The creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to decay and death into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. Romans 8:21
Our online dictionary includes this definition for the word “Hebrew”:
ORIGIN: from Old French Ebreu, via Latin from late Greek Hebraios, from Aramaic ‛i b ray, based on Hebrew ‛i b rî — understood to mean ‘one from the other side (of the river).’
Abraham’s descendants’ escaping from Egypt and, with divine Providence, rushing across the “parted” Red Sea certainly do come to mind. Hebrew = one from the other side — or, as this is sometimes expressed, “one who crossed over.” The Red Sea is a long, narrow, land-locked sea; in some ways it is more like a river. Further, Joshua would much later lead the Israelis into the Land by crossing the Jordan River near Jericho.
When we visited Israel a couple of years back, we learned that “Bethlehem” means in Hebrew “house of bread.” He who has been referred to as “Panis Angelicus,” Bread of Angels, the ultimate “manna,” the one who illustrated His “body, broken for you” with bread — was born in the House of Bread!
Yeshua’s kind of “bread” differs from the ordinary kind, however. When we eat ordinary bread, it becomes us, so to speak. But when we appropriate Christ, we become increasingly like Him through the new birth.
Jesus spoke of the importance of being “born again” to Nicodemus, who was a Pharisee and had come to Him at night in the hope of not being seen by his own colleagues. When we think about the definition of “Hebrew” meaning essentially “one who crossed over,” the word itself seems to speak of this new birth — in addition to Israel’s exodus. Consider Abraham, Rahab, and Ruth. They left their very different former lives to become Israelis — to “cross over” to a new and unknown life; they somehow summoned the faith to move toward this new life in preference to what was familiar. They sensed something better; they crossed over.
In Isaiah we find the stirring words, “Behold, I am doing a new thing; can you not perceive it?” We find a paraphrase of the first part of this statement in Revelation: “Behold, I make all things new.”
Astrophysicists tell us that more than 200 finely-tuned characteristics of Earth reveal that the universal stage was set in advance for us — for billions of years. And that Earth is in a unique place and time parameter that enables us to observe these exquisite elements of design. A personal Creator had you and me in mind.
Scientists who have also studied Scripture recognize in it a setting forth in several texts — not only in those in Genesis 1 — of the astonishingly-unique process of setting the stage for our world for the very purpose of creating — not suns, but sons.
When He was physically present with us, Jesus often referred to Himself as “the Son of man.” He is described this way in the fiery-furnace story in the book of Daniel in the Old Testament as well. But after the resurrection His description, in the epistles for example, consistently becomes “the Son of God.”
“Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but He has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like Him, because we will see Him as He really is. And all who have this hope will keep themselves pure, just as He is pure.” (1 John 3:2,3)
The goal that Jesus put before Nicodemus is the same one He puts before you and me — to become citizens of the newer creation that “eye has not seen and ear has not heard.” The one in which weapons will have been transformed into garden tools that facilitate life. In which there will be no more killing or evil or death. No animal predation. No sickness or sorrow or night. The perfect creation — as God would design it.
“You must be born again,” Jesus told Nicodemus, the apparently wise, older man.
“Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness — without it no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14)
God’s love and mercy are freely extended to all. He waits as long as He can. His desire is that as many as possible will enter the Kingdom of all things new.
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: Abraham, bridegroom, children, Christ, creation, daniel, death, egypt, evil, Exodus, freedom, God, Hebrew, holiness, hope, Jesus, Jordan, Kingdom, life, Old Testament, Red Sea, resurrection, Revelation, Scripture, Son of God, yeshua
The events of the week that began with Jesus’ humble-but-triumphant entry into Jerusalem and culminated with the crucifixion are unspeakably precious.
The overturning of the moneychangers’ tables in the Temple apparently followed His arrival in Jerusalem. Every one of His recorded acts during this pivotal week is spotlighted by the world-changing events that would subsequently unfold. This story of the cleansing of the Temple comes to our ears and hearts on its surface as revealing Jesus’ desire to re-establish God’s sacred intent for the Temple. To put the emphasis back on prayer and take it away from financial gain. “It is written: ‘My house shall be a house of prayer.’ — but you have turned it into a den of thieves.”
This level of purpose comes across clearly. Perhaps nothing is more important in this world than prayer. But Yeshua was accomplishing more than this with His decisive and fearless disruption of the status quo.
He knew that He would fulfill the Passover later that week, once and for all, as the sacrificial Lamb for whom God had been preparing the way through the Temple’s sacrificial system. God had instructed Abraham to sacrifice animals. And the specific practice of sacrificing a spotless lamb at Passover had been divinely instructed as the Israelites prepared to depart from captivity in Egypt for the Promised Land. We remember John the Baptist’s clarion announcement: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” And Revelation’s describing Yeshua as “the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world.”
His overturning the tables that had been used for the business of selling doves and pigeons to Jews wanting to make ritual sacrifices signaled the end of the centuries-old sacrificial system. Fully knowing the price He would very soon pay to deliver Himself up to redeem lost humanity and restore us to His Father and our Father, no one was more appropriately qualified to upset these tables — notwithstanding the indignation of the Temple elites who stood by. This was His way of signaling the new and better covenant; the new dispensation of grace that He, the spotless Lamb, would provide through His voluntary sacrifice of His own sinless blood. He showed us in a way that we cannot forever miss how profoundly God loves every one of us. “For God so loved the world . . .”
