration of desire to please Him and follow Him fully.

Read Malachi 3:16-18.

This passage comes as part of the sixth charge or command from God through Malachi.  The sixth charge is that the people have been “arrogant” or “have spoken harshly” against Him (Malachi 3:13).  They have been saying that it is useless to serve the Lord.  They say it is of no profit to keep His charge and to walk in mourning before Him because they observe the doers of wickedness prospering.  They have observed that these people also even test or defy God and get away with it (Malachi 3:14-15).  In essence, then, by adopting this attitude the people have overruled God.  This is God's sixth charge against them. The idiom used in the original means to “overcome, overpower, overrule,” rather than to speak harshly or be arrogant.  The point is that the people have allowed their own opinion to prevail over God's.

Some commentators see this passage in Malachi 3:16-18 as identifying a pious remnant in Malachi's day who were faithful despite their hardships and who did not doubt God's justice but held tightly to the belief that He would ultimately reward faithfulness even if they did not prosper and enjoy abundance of blessings during their earthly lifetime. These people recognized that many in Judah of their own covenant group were overruling God by their rebellious attitude, and they did not want to be part of this group that did not fear the Lord.  They wanted to make a formal statement about it to the Lord.

So they spoke to one another about wanting to return and be faithful and renew their commitment to follow God in everything.  Then they compiled a “book of remembrance” in an effort to show their resolve to be loyal to Yahweh in the face of the skeptical majority's lack of faith.  It was likely a scroll containing their names and some kind of statement of their commitment to Yahweh in faith and their separation from the common sins.  In essence it was a covenant renewal document.  We might assume that Malachi himself was the instigator of this enrollment.  Ezra 10 and Nehemiah 7 may contain other examples of such memorial scrolls, although those became part of Scripture and this one did not.

God will be faithful to call those “His own” who are faithful.  They will be His special possession.  We are told that The Lord took notice and listened when they spoke to one another.  God says He will be a father to them in that He will have compassion on them in the day He is preparing.  God's people are not sinless, but if they fear Him and show a high regard for His Name, He will have compassion.

Some commentators see this “book of remembrance” as the Book of Life in Revelation 20, but this is unlikely. However, knowing that God does keep a book of remembrance in that He remembers the righteous and has a record of their faithfulness is a great encouragement to us as believers.

Read Malachi 4:1-2.

Malachi gives a vivid picture of the Day of the Lord as a day of burning fire.  It will consume every branch and every root.  Nothing will be left unconsumed of evildoers.

But the primary picture that the prophet is emphasizing is one of encouragement for the faithful.  It will be a day of unparalleled brightness and joy.  “The sun of righteousness will rise” and “there will be healing in its wings.”  The best translation is, “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings' . . . .”  Jesus is the Sun of righteousness, Christ at His Second Coming.  None will be sick when He comes and reigns. The Sun is capitalized and instead of “its” is the word “his” wings.  This is the authorized King James Version.  The joy described as this verse continues will be boundless, like that of calves being let loose from the stall to run and skip about.  It is a beautiful picture of innocence and purity, freedom and lightheartedness.  The wicked will no longer have any control, but the righteous will inherit the earth and rule it.

Malachi 4:5-6 (not part of our lesson focus, but very interesting) which close out this book speak of John the Baptist whom Jesus identified as the prophet who preached repentance just as Elijah did. (Matt. 11:14 and Matt. 17:11-13)  These verses seem to give the strongest verification from the mouth of Jesus that Elijah spoken of here is John the Baptist.

However, the Jewish people continue to “set a chair” for Elijah at their Passover Celebration tables and believe that Elijah will return before the coming of Messiah.  F. J. Dake's notes on this verse are as flows:  “This is part of the last prophecy in the O. T.  It concerns the return of Elijah the prophet (not John the Baptist or some other man) to the earth, from heaven, shortly before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord (Malachi 4:5-6).  At that time there will be one of the greatest spiritual awakenings in the history of mankind.  The hearts of fathers and sons, all children and parents, will be turned toward one another; families will be united in Christ; the Holy Spirit will be poured out upon all flesh and even all of Israel will be saved as a result of the ministry of Elijah and Enoch as in Malachi 4:5-6; and Rev.11:3-20; and all of Acts 2:16-21; Rom. 11:25-29; Isa. 66:7-8; and other scriptures will be literally fulfilled.  All this will come to pass instead of a curse upon the earth.” (F. J. Dake, Annotated Reference Bible)  This opinion may be interesting, as we will soon be studying Revelation.

John's coming and preparation for Jesus' ministry during His first coming was for the purpose of turning the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to the fathers before the great and terrible Day of the Lord that would divide the wheat and the chaff.  John called for repentance and preparing the hearts for the appearance of Jesus.

Jesus, at His first coming, like Malachi, prophesied to the priests with very stern warnings, about how they had corrupted their office.  He said they shut the kingdom of heaven off from the people and did not enter themselves.  He called them hypocrites and blind guides. Their prayers were a pretense, as were the swearing of oaths.  They tithed every tiny garden herb, but they neglected the matters of justice, mercy, and faithfulness.  It was like “straining out a gnat but swallowing a camel.”  Jesus said they were “sons of hell” and their end would be woeful (Matt. 23:13-32).  What was not accomplished at that time through Jesus' warning to the Scribes and Pharisees will be done at the time of the great and terrible Day of the Lord.  See verses 3 and 4 again of Chapter 3 (Malachi 3:3-4).  The work will be accomplished so that “the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.” 

(Note: Links like the following are found throughout this website.  They take one to Word Documents in my computer which has virus protection.  They are safe to open!)

Walking in the Light
1 John 1:5-2:6
By Carol Miller of
My Life Ministries 

June 14, 2015

Review Summary of Last Week: 1 John 1:1-4

Last week's lesson, “The Truth Presented” (Lifeway's title) consisted of the first four verses of 1 John, the apostle's Introduction to his first epistle.  John's epistles do not contain a formal salutation as do other New Testament letters.  John preferred to jump right into the main point of what he had to say to Christian believers.

He began by giving his eyewitness testimony about The Word of Life.  He was emphasizing the truth of the incarnation, which Jesus was the eternal Son of God who came to earth in human flesh and was manifested to men.  He was fully man, and He was fully divine.  He was the One who was with the Father from “the beginning that was without any beginning.”  John proclaimed his and others' testimony of hearing, seeing, looking upon, and touching Jesus, the eternal Word of Life, the Message from God who was God in human flesh and lived a life that exhibited a perfect message-in-action from God the Father of what Real life, True life looked like when it was lived out.

John's purposes went beyond simply proclaiming Who Jesus was, however.  He stated that proclaiming his eyewitness testimony was first of all for the purpose of enabling those who heard his message to have fellowship with them, the first believers, and all who had believed in Jesus after them; and more importantly, to have fellowship -- a real relationship -- with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ.

John proclaimed that his second purpose in writing was so that the joy of the believers, both those who already believed, and those who would come to believe would be made full and complete. Real joy would be the possession of all who believed on the Son of God in the full truth of Who He Was and Is, and who gained through Him a relationship with the Father.

True joy results from relationship with God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, and from fellowship with them and with all who have a like belief and relationship.

Thus, John highlighted three things; relationship, fellowship and joy in his introduction.

Context for Coming Chapters:  False teachers had begun to infiltrate groups of believers in various churches and elaborate false doctrines were beginning to develop which caused much confusion for the believers.  John needed to give the believers a correct understanding of the basic principles of being a true Christian and living an authentic Christian life.  This would involve their understanding the nature of God, the nature of sin, and the work Christ did to take care of the problem of sin.  It may be important to gain a little knowledge of some of the ideas involved in the heresies that were developing and taking a foothold in the minds of many.

The Basic Heresies of John's Historical Time Period

Cerinthian heresy: see below.

Gnosticism:  a strict dualism in which spiritual and material things were sharply distinguished.  The central teaching was that spirit is entirely good and matter is entirely evil.  From this unbiblical dualism flowed five important errors:

1.  Man's body, which is matter, is therefore evil.  It is to be contrasted with God, who is wholly spirit and therefore good.

2.  Salvation is the escape from the body, achieved not by faith in Christ but by special knowledge (the Greek word for “knowledge” is gnosis, hence Gnosticism.

3.  Christ's true humanity was denied in two ways:  (1) Some said that Christ only seemed to have a body, a view called Docetism, from the Greek dokeo (“to seem”), and (2) others said that the divine Christ joined the man Jesus at baptism and left him before he died, a view called Cerinthianism, after its most prominent spokesman, Cerinthus.  This view is the background of much of 1 John (see 1 John 1:1; 1:22; 4:2-3)

4.  Since the body was considered evil, it was to be treated harshly.  This ascetic form of Gnosticism is the background of part of the letter to the Colossians (Colossians 2:21-23).

5.  Paradoxically, this dualism also led to licentiousness.  The reasoning was that, since matter -- and not the breaking of God's law (1 John 3:4) -- was considered evil, breaking His law was of no moral consequence.

The Gnosticism addressed in the New Testament was an early form of the heresy, not the intricately developed system of the second and third centuries.  In addition to that seen in Colossians and in John's letters, acquaintance with early Gnosticism is reflected 1; 2 Timothy, Titus, 2 Peter and perhaps 1 Corinthians.

For Today's Lesson:  “Actions speak louder than words,” is an old adage appropriate for our lesson for today.  We often speak our “beliefs” in words.  But our actions will speak louder than our words will about what we truly believe.  Have your actions ever belied your stated beliefs?  What have you done about that?

Think about your actions over this past week.  What do they reveal about your beliefs?

John wrote to expose false teachers and to give believers assurance of their salvation (1 John 5:13).  He specifically struck at the false teachers' total lack of morality (1 John 3:8-10); and by giving eyewitness testimony to the incarnation, he sought to confirm his readers' belief in the incarnate Christ (1 John 1:3).

In the rest of 1 John 1 and through 1 John 2:28, John clearly spells out what it looks like to live out the Christian life as fellowship with the Father and the Son.  He tells us exactly what the true tests of genuine fellowship with God and His Son areWe are going to see that they are:

(1) Moral likeness to Christ or the Imitation of Christ's Character (1 John 1:5-7),

(2) Confession of Sin (1 John 1:8-2:2),

(3) Obedience to the Truth of God's Word (1 John 2:3-6), and

(4) Love for Fellow Believers (1 John 2:7-11.)  (In next week's lesson.)

READ 1 John 1:5-7.

1 John 1:5:  This is the chief and central message Christ came to deliver:  “God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all.”  We do not find it recorded in any gospel account that Jesus said it just like that, but John would not have forgotten that the Lord said it—either exactly this way, or made He made it very plain by all the various things He said.  John said firmly, “This is the message.  We heard it from Him.  We declare it to you.  God is Light.  In Him there is no darkness at all.”  The two symbols, “light” and “darkness,” form a dramatic contrast.  Light is a symbol of all that is holy, pure, good, true, and lovely.  Darkness symbolizes all that is sinful, unholy, immoral, impure, hateful, and hostile towards God.

John also used the symbol of light numerous times to describe the Light that was God in and through Jesus Christ.
 
In The Gospel of John, John wrote of Jesus, saying, “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it....He (John the Baptist) came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him.  He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light.  There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.”  John 1:4-5; 7-9.  So, Jesus was and is the Light, and Jesus is God the Son.

Of Himself, Jesus said,

“This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19)

Also, “I am the Light of the World; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” (John 8:12)

“While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.” (John 9:5)

“While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light.” (John 12:36)

“I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me will not remain in darkness.” (John 12:46)

And, in The Book of Revelation, John wrote “And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb.” (Rev. 21:23)

In 1 John 1:7, John will also say that He (God) is IN the Light.  John uses “darkness” ten times to refer to sin: John 1:5; 3:19; 8:12; 12:35 [two times], John 12:46; 1 John 1:5-6; 2:8-9.

(I will not include it here, but Ray Stedman's commentary has a wonderful study of what light does.  He says that light is on a physical plane, God is to every human experience.  We can better know the character of God by observing what light is, does and accomplishes — it reveals, it measures, and it energizes and imparts life.  This essay is well worth reading, since the term “light” is central to this passage. 

Go to Ray Stedman's 1 John: The Fruit of Fellowship with Christ , then click on Bible Studies in the Book of 1 John.)

F. J. Dake makes a good point for those who want to probe more of the doctrine of light:

“God is a person and dwells in a light that no man can approach unto; whom no man has seen in all His glory nor can see. The phrase God is Light does not constitute the being of God. It must be understood in the same sense that we understand God is love, God is good, God is a Spirit, God is a consuming fire, and other statements about Him. Also John uses it in the same sense that Jesus is The Way, The Truth, and The Life, or The Door.  These expressions do not do away with the reality and personality of God and Christ.  As the source of all wisdom, knowledge, holiness, and truth, God cannot have the least degree of ignorance, imperfection, sinfulness, and darkness.  God is to man what the sun is to our world, hence the importance of the message that God is Light and in Him is no darkness at all.”  (Dake's Annotated Bible)

As Light, God exposes man's sin and condemns it.  If anyone walks in darkness, he is hiding from the truth, which the Light reveals (John 3:19-20).  You might have someone read this passage of Scripture if you have not already used it above.  Of course, this speaks specifically of Christ Jesus.

(“This is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.  For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.”)

Question:  Can you name a common practice today that illustrates what John meant by walking in darkness?

Perhaps we could say that those who believe in New Age philosophies, or those who adhere to a cult like Jehovah's Witnesses or Scientology walk in the darkness.

Light is one of the most important words to understand in this lesson, because John is going to tell us that “if we walk in the Light,” we will receive the benefits of fellowship and the blood of Jesus for the cleansing of all our sin.  This is what a relationship with Christ provides for us.  But conducting ourselves “in the Light” is the absolute condition for receiving this benefit.

Some scholars have maintained that the false assertions which are condemned in 1 John 1:6, 8, 10 are those of the false teachers about whom John wrote more later. Our Lifeway Lesson presents it that way, and it does make sense that the false teachers would have made these assertions, but the kind of claims which John refuted are certainly also the kind which may also be made by Christians who lose touch with spiritual realities and with God.  We used to call falling into sin or a sin pattern that lasts for a while “backsliding.”  That term is not much used today.

1 John 1:6:  False teachers or “backslidden” Christians who are living in the condition of practicing sin both say this: “I am in fellowship with Him.”  If they don't literally say the words, they often continue to maintain an appearance of staying in relationship with The Lord by going to church, maintaining friendships with other Christians, and doing all the things they used to do before they fell into a sin habit of some kind.  But John says this is lying and not practicing the truth.  The assertion that “I am in fellowship with Him,” (by words or by hiding sin) is not right, and John calls it out as a lie.  It is hypocrisy.  It may come out as an expression of some kind of false mental and verbal gymnastics of a doctrine (false teacher), but I believe that more often today it is just hiding and not confessing sin.  It is possible to keep on with this hypocrisy until the one practicing it does not really recognize the practice as sin anymore; and then he is a grave danger of completely losing his treasured fellowship with Jesus and with God the Father.  Jesus gives a beautiful metaphorical illustration of this in the Gospel of John, John 15, where He talks about abiding in the vine.  The branch that does not abide (maintain fellowship and relationship) does not bear fruit and is ultimately cut off.

1 John 1:7:  John gives the opposite condition of walking in darkness and lying, and that is to “walk in the light” just as the Father is “in the light.”  The light of Truth is the only realm wherein there is true communion and fellowship with God.  God only and always acts in the Light of Truth.

As soon as we sense that we have said or done or entertained the thought of anything contrary to truth and truthfulness, we need to quickly confess it and change it, so that we can restore our fellowship with God. “One another” comes from the word allelon which may refer to two parties.  This would be certainly be God and the Christian, and that is what John means here.  But in actuality, all believers who walk and live in the light partner in fellowship with one another.

The distinctive note in John's teaching in this verse is that the blood of Christ CONTINUES TO OPERATE all the time in the lives of Christians who are walking in the light, “disinfecting us” from sin on a daily basis, even as we do not think about it.  Notice that John did not say that we should walk “according to the light” in order to receive this benefit of cleansing.  That would mean that we had to walk in sinless perfection in order to receive the blessing of cleansing through Christ's blood, and this is not possible for sinful humans.  To walk “in” the light, however, suggests openness and responsiveness to the light.  John clearly did not think of Christians as sinless, even though they are walking in the light; otherwise they would not have need for the blood of Jesus to continually cleanse them from all sin.

Then two things are true for believers who walk in the lightOne, they are in fellowship with God and Christ and two, they are being cleansed from every and all sin.

1 John 1:8, 9, 10:  John may really have only been thinking about false teachers as he made this statement.  Although, he does say “we,” it is hard to imagine any Christian thinking he “has no sin.”  Anyone who is born again would certainly be able to discern his own thoughts and motives and actions in the light of God's presence and notice that he does sin from time to time.  As John says, we are deceived if we think this.  The singular form of the word “sin” is used by John here.  This means he could have been referring to the sin nature, and it is possible false teachers thought we had no bent to sinning.

Certainly today there are cultist groups that believe that human beings are good by nature and only learn to sin by being cast into an environment in society and in their family where they learn it. Evolutionists believe man is getting better and better.  People who believe this see no need for salvation. There are also those who believe that believers are sinless after they are born again. They are not sinless even though they are “in the fellowship of the forgiven.”  Either back in John's lifetime or now, it is clear that reality as well as the Word of God shows us we have a sin nature, and we do commit sin at times as believers, although it would theoretically be possible, by practiced obedience to the Spirit, not to.  We can commit sin even though we are not conscious of it.  Jeremiah said that “the heart is deceitful above all things,” and he asked, “who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).  One teacher I heard teach quite a lot used to say, “We sin enough in our sleep to send us to hell with a broken back.”

1 John 1:9:  One of the most often quoted and beloved verses in the Bible, this verse is the promise we all are most thankful for.  All we must do is be completely honest, humble ourselves, and agree with God about our sin, and we reap two fantastic benefits:  the forgiveness of our sins and the cleansing away of our sin stains.  To “confess” means to speak the same thing God says or to “say with” God.  Hebrews 9:14

is a fabulous promise about the depth of this cleansing:

“... how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”

God cleanses us even from the guilt of our sin, so we remember it no more, and we are able to serve God with joy.

In Romans 5:2 Paul speaks of “this grace in which we stand,” and he means that, after we have been justified through faith in Christ, we have access to the throne of grace and are promised the continual forgiveness of our sins if we confess them and repent of them, and John then goes on to explain what Paul probably also meant, that a cleansing by the blood of Christ is going on continually in the lives of believers who are “walking in the light.”

Forgiveness gives us the cancellation of our debt, and cleansing is the removal of the stain.  The Old Testament saints did not have this kind of forgiveness of sins and removal of the stains, because the blood of Jesus had not been shed, and Jesus had not become our high priest. Their sins were covered, but not yet gone, until Christ, who was pictured in the animal sacrifices, actually died.

1 John 1:10:  John sounds like “the Son of Thunder” here, but of course he is inspired by the Holy Spirit, when he says, that if we say we have not sinned, we are making God a liar, and His Word is not in us.  We can't make God a liar, but we are trying to make Him out to be one if we say such an outrageous thing as that we have not sinned.  Romans 3:23 is the clearest statement in the New Testament about men and sin, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” And Paul had said in Romans 3:9 that both Gentiles and Jews are all under sin.  The fact that His Word is not in us, means The Truth is not in us.  Isaiah 53:6 says, “All we like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way;” and Jesus prayed for the Father to “sanctify” us in His Truth, the Word. (John 17:17).  Going back to Adam and Eve, sin was the problem for which God provided the remedy. 

1 John 2:1-2:

1 John 2:1:  John was quite elderly when he wrote this letter, and he had grown to love the believers deeply, as his own family. He uses this term seven times in this letter. Jesus also used this term of endearment, “my little children,” to address his disciples (John 13:33).

When John says he is writing these things to them that they may not sin, he means he is trying to help them guard against acts of sinning.  All sin could not be avoided, John knew, especially in the mind. Sin is a reality. But there should be growth towards holiness in every Christian life.  Acts of sin can be avoided if a believer realizes how easy it is to fall and commit a sin, so he prays and takes care to watch his thoughts.  John wanted believers to understand this tendency and how the Holy Spirit could help believers keep in close fellowship with the Father and avoid committing acts of sin. He was not telling believers these things to make them feel that they might as well give up.

Since sin is a reality, the believer needs to know what to do about it.  God has made the provision for taking care of this problem through the sacrifice of Christ. He had already told them to confess their sins when they realized they had committed them.  Now he tells them that they have One who will come alongside them to help them...the “Advocate, Jesus Christ the Righteous.”  The Greek word John uses here is parakleton which means Comforter, Advocate (as a lawyer), or Helper.  This is the same word as John uses in John 14:26 usually translated Helper, as one who will teach us all things.  It means The Holy Spirit when it is used here.

But Jesus Himself is our High Priest in the Holy of Holies in heaven, and when we sin, He acts as a lawyer for us, one who stands beside us and pleads in behalf of us, offering His own substitutionary death and His shed blood as a plea before God for our forgiveness.  When we are born again and justified, we receive “judicial forgiveness” (once and for all), but after we begin our process of sanctification, we will fall sometimes and our intimacy with the Father is broken.  Christ pleads for us, so that we may have “fatherly forgiveness” and restoration to fellowship with Him (Lifeway Commentary).

John gave us these precious promises back at 1 John 1:9:

1) God the Father is faithful,

2) He is fully righteous,

3) He will forgive and

4) He will cleanse us from ALL our unrighteousness.

The Father can do this and still be completely just because of Jesus' shed blood on our behalf. Jesus Christ was The Righteous One who qualified Himself by His perfection while dwelling here in the flesh to pay our sin price. He can present His sacrifice to God on our behalf, over and over again.  “The blood will never lose its power!”

1 John 2:2:  He, Jesus, is “the propitiation for our sins,” John says.  “Propitiation” means appeasing wrath or both appeasing the wrath of an offended person and being reconciled to him.  It means “the turning away of wrath by an offering.  For Christians, the propitiation was the shed blood of Christ on the cross. Romans 3:25 also refers to the propitiation as “the sacrifice of atonement.” His shed blood satisfied God's wrath against sin.  Propitiation can also literally refer to The Mercy Seat. Christ is pictured as the mercy seat where God's holy demands were satisfied in Lev. 16:14.

Hebrews 2:17 tells us that Jesus, perfected through suffering, became “a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”

John said He was the propitiation for the sins of the whole world, that is, the entire human race, and it would be effective for whoever would accept it.  It was sufficient to make payment for every sin of every human being who would ever live.  And, Christ's death and shed blood is the only payment for sin God will ever accept.

Question:  What evidence might show that regular confession of sin to God is a priority in a believer's life? How does it impact you as a believer to think about Jesus as your Advocate before the Father?

1 John 2:3: Here John returns to the subject of fellowship with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.  John gives us a test whereby we may make sure that we have come to know Him in a deep and personal way.  The Gnostics claimed to have special knowledge.  So John is making sure that he lets the believers know what the real test of knowing God is.  No man can keep the commandments of God on a regular basis of any kind unless he is born again. Only the indwelling of the Holy Spirit can enable a person to desire to keep God's Word and commands and give him the power to do so.  “For it is God Who is at work in us both to will and do of His good pleasure,” says Paul, writing to the Philippian believers in Philippians 2:13.  This is a great definition of the grace of God in action.  We can know that we know Him if we have that desire and that power at work in our lives.  The more we fellowship with Him and learn to follow after Him, the better we know Him.  Jesus promised His disciples a special kind of disclosure of Himself when they kept His commandments.  See John 14:24:

“If anyone loves Me, he will obey my teaching.  My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.  He who does not love me will not obey my teaching.  These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.”

1 John 2:4:  John goes back to his theme of our words needing to match up with our actions.  This time instead of “if we say,” it is “the one who says.” There is a huge difference between professing Christ and possessing Him.  Persons who are not trying to obey God's commands are demonstrating that they do not really know Him.  At John 14:15, Jesus taught that those who love Him will keep His commands.

1 John 2:5-6:  Fellowship with God has reached the point of truly experiencing the love of God more and more, even perfectly, when believers keep His word.  The word perfected used here means brought to maturity or full development.  It means God's love has come to the intended conclusion in the believer's life.  It is possible that John is referring to the believer's love for God, but probably it is best understood the other way around, in light of John 14:21-23.  Certainly it is true that when we have experienced God's love so much that we are moved to glad obedience, we are achieving His purposes for us. (Lifeway)

Another test for being certain that we are abiding in Him is that we imitate Him.  We walk just as He walked.  We walk in the light and obey His commands.  We confess our sins when we recognize them.  A good way to put it is to ask ourselves, “Am I Christ-like?”

Question:  How do you grade yourself on John's two tests for assurance that you know Him and are In Him?

1) Keeping His commands, and

2) Imitating Him in His life and walk?

(Note: Links like the following are found throughout this website.  They take one to Word Documents in my computer which has virus protection.  They are safe to open!)

Jesus Alone
1 John 5:1-12
By Carol Miller of
My Life Ministries
July 12, 2015

Maintaining Confidence / How We Can Be Sure

In this letter to us John condenses the basis of Christian faith and life down to its purest expression.  He teaches us what we absolutely must believe, must know and must practice, as well as what we must avoid in order to be a real believer, recognize other real believers and maintain confidence as to who we are as born again children of God, along with an ability to assess ourselves and continue to grow in faith and perfect our love throughout our lifetime, by the power of the anointing that indwells us and the mutual abiding of the Father in us, and we in Him.

Review Summary of Last Week

As we arrive at the last section of John's first letter to the churches in Asia Minor, for whom John was the only living eye-witness of Jesus Christ's earthly life and presence in the world, and the one whom they most held in high esteem as their “apostle of love,” their father in the faith, it would helpful to review the themes (not exactly one theme per chapter) he has set before them (and us) in the previous sections of the letter before seeing how he is going to conclude.

Fellowship

John's first theme was fellowship.  He began by sharing with his recipients that he and the other apostles who had now passed on had been eye-witnesses of Jesus throughout his earthly ministry, and they had seen him, beheld him, talked with and heard him, eaten with him, touched him, seen His miracles, seen Him transfigured, watched Him die and seen Him resurrected (1 John 1:1-2).  They testified to the incarnation – that He was fully the Son of God, the Christ, and also fully a man, completely human.  John said that The Father sent Him, and as The Word of Life (1 John 1:1), He lived out the message of God's love among them.

John explained that by receiving and believing in Jesus for Who He truly was and is, men would have fellowship, a personal relationship with Him and with the Father and then by extension with all other believers (1 John 1:3).  This fellowship would lead them to experience true joy and the quality of life that is eternal  (1 John 1:4).  Therefore, it was most essential that they avoid any deception about Jesus' true nature as being something other than a combination of deity and humanity.

Maintaining Fellowship

The next theme John presented was the theme of maintaining fellowship by living in the Light.  John explained that God is light and completely free of any darkness at all (1 John 1:5).  By walking in the light of truth believers would maintain that fellowship with God, Jesus, and one another (1 John 1:7).  John countered the lies of the false teachers who wished to say that believers may say “we have no sin, or have not sinned”.  John said this is not walking in the light, but in deception (1 John 1:8, 10).  And we make God (out to be) a liar; but God has caused us to have recourse concerning our sin: if we (acknowledge and) confess our sins (those sinful acts that we know about), Jesus, our Advocate, our Paraclete (Holy Spirit, Comforter, Helper), pleads for us and God forgives our sins (1 John 1:9).  Also, as we maintain a walk in the light, the blood of Jesus continually cleanses us from all sin that we might not know to recognize and confess (1 John 1:7).  In this way, we maintain a walk that is based in truth (our earthly, lived-out behavior in every area of life is our “walk”). (1 John 1:8, 10).

Maintaining Righteousness

The next theme John presented was that of maintaining righteousness.  John exhorted them to remember that it is impossible to love God and the world at the same time (1 John 2:15).  The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life are not a part of the life that is guided by God's truth and the keeping of His commandments.  Maintaining righteousness was not impossible or too difficult, because the believer has an anointing from God, The Holy Spirit, Who indwells him and teaches him the truth (1 John 2:24).  He can recognize error in doctrine and in the practice of the Christian life even apart from being regularly taught (1 John 2:27), although teaching and Bible study is certainly important and beneficial.  Christians must be wise to avoid listening to or being led by anyone who does not set it forth clearly at the beginning that the basis of what he teaches is that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ of God (1 John 2:22-23).

Maintaining Truth

John's fourth theme was that of maintaining truth.  The believer maintains truth in his life as he obeys the commandments of God to believe in His Son Jesus Christ and to love one another.  Keeping the commandments brings about abiding in Him and He in us (1 John 3:23-24).  It is necessary to test the spirits of teachers and their messages (1 John 4:1) in order to sense if the message is from God.  Knowing and obeying the commandments and believing rightly about Jesus Christ (1 John 4:2-3) enables us to discern antichrist spirits, demonic spirits and worldly spirits.  Maintaining truth in our lives enables us to truly love the brethren and all people.

Maintaining Love

John's fifth theme is maintaining love. He says that if God so loved us as to send His Son to be the propitiation for our sins, we ought, we have an obligation, to love one another (1 John 4:11).  We love God and there is a sense in which we see God and experience His love for us when we love one another (1 John 4:12, 16).  Walking in love with one another causes us to come to know that God has a great love for us and that He abides in us and we abide in Him (1 John 4:16).  Walking in love also gives us great confidence in the Day of Judgment because love cast out fear (1 John 4:18).  If we have fear, we can know that we are not perfected in love (1 John 4:18).  If our heart is set to follow God's commands, we recognize this fear and seek to walk in more love, so that we might please God more and so that this fear might be removed.  We are fully equipped by His indwelling Spirit and can easily recognize hate in our hearts and refuse it.  Hate cannot live long in a heart that is set on continually abiding in Him and following His command to love one another as He loved us.

John brings these themes together and reaffirms them as he emphasizes maintaining victory and confidence in 1 John 5.  Confidence may be defined as full trust, belief in the powers, trustworthiness or reliability of a person or thing.  Confidence overwhelms doubt and relaxes in certainty.  Who among us does not desire a life of confidence, poise, and ability to cope with life?  Genuine lived-out Christianity gives us this kind of life!  The secret is found in the themes John has discussed:  fellowship, righteousness, truth, and love.  Confidence dwells in faith and faith gives us the victory over everything in this world that would defeat us.

READ 1 John 5:1-3a.

1 John 5:1.  The false teachers tried to divide Jesus from the Christ.  They believed and taught that Christ was God but Jesus was only a man. They taught that God could not die; therefore, the Christ did not die.

Those who think like this are not born of God.  To be born of God we must believe that Jesus is the Christ.  We must believe that He came from heaven to earth, He was both God and man, and that He died as Jesus Christ (both) for us.  But death was not the end, because Jesus Christ arose from death back to life.  He accomplished what He came to do and rose from death to prove it.

