The Most Important Question

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The Most Important Question

May 8, 2022

This week we read Matthew 10-20. We see he continued with his healings and teaching to the crowds and the disciples. We are going to discuss Matthew 16:13-17.

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” The replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others says Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied,

Let’s look at each verse and discuss.

First, they were in a region of Caesarea Philippi. He was teaching his disciples alone. There were no large crowds around.

He then asked them who others “say the Son of Man is?” He did not ask them this question because he did not know. He asked the question to get them thinking. He then called himself the “Son of Man.” Other places in the Bible he is called the Son of God. Why does he call himself this?

John Piper says, “He was a son of man, that is, a human being. And he is the Son of God, in that he has always existed as the Eternally Begotten One who comes forth from the Father forever. He always has, and he always will. He is the Second Person of the Trinity with all of the divine nature fully in him.

He is born of a virgin. He had a human father but he didn’t have sex with this virgin until Jesus was conceived. He was conceived of the Holy Spirit in the virgin Mary. Thus he is human—fully human. The Bible wants to emphasize that he is fully human.

So that’s the common understanding: he is both divine and he is human—two natures, one person.”

Jesus may also may referring to what Daniel 7 says. Daniel 7:13-14 says,  In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man,[a] coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”

The disciples then answered that people thought he was:

  1. John the Baptist: why would they think this? In Matthew 14:2, Herod said, “and he said to his attendants, “This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead! That is why miraculous powers are at work in him.” So anyone who heard Herod talking about this, may have felt the same way.
  2. Elijah: People felt he might be Elijah because he did many miracles like Elijah and because of what was written in Malachi 4:6-7, “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.”
  3. Jeremiah: Jesus wept and Jeremiah was known as the weeping prophet.

Then Jesus asked the disciples their thoughts about who he was. Peter answered right away, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus called himself “Son of Man” and Peter said he was the Messiah (which means anointed one), and Son of God.

The disciples spent every day with Jesus. They watched him “walk the walk’ and “talk the talk.” They knew his character. They saw him perform miracles. They saw his Truth. Because of this intimacy with Jesus, they truly knew who he was. Others had not spent that kind of time with him, so, while they thought favorably about him (prophet, John the Baptist), they did not know him that well.

The same is true for us today. The more time we spend with Jesus, (through reading scripture, prayer, and worship), the more we know Him. We see his Deity.

Peter’s answer is also the answer of the Christian faith. We believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God. Romans 10:9 says, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Who is Jesus to you? The answer to this question has eternal consequence.

I challenge you to get to know Him better.

Next week we will finish the book of Matthew and read 21-28. Have a blessed week.

Blessed continued

May 1, 2022

This week we will finish the last four Beatitudes that Jesus taught.

Matthew 5:7: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” Before we discuss mercy, let’s look at a few definitions of words in the Bible that can be confusing. Justice means getting what you deserve. This means that a person who commits a crime gets punished for that crime. Mercy means not getting what you deserve. This person commits a crime, but the judge is merciful, and the person is set free. Grace means receiving something that is not deserved.

Thus, mercy is not getting what we deserve, or not giving someone what they deserve because of something they did. Another word for mercy is forgiveness. Mercy is what God loves. Micah 6:8 states, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly[a] with your God.”

The people who are forgiving toward others will also be forgiven. This is exactly what God did for us through the saving blood of Jesus Christ. Matthew 6:14-15 states, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Matthew 5:8: “Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God.” This is similar to Psalm 24:3-6, “Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,  who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.[a]

They will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God their Savior. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, God of Jacob.”

The word pure in Greek is Katharos and is where we get the word catharsis. This means to cleanse. The heart in the time of Christ meant the mind. Thus, a pure heart was a clean mind.

Commentators and scholars talk about two meanings of a pure heart. The first is a heart that is made pure by cleaning from dirt, filth, or contamination. This is like the refinement of metals in a fire until they are pure. The second is being unmixed. Not having double allegiances. Thus, pure in heart means to be clean and single minded on His Kingdom.

Matthew is not just saying “the pure,” but the “pure in heart.” God cares about what is on the inside. In Matthew 23:27-28, Jesus is giving woes to the people who look good on the outside, but have terrible hearts. He says, “ Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”

How does a person get a pure heart? It is through faith in Christ. Hebrews 10:22 says, “let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.