Matthew 9:13 is a wonderful, instructive verse. The Torah teachers or scribes had just asked Jesus’ disciples why their teacher ate with marginal people like tax collectors and sinners. Yeshua the great communicator replied, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” (NLT; italics added) This is a direct reference to Hosea 6:6, among other passages. Jesus revealed that God never liked the idea of killing animals to sacrifice their blood. But He instituted this practice to paint a picture of Yeshua’s ultimate atonement. Down the long centuries God had worked through a concrete example that He hoped would provide the clear insight to enable Israel, forever the beloved seed of Abraham, to recognize Yeshua.
In Dr. Brown’s The Real Kosher Jesus, he provides several rabbinic texts that speak of the atoning sacrifice of a tsadik (righteous one) as a means of saving the people. He points out that this concept is not a Christian construct; it had for centuries been part of Judaism. As one example, “. . . the Zohar states, ‘As long as Israel dwelt in the Holy Land, the rituals and the sacrifices they performed [in the Temple] removed all . . . diseases from the world; now the Messiah removes them from the children of the world.’ ”
In addition to providing several rabbinic sources for this fundamental Jewish teaching, Dr. Brown details discussions from rabbinic literature associating the deaths of righteous people with atonement. Miriam and the sons of Aaron are examples.
These insights help to clarify the initially-opaque John 18:14, among other verses, which indicates that Caiphas, because he was “high priest that year,” explained the need for one person to die for the people — as the dark events surrounding Jesus’ illegal trials unfolded. While Caiphas undoubtedly had his own misguided reasons for citing this Jewish teaching in support of the outcome of the bogus hearing that was perfunctorily extended to Jesus, Caiphas’ doing so clearly reflects that an understanding of the power of the death of a single person to benefit all the people was present in Temple instruction.
Dr. Brown’s life-long focus on sacred content that matters is deeply appreciated. Its power to enlighten our understanding is considerable.
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: Abraham, blood, Christian, covenant, event, freedom, God, grace, hearing, heart, house of prayer, israel, Jerusalem, Jesus, jewish, judaism, lamb, life, love, mercy, yeshua
“…. the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple….” -Mal. 3.1a
A friend and teacher of mine once gave a remarkable definition of man-made traditions with regard to spirituality:
Religion is man’s attempt at making God something he can manage.
This has long been the egotistical disposition of mankind: seeking to create God in an image we prefer, rather than receiving and loving Him as He is.
The prophets of Israel were commissioned by the Lord to shake His complacent and sleepy-hearted people away from their preconceived notions and traditions, and to usher them into a revelation of God’s true nature and purpose.
The false prophets of Judah in Jeremiah’s day, for instance, leaned hard on age-old traditions, and used them as a blanket of false security. They claimed that judgement could not befall Jerusalem, for the tradition declares that God Himself is in the land and that it is therefore protected and covered. The moral conduct of the priests and prophets, the lifestyles of the people in the land, and the nature of Judah’s political activities were not to be discussed. Israel was protected because of Abraham’s faithfulness, and no trouble could overtake them. Or so they assumed.
Tradition says that Yahweh lives in the midst of the people. This is interpreted as Israel’s great security against all danger. In contrast to this, the prophet discerns the freedom of Yahweh in His coming. Yahweh cannot be domesticated by knowledge oriented toward the past, nor can He be attached, like some predictable element, to a pious view of existence. Rather, He shatters the fixed conception that Israel developed in her tradition, and in this, His new and terrifying coming, He proves Himself to be Yahweh….
…. the name of Yahweh cannot in its true content be considered neutrally as tradition. It is the suggestive appellation of the One who, for all that is said about Him, remains a personal subject and decides Himself, in His freedom, what He will do when He comes. And as certainly as He once came to Israel, as tradition tells of Him in Israel’s worship and apart from this, He is never at the disposal of humans like earthly property.
(The Fiery Throne: The Prophets and OT Theology, Walther Zimmerli; Fortress Press, 2003; p. 4)
He never contradicts His own character, but He does obliterate our definitions and categories, especially when we are seeking to utilize Him for our own purposes. “He is never at the disposal of humans like earthly property.”
His radical mercy will shatter our self-righteous assumptions and ideas. His fierce wrath will burn up our moral lightness and our loose views toward sin. He cannot be confined to our tidy theological definitions and traditions. The prophets remind us that we cannot fit the Lord into our schedules, plans, and dreams. If we would have anything to do with Him, we’ve got to cast our lives- lock, stock and barrel- into His Kingdom. After all, by nature, only God Himself is free.
We experience the glorious freedom of love, righteousness, peace, and truth only as we sink our souls into Him.
Bryan Purtle is the founder of the Antioch Prayer Society in Kansas City, MO.