It is absolutely necessary that we believe that Jesus is the Christ.  This means more than just to agree with this fact with our minds.  We must trust in Him and accept what He has done for us.

As we do this, He will change us, beginning with the new birth—a life that is born from above by His Holy Spirit entering our spirit (or heart, if you prefer to say that).  God gives us a new life; we become a new creation, old things pass away, and all things become new (2 Cor. 5:17).

1 John 5:2.  Now John moves from being birthed to loving the parent and the siblings.  That's logical.  Whoever loves parents, loves their children.  We do that just among our friends.  But certainly if we love our own parents, we love our brothers and sisters.  If we are born of God, God is our Father, and all who are likewise born of God are our brothers and sisters.  Therefore, we should also love them. This reasoning answers the unexpressed question raised in 1 John 4:21, “Who is this brother that I am supposed to love?”  It is anyone and everyone who is born of God!  Now, this is not, as Coleman says, a “cotton-candy” sentiment, but a genuine desire for that person's best, which may require from us an act of genuine service and sacrifice.  Zane Hodges says, “Whether or not a believer exhibits an admirable life, he should be an object of his fellow Christian's love.  This love does not spring from something lovable in the person himself, but from his paternity, since everyone who loves the Father loves His child as well.  Moreover, love for God's children is not mere sentiment or verbal expression, but is inseparable from loving God and obeying His commands.”

1 John 5:3a.  Love for God is this, that we obey his commands.  This is how we express our love for God.  If we love God, we will obey His commands.  Jesus said the same thing about Himself (John 15:10, 12-13).  This is the essential result of our love for God and for Jesus.

“Thus the apostle, by this series of statements, reduces love for God and one's fellow Christians to its fundamental character.  A person who obeys God's commands is doing what is right, both toward God and toward his fellow believers and is thus loving both God and them.  But it must be remembered that this includes the willingness to sacrifice for one's brother.” (Zane Hodges)

Keeping God's commandments is inseparably related to the command to love one another.

Ray Stedman emphasizes that Christians need to examine their tendency towards a sectarian, denominational spirit.  We can feel that we are responsible to love only those who belong to our particular group, whatever it may be.  For example, if I am Baptist, then I love only those who belong to the brand of Baptist church I belong to and the Southern Baptist Convention and who practice baptism by immersion.  (You get the picture.)  We are to love all the members of the family, wherever they are.  Our brother is he who shares the life of Jesus Christ, who is born of God, who believes that Jesus is the Christ.  That does not necessarily mean all who recite, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth; And in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; etc.”  Is everyone who says that a Christian?  The answer is, Of course not!  John is not talking about a mere creedal confession.  John's idea here is, everyone who believes that Jesus is Lord (for the Lord, Christ, is the word for Messiah, the Lord, the divine Person who was to come into human history.) Every one who believes that Jesus is his Lord, his supreme concern and authority in life, the One around whom his life is built—that one is in the family.  It does not make any difference whether he differs from me about the pre-tribulation rapture, or the method of baptism, or whatever else it may be, if he has the life of the Father and believes that Jesus is Lord, then he is a brother. (Ray Stedman 1 John 5:1-6 We Shall Overcome)

But are Christians only to love other Christians?  No, but that is where love is to begin.  It starts in the family circle before we move outside.  Then we gradually reach out to encompass the world as well.  The love of a Christian is never limited merely to other brothers, but it does at least begin there.

Another important aspect of loving that we need to have clear in our minds is being able to know that we are truly loving our Christian brother.  Sometimes we have differences of opinion and we do not agree.  Sometimes I may do things that seem to offend my brother. I may make him unhappy by what I do.  Does that mean I don't love him?  The answer is in 1 John 5:2: “By this we know that we love the children of God when we love God and obey His commandments.”  Our actions toward our brother need to arise not out of personal feelings toward him, but out of our love for God and our desire to obey His Word.  When love is expressed by righteousness, we can be sure it is really love.  For example, if someone asks us to lie for them, we can tell them we love them enough to refuse to lie for them and encourage their tendency to lie.  It is wrong and destructive to that person's life.  It may not please them, but it is loving them, and it is also loving God and obeying God's commands.

READ 1 John 5: 3b-5.

1 John 5:3b.  His commandments are not burdensome because “it is God who works in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).  God gives us that motivation to do His will by His Holy Spirit power within us from the time of the new birth.  God working in us both to motivate us and to empower us is the dynamic definition of “grace.”  The “unmerited favor” of God that causes Him to love us enough to send His Son to die for us is a static kind of grace, but “dynamic grace” is an inward motivation and power that brings forth action.  You have heard people say, “I just don't have grace for that!”  That is what it meant by desire and power.  John says it is not burdensome to keep God's commandments because He is the One who is bearing the burden of making it happen.  We only need to yield.  Also, when we love someone, we desire to do what pleases them.  A Christian loves to do whatever God wants him to do.

1 John 5:4.  Our faith helps us to overcome the world and everything that comes against us.  Our new birth is the event that frees us from the world's system and ways.  We can live in this world but not be “of it.”  We can be different from it.  Our new birth takes away the rule of the devil over our lives.  The world means all that opposes God, the church, and Christian believers.  It may be persecution of the Christians, or it might be temptation to do wrong things.  Many things try to destroy a Christian's trust in the Lord Jesus; but in all these things, God gives the strength to overcome.

We overcome the world when we first trust in Christ.  He has already fought and won the battle for us and we are born into the success that He has won.  Now we have to continue on in that success by trusting in Him.  In this pressing on, we can overcome the world and its sinful pattern in our lives.  It is our faith that wins.  Our faith is our trust in Christ and what we believe.  We believe that Jesus is the Christ and we believe that He is the Son of God.  We trust Him to save us and to keep us from all evil. As we see continuing day-to-day victories over the world's pressures to conform us to its ways, we overcome in life.  We expect Him to do all that God has promised.  This belief and trust leads to the defeat of the world in our lives.  So, as John says, by our faith, we overcome the world.

1 John 5:5.  Who is the one who overcomes the world?  He who believes that Jesus is the Son of God!  And by turning this this statement around into a question, John makes it clear that it is nobody else but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.  Some people may make it look like they are overcoming the world and everything that comes against them, but they surely are not.  The only one who can possibly overcome the world is the believer in Jesus Christ.  Jesus has already overcome it, and we who believe in Him enter into that ongoing life of victory.  When we overcome the world, we need to think, “It is not I who have overcome in this instance, but Jesus Christ in me has overcome this.”

When we consider the tremendous pressures of living in this world today, what we are up against, we must confess that we cannot overcome this world.  The temptations to cheat and to lie and to get ahead at all costs and to take advantage of others in order for selfish gain, and on and on and on it goes, we must realize that we need a power besides our own frail human power.  How in the world can we overcome the lusts of the flesh, the eyes, and the boastful pride of life as it runs past us every day and every hour?  We can only overcome by joining ourselves up with Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit power He has placed inside of us and trusting Him.

A ship captain tells of going through a tremendous storm consisting of mountainous seas, waves mounting on every side, and the wind blowing hard with stabbing rain coming down.  The ship seemed a helpless victim of the storm, certain to drown beneath the mighty element raging on every side.  But the captain said, “I stood there on the bridge of the ship grasping the railing.  I felt the throb, throb, throbbing of the engines deep down inside the hull.  The storm, the wind, and the waves seemed to be saying to the ship, 'You cannot come, you cannot come.' But I heard the answering throb of the engines saying, 'Yes we shall, yes, we shall, yes, we shall.'  And so we did.”  And that is the way the battle is won.  That is the way we overcome the world.

READ 1 John 5: 6-9.

Ryrie's note sums this passage up fairly well.  “Water symbolizes Jesus’ baptism, and blood symbolizes His death.  These are mentioned because Jesus’ ministry began at His baptism and ended at His death.  John is reacting to the heretics of his day who said that Jesus was born only a man and remained so until his baptism.  At that time, they maintained, the Christ (the son of God) descended on the human Jesus, but left Him before His suffering on the cross—so that it was only the man Jesus who died.  Throughout this letter John has been insisting the Jesus Christ is God as well as man.  He now asserts that it was this God-man Jesus Christ who came into our world, was baptized and died.  Jesus was the Son of God not only at his baptism but also at his death (1 John 5:6b).  This truth is extremely important, because, if Jesus died only as a man, his sacrificial atonement would not have been sufficient to take away the guilt of man's sin.  The Spirit who testifies: The Holy Spirit testifies that Jesus is the Son of God in two ways: (1) The Spirit descended on Jesus at His baptism (John1:32-33), and (2) He continues to confirm in the hearts of believers the apostolic testimony that Jesus' baptism and death verify that He is the Christ, the Son of God. (1 John 2:27; 1 Co. 12:3).

Jesus went through baptism to start His work.  At His baptism, His cousin John the Baptist did not want to baptize Him because of knowing His purity and sinlessness.  But Jesus was going to die for the sin of all men as their representative.  As their representative, he assumed the burden of guilt and sin for the whole race.  Therefore, He went through the repentance they needed to exhibit on their behalf.  But His Father, God, sent the dove and His voice, declaring Jesus' identity as His Son and Jesus' purity by voicing that He was well-pleased with Him.  Thus Jesus “came by the water,” being declared to be the Son of God by the voice of His Father in heaven.  But Jesus' sinless life is insufficient to help us.  Jesus had to come also by the blood.

John says this One, Jesus Christ, also came by blood. Not just Jesus came by blood, but Jesus Christ came by blood.  Jesus the Christ actually died.  Jesus and the Christ are one person.  The false teachers said that the Christ left Jesus before death.  They thought that the Christ, as God, could not die.  But Jesus Christ is both God and man, and He died for us.

Faith cannot latch onto the example of a sinless life and be enabled to live victoriously. We know we can't do it just because He did it!  How absurd.  But faith can attach to an atoning sacrifice, a life poured out not for Himself, but for us and for others, for the sins of the whole world.  The death of Jesus for us is something we can latch onto because He takes our place, He takes our sin, and He pays for it.  We need it.  He did it.  We can enter into it.  Only God could do that, and He could only do it as a man who was made just like us.

The Spirit of God adds to the evidence of the water and the blood.  He shows the truth to those who believe.  He tells us that Jesus is the Christ in both His baptism and His death. Jesus Christ is the Son of God.  The Spirit of God reminds us about how Jesus lived.  He tells us what Jesus did.  We can trust all that the Spirit of God shows us.  He is the truth.  He is the origin of truth.  His nature is truth.  He always speaks what is true.  He never says anything that is false.

1 John 5:7-8.  There are three that bear witness or testify.  The Spirit of God tells us the same thing as the water and the blood.  We can depend on the evidence of these three witnesses.  Under the old law there had to be two or three witnesses to prove a matter (Deuteronomy 19:15).  The Spirit of God tells us the same as the water and the blood.  This third witness is a mysterious, subjective witness that testifies within.  The evidence He gives us is powerfully compelling even though it is unheard by the ears and unseen with the eyes.  We feel it personally when the Spirit gives His witness.  As the story of Jesus' death on our behalf is told, it becomes personalized for us and we are convinced of the truth.  Christ died for the world.  He died for me.

We can depend on the evidence of these three witnesses.  This evidence shows that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

The water and the blood are facts of history.  The Spirit of God was there on those occasions and He is now a witness who bears testimony to these facts.

1 John 5:9.  “We accept man's testimony, but God's testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which He has given about His Son.”

If we listen to the testimony of men, how much more should we listen to the testimony of the Spirit of God?  God's words are more important than people's words.  God speaks what He knows and nobody else can speak with such authority.

READ 1 John 5:10-12.

1 John 5:10.  People who deny that Jesus Christ is the Son of God simply have not believed God's words.  Since God cannot lie, anyone who does not believe in Jesus is making God out to be a liar, because God has testified to the truth that Jesus Christ is His Son.  But those who believe the testimony God has given about His Son have the testimony, the witness, the evidence, in their hearts.  It lives and speaks to them that Jesus Christ is God's Son, the Savior of the world, and the One Who died for them.

To receive the Son is to receive the Father.  To deny the Son is to deny the Father.  It is impossible to accept the Father and receive Him by Himself without accepting the Son, because the Father has borne witness that Jesus Christ is His Son, and anyone who will not believe the Father cannot have the Father.  In modern terms, the Father has declared that what He has provided for our salvation is a package deal.  In order to have Him, we have to accept the Son and what the Son has accomplished on our behalf.

1 John 5:11.  This is the testimony, the witness,---God has provided for us eternal life!  By accepting His Son, we receive the gift of eternal life.  Jesus has the eternal life in Himself.  He has shown it to us and lived it out before us.  It is the gift of God that comes with receiving Him and His death on the cross as the payment for our sins.  Eternal life is life now with and God, but it does not end now.  It never ends, but it goes on and on forever!  Those who receive this eternal life will not only experience it here on this earth and live in victory over the world but will live on with God and Jesus forever and ever.  If they die a normal death in their flesh, they will not die in their spirit.  They will never die, but they will live forever, and that eternal life is an indescribable quality of life that expands beyond the ability of anyone to describe when it leaves this earth and enters the eternal realm of heaven.

1 John 5:12.  This eternal quality of life, and never ending continuance of life, is ours in and through Jesus Christ, God's Son, and there is no other way to obtain it.  God says that “he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

If time permits, read the rest of the chapter (1 John 5:13-21) to close.

For those of you who were at our meeting one night when I recalled a verse, but could not remember where it was found, well here it is: 1 John 5:16.  “If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life.  I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death.  There is a sin that leads to death.  I am not saying that he should pray about that.”  Ray Stedman makes some good comments on it.  People have different ideas about a sin that leads to death.  I like what Ray Stedman says.  It is a bit lengthy but is online at Ray Stedman 1 John 5:14-17 Praying Boldly.

Zane Hodges says, “When a Christian sees another Christian sin in a way that is not fatal, he is instructed to pray for him and God will give him life.  The word “God” is not in the original, but it is properly supplied as in the NIV.  However, John reminded his readers that there is. ... .sin that leads to death.  There is no need for the word a before “sin.”  John was not likely thinking of only one kind of sin.  The NT example cited earlier in Acts 5:1-11 was a flagrant violation of the sanctity of the Christian community.  It is not necessary for a Christian to be absolutely sure which flagrant sins are punishable by swift death as long as he can recognize many which are not.  He is commanded (wow, I did not realize this) to pray regarding sins which are not punishable by swift death.  Even for other sins, where a greater seriousness seems attached to them, Christians have the freedom to pray.  John's words about fatal sin are, I am not saying that he should pray about that.  But this clearly does not forbid prayer even in the most serious cases.  But naturally in such cases believers will submit their prayers to the will of God.  In contrast, with regard to sins not punished swiftly by death, Christians, on the basis of this verse, should be able to pray with confidence...”  (I add, for other Christians, “I am afraid that for our nation.  I do not have a great deal of confidence, except in 2 Chronicles 7:14, since God promises that if His people pray and humble themselves. . . . . .He will heal their land.”)

(Note: Links like the following are found throughout this website.  They take one to Word Documents in my computer which has virus protection.  They are safe to open!)

Biblical Support for a Pre-Tribulation Rapture
By Carol Miller of My Life Ministries
August 30, 2015

I.  What is the Rapture?

Christians most commonly are referring to the Rapture of the Church when they speak of The Rapture. The word “rapture” does not appear in the Bible.  But the word comes from the Latin word Rapere, which is used in the Latin translation of the Bible where our Bible says “caught up.”  It can also mean “to seize.”

II.  Where do we find the Rapture?

The Rapture of the Church is most commonly pointed out in I Thessalonians 4:13-18 where Paul is teaching the believers at Thessalonica.  Secondarily, it is often pointed to in I Corinthians 15:51-52 where Paul is teaching the Corinthians about resurrection bodies.  There are raptures that involve other people than the Church, certain prophets, the Apostle John, the two witnesses of Revelation 11:12.

I Thessalonians 4:13-18:

There will be a resurrection of all the believers who have died since the time of Christ.  Their bodies will rise and reunite with their souls.  Living Christians will be “caught up,” taken up off of the earth, pass through death into immortal bodies instantly, and join the resurrected saints and Christ for a glorious meeting in the air.

1 Corinthians 15:51-52:

Paul says he is relating a mystery.  This is a “bride truth,” and like many “bride truths,” it involves some hidden mysteries that have to be revealed through the Holy Spirit.  In Matthew 13, Jesus speaks in parables about many bride truths that contain hidden truth that the Holy Spirit must reveal.  In I Corinthians 15:52 Paul says  "the dead are raised incorruptible and we (alive believers) shall be changed."

The doctrine of The Rapture and its timing, as it relates to the Tribulation Period of Seven Years that will usher in the Second Coming of Christ, is not a doctrine that should divide believers.  We should be careful NOT TO ALLOW it to divide us or become a contentious subject, because as doctrine it certainly does not have the weightiness of importance in the greater scope of our faith as do such doctrines as the Deity of Christ, or The Substitutionary Atonement, or The Inspiration of Scripture, or The Triune Nature of God (the Trinity), or other practical things.

However, because it bumps right up in its timing with the occurrence of the Tribulation Period prophesied in the prophets, especially Daniel, and spoken of by Jesus in Matthew 24, and will either coincide with, or be a part of, or conclude at the same time as this terrible time of great trouble, stress, persecution, and death on the earth.  It carries a great weight of feelings and emotions with it.  Knowledge about it can administer great comfort, or can stir up fear and serious discomfort.

Christians need not ignore it, because we do need to know about it.  Whether it is for comfort (we can need that) or for admonition, we need to prepare and be ready to face great difficulty (we all need that!). 

III.  Human History

The Chart of Human History I've handed out is helpful in seeing important dispensations or time periods in which God works in a particular way and certain events occur.  Note where, in the plan of God for the ages, many Christians believe the Rapture will occur:

Believers being taken up to the barn and the Judgment Seat of Christ.

Jesus returning in the Second Coming or The Appearing (to the world).

The judgment of the Jewish people occurs at the Return of Jesus to the earth just before setting up His throne for the Millennial Kingdom.

IV.  The Character of the Tribulation Period

Note the Placement of The Tribulation Period of Seven Years and the Scripture passages that address this time period.  Others are Jer. 30:6-7; Jer. 4:31; Isa. 64:7; Ezek. 22:31; Hosea 5:14-6:3; Mat. 24:21-22; Luke 21:25-26 and Revelation 6-17.  In all of these passages the character of the Tribulation Period is shown to be a time of the out-poured wrath of God.  It is a horrific time like no other in all of human history.  It is God's judgment on godless Gentile powers and upon the unbelieving Jewish people.  It is global in scope, as was Noah's flood.  It is a time of wars, pestilence, turbulence caused by earthquakes, falling stars, famine, sword, wild beasts attacking, most likely nuclear war and chemical war, the waters of the sea and of the rivers being turned to blood or poisoned by falling bodies from the sky (Wormwood),  and the sea creatures dying, the sun, moon, and stars smitten, the shaft of the abyss opened up, and the antichrist desolating Jews (2/3 killed; Zech. 13:8) and believers in Christ who come to Him during the Tribulation Period. It is a time when God will purge and purify His people Israel and punish and destroy evil world rulers.  So, it is different in character from the hard times we now live in and in which hundreds of thousands of Christians are being persecuted and Jews are hated.  These persecutions occurring today are as bad for those experiencing them as will be the persecutions of many people during the Tribulation.  But it is not the time period designated by God for meting out judgment and pouring out His wrath on the world to destroy evil and purify the Jewish people to prepare them to receive their Messiah prior to His Son's return.  God is at this time judging people in various places on earth and sending harbingers of approaching worse judgment in response to man's rebellious activities and defiance of His laws; but He is not pouring out His wrath on the whole earth as He will be doing during the Tribulation.  The days we live in are the times Paul described in his second epistle to Timothy as the last days, and they are characterized by extremely difficult, perilous behavior of men.  But they are not days of the out-poured wrath of God.

It is important to understand this difference in the character of the time periods, because God's wrath and judgment has been removed from Christians due to the fact of the shed blood of Jesus Christ for them.  Christians can be severely dealt with by God in chastisement, but it is not judgment; it is discipline.  Christians from the Church Age make up the Bride of Jesus Christ, and for that reason they will not experience the time of God's out-poured wrath.  In Revelation 2; 3, the seven letters from Christ to the Churches, form a picture in typology of the full and entire Church Age, and Christ says to the Church at Philadelphia, who represents the true church, “Because you have kept the word of my perseverance, I will also keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.” Those things which come out in typological pictures convey important points of doctrine regarding God's dealings.

Other Scriptures that confirm this truth are I Thess. 5:4-10:

But you, brethren. Are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day.  We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as other do, but let us be alert and sober, For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night, But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation, For God has not destined us for wrath, (different from condemnation) but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him;” I Thess. 1:10, “to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come;” Luke 21:28, “When these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

The seven year Tribulation Period of time, with its specific purposes, which we will examine in a moment as outlined in Daniel's prophecy of the Seventy Weeks of Years, is not a time period that contains any purposes of God that are directed towards or include the Church.

(Editor's Note: See Daniel’s Seventy Weeks.)

V.  The Church

The Church is an entity separate from the Nation of Israel. God's Purposes for The Church will be accomplished during the Church Age. The Church Age will end at the Rapture, and the Tribulation Period will begin, in order for God to accomplish another purpose.

I Peter 2:9:

Peter says of the Church “for you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

The Church is made up of Gentiles and Jews in one body, but is not a Gentile nation and not the nation of Israel.  It has not replaced the nation of Israel as “Replacement Theology” would attempt to teach.  In this Church Age of approximately 2000 years, God is dealing with the Church, refining the believers in the Church, giving them His grace and favor through Christ. In this present Church Age God is not focusing on His dealings toward the people of Israel, although He is bringing them into a position to be dealt with concerning the everlasting covenant He has made with them through Abraham and David. He will begin to deal with them and focus His purposes upon them in the upcoming Tribulation, as spoken to Daniel.  God does not direct His favor toward or deal with two peoples at the same time.  His dispensations concentrate on one major, basic purpose and people at a time.

The Church is the “heavenly people,” the “bride of Jesus Christ;” the Jews are “the earthly people,” the “wife of Jehovah God.”  Originally the Jews were to inherit the Kingdom of God just as they expected when they asked Jesus, “Is it at this time that you are going to restore the Kingdom to Israel?”   But in Matthew 21:43 Jesus said, “the Kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a NATION producing the fruit thereof.”  This “newly created nation” is The Church. The heavenly portion of the Kingdom, ruling as co-heirs with Christ, originally to be by Israel, has now been given to the Church.  But Israel will be God's earthly people fulfilling the covenant made to Abraham.

God promised two peoples to Abraham (Genesis 22:17), “I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars  of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore...”

Israel will occupy Abraham's land grant in the Millennium, and the Church will rule with Christ from the heavenlies (The New Jerusalem being Her Home).  Notice that the reward to the apostles, as co-heirs with Christ (Matt. 19:28), will be to rule, each apostle, over one of the twelve tribes of Israel.  This is because the apostles were Jewish before they became believers in the Church Age.  They followed Christ, and they will gain the co-heir ship with Christ to rule earthly nations, of which the Jews will be one -- certainly the greatest and most glorious one -- but just one earthly nation!

The point of separating these two entities is to understand the one entity (the Jewish people) will go through the Tribulation Period so the purposes of God will accomplished with them, and the other (The Church, the Bride of Christ) will not go through it because God's purposes are other than this for that entity.

God is a God of order.  He will not appoint 144,000 Jewish evangelists and seal them on their foreheads in a way that prevents them from dying, and send them out into the world experiencing the wrath of the Tribulation, to evangelize the nations with The Gospel of the Kingdom, which is what they will be preaching (Jesus the King is Coming Soon, just as John the Baptist preached before Jesus' Coming the first time) but at the same time leaving behind believers in the church to continue the work of preaching the Gospel of Grace to every nation.  He would have to seal all the left behind Christians on their foreheads, too, because if not, they would almost all die before the Rapture at the end of the Period, since most believers of that period will die a martyr's death.  This is not the destiny of the Bride of Christ. God is assigning the 144,000 to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom to every nation, and then the end will come, says Jesus in Matthew 24:14.  Because they neglected their assignment to be a light to the nations of the world, the Jews will be given a second opportunity, and they will succeed magnificently, winning a multitude that no man can number (Revelation 7:9-16).  Those won by this group are referred to as Tribulation saints, or “those who came out of the Great Tribulation.”  They are not called Christians, but of course they are believers.  They are saints and they are elect, as are all the people of God.  The elect Jesus refers to in Matthew 24:22 are the elect Jews who will be protected and saved at the end of the Tribulation, and the saints won during the Tribulation by the 144,000, as well as by other acts of God during the Tribulation, brought out in the book of Revelation.

VI.  Daniel's “Prophecy of the 70 Weeks of Years” in Daniel 9:24-27 is God's Answer to Daniel's Fasting, Prayers, and Questions Concerning the Future of His Nation, Israel, and It's People.

In this prophecy God gives Daniel a complete answer to his questions and pleadings for his people, the people of Israel.  God shows Daniel the complete time in numbered years that He will deal with Israel before completing their full restoration to Him.  He does not ever reveal to Daniel the mystery of The Church. He completely leaves that part of His great plan for humanity out.  He shows Daniel 70 groups of 7 years wherein He will work to complete His plans for the people of Israel.  He shows him a breakdown of 7 groups of 7 years, or 49 years; then another set of 42 groups of 7 years or 434 years; then He shows him 1 more set of 7 years.

7 groups of 7 years, from Cyrus' decree till the city is rebuilt= 49 years

62 groups of 7 years, from that time, until Messiah the Prince's being cut off=434 years

1 group of 7 years, not necessarily chronological, for the Antichrist to come and destroy until he is destroyed.

God did not show Daniel that there would be a 2000 year gap between the 69th and the 70th group of years.  But everything He said to Daniel about the first 69 groups of 7 years was entirely directed to the nation Israel.  By God's sovereign will, after the 60th group of 7 years, the time-clock on God's favor working towards Israel ran out for an interval of 2000 years, and God began working on behalf of the Church.  But that one group of 7 years that applies specifically to Israel has not yet been fulfilled.  It remains, but will be fulfilled when God finishes His purposes for Israel, which He told to Daniel: 

 “Seventy weeks have been decreed for YOUR PEOPLE and YOUR HOLY CITY, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the MOST HOLY PLACE (the Millennial Temple).”

These are all purposes of God directed towards Israel.  The 70th week (or set of seven years) is not an exception.  The church is not included in this prophecy in any way.  Therefore, it would seem clear that The Church began at Pentecost and will exit up to the heavens in the Rapture and appears at The Judgment Seat of Christ before the 70th week of Daniel's prophecy time-clock starts back up.

Understanding this timing of the entrance and exit of the Church makes 2 Thessalonians 2:7 understandable:

“... he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way.” 

In 2 Thessalonians 2:6 Paul says, “you know what now restrains him now, so that in his time (the antichrist's) he will be revealed.” Using the neuter and the masculine pronouns here, Paul is speaking most likely about the Holy Spirit's presence in the Church being a restraining influence that keeps the antichrist from being able to manifest on earth and win over the Gentile nations to his evil design.  When the light and salt that are in the Church are taken out because the Church is gone in the Rapture, the human nature of man left here in the masses of people will respond receptively to the deceptions of satan perpetrated by this evil individual whom Paul calls the “man of sin” and John calls “the antichrist.”

VII.  There are numerous fascinating types of the Rapture which show that the timing of the Rapture of the Church will be preceding a great judgment.

In the book of Genesis, which is a seed plot book for all the major doctrines in the Bible, Enoch is taken up in a type of the Rapture, as recorded in Genesis 5:24: “Enoch walked with God and he was not, for God took him.”  Enoch's life preceded the life of Noah and the time of a world-wide flood that God brought to destroy the world at that time.  Nothing is in the Bible by chance.  Enoch “walked with God.” He is a picture of the Christian whose essential characteristic is that he “walks with God.” Noah's Ark is a picture of the Jewish believers going through and surviving the horrific Tribulation period by God's protection.

Genesis 24 also contains a type of the Rapture involved in Isaac's marriage to Rebekah. The servant of Abraham (a type of the Holy Spirit, who is God the Father's servant) chooses Rebekah to be the bride for Isaac, a type of Christ.  The Holy Spirit leads Rebekah back to Isaac's land, and when they come near, Isaac goes out into the field (a type of the world) to meet Rebekah who is moving towards him by the leading of Eleazar the servant.  They meet in the middle of the field, a picture of Christ and the Church meeting together in the air above the earth.  Also significant is that Isaac's marriage to his bride precedes Abraham, his father, making a second marriage to Keturah.  And note that although Sarah (a type of Israel before the Millennium) was barren, Keturah (a type of Israel during the Millennium) is very, very fruitful.  Abraham should not have been physically able to produce children, but he does.  God builds the type here, despite the physical inconsistencies, so that we can see what the plan of God includes.

A third type of the Rapture is that of Lot's removal from Sodom before the judgment falls.  In Genesis 19:22, the angel appointed to destroy Sodom tells Lot, “Hurry, escape there, for I cannot do anything until you arrive there.”  When Lot got to Zoar, the Lord rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah.  Lot was a believer, but his life was not marked with great victory.  He had made a poor choice and was not at all faithful as Abraham was.  Yet he was of the family with whom God was in covenant, and he had to be taken out before the judgment could fall.

Elijah was taken up in a great whirlwind and a chariot of God before the Lord slew Jezebel, the evil spirit that ruled the day during that period of Israel's history (2 Kings 2:11). This is another type of a Rapture preceding a great judgment. Elijah will return during the Tribulation period as one of the two witnesses in the streets of Jerusalem (Revelation 11:12).  There is a voice that speaks after the two witnesses arise from the dead, “Come up here.”  And the two are translated.

There is another type of the Rapture in the book of Revelation.  In Revelation 4 John sees a door open in heaven, in Revelation 4:1, and he hears a voice that sounds like a trumpet saying, “'Come up here,' and I will show you what must take place after these things.” The words “Come up here” are words that are powerful enough to escort the addressee upward.  John goes into heaven and finds the church there already before the throne, wearing white robes, and casting crowns before the throne of God.  The Church does not appear on earth again in the book of Revelation, but is seen in heaven in Revelation 11:15-18; 19:7-8. It would not have been necessary for God to take John to heaven to show him what would take place in the Tribulation.  But God wanted to set forth the type of the Rapture of the Church and the Church's presence in heaven during the Tribulation, and He chose to set it forth that way. 