The last part of this beatitude is: “…for they will see God.” This could mean that the person would see God on earth through reading the Bible, worshipping Him, or through prayer. It could also mean we will see God in eternity since we have faith in Christ.

Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”  The peacemakers are people who make peace with God through Christ, and with other people. Colossians 1:20 says, “ For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” God made a way for us to have peace and that is through the blood shed on the cross by Jesus.

We are also to make peace with others. Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

In the NIV Exhaustive Concordance, peacemaker means, “one who restores peace and reconciliation between persons and even nations.”

Romans 16:17-18 shows the opposite of the peacemaker, “17 I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. 18 For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.”

“…are called sons of God.” It is important to remember that peacemakers do not become children of God through peacemaking. The only way to become a child of God is through belief and faith in Jesus Christ. John 1:12 says, “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

We are called children of God when we are peacemakers, because we are manifesting what God and Christ are like. They made peace with us, and we do the same with others.

Matthew 5:10: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven
.” This is not just plain persecution, but persecution because of faith in Christ. 2 Timothy 3:12 says, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

The word “persecute” in Greek means to chase away or pursue with hostile intention. Thus it means that people are blessed when they are pursued with hostility because of Jesus. These people do not walk away from the persecution or deny Christ because of the persecution. They face it.  James 1:2-3 says, “ Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”

“…for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The kingdom of heaven is mentioned thirty-two times in Matthew. It is the reigning place of Jesus on earth and in heaven, and is the place that those who are persecuted (verse 10) and poor in spirit (verse 3) will have.

As I said last week, these last four statements deal with our relationship with others. We are to be merciful to others, pure in heart, peacemakers, and people who will be persecuted for our faith in Christ. Following these beatitudes is not easy. But we are not alone. We have the Holy Spirit living inside of us to be our “helper.”  

How is your relationship with others? Do you manifest the characteristics of those who are blessed?

Next week we will read Matthew 10-20. Have a blessed week.

Blessed

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April 24, 2022

I want to start by apologizing for not posting last week. It was a crazy week. I pray you had a wonderful time celebrating the resurrection of Jesus.

This week we read Matthew 1-9. Before we get into the actual reading, let’s talk about the author Matthew. He was the tax collector turned disciple that we read and talked about in Luke 5:27-39. He was the one despised by others, to whom Jesus said, “follow me.” Matthew dropped everything and followed Jesus. His name was Levi, but Jesus changed his name to Matthew, meaning “gift of God.”

The topic we are going to discuss this week is called the Beatitudes. They are found in Matthew 5:3-12. A Beatitude is “an exclamation of the inner joy and peace that comes with being right with God. Happiness may indeed be a part of it, but it is a happiness that transcends what happens in the world around us, a happiness that comes to the soul from being favored by God.” (Dr. Allen Ross).

There are eight Beatitudes which are virtues or characteristics of how we are to live as a Christian. We don’t adhere to them to earn our way into heaven. We follow them as a result of our being loved by God and the appreciation we have for his sacrifice on the cross for us.

Each statement begins with “Blessed.” This is more than just being happy in the moment. John MacArthur states, “To be blessed isn’t a superficial feeling of well-being based on circumstances, but a deep supernatural experience of contentedness based on the fact that one’s life is right with God.”

Max Lucado states, “The eight blessed characteristics proved a mental picture of the process throughout which God leads every believer as we experience new life in Christ.”

When you look at the eight “blessed” statements in Matthew, you can see that the first four deal with our relationship with God and the last four deal with our relationship with others.

You also have to read them as stepping stones. The first leads to the second, which leads to the third, etc.

Let’s look at four statements this week and then four next week.  

Matthew 5:3:Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” To be poor is to be in need and without. Poor in spirit means to be spiritually destitute. We realize our own helplessness spiritually, and rely completely on God. We are spiritually broke and need God completely. There is a great example of this in Luke 18:9-14. “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ 13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ 14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Matthew 5:4:Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” This comes after we see that we are poor in spirit because we see our sin and mourn. The Greek word for mourn is “pantheo.” This type of mourning is the deepest grief you can experience. This mourning of our sin leads to repentance. Psalm 51 is a great example of this type of mourning. David has sinned with Bathsheba and Nathan came to David about this. David was mourning because of his sin and wrote this Psalm asking God to forgive him. Psalm 51:1-4 states, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.” David shows true mourning for the sin he committed against God.

The ending of this blessed statement is “they will be comforted.” This was also from Isaiah 61:2 when he was prophesying about Jesus, and he will, “comfort all who mourn.”