Posted in Featured Articles, The Kingdom of God Tagged with: Abraham, Bryan Purtle, false prophets, freedom, jeremiah, Jerusalem, judgement, Kingdom, prophets of israel, Revelation, Walther Zimmerli
Editor’s Note: Guest article from David Popovici of FIRE School of Ministry: Chicago
Brethren, can I briefly share some things very dear to my heart?
As always, this short essay is in no way meant to be an apologetic defense or debate; time does not permit, nor do I is this the venue for such an endeavor. If by the Lord’s grace, it becomes a trumpet call to even one saint, that is enough. In one of the most climactic events in our Lords earthly mission, after surveying what His hearers said of Him, He asks His disciples the chief question, “who do you say that I am?” (Matt. 16:15). It is safe to say if were to ask 100 people who God is, you might get 90 or even 100 different answers. Nonetheless, Peter responds rightly. In fact, Jesus makes it clear in this gospel passage that there is no way he (Peter) could of come up with it on his own. It came by revelation from the Father.
Revelation, throughout history, has been progressive in regards to the one true God. Faith can only be based on God’s revelation of Himself. From revealing Himself as Creator, the God of “Covenant and Promise” (to Abraham), to the “Great I Am” (to Moses) the scripture builds revelation upon revelation. This is something hidden about God and His plan that comes to light through God’s own initiative in His perfect time. The revelation or appearing of Jesus Christ became the paramount revelation of all. Jesus is the face of God. John Lake, apostle to South Africa said this concerning the three major dispensations of God revealing Himself…
1. Patriarchal-God revealed to man
2. Mosaic-God revealed with man
3. Christ, (and later) Spirit-God revealed in man.
As I heard one man of God once say, “God wants to be known for who He is and not who we have made Him to be”. Jesus said, “if your eye is clear, then your whole body will be full of light.” The truth is that the god of this world, our adversary, deceitfully blinds the minds of unbelievers and seeks to lift up, through our thinking, strongholds that would keep us blind to the knowledge of God in Christ Jesus. One of the main ministries of the Holy Spirit is to reveal Jesus to men. Paul, as well as all the other Biblical writers, was able to pen truth as a result of revelation from the Holy Spirit. The point being is that God seeks to, and loves to reveal Himself. If God were seeking to hide from His creation He would have never have sent His Son, nor followed it up with the sending Holy Spirit, the Divine agent behind revealing truth.
Jesus was and always will be the supreme revelation of God the Father. Remember in Matthew 16, Jesus commends Peter’s revelation and then begins to build upon it by attaching to His Identity as Messiah; the cross. Peter however, aligning himself with the influence of Satan, saw it fitting to correct the Lords Theology. The Lord rebukes him, for setting his mind on things from below-mans interests as opposed to Gods. To think according to the lower order of things was equivalent to Jesus as demonically inspired. All revelation must by definition be attached to Gods ultimate revelation, Christ on the cross. Jews seek for a sign and Greeks for wisdom yet only the cross of Christ can properly reveal Him, as He is. If Christ is the ultimate revelation and the cross was His ultimate mission, it would do us good to make it a life-long point of meditation, pursuit and prayer. As Julian of Norwich said, “give us a burning attraction to thy passion.” These realities cannot be grasped by simply reading the text, or the latest commentary. At best, we only see in part, this must be revealed by the Holy Spirit.
Paul makes it plain in 1Corinthians 1, the cross makes no sense to the logical mind, only to the renewed mind. Jesus came neither as political military leader or religious philosopher. He came as the conqueror of sin and death. The atonement for mans sins as the perfect sacrifice to God. The Chief representative of a Kingdom not of earthly origin; which only the cross could illuminate. The content of the cross is the filter through which everything is revealed from heaven. Heavens highest wisdom and greatest power demonstration is the cross. To quote biblical scholar Gregory Boyd “God flexes His muscle by dying on a Cross”.
God is in no way indebted to men, He does not feel insecure, nor does He need to defend Himself. The cross offends the twin idolatries of the human-race; the desire for power and knowledge/wisdom. He makes it so that only the humble can see. The cross is both the power and wisdom of God to us. It is not foolish or weak per se, only in regards to being understood according to the spirit of this age. This revelation is the ultimate one that all others bow to and get filtered by. Whether a teaching by Paul, Peter, Apollos, or Pentecostals, Baptists, Lutherans, no matter the stream, so to speak, the cross trumps all.
Now for the reality of this stamp of God we must contend. It is not enough to give mental assent. We do not have to choose, the cross is both wisdom and power towards us who believe and anyone else who will place their trust in Jesus. A cross that holds claim to save a man’s soul but cannot set him free from bondage and sin is either has not been truly preached or believed and applied. And the same goes for giving man an eternal hope in the face of persecution and suffering, or healing a man in the pangs of disease and infirmity, or for that matter changing the composition of a man’s life, purpose and meaning. Where instead of wasting his life, he instead gives it to the joys of loving and knowing God and saving souls. Brothers, we must have revelation, and it must lead us to the cross!
Take a listen to this audio compilation by Art Katz on “The Cross.”