The Feasts of the Lord are extended types of the realities of God's plan for the salvation of man.  Jesus fulfilled each of the spring feasts exactly, perfectly in timing to the day and the hour.  When the lambs were being slaughtered for Passover sacrifices in 33 A.D., Jesus was put on the cross of Calvary.  It was at the very hour.  The pattern was first set in Exodus, at the Passover involving Israel's exit from Egypt.  The Israelites had to hurry to bake their bread without yeast and leave Egypt hurriedly.  So Jesus had to be hurriedly put in the tomb to avoid going into the Sabbath with the burial preparations.  Like the unleavened bread for the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Jesus had no leaven, no sin, in Him.  He was buried at the time the Israelites were cleansing their homes of leaven in observance of the feast.  On the day of the celebration of First Fruits, Jesus, the First Fruit from among the dead to arise in a glorified body, arose.  It was exact timing of the Feast of First Fruits.  Then 50 days later, at Pentecost, Jesus sent His Spirit to indwell the individual believers in the Church.  It was a second touch of power from above at the exact moment.

Jesus has not fulfilled the fall feasts of Trumpets, Atonement, or Tabernacles.  But He will fulfill them in that exact order at the set time and these feasts belong to His second Coming scenario.  Trumpets are seen in I Cor. 15:52 and I Thessalonians 4:13-17,  At the celebration of Feast of Trumpets, the usual way of blowing the trumpet (shofar) is with one hundred blows on the trumpet, giving notice of the New Year's arrival, according to the citing of the New Moon by two separate witnesses. When the last blast on the trumpet (shofar) is sounded, it is followed by three sets of 33 shorts blasts.  The last blast is long and grows louder and louder. That blast is “the last trump.”  People look throughout the Bible for where the last trump can be found, but if we understand that Jesus will fulfill the feasts, one by one, in order and that it is the fall feasts that remain to be fulfilled, we can see that “the last trump” refers to the last blast of the trumpet which is sounded on that Feast Day. This is seeing Scripture in context, which is the only way to discover which trumpet is meant by “the last trumpet.”

This feast fits well with the picture of the Jewish bridegroom taking his bride and bringing her to his father's home where he has built her a house for the two of them.  It would seem logical that Jesus would choose his bride in the manner of Jewish bridegrooms.  He would also prepare the place for her in the manner of Jewish bridegrooms (John 14:2-3).  The bridegroom waits until the father inspects and approves his house for the bride to be, then allows the son to go and bring her back. He has made the engagement, she is awaiting his coming, and when he goes for her he brings the bridal party with him.  They come late at night and when they near her home, the bridegroom shouts and there is the blast of a trumpet.  She then has a short few minutes to gather all of her essentials before he arrives.  They go back to the father's house and their new house and go inside for,(guess how many), seven days!  Then they announce the consummation of the marriage and enjoy a great banquet with all the wedding guests. Here again, there is a seven year period in heaven of the bride and the bridegroom portrayed in this type found in Jewish historical practice.

VIII.  Imminence is taught throughout the New Testament in connection with the Rapture of the Church

Matthew 24:36-50:

The church, from the beginning, believed that the coming of the lord was imminent.  “This truth has continued to be the star of hope to saints weary of this world, and it abides as the hope of the church in the twentieth century.”  See John Walvoord's book, The Rapture Question and 50 Reasons For a Pretribulational Rapture By Dr. John F. Walvoord.)

I Thessalonians 4:13-18 concludes with these words:

“Therefore comfort one another with these words.”

It is hard to imagine that Paul would have thought that it would comfort the believers to be assured that at the end of the terrible torture of the Tribulation Period, Jesus would come for them in the clouds, and lift them up in the air to meet Him along with all the resurrected saints, “thus, they would always be with the Lord.” Seeing Jesus any time will be the most wonderful thing that will happen to us, but the expectation of our redemption drawing nigh, as we see all these things beginning to happen, is much more comforting (Luke 21:28).

(Note: Links like the following are found throughout this website.  They take one to Word Documents in my computer which has virus protection.  They are safe to open!)

Genesis
Lesson One
God Creates
By Carol Miller of
My Life Ministries
September 7, 2015

Genesis 1:1-5, 26-31, 2:1-3

I. An Overview of Genesis

Genesis is one of the most ancient books on planet earth.  Moses lived and wrote the book of Genesis (as well as the rest of the Pentateuch) one thousand years before Herodotus, who was called “the father of history,” was born; and Herodotus lived 300 years before Christ.  Herodotus's writing are the first historical writings that have been preserved for mankind.  Yet, Genesis, the “book of beginnings,” is far more ancient, taking us all the way back into the very dawn of human history.  The Hebrew title of Genesis is “bereshith” (“in the beginning”) after the first three words of the book. The word “Genesis” comes from the Septuagint's use of the word “geneseos.”

Every word of Genesis has the unmistakable authority of the breath of God pouring through it. Although people have questioned and still question the historical facts of the ancient places and people in Genesis and the statements related to science found in the book, the beauty of its poetry, the credibility of its description of the universe and the earth, the depth of its description of God and the accuracy of its portrayal of human nature combine to bring us a book that is unexcelled in its power to influence the minds of its readers. 

The tremendous MESSAGE of the book of Genesis can be set forth in one statement, “Genesis reveals to us the inadequacy of man without God.”

That is the book's whole message, that man can never discover or fulfill the true meaning of his life without a genuine personal relationship with an indwelling God. It also shows that when he accepts that relationship with his Creator God, man can experience the glory that God intended for him to experience as His special creation in His own image.

II. The Divisions of Genesis

Genesis can be broken down into three sections, each of which demonstrates man's inadequacy apart from God.  The first section is Genesis 1 and Genesis 2, having to do with natural relationships, the universe, its origin and make-up. When man acknowledges God as the Creator of the universe and the earth, he grows in wisdom and fulfillment.  But when he does not acknowledge the truth of the one true God who has created it all, a fact that is evident, he suffers and declines even to the point of becoming a person with a reprobate mind [unable to discern good from evil] (Romans 1:19-20).

The second section is Genesis 3; 4; 5; 6 which show us the realm of human relationships. God brings man into existence; then families begin as the basic unit of society, a fact which has held true for 6000 plus years.  When families break down, society breaks down and nations fall.  Apart from following God and God's plan, man is inadequate.

The third section consists of Genesis 7-50 which show the importance of spiritual relationships.  This section delineates the experiences of five men: Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph.  Through the stories of these five men, we learn of the inner struggle man fights as he seeks after several conditions in life—a sense of being right (righteousness), a sense of peace, and a sense of joy.   But he invariably attempts to find them through obtaining material things, not realizing until after a great struggle that only in God can he find these life-giving qualities.  Thus, again, apart from God, man is inadequate to find fulfillment.

Jesus is called the second Adam in the New Testament.  If Adam had not sought to find righteousness, peace, and joy through things, he could have enjoyed the glory of living in a manner like Jesus lived, having dominion over the earth, ruling over the elements of nature, experiencing fulfillment in all his relationships.  But man, apart from a relationship with God as the ruling principle in his life, will always be inadequate to experience righteousness, peace, and joy in abundance.

III. The Author of Genesis

Moses, who joined Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:3) and is probably one of the two witnesses of Revelation 11:3-12, is the author of the Pentateuch which includes Genesis.  Moses was “learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians” (Acts 7:22), and his literary skills would have enabled him to collect Israel's traditions and records and compose the books.  Moses spoke with God face to face (Exodus 33:11) and consulted God extensively numerous times throughout the journey of the Israelites through the wilderness. Moses was one of the greatest prophets of God, one of the greatest intercessors of all time, the deliverer of God's people from bondage in Egypt, an instrument whom God used as a worker of miracles -- many of which will be repeated in the Tribulation Period -- a leader of extraordinary courage and sacrifice, who “chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time . . . because he was looking ahead to his reward” (Hebrews 11:25-26).  Surely Moses was a man of God through whom the inspired Scriptures concerning the beginnings were brought forth.  The fact of the power and ability of the book of Genesis to communicate a life-changing message to people in every generation including ours, despite the ancient culture, language, and conventions of his day, is a testimony to its being God-breathed.

IV. The Importance of Genesis to the Bible Message as a Whole

The themes announced in the book of Genesis lay the foundation for the themes developed and brought to conclusion throughout the rest of the Old and New Testaments.  First, the theme of God's sovereignty over the universe and all creation is brought out in the creation account.  Next, God's creation of Adam and Eve as creatures in His own image prepares the way for the personal relationship between men and God.  The union of Adam and Eve gives the model for marriage and family life.  Adam and Eve's rebellion against God introduces sin into the human race and brings the need for redemption from sin.  The method of redemption is set forth as God provides the sacrificial death of the animal and the covering of Adam and Eve with the skins.  Abraham's call to set himself apart and go to a land that God would show him points to the life of faith that would be God's method of salvation and the start of a nation through whom Messiah would come.

Without Genesis, we would not know about the creation of the universe, or God's intention for us to have a relationship with Him, or with other people, or with the creation as partakers and caretakers of it.  We would not know how it happened that sin entered the human race and God responded to that sin.  We would not know much about the world-wide flood or why it happened, and we would not understand why different people have different cultures and languages.  Without Genesis the vast majority of men would remain polytheistic in their beliefs, and the plan for man's salvation would be incomprehensible.  How ignorant and longing for more truth on important matters men would be without the book of Genesis.

V. Genesis 1:1-2:  Out of Nothing

Genesis 1:1:  “Why is there something rather than nothing?”  Gottfried Leibniz, German mathematician-philosopher posed this question that comes up in the mind of every man at some time or other.

The book of Genesis does not attempt to explain or prove God's existence.  It simply makes a bold declaration that He was there in the beginning and that, in fact, He created the beginning.  Furthermore, it states that when there was nothing, God sovereignly “created the heavens and the earth” (a Hebrew way of saying He created everything); that is, He created the entire universe. It is through Genesis that we learn that we live, not simply on planet earth, but in a universe.  We become aware of that fact when we go out under the stars at night and look up.  Even the most ignorant among us ponders what is out there—those unending stars, brilliant lights in the heavens. But it is the book of Genesis that confirms to us that this is exactly right; yes, we do live in a big universe, and God created every bit of it.

And now we learn that, to be precise, we on earth live in a great galaxy, a diffuse body of stars and planets—millions of them.  Our own galaxy, The Milky Way, is three hundred thousand light years across, contains about 100 billion stars, and it is just the home base for us in the universe! First base is out yonder, and center field is WAY out.  In this great ball park, we know of over a billion bases out there, galaxies like ours, each one of them having billions of stars.  It's simply mind boggling. In our little solar system within this one galaxy, it takes Pluto 248 years to make one revolution around the sun. God is so great and so powerful it is indescribable.

When Genesis 1:1 says that “God created,” the Hebrew word employed is bara, a word which is only used in the Old Testament when it is God who is doing the creating.  It also indicates that what was created was new and it was perfect.

Genesis 1:2:  “The Spirit of God (Ruach) was hovering over the waters.” For whatever reason it was that the earth was “formless and empty,” and nothing of this creation had as yet been created; it was the Holy Spirit of God Who hovered over and protected the raw materials and kept things in readiness, awaiting the utterance of God's Words.  From the beginning, we can see the servant character of the Holy Spirit of God.

John reveals to us in his gospel that the entire Trinity was involved in creation. In Genesis 1:3 he declared concerning Jesus, The Word or the Logos, Who was “with God” “in the beginning,” that, “all things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being" (cf. Col. 1:16).  So, God the father, the Holy Spirit and Jesus Who was at that time the Logos, were all active in creation.

Read also Isaiah 40:28-31 and Romans 1:20.

VI. Genesis 1:3-5:  By His Word

Genesis 1:3:  Now we begin to be told How God created everything.

“And God said.” 

God spoke and the power of His Word brought creation into existence.  Read Psalm 33:6 and Isaiah 55:11.

God merely spoke the words and the world came into existence.  We can create, but not out of nothing.  Only God can do that.  Genesis 1:3 reflects the truth set out in the prologue to John's gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . .all things were made through Him.”  (John 1:1-2)

What do you think is the significance of light being created first?  How does this verse help you appreciate Jesus as the Light of the world (John 8:12)?

Recall that John said thatin Him was life, and the life was the Light of men, and the darkness could not overcome it.”  (John 1:5)  Some translation say “could not comprehend it” but “overcome it” is a better translation.

Genesis 1:4:  “God saw that the light was good.”

The darkness had already been there, and now God separated the light from that darkness.  He saw that the light was good.

Genesis 1:5:  Now He gave them names, the light being called “day” and the darkness, “night.”  Giving a name to something indicates dominion over it. The psalmist Asaph wrote, “Yours is the day, Yours is the night; You have prepared the light and the sun.” (Psalm 74:16)   God reigned over everything and exercised dominion.  In time, He would give dominion to man and tell Adam to exercise his dominion by naming all the animals. Naming also can be an indication of relating closely with a person or thing that is named.

In the Hebrew world, a day begins in the evening and goes to the next evening.  So, in Genesis 1:5, “there was evening and there was morning—the first day.” And since the dawn of time, humans have used this directional arrow, evenings followed by mornings, to mark the passing of time.    This statement follows after God completes His work on each of the first six days.  God's creating was sequenced, and it was intricate in its plan.  On the first day He created light, and on the fourth day, He decreed that the sources of light would govern the nights, days, and seasons.  On the second day, God separated the waters above the earth and on the earth; and on the fifth day He filled the waters above with birds and the waters below with fish.  On the third day, God separated the land from the water and placed vegetation on the land, and on the sixth day, God filled the land with animals, including humans.  So days one, two, and three correspond directly to days four, five, and six—what God created on the first three days He filled on the last three days.

VII. Genesis 1:26-28:  In His Image

Genesis 1:26:  Again, the first thing we see in these verses is the Trinity involved together in creation, as God says, “Let US make man in OUR image. . .after OUR likeness.” And the first thing God names as a characteristic related to being like Him is that man would assume dominion over certain aspects of creation.  The birds, the fish, the livestock, all the earth (to subdue it), and the creatures that crawl on the earth would be subject to his rule.

It is significant that God created man and woman last of all as the crowning achievement of His creative work.  And, for man to be created in His image and His likeness (image referring to a replication or representation such as a statue depicting someone; and likeness referring to similitude in form or nature) and to rule the other created beings, is a huge indication of the enormous value of humans to God. Being created in His image and likeness also gives man the capacity for intimate, spiritual relationship with Him.

The composer of Psalm 8 marvels, “What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You care for him?  You have made him a little lower than God and crowned him with glory and majesty!”  This is the most incomprehensible quality of God, that One so Almighty in power and greatness would condescend to pour out His love and His glory on such comparatively dependent and insignificant creatures. And then when we realize He sent His own Son to die for us, indeed, how can we understand such love, or how could we ever give Him enough glory or worship?

Genesis 1:27:  The verb “to make” is changed to “create” in this verse.  Three times the statement “God created” is used.  He created something new and something perfect.  And He created them male and female.  With specific reasons and purposes in mind, God made them with two separate, different genders.  His design is perfectly clear.

Genesis 1:28:  As man and woman, male and female, those two who bore God's likeness and image received His first blessing. “God bless them.”  To receive God's blessing is to be greatly enriched by Him.  We should all desire God's blessing.  God enriched man with relationship to Himself and, as man and woman, to each other, and with the ability to reproduce themselves.  He gave them the command to “be fruitful” and “to multiply” and “to replenish the earth.” He charged them to subdue the earth.  They had every ability to bring forth new lives like their own and to enjoy a magnificent, responsible life purpose, which was to govern and manage the earth on behalf of God.

(If the man and the woman could not grasp the magnitude of what God had done when He created them and set them over the earth and its creatures, it is certain that Satan understood fully what a fabulous earth God had brought forth and what incomparable creatures He had created to rule it; and he was enraged with jealousy.)

Genesis 1:29-31:

Genesis 1:29:  It is hard to imagine the beauty of the vegetation and the animals and fish and birds and creeping things that brought no harm, but were totally domesticated (as they will be again in the Millennium).  What a natural zoo to visit that would be.  There would be a cool light mist going up from the ground, perfect temperatures, gloriously healthy plants and animals, fruits and vegetables to pick and eat, and animals to touch and admire.

Genesis 1:30:  And God said to the man and woman that everything in the garden was theirs for food, and all the green plants were for the animals and birds to eat.  God was the generous sustainer of their physical needs as well as their emotional and spiritual needs. The variety they enjoyed was splendid.  Satan would later insinuate that God had deprived them of something good that would benefit them if they could eat it.  But just the opposite was true.  God had given them every plant and tree but one.  Their life was nothing short of heavenly.

Genesis 1:31:  When God had finished His work of creation, He beheld all of it again, and He saw that “it was very good.” Perhaps to bring out the importance and finality of this last day of His creative work, God used the modifier “very” in addition to the usual word “good.”  No doubt, it was perfect.

VIII. Genesis 2:1-3:  For His Glory

Genesis 2:1:  The first verse of the second chapter sums up what God had done.  He had completed the creation of both the heavens and the earth “in all their vast array” (or, “and all their hosts”).

Genesis 2:2:   The seventh day is mentioned twice here. The writer makes it clear that the work had already been finished before the seventh day.  Now God rested from all His work which He had done.  The word “rested” simply means that God “ceased.”  The Hebrew word “shabat", from which comes the noun “Sabbath,” means “to cease” or “to rest from work.”

We know that God was not tired nor did He need to rest.  Jesus said, “My Father is working still, and I Myself am working” (John 5:17).  No weariness is implied in this word “shabat.” “He who keeps Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps” (Psalm 121:4).  “Do you not know?  Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom” (Isaiah 40:28).

Genesis 2:3:  God pronounced a blessing upon this day because in this day He ceased from working.  And He pronounced it “holy” or He sanctified it; that is, He set it apart from the ordinary days.  God declared this day special and laid the foundation for the fourth Commandment, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8).  For centuries the Jewish people have maintained Sabbath worship as a regular mandatory principle of their lives.   In the early years of the nation of Israel, those who violated the Sabbath could be put to death.  The Sabbath became not only one of the Ten Commandments, but it became a sign of the covenant.  As circumcision was a covenantal sign, so was the Sabbath.  And Jews have for centuries kept these two covenantal signs while they have let other laws and commandments remain unobserved.  

Why is it important to have a Sabbath dayHow do you get refreshed and reconnect with God when you observe times of rest?

The writer of the book of Hebrews refers to a Sabbath rest that remains unto the people of God (Heb. 4:11).  He urged Christians to enter into that rest.

There are two meanings for the Christian in the word “rest.”  Jesus taught us that He would give men rest if they would “Come unto” Him. He also promised that men would “find rest” for their souls if they would “take his yoke” upon themselves and learn from Him; that is, become his disciple (Matthew 11:28-29).  This is one meaning of entering into His rest.  It applies to this life now in this age.

But the rest that “remains for the people of God” the writer of Hebrews urged us to enter is that rest that will belong to the believers who enter into the coming Kingdom of God ruled over by Jesus as King for 1000 years during the Millennium up ahead. The seventh day originally pictured that coming age of rest for God's faithful people, because a prophetic day is “1000 years.” There have been approximately 6000 years of human history to date.  That is six prophetic days.  The seventh day of 1000 years is fast approaching.

What difference would it make to our lives if we meditated on the fact of our creation, and other people's creation, in God's image and likeness?

(Note: Links like the following are found throughout this website.  They take one to Word Documents in my computer which has virus protection.  They are safe to open!)

Genesis
Lesson Two
Made in His Image
By Carol Miller of
My Life Ministries
September 13, 2015

Genesis 2:4-9, 15-18

I. Review

The book of Genesis anticipates and answers the question every man will at one time ask, “Where did this race of ours begin?" -- this strange race of human beings that has branched off in hundreds of different directions across the earth to blossom into unique civilizations, some of them remaining deeply superstitious and primitive, and others of them developing incredible skills, knowledge, technology, and sophistication in every area of culture, art, and music. Some people groups have developed for centuries only to fall and be buried under heaps of ruins and mounts of dirt, while others have flourished and remained.  How did all of us humans come into existence?   And for what purpose?   These are the questions Genesis probes.

Last week we saw that the book of Genesis, that 3500-year-old, extremely ancient record written by Moses (but really by the breath of Almighty God through Moses) that sets forth, in a beautifully simple narrative, the story of the beginnings of the earth, the heavens, the entire universe, and man.  We observed the book's three sections:

1. Genesis 1-2, Man's relationship to everything in the created natural universe

2. Genesis 3-6, Man's natural human relationships in families

3. Genesis 7-50, Man’s spiritual relationships (brought out in the stories of Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph).

Each of the three sections demonstrates in a particular way the overall MESSAGE of Genesis, which is the inadequacy of man without God.   Specifically, we will see that man without God is inadequate to find righteousness (being right), peace, and joy, the three things he seeks in order to experience fulfillment.  Apart from a relationship with God as the ruling principle in his life, man will always be inadequate to experience these essential conditions.

We also noted the themes announced in Genesis that will be fully developed in all the rest of the Bible:

1) the sovereignty of God over the universe and all creation,

2) the personal relationship between men and God,

3) marriage and family life,

4) sin,

5) the need for redemption from sin,

6) the method of redemption from sin, and

7) the life of faith, God's method of salvation.

II. Genesis 2:4-7:  Man Formed

Genesis 2:4:

When we move into Genesis 2:4, we sense that something has changed in the manner of telling the story, although it seems obvious that we are getting a re-telling of the creation story.  It seems to be the same story of God's creation of the earth and of man.  However, it quickly becomes obvious that much more space and emphasis will be placed on a detailed account of God's making of man.  It is as if instead of looking through a floodlight account, now we are seeing a spotlight account; or we might say instead of looking though the least powerful lens of a microscope, we have changed to a more powerful lens to take a closer look.

Three important wordings occur in Genesis 2:4:

The first is the expression “This is the account of.”  Some versions say “These are the records of” or “These are the generations of. . . .”  The Hebrew word translated this way is “toledoth,” and it is used eleven times in Genesis.   It divides the book into twelve sections, thus serving as a structural marker for the book.  Each time it occurs, it introduces a section that contains greater detail about a subject that has been previously introduced.

A second important wording is the phrase that is translated here as “in the day.”  It actually does not contains the article “the” in the original, and in this verse it does not mean that the creation week was a single 24-hour-day, but it means “at the time,”   which would include Genesis 1:3-31.

The third important word is the use of Jehovah Elohim (or in the Hebrew, Yahweh) for God's name rather than simply Elohim.  Elohim is the Name for God that is used to refer to Him as Creator.  Yahweh is often translated LORD God in our translations.  This is the Name of God that essentially means the covenant-making God, the God who keeps a promise.  It is very significant that it is used in this case because, in this time before man was yet created, it would have to mean The God Who intends to keep His promise!

Moses was introduced to God by this name when God told him, “I AM WHO I AM.”   It comes from the verb “to be” and emphasizes the “self-existence” or “immanence” (abiding, internal, eternal, inherent existence) of God.  It is a more personal name and is more appropriate in this chapter describing Yahweh's intimate involvement in the creation of man and His uniting of the first man and woman.

Genesis 2:5:

As we begin to see what is in this verse, realize that the supreme aim of this chapter is theological.  The author's purpose is to bring us to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden and to the testing of man because that is one of the most important revelations made known about our fallen race.

It is puzzling to read that “no shrub of the field had yet grown” when we had read in Genesis 1:11-12 that God had created plants on the third day of creation.  The answer is that a shrub is a different kind of plant than those mentioned in Genesis 1.  The Lord God reserved the creation of plants that require cultivation until after He had created a man to cultivate them.  “No plant of the field had yet sprouted” probably refers to the process of reproduction not having begun at this point.  It was because, as yet, there was no gardener to control the overgrowth of proliferating plants and no animals to consume them.

Genesis 2:6:

The mist that arose from the earth and watered the surface of the ground was probably the process of evaporation and condensation that occurred as a result of the change of temperatures daytime to nighttime.  There was no rain at this time.  Some Genesis scholars believe that the primeval atmosphere included a vapor canopy that made for conditions similar to that of a greenhouse.  The Hebrew word for water only appears twice in the Old Testament (here and in Job 36:27).  It is likely that there were subterranean springs that rose to the surface and watered the ground.

Genesis 2:7:

“. . .then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being [or, literally, a living soul].” (Genesis 2:7 RSV)

In Genesis 1 God spoke the world into existence.  God created by the spoken Word.

But with regard to human beings, God “made” or “formed” the man and the woman (Genesis 1:26). He also “created” them (Genesis 1:27), which is the term used only for God's creating (bara).

But in Genesis 2:7, the LORD God “formed” the man.  “Formed” is the word used for molding clay into pottery  (see Jeremiah 18:4-6).  God gave personal and careful attention to the creation of the first man. “Formed” is not a contradiction of terms used in Genesis 1.  Rather, it is an amplification and a personalization.

Human beings are unique, a product of the intentional creative power of God and therefore have a unique purpose for being here.  They are made in the image of God, yet formed from the dust of the ground.  Like all living organisms, we humans exchange water, air, and food substances with the environment.  One moment, water is a part of the body, and the next, it is secreted through the pores of the skin and becomes part of the environment.  When we drink water, the process is reversed. The Hebrew word for ground is “adamah” and for man it is “adam.”  When we become lifeless, our bodies dissolve into the dust of the ground again.

(There is a delightful story of the little excited boy who came to his mother and said, “Mother, is it true that we are made from the dust and that after we die we go back to the dust?”  She said, “Yes, it is.”  “Well,” he said, “I looked under my bed this morning, and there's someone either coming or going!”)

This account in Genesis 2 is a condensed account of some tremendously significant things.  Just how God did it is not really important.  Whether he piled dirt together and wet it with water and made a kind of mud statue and then breathed life into it, we will never know during Man's Day.  Perhaps it occurred in some way similar to the developmental process of a child growing in a mother's womb.  It really isn't necessary to get into too much research and discussion about this.  Whether Adam had a navel or not is not a matter of great significance.

It is significant that we find out here that there are three divisions of man.  First, God made the body of the dust of the earth.  It appears that it was formed first.  But the text actually does not say the body was formed first, but that “God formed man of dust from the earth.”  That way of putting it is significant because it shows that man is more than a body.

He is not “just a piece of beef steak with a nervous system.”  He is more than body; he is soul as well as body.  The KJV translates the verse, “and man became a living soul.” I like that better than “living being” because it indicates that while man has some affinity with the animals, he is greatly different in that he is created in the image of God and has a unique relationship to God as His servant, and to other creatures as their divinely appointed steward.

The functions of the soul (primarily mind, will, and emotion) are linked remarkably to the functions of the body in ways that we are only beginning to understand. For instance, we are learning how much hormones secreted by the glands can powerfully affect the emotions.  Reasoning can only occur in the mind when the brain works properly.  In forming man, God made body and soul together, with the capacities for function of the soul lying dormant within the body.

Then, into this body, with an inactive soul, the account says he breathed, through the nostrils, a living spirit.  The breath of life, in the Hebrew, means “a spirit of life.” The word for breath and spirit are the same in both the Greek and the Hebrew.  So, this is more than simply a picture of God breathing into man's nostrils and resuscitating him. It is the impartation of a spirit into man.  As we know from other Scriptures, the spirit is our essential nature.  It is this that distinguishes man by such a great degree from the animal creation.  Thus, as man is brought into being, he comes as a full-orbed, threefold being, existing in body, soul, and spirit. It is the joining together of the spirit and the body that activates the soul, so that it begins to function.

It is possible to see something of an example in the operation of an electric light bulb.  By itself a light bulb is just a formation made of glass and some wire, but if electricity, an invisible substance, is passed through it, light is born.  Light is a different thing from the wire, and different from the glass, and also different from the electricity, but it comes streaming forth from that bulb when electricity passes through the wire.  It is much the same way with man: God made a body, with its possibilities of function as a soul, and breathed into it a spirit, and the union of body and spirit produced the activity of soul, as light is produced from the union of the wire and electricity.  (Ray Stedman’s The Making of Man)

The New Testament confirms the three-fold make-up of man in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 and Hebrews 4:12.

Because Adam and Eve fell into sin, they died, as God said that they would.  But it was their spirits that died in the day they ate of the forbidden fruit, not their bodies with their souls. They lived many years after experiencing deaths of their spirits.  Therefore, all men in Adam's line are born fallen, with a spirit that is “dead in trespasses and sins.” (Ephesians 2:1).  Man's spirit does not function as it should and must be regenerated through the new birth in Christ in order to function properly again.

In some ways humanity is like the rest of creation.  In other ways we are unlike the rest of creation.  The biblical account of creation shows us man's uniqueness in five ways:

First, the Lord God breathed the breath of life into man's nostrils.  God did not do that for any other part of creation.  It means that He took special, personal interest in the creation of humans.  He imparted part of Himself, His image, to people.

Second, God created humankind “male and female” (Genesis 1:27).  Though gender was present in all animals, it is only specified with humanity.

Third, God gave the man and woman the role of dominion over the rest of the created order (Genesis 1:26, 28).

Fourth, the man and woman were created “in the image of” God (Genesis 1:27).

Fifth, humanity is the final act of creation (Genesis 1) and the central act of creation (Genesis 2).  These acts elevate humanity above all the other created order.

III. Genesis 2:8-9, 15:  A Place To Call Home

Genesis 2:8:

The next seven verses tell us about the beautiful garden that God prepared for a dwelling place for the man and the woman.  The name of the garden itself is not given, but the area in which it was created is called Eden.  God created the garden “in Eden.”  Eden is a word that means “delight” or “enjoyment.” The biblical description certainly indicates that it was a delightful place.

We are told immediately in Genesis 2:8 that God placed the man whom He had formed in this delightful garden He had planted.  Then the writer starts over in Genesis 2:9 to describe the process of God's development of the garden.

Genesis 2:9:

God was concerned for man's physical survival and also for his happiness and pleasure.  He planted every tree that is good for food and also pleasing to the sight.  The variety is hard to imagine.  The garden was made to satisfy and delight the sense of Adam and Eve.  And in addition, there were two very special trees, the tree of life, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Try to list all the fruits you can think of from figs, to pineapples, to mangoes, to avocados, and on and on, and all the flowers of various colors and fragrances that precede the formation of the fruit.  I imagine there were trees which did not provide fruit that were there simply to please the senses of sight and smell.

The tree of life was in the midst of the garden and undoubtedly imparted the ability to extend their lives physically, probably into immortality.  After they had sinned they were banned from the garden and forbidden to partake of it. It is named again in the book of Revelation, perhaps as a real tree, or perhaps as a symbol of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The tree of the knowledge of good and evil does not reappear in the Bible.

What is this “tree of the knowledge of good and evil”?  What is wrong with knowing good and evil?  Surely it is a good thing to know the difference between good and evil.  But why did God forbid them to partake of it?  We will take a closer look at that tree and why God did not want Adam and Eve to partake of the knowledge of good and evil when we get to Genesis 3 next week. But primarily we need to know this tree is man's freedom to obey God or disobey God, which freedom was put to the test.  And next week's lesson will make it plain that disobedience is penalized.