Matthew 5:5:Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” Here, Jesus is quoting David from Psalm 37:11 where he said, “But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity.”

Some people think that meekness is weakness. That is not so. The type of meekness the Bible talks about is strength that is under control. It is a life under the direction of the Holy Spirit. Some call meekness humility, gentleness, or humbleness. Matthew 11:28-30 shows how Jesus is meek, “28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Meekness is also a fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 states, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.”

“…will inherit the earth.” This means that they will inherit the earth when Christ comes back to reign as king.

Matthew 5:6: “Blessed are those that hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” When we were in the book of Romans, we discussed the definition of righteousness. I have copied that here as it is a great reminder.

In Romans 1:17 Paul states that in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed, a righteousness by faith. What does “righteousness” mean? According to Ladd (1976), “Righteousness is the norm or standard which God has decreed for human conduct. The righteous man is he who in God’s judgment meets the divine standard, and thus is declared to stand in a right relationship with God.” God’s righteousness is also contrasted with man’s righteousness. Romans 10:3 states, “Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.”

What we learned through the book of Romans is that no person can meet God’s standard. Romans 3:10 states, “There is no one righteous, not even on.” Even though no one is righteous, God gave us hope. God made a way for us to be in a right relationship and that is through faith in Jesus Christ.

Thus, those that hunger and thirst for righteousness know that they have sinned, they mourn that sin, are humble and meek before God and man, and hunger for true righteousness, which can only be obtained through the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

These are the first four “Blessed” statements in the Beatitudes. They all deal with our relationship with God.

Are you blessed in the way Jesus describes?

Are you poor in spirit and see your need for Christ because of the sin in your life?

Are you mourning your sin?

Are you meek/humble and asking forgiveness for your sin?

Are you thirsty and hungry for righteousness or for other worldly things?

Next week we will finish with the last four Beattitudes. There will be no further reading until we are finished with these. Have a great week.

Freedom

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April 10, 2022

This week we finished the book of Isaiah by reading chapters 54-66. Today we are going to focus on Chapter 61 verses 1-3.

“1The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.”

Why are these verses so important? Because Jesus began his ministry by reading these verses in the synagogue. Luke 4:16-20 says,

16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19     to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”[f]

20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Isaiah foretold the ministry of Jesus Christ 700 years before Christ was born. After Jesus was baptized, had fasted in the desert for 40 days, and started to perform miracles, he went into the synagogue and with this reading from Isaiah, he launched his ministry.

Let’s take a closer look at these verses.

Jesus was appointed by God and then anointed by the Holy Spirit. Verse 18 says, “he has sent me…” which means he was appointed to do this job. Verse also 18 states that he was anointed. Jesus said he had the Spirit of the Lord on him and was “anointed.”  

What was Jesus appointed by God and anointed by the Holy Spirit to do?

  1. Proclaim the good news to the poor. The word proclaim can also meant preach. In the Greek, the “good news” meant the death, burial, resurrection and witness of Jesus Christ. Poor meant both poor physically and spiritually. Thus, Jesus was sent to preach about salvation to the poor physically and spiritually.
  2. Proclaim freedom for the prisoners. The word freedom in the Greek meant to cancel a debt or pardon someone. Jesus was sent to preach about cancelling the debt of those in prison.
  3. Give recovery of sight for the blind. This means exactly what is says.  
  4. To set the oppressed free. He would free those who were downtrodden.

In verse 19, Jesus says he was “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” The meaning of this goes back to Leviticus 25:8-55 and means the year of Jubilee.  God not only had a sabbath day for the people, he had one for the land as well. The people were to work land and reap what they sowed for 6 years. In the 7th year they were to give the land a rest. Their families, servants and workers could eat from the field if it had any yield, but that was it. After 7 sabbaths, which was 49 years, there was a year of Jubilee. On the 10th day of the 7th month on the Day of Atonement, there would be a trumpet that would sound. Everyone knew what this meant. At that moment, all debts were forgiven and slaves were set free. Everyone was supposed to go to their own family’s property.

In verse 21 Jesus said, “Today this scripture is fulfilled…”

After reading the four Gospels, we know that Jesus did full this Scripture. Jesus is our Jubilee. We all have debts (sins), and he came to set us free from those sins. John 8:34-36 says, “34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

Are you free? If not, please pray that Jesus will free you from the bonds of sin. There is no better freedom.