Posted in Featured Articles, Revival & Prayer Tagged with: Abraham, art katz, cross, fire school of ministry: chicago, Guest Writer: David Popovici, power, prayer, the Holy Spirit, trumpet call
One night, in family devotions, I was reading to my kids from a Bible storybook about Cain and Abel. In this author’s rendition of the story, Cain’s offering was rejected because it was not his best, while Abel’s offering was the best he had to give and therefore acceptable to God. It suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks…this writer missed the entire point of the Biblical story! In fact, I believe the reality is quite the opposite. Cain was a “tiller of the ground”. His days consisted of backbreaking manual labor and he earned every morsel with the “sweat of his brow”. When asked to bring a sacrifice to God, he must have surely thought that his offering would be the best in God’s sight. Cain’s offering was the hard earned fruit of his labor, the work of his own blistered hands. But, in spite of all Cain’s striving, God rejected his offering. The Bible says, “Cain was exceedingly angry and his countenance fell” (Gen 4:5). Cain was so frustrated and angry because he had indeed brought his best to God…and yet his best was not good enough.
God said, “If you do well, will you not be accepted?” “Do well?” Cain must have thought. “I’ve done the best I can do.” Perhaps Cain knew in his heart that he had worked longer and harder than Able ever did. Through sweat, tears and hard manual labor Cain had worked the thorny soil to bring this offering to the Lord. Yet God was pleased with Abel’s gift and not his own. Cain could not understand and soon his frustration boiled over into murderous rage.
Why was Abel’s offering acceptable to God? Was it a better offering? Had Abel worked more or harder or better? On the contrary…Abel brought the blood of an innocent other. The real sacrifice was not his at all…it was really the sheep who had paid the dearest price. Abel was NOT relying on the work of his hands and the fruit of his labor. Somehow he understood that it was the blood that satisfied God.
“Without the shedding of blood there is no remission” (Heb 9:22). Cain is a type of all those who come to God with the work of their own hands. Even if we do our best and strive with all our might to please God, we will always come up short, no matter how well-intentioned we may be. Whenever you swipe the credit card of your own righteousness into God’s ATM it will ALWAYS be declined. All our righteousness is like filthy rags.
Abel is a type of all those who come to God with the blood of that innocent other; the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. It is the blood of Jesus that has cleansed us from all sin (I John 1:7). It is the blood of Jesus that has purged our conscience from dead works (Heb 9:14). It is the blood of Jesus that has reconciled us unto God (Eph 2:13). It is the blood of Jesus that has redeemed us (1 Pet 1:18). Abel came not on the basis of his works, but in faith, and like Abraham, “It was counted to him as righteousness.” By faith we carry God’s own credit card, without a capital limit, backed by the collateral of heaven’s endless supply, and billed to Calvary’s address. Hallelujah!
Daniel Kolenda is an evangelist with Christ For All Nations, along with Reinhard Bonnke.
Posted in Featured Articles, The Kingdom of God Tagged with: Abraham, blood, cain and abel, murder, sacrifice
Editor’s Note: Be advised that there is mild profanity in this article, as quoted from a booklet from a well-known and respected missionary of the early 20th Century.
It is the “Little foxes” that spoil the vine. The vine is where fruit is produced. It is not noon-day elephants, but little foxes in the night that slip in to spoil fruit. Maybe you are not looking at porn on the computer, but your heart takes a deep interest in football and it causes you to lose time in God’s presence, amongst God’s people and in God’s purpose in your life. This is a spoiling of the vine. Maybe it isn’t sports. Maybe it is business. Corrie Ten Boom said, “beware of the bareness of a busy life.” Most little foxes are known only by you and God.
Benny Hinn said, “when you wholly belong to Him, you hunger only for His kingdom.”
To be honest about this, I have been on both sides of this fence. When I got cold, the volume of other things increased in my life. But when I got lit on fire again, they were all eaten up by the Holy Ghost. Smith Wigglesworth said, his life was “eaten away by the Holy Spirit.” Psalm 39 tells us that, “God eats away like a moth the things that are precious to man.”
He is FIRE. He consumes everything just by being present.
This is the only real understanding of the Christian life that I have. All else is compromise.
Tolerance is compromise. If you watch something that is not clean by tolerance, you have compromised. We must smash these things for purity’s sake. There is a fight for purity because “purity of heart affects all seeing (Art Katz).” Many people lose sight of things that are wrong in their lives because their eyes are dim from impurities tolerated in their lives. Lay the axe to the root and clear the way for the vision of Jesus!
Beware of little foxes. Time stealers. Sinful compromises. They are after your fruit. Jesus said that fruit is what Glorifies God (John 15). The little foxes want to steal the Glory of God out of your life.
“Fashion, entertainment, sports, materialism–we are idol worshipers (Dr. Michael L. Brown).” These are the Gods of this country. Beware of the seduction message that mixes the truths of Christ with a tolerant life. It is an attempt to give you enough of God to satisfy your religious desires and also make way for your heart to find fulfillment in the things of this world simultaneously. You will be rendered powerless. Seduction has slain many mighty men (Prov. 7.26). Seduction makes you as a loaf of bread, mindless and left only to be devoured. Seduction is the play upon your desires. It is an appealing message to the best of both worlds. You can have your idols and God too. No. In God’s view, He is first, or He is forgotten. The throne of your heart that rules your whole life is His and only His. He will not share it with another. Just ask Abraham.