(QuestionHow is having a place to call home so important for people?  How can this passage help us better appreciate Christ's promise in John 14:2-3 that He is even now preparing believers a home in heaven?)

Genesis 2:15:

In this verse we discover that God gifted man with a purpose in life.  He put him into the garden or “set him to rest” there and told him “to cultivate and keep it.”  Our commentary translation says “to work it and watch over it.” The Hebrew word for work or cultivate is “avad,”and it can mean several things.  It can mean to serve or to work or to worship.  The service may be directed toward things, people, or God. In this context, it is probably best to see and understand these terms as referring to the work of tending the garden, but it should include the thought that whatever kind of work Adam and Eve performed in the garden, it was done as their service to God.

Sometimes people are surprised to see that life in the Garden of Eden included work.  Work was not a punishment for sin, but was given to man so that He could participate in God's plan to provide for and perpetuate His creation and so he would enjoy learning new things, bearing responsibility and exercising creativity.

Also, it is from a passage like this that we realize that God gave us a responsibility from the beginning to care for the created order, and that man has a stewardship to perform over the environment God has set him in.  Such a position of stewardship calls on us to gain true knowledge of the issues involved, so that we can perform that stewardship accurately and faithfully.

IV.  Genesis 2:16-17: A Warning Issued

“The Lord God commanded the man” contains the first use in the Old Testament of the verb for “command.” God's first command to man concerned life and death, i.e. good and evil.  As with all the subsequent commands God would give man, there is a positive blessing and a negative prohibition.  God told Adam he had at his disposal any tree of the garden he wished to enjoy for food. However, God said there was one tree that was forbidden.  God added a warning to the command, “In the day that you eat from it (the forbidden tree), you shall surely die.”  God communicated personally, strongly, and clearly.

God had the prerogative as Creator to command His creation, and man's proper role was to obey.  Surely Adam should have been motivated to obey by the knowledge that God knew what was best for him and had provided for every need.  God told him not to eat from one tree. That one tree was forbidden.  Just as the one man, Adam, was required to obey God in that command, God's people today are required to obey God's commands in His Word.

God prepared mankind with a specific design and gave him the capacity for moral responsibility.  He set Adam and Eve in the garden to be obedient servants, warning that before them was life or death, depending on whether they obeyed the command.

V.  Genesis 2:18:  A Need Addressed

“It is not good that the man should be alone” makes it very clear that man is a relational, or innately social, being.  God saw that man had a need for interaction with another human being.  There was a need that was unmet, and for the first time, God said, “It is not good.”  Everything else God had made had received His approval, “God saw that it was good.”  But man's aloneness was like a dark cloud hovering over God's otherwise perfect creation.

Therefore, God said (presumably to Himself, the Trinity), “I will make him a helper suitable for him.” Literally this means “a helper corresponding to him.”  The words “fit” or “meet for him” might also convey the right idea.

A “helper” is not a demeaning term.  God Himself is sometimes called a “helper” in certain Old Testament passages.  The word “helper” is not intended to convey worth so much as role.

Both Adam and Eve equally bore God's image and were equally important in carrying out God's purposes (Genesis 1:28).  The remainder of this chapter shows how God brought Adam to a full realization of his own need for a companion corresponding to himself, by passing before him all the animals He had created and asking him to name them. God then fashioned the woman from one of Adam's ribs and brought her to him.  Adam's need for companionship was met when he had one of his own kind.  “Bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh” literally means “this is a person of my own kind.” God was there for the first marriage ceremony.  He presided over it, and He made it clear that His design is for marriage to be between one man and one woman (Genesis 2:24-25).

The Psalmist asked, “What is man, that you are mindful of him?”  Imagine, …. God created man by personally forming him and breathing His breath into him.  He gave man a special kinship with the earth from which he was formed.  He made man a co-laborer in caring for the earth.  He created man for relationships.  He created him in His own image and likeness.  He blessed him with marriage and the ability to create more human beings like himself.  God made man “a little lower than God!”  The Psalmist was amazed, and we should be too!

(Note: Links like the following are found throughout this website.  They take one to Word Documents in my computer which has virus protection.  They are safe to open!)

Genesis
Lesson Three
Humanity's Fall
By Carol Miller of
My Life Ministries
September 20, 2015

Genesis 3:1-7, 14-19

I.  Review of Genesis 1; 2

In Genesis 1 we learned that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and the Spirit of God hovered over the earth that lay formless and void, wrapped in darkness and waters, awaiting God's spoken Word.  God then created (Heb. bara) by His spoken Word, and He began by creating light, separating it from the darkness and naming the light day and the darkness night.  On the second day, He continued by creating the expanse (heaven) in the midst of the waters, so that there were waters both above and below the expanse.

Following that, on the third day, He gathered the waters below the expanse into seas and caused the dry land to appear. He then created all the living plants on the earth with their seeds in them.

On the fourth day, God went back to work in the heavens, where He created the lights in the heavens, including the two great lights, the sun and the moon, as well as the stars.  He place them in their positions to govern night and day and to serve for signs and seasons on the earth as well as the calendar of days and years.

After that, on the fifth day, God filled the waters on the earth with fish and great sea creatures, and He made the birds to fly in the open expanse of heaven.

Last, on the sixth day, God created all the animals, and He created man and woman in His own image and gave them dominion over the earth and every living thing that moves on the earth. He also gave them all the plants and the trees for food.

After He had created the heavens and the earth, He rested on the seventh day and sanctified that day.

In Genesis 2 we took a closer and more detailed look at how God created man and woman by forming man from the dust of the earth and breathing into his nostrils the breath of life so that he became a living being.  God planted a fabulous garden for the man in Eden and put him in it.  He told man that he could eat from any tree of the garden except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  He warned the man that if he did eat of that particular tree, he would surely die.  Soon God noticed that the man was along, without a companion suitable for himself.  So He brought all the animals to the man and watched to see what Adam would name them.

Among all the animals Adam did not find a helper corresponding to himself. So, God caused Adam to go into a deep sleep, and He took from Adam one of his ribs, from which He formed the woman. Immediately, when God brought the woman to him, Adam saw that she was different from all the animals God had brought before him previously.  He said, “This is bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh.”  He gave her a name, just he had given all the animals their names.  He named her “Woman” because she was “taken out of Man.”

II.  Overview of Today’s Lesson, “Humanity's Fall”

In Genesis 3 we find the age old story of the Fall of Man.  Through the temptation of Satan, man transgressed the command of God and fell from his original innocence, thus creating the condition wherein all of his posterity inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin.  Sin changes everything and always for the worse.  It alters lives and people.  It corrupts emotions and attitudes, and it severs relationships.  It sends whole destinies spiraling into darkness.  It plays no favorites but always delivers its consequences.  It always collects its debts.  It manifests in the choices we make, drawing us closer to God or separating us a little farther from Him.

Nothing about sin has changed since Adam and Eve yielded to temptation in the Garden of Eden.  Sin still separates, destroys, ruins, and kills.  God still judges sin, holding all of us accountable.  The Bible affirms that sin is the problem of all of humanity.  Rebellion against the one true God is inherent in the human heart.  (Jeremiah 17:9; and Romans 3:10, 23.

Yet, thank God, there is hope for forgiveness of sin and deliverance from sin's fatal consequences because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

III.  Genesis 3:1-5:  The Sham

Genesis 3:1:

The words “Now the serpent” are the first words in the Hebrew text of Genesis 3, presenting him as the main character in this chapter.  The word Devil or Satan does not appear in this chapter.  The Hebrew word used here is nachash, which means literally “to shine,” or in the noun form “a shining one.”  If you read it that way, a completely different being emerges:

“Now the shining one was more subtle than any other wild creature that the LORD God had made.”

The shining one obviously did not take on the appearance of what we recognize as a snake until when, as recorded in Genesis 3:14, God cursed him with the worst curse place upon any beast on the earth and consigned him to crawl on his belly and eat dust all the days of his life.

It isn't until Revelation 12:9 that this shining one is fully identified as that “ancient serpent” who is called “the devil” and “Satan.” Paul, however, in his second letter to the Corinthians, refers to the serpent that tempted Eve and then speaks of him as “an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).   No doubt, then, that the one who came to Eve in the garden was the Devil in his character as an angel of light, a shining being, all glorious to behold.  That certainly makes a difference when we consider what Eve was confronted with.  She was not looking at a creature with horns and a tail, but one disguised as a beautiful, shining created being of God.

The next thing the verse says is that the shining one was the “the most cunning” or was “more subtle” or “more crafty” than any other wild creature that the LORD God had made. He was crafty, to begin with, to seek out the woman and appeal to her rather than the man. Women were created with a stronger emotional nature than men.  He could more likely convince her of his wholesome character and benevolent purpose of bringing to her attention what could delight her with a wonderful new experience and make her wiser in an exceptional way.  This is not the devil's only strategy, but it is his most common one.

Since the woman was different from us in that she was innocent and had no sin in her nature, the shining one stood outside of her and had to draw her attention to the forbidden tree and create an interest.  In our case, there is always assistance from within us for the devil to use.  Our nature is affected by the power of sin in our flesh and more easily responds to the devil's suggestions.  So, his tactic was to distort and question the Word of God. “Did God really say, 'You can't eat from any tree in the garden'?”

That question may have seemed innocent to Eve, but to us today it is easy to detect the serpent's distortion of God's words.  That is not at all what God said!

Genesis 3:2-3:

How could Eve have answered such a question as that? “Yes” would have been incorrect, and “No” would have been a misleading oversimplification.  God had commanded that they were not to eat from only one tree.  Eve quoted exactly what God had said, except she added “or touch it.”   Sometimes people make much of Eve's adding to God's statement, but really it is possible that God did say not to touch it so that they would be especially careful not to expose themselves to the temptation to eat of it.  Or Adam could have warned his wife by saying not to touch it because he knew she might admire its fruit.  She could have simply been giving a little bit fuller account of what God had said.  Eve did plainly state the consequences that God had stated, “You will die.”  By seducing her to answer his question, the devil had successfully focused Eve's mind on the special tree and its fruit, and on the prohibition related to it.  Now he only needed to awaken a desire in her to experience that fruit.

Genesis 3:4-5:

Now, at this point, the tempter does not twist words, but flatly contradicts what God had said, “NoYou will not die.” God had used exactly these same words and the same construction in Genesis 2:17.  The only addition made by the tempter was the negative, “Not.”  The shining one said emphatically to Eve that she would not die.  Again, he gave a half-truth.  They would not die completely and finally in that very day!  They would only begin the process of dying.
 
This partial truth contained the serpent's original lie which has seduced men to sin in every age.  It is the lie that sin has no consequences.  And Eve believed the tempter's lie over what God had plainly said.  However, we can learn from the Bible and from history, that God does clearly judge sin.

Jesus called the devil “a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).  He continues to work to make God's Word look like a lie and his own lie to look like the truth.  This has been his method since the Garden of Eden.

Then the tempter, that shining one, added, “For God knows that in the day you eat from it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” God is holding out on you!  He does not want you to be completely “in on” some of the things He knows!

That did it!  Eve was tricked.  She had already begun to question God's motive for keeping her from experiencing the fruit of this tree.  Why would God be withholding from them something good like the god-like knowledge of good and evil?

The irony of the serpent's claim was that Adam and Eve already were like God—they were already in His image and likeness—and eating the forbidden fruit would not make them more like Him, but less like Him.

It is very important for us to understand that the tempter had been allowed by God to come into the garden and to tempt the man and the woman.  He came in with God's full knowledge and consent, because it is necessary that man be tempted in order to respond voluntarily to God.  The greatest gift God has given us is the gift of our free will.  We have the ability to make moral choices.  We have the right to be wrong if we insist.  God does not violate our free will.  He will not coerce us and force us to choose the right.  We have the right to reject His love, refuse His grace and mercy, and go our own way.  God is a God of love, and love never coerces, never forces someone to love in return.  It is absolutely essential that man be given the chance to choose whether he wants to continue to love God or to go another direction.

Question:  Before we choose to say “yes” to temptation, we must say “no” to God.  Do you agree or disagree with this statement?  Explain.

Why did God not want Adam and Eve to partake of the knowledge of good and evil?  Now we will see why!

IV.  Genesis 3:6-7:  The Shame

The temptations that Eve experienced were the same ones that John warned of in 1 John 2:16:

“For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, . . . .”

Eve desired to taste the good food which was so delightful to look upon, and she desired to obtain special wisdom such a God had.  These temptations to sin—food, beauty, and worldly wisdom—are always reaching out to draw us in.  Jesus Himself was tempted to turn the stones into bread, to perform an astonishing miracle by leaping from a high place and calling on the angels of God to rescue Him, and by taking the devil's bait in order to rule all the kingdoms of the world.

Eve fell into the trap and ate the fruit, then gave it to Adam, who also ate it.

Well, sure enough, they did not die immediately.  But death entered the race immediately and eventually they died.  The devil told the truth, but he just did not tell the whole truth.

He had told them another half-truth, too.  He had said, “Your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  Yes, their eyes were opened.  But what they had gained was not a higher wisdom.  It was only the awareness of the loss of their innocence:

“They knew they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.”

In a sense, though, it was true that by eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they did become like God and they did gain the knowledge of good and evil.  The problem was, they did not realize what that kind of knowledge would cause in their case, as created beings.  They were not God, and they could not handle this knowledge as God can handle it.  Instead of it being a great blessing of higher wisdom for them to enjoy, it became a curse.

How does God handle knowing good and evil?  God knows evil, not by experience because he cannot experience evil.  He knows it by relating it to Himself.   Whatever is consistent with his character and His nature is good; but whatever is inconsistent with it is evil.  Whatever is out of line or out of character with Himself is evil, destructive, and dangerous; but all that is in line with His own nature is good.  That is how God knows good and evil.  He relates it to Himself.

But He is the only One who can properly do that.  He is the only One Being in the universe who has the right to relate all things to Himself.  When a creature tries it, he gets into serious trouble.  Creatures of God's universe are made to discover the difference between good and evil by relating everything to the Being of God, not to themselves.  When Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, they began to do what God does—to relate everything to themselves rather than to God.  But they were not intended to make themselves the center of the universe because they are not the center of the universe.  God is.  Consequently, they became self-conscious, and for the first time they noticed that they were not clothed. Before that day, they were “other-minded” and not self-conscious.  They never even noticed.  Being self-conscious is one of the most problematic things that man has to deal with in life.

Also, when man's eyes were opened to know good from evil, he did exactly what God does and began making that judgment by relating everything to himself.  He automatically began to think of himself as the center of the universe,  Indeed, he did become like God, in that sense.  But it was a lie, because man is not the center of the universe, and he cannot be.  As he makes himself the center of the universe, he assesses all things incorrectly, because he decides that what he likes is right and good, and what he does not like is not right or good.  He thinks that what he understands to be truth is truth, and what he believes to be false is false. His truth is whatever he makes it out to be and whatever he believes.  And in this way, the world becomes full of little self-made gods, all believing their own versions of good and evil.

Only through being saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and being redeemed and regenerated can man begin again to relate all things to God and find a balanced life.  When man is born again through faith in Jesus Christ, he can put God back into the center of his world and relate everything in his life and in the lives of others to Him and not to himself.

Question:  Does it help you to read and ponder the process of the temptation of Adam and Eve?  Are your temptations like theirs or unlike theirs?

V.  Genesis 3:14-19:  The Shambles

The consequences of the sin of the first man and woman confirm the contemporary oft-quoted statement, “Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.”  This is true, even though there was not final condemnation for Adam and Eve.

They went from pure innocence to having a sin nature that became evidenced in their offspring to such an extent that one brother slew another.

The fall that they experienced was not temporary nor was it limited to themselves alone.  Its effects would last and extend to their progeny for seven thousand years, until, as God has promised, He will create the New Heavens and the New Earth.

It cost the first couple their home in the beautiful garden, and it cost them physical pain and labor in each of their respective roles in life.  It cost them sadness and sorrow, and the loss of their close fellowship with God.  They had to notice that it affected the birds and animals as well as the plants.  They grew older and died.   And Adam and Eve and their offspring were required to bring a sacrificial blood offering of an innocent animal to God when they asked for forgiveness of their sins.   

Notice, however, that the Lord used the word “cursed” with the serpent and with the ground, but not with Adam and Eve.  God continues to love us when we sin, even though our relationship with Him is changed and we suffer consequences because He judges sin.

Their sin caused a curse to befall the whole earth.  Read Romans 8:20-21.  The earth has experienced “futility” and “slavery to corruption” since that day that Adam and Eve chose to disobey God's command.  God said it would grow thorns and thistles that would force the man to eat its produce only through painful labor all the days of his life.  The drudgery of work is a result of sin.  Before the fall, God had given the man and the woman the work of cultivating the garden and watching over it, but it had not been a difficult task.

God cursed the shining one more than any other animal.  He was cursed to crawl on his belly all his days and to eat the dust of the earth.  Throughout the Bible, eating dust is a symbol of complete defeat and humiliation.  Read Micah 7:16-17. Also read Isaiah 49:23.  He was also cursed by being forever an object of man's loathing and hostility.  The literal snake or the serpent symbolizes Satan and is the object of hatred and rejection by women as well as most men.  But that situation of enmity in the natural realm symbolizes the struggle between good and evil and between man and his enemy, Satan, throughout the whole of human history.

Adam and Eve had attempted to cover their nakedness with fig leaves (Genesis 3:7), a symbol of man's attempt to cover his sin by his own efforts.  God demonstrated to them that He would provide a covering for their nakedness (sin) by slaying an innocent animal and shedding its blood.  He took the skin of the animal and made the man and the woman coverings.  This act, in addition to His promise that the “woman's seed” would crush the serpents head was God's promise to man and woman that He would bring them a Savior, Someone whom Satan would strike on the heel, but who would crush Satan's head (deal him a mortal wound).

Question:  What difference does Jesus make in your experience of sin's consequences?

(Editor's Note: The following commentaries in this site regarding one of the trees in the Garden of Eden:  The Tree of LifeThe Tree of Life in Genesis, Proverbs, and Revelation and The Out-Resurrection and The Tree of Life may be of interest.)

(Note: Links like the following are found throughout this website.  They take one to Word Documents in my computer which has virus protection.  They are safe to open!)

Genesis
Lesson Four
God Saves

By Carol Miller of My Life Ministries

September 27,  2015

Genesis 6:11-18; 7:11-14

I.  Review

In Genesis 3 we learned the ancient story of “The Fall,” the temptation of the first woman in the Garden of Eden, by the serpent, the shining one who was more cunning than any of the animals that the Lord God had created.  He drew Eve's attention to “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” by asking her a cunningly worded question.  Then he tempted her to desire the beautiful fruit of the tree by promising her that she would obtain the god-like qualities of knowing good from evil and that she would not surely die when she ate of it.  The shining one was really the ancient dragon of old, the devil in the guise of an angel of light, dealing in lies and half-truths to bring about disobedience to God's command by the man and the woman and thus their fall into sin and death.  The death God warned them of began immediately, causing the eyes of both of them to be opened, but not to newly found god-like wisdom.  Their eyes were opened to their nakedness and they experienced shame and loss of innocence.  They attempted for the first time what would become the universal endeavor of men to atone for their sin by their own good works, sewing fig leaves together to cover their nakedness.

But God in his grace and mercy drew them into a confession of the truth of what had taken place and performed the first act of atonement for sin by the blood of an innocent substitute.  He “made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21).  After telling them the consequences of their disobedience, He also mercifully drove them from the garden so that they would not eat of the tree of life and live forever and endure in their lives the painful results that would continue to multiply from their terrible choice.  Following the pronouncement of their punishments, God gave them a great hope by telling them that the seed of the woman would one day bruise the head of the serpent.  That was the first promise of the coming of a savior who would redeem them and the entire creation back to God's original plan for them. 

II.  Overview of Genesis 4-7

With the story Adam and Eve's first two sons, Cain and Abel, we come to understand that an inborn inclination to sin befell the descendants of Adam and Eve.  Cain slew his brother Abel and defied God's punishment to a life of wandering by living in the land of Nod, east of Eden.  His descendants were ungodly, spreading and building up a godless civilization. But God allowed another son to be born to Adam and Eve, Seth, about whom Eve made the faith statement that God had given her “another son to replace Abel, for Cain killed him.”  Seth produced a son, Enosh, and in his days “men began to call upon the name of the Lord.” Then, in Genesis 5 we have the genealogy of the “godly line” from Adam through Seth to Noah.  The line of Seth included Enoch, who walked with God and was taken up without seeing death, and Lamech, who named his son Noah, hoping he would bring them comfort from the curse.  “Comfort” is not the meaning of Noah, but the original words sound the same.  Lamech had no idea how God would fulfill his wish in His own way to comfort those under the curse.

The generations of men from Adam to Noah and the Flood covered at least 1,656 years, if the years of life included in the genealogy in chapter five do not have any gaps in the chronology.  But probably there are gaps, which would push the date of creation a little farther back.  In this amount of time, the earth's population grew rapidly, due to the longevity of men, and we are told in Genesis 6:5, that “the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” It did not take man very long to arrive at the place of the fullness of wickedness.  And since the earth-cleansing Flood of Noah's day, history records some twenty-one civilizations that have all collapsed and given way to the rise of another.

Genesis 6 begins by showing us the three major signs of an imminently collapsing civilization.  Genesis 6:1-4 tell us of (1) a demonic invasion in which the sons of god (fallen angels) took wives of the daughters of men and produced giant offspring known as the Nephilim.  This same thing happened again after the Flood, but later on this race of giants died out because God punished the angels who committed this act by consigning them ahead of the judgment day to being chained in pits of nether gloom  (2 Peter 2:4-5a and Jude 1:6-7).

Some scholars bring out that had God allowed this situation to continue, the human race would have been so contaminated by “strange flesh” that it would have been impossible for the Savior to be born into the world with the same DNA as the man that God had created in His own image.

To this unnatural sexual lust and corruption of the human DNA, there was added (2) “great wickedness” (Genesis 6:5a) or widespread opposition to the ways of God, which would include “immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, and witchcraft” (the “works of the flesh” as delineated in Galatians 5:19-21).

Then the passage states that, “Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight, and the earth was filled with violence” (Genesis 6:11).  (3) Corruption is inward pollution of the mind, the heart, the imagination, the inner nature.  When the inner man becomes sensual and is polluted, the result is outward violence, destructiveness, the outbreak of cruelty and violence on every side.

This is where our lesson begins today.  Keep in mind that Jesus said, “As it was in the days of Noah, so shall the days of the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:37, 39).

III.  Genesis 6:11-13:  Wickedness Observed

Genesis 6:11-12:

In these two verses the word “corrupt” is used three times, twice as an adjective and another as a verb.  The corruption extended to “all flesh.”  The earth was not just wicked, it was “filled with violence.”  The whole of the world of that day was involved in this.  Because this was a unique time in which fallen angels cohabited with human women and produced offspring who began a race of giants, this period of time on earth may have been the most corrupt and wicked period of human history.  Genesis 6:6 tells us that it was so bad that “The Lord regretted that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.” The word translated “regretted” here can refer to a change of mind or to the emotions that caused that change.  God's emotion is emphasized with the statement, “He was grieved in His heart.”  He said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.”

When people get caught up in sin they lose sight of two things:  first, that no one is going to be exempt from experiencing the consequences of sin, and second, that God cannot ignore sin and allow it to go unchecked.  He is obligated by his nature to judge sin and, by doing so, keep it in check. 

Genesis 6:13:

In Genesis 6:8, the writer of Genesis announced, “But Noah found favor (literally, grace) in the eyes of the Lord.” Now we read simply that God spoke his thoughts to Noah, that the end of all flesh had come before Him, and the earth was filled with violence because of them.  Therefore, He was about to destroy all flesh along with the earth because of them.

Imagine being the only man on the face of the earth to be found “righteous” in God's sight!  Genesis 6:9-10 tells us that “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God.  Noah became the father of Shem, Ham, and Japheth.”

Being a righteous man, a blameless man (the only one that God found) in the midst of such a generation of violence, cruelty, and sexual perversions is almost inconceivable. And that God chose to “wait patiently” “in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water” (1 Peter 3:20), is certainly remarkable, especially when we consider that it was 120 years (ref. 1 Peter 3:3) that God waited and endured this situation, giving Noah the needed time.

Question:  What was it that made Noah such a righteous man?

Noah became righteous the only way that anyone ever becomes righteous.  No one is good, no not one, and certainly not blameless.  But God “counted” Noah righteous the same way He would later “count” Abraham righteous, by his faith.  Noah believed God, and not only about building the ark, because we had read at Genesis 6:9 that “Noah walked with God.”  And we see that was true, when in Genesis 6:13 God speaks to Noah of His thoughts concerning the earth and His plan to destroy it. Noah had been walking and talking with God for nearly 500 years.

God warns us of His coming judgment, and He shows us the way to be right with Him.  He spoke to Noah concerning His plan to send a worldwide flood to bring about an end to every creature.  He told Abraham about His plan to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah.  He sent Jonah to warn Nineveh that He was about to judge the city.  He warns the ones who are least involved in the sin and most likely to warn others.  His warnings are expressions of His grace.  Sin must result in judgment, but God wants to save people from the coming judgment, so he offers opportunities to turn from sin and to Him.  This is His pattern throughout earth's history and even today.

Noah's entire life was a warning to people to turn from their sin and turn to God.  2 Peter 2:5 tells us that Noah was “a preacher of righteousness.”  Evidently. While Noah was building the ark, he was warning people and persuading them to turn to God.  God waited on their repentance, but since only Noah and his family entered the ark, it seems clear that Noah's preaching did not result in conversions.  It seems amazing that no one listened to Noah's warnings, but that seems to be the case.

Question:  Do you see evidences of God's judgment being expressed today?  How do you think it will be expressed in the future?  How can we as followers of Jesus warn people so they will avoid God's judgment?

IV.  Genesis 6:14-18: Promise Unfolded

Genesis 6:14-16:

We can certainly discern that Noah had been talking with God for many years before this time.  He understood exactly what God told him to do and to make, and the directions were very detailed.  God told Noah to, “Make yourself an ark.”  The Greek translation of this Hebrew word is “wooden box.” This term is used one other time in the Old Testament to refer to the little basket of reeds that Moses' mother made to place him in so he would escape death when the Egyptians were destroying the Hebrews' baby boys.  Noah's ark was more in the shape of a barge than a boat or ship.  God told Noah to make it of gopher wood, an unknown species, but probably something like cedar or cypress wood, and to make it with rooms inside.  This would seem to be so that the animals could be separated from each other and so Noah's sons and their wives could have separate rooms. It was to be covered inside and out with pitch, something like tar.

The ark's dimensions were measured in cubits, and a cubit is approximately 1 ½ feet in length.  That made the ark 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high.  It was to have upper, middle, and lower decks and a window 18 inches high that fully surrounded the ark and was just below the roof.  It was also to have one door on the side.

Surely God talked with Noah every day that he was building the ark and gave him continued instructions about how to construct everything.  Noah never doubted God's instructions or plan to destroy the earth although no one else but his family believed or heeded his warnings.

Genesis 6:17:

God took care to make sure Noah knew that it was He Himself who was causing the flood.  He said, “Behold, I, even I am bringing the flood of water upon the earth, to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life, from under heaven; everything that is on the earth shall perish.” God wanted Noah and his family to remain confident throughout the entire 40 days that it was He who had brought the flood of water on the earth and it would be unexplainable without reference to Him.

Many people struggle with how the God who loves people could destroy people.  What we need to keep our eyes on here is not the judgment as much as the rescue of one man and his family, and how much God did to prepare Noah, wait for Noah to finish the ark, instruct Noah about how to house the animals, and how to prepare for having food during the 40 days (Genesis 6:21). God is a God who desires to save man.  He kept a remnant alive in Noah's day, in Lot's day, in Jacob's day, in Moses's day, in Elijah's day, in Esther's day, and in the coming day of Tribulation, He promises to shorten the days because if He doesn't, no flesh will survive.  There will be another Jewish holocaust, but God promises to save one third of them (Zechariah 13:8).

Genesis 6:18:

But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife, and your sons' wives with you.”  The Noahic covenant is the first covenant in the Bible.  God called it My covenant.  It was not an agreement between two equal parties but between a greater and a lesser party.  The fulfillment of this covenant was dependent upon the faithfulness of the greater party who initiated the covenant.  He rescued Noah and his family from the flood and has never destroyed the earth again by a flood (Gen. 9:11). Noah's part was to obey God, and the account in Genesis affirms that Noah did obey God in every detail.

Question:  What does Noah's obedience to God reveal about his relationship with God?  What does our obedience to God reveal about our relationship with Him?

V.  Genesis 7:11-14: Action Taken

The Bible does not tell us anything about the emotional experience of Noah during the construction of the ark.  He was building an enormous structure when no one had ever seen rain and there was no body of water in sight.  The challenge of building such a structure was daunting.  Preaching and warning people about their sin and the coming judgment when there was an unwilling audience could only have been extremely frustrating.  Yet Noah persevered.

Genesis 7:11:

The fountains of the great deep burst open and the floodgates of the sky were opened.  Water did not only come from the rain, but subterranean and sub-oceanic water sources burst open.  The Bible seems to imply that these sources of water stayed open for the entire 40 days.

(Aside:  Genesis 7:17-24:  Many people want to try to prove that this flood was a regional flood rather than a world-wide flood.  It is impossible to know for certain whether the water covered the entire globe, but it is certain that it destroyed the entire civilization of that day. God's stated purpose was to blot out the entire generation, with all of the animals (Genesis 6:7, 13). The animals and the plants were made for man; so they were destroyed with man.  It does not seem necessary for Noah to have built such an ark if the flood was regional.  Could not God have moved Noah to an area not affected by the flood?  Jesus compared the flood to the final judgment, which is universal [ref. Luke 17:26-30].)

Genesis 7:12:

The number 40 is an important number in both the Old and the New Testaments.  Moses was with the Lord on the mountain 40 days and 40 nights.  The Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years.  That is because the spies were in the Promised Land for 40 days spying out the land, and when they returned they refused to enter as God had commanded.

Note:

Jesus was tempted in the wilderness for 40 days while fasting.

The number 40 signifies probation, testing or judgment.

However, the water stayed on the earth 150 days before it began to recede, and Noah and his family were in the ark 377 days (nearly 54 weeks).

