Still here. 🙂
Still here. 🙂
First post in a long while that wasn’t a bible study. 🙂
I’m riding a bicycle for 150 miles in two day for a fundraiser, the MS150, benefitting Multiple Sclerosis. I also set a goal to raise $1000, and I am oh so close. Won’t you consider donating? Here is my fundraising link:
When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, “Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us,” be sure to appoint over you a king the Lord your God chooses. He must be from among your fellow Israelites. Do not place a foreigner over you, one who is not an Israelite. The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the Lord has told you, “You are not to go back that way again.” He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold.
When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the Levitical priests. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his fellow Israelites and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel.
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.”Moses built an altar and called it The LORD is my Banner. He said, “For hands were lifted up to the throne of the LORD. The LORD will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.”
Then Saul attacked the Amalekites all the way from Havilah to Shur, to the east of Egypt. He took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and all his people he totally destroyed with the sword. But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs—everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed. (April 13th, pg. 402)
Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel: “I regret that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.” Samuel was angry, and he cried out to the Lord all that night.
Early in the morning Samuel got up and went to meet Saul, but he was told, “Saul has gone to Carmel. There he has set up a monument in his own honor and has turned and gone on down to Gilgal.” (April 13th, pg. 402)
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
When Samuel reached him, Saul said, “The LORD bless you! I have carried out the LORD’s instructions.”But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?”Saul answered, “The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the LORD your God, but we totally destroyed the rest.”
“But I did obey the LORD,” Saul said. “I went on the mission the LORD assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king.”
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.
The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the Lord your God at Gilgal.
But Samuel replied:
“Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD ?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed is better than the fat of rams.For rebellion is like the sin of divination,
and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the LORD,
he has rejected you as king.”
Today’s bible trivia question: Why is our study book called the Book of Numbers?
The Book of Numbers is of great historical significance because the Lord ordered the first census of the Israelites. Numbers chapters 1-10 have an awful lot of “begats” – that’s when most people, reading the bible in traditional sequence, get bogged down, or should I say begatted down – but the book of Numbers also gives us historical and genealogical record of the Israelites.
As the book of Numbers opens, the Israelites have been camped near Mount Sinai for more than a year. Moses has brought all the laws and regulations recorded in the book of Leviticus, the tabernacle has been built, priests are busy doing priestly things. The Israelites are well-equipped to be a new nation of God’s chosen people. It is now time to move into Canaan and take the land.
To prepare for Canaan, Moses and Aaron were told by God to take a census, number the men who were able to serve in the army, get the people organized by tribe. This book is named for this census, or numbering of the people. But the book of Numbers could just as well been named the Book of Grumpiness. From the beginning of Numbers to the end, it tells the story of rebellion, unbelief, and grumblings.
As the Israelite set out from the wilderness of Sinai on their journey to the Promised Land, silver trumpets were used to coordinate their stopping and going. God’s presence was always with them – a cloud of shade by day and a pillar of fire as their night light. They were literally guided one step at a time. Each time the cloud or pillar signaled a move, Moses prayed to God for guidance and victory, each time they were signaled to stop, he asked for God’s presence to rest with His people. No matter how many times they started or stopped, Moses would repeat these prayers. Let’s look at the end of Chapter 10:
Numbers 