We get to start a new book of the Bible. We will be reading Matthew 1-9 this week.

The Crucifixion Foretold

April 3, 2022

This week we read Isaiah 40-53. Remember, the first 39 chapters of Isaiah talked about Judah’s rebellion and judgement as a result of their action. In the last 27 chapters, Isaiah shows us how God loved us so much that he was going to send a Servant to die on a cross so that we have forgiveness for our sin.

Before we discuss Isaiah 53, let’s go back to Genesis to discuss the first prophecy about Christ. In Genesis, man sinned against God by eating fruit from the forbidden tree. Because of this, God put a curse on man, woman, and serpent. Genesis 3:15 describes the curse God gave to Satan, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring[a] and hers; he will crush[b] your head, and you will strike his heel.” What we learn from this is that from the moment man sinned, God had a plan for redemption. You see, “her offspring” was Jesus Christ. Jesus’ heel would be struck by Satan, but Jesus would crush Satan’s head. Jesus’ heel was struck by the affliction he had during the crucifixion. Jesus crushed Satan’s head by raising from the dead and having victory over sin and death. This was the first prophecy of Christ.

Isaiah also has several prophecies about Christ. Isaiah 53 is very specific about Christ’s crucifixion. Here it is,

“Who has believed our message
    and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
    and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted,
    yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
    and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression
[a] and judgment he was taken away.
    Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
    for the transgression of my people he was punished.[b]
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
    and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
    nor was any deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
    and though the Lord makes[c] his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
    and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
11 After he has suffered,
    he will see the light of life[d] and be satisfied[e];
by his knowledge[f] my righteous servant will justify many,
    and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,[g]
    and he will divide the spoils with the strong,[h]
because he poured out his life unto death,
    and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
    and made intercession for the transgressors.

Isaiah goes into great detail about Christ’s crucifixion over 700 years prior to the actual event. It was as if Isaiah was there. And Christ fulfills His purpose. 1 John 3:8 says, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.”

As we head into the Easter season, remember the real reason we celebrate. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Christ not only died for our sins, but rose from the grave so we could have eternal life with Him.

What can you do this Easter season to celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ? Going to church is great way to celebrate. Is there anything else you could do? Share different ways you celebrate Christ during the Easter season.

Here are a few fun celebration we have done. When our kids were young, we read the Easter Story and had the kids find the Eggs that represented Christ. The final egg was empty to represent the empty tomb. We have celebrated Passover by having our own Messianic Passover meal with friends and family. We have had Easter meals with family and friends.

Next week we will finish the book of Isaiah by reading chapters 54-66.

PEACE

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March 27, 2022

PEACE

March 27, 2022

Our reading this week was Isaiah 24-39. I came upon a passage in chapter 26 and wondered about how it applied to us today with the pandemic, the war and everything else in our world. Isaiah 26:3-4 says “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.”

This scripture is very applicable to us today. Remember, Isaiah was giving God’s prophecy to the Israelites during a time of tribulation and war. This was a time that the Assyrians were trying to expand their empire and there was a decline in Israel.

I would like to go through the verse a little more in depth.

Who is Isaiah talking about? He is talking about the people who trust in the Lord and whose minds are steadfast. In Psalm 23, David shows his trust in the Lord, even during a very difficult time. He says, “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me;”

How do we keep our mind focused on God? It is through prayer and scripture. Romans 8:6 discusses a mind focused on God, “The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.

Thus, the person Isaiah is speaking about is one who trusts completely in God, is dedicated to God 100%, and has his mind focused on God and His ways.

What kind of peace is Isaiah speaking about? Is it peace from war, financial peace, relationship peace, or inner peace? The word used in Hebrew is shalom and it is used two times in a row (shalom, shalom). The author is emphasizing this peace and that is why it is translated perfect peace. The word means peace, well-being, and wholeness. The peace of God is a peace like no other. John 14:27 says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John Hamby, in a sermon from November, 14, 2020 says, “The peace of God is the sense of moment-by-moment joy which we have as we trust our Heavenly father in the midst of problems of life. The peace of God is not something you can manufacture, buy or earn. It is a result of a heart that is totally surrendered to God.”

How long are we to trust in the Lord? Forever. God is eternal, and we are to trust Him eternally.

 “for the LORD, the LORD himself” is written in Hebrew as Jah Jehovah. According to the commentary Barnes Notes on the Bible, “The union of these two forms seems designed to express, in the highest sense possible, the majesty, glory, and holiness of God; to excite the highest possible reverence where language fails of completely conveying the idea.”