The holes through which men are infected with the virus of powerlessness, unbelief and compromise are nothing other than the additions to Jesus in their hearts.
Christians are not to be Jesus, AND… We are to be Jesus ALONE. What other testimony is more in keeping with the claim that the Creator of the universe is really enjoyed and known by us?
Athlete turned missionary C.T. Studd wrote a great booklet entitled “The D.C.D.,” which was as controversial in its day as it would be in ours (for reasons that will be readily apparent, read it here for context). In the booklet, “D.C.D.” stands for “Don’t Care a Damn,” and he describes a new order of “D.C.D. Soldiers of the Lord Jesus.” According to Studd, “a ‘D.C.D.’ doesn’t care a damn what happens to himself so long as our Lord Jesus Christ is glorified.” In our modern vernacular, we would call them “followers of Jesus that don’t give a damn,” or, more politely “followers of Jesus that could care less.” As is stated in the Studd booklet, God is looking for men who could could care less about anything but Christ Himself and His gospel.
The leaven in Matthew 13 is a wonderful picture of what happens to a life that chooses the rule of God. It spreads to the consuming of the whole life. If this is not the picture of your life, than the leaven of an absolute submission to the Kings dominion has yet to be applied to your life. The last verse of the book of 1st John says, “Keep yourselves from idols.” You don’t have to look for things to fill your life with, they are looking for you and you must guard against them.
A boxer must keep his guard up in a fight. Why? Because the guy in front of him is trying to swing, is swinging and will swing to knock him out. If he is lazy with that guard, he will pay for it. We must guard our hearts above all for from it flows our life.
All the foxes start in the mind, to influence your body, to tip your will over in sin. The mind of man is the shipping and receiving center of life. Whatever you want to give out has got to go through the mind and whatever is going to come in must go in through the mind. Yet, “there are thoughts of evil and evil thoughts.” Thoughts of evil come from the outside and evil thoughts come from the inside. One grasps at your mind and the other your mind grasps for. The devils come to your mind. “He will keep you in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Him (Isa. 26.3).” “The mind set on the Spirit is life and peace (Romans 8.6).”
Eric Gilmour is an Associate Editor for Voice of Revolution, overseeing Revival & Evangelism. Visit his website at agonypress.podbean.com
Posted in Featured Articles, Revival & Prayer Tagged with: Abraham, art katz, benny hinn, C.T. Studd, christians, compromise, corrie ten boom, D.C.D, Dr. Michael Brown, Jesus Christ, smith wigglesworth, the Holy Spirit
Abraham fell on his face and laughed…
Sarah laughed to herself …
(Genesis 17:17a; 18:12a)
Many are happy to overlook the way God has revealed Himself in the sacred histories. They prefer to view Him through inspired statements made about Him. Then they define His actions in view of those holy declarations. This is a good principle, but we should not neglect to watch carefully to see how He interacts with people that He loves. Perhaps statements about God might be seen through the revelatory record of His relationships. For example, look at Abraham and Sarah’s unbelief. First, look at Abraham:
Then God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. “I will bless her, and indeed I will give you a son by her. Then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, “Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before You!” But God said, “No, but Sarah your wife will bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. (Genesis 17:15-19)
At least Abraham kept his derision to himself. He only spoke “in his heart.” God didn’t reprove him. God continued to declare His purposes for Abraham. Yet, look at Sarah. Really, this couple just goes from bad to worse…
He said, “I will surely return to you at this time next year; and behold, Sarah your wife will have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door, which was behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; Sarah was past childbearing. Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have become old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?” And the LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, when I am so old?’ “Is anything too difficult for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” Sarah denied it however, saying, “I did not laugh”; for she was afraid. And He said, “No, but you did laugh.” (Genesis 18:9-15)
Here’s a woman who actually laughs in disbelief at God’s promise. When she’s called on it, in fear and disbelief in God’s goodness, she lies to God’s face. Why wasn’t Sarah turned to ashes where she stood? In the very next chapter (the inexorably severe judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah) we read of Lot’s wife being turned into a pillar of salt for disobeying the word of an angel. Here, we have the inspired record: Lot’s wife’s Aunt Sarah secretly mocking God’s word. She laughed!
Not only did God not destroy Sarah, but He didn’t rescind His promise to her. Not only did God not respond in wrath, but Sarah didn’t disqualify herself from His purposes for her. In fact, the gentle reproof He offered did not even receive a penitent response. What did she say? “I did not laugh.” So, Sarah not only laughs at God’s word, but when convicted by the audible voice of God she doesn’t even have the reverence to humbly confess her fault. She denies, she maintains her righteousness. And this woman lived? What did God say? “No, but you did laugh.” I have been familiar with this story for years, but still can’t quite get over this.
This is as poignant and merciful an interaction as anything we read about in the New Testament. In fact, where else in the Sacred Text do we see this type of behavior? (I’m not just writing about Sarah, but Sarah and God!)
Have you ever received a promise that you believe was from God, but now, if it is mentioned, the very sound of it brings pain? If the LORD, Himself, was to draw near to you and restate His purpose, would you bitterly laugh? Would you mock? Have you done that? If so, take heart. He is the God of Abraham, yes, but He is also the God of Sarah.