Genesis 7:13-14:

In fulfillment of God's words to Noah in Genesis 6:18, Noah along with his sons Shem, Ham, and Japheth, Noah's wife, and his three sons' wives entered the ark. The animals also entered by pairs.  According to Genesis 7:13, they all entered the ark on that same day that the rain began to fall. This seems to conflict with Genesis 7:7-10, as to whether Noah and his family sat in the ark for seven days before the rain began to fall or they entered on the day it began to fall.  Some scholars see it one way and some the other.  Many commentators and students see the ark of Noah as a beautiful type of the Lord Jesus Christ, the believer's way of escape or ark of safety from the coming judgment.  The word gopher and the word pitch as well as the word for atonement used later on in the books of Moses are all from the same basic Hebrew root, which means “to cover.”  The ark, then, was made of atonement wood and made water-proof with “atonement.”  Atonement speaks of expiation of sin and oneness between God and man.  Noah was told to build rooms in the ark.  This is the common word for nests such as bird nests, suggesting that the ark was intended to be a place of rest and comfort as well as a place of safety.  In Jesus Christ we have safety from the floods of vengeance and rest and comfort in Him. The window in the ark is not on the side but in the top, where Noah can only look up to God and not out upon the destruction below.  If this is a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ, it suggests His upward look.  His eye was fixed upon His Father and He received His orders only from Him.  Also, there is only one door into the ark, as there is only one way into Christ, the door of faith.  There are also three decks in the ark, suggestive of the entire person of the Lord Jesus Christ, body, soul, and spirit, given up for us to be redeemed.  There is also provision in Christ for the completion of the whole man—body, soul, and spirit—to be redeemed in Him.

There are others who see the ark as a type of God's provision through Christ for a remnant of the Jews to be safely carried through the floodwaters of judgment of the Great Tribulation period.  Both are beautiful types, and both are true.

In closing, there are four truths brought out in this section:

1. God created us for a purpose; but He gave us freedom to fulfill that purpose or to deviate from it.

2. God in His righteousness will not tolerate sin forever.

3. God's judgment is tempered by His mercy; it is not His will that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9).

4. Even in a corrupt society, a single righteous person can make a difference.

(Note: Links like the following are found throughout this website.  They take one to Word Documents in my computer which has virus protection.  They are safe to open!)

Genesis
Lesson Five
A Fresh Start

By Carol Miller of My Life Ministries
October 4, 2015

Genesis 8:15-22; 9:1, 11-16

I. Review

In Genesis 6; 7 we were told that the succession of the generations of humanity through a little more than 1600 years had served only to bring the much-increased population of mankind to the point of “great wickedness” and “corruption,” producing an earth that was “filled with violence.”  One of the greatest influencing factors that that brought corruption to the earth was the contamination of humanity through the intermarrying of fallen angels with the daughters of men.  A race known as the Nephilim had proliferated, and this race was not of the same creation as Adam and Eve, but a mixture of human and angel “flesh.”  God was very sorry and grieved in His heart over what had become of mankind and had decided that He would blot out “all flesh in which was the breath of life.”  He would send a flood of waters to destroy “everything that (was) on the earth.” (Gen.6:17)
 
There was one exception, however:  “Noah (alone) found favor in God's eyes,” because he was “a righteous man, blameless in his time,” and he “walked with God.”  God would not, could not, destroy Noah and his family, because Noah walked and talked with Him.  He was a man of faith and obedience.  Instead of completely starting over, God told Noah of His plan, instructed Noah to build an ark, and waited 120 years while Noah built the ark in which to pass through the Flood.  God gave Noah and his sons the grace to build the enormous structure and to fill it with seven pairs of every living creature on the earth and with all the edible food necessary to keep them all alive.  God also graced Noah to be a preacher of righteousness who warned the world at that time of the coming judgment, although not one person heeded the warning.

In the 600th year of Noah's life, Noah and his sons were told to enter the ark, and God Himself shut the door of the ark.  Then, the floodgates of the sky and the fountains of the deep burst open and brought 40 days and nights of the release of the water upon the earth.  It was so high that it covered every mountain on earth, and it prevailed for 150 days.

II. Overview of Genesis 8:1-13

But God had not forgotten Noah and his family and all the animals in the ark.  Doubtless, God was thinking of them, and perhaps during those 150 days, He was guiding the ark so that it would arrive at exactly the place of His choosing.   After the 40 days plus the 150 days, God caused a wind (Gen.8:1) to pass over the earth that caused the water to begin to recede.  After 150 more days, the water had decreased enough that the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat.

(This location is a mountain range in in Turkey.  Mount Ararat proper is one mountain, the tallest in this range, which is about 17,000 feet above sea level.  There was a tremendous earthquake there on June 2, 1840, which destroyed a village and a monastery.  Since that time, there have been a number of sightings from the air and one French explorer, Fernard Navarra, claimed to touch it and bring back a few ancient [5000-year-old] fragments of it. His book is “Noah's Ark:  I Touched It”.)

(Editor’s note: Noah's Ark first found by French Explorer Fernand Navarra in 1952 VIDEO may be of interest.)

It is very interesting that God gave us the precise date on which the ark came to rest atop Mt. Ararat.  Gen. 8:4 says that it was “In the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month.”  This was the first sign that Noah and his family had that indeed a new world was about to appear from the waters.  This was the first confidence they received that the judgment was abating and the flood waters were receding.  They felt the ark ground itself on that date.  Looking through the Bible to see what else happened on that date, one discovers that this was the exact day of the year on which Jesus arose from the dead.  In Exodus 12 we are told that at the giving of Passover, God changed the seventh month to the first month (Tishri).  He made Passover the beginning of the year, although previously the beginning of the year had come in the fall.  On the fourteenth day of the first month (which was formerly the seventh month) the Passover was to be eaten.  We know from the Gospels that on the day of Passover, our Lord died in Jerusalem.  Three days from the fourteenth would arrive at the seventeenth of the month, and on the seventeenth day of the first month Jesus arose from the dead.  That would be the same as the seventeenth day of the seventh month in the old way of calculating in this passage in Genesis.

Ray Stedman sees in this specific timing of the grounding of the ark a most significant sign for us that the new life in the newly cleansed world for God's people who had been saved from judgment through being in the ark (a picture of being “in Christ”) would rest upon resurrection power.  The wind that had blown over the earth for 150 days is a beautiful picture of the Holy Spirit (John 3:8) moving according to a new plan to remove the waters of judgment and prepare the earth for Noah and his family to experience a new start and a new life.  I believe it is entirely legitimate to see these types and shadows of the new life in Jesus Christ in this passage, because as we have noted before, Genesis is the book of beginnings and carries in its history and stories the seed plot of every major doctrine that emerges in the New Testament.

Question:  Can you remember a time in your life when you made a fresh start?  In what ways did that fresh start give you hope or fill you with the resolve to do better?

III. Genesis 8:15-19: A New Start

When the tops of the mountains had appeared, Noah opened the window of the ark and sent out a raven, which was an unclean species of birds and would have no trouble finding something to feed on and rest on; so it did not come back to the ark.  Then Noah sent out a dove to see if the water had gone down enough for the land to become visible.  The dove returned to the ark, and Noah received her.  After seven more days, he sent her out again, and this time she returned with a fresh olive leaf in her mouth.  After another seven days, he sent the dove out again and she did not return.

What could the release of these two birds upon the face of the new earth portray?  Noah did not emerge from the ark until God told him to; so does it just show us that Noah was personally curious about what was going on outside the ark?  It might be simply that, but God caused Noah to do it because it pictures something for us “upon whom the ends of the ages have come!” (1 Corinthians 10:11)  It pictures the fact that in our present life, even though we are redeemed, we have to deal with two natures.  One is truly our nature now, but the other is an imposter, no longer really our nature, but one with which we have to contend until we are released from its presence by the resurrection of the body.  One is called “the flesh” and the other “the spirit.”  The struggle of our new life in Christ arises out of the conflict of the flesh with the spirit.  One is evil and unclean; the other is clean and good.  These are symbolized by the two birds.  God is telling us that in this present age, like Noah, we must live with two natures; the one which is truly ours, and the other which is the imposter.  One, like the raven, rests and feeds on anything.  It delights even in carrion, in foul and filthy things.  It was of no help at all to Noah, going off its own way; and the fleshly nature is of no help to us, either, and of no profit in this world. Scripture tells us over and over that the flesh is empty in its apparent ability to think, reason, and act.  It is all worthless.  The natural man does not like to be told that all he can do apart from God is useless, but that is exactly what Jesus said, “Without me, you can do nothing.” (John 15:5b)  Jesus meant that whatever we would do without His Spirit guiding and empowering us would not be anything of lasting value.  Rather than being “gold, silver or precious stones,” it would be “wood, hay, and stubble,” an imposing facade with nothing behind it. (1 Cor. 3:12-13)  The other nature, “the spirit,” like the dove, does not fly abroad and rest outside the “ark of safety.”  It was the dove that brought Noah an olive leaf, a symbol of life and peace. 

Genesis 8:15-16:

In these two verses we see that God spoke very explicitly to Noah again, “Go out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons' wives with you.”  Notice that prior to God's command to leave the ark, Noah had seen that the dove had found an olive leaf, and he had noticed that the “surface of the ground was dried up.” Still, he waited until he heard from God as to when he should move to leave the ark and bring out his wife and his sons and their wives.  Note that God spoke separately about the humans whom He had created in His image before He spoke about the other creatures.

The emphasis that is placed here on God initiating the action of everyone exiting from the ark shows that it was God who was “in charge” in this entire situation.  It shows that the flood was God's work—His judgment of a sinful generation, and His salvation of a righteous man.

Genesis 8:17:

God brought about a very orderly exit from the ark of all the animals.  He had insured the care of every species, and now He brought them out in the order of their creation.  First, the birds, which He had created on the fifth day.  Then came the livestock and crawling creatures, which He had made on the sixth day.  God said that they could then “be fruitful and multiply on the earth.”  He would give that command again to Noah and his family twice. (Gen. 9:1, 7)

Genesis 8:18-19:

We can only imagine that Noah was eager to be obedient to God's command to exit the ark!  However, eagerness must have been accompanied by some very strong emotions, because he and his family were in a completely new place on the earth, and entirely by themselves.  They had spent a year in an unimaginable environment, doubtless very thankful to God to have been spared from death, but very busy at being God's helpers in preserving life for the world ahead of them.  Now they emerged.

It is striking throughout this whole story the way God directs Noah's activity.  God tells Noah to build an ark for the saving of himself and the entire animal world; He says “Come into the ark.”  Now He says, “Go forth from the ark.”  The timing and the initiative are God's and the obedience is Noah's.  God's word leads Noah to do the right thing at the right time throughout the entire process.  This is a very simple picture of the life of faith, waiting upon God and acting in obedience.  We make the ark when we hear of the Lord Jesus Christ and trust His Word, believe Him, and rest upon what He said.  We go forth from the ark when we act as redeemed men and women in a lost world, when we live by the grace and constant presence of God in our lives, in the midst of an ungodly generation.

Question:  What, if anything, makes it hard to trust God and to patiently wait on His guidance?  What problems can people encounter if they act too early or fail to act after God directs them to act? (Ref. Psalm 27:14; Psalm 130: 5-6; Lam. 3:25; Isaiah 40:31; Psalm 33:20-22)

IV. Genesis 8:20: A New Altar

Genesis 8:20:

Noah had a profound understanding of what God had done for him and his family and for all of creation.  He had believed God to deliver him and his family, and he had prepared for his first activity upon coming forth from the ark on a future day by taking a sufficient number of animals into the ark to allow for making a sacrifice to the Lord God.  And now he acts upon his understanding and upon his gratitude to God. “Noah built an altar to the Lord.”

The only animal sacrifice recorded in the book of Genesis before this time was Abel's sacrifice of the first-lings of his flock (Gen 4:4).  No mention was made there of an offering by fire, as no mention of fire is made when the Lord God took animal skins and made coverings for Adam and Eve.  Therefore, this building of an altar and offering sacrifices by fire to the Lord is the first such offering that is recorded in Genesis.  But, this kind of altar for worshiping the Lord became the consistent practice of the patriarchs.  Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses all built altars for worship of the Lord God.  Noah took of some of all of the clean animals and birds and offered burnt offerings on the altar.  We can only wonder how long this worship service went on.

V. Genesis 8:21-22:  A New Promise

Genesis 8:21:

Noah had set his priority ahead of time and he had been faithful to keep it when he entered upon his new life in the new world.  God was very pleased with Noah's offering.  The phrase, “smelled the soothing aroma,” was a common expression for favorable acceptance of an offering.  “Said to Himself” is a rare expression used in connection with God.  We are invited into the inner sanctum of God to take a look at His private thoughts:   At the time of Noah's worship and sacrifice of the clean animals who had come through the flood, God said to Himself, “I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man's heart is evil from his youth.”  In other words, God acknowledged to Himself man's innate, irreversible propensity to evil.  It is as if He said to Himself, “If wicked thoughts, desires, and actions are always to be followed by the judgment they merit, disaster will never be far away!”  God resolved at that time never again to curse the ground on account of man. It was at that time that He declared,

“While the earth remains,
 Seedtime and harvest,
 And cold and heat,
 And summer and winter,
 And day and night
 Shall not cease.”

Thus we have God's Word very beautifully expressed, that the laws of nature will remain dependable.  There will remain seasons of cold and of heat.  The sun will come out and rule the day, and the moon will come out and rule the night.  As long as the earth remains, if men plant seeds, there will come a harvest.  It all rests on God's faithfulness. 

VI. Genesis 9:1-2:

Genesis 9:1:

Just as God had blessed Adam and Eve, He blessed Noah and his sons and commanded them to be fruitful and multiply.  Now, every human being is a descendant of Noah.  God established a new direction at this point in time:  the animals that previously lived in peaceful harmony with men would now have an innate fear of man.

Also, Adam had not been permitted to eat the animals, but now God gives Noah permission to do so.  One reason for this new dispensation could have been simply that Noah and his family would have needed this provision in order to stay alive, since it would take some time to re-start plant life on earth again.  Some people say that the atmospheric conditions on earth had changed, and men's bodies would have a need for protein.

There was one restriction:  Noah was not to eat the blood.  Blood was regarded at the substance of life itself, as Moses would spell out in the book of Leviticus, Blood represented life, and life belonged exclusively to God.  God kept dominion over life for Himself alone. And at this same time, God established the death penalty for the shedding of man's blood (Genesis 9:5-6).  Ref. Leviticus 17:10-14.

VII. Genesis 9:11-16:

Genesis 9:11:

Now God spoke again to Noah to reaffirm a covenant with him which He had told Noah that He would establish before He sent the flood (Gen 6:18).  God at this time established this covenant with Noah, his descendants, all the birds, cattle, every beast of the earth—essentially all flesh—to never again destroy the earth and the life on the earth with a flood.  This covenant, as we noted last week, is called the Noahic Covenant and is the first covenant in the Bible.  It was for all future generations and it was unconditional, depending only on the faithfulness of God.  As long as humanity remains upon the earth, this covenant will remain in force.

Genesis 9:12-16:

To this covenant God attached a special sign, saying, “This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all successive generations; I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth.”

Later covenants also had signs.  The sign of the Abrahamic covenant was circumcision.  The signs of the covenant with the Israelites in the Sinai desert were the tablets of stone containing the Ten Commandments, the tabernacle, and the Ark of the Covenant.  Signs of the New Covenant “in Christ” are baptism and the Lord's Supper.

The rainbow, as God's bow has come to be called, was specifically the bow “in the cloud.”  The Hebrew term translated “bow” can refer to a rainbow or the kind of bow that is a weapon.  Some have suggested that God was speaking of hanging up His bow and arrows in the heavens as a sign that He would no longer be at war with humanity.  The Old Testament does refer to God's bow and arrows (Deut. 32:23, 42; Ps. 18:14; Hab. 3:9-11).  However, this bow was in the clouds and was connected with rain (Genesis 9:14).  God said that when He saw the bow in the cloud He would remember His covenant.  The passage speaking of the covenant and the sign of the covenant is quite lengthy, from Genesis 9:9-17.  God states his promise again and again never to destroy all flesh with a flood.

We do not really know whether the rainbow existed before the flood.  Many people argue that atmospheric conditions were different before the flood and the rainbow was a new phenomenon at the time when God set it as a sign of the covenant.  If it did exist before the flood, then God took this occasion to designate it as the special token of His gracious promise.  It is peculiarly appropriate, set against the darkness of the clouds as a sign of glory, grace, and hope.  No doubt, for some time after the flood, every time it began to rain, a certain amount of fear would have arisen in Noah's family.  But the presence of the rainbow would undoubtedly reassure them that was now only a natural part of the natural laws of their new environment.

Question: In what ways has God given you a new start?  How does God's faithfulness to keep His promise to Noah affect your willingness to trust Him today?

(Note: Links like the following are found throughout this website.  They take one to Word Documents in my computer which has virus protection.  They are safe to open!)

Genesis
Lesson Six
Scattered
By Carol Miller of
My Life Ministries
October 11, 2015

Genesis 11:1-9

I. Review

In Genesis 9, when the eight people in Noah's family exited the ark after a little more than a year of being inside, Noah set his priority firmly on God.  He began his new life in this entirely new creation by worshiping God.  He built an altar and offered to God an offering by fire of every clean animal that had come through the flood.  This act of worship was definitely a sacrificial offering and an act of faith because Noah and his family would be looking to the animal life they had brought through the flood to provide their needs for food and covering for some time up ahead.  God was moved by Noah's response to Him and came to a firm decision never ever to destroy every living thing as He had done.

Noah's ark had grounded on the mountains of Ararat on the day that would be the exact calendar day of Jesus' Resurrection several thousand years in the future.  In this we can see the seed of the New Testament doctrine of new life (resurrection life) in Christ.  Preceding their walk of faith in this new life, they had elected, in the type (prophetic symbol), to be found “in Christ” by coming into the ark of safety, being saved by God's grace from the judgment experienced by the unbelieving world.  It is of interest to note, also, that the number for “new beginning” is the number eight.  There were eight people in the ark.

God then started off Noah's new life on earth again by speaking a blessing over Noah and his family and giving them the command to be fruitful and multiply, just as he had done for Adam and Eve.  Then God added some new guidelines for this new life:  God gave into Noah's hand all the animals and plant life for food with the stern exception that they should not “eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood” (Genesis 9:4).  God made it plain that He alone had dominion over life itself.  Moses would later write, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement” (Leviticus 17:11).  Dealing with blood would be a very solemn matter.  God at that time made it very clear that man was made in His image, and whoever shed man's blood, be it another man or even a beast, his own lifeblood would be required of him.

Then God established with Noah the covenant He had promised to establish before Noah made the ark.  He promised that He would never again cut off all flesh by the water of a flood.  As a sign of this covenant, God set His bow in the cloud and said that when He looked upon it, He would remember His promise.

Today everyone on earth is a descendant of Noah through Shem, Ham, or Japheth.

II. Overview of Genesis 10; 11: (Chapter 10 is not a part of today’s lesson.)

Genesis 10, which actually relates what comes chronologically after Genesis 11, is the chapter that gives the early Table of Nations.  It appears to represent the known tribes of the earth, listing seventy descendants of Noah's sons, 26 from Shem, 30 from Ham, and 14 from Japheth.  There is too much material to think through and comprehend in this chapter, but for just a quick bit of history relevant to Genesis 11 zoom in just on Genesis 11:9-11, concerning Nimrod, “a mighty hunter before the Lord,” (as most English translations read) who began to build his kingdom with Babel, and later went forth into Assyria, and built up Nineveh. The Jewish historian Josephus, places Babel and the building of the Tower in the days of Nimrod.

As for being "a mighty hunter before the Lord,” it seems that it was the work of kings in those ancient days to be hunters because civilization was sparse and wild animals were a constant threat to people.  Kings had not much else to do but to organize hunting parties and act as protectors of the people.  However, in the case of Nimrod, the Jewish Talmud says of Nimrod that he also was “a hunter of the souls of men.”  This is likely true, because, by the fact of his founding of Babylon and Nineveh, we have a strong hint as to the character of Nimrod.

He was the “first” mighty man on the earth after the flood.  The phrase “mighty men” takes us back to Genesis 6 where we read of the Nephilim born of the invasion of the earth by the fallen angels.  We are told there that these were “the mighty men that were of old, the men of renown.”  It is possible that Nimrod belonged to this race of giants.

Other scholars point out that Nimrod's name comes from “marad,” which means “we will revolt,” and that the verse should not read that “Nimrod was mighty before YHWH,” in the sense of “according to His will and purpose,” but rather, “he was a mighty hunter in opposition to YHWH.”

Good scholars agree that our English translation of Genesis 10:8-10 is weak.  Probably a more accurate translation would be:  “Cush begat Nimrod; he began to be a tyrant in the Earth.  He was a tyrannical hunter in opposition to the Lord.  Thus, it is said 'Nimrod the tyrannical opponent of YHWH.'”

This is another theory about Nimrod:

The god of Babylon in the days of Nimrod was Marduk.  Many scholars identify Marduk with Nimrod.  If you drop the first consonant in Nimrod's name and take just the other three, M, R, and D, you have the basis for the name Marduk.  In the Babylonian religion, Marduk and his wife Semiramis held a unique place.  They founded the “mother and child cult,” based on the claim of Semiramis that she had a child who was virgin born. This was the beginning of the offering of sacrifices to “the Queen of Heaven” that also began to be done in Israel in Jeremiah's day, and against which the prophet warned Israel.  This story would explain the idea in the Jewish Talmud that Nimrod was a “hunter for the souls of men,” drawing them into idolatry.

There is not really any research about Nimrod that leads us to conclude that he was a godly influence in his days. In fact, just the opposite.  One scholar wrote that Nimrod had said that in case God should ever again get the idea to destroy the earth with a flood, he would build a tower so tall that the flood waters could not overflow it. Perhaps this was part of the motivation behind the building of the Tower of Babel.

We also have a note concerning Peleg, descendant of Shem, at Genesis 10:25, that “in his days the earth was divided,” which apparently refers to the scattering in Genesis 11:9.  In Hebrew, Peleg means “divided.”  This would indicate that the building of the Tower of Babel occurred five generations after the Flood.

Genesis 10:32 says that “out of these (genealogies), the nations were separated on the earth after the flood.”  In Genesis 11 we have the amazing, supernatural story of how it all came about, told in only nine verses.

III. Genesis 11:1-4: “United by a Sinful Purpose”

Genesis 11:1:  The use of a dual expression “same language” and “same vocabulary” emphasizes that there was a unity among all people.  All the people were descendants of Noah; therefore, this would be expected.  (It is interesting to note that this could not be true if the theory of evolution were to be believed.)  According to the genealogy of Genesis 10, which makes the days of Peleg the time of this occurrence, this existence of a single language would still have been true five generations after the flood. The proper names of the times indicate that the language was related to Hebrew.

Genesis 11:2:  The verse should read that they migrated “from the east.”  If they began in the area of the mountains of Ararat and went eastward, they would run into the Caspian Sea.  Moving eastward led them to Mesopotamia where they arrived at a lush, fertile valley (“plain” KJV) and settled there.  The early name for this area was Shinar, and Genesis 10:10 identifies this area as part of Nimrod's kingdom, including the areas of “Babylon, Erech, Accad, and Calneh.”  This is modern-day Iraq. In Daniel 1:1-2, both Shinar and Babylon were used to describe this place.  In Isaiah and Zechariah, Shinar was a synonym for Babylon.  Abraham helped defeat the king of Shinar to rescue his nephew Lot.  (Genesis 14; 15; 16)

The fact that “they settled there” tells us that they were in rebellion against God.  God had told them to fill the earth and had blessed them with fruitfulness so that they could accomplish that command.

Genesis 11:3:  In one sentence we are informed that these people, descendants of Ham, noted for being technologically gifted, discovered (over more time than is indicated here) how to make bricks from the soil they found there, which did not contain stones or rocks as their previous land had.  Then they learned to bake them, and they also discovered the tar pits which were filled with tar, or bitumen, or asphalt, which was sticky.  This they used for mortar.  This whole endeavor that restricted them to this area by building permanent structures probably did not seem to them to be in rebellion against God.  But migrating people live in tents and temporary dwellings in order to be able to move quickly and easily.  Cain had rebelled against God in this same way by building a city east of Eden.

Genesis 11:4:  A certain amount of success fired more ambition.  They beckoned each other to join together in the effort, saying, “Come! Let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”

The ultimate motive of all the effort was to “make a name for ourselves.”  Jewish Rabbi Jonathan Cahn has spoken to our generation of the significance of towers in the minds of men in his recent books, The Harbinger and The Mystery of the Shemitah.  His emphasis is on this motivation of men to make a great name for themselves and to take pride in an imposing structure that speaks of their power of achievement.

It was a project of immense pride, arrogance, and self-sufficiency.  John the apostle would have called it the “boastful pride of life.” It was an early example of humanism, an independence which exalts the power of men to manage their own lives apart from God. And it was fear motivated also, because they feared being separated and thus being forced to be more dependent upon God. It really was open rebellion against God, because they knew that the command of God was to spread out and fill up the whole earth.
 
They said they wanted a tower whose top would reach into heaven.  This probably tells us that the tower was for religious purposes and not for defense purposes.  Religious towers were called ziggurats.  The ruins of these have been excavated in the region of Babylon.  The sides were terraced with steps rather than smooth like the pyramids, but they went up like mountain-shaped pyramids, and they often had temples at the base and on the top of them.

Some accounts of the building of the city of Babylon tell us that every brick used to build the city had the name of the god Marduk inscribed on it. The Babylonians boasted of their city as not only impregnable, but also as the heavenly city, babili (“the gate of God”).  The Genesis record views this city as the predominant force in the world, the epitome of ungodly powers – in a word, the “anti-kingdom.”  A pile of vitrified brick near Babylon, known as Birs Nimrud is a well-known example of a ziggurat and is believed to have been the biblical Tower of Babel.

Question:  What dangers exist when we make plans without regard to God or His purposes?  Which danger would you rank as the greatest?

IV. Genesis 11:5: “Reviewed by God”

Ray Stedman calls this section (Genesis 11:5-6) a section of exquisite irony.  God has been presented in the early chapters of Genesis as the Maker of heaven and earth, the One concerned about the minutest details of creation, the Omnipotent, Omniscient God who knows everything, sees everything, and is all-powerful. So, this is not an expression of a primitive man's concept of God; it is purest sarcasm.  It is humorous and intended to indicate to us, in a clever way, the ridiculousness of this entire situation.  Here is this tower that men erect, thinking it will impress God and maybe threaten Him.  But from the heavens the tower is so far away that God can't even see it, not with His most powerful telescopic lens.  So God says, “I'll come down and investigate.”  It is language that is designed to contrast the ridiculous suppositions of men with the greatness of the Being of God.  He “came down” to investigate this tiny tower that men had erected.  The phrase “that the men were building” emphasizes the dependence of the people upon their own human effort rather than trusting and relying on God in any way.

By using the phrase “sons of men” rather than “men,” the mortality and puniness of men is contrasted to the greatness of God.

Then, in all seriousness, we are given God's analysis of the situation.

V. Genesis 11:6-9: “Scattered by Confusion”

Genesis 11:6:  The first of three things that God took note of was man's unity, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language.”

Second, He noted their creativity:  “This is only the beginning of what they will do,” or, “This is what they began to do, and now nothing that they purpose to do will be impossible for them.”  God realized that the creativity He had put into them was something related to His own image, and that it was an ability to think and reason and come out with practical applications that would lead them on and on into more achievements like what they had already begun to do. This may sound startling, but we hear this same thing said today, “Come on, there is nothing that we cannot do if we put our minds to it.” And to a great extent it is true.

Well, what was the problem God had with this?  It certainly isn't that this little tower of mud and tar threatened God or that God was afraid men would master everything and He could no longer control them.  But, it was that man would keep telling himself he could do anything he wanted to without God, that he didn't need God, that God was optional in his life. Man would find his significance in having a city and a tower that reached into the sky rather than having a right relationship with Him.  God could be relegated to a convenient corner of his life and only welcomed out on especially needy occasions. But God made man for the primary purpose of having fellowship with Himself, and this rebellion against His command to scatter over the earth could lead man back into another generation like the one before the flood.

Question:  Has God ever allowed you to pursue a direction in your life that you knew was contrary to His will?  How did that work out for you?  How did God make you aware that He was reviewing every step you took away from His plan?

Question:  How many testimonies have you heard where people say that they had to “come to the end of their rope” before they would turn to God?  Why is it that men seem to be driven to trust first in their own sufficiency?

Genesis 11:7:  The use of “let Us” seems to go right along with the “Let Us” of Genesis 1:26 where God said, “Let Us make man in Our image.”  It is the Godhead (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) speaking together.  The people had said, “Come, let us build,” and now God says, “Come, let Us go down and confuse their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.” Of course God did not literally have to go down to the people.  He was already in their midst.  This is only showing that just as the people of Shinar were unified in their purpose, God was unified in His.  God could have done many things to stop the people from building, but His solution was obviously supernatural in a way that they could clearly read, “This was irrefutably an act of God, and it was undoubtedly His long-term solution to the purpose He wished to accomplish, which was to get the people to scatter over the face of the earth.”

What a scene it must have been when God came down and confused their language so that they could not understand one another's speech.  They gathered for work as usual and the worker could not understand the foreman when he told him what to do.  How absolutely stunned they must have been! They could only shake their heads at each other.  Can you imagine the fist-shaking and screaming and frustration that went on there?

Genesis 11:8:  Just as it was God who confused their language, the Word says that The Lord “scattered them over the face of the whole earth.”  And this was sufficient to get them to stop “building the city.”  We are not told right at this point that they stopped building the tower, but obviously they did.

It is interesting that it says in the book of Hebrews that Abraham “was looking for a city whose maker and builder was God” (Hebrews 11:10).  God evidently intends one day to build a city for man.  But man was not ready for a city in Cain's day, and he was not ready in the days of Nimrod, and it is obvious that he still is not ready.  Somehow, cities are centers of business life and commerce, where it seems to man that the needs of the body can be best met, and centers of pleasure, where hungers of the soul are satisfied with music, art, beauty, and all the ingredients of culture.  But until man is brought firmly into relationship with God, the city is a place that will destroy him.

Moreover, God intended man to exercise stewardship over the whole earth.  He knew that scattering the people would put them in larger areas in which to multiply, and He knew this was necessary to get the people back on a course that was best for them.

Genesis 11:9:  The people wanted to make a name for themselves.  So, ironically, because of what God did there to confuse the language and to scatter them, “its name is called Babylon.”  The literal Hebrew name would simply be Babel, as in the Tower of Babel, and many translations simply use the word Babel at verse 9.  There is a play on words here because the word babel sounds like the word balal, which means “confused.” Thus, the scripture says” its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of the whole earth.” It happens to fit well with our word “babble,” so that we easily understand the irony.

We are not told here specifically how the people's languages were affected, but Genesis 10 indicates that the division of dialects followed tribal lines.  The various people groups were able to communicate within families, but suddenly tribes were unable to engage effectively with other groups. In the Japhetic and the Semitic lines, the languages are quite closely aligned; but in the Hamitic languages, there is utter confusion.  Tribes of people growing up quite close by one another have completely different languages. This condition still exists today and it still divides mankind.  We cannot have a meeting of the United Nations today without dozens of awkward gadgets for translating the speakers so that everyone can understand.