Rock eternal” means that God is our refuge throughout all eternity.

Thus, when we trust perfectly in Him, he gives up perfect peace through all eternity because He is the Glorious God and our refuge throughout eternity.

Do you have the peace of God during times of trial? What do you need to do in order to have this?

Please remember to keep this war in your prayers. Pray for the leaders of all of the countries in the world to have wisdom. Pray for the safety of the people in Ukraine. Pray that Putin will have a change in his heart.

Next week we will read Isaiah 40-53.

Unto us a Child is born…

from Pixabay.com

March 20, 2022

This week we read Isaiah 9-23. Much of the reading was about prophesies against nations, starting with Assyria and Babylon, and then the smaller nations. It was God’s judgement against his people and the pagan nations as well.

God does not leave his people in the dark. There is hope in the future with the prophecy he made in Chapter 9 and this is the topic of our discussion this week. It is one we usually talk about at Christmas. Let’s look at each verse and break them down.

Isaiah 9:1 says, “]Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan

During the time of Isaiah, the Israelites were living a sinful lifestyle, and living in gloom and distress. Isaiah makes this very clear in these chapters. They were living in darkness spiritually. They were also living in darkness physically. This was a time when the Israelites split. Ten of the tribes lived in the north and they were called Israelites, and two tribes (most of Benjamin and Judah) lived in the south, called Judah. Two of the ten tribes that lived in the north were Zebulun and Naphtali. They were small, supposed insignificant tribes that were not mentioned much in the Bible, until the prophesy of Isaiah.

Why are these towns important? Before Jesus was born, a census was taken. Joseph and Mary went from Nazareth to Judea, to Bethlehem because Joseph was from the line of David. While there, Jesus was born (Luke 2:1-7). After Jesus’ birth Herod wanted him killed. Joseph had a dream that had him take Jesus and Mary to Egypt for safety. Once Herod died, Joseph had another dream to go back to Nazareth in Galilee. The tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali inhabited the land of Galilee. Galilee was the place where Jesus selected many of his disciples and spent most of his time preaching, teaching and performing miracles. Matthew 4:12-16 says, “When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. 13 Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali— 14 to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah:15 “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—

Isaiah 9:2 says, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” Galilee was spiritually dark and was a small town with uneducated people. Jesus gave light to this spiritually dark area. The rest of the prophecy in Matthew 4:17 says, “16 the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”[f]John 8:12 says, “I am the light of the world, whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Isaiah predicted that people living in darkness would have light. He also predicted about who would bring that light. Isaiah 9:6-7 says, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders, And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”

Let’s break down the description of the person coming, which we know would be Jesus.

  1. For unto us a child is born…”. Isaiah is telling us that the Messiah would come into the world as a baby. This shows Jesus’ humanity.
  2. “…to us a son is given…” John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son. God gave his son Jesus to us, and the statement by Isaiah shows Jesus’ deity.
  3. “…and the government will be on his shoulders…” means he will rule.
  4. Wonderful Counselor” means he will give wonderful, wise counsel.
  5. Mighty God”: means God the Mighty One, again speaking of his deity.
  6. Everlasting Father”: Some commentators do not believe this means Father God because Jesus is the Son in the trinity. Commentators believe in this verse, Father means originator. He is the originator of eternity.
  7. Prince of Peace”: means he is the child who would rule in peace, safety and wellbeing, unlike the other kings and rulers.
  8. He will reign on David’s throne…”: means that Jesus was in the line of David and would rule forever.

The Bible is full of prophesies. Hugh Ross says there are 2500 prophesies in the Bible and 2000 have come true. You can see how the prophecy in Isaiah 9 was fulfilled in the person of Jesus.

I love the descriptors Isaiah uses for Jesus. How would you describe Him?

Next week we will read Chapters 24-39. This will finish some of the more difficult reading about judgement, and the following week we get to read about God’s restoration.

References: Sermons from Jeff Strite, Gordon Curley, Jordan Muck

Isaiah

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March 13, 2022

This week we started reading the book of Isaiah. It initially is a hard read as was Deuteronomy, but we will see it has a great ending filled with hope.