Now Abraham was one hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.” And she said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.” (Genesis 21:5-7)
What an incredible display of the God of Sarah’s faithfulness. Before we leave this story, let’s read the way the writer of Hebrews tells this story:
By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. (Hebrews 11:11)
Are you kidding? That’s the apostolic verdict? I am tempted to laugh…
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: Abraham, calling, children, Genesis, God, Isaac, Ishmael, judgment, prophecy, righteousness, sarah
The Sense of God’s Holiness
‘Among those who approach me I will show myself holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.’ -Lev. 10.3
The nations are perishing and the Church is languishing for want of the knowledge of God. This generation of American souls is largely ignorant of the God of the Scriptures, and we have been too preoccupied and distracted by this world to come into that knowledge ourselves. We have preached a hollow message that bears little resemblance to the revelation of God set forth by the apostles and prophets, and the condition of our nation testifies to it.
We have made light of sin, made the faith into a mere subculture, and the cities of America remain mostly unconvinced of the reality of God. We have not demonstrated His love and purity, for we have been functioning along the lines of the world, catering to self and living under the intoxicating influences of a consumeristic society.
This story of Aaron’s sons rattles our presumptuous definitions of God, and while it may seem unsavory or distasteful to consider, it is a vital portion of Scripture that needs to be reflected on. We need to reckon with passages like this until we break into a fuller understanding of who the Lord is, for if we pick and choose passages only of our own liking, we end up forming distorted views of God. Indeed, we all see in part, but to willfully neglect an aspect of who He is according to the Scriptures is to open the gate to deception.
I believe the message of His great love must increase and be shouted from the rooftops, but if He has also shown Himself as holy, and we fail to see Him as He has revealed Himself, what foundation do we have? His attributes are not categories that we can pick based on personal preference, as if the Bible was a menu at a restaurant. His traits are intertwined and tied up with His Person, and every revelation of God given in the Scriptures is a glimpse into His great heart. We cannot discard the portions that seem less appealing. If we do that, we have created our own view instead of receiving His. At best, our revelation of God will be a partial foundation, and that is not sufficient for a life of discipleship, nor will it hold in days of great trial and upheaval. We need to be rooted and grounded in His great love and purity, walking in the joy of communion and the fear of the Lord, for this alone will fit us to glorify Him in the day of His power.
He has revealed both His “kindness” and His “severity” for a reason (Rom. 11.22). It is not merely so that our systematic theology will be accurate. He has revealed Himself in this way because this is who He is, and to know Him and love Him as He is, that alone is eternal life.
Decades ago, A.W. Tozer wrote:
I refer to the loss of the concept of majesty from the popular religious mind. The Church has surrendered her once lofty concept of God and has substituted for it one so low, so ignoble, as to be utterly unworthy of thinking, worshiping men. This she has done not deliberately, but little by little and without her knowledge, and her very unawareness only makes her situation all the more tragic.
…. The world is evil, the times are waxing late, and the glory of God has departed from the church as the fiery cloud once lifted from the door of the Temple in the sight of Ezekiel the prophet.
The God of Abraham has withdrawn His conscious Presence from us, and another God whom our fathers knew not is making himself at home among us.
(A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy; Harper & Brothers, 1961; pp. 6, 49)
I am convinced that Tozer’s words are profoundly true of the Church in our times, and one of the chief reasons for this loss of majesty is that we have diminished- perhaps unconsciously- the sense of God’s holiness. We need a recovery of reverence, hatred for sin, and a baptism of fire to purge us of the arrogance and strutting that still marks too many of our lives and ministries.
There are wonderful teachings on the love of God in circulation, and I pray they continue to increase as our hearts enlarge in the experience of His kindness and compassion. But we are radically lacking a sense of His holiness, and since He is both loving beyond comprehension, and holy beyond description, the whole counsel of Scripture is essential for a true knowledge of God. Passages like this from Leviticus 10 provide a crucial vantage point for our understanding of Who God is.
Aaron’s sons, along with the people of Israel, had witnessed the majesty of God at the end of chapter 9. “The glory of the Lord appeared to all the people,” “fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering,” “and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.” (9.23-24)
Without a doubt, the scene was exhilarating, and the sense of God’s mercy and holiness was overwhelming for all who were present. Reverence and joy mingled within them, and the people fell prostrate with shouts of praise and awe issuing forth. What happened next is both devastating and sobering.
“Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, contrary to his command. So fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.” (10.1-2)
We don’t know exactly what prompted Nadab and Abihu to perform what is recorded in chapter 10. Were they trying to reproduce the elation of the previous event? Were they wanting their names to be recognized before the people, rather than being jealous for the glory of God’s name? We don’t have the answer to every question here, but we do know that the fire they offered was not authorized by the Lord. It was offered in their “respective firepans,” and its source was of men rather than of God. It was “strange” and unholy, something “which He had not commanded them.”
It was so offensive to the Lord that “fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord.”