It was judgment of God on mankind's attempt to unify and master the earth in his own ability.  But it was really God's mercy and forced blessing on man, so that he would be stopped from thinking he could be his own God and from getting far out beyond what he could handle on his own.

Babel is a reminder that we are quite capable of taking what God provides as a blessing and perverting it into an act of disobedience.  Somehow, the simplicity of the telling of the story of the Tower of Babel can have a way of causing us to diminish the serious lesson we need to see in the account of what God did in response to the peoples' plan to build a city and a tower to bring themselves honor.  We need to recognize that in this place God powerfully intervened and condemned human pride.  It was no trivial matter.  Proverbs 16:5 warns us, “Everyone who is arrogant is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished.”

This story would end on a most discouraging note if we did not remember that at Pentecost, after Jesus was resurrected and returned to heaven, there was a miraculous reversal of the judgment that occurred at Babel. The Holy Spirit fell on the early church and filled the disciples of Jesus.  Jews who were in Jerusalem that day “each heard them speaking in his own language” (Acts 2:6).  God brought forth a miracle of hearing.  That event demonstrated that when the Spirit of God fills a believer, he removes the effects of the life of the flesh and makes possible new life in the Spirit.

(Note: Links like the following are found throughout this website.  They take one to Word Documents in my computer which has virus protection.  They are safe to open!)

Genesis
Lesson Eight
Waiting for the Promise
By Carol Miller of
My Life Ministries
October 25, 2015

Genesis 15:1-7, 13-16

Review and Overview:

With the story of Abraham's call from God and his journey first to Haran and then into and all through the land of Canaan, we begin to observe a new stage of God's revelation to mankind in the pages of the Bible.  Bobby explained last week that with Abraham's story, the Patriarchal time period of the Bible began.  That meant that God would build a specific nation of people through one family (Abraham's) and through this family and the nation developing out of this family, He would reveal Himself and draw men to Himself in personal relationship.

Within the stories of Creation, of Adam and Eve, of Cain and Abel, of Noah and his generation, we saw the development of four themes played out.  Those four repeated themes were as follows:

(1) God as Creator of the universe and of man,

(2) The entrance of sin and the prevalence of it in humanity,

(3) God's displeasure and judgment of man's sin, and

(4) God's redeeming grace toward sinful humanity.

We saw these themes played out in a little bit different way in each of the above stories.

But, after the story of Babel and the building of the Tower and the scattering of humanity over the face of the earth through the confusion of the languages, we were left wondering how God's redeeming grace would come through and rectify this new and different kind of situation.

God's manner of reaching out to bring man back to Himself after such a rebellion and judgment took a different path.  God had vowed never to destroy all flesh and start over.  So, He began a new method.  Rather than working with humanity as a whole, God now began to work through a particular genealogy and give a new revelation of how sinful men could be made right with Him.  Eventually this revelation was to reach out to the whole world, but it had to start with one nation that would know and serve God.  Last week you looked at the genealogy of Shem and how Abram came down through that line.

The events of God's choosing of Abram and Abram's (Abraham's) call and journeying through the land of Canaan (along with his brief stay in the neighboring land of Egypt) show us a picture of the life of faith, the choices of faith, and the growth and development of faith in a concrete, worked-out life story.  And although we know that it was always by faith that people were made right and righteous before God despite their sin, we are enabled now to see a bigger and more developed picture of the matter of “believing God” as we follow Abraham's life and (later on) the lives of his heirs.

Because of the lack of clarity of the precise nature and timing of God's call to Abram in the book of Genesis, add the inspired narrative of Stephen in the Book of Acts (Acts 7:2-8) to get the clearest summary version of how everything began and proceeded with Abraham.

Acts 7:2-8:  You probably noticed in Genesis 12:1, where God spoke to Abram the second time, that some versions say simply, “The Lord said to Abram.”  But other versions say, “The Lord had said to Abram.”  This would indicate that God had spoken to Abram alone in Ur before his father Terah migrated along with Abram and Sarai, his half-sister and his wife, and Lot, his nephew, to Haran and remained there until Terah died. From what Stephen tells us in his narrative, it seems clear that God spoke to Abram and not to Terah or Lot or Sarai.  But somehow the plan was formulated to include Terah and Lot as well as Sarai, and somehow the plan changed so that they stayed in Haran, most likely because people there worshiped the moon goddess just as people in Ur did, and because Abram's father was an idolater.  Since Terah means “delay” and since there was considerable trouble down the road, rather than blessing with Abram's nephew Lot (and God had said He would make Abram a blessing), it appears that Abram was definitely originally called to leave his relatives, and that included his father and his nephew.  But, God makes accommodations for our incomplete obedience (as we will witness with Moses and Aaron and others) and is patient with the weaknesses of His people.

By the time we reach Genesis 15, we have seen Abram moving from Haran into Canaan with his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, and all the people and possessions they had acquired in Haran.  There has also been the unfortunate circumstance of the sojourn into Egypt and God's rescue of Sarai out of Pharaoh’s household (without whom the promises of God could not be accomplished), the return to Canaan, Abram's separation from Lot to whom he magnanimously gave the richer portion of land, the rescue of Lot out of a war involving seven kings, and the encounter with Melchizedek, King of Salem, to whom Abram gave a tenth of all the spoils of battle.  Now after the great victory of that battle, Abram is much in need of a fresh encounter with the Lord.  He is sad and worried, and he is fearful.

Genesis 15:1-3: “Abram's Frustration”

Question:  Can you remember a time when you had been promised something important, or perhaps when you set your heart on something, but it did not materialize for a long time?  Recall how you felt as you waited for the realization of that promise or prospect.

It is now more than fifteen years after Abram had received the promise from God that he would become a great nation, that his name would be made great, and that he would be the source of great blessing to all the families of the earth.   Abram needs to be told to “fear not,” and to be reassured.

Genesis 15:1:  Abram was 75 and Sarai was 65 when they left Haran; so by the time God speaks this promise to Abram, they were closer to 80 and 70 years old.  They were definitely beyond childbearing age.

In these verses, there are beautiful instances of “first occurrence” in the Bible:  “The Word of the Lord came,” is first written here in reference to God speaking to Abraham.  One of the greatest concepts of human thought is that of the Word.  Man is distinguished from animals primarily by his ability to formulate and communicate ideas.  His capacity for intelligible, abstract, symbolic language, written and spoken, is unique in the world of living creatures.  Language is a divine creation, and the very purpose of it is that God might communicate His will to man and man might respond in praise to God.  Psalm 138:2 says, “Thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.”  Prior to His incarnation, the Word often appeared to man in what is called a theophany, a preincarnate appearance of Christ.  So, it is significant that the first time the word “word” appears in the Bible, it refers not to the words of men, but to the Word of the Lord, manifesting a marvelous claim and promise to Abram.

Also, this remarkable verse introduces for the first time in Scripture the words “vision,” “shield,” and “reward.”  This is the first instance of the great “I AMs” of Scripture.

Abraham had just been through a fierce battle, and it is possible he wondered if Chedorlaomer would return and he would not be able to surprise him this time and win over his attackers. He could have needed to hear “Fear not” because of this kind of fear.  Possibly he also knew of many dangers around him as he walked through the length and breadth of the land, as God had invited him to do.

But with the words, “I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward,” (Authorized Version [Genesis 15:1 KJV]) or some versions say, “your reward shall be very great,” (Genesis 15:1 NASB) Abram definitely was stirred by God's strong and emotional statement to pour out his innermost concerns about the promise God had given him of becoming a great nation. 

(As to the translation of God's statement about Abraham's reward, the Authorized Version is really the best, for if God is our reward, we will have the only genuinely satisfying joy that can be known, and there is very little else that could be left to desire.)

Genesis 15:2-3:  Abraham realized that God promised to give him this land.  But what good would it do when there was no heir to receive it after he was gone?  How could there be a great nation?  Or a great name?  Or a blessing that would go to all the families of the earth?  This was in addition to the fact that Abraham took seriously the divine mandate to be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth.  There was shame connected to being barren, and Abram was either considering or had already decided and made arrangements for a servant who was born in his household, Eliezer of Damascus, to take care of the matters of his burial and to receive his goods, since there was as yet no heir.  Abram was keenly aware of his old age and Sarai's.

Abram's question about what God would give him since he was childless really shows us his faith.  Abram was completely honest in praying to God, and we should take a lesson here.  We should also remember that Abram had not been tempted to take from King Bera the offer of the spoils of battle, as he did not want anyone to be able to say, “I have made Abram rich,” except God Himself.  Abram wanted only what God had promised, and he needed to have some help from God to understand the process and the timing of how he would receive his promise.  He had, after all, thrown himself in utter dependence upon God.

Genesis 15:4-5:  “God's Promise”

Genesis 15:4:  For emphasis, “Behold, the Word of the Lord came” is given again.  This was no mere wishful thinking or just a hopeful thought that came to Abram.  Unequivocally, God stated that it would be a child from Abram's own body who would be his heir.  Abram's age was of no consequence.  Matters in the natural were irrelevant.  Without even speaking his name, God eliminated Eliezer as Abram's heir.  “This man” shall not be your heir. 

Genesis 15:5:  Undoubtedly, this is one of the most beautiful and touching passages in all of Scripture.  God's desire to communicate to Abram the magnificence of what He had in mind as a reward for the man who would be called His friend, is awe-inspiring.  He called him to go outside and behold the heavens and number the stars before reiterating to him that his descendants would be this numerous.  Doubtless, the grandeur of the sky and the stars which God created would also remind Abram that if God made all of that, He could certainly bring forth an heir from his body at any age whatsoever.

God has already fulfilled this promise, even though it will be fulfilled to a far greater extent in the coming age.  We know that by now there have been millions of Jews and many millions of Christians, and in the Millennium, many more will be born and redeemed.  Surely, literally, Abraham's descendants would be and will be as numerous as the stars.  God had already told him that he would have descendants as numerous as the dust of the earth (Genesis 13:16-17).  Because God gave this promise to Abram in two forms, dust and stars, we can see that God was promising Abram physical seed in the Jewish race and nation of Israel, and, even more importantly, spiritual seed of all who through faith in Christ are in the new nation, the royal priesthood, which is the church (I Peter 2:9).  Galatians 3:7 states,

“Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham.”

Genesis 15:6:  “Abram's Faith”

God had confirmed to Abram His previous promise of Genesis 12: 2.  Abram would have a son, because God said that he would.  But within Abram's heart and mind, a choice had to be made.  Abram could depend on human understanding of what was possible in the natural realm, or he could believe the Lord.  Abram believed the Lord. The verb "believed" in the Hebrew implies a judgment about what deserves or does not deserve one's trust.  The object of Abram's trust was God.  Abram trusted God and accepted that God would act to fulfill the promise that a son would be born to him.  In response, God credited Abram's faith as righteousness.  In the Hebrew, the word translated "credited" means to assign a high value to something.  In this case that value was righteousness. It can also mean "reckoned", as “applied to one's account.”    The concept of righteousness simply means being right with God, having a relationship with Him, and James adds that this kind of relationship will result in righteous works (James 2:21-26). Paul, seeking to explain to the Romans that justification was by faith rather than works, referred to this event in Genesis 15 (Romans 4:3).   And in speaking to the Galatians, he explained that they would be Abraham's sons if they believed in the same way Abraham did, quoting this passage from Genesis to the Galatians as well (Galatians 3:6).

Righteousness is not earned, but is God's gift to those who place their faith in God through Jesus Christ, who is “the source and the perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2)

Genesis 15:7-12:  “Cutting the Covenant”

In this section, after God tells Abram that He brought him out of a different culture and land to give him this new land as a possession, and Abram expresses a strong desire to experience the actuality of what God has promised.  We are not to take this as a wrongful questioning of God, but as strong desire on Abram's part for the good thing God has promised.  Recall that Esau did not regard his inheritance as important.  Obviously, Abraham does, and he wants it to become a reality and something he can feel confident of until it comes about.

God accommodates Abram's desire to have strong reaffirmation by “cutting a covenant” with him.  In this covenant, God was going to help Abram to have faith that would last over time as the promise developed to a conclusion.  He wanted to reinforce Abram's faith, but He also wanted to show us that faith is intended to grow in us and change the one who has the righteousness of faith to become more and more an expression of His righteousness.

In the ancient culture of that time, this kind of covenant-making was a common practice, but here God specifies exactly the animals he wants Abram to prepare.  God is communicating to Abram that for a righteous man to possess the reward He has promised, there must be the consideration of a death.  In the secular realm, men were expressing that if either of them broke the agreement, what had happened to the animals should happen to them.  God was expressing the sacrificial death of Christ within this spiritual ritual and would be the only party to pass between the pieces to signify that the agreement was conditioned upon Him alone.  Abraham had to do nothing but believe.  However, he did have to do that much, and vigorously, as we see him defending the sacrifices when the birds of prey swoop down to destroy the covenant animals.

The animals God specified are a three year old heifer or ox (which would represent the qualities of patience and strength that Christ exhibited), a three year old she-goat (which would represent nourishment or refreshment in Christ), a three year old ram (which would picture Christlike power and might in warfare), and a turtledove and a young pigeon (which would represent gentleness and grace).  These represent the full character of Christ, and the requirement that they be three years old would correspond to the three years of Christ's ministry on earth.  Christ's death broke the power of sin over us, and if we receive His life, God wants to replace our old life with this new character of Christ in us. In Christ's death, all that He was made available to us.  He poured out his soul unto death, so that the fullness of His person could live in us who belong to Him and to the Father.

Terror and darkness fell upon Abram as he watched through a long day and defended his promise against Satanic doubts in the form of birds descending to rob him of his blessing.
 
Genesis 15:13-16:  “God's Plan”

Genesis 15:13-14, 16:  Abram was prepared by this process for what God wished to show him of the plan whereby his promise would be fulfilled.  God's plan is seldom as simple in coming about or as soon as we expect it to be.  But in the end it is better and fuller and more fulfilling than we can ever have imagined.  Abraham was shown by God that the nation God would bring forth from his descendants would develop over 400 years of affliction in cruel slavery and oppression, but they would come back to this land God had promised to him.  God explained that He would use this special nation to bring judgment upon the unbelieving nations who oppressed them.  God explained that as a just Judge of the earth, He could not wipe out ten people groups (symbolized in “the Amorite”) before they had demonstrated that their iniquity was irreversible.  Many times we hear people ask, “How could God wipe out nations of people like that?”  But we fail to realize God gave them 400 years of patiently waiting and working with them before giving them up to judgment.  Think of how old America is, of the depravity we are experiencing in a few generations, and think what God endured patiently as those cultures fell further and further under evil's control.

Genesis 15:15, 18-21:  God blessed Abram by promising him that though the plan would take generations to accomplish in full, he would live a good life and a long and peaceful life and be buried with his fathers, a blessing that any man would be pleased to receive in the meantime.  And his descendants would inherit the vast land from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates, a vast land containing ten people groups in Abram's day.

(Note: Links like the following are found throughout this website.  They take one to Word Documents in my computer which has virus protection.  They are safe to open!)

Genesis
Lesson Nine
A New Name
By Carol Miller of
My Life Ministries
November 1, 2015

Genesis 17:1-8, 15-27

Review

Before covering Genesis 15 last week, we retraced the patriarch Abraham's journey of faith from his first encounter with the true and living God in Ur of the Chaldees (Genesis 11:27-32).  It was there, according to Stephen's narrative in the Book of Acts (Acts 7), that Abram first encountered the God of Glory.  We don't know exactly how—whether by a spoken word, or a dream or a vision of some kind—God appeared to him at that time.

After receiving God's instructions to leave that land and go to the land that God would show him, Abram departed from Ur and traveled to Haran with his father, Terah, his nephew, Lot, and his wife, Sarai.  After his father died, he went on into Canaan, where God had originally directed him to go, along with his wife and nephew.  A short time later he traveled down to Egypt for a short sojourn, then back up to the Negev (southern part of Canaan) and on back up to a place between Bethel and Ai where he built an altar and worshiped.  This was the place where he and his nephew Lot eventually parted their flocks and herds, and Lot moved to Sodom.

Then we were shown Abram's part in the battle of the seven kings (rescuing his nephew Lot) and his refusal to take any of the booty of the battle from King Bera of Sodom, but meeting Melchizedek, who came and pronounced a blessing over him, and to whom Abram offered the tenth of the spoils, recognizing him as a king-priest of The Most High God.  There is no way of knowing for certain whether Melchizedek was a human being who was the king of Salem and whom God had placed in that situation and brought to meet Abram on that occasion, or if Abram actually met with the Lord Jesus Christ in a preincarnate appearance.  We only know that God placed Melchizedek there at that point in time to represent the One to Whom Abram gave his worship and allegiance, and who stands as a type of the Lord Jesus Christ in His earthly reign when He comes to hold the office of King-Priest, ruling from Jerusalem over all the kingdoms of the earth.

In Genesis 15 we saw Abram express to God his grief, concern, doubt and fears over not having received a son through his wife Sarai after a number of years sojourning.  Abram knew that without a son, even if God did give him the land of Canaan, he would have no true heir, and he could not become “a great nation,” or have much of a “great name,” or have descendants “like the dust of the earth” (Genesis 13:16).  At that time, God gave Abram a little bit more detail about what He would give him. God promised him an heir from his own body and took him outside to observe the night sky, telling him that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars.  God wanted to give Abram assurance that he would surely receive his promise; so He went through a “covenant cutting” process with Abram that was a common practice in the ancient Middle East.

During that cutting of the covenant, God showed Abram that He Himself would be the sole giver and the performer of the covenant, because He appeared in the form of a smoking oven and of a flaming torch passing by Himself through the halves of the animals and birds that Abram had sacrificed and laid out.  God also helped Abram understand the promise a little better by putting him into a deep sleep in which terror and darkness fell upon him and speaking to him about the process of the development of the nation that would come from his heir.  God showed Abram that the promise of gaining the land and becoming a nation would include 400 years of slavery and oppression of his descendants in a foreign land before bringing them back into Canaan.  But God assured Abram that he would live to a ripe old age and be buried with his fathers.  Abram's faith in God's promised became more solid because of God's words and actions at that point in time.

Genesis 16:1-16:

Just as Sarai had listened to Abram and lied about being his sister in order that the Egyptians “would not kill him” in order to steal his wife (though the Lord had assured Abram he would bless those who blessed him and curse those who cursed him), and the end of that episode was that God cursed Pharaoh’s house with a plague of hemorrhoids and the Egyptians rebuked Abram and drove him out of Egypt; so, now, many years later, Abram heeds Sarai's advice and agrees to father children through Sarai's handmaid, Hagar.  This was a common practice in that time and place, but there is not any good, practical idea that nevertheless is not from the Lord that ever leads to a good outcome.

This idea of Sarai's and the complicity on Abram's part led to a violent conflict between the two women in Abram's life and terrible tension for many years.  And of course we know that today, the mistake they made has brought about the everlasting hatred that has generated so much bloodshed between Israelis and Arabs for centuries.  God did demonstrate His great mercy and grace toward Hagar by revealing Himself to her, saving her life, returning her to the safety of Abram and Sarai's family circle, and giving her a son whom she was to name Ishmael.  But the negative prophecy concerning Ishmael's character has proven out over the centuries.  He was a wild donkey of a man whose hand has been against everyone, and everyone's hand has been against him.

Just looking into the natural realm of human genealogies, we can see that since Hagar was an Egyptian rather than a member of the line of promise that came down from Shem, her DNA, her seed, was not like the line from which God had developed and chosen Abram and Sarai.  These rebellious tendencies were inherent in the Egyptians as they were in other human nationality lines as compared to the line of promise God had developed from Shem's descendants.  This way of tampering with God's plan was one of, and the worst one of, the negative consequences of having gone down to Egypt instead of trusting God to see them through the famine right where they were living.  From this time on, the practice of “going down to Egypt” becomes a metaphor for “not trusting the Lord” throughout the Old Testament.

Genesis 17:1-8: “God's Promise Renewed”

Genesis 17:1-2:

Ishmael would have been 13 years old at this time, when Abram is 99 years old.  Probably there had been thirteen years of quite a bit of heartbreak as well as joy at having Ishmael with them.

At this time, God came to Abram and spoke to him in some new ways and told him some new things about His promises to him.  The first thing God spoke was to announce Himself by His Name, El Shaddai, which means, by tradition, “God Almighty.”  The exact meaning of Shaddai is not known.  A different translation of this verse reads, “I am 'God who can do anything.'”  That was perfect, considering what God was getting ready to reveal!

We might be amazed that God said next, “Do not sin,” or “be blameless,” or “be perfect before Me.”  Can any man do that?  By this command God did not mean “be flawless” or “without any error at all.”  He meant that He was calling Abram to the high standard of being wholehearted toward Him.  Abram was to stay in right relationship with God daily and at all times by doing things only God's way.  He was to trust God and be obedient and not to delay about it or change it or lapse into the flesh and stay there for a year or two.  Abram had been through thirteen and more years of not doing things exactly God's way and had suffered the consequences.  He had learned some hard lessons through God's discipline.

God had not spoken this to Abram or demanded it from him before this time.  God had only made promises to Abram that were not thoroughly well-defined.  But at this time, God was saying to Abram, “you can do this now, and I am all sufficient to enable you to do it.  You can be wholehearted towards Me, and you can walk before me daily and be blameless in my sight.”  And “I am now going to establish some things that I said before to you, And I will multiply you exceedingly.”  God was prepared now to give Abram a covenant “sign” and to make this covenant “everlasting.”  He was going to make it so strong that He would never diminish it or take anything out of it.  He was going to promise it to Abram's descendants forever, even if the descendants did not obey Him well.

This tells me that although Abraham had made some grievous mistakes early in his walk of faith, his heart had been broken, and he had repented and had walked with God without giving up or backing off.  Therefore, God was going forward with more of the plan.

Genesis 17:3-8:

God's words were so impacting to Abram that he immediately fell on his face in worship of El Shaddai.  God began to speak strong words: “Look!  On MY part, MY covenant is with YOU.”  God asserted His sovereignty.  The fulfillment of the covenant depended entirely on God.

Now God adds a new expansion to the old promise.  God tells Abram he is going to be the father of a multitude of nations.  The earlier word from God had been that he would have a multitude of descendants, but that could have meant that those descendants would comprise only one nation.  But now God says Abram will be the father of many nations.

To reinforce this new aspect of the promise God tells Abram that no longer will he be called Abram, but Abraham.  Abram means exalted father, but Abraham means father of many nations.  Whenever this name was spoken it would call to Abraham's consciousness the fact that God had spoken this great promise, and what He had spoken, He was able to perform.

It would also demonstrate God's ability to transform lives.  Abraham would be different; he would be faithful and obedient; God would always be with him; and he would become the chief patriarch example of faith for the nation to look to for centuries to come.

The covenant was as much about who and what Abraham would become as it was about what he would receive as God's reward.

Genesis 17:6-8:

God added more details about the covenant.  He told Abraham he would become the father of kings and he would be exceedingly fruitful.  He said that the covenant would extend to all Abraham's descendants for all generations everlastingly.  Then God specified that all the land of Canaan would belong to Abraham's descendants forever; and, moreover, He would specifically be their God.  Of the richness of that land in future years, the primacy of it upon the earth, the wealth and the desirability of it in the future, and of the great treasure of being God's chosen people out of all the peoples of the earth, Abraham certainly had no idea.  He certainly could not have known that not only did God mean He would be the God of the nation formed of Abraham's physical seed but also the God of a great nation comprised of his spiritual seed.  God's plans for Abraham surpassed his wildest imagination.  But Abraham did know the plan had to be good.

Question:  In what ways are future generations blessed by our faith?  How do our choices make a difference in the lives of those who follow?

Genesis 17:9-14: “The Sign of the Covenant”

In these verses, God commands Abraham to keep the covenant and teach his descendants to keep it through all generations.  He further demands of Abraham that a highly significant seal and sign of this covenant, the sign of circumcision, is to be performed in the flesh of every male descendant throughout the generations to come.  It is also to be applied to male household servants which have been purchased with their money and the children born of household servants, everlastingly.  It was so important to God, that whoever was not circumcised would be cut off from his people as a covenant breaker.  This sign of the Abrahamic covenant was so important that it would rise to the place of being, along with the law of keeping the Sabbath holy, the practice that would accompany the Jewish people wherever they went in the world from that time on.  They would lose their Temple and the ability to sacrifice to God, but not circumcision, the sign of the Abrahamic covenant, and the keeping of the Sabbath.

It is significant that God waited until this point in His relationship with Abraham to give the sign of circumcision as the sign of the covenant.  It was at this time that God emphasized that the covenant was everlasting to all generations of Abraham's descendants, and that He would be their God very specifically, in a unique way, more than to any other people or nation.

But more importantly, the time had come when a new level of obedience was being required of Abraham.  God knew that Abraham was now capable of wholehearted allegiance to Him.  There did not need to be any more serving of two masters.  In the walk of faith, there comes a time in the disciple's life when God says, “It is time for Me to assert My Lordship over your life, and for you to walk in it.”  He is ready for us to cut the ties that bind us to this world and sever the ties to the self-life within us.  Circumcision is a picture of the cutting away of the life of the flesh and the separation of God's person from the sins of the flesh.  God is demanding of us a circumcised life, a life that does not exhibit the flesh and its desires and habits and bad outcomes, but a life of following His Spirit and His commands and demands—His Lordship.  As Paul would later write, the significance was not in the sign itself, but in what it meant, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love” (Galatians 4:6).

Question:  Do we have a covenant?  Does our covenant have a sign?  What do you think is the sign of the covenant?  Do you think that possibly God has a reward stored up for believers that will be beyond how wonderful we can imagine it will be?  Read Hebrews 11:39-40.  Read 1 Corinthians 2:9.

Genesis 17:15-27: “God's Power Declared”

Genesis 17:15-16:

God had some more really big news for Abraham.  He began by telling Abraham that his wife was also to have a change of names.  Instead of Sarai, she would henceforth be called Sarah.  The name Sarai, according to most scholars, means “My Princess.”  The name Sarah simply means “Princess.”  In this we can see that her parents viewed her as their princess, and later probably (hopefully) Abraham did also.  But by changing it to be simply Princess, God was indicating His own plan for her.  He was promising that Sarah would be the mother of nations, and kings of peoples would come from her.  She would be a world class Princess.  And, it would begin by God blessing Sarah and giving Abraham a son by her!  Now, at 89, Sarah would bear a child.  She had been barren all these years.  God had planned all along to wait until it could only happen through His miraculous doing, so that the nation that would be from Abraham and Sarah's union would be a miraculously conceived nation, just like the future Messiah born of a Jewish woman would be miraculously conceived. Israel was begun by a miracle, and God has performed many miracles to enable the Jewish nation to survive on earth.

Genesis 17:17-22:

Many people say that Abraham laughed because he doubted God's word to him just as Sarah would do when she heard the news from the angels who would soon come to visit.  But I think when Abraham fell on his face, it was in worship of “God, who could do anything.”  I think, because God did not rebuke him as the angelic visitors would later rebuke Sarah for laughing at the news that she would bear a child, it was not exactly through doubt that Abraham laughed.  I believe he was overjoyed and overwhelmed with joy and surprise.  The questions he asked were not in doubt.  But they were more in wonder and amazement at the miracle.

Then, suddenly he remembered Ishmael, and he could not help feeling sad about Ishmael.  This news meant that Ishmael would very likely be cut off from God's favor and replaced by God's carrying out of His original plan for an heir.  So he interceded for Ishmael.  I think God's quick and abrupt answer, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac” was to make it clear that Ishmael would not be the recipient of the everlasting covenant.  I think also that God would not have named the son of Abraham “Isaac,” meaning laughter, at that very time, unless the laughter that was to be symbolized by his name was a laughter of joy and delight and fulfillment of the promise by a miracle.

However, God quickly added that He would bless Ishmael.  He would not leave Abraham feeling so grieved over the fate of Ishmael, but would bless Ishmael too, only not with His covenant.  That blessing would be with Abraham and Isaac and would be in regard to raising up the chosen nation.

God concluded the conversation by telling Abraham that He would establish His covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah would bear to him the following year at that same season.  Then He left Abraham and went up, presumably back to heaven.

Genesis 17:23-27:

And Abraham obeyed God immediately by carrying out His command to be circumcised along with Ishmael and all the males in the household.  Abraham did not delay, but obeyed God that very same day.  He was 99 years old and Ishmael was 13.

(Note: Links like the following are found throughout this website.  They take one to Word Documents in my computer which has virus protection.  They are safe to open!)

Genesis
Lesson Ten
Where Wickedness Rules
By Carol Miller of
My Life Ministries
November 8, 2015

Genesis 18:20-25; 19:12-16

Review and Overview

In last week's lesson in of Genesis 17, we were more than 25 years into following Abram's journey of faith since the time when he departed from Haran after his father Terah died.  We do not know how long Abram had lived in Haran before his father died and he continued his faith walk by moving on down into Canaan.  However, after these 25 years of sojourning in Canaan, we were told that Abram was 99 years old and Sarah would have been about 89 (I am basing this estimate of her age on a note in the Ryrie Study Bible that says Sarai was 65 years old when she and Abram went down into Egypt during the famine).

God (speaking of Himself as El Shaddai, “God who can do anything”) appeared to Abram again when he was 99 to renew and further explain all the conditions and blessings involved in His covenant with him.  Ishmael was 13 years old at this time.  God gave Abram the new name of Abraham and Sarai the new name of Sarah and told Abraham that He was going to make him the father of a multitude of nations; He would establish the covenant to be an everlasting covenant throughout all the generations that issued from him; He would also give him all the land of his sojournings; and He would give him a son by his wife Sarah.  They were to name this son, who was the recipient of the covenant, Isaac.  Then Abraham interceded for his son Ishmael and God also blessed Ishmael with a promise to make him the father of twelve princes and of a very great nation.  At this time, God placed some requirements on Abraham of (1) walking before Him in wholehearted obedience and of (2) accepting and carrying out the sign of the covenant upon every male descendant and every male slave eight days old and older within the household throughout all the generations to come.  Abraham got up and carried out this requirement of circumcision immediately after God departed from him.  This was the beginning of a truly “circumcised life,” spiritually speaking, for Abraham.  (Phil. 3:3)

Genesis 18:1-19:

This story takes place only a very short time, probably a few weeks at most, after God's appearance to Abraham in Genesis 17.  This is easy to discern because in Genesis18:10 the Lord says to Abraham that He will return to him at “this time next year” and Sarah will have the promised son.  At verse 21 of the previous chapter, God had spoken of the birth of Sarah's son coming at “this same season next year.”