Isaiah (means “the Lord saves”) began his ministry in 740 B.C during the reign of four Kings of Judah; Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. He was the son of Amoz (Is 1:1). Isaiah was a prophet. He was considered one of four major prophets of the Old Testament. He was a major prophet because his book was long. The other major prophets were Jeremiah, Daniel, and Ezekiel. There were also 12 minor prophets, whose books are shorter. They were Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Johah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaneah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. The prophets Amos, Hosea, and Micah were contemporaries of Isaiah.

There are two main themes in the book. The first is in chapters 1-39 where Isaiah talks about the sins of His people and God’s judgement. The second is in chapters 40-66, where Isaiah talks about God offering His deliverance from sin.

Isaiah gives us the most comprehensive prophecy of the coming of Jesus. It includes:

1. The announcement of His coming (40:3-5); “A voice of one calling: In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord[a]; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.[b] Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

2. The virgin birth (7:14); “Therefore the Lord himself will give you[a] a sign: The virgin[b] will conceive and give birth to a son, and[c] will call him Immanuel.[d]

3. His Good News proclamation (61:1); “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a

4. His sacrificial death (53:5); “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

His resurrection (60:2); “See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you.”

In our reading this week I want to focus on chapter 5. We will need to think back on Deuteronomy where God called his people to live in obedience. He had specific ways they were to offer sacrifices, worship, and treat others. God wanted them to love Him alone. Over time, as predicted by God in Deuteronomy, the Israelites’ hearts were far from God. They had idols. They were not treating each other well. They were conducting the sacrifices according to the law, but their heart was not there.

There were 6 “woes” that God shared in Isaiah chapter 5. The woes were really sins that the Israelites were committing.

Here is a summary of the 6 woes:

(1) Greed and defiance against God’s ways (5:8).

(2) Drunkenness and pleasure seeking without regard to the Lord (5:11-12).

(3) Deceit and wickedness and pursuit of personal sin (5:18-19).

(4) Destruction of God’s standard of right and wrong (5:20).

(5) Pride because man regards himself as wise (5:21).

(6) Glorifying sin and mocking what is good. (5:22-23).

Because of the above sins, God placed judgment on His people. The story does not end there, however. The good news, comes later in the book, where God offers hope for the forgiveness of sin through His son Jesus.

While this book is specific to the sins of the Israelites, think about how it may apply to you as well. Is there something in your life you need to ask forgiveness from the Lord or from someone else?

Would you like the hope that only Jesus can give for the forgiveness of sin? If so, please let me know and I would be happy to pray with you.

Next week’s reading is Isaiah 9-23.

Passing the Baton


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March 9, 2022

This week we read Deuteronomy 28-34. Moses finished his speech to the Israelites before they crossed the Jordon River into the promised land. He had reviewed God’s commands about how he wanted the Israelites to live together, treat others, and worship.

Moses shared the blessings and curses that would come from either obeying or not obeying God’s commands. Deuteronomy 30:19-20 says, “19 This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20 and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” God wanted the Israelites to choose life and the blessings he set before them.

After Moses’ speech, he told the Israelites in chapter 31 that he was 120 years old and that he could no longer be their leader or go over into the promised land because of his own sin. He said that Joshua would be their leader and cross ahead of the them.

This next section is what we will focus on this week. It is about Moses “passing the baton” of leadership to Joshua.

In the track and field relay event 4 x 100 meter, there are 4 chosen runners from a team Fthat sprint 100 meters each. The most crucial feature of this race is the “passing of the baton.” The first runner starts with a baton in hand, and after completing their portion of the run, they pass the baton to the next runner. This continues until the fourth runner crosses the finish line with the baton in hand.

During the baton exchange, the athlete receiving the baton can start running before receiving the baton. They just cannot go beyond 10 meters without receiving the baton. If the receiving runner goes beyond 10 meters or drops the baton, the team is disqualified.

In order to be successful in the relay race, the runners not only have to be fast, they have to be good at giving and receiving the baton. This requires the lead runner to hand off the baton precisely, and the athlete receiving the baton to already be running and receive the baton within the given time frame and correctly.

Moses was successful at “passing the baton” to Joshua. They were both chosen by God. Moses was chosen to lead the Israelites out of Egyptian slavery and to the promised land (Exodus 3:10). Joshua was chosen by God to lead the people into the promised land and beyond (Numbers 27:18).

Moses prepared the Israelites by reviewing the commands of the Lord and he laid hands on Joshua and God filled him with wisdom (Deuteronomy 34:9). But Joshua had already been in leadership prior to this moment. He had already been running so he could successfully receive the baton.