At this point it is easy for our hearts to short-circuit. We lose touch with the raw reality of the Biblical passage. We cannot fathom the thought that the very fire of God Himself actually came out from the holy place and devoured the sons of Aaron. Our view of the Lord is casual and light, and the idea of judgment is foreign to most modern believers. If the idea of God’s wrath is agreed to in a credal way, it often bears a feeling of unreality, and the idea of judgment actually touching men on the earth seems fictitious or mythical.
But that does not discount the truth of the passage, and we need to realize that this is an actual historical event. It is not allegorical or symbolic, but a true piece of our heritage in the faith. It is meant to bring to us what it brought to Moses, Aaron, and the people of God; namely, a sense of His holiness, and an awareness that He does not tolerate sin, nor any activity that is carried out in His name that misrepresents His glory.
Just when we might have blamed the event on some demonic attack, Moses gives clarity to what has occurred.
“Moses then said to Aaron, ‘This is what the LORD spoke of when he said:
‘Among those who approach me I will show myself holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.’
Aaron remained silent.” (v. 3)
This event of judgment, which gripped the community of Israel with holy fear, is completely intertwined with the revelation of God in the Scriptures. It is just as much a revelation of His personality as was His washing of the disciples feet, His blessing of little children, and His raising of Lazarus from the dead. It is a revelation of God’s holiness, and it is one that we need desperately to recover. He is holy, and we cannot use Him for our purposes.
This hits home in a concentrated way in this present generation. Perhaps the fouls committed against the sense of His holiness are no more flagrant than in certain segments of the Charismatic Church, where charisma and gifting are often elevated while the Scriptures and the character of Christ are undervalued.
My heart aches in this hour of often flippant faith, when silliness and frivolity are equated with “liberty in the Spirit,” and when anyone with jealousy for truth and reality is accused of having a religious spirit.
When I see men placing a low value on the Scriptures, or labeling anyone with passion for the Word a “pharisee,” I tremble on the inside.
When I see men acting as if they are inhaling the Holy Spirit through imaginary marijuana joints, calling it “Jehovajuana” and claiming that they are “toking the Ghost,” I am mortified at the total loss of reverence for God. There is absolutely nothing holy about such activity! It is a deplorable and scandalous example of strange and unauthorized fire.
When I see men boasting of great power and bragging about the international influence of their ministries while the sense of His holiness is absent, it makes me apprehensive.
When a so-called “revivalist” can shed his wife and marry another woman with no Scriptural grounds, only to re-enter public ministry with the blessing of well-known leaders, I am filled with concern. This has happened many times over the years, and I am wondering where the standard of truth has gone!
I want to be merciful towards all men, but there has to come a point where the gullibility and lack of discernment are spoken against. I don’t think we are far from Tozer’s description, that “another God whom our fathers knew not is making himself at home among us.”
A few of my mentors have even encountered a trend among “worship-leaders,” where they will use profanity, or do other wild and crazy things in services, claiming that by this absurdity they are “shaking the religious spirit off of the crowd.” I cannot give words to how far we have fallen.
You may say that I have a religious spirit myself, but I cannot give my soul over to these expressions of spiritual activity that militate against the revelation of God that I have received over the course of my life in God. He is holy, holy, holy, and the line of revelation from Genesis to Revelation does not alter one bit. He is kinder and more loving than we can describe, but He is pure and just as well, His judgments have already touched the earth, and He is still slated to return as both Savior and Judge.
We do need to desire “earnestly” the gifts of the Spirit and the outpouring of His power. We need to be awakened more and more to the depth of His great love and compassion. And indeed, when the Spirit of God moves in power, things will happen that we cannot explain and that take us by surprise. But what has happened to the fear of the Lord?
I am convinced that our unwillingness to come into the knowledge of God, as the Scriptures have revealed Him, has produced the seedbed for our sub-apostolic Christianity. Before the cities of the earth will be “turned upside down,” we need to regain the majesty of the revelation of God Himself. We need to turn from sin and return to the God of glory, to the Scriptures, to prayer and fasting, to worship and obedience.
We have lost the sense of His holiness, and I fear the consequences are much worse than the immediate judgment of two priestly sons. The Lord has permitted many to veer off into their own ideas of Himself, even while chasing supernatural activity, and their stupor grows heavier the more and more men make light of sin and neglect the Scriptures. A widespread famine of the true knowledge of God is even more tragic than the death of Aaron’s sons. Entire movements are chugging along without a sense of His holiness, quite at home with sin, and so intermingled with the world that there is no “distinction between the holy and the profane, and between the unclean and the clean.” (Lev. 10.10)
We cannot rightly value the kindness and mercy of the Lord if we have diminished the bright light of His holiness and the radical nature of His hatred for sin.
We are more like the 1st-century Church at Corinth than we realize, and the word of the apostle Paul is the same to us as it was to them. He did not doubt the validity of their gifts, nor did he consider them unbelievers. But he had serious correction to give as well, for they were veering off in the wrong direction:
“Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.’ Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.” -1 Cor. 15.33-34
Oh, for the true knowledge of God! For the joy of communion and the trembling of reverence! The salvation of Israel and the nations, and the raising of our sons and daughters depends entirely upon the measure to which we have come into the knowledge of God, as He truly is. He kindly invites us into the purity and joy of union with Himself, for which reason we have been saved. We need to be enlarged in His love. We need the sense of His holiness. May we hear from God Himself in this hour.
Lord, our lips are unclean, and we live amongst a people of unclean lips. We have failed to see You as You are, but You have been so gracious to give us the Scriptures. You have been so gracious to send Your Son. You are merciful enough to send us Your Spirit and to lead us into all truth. You have been so patient with us. Would you wake us up to the reality of Your holiness? We want to turn from silliness and deception, and to come into the apostolic faith of the Scriptures. Make us a people of humility, holiness, love, and power. Let us come into the sense of Your holiness, that a line of distinction may be drawn in the earth again. Let us know You as you are, and let Your name be honored and glorified above all.
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: A.W. Tozer, Abraham, Christ, demons, Genesis, holiness, Moses, prayer, Revival, worship
In Charles Finney’s account of his baptism into the Holy Spirit, he said, “As I went in and shut the door after me, it seemed as if I met the Lord Jesus Christ face to face. It did not occur to me then, nor did it for some time afterward, that it was wholly a mental state. …He said nothing, but looked at me in such a manner as to break me right down at his feet. …I fell down at his feet and poured out my soul to him. I wept aloud like a child, and made such confessions as I could with my choked utterance. It seemed to me that I bathed his feet with my tears…”
I think that this description is characteristic of a genuine Holy Spirit encounter…our love for and revelation of the Son will grow and blossom. I don’t understand people who have “revivals” and conferences where they are obsessed with the Holy Spirit, but don’t even acknowledge Jesus. They sing songs about glory, power, anointing and never mention the name of Jesus. They talk about angels and miracles, visions, encounters and third Heaven experiences, but never talk about Jesus. How can this be? The Holy Spirit does not come to speak of Himself…He points away from himself to another – Jesus!
John 16:13,14 says, “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for HE SHALL NOT SPEAK OF HIMSELF…HE SHALL GLORIFY ME: for he shall receive of mine and shall show it unto you.”
It is impossible to have a genuine encounter with the Holy Spirit and not have an encounter with Jesus. If you ever see this happening be very careful, because while there are many spirits in the world, there is only ONE HOLY SPIRIT!
In Genesis Chapter 24 we read the story of Abraham sending his servant Eliazar to find a wife for His son; Isaac. It is Eliazar who brings Isaac and Rebekah, his bride, together. In this story we see so many types. Abraham is a type of God the Father. Isaac is a type of Jesus. Eliazar is a type of the Holy Spirit, and Rebekah is a type of the Church. There are many spiritual truths that can be drawn out of this story, but there is one that jumped out at me as I just read this verse recently.
Even though Rebekah had never seen Isaac, she seemed to love him greatly. She chose to leave her father, mother and family to be with him. As soon as she saw Isaac, she jumped off her camel and went to meet him. When they met face to face there was an instantaneous bonding between them. There were no dates, no courting, no prenuptial agreements or arrangements…they went straight to the honeymoon.
How is it that Rebekah loved Isaac even though she had never seen him? I think you can blame this on Eliazer. I think that from the moment he met Rebekah, he began to talk about his master and brag about him telling Rebekah how wonderful he was, how handsome, kind and gentle. On the entire camel ride back to the south country, Eliazer told Rebekah stories about Isaac and described him in detail. Rebekah was infatuated with this incredible man and could not wait to meet him face to face.
1Peter. 1:8 says, “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…”
Verse 53 says that Eliazer, “…brought forth jewels of silver, and jewels of gold and raiment and gave them to Rebekah…” These gifts that Eliazer lavished on Rebekah are types of the gifts of the Spirit. They were not Eliazer’s, they were Isaac’s and were a sign of Isaac’s love. Of course they made Rebekah look beautiful as well, but the real purpose was to cause Rebekah to fall more in love with her groom…and it worked! When the Holy Spirit is moving and the Gifts of the Spirit are in operation we can expect to find people falling more in love with Jesus.
But consider this: what if Eliazer had flirted with Rebekah and tried to attract her with is own charm? What if Eliazer had given her his own gifts and told stories about his own life to win her over? What if Rebekah had become infatuated with and fallen in love with Eliazer instead of Isaac? He would have been a wicked, unfaithful and seductive servant.
Paul warns us that in the last days there will also be “seducing spirits” in operation. A seducing spirit is one that would seek to divert attention from Jesus and unto itself. Where people love the gifts more than the groom there are seductive spirits in operation. Where people seek manifestations more than “the man,” there are seductive spirits at work. Any time Jesus is not the main focus, the supreme attraction, the ultimate fascination, the crowning prize and the preeminent desire – WATCH OUT! The Holy Spirit has nothing to do with it!
The Holy Spirit will always speak about JESUS, reveal JESUS, exalt JESUS, promote JESUS and magnify JESUS…nothing else and nothing less than JESUS!
“But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceeded from the Father, he shall testify of me” (John 15:26).
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: Abraham, Charles Finney, Church, conference, Genesis, Holy Spirit, Isaac, Jesus, Paul, Rebekah, Revival