The re-announcement of Sarah's pregnancy is really only one of two reasons for the appearance of the three men at the oaks of Mamre on that hot day when Abraham was sitting at his tent door.  The men, who were really two angels along with the Lord Jesus Christ in one of His pre-incarnate appearances, were not recognized by Abraham as angels accompanying The Lord until after he had paid them all the usual courtesies of the customs of that day.

It was after they announced that Sarah would have a son by this time next year and overheard her laughing to herself and asked, “Why did Sarah laughIs anything too hard for the Lord?” that Abraham recognized who his guest were.

By that time, the three were ready to proceed to their second purpose for being there.  After rebuking Sarah by saying that she did indeed laugh and she would indeed have a son by this time next year, the men arose and looked toward Sodom.

The angels did not reveal their intentions, but it seems obvious from the fact that the three came by to visit Abraham that the Lord had always had it in His heart that Abraham should know of His plan to bring a great judgment down upon Sodom and Gomorrah.  Genesis 18:17-19 are very poignant in the way they express the respect and love and friendship that the Lord held in His heart for Abraham.  Abraham was his very special chosen recipient of the covenant who had walked in faith and close personal relationship with Him for over 25 years.  He knew Abraham well and He knew that he would intercede for the righteous individuals of those cities.

Another side of this act, on the Lord's part of communicating His plan to Abraham, is that the Lord does not judge men capriciously.  Read Amos 3:7-8.  He does not punish without warning, and as the covenant relationship was with Abraham, it was Abraham who would bear the burden of knowing the plan and interceding.  Of course, the Lord also simply desired to save Abraham's nephew Lot and Lot's family for Abraham's sake (Genesis 19:29).  He desired to have Abraham's intercession put before Him in order to satisfy all righteousness in showing special grace and mercy towards Lot and his family.  So the Lord confided in Abraham all that He was planning to do in response to the outcry concerning Sodom and Gomorrah.

Genesis 18:20-21:  “Man's Sin”

On the last page (inside cover) of our lessons there is a map of The Dead Sea.  The Dead Sea lies below sea level and has no natural outlet to the south.  It is divided by a peninsula (or “tongue”) protruding from the eastern shore.  Above this peninsula the waters are extremely deep, but south of the peninsula the waters are very shallow.  Geologists tell us that this lower portion of the sea was formed in the relatively recent past.  It is very likely that this is the area once called the “valley of Siddim,” the region that “Lot lifted up his eyes and saw” when he made the fatal choice to dwell in Sodom (Genesis 13:10-12).  This area is noted for its heavy concentrations of minerals.  Genesis 14:10 tells us that it was full of bitumen pits.  At some point during the second millennium B.C. an intense seismic explosion and conflagration engulfed four of the five cities in the valley (Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboim), leaving only Zoar, the small city where Lot asked to go.  Thus, modern geological information confirms the biblical account in Genesis 19 of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Genesis 18:20:

The “outcry” (of Sodom and Gomorrah) here in this verse is translated simply “the cry” in the King James Version, and the original Hebrew mentions “the protests” that have come to the Lord.  The Lord tells Abraham that the collective outcries are very great.   The word “outcry” may mean “the sufferers' cries” or the cries of the victims, as we can imagine that at least the younger people, children and teenagers, would have suffered greatly in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.  But this description of an enormous outcry may simply mean that the sin of these two cities had reached a point that creation itself could no longer tolerate it and was crying out to God for relief.

The language communicates that it is time for divine judgment.  The verse concludes that “their sin is very grievous” or extremely serious.  The sins of these two cities were so numerous and extensive that the two city names have come to be associated with the most wicked sexual perversion and violent human behavior.  Read Jer. 23:14; 1 Pet. 2:3-9; Ezek.16:49-50.  As deplorable as the sin of sodomy was and is, we should also take careful note of the fact that the prophet Ezekiel listed haughtiness, gluttony, excessive materialism and neglect of the poor and needy along with the abominable things that revealed the decadence of these cities.

Genesis 18:21:

I will go down to see.”  This is the same metaphorical language used in the story of The Tower of Babel.  “I will see if what they have done justifies the cry that has come up to Me.  If not, I will find out.”  We are to understand that God certainly already knows everything, but He wants us to know for certain that He will only punish when it is justly deserved, and it will be based on His knowledge of the indisputable facts of the matter.  If what He has heard is proven true, there will be severe judgment.  From the Garden of Eden to the present, the wages of sin is death.  The Lord's judgments are appropriate for the offense, and Sodom and Gomorrah were guilty of unrepentant rebellion and gross sin.  They had fully earned His judgment.

Genesis 18:22-25:  “Abraham's Intercession”

Genesis 18:22-23:

The two men were two angels, and they were already moving forward towards Sodom in order to carry out God's decree.   But Abraham “drew near to the Lord.”  Some versions say that he “stepped forward” or “stood in front of” the Lord.  But I like the idea that Abraham drew near to the Lord because it expresses what we do when we pray.  We shut out other voices and come apart from all the other things around us.  We get close up to the Lord and focus on the subject at hand.

God had opened up the subject and Abraham understood his position with God.  Abraham clearly understood that he was the inferior party in the covenant relationship, but he also realized that he had been given the privilege of knowing certain special information and he had also had some unique responsibility in this situation.

As Abraham drew near, he was asking a question in order to gain understanding of God's mind on the matter at hand, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” Abraham knew God to be exceptionally merciful and certainly unwilling to punish those who were righteous.  Abraham was surely thinking of his nephew Lot and his family, but he restrained himself to ask a more general question about the situation and how God would handle it.  Abraham could not conceive of the entire population of Sodom being grossly wicked.  Surely Lot had been able to influence a few inhabitants of the city.  So he began to explore the possibility that there were quite a few who were still righteous.

Abraham had heard God say that He was going down to “find out for Himself” how bad the situation was; so he probably thought maybe there was a slight chance God would spare the city.  He began by appealing to God to spare it if there were 50 righteous in it.  Gradually Abraham brought the number down by increments of 5 and 10 to 10 righteous people.

In Abraham's willingness to venture boldly forward with appealing to the God of the Universe, we can see, I believe, an example of the need for us to be persistent in our intercession.  Of course we always need to balance boldness with humility and know that if we understand the character and ways of God and the promises He has made to us, we have a responsibility to stand in the gap for others, and we also have opportunity to step forward and exercise our faith and see God respond powerfully.  Read Ezek. 22:30.

It may seem that Abraham became excessively bold in saying to the Lord, “Far be it from you to do such a thing; shall not the judge of all the earth do justly?”  But his question did not imply that he thought God could or would be capable of ruling unjustly.  His question was a rhetorical one that showed he was struggling to reconcile his faith in God's justice with his perception of Sodom's punishment.  He knew God was the absolute authority over everything that pertained to humankind, and He would do the right thing in the end.

But there may still have been a little something in Abraham that wanted to be completely sure that God's character was exactly what he knew it to be.  And somehow he felt that God wanted him to reason with Him in that way.  He understood that he had a certain amount of power with God and that God in fact wanted him to use it.  As it turned out, Lot's deliverance from destruction was certainly due to Abraham's intercession.

Question:  How would you describe how Abraham appealed to God?  How did he balance humility and boldness in his approach?  Note Genesis 18:27, 30, where Abraham appeals to the Lord to pardon him for his boldness as “dust and ashes” before Almighty God.

Genesis 19:12-16:  “God's Grace”

Before this point in the narrative, we have seen that Lot was righteous in exercising every courtesy to strangers entering his city, and later seeking to protect those strangers who were guests in his house.  He displayed a great deal of courage in going outside of his own door and closing it behind him in order to plead with his wicked neighbors to refrain from attacking his guests, especially when they threatened him with, “we will deal worse with you than with them!”  (Genesis 19:9).

However, many deeper issues of righteousness had not been impressed upon Lot because of long association with the people of Sodom and an unwillingness to separate himself from their worldly lifestyle.  It is inconceivable to us that he would have offered his virgin daughters to the wicked men of Sodom to do with as they pleased in order to protect two strangers under his roof, however important they may have been.  And later he was very reluctant to leave Sodom, even after those very unusual men who had the power to pull him back into his house and to strike with blindness his attackers, were telling him that the city was about to be consumed in devastating judgment.

Still, as uncircumcised in heart as Lot was, God extended grace to him and his family.

Genesis 19:12-13:

In the midst of impending judgment, God demonstrated His unmerited grace.  The angels who appeared as men, but surely by now had impressed Lot that they were messengers from God, spoke urgently to Lot to remember quickly all his family members within the city—sons-in-laws, sons, daughters, anyone else who belonged to him--and get them out of this place!

Over and over they told him they were just about to destroy the city.  Nothing could stop it from happening.  It was inevitable.  The action of the men of the city had certainly verified to the angels, if not thoroughly to Lot, that judgment was deserved and was on the way.  God is patient, yet He always judges sin when it gets to the point that it is virtually begging to be judged and can no longer be ignored.

Yet still the messengers were taking the necessary time to be thorough in their effort to spare every person whom God was counting as righteous through the covenant with Abraham and the intercession he had made.

God had instructed the angels not to destroy the place until Lot and his family were safely gotten out.  (Later, in Genesis 19:22, the angels told Lot that they “could do nothing until he arrived at that place [Zoar].”)

Genesis 19:14:

Both of Lot's daughters were engaged to be married.  Lot went to them and told them to get up and get out of the place because the Lord was about to destroy the city!  Apparently this was the first time that such a prospect as the possibility of God bringing judgment upon the city because of its great sinfulness had ever been introduced in the to-be-family circle.  The sons-in-law thought Lot was joking.  Obviously they thought everything was pretty much okay in Sodom. . . stock market going up every day . . . new election on the horizon. . . no lack of plenty to eat and drink . . . marrying and giving in marriage.  Surely Lot was not serious.

Well, sadly, he was not joking, and this offer of grace upon grace to his sons-in-law was tragically turned down.

Genesis 19:15:

At dawn the angels again urged Lot to hurry, for there was no time to spare.  The number who had taken the warning seriously was down to only four, Lot, his wife, and his two daughters, who were there in the house with still barely enough time to escape before the judgment fell.  The angels' pressure upon them to move out was a pure act of grace.  They were telling them that even when God is extending grace, you have a choice to make.  Flee!

Lot and his family had not thought ahead of time or prepared themselves at all as to how to respond at such a time as this.  They were like many believers will be when the Rapture occurs, caught completely unaware and unprepared and hesitating to leave the familiar, no matter how troubling and perverse the world has become.

Genesis 19:16:

Lot's response seems unthinkable.  He still hesitated.  What he had witnessed of violence from his neighbors surely told him that what the angels were saying was true.  Surely his fear for his wife and daughters would have caused him to act quickly.  But either he was paralyzed by panic or still had lingering doubts that the message the angels spoke was really true, or his wife and daughters were trying to persuade him to stay.  Something kept him from acting decisively.  The men had to grab them by the hands and bring them out by physical force.

Abraham's intercession had prevailed with God for sparing the city if 10 righteous could be found.  But 10 could not be found.  Only four escaped before the city was completely annihilated by fire from heaven.  These four escaped because of the Lord's compassion for Lot.  But then, tragically, Lot's wife looked back longingly and was turned into a pillar of salt.

When the rest of Sodom's citizens were destroyed in the judgment, why were Lot and his family rescued?  Was it because Lot was righteous?  (See 2 Peter 2:7)  Although he was far from living a “circumcised life” such as Abraham lived, he was still under Abraham's blessing.

But Genesis 19:16 shows us that God really did have compassion on Lot.  This Hebrew term rendered compassion is found in the Old Testament only three time.  It is here and in Isaiah 63:9 and Ezekiel 16:5.  Even when He was executing judgment of historic proportions all around him, God still extended grace to Lot and his family.

To summarize, God judges sin.  Where wickedness reigns, judgment will come.  Those who continue in rebellion against God will experience judgment.  But God calls us who know and walk with Him to pray, to stand in the gap for those who are lost in sin, to call on Him to show mercy, to forgive, to extend compassion, and if possible to restore.

(Note: Links like the following are found throughout this website.  They take one to Word Documents in my computer which has virus protection.  They are safe to open!)

Genesis
Lesson Twelve
The Faith Test
By Carol Miller of
My Life Ministries
November 22, 2015

Genesis 22:1-14

Review

Last week, Bobby reviewed for you sixteen steps of Abraham's walk of faith, according to Wilmington's Bible Commentary, from his conversion in Ur of the Chaldees all the way to his death at age 175, as recorded in Genesis 25.

Abraham is our first Old Testament “sample man of faith,” or you might call his story the Old Testament Pilgrim's Progress.  We learn by tracing Abraham's walk of faith, that we will all make mistakes and commit sins during our lifetime of walking with the Lord.  That is because the power of sin is still at work in us.  We will even make some of the same mistakes more than once, as Abraham did when he sojourned into Egypt and Gerar and lied about his wife Sarah.

Sometimes we, like Abraham, lack understanding of the Lord's ways and doubt that God can overcome the “impossibilities” of things in the natural, as Abraham did when he listened to Sarah and fathered a son by Hagar in order to bring about God's promise in his own way.  Yet God will forgive us, faithfully correct us, teach us and lift us into new levels of obedience if we stay in relationship and keep walking with Him.

After all of the experiences of his sojourning, when Abraham was at the ripe old age of 100, and Sarah 90, God fulfilled His promise to give them a descendant by giving them the son and heir of the promise, Isaac, whose name meant “laughter.”  And indeed his entry into their lives filled them with the joy and laughter that his name promised they would enjoy.

However, even this joy was tempered with distress for Abraham when it became necessary to send Ishmael and his mother away in order to establish Isaac's place as the sole heir of the covenant and eliminate future conflict within the family.

Then more than a dozen years passed, and Abraham was somewhere between 114 and 120 years old when he was given his toughest test of faith.  Doubtless, his perseverance and faithfulness after Ishmael's departure had done an inner work to prepare him for this test, and this time Abraham did not falter, but he passed his test in perfect obedience.

Question: Let's consider the purpose of tests in our walk of faith.  Think about your own life.  What would you say has been the toughest test of your life?  If you are as old as I am you may be able to name three of four hard ones!

One of the best statements of the purpose of tests in our lives comes from the book of James:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:2-4 NIV, James 1:12 NIV)

Question: Was your biggest test of faith one that you did not see coming and that God sovereignly brought into your life, or do you think you brought it upon yourself by a poor decision you made?  Which ones caused the greatest stress and need for perseverance?

Abraham experienced tests of both kinds.  And according to James and Peter, as well as nearly every New Testament writer, numerous tests of various kinds are to be expected as a part of every believer's walk of faith.  They are designed not to shame us but to reveal to us what we have or have not learned.  Hopefully, after we experience some test results that we are not so very proud of, we will keep on persevering and ultimately rejoice, as Abraham did, in a great faith victory.

Genesis 22:1-2: “The Test Presented”

Genesis 22:1:

After these things” refers to the expulsion of Hagar and Ishmael and to the establishment of a covenant with Abimelech.  Abraham is still living in Beersheba. He and Sarah have been enjoying lives of domestic tranquility with Isaac, teaching and raising him up to be the heir of God's promise.  Commentators place Isaac's age anywhere from age fourteen to twenty-five or thirty years.  Genesis 21:34, simply says that they had been in the land of the Philistines for many days.  And the next verse says, “And it came to pass after these things, that God tested Abraham.”  It does sound like quite a few years had passed.

Now, one more big ordeal challenges Abraham's tranquility.  This time it is The Lord who creates the disturbance.  Suddenly, like a bolt out of the blue comes this word from God.

The word tested that is used in this verse is the Hebrew word that means “to test or prove the quality of something.”  It does not mean that God tempted Abraham.  When God tests people, the testing refines the character of the individual so that the person may walk in God's ways more closely.

God called Abraham by the new name which He had given him.  This would have called to Abraham's mind that God had promised him that he would be the “father of a multitude.”  Quite oblivious to the magnitude of the test he faced, Abraham answered immediately, “Behold, here I am.” (KJV)  Abraham was ready and willing to obey the word of the Lord.  His quick answer tells us that he had been living daily in quiet obedience to the Lord's will.

Genesis 22:2:

When God tells Abraham to take now his son, his only son, the one whom he loves, Isaac, we can easily sense the disbelief Abraham was experiencing.  God had to specify exactly who he was talking about.  Not Ishmael, but Isaac, the one whom he loved and was now in relationship with every day and hour, his only son of the promise, Isaac.

God said to take him to the land of Moriah and offer him there for a burnt offering.  He was to travel three days into the land of Moriah and listen for God to tell him which mountain was to be the place of sacrifice.

Mount Moriah is the place where King David bought the threshing floor of Ornan as a place for the site of the temple (I Chronicles 21:18) and where Solomon later built the temple (2 Chronicles 3:1).  Inside the Dome of the Rock which stands on the Temple Mount today is the great rock upon which Abraham laid Isaac to sacrifice him.  The Mohammedans believe that Mohammed and his horse ascended to heaven from this spot.  It is not far from this place that Jesus was crucified.

The idea of human sacrifice was certainly not unheard of to Abraham because it was practiced by the people of that area in worship of their gods.  But Abraham could never have believed that this idea could come from the Lord. It was totally illogical.  How could the Lord possibly want him to take the life of his son and along with him everything He had promised of a multitude of nations, and descendants like the sand and the stars?  But God's voice was unmistakable.  Abraham had heard it many times.  We are not told anything about Abraham's emotional response, but we can imagine it, “But Lord, how will the promises you have given me come about if Isaac is taken?  And Sarah, what will become of her if I have to tell her what happened? This will put her in her grave through grief.  I can see why you told me to send Ishmael away—he was the product of my fleshly thinking and living, but Isaac is the miracle child.”  Satan probably tested him too: “How can I find the strength to do this?”

Question: Isn't one’s hardest trials in life those trials that don’t make sense?  There is no answer to “Why?”

At some point or other, Abraham may have asked himself if he loved his God as much as his neighbors loved their gods.  Now the Lord's intention was to test Abraham to see if he loved Isaac more than he loved Him.  And it was to see if his faith and trust was in Him as “the God who can do anything,” or in Isaac as the heir of the promise.  And it was as much to prove to Abraham himself the strength of his faith in his God as it was to prove it to God.

Question: Can you imagine what went on in Abraham's mind through that agonizing night before morning came?  Undoubtedly many things went through his mind, but it seems that somewhere before dawn there came into Abraham's spirit a deep revelation from God.

Genesis 22: 3-8: “The Test Preparation”

Genesis 22:3:

There was no hesitating.  There was no interceding as there was for Sodom and Gomorrah.  His silence indicates that his faith had grown from a questioning, “How can I know?” such as he asked the Lord in Genesis 15:8, to an unquestioning obedience without asking for any explanation.

The words “early in the morning” convey to us a strong sense of resolve.  In order to follow God's instructions, Abraham had to make very specific preparations, and he had made his list overnight.  He saddled the donkey, either to carry himself or the wood for the burnt offering (there were very few trees at the designated place).  The verb saddled means to bind, either the saddle to carry a human being or the rigging for carrying a load.  It seems that Abraham would have needed to ride the donkey in order to go a three days' journey at his advanced age.  The two young men and Isaac would have carried the wood.  I think that if he was capable of doing it, probably Abraham split the wood himself, because it was to be used on such an indescribably auspicious worship occasion.  A burnt offering is an offering that is totally consumed, which symbolizes the unreserved giving of everything to the Lord.  But it is not really important who cut the wood.  The young men could have prepared it.

He took those things and his son Isaac and set out to make the journey to the designated place.

Question:  What did Abraham's immediate action reveal about his faith?  Do you think the speed of obedience reveals anything about a person's faith?

Genesis 22:4:

On the third day” is singled out because “three days” in Scripture is always symbolic of resurrection.  Abraham raised his eyes in faith that there would be a great event that would take place on that third day on that mountain that the Lord would designate.  I believe that his spirit saw the victory as much as his eyes saw the place.  He believed.  Faith was the bedrock of his covenant with the Lord.  Abraham also understood faith in the heart is to be accompanied by confession with the mouth.  And he understood that “life and death are in the power of the tongue.” (Proverbs 18:21)

Genesis 22:5:

Abraham and Isaac would go the third day's distance without accompaniment of the two young men.  Abraham's reason for commanding them to stay behind was perhaps because they sensed something unusual must be transpiring.  It would have been unusual for a man of Abraham's status to travel without servants, but Abraham needed to face his test by himself and with Isaac.  His statement to the young men that the two of them would go and worship and the two of them would return is Abraham's faith confession. (Read Hebrews 11:17-19)  Abraham believed that God was incapable of breaking His promise, and He would raise Isaac from the dead if his life was really going to be required as a burnt offering.

Abraham would not save himself another day of traveling and compromise the place of worship.  God had said to go to the land of Moriah to the mountain He would show him, and it seems that at Genesis 22:4, he saw “the” place from the distance.  He would not stop until he obeyed God explicitly.  Worship expresses itself in obedience, in the doing of God's will.  In the Hebrew, the word worship means bow down. It is not singing a song, but humbling our heart before the Lord.  (ref. Psalm 40:6-8; 51:16-17).

Genesis 22:6-7:

Whether Isaac was an adolescent or a young man at this time, he was certainly much stronger than his father and could certainly carry the wood of the sacrifice on his back.  But of course, here we have a foreshadowing of Jesus, the son of God, carrying His cross up to Calvary to sacrifice His life upon it in obedience to His Father's command.

Abraham took the knife and the fire in his hand and the two of them went on together.  They had not spoken about the absence of the lamb for an offering until this third day when they were alone together.  Now Isaac begins to broach the question, “My Father!”  Abraham answers him just as he had answered God, “Here I am, my son.”  Isaac was familiar with sacrifice as an act of worship, so he asks, “Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

Genesis 22:8:

The answer Abraham gives his son is full of faith and prophetic insight: “God Himself will provide the lamb.”  Abraham reasoned that God could not renege on His promise.  If He required of him that he sacrifice Isaac, then He would raise him from the dead.  Isaac raised no more questions and no resistance.  His submission to his father's plan and vision was total.  He trusted completely.  In saying that God would provide for Himself the lamb for the sacrifice, we should not think that Abraham expected to see the ram that would be caught in the thicket, but he expects what Hebrews 11:19 NASB tells us:

“He considered that God was able to raise men even from the dead; hence, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.”

To Abraham, as they have traveled these three days, Isaac has been as good as dead, and the promise with him.  But he believes that God will raise him from the dead.  But how traumatic it would be for him and for Isaac in the accomplishment of the act of sacrifice, we cannot comprehend.  We can learn, though, that for the Father, the sacrifice was fully as excruciatingly painful as for the son.  God the Father said nothing when His Son went to the cross.  When Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me,” there was no answer (Matt. 27:46).  But His pain was greater than we can fathom. 

Genesis 22:9-12: “The Test Passed”

Genesis 22:9-10:

Abraham prepared everything for the sacrifice, and then as there was no lamb provided, the identity of Isaac as the sacrifice could no longer be hidden.

There is no hint in this verse that Isaac questioned or doubted his father's good judgment, or that he resisted being bound and laid upon the wood as the sacrifice.  He is a perfect picture of the submissive Son of God in his obedience to his father.  Even as Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife, Isaac made no objection.  He trusted his father without the slightest hesitation.

Genesis 22:11-12:

The Angel of the Lord is some manifestation of Yahweh Himself.  He calls Abraham's name twice and we can catch the urgency in the call from heaven.  His urgent interruption indicates He never intended for Abraham to take Isaac's life.  The only human sacrifice God has ever permitted was the sacrifice of His own Son.  Sacrifice of animals in a burnt offering was symbolic of giving something valuable entirely to God.  It symbolized giving oneself to God in total surrender and submission.

(Aside: "Abraham, Abraham" is the first of ten name duplications found in the Bible. Seven are spoken by God to man:

Abraham - Genesis 22:11; Jacob - Genesis 46:2; Moses - Exodus 3:4; Samuel - 1 Samuel 3:10; Martha - Luke 10:41; Simon - Luke 22:31; Saul - Acts 9:4.

The other three introduce matters of special importance:

Lord - Matthew 7:21-22; Jerusalem - Matthew 23:37; Eloi - Matthew 15:24.)

God told Abraham that he had definitely passed the big test.  “Now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your only son from Me.”  To fear God does not mean a kind of trembling or terrorized feeling such as Isaiah felt before the throne in Isaiah 6, or John felt in the Revelation 1:17 when he fell on his face.  It means reverence for God and a keen awareness of His holiness.  It means the awesome respect and gratitude we should feel for the magnanimous God who would enter into a covenant relationship with sinful men.

Question: What is the connection between Abraham's faith and his willingness to obey the Lord in his actions?  How important is the connection between faith and works for believers today?

Genesis 22:13-14: “The Test Provision”

Genesis 22:13:

The words “looked up and saw” are the same as in Genesis 22:4.  They tell of spiritual as well as visual discovery.  God had acted upon Abraham's prophetic faith words to his son Isaac and provided a ram that had been caught in a nearby thicket.  There is a double type shown here, because not only does Isaac's willingness to be the substitutionary sacrifice give us a picture of Christ's sacrifice, but the ram offered in Isaac's place becomes a substitutionary sacrifice for Isaac.  God's provision had been in place all along, but Abraham could not see it until this point in time.  Now he perceives that God is allowing him to see His saving act on behalf of mankind through the Savior Messiah centuries ahead of time.  Thus we have Jesus' words to the Pharisees in John 8:56, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day and he saw it and was glad.”

Genesis 22:14:

Abraham named that place “The Lord Will Provide” or Jehovah-jireh.  There began a little proverb, a saying among the Jews derived from that naming of the place that is on one of the mountains in the land of Moriah, “When you get to the mountain, it will be provided.”  Down through the ages men have understood it to mean that “in that place provision would be made for man's sin through the Lamb of God who would die to atone for them.”

We have been referring to this episode in Abraham's spiritual journey as a test, taking our lead from Genesis 22:1.  But we are spared the three days of mental anguish that Abraham experienced as he traveled to the spot of his son's impending death.  He did not have the assurance we have of knowing that God had a substitute waiting as Abraham raised the knife to slay his son.  Abraham loved God so much he was willing to offer up his beloved son.  Moreover, sacrificing Isaac meant surrendering his entire future.  So why did Abraham do it?  He offered up Isaac because he was obedient to God's command and he trusted God with the entire future of the covenant enterprise to bless all the families of the earth through his descendants.  In response to Abraham's obedient faith, the Lord intervened to stop the test.  Next, He provided a substitute, a ram caught in the thicket by its horns.  Abraham was relieved as he offered the ram as a burnt offering in place of his son.  The Old Testament and the New Testament come together right here more than at any other place in the Bible.  Isaac is a foreshadowing of Christ.  Like Abraham, God offered His only Son to die as an innocent sacrifice.  Yet, unlike in Genesis 22:13, there was no ram to take Jesus' place.  Jesus died in our place.  He paid the wages of our sins.  Through His death and the precious blood He shed and through the powerful miracle of the resurrection, Jesus provided substitutionary atonement for all who will believe in Him.  He died so that we might live.

The main point of Genesis 22 is not the doctrine of the Atonement.  It is portraying an obedient servant worshiping God in faith at great cost, and in the end receiving God's provision.  Abraham had great faith in being willing to obey God by sacrificing his son.  Isaac had great faith to submit to his father's plan.  He had his whole life before him, but he willingly followed his father's will and words, believing that God would provide a lamb.

Question:  What should we do when we face a daunting test of our faith?

We should not run from it, but trust God.  God uses the tests in our lives to strengthen us in our ability to persevere and to build the character of Christ into our lives.  Like Abraham we should determine to worship rather than worry.  God will then give us the strength to endure and pass the test and gain his commendation, “Well done, good and faithful servant.  Enter into the joy of Thy Lord.” (Matthew 25:21, 23)

(Note: Links like the following are found throughout this website.  They take one to Word Documents in my computer which has virus protection.  They are safe to open!)

CORRUPTING THE IMAGE
Part Four: Genetics of the Incarnation
By Douglas Hamp
March 8, 2011

The Genesis prophecy spoke of the coming of two seeds: one of the Messiah, the Christ and the other the Antichrist.  In order for us to see how the enemy plans on raising up the Antichrist, we must first understand the genetics of the incarnation of the Lord Jesus (we will look at the genetics of the Antichrist in a later post).

The Virgin Will Conceive

Examining Scripture we see that there are many references to Jesus the Messiah as having been connected genetically (through the seed) to David. While it is true that the Bible records two genealogies of Jesus (Matthew’s account gives Jesus’ line through his adoptive father, Joseph) [i] we learn from the Lukan account, that Jesus is a blood descendant of David by way of Mary’s line.

Nevertheless, there are some commentators who suggest that Mary acted as an incubator and there was therefore no genetic connection between her and the Lord, or between Him and humanity.

To suggest that Jesus’ physical body was a completely unique and new creation and not connected to Mary and hence David, Abraham and Adam is to ignore the enormity of verses which attest to the contrary. Let’s first start with the announcement of the miraculous birth of Jesus made by the angel Gabriel in Luke 1:31-35.

And behold, you will conceive [sullepse συλληψη] in your womb [gastri γαστρι] and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. […] and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David […]” Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon [epeleusetai επελευσεται] you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God, (emphasis mine).

While this passage is well known, there are several factors that we need to focus in on to see conclusively that Mary did not simply act as an incubator for the Lord, but that she was in fact his mother on the genetic level as well. Grasping this important point will give us clarity as we consider the implications of Genesis 3:15. First of all, we note that Mary was a virgin and had “not known a man”. The angel tells her that she will conceive and then give birth to a son. Notice that the angel does not merely say that she will give birth to a son, but that she will conceive (sullambano συλλαμβάνω). This is the same language that is used in the well-known verse of Isaiah 7:14 “[…] Behold, the virgin shall conceive [hara הָרָה֙] and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” The Hebrew word hara הָרָה֙ is used 57 times in the Hebrew Bible and carries the normative meaning of the word. Basically stated, it is when a child is procreated from the sexual union of a man and woman – that is, it takes two to conceive. Let’s consider just a few examples:

• Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived [hara הָרָה֙] and bore Cain, (Genesis 4:1)
• And Cain knew his wife, and she conceived [hara הָרָה֙] and bore Enoch, (Genesis 4:17)
• So he went in to Hagar, and she conceived [hara הָרָה֙], (Genesis 16:4)
• For Sarah conceived [hara הָרָה֙] and bore Abraham a son, (Genesis 21:2)
• So the woman conceived [hara הָרָה֙] and bore a son, (Exodus 2:2)

The implantation of the man’s seed is not enough; the woman provides her genetic information (seed) as well. In modern terms this is referring to the reproductive cells, called gametes [iii] which are the seed of the man (sperm) and the seed of the woman (ovum). Today we understand that the mother’s ovum and father’s sperm each provide half of the information (each providing 23 individual [i.e. haploid] chromosomes) to the zygote (fertilized egg or child) for a total of 46 individual chromosomes. To speak of a woman’s seed is extremely precise language (which only serves to authenticate the Bible as being from God). Thus to speak of the virgin or Mary conceiving means that her ovum (egg) absolutely must account for half of the chromosomes which Jesus’ physical body was comprised of. That being the case then Jesus was genetically connected to his mother Mary and hence his ancestors David, Judah, Jacob, Isaac, Abraham, Shem, Noah, all the way back to Adam.