First, Joshua was the chief man from the tribe of Ephraim, so he already was respected because of his heritage. This was the greater of the two tribes of Joseph. Joseph was held in high regard by the Israelites. Therefore, Joshua was respected as well.

Second, Joshua had established different leadership roles with Moses and was faithful to Moses. In Exodus 17:9-10, Moses chose Joshua to lead the fight against the Amalekites, and he won the battle. In Exodus 24:13 Joshua was called Moses’ assistant and climbed up and down the mountain of God with him (Exodus 32). In Exodus 33 we learn that Joshua was with Moses when he met with the Lord in the tent of meeting, and would stay in the tent as Moses spoke to the Israelites about what God had said.

Third, Joshua obeyed and trusted God. In Numbers 13, God told Moses to send out a leader from each tribe of Israel into the promised land of God. Moses instructed the 12 men what to look for and to report back what they saw. They were in the land for 40 days. When they came back, they reported about the land and the people. Ten of those men were scared because the people were large and many. Numbers 14:6 says, “ Two of the men who had explored the land, Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, tore their clothing. They said to all the people of Israel, “The land we traveled through and explored is a wonderful land! And if the Lord is pleased with us, he will bring us safely into that land and give it to us. It is a rich land flowing with milk and honey. Do not rebel against the Lord, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land. They are only helpless prey to us! They have no protection, but the Lord is with us! Don’t be afraid of them!”

The ten men caused fear among the Israelites and they did not want to cross over into the promised land. Numbers 32:10-13 says, “10 The Lord’s anger was aroused that day and he swore this oath: 11 ‘Because they have not followed me wholeheartedly, not one of those who were twenty years old or more when they came up out of Egypt will see the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob— 12 not one except Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua son of Nun, for they followed the Lord wholeheartedly.’ 13 The Lord’s anger burned against Israel and he made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until the whole generation of those who had done evil in his sight was gone.”

We can see that Joshua was respected because of his heritage, his leadership abilities, and his obedience and trust in God. He was already running to grip the baton from Moses.

Once Moses laid his hands on Joshua, the Lord gave him wisdom. After Moses died, Joshua lead the people as God directed. Joshua 1:16-17 says, 16 Then they (Israelites) answered Joshua, “Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. 17 Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so we will obey you. Only may the Lord your God be with you as he was with Moses.”

The baton was passed successfully from Moses to Joshua and he ran his portion of the race. Is there anything you need to do to be successful at “passing the baton?”

Who is passing the baton to you? Are you preparing currently for the hand-off? Is there anything you need to do to receive the baton well?

Who is receiving the baton from you? Are you preparing them for the role?

Next week we will start reading the book of Isaiah chapters 1-8.

Have a blessed week and please remember to pray for Ukraine and for the world leaders to have wisdom during this time of crisis.

Thank you Lord!

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This week we read Deuteronomy 21-27. Deuteronomy was about the 3 speeches given by Moses to the Israelites prior to walking into the promise land. These speeches were reminders to the people about what God did for them and how God wanted them to love Him. God wanted them to love Him with all their heart, soul, and mind (chapter 6), and also obey his commands, which were many.  

After reading all of these laws in Deuteronomy and reflecting on our previous readings a few months ago in Exodus, I thank God for the grace of Jesus Christ. Can you imagine being an Israelite in the days of the Old Testament? God said that if they obeyed his law, they would be blessed but if they did not obey His law, they would be cursed (Deuteronomy 5:33; 30:11-20 and 27:15-26) Deuteronomy 27:15-26).

It must have been very difficult for them to try and obey all of the laws. If they didn’t obey and they sinned, they had to give a sacrifice at the Tabernacle, and confess to the priest.

After Jesus came, the true purpose of the law was revealed. Romans 3:20 says “Therefore, no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.”

God knew that it would be impossible to follow the law perfectly. As we read the Old Testament, we can see why. Thus, the purpose of the law was to show people they were sinning.

Thankfully, the truth and grace of Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. Remember what Romans said? We are all sinners and this separates us from a perfect God. The good news is: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16).

Prayer:

Thank you, Lord for the saving grace of your son Jesus Christ. We are all sinners and unable to keep all of your commands. We ask your forgiveness, and pray that you will give us the strength and desire to do your will. We love you Lord. Amen.

What are you thankful for? Make a list each day of at least 3 things you are thankful for.

Next week we will finish Deuteronomy by reading 28-34.