What is Biblical Seed?

We know for certain from other Scriptures that when the biblical authors talked about seed (Hebrew zera זֶרַע and Greek sperma σπερμα) they were clearly talking about gametes (the reproductive material). Two of the most prominent deserve our attention: After the destruction of Sodom and the loss of their mother, Lot’s two daughters saw the need to preserve their father’s seed. We read:

And it came to pass on the morrow, that the firstborn said unto the younger, Behold, I lay yesternight with my father: let us make him drink wine this night also; and go thou in, [and] lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father, (Genesis 19:34 KJV).

The second of the two is perhaps as blatant as can be concerning just what is meant by seed:

And if any man’s seed [zara זֶרַע] of copulation go out from him, then he shall wash all his flesh in water, and be unclean until the even,” (Leviticus 15:16).

In summary, we note that the Scriptures are replete with statements that Jesus would come from the seed of Abraham and his descendants. If the Bible is this specific about the male seed, we ought not to question the Bible when it makes reference to the woman’s seed in Genesis 3:15. Therefore the incarnation of Jesus required that He be connected to humanity genetically yet without sin.

The Genetics of the The Word Becoming Flesh

The incarnation of Jesus was nothing less than the genetic combination of the celestial (Holy Spirit) and the terrestrial (Mary). We must stress, however, that Jesus as the second person of the Godhead existed from eternity past (Micah 5:2) and did not begin to exist at the Holy Spirit’s overshadowing of Mary – He is eternal and has always existed. Nevertheless, the incarnation (becoming flesh) was at the point of conception which was when the Holy Spirit mingled seed (DNA i.e. information) with humanity. After waiting four thousand years the promise of the seed of the woman would be fulfilled. From the point of the incarnation God would begin the process of redeeming mankind that so long ago had sinned and corrupted the Image of God as well as losing the ability to commune with God. This pivotal moment would then find its fulfillment in the crucifixion and resurrection of this God-man thereby giving men the right to become children of God once more.

Just What Is a Seed?

Our understanding of genetics and information technology (IT) helps to better understand what it means that we were and are corrupted. The reality is that our DNA is in fact the source code of humanity and it is the essence of the “seed” that Scripture so often talks about. The term seed is in modern terms called a gamete which in the male is the sperm and in the female is the ovum. Thus when Mary conceived it meant that her ovum provided 23 chromosomes and hence the Holy Spirit provided the other gamete (23 chromosomes). While it is possible that the Holy Spirit provided actual “sperm”, it is unlikely. Sperm (from the male) would be likened to a missile which is carrying a warhead. The warhead is what causes the explosion and the missile simply gets it to the destination. It is not the carrying mechanism which is truly significant for conception, but the “payload” – that is the genetic material (information) that the sperm is carrying. Thus the Holy Spirit provided the 23 chromosomes without the carrying mechanism. Given that the Holy Spirit (the third person of the Godhead) came upon her, there could not have been any need for millions of seed. The Holy Spirit must have placed only one gamete (or set of 23 chromosomes) directly into Mary’s ovum, which necessarily resulted in the body for the Lord Jesus. [iv]

Our Genetic Code

When most of us come to a computer, we are interested in the applications that we can use to help us do our work, surf the internet, play games or watch movies. Underlying those processes is a code that is written with ones and zeros. All of the applications are reduced to a binary (base two) code which a machine can understand. Even the most sophisticated computer program is reduced to a series of ones and zeros. In every living creature there is a coded message that is not a base two but a base four code known as DNA. Dr. Gitt in his book In the Beginning Was Information describes how DNA is a store of information:

The storage medium is the DNA molecule (deoxyribonucleic acid) which resembles a double helix. A DNA fiber is only about two millionths of a millimeter thick, so that it is barely visible with an electron microscope. The chemical letters A, G, T, and C are located on this information tape, and the amount of information is so immense in the case of human DNA that it would stretch from the North Pole to the equator if it was typed on paper, using standard letter sizes. [v]

This storage medium is capable of copying itself with astounding precision as Dr. Gitt explains: The DNA is structured in such a way that it can be replicated every time a cell divides in two. Both of the two daughter cells have to have identically the same genetic information after the division and copying processes. This replication is so precise that it can be compared to 280 clerks copying the entire Bible sequentially each one from the previous one with at most one single letter being transposed erroneously in the entire copying process.

When a DNA string is replicated, the double strand is unwound, and at the same time a complementary strand is constructed on each separate one, so that, eventually, there are two new double strands identical to the original one […] One cell division lasts from 20 to 80 minutes, and during this time the entire molecular library, equivalent to one thousand books, is copied correctly. [vi]

The Master Programmer endowed us with perfect code and only at the fall of man did it become corrupted. This chemical code, built on the A, G, T and C, becomes corrupted as a result of a shuffling of the order of those bits or a loss of one or more bits. Loss of data occurs through replication and through the decomposition of the medium (cf. CD ROM). Adam, as the father of the race and a direct creation of God, had a perfect code. There was no loss of data or corruption of the data in any way. Once he and Eve sinned, death (errors in the genetic code) entered our first parents and those errors have not only been passed to all of their descendants, but the loss of data has been increasing over time as would be consistent with data loss in the world of computers. John Sanford notes that this degradation of data is cumulative and will one day result in the extinction of the human race in his book Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome: “The extinction of the human genome appears to be just as certain and deterministic as the extinction of stars, the death of organisms, and the heat death of the universe.” [vii]

Information is Non-material

We must keep in mind that DNA is simply the medium which stores information. Information, however, is something distinct from the medium (or storage device). In his book, In the Beginning Was Information, Dr. Gitt explains the difference between the two:

Information requires a material medium for storage. If one writes some information with chalk on a blackboard, the chalk is the material carrier. If it is wiped off, the total quantity of chalk is still there, but the information has vanished. In this case the chalk was a suitable material medium, but the essential aspect was the actual arrangement of the particles of the chalk. And this arrangement was definitely not random, it had a mental origin. The same information that was written on the blackboard could also have been written on a magnetic diskette. Certain tracks of the diskette then became magnetized, and also in this case there is a carrier for the information. [viii]

An average blank CD ROM costs just pennies; it is the information on that disc which can cost hundreds, thousands or even millions of dollars. However, regardless of how much data is written on the disc, the disc does not change at all in how much it weighs. Thus information is separate from the device holding it. The loss of data by erasing chalk from a chalkboard is analogous to the loss of data in our DNA. Of course, not all of the data in our DNA has been lost but a significant part of the message has been compromised and now the errors are being compounded with every successive generation. Humanity is suffering from an information loss in our own source code.

The most amazing thing about the seed (DNA) is the information that it contains, which was placed there by our Maker (the Master Programmer). What the modern science of Information Technology is just now discovering is that information does not just happen (which incidentally, is an incredible proof for God and against evolution). Dr. Gitt explains that information is a fundamental entity and is therefore, not a property of matter. He formulates several theorems in order to describe information. In theorem 1 he states: “The fundamental quantity information is a nonmaterial (mental) entity. It is not a property of matter, so that purely material processes are fundamentally precluded as sources of information,” (emphasis mine). [ix] In theorem 3 he notes that it is information which “comprises the nonmaterial foundation for all technological systems and for all works of art.” [x]

If the information that we originally received from God is being compromised such that one day the entire human race will suffer the ultimate data corruption known as extinction then we clearly need the Master Programmer to fix the source code. Fortunately, our Maker has provided a way for our code to be corrected. However, it required that the Maker Himself take on our code, mix it with His own and then offer His blood. Through rebirth we are guaranteed a new body (eternal life) and we have been given the Holy Spirit as the down payment. Thus in the world to come our DNA (our code) will be restored and upgraded.

Normal Conception

Before we try to understand the genetics of the incarnation we need to have a grasp of what happens at the point of a normal conception. During the process of procreation approximately 250 million sperm swim toward the ovum. Both the ovum and the sperm are essentially very similar information. The sperm have a flagellum which propels them on their quest but the genetic information that they carry inside is what is truly significant.

Our body’s cells have forty-six individual chromosomes or twenty-three pairs (diploid). However, the egg and sperm cells have only twenty-three individual chromosomes such that when they combine (during fertilization) they will equal the forty-six individual (twenty-three diploid) chromosomes necessary for human life. The process by which the somatic (body) cells (forty-six chromosomes) are divided is called meiosis. The cells created, which are just the twenty-three individual chromosomes, are called haploid cells. During reproduction, the maternal and paternal gametes (haploid cells), “fuse at conception to produce a zygote, which will turn into a fetus and eventually into an adult human being” according Silke Schmidt writing in the Genetics Encyclopedia. [xi] The Encyclopedia Britannica summarizes the process: “When two gametes unite during fertilization, each contributes its haploid set of chromosomes to the new individual, restoring the diploid number.” [xii]

The Incarnation

As we stated before, we need to emphasize that Jesus did not begin to exist at the incarnation – He is eternal and has always existed. Yet, the incarnation was the point at which the Godhead mingled seed (DNA i.e. information) with humanity. Let’s consider the mechanics of the incarnation from what we have studied so far. Keep in mind that the following summary does not pretend to account for the entire mystery of what it is for God to take on flesh, nevertheless, we seek to embrace all of the information that God has revealed through His Word. Nor does this explanation account for all the potential reasons the incarnation was necessary. However, looking at the incarnation from a genetics perspective does demonstrate how Jesus could become one of us and yet remain free from sin.

Peter Underhill, in Encyclopedia.com writes concerning the uniqueness of the Y chromosome and how it is passed from generation to generation unchanged:

Since normally only one Y chromosome exists per cell, no pairing between X and Y occurs at meiosis, except at small regions. Normally, no crossing over occurs. Therefore, except for rare mutations that may occur during spermatogenesis, a son will inherit an identical copy of his father’s Y chromosome, and this copy is also essentially identical to the Y chromosomes carried by all his paternal forefathers, across the generations. This is in contrast to the rest of his chromosomal heritage, which will be a unique mosaic of contributions from multiple ancestors created by the reshuffling process of recombination, (emphasis mine). [xiii]

This means that of the twenty-three individual chromosomes (haploid) in the gamete, only one (1/23) could potentially be a Y chromosome. Thus the other twenty-two chromosomes provided by the father’s sperm will all be autosomes or non-sex chromosomes. If the twenty-third chromosome is an X, then the resulting person will be a girl. However, if the sperm is carrying that one Y chromosome then the baby will be a boy. Nevertheless, Peter Underhill has stated that there is essentially no change of the Y chromosome from father to son from generation to generation. The X’s in contrast will be a mosaic of his multiple ancestors. Learner.org’s online textbook states the peculiarity in another way: “The lack of recombination means that the entire non-recombining portion of the Y is passed intact from father to son. A male shares the same Y chromosome with his father, paternal grandfather, paternal great-grandfather, and so on,” (emphasis mine). [xiv] Neil Bradman and Mark Thomas state the significance of implications of this reality perhaps as clearly as possible in light of our study in their article Why Y? The Y Chromosome In The Study Of Human Evolution, Migration And Prehistory.

Genesis 5 records “the generations of Adam”: Adam begat Seth, Seth begat Enosh, Enosh begat Kenan… down to Noah of the flood. Translated into modern genetic terms, the account could read “Adam passed a copy of his Y chromosome to Seth, Seth passed a copy of his Y chromosome to Enosh, Enosh passed a copy of his Y chromosome to Kenan“… and so on until Noah was born carrying a copy of Adam’s Y chromosome. The Y chromosome is paternally inherited; human males have one while females have none. What is more, the Y chromosome a father passes to his son is, in large measure, an unchanged copy of his own, (emphasis mine). [xv]

This means that whatever information was encoded in Adam’s Y chromosome was passed on unchanged (virtually) to all of his descendants including all of us men alive today! However, if the information in the Y chromosome were faulty, then it would mean that all of his descendants (including us) would also have a faulty code. Discovering the exact make-up of the Y chromosome when Adam was first created is impossible for us to do, however, its current state may tell us something about the fall. The Y chromosome may in fact be a record of an event in the life of our original father. Bradman and Thomas suggest that the Y chromosome contains “a record of an event” [xvi] in the life the man who passed on the current Y chromosome. However, because Bradman and Thomas are committed to the evolutionary paradigm they believe the event “had no effect on the life of the man in whom the change occurred nor, indeed, on the life of his descendants,” (emphasis mine). [xvii] Is it possible that the recorded event is not something that had “little or no effect,” but is in some way the record of the genetic fall of our first father? Thus Adam not only died spiritually by virtue of losing the Holy Spirit, but his genetic information (as recorded specifically in the Y chromosome) was corrupted. God stated that in the day that Adam ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he would die (Genesis 2:17).

Death, it appears, entered into Adam’s Y chromosome (in some way unique and different than the X) that very moment causing him to go from being genetically perfect to having serious errors in his code that would eventually cause a “crash”. Occasionally people who use computers will experience a scenario where the operating system experiences a “fatal crash”. The crash occurs because there is some conflict in the code of the program. Though the program may be able to sustain data loss for a short period, if uncorrected, the program will eventually crash. In Adam’s case, that crash took 930 years, but he did eventually experience a complete shutdown.

If that is correct, then the Y chromosome (and all of his chromosomes) must have been complete and whole before Adam fell into sin. We know that he was free from all imperfections because God created him and declared him to be good and because death entered into the world via Adam’s sin. Yet, the Y chromosome seems to contain something so deleterious that our savior could not have shared it. After all, every copy of the Y chromosome (that is, every male descendant of Adam) would necessarily have the same genetic flaw that would also lead to the ultimate crash. In order to save mankind on a genetic level, a new Y chromosome would need to be provided. Furthermore, through the disobedience of Adam all of creation was made subject to corruption as Paul states in Romans 8.

For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body, (Romans 8:19-23).

In some way, Adam’s disobedience and subsequent corruption spread to all creation. It could be, though we cannot be sure, that Eve was included under the “creation”. In any event women are seemingly not excepted due to the fact that every daughter received twenty-three haploid chromosomes from her biological father who has a Y chromosome and therefore a man, carrying Adam’s faulty Y chromosome, was directly involved in her procreation.

The Original Data Loss A.K.A. “Original Sin”

Scripture testifies to the “blue screen of death” which we could argue has been historically known as original sin. Paul discusses at length that all face the effects of sin (corruption) even though one man was responsible for bringing it into the world. “For since through man is the death, also through man is a rising again of the dead, (1 Corinthians 15:21 Revised Young’s Literal Translation RYLT). [xviii] Paul then reiterates and summarizes by saying: “for even as in Adam all die, so also in the Christ all shall be made alive, and each in his proper order, a first-fruit Christ, afterwards those who are the Christ’s, in his presence,” (1 Corinthians 15:22-23 RYLT). Jesus not only rose from the dead, but also mixed with mankind. Thus our resurrection seems to also entail being mixed with the Lord. Bible commentator Thomas Constable notes that the death and resurrection are not just some kind of “spiritual” entities but are in fact physical and literal.

Adam derived life from another, God; but Christ is Himself the fountain of life. Adam was the first man in the old creation, and, like him, all of his sons die physically. Christ is the first man in the new creation, and, like Him, all of His sons will live physically (cf. Rom. 5:12-19). […] Both Adam and Jesus were men. Therefore our resurrection will be a human resurrection, not some “spiritual” type of resurrection. Physical resurrection is as inevitable for the son of Jesus Christ as physical death is for the son of Adam, (Constable Notes).

Paul has a longer discussion of how sin came into the world through one man (Adam) and how death, therefore, was passed or spread to all men.

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned – for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous, (Romans 5:12-19).

Though the sin of Adam was indeed moral in that he broke the command of God, the result was physical as well as spiritual. We have already discussed how his sinning resulted in immediate spiritual death – the loss of the Holy Spirit. However, it also appears from the two above passages that the concept of original sin – that is how we are born in sin – is due to the fact that every child of Adam is also a genetic copy of Adam and Eve (of course with genetic recombination). We might think of it like sour dough bread in which each time a new loaf of bread is made, a little bit of the starter dough is taken and thrown into the mix. In that way, the starter dough is in every new batch.

So it is with Adam’s genes: we are all copies of him and therefore whatever coding errors he had would be passed on to us from the very point of conception. The fact that sin is attributed to Adam and not to Eve, though she was the first to break God’s command seems readily explainable. When God formed Eve He took from his side which of course contains bone marrow. In bone marrow are the stem cells from which all other cells in the body can be replicated. Therefore, God merely borrowed some code from Adam (removed the Y chromosome and added a second X chromosome) and voila – a female clone of Adam. Upon seeing her, Adam even declared: “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man,” (Genesis 2:23). Therefore we draw the conclusion that it was the master disc (Adam) that counts when making copies; Eve received her code from Adam. This understanding would certainly not detract from Adam acting as our federal head, but would serve to clarify how exactly that sin was passed and why we are “in sin” from conception.

The solution to the problem is analogous to the problem itself – also an idea that we have already examined in part; John states that “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God,” (1 John 3:9). The new birth will not merely be a clearing of our debts (though thank the Lord it includes that!) but we will truly be reborn with new bodies. We get to take possession of our new bodies (with their correct DNA, i.e. information) in heaven. Until that time we have the Holy Spirit as a down payment (guarantee).

Conclusions of the Incarnation

As our understanding of genetics and specifically the Y chromosome stands right now, we are able to conclude that if Adam was corrupted genetically then his descendants would be too and something particular to the data errors in the Y chromosome was especially significant. That means that the data loss was extremely significant and as such crashes in the system will result in time. Since the Y chromosome is passed from father to son (identically), every son will experience the same data loss. Though women do not carry the Y chromosome, they are still under the curse (data loss) because every daughter has a father who is a son of Adam. Therefore, whether son or daughter, all have shared in the genetic loss that Adam first experienced. However in the conception of Jesus’ incarnation, the Y chromosome from Adam was not passed on. Therefore Jesus must have (in the flesh) had a perfect Y chromosome! Though while connected genetically to humanity by way of the X chromosomes, Jesus was not a carrier of the Y chromosome which Adam had passed to all subsequent generations. Jesus became the first fruits of the resurrection because one day, by way of the “seed of God” that we have received as believers, we will mingle with our creator.

We can thus summarize the genetic events of the incarnation as such: Jesus, who, as eternal God, is spirit (John 4:24). As the “source code” [xix] of all living things, He is also the prime “data/information” which is/was non-material. His “information” was put into a medium. In order to encode the information in the physical medium (DNA) the Holy Spirit did apparently one of two options. He either: 1) made ex nihilo the DNA material (amino acids etc.) or 2) used the existing material in the egg, as the medium into which Jesus’ non-material spirit went into. The Holy Spirit then fused “the Jesus” gamete (spermatocyte) with Mary’s gamete (oocyte) (recall that a gamete contains DNA, which is stored information, which is a non-material entity). The fusion of the two gametes is when the incarnation (becoming flesh cf. John 1:14) occurred. The chromosomes from Mary and the Holy Spirit fused to make the (body of the) new Adam. Because Jesus is the second Adam, and because we are genetically connected with the first Adam, we must also be mingled with Jesus’ DNA (“He shall see His seed,” Isaiah 53:10, see also 1 John 3:9, 1 Peter 1:23).

Douglas Hamp's CORRUPTING THE IMAGE, Part Four: Genetics of the Incarnation

(Note: Links like the following are found throughout this website.  They take one to Word Documents in my computer which has virus protection.  They are safe to open!)

The Eight Callings of the Christian Life
1, 2 Peter; Jude Study
By Carol Miller of My Life Ministries

November 13, 2016

Focal:  2 Peter 1:5-7
Context:  2 Peter 1:1-11

REVIEW

Last week Mark's presentation reminded us that Peter realized this was his final letter of written instructions to the churches before he would “put off his earthly tent” and depart to go be with the Lord. (2 Peter 1:13-15)

Peter intended to make his main subject of this letter a warning against giving any heed to false teachers who he knew were going to come in among the flock and attempt to draw them away into heresies and ungodly practices.  Peter will get to that message in 2 Peter 2; 3.

But first Peter wanted to help them understand the “way” to insure that they would not be vulnerable to these false teachers.  That “way” is similar to the story we often hear about how to avoid being fooled by counterfeit money.  It is simply to study thoroughly, with great diligence, the real thing: you study hard and become able to fully know real money.

To avoid being fooled by false teachers, you must diligently study the Word of God and know Jesus Christ very well personally.

Peter tells the believers that Christ's divine power has provided everything we need for life (spiritual vitality) and godly living. (2 Peter 1:3)

He says those two things come to us through gaining the full knowledge of Jesus Christ — i.e., an intimate relationship, an experiential knowledge of Him as well as of the written Word of God. (2 Peter 1:3)

Then Peter tells them they also need to know that believers have been given exceedingly great and precious promises of a special, higher category than the many promises that accompany salvation such as his forgiveness, His inclusion of us in the family, His justification of us before God, the promise of His nearness at all times, etc., etc.  The promises that are “exceedingly great and very precious” are those Peter wrote of in his first letter which relate to the believer's inheritance (1 Peter 1:3-5) and the return of Christ and the salvation of the soul (1 Peter 1:9, 13).

And it is through these great and precious promises, and relying on them, that believers might become partakers of the divine nature and escape the corruption that is in the world by lust. (1 Peter 1:4)

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2 Peter 1:5-7

So, following Mark's commentary ending with 2 Peter 1:4, we begin with 2 Peter 1:5 where Peter tells them (and us) to apply all diligence (make every effort) to attain to spiritual vital life, godly living, and to become a partaker of the divine nature.

He says be zealous, pay full attention, strenuously give yourself, go to extravagant lengths to complete the goal of attaining spiritual maturity.

Peter is NOT saying that salvation is something to be achieved—he is not teaching salvation by works, but he is teaching making Jesus Christ and His kingdom our focus, putting all our efforts into “running the race set before us.”  (READ 1 Corinthians 9:24)

1 Peter 1:5-7 comprise the bedrock of the Christian life and character. They are the components which enable us to fulfill what Peter says in 2 Peter 1:8:

For if these things (these qualities) are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

In other words, these virtues or character qualities enable fruitfulness in good works of faith, i.e. works produced through your life by the Holy Spirit.  See Ephesians 2:10:

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

The Holy Spirit will direct the particular path of each Christian into specific good works that the Lord will be glorified by.  But every Christian, regardless of his or her particular calling, must develop these seven additional qualities to faith in order to be a full overcomer and a fruitful witness for Christ.

Without being diligent and persistent to develop these 7 qualities to add to our faith, we will fall short of God's completed goal for us of being an overcomer in Christ.  Peter says in 2 Peter 1:9:

“For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.”  (This might akin to “doubting your salvation.”)

Being shortsighted leads to a less productive Christian life.

So, our resolve should be to re-examine our lives as to where we are in the development of these 7 character qualities, and begin to grow in them and reinforce the development of them.

Actually, the Holy Spirit, through Peter, has put them in an order of progression as to how they begin to develop in our lives after we come to Christ by faith.  Then the process continues to repeat and repeat, and we fill out and add to each quality as we continue on our Christian path of “the race set before us.”

The order is “in your faith, supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge; and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness; and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, Christian love.” (2 Peter 1:5-7)

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The 8 Stages of Christian Growth
The 7 Character Qualities of a Mature Christian
The 8 Callings of a Mature Christian

I.  FAITH -- Faith is the base that must be established for Christian growth, and it is faith that brings us into Salvation and is the FIRST CALLING a Christian experiences.  (2 Peter 1:5a)

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”  (John 3:16)

“Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  (John 3:3)

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.”  (Ephesians 2:8)

“If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.  For with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”  (Romans 10:9-10)

“And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”  (Hebrews 11:6)

Faith is the “engine” that moves God's people forward in life.

The very first step of Christian growth is to receive eternal life through FAITH in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not uncommon for it to be necessary for a Christian to need to confirm his salvation through Scripture and the witness of the Holy Spirit.  A Christian's salvation should never be in doubt.  He should have the inner witness by the Spirit, and he should understand what he believed and Who he trusted in.

Evidences of salvation are:

(1) An awareness of right and wrong;

(2) Hunger for God's Word;

(3) Desire for a changed life;

(4) Increase in testing;

(5) Love for other Christians;

(6) Desire to tell others about Christ.

Faith in Jesus Christ is what separates Christians from all other people.  It is the foundation of all other qualities in the Christian life.

Our First Calling is The Calling of Salvation.  We answer it when we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and receive Him by faith.

II.  MORAL EXCELLENCE or VIRTUE -- This is the first of seven stages of growth or Character Qualities that Peter names which a Christian is to add to his FAITH with all diligence.

Moral excellence is separation from darkness.  It is discerning and turning from evil in all its forms.

Either we separate ourselves from our sins, or our sins will separate us from fellowship with God:

“Your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He does not hear.”

“For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken falsehood, your tongue mutters wickedness.”  (Isaiah 59:2-3)

One of the greatest causes of diminishing the potential of our witness and life message is failure to turn from all the thoughts, words and actions which we know grieve the Spirit of God.  The pursuit of moral excellence should touch every area of our lives.

Our Second Calling is the Calling of SeparationMoral Excellence is the first character quality Peter names to apply all diligence to add to our faith.

III.  KNOWLEDGE -- This is the second of seven stages of growth or Character Qualities that Peter names which a Christian is to add to his FAITH with all diligence.

The kind of knowledge a Christian must gain is understood when we examine Romans 12:1-2: 

“......present (dedicate) your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service, and be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

We can only renew our minds in a way that will prove out in our lives those things that are the good and acceptable and perfect will of God by keeping ourselves in the Word of God.

Spiritual knowledge comes through the Holy Spirit and is focused on the Person as well as the Word of God.

Our Third Calling is the Calling of Dedication.   Spiritual knowledge will come to us as we dedicate ourselves to God and to His Word.  The more we gain knowledge in this way, the more we will come into greater dedication to the Lord. 

IV.  SELF-CONTROL -- This is the third of seven stages of growth or Character Qualities that Peter names which a Christian should add to his FAITH with all diligence.

Self-control is holding passions and desires in check.

Self-control is the basis of fruitful Christian service.  With self-control we do not serve ourselves, but we are morally free to serve one another in love:

“For, brethren, you have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion for the flesh, but by love, serve one another.”  (Galatians 5:13)

Service involves laying up treasures in heaven and building spiritual maturity in the lives of those around us:

“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:  but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through and steal:  for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)

Our Fourth Calling is the Calling of Service.  Through the exercise of self-control the believer will have the liberty to serve others and exercise his spiritual gifts to bear much fruit.

V.  PERSEVERENCE -- this is the fourth of seven stages of growth or Character Qualities that Peter names which a Christian should add to his FAITH with all diligence.

Perseverance is Endurance in suffering.  The Christian needs to expect to be misunderstood. 

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you....” (1 Peter 4:12)

Suffering is essential in order to experience the three final callings of Godliness (Humility), Brotherly Kindness, and Genuine Love.  Several insights concerning suffering are important to note:

(1)  It often comes from those you least expect it to come from.

(2)  It is designed to open up new sections of Scripture to us.

(3)  It is God's way of freeing us from that which hinders us from “setting our affections on things above.”

(4)  It is most painful when we are partly at fault. In this regard, it is for our purifying.

Our Fourth Calling is the Calling of Suffering:

We experience it as we persevere through various trials:

“….you who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. . . .” (1 Peter 1:5-7, cf. Psalms 35:14-15; 55:12-14)

VI.  GODLINESS -- this is the fifth of seven stages of growth or Character Qualities that Peter names which a Christian should add to his FAITH with all diligence.

Godliness involves the “worth-ship” or reverence paid to worth, whether in God or in man.  Humility is the basis for godliness.

A godly response to those who offend us would be to recognize that God has only used them to put us through a “fire” that will be for our ultimate benefit if we respond to it and to them in the right way. When we humble ourselves through the suffering God allows, He gives us more grace both to respond to our offenders and to see new, rich insights in His Word.

God is more concerned with our response than He is with our experiences. He desires for us to “be a partaker of His divine nature.” (2 Peter 1:4)

Toward this goal, all things work together for good. (Romans 8:28)

Our fifth calling is The Calling of Humility:

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time.”  (1 Peter 5:6, cf. 2 Samuel 16:5-12)

VII.  BROTHERLY KINDNESS -- this is the sixth of seven stages of growth or Character Qualities that Peter names which a Christian should add to his FAITH with all diligence.

The reward of going through suffering and responding to it in a right way is a new ability to understand the real needs of those around us.

This has been called “Philadelphia” love.  It is a love of the brethren and alertness to their needs and showing gentleness in meeting them.  Fervent and practical caring for others is brotherly kindness.

When the fire of trials burns away the stubble of human achievement, we have a new ability to sense the real needs of the people around us.  We can sense when they have been hurt, and they are able to sense that we would understand if they told us about it.

Our sixth calling is The Calling of Understanding.  This is the reward of suffering: 

“If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you; for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”  (1 Peter 4:14)

VIII.  LOVE -- this is the seventh and last of seven stages of growth or Character Qualities that Peter names which a Christian should add to his FAITH with all diligence.

Agape love come with spiritual maturity.  This is love like Jesus' love. This kind of love is that which desires the highest good for others.  The kind of love that God exhibits toward sinners is agape love.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son...”  (John 3:16)

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  (Romans 5:8)

“By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him  In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”  (1 John 4:9-11)

Our seventh calling is The Calling of Spiritual Maturity.  Building on the foundation of faith, believers are to exhibit Christ-likeness by supplying seven qualities that climax in love towards others.  Faith and Love are seen here:  Colossians 1:4-5; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 2 Thessalonians 1:3; Philemon 1:5.

SUMMARY

God does not want our work for Him to be in vain or lack lasting results.  (2 Peter 1:8)

Lasting results will not occur unless we respond to all eight callings.  (2 Peter 1:9)

God allows us to go through “fires” so that we can build in others what we learn through them.  (1 Peter 3:14-15)

Before we go through the “fire” we can go and tell others about the Christian life, but after we respond properly to our “fire” they come to us for this information.  (1 Peter 3:14-15)

Those we lead to Christ will be far more faithful if we prepare them for suffering and if they see that we have gone through that same suffering.

Each time God takes us through these eight callings our understanding of them grows deeper, and our ability to lead others to spiritual maturity grows greater.

(Note: Links like the following are found throughout this website.  They take one to Word Documents in my computer which has virus protection.  They are safe to open!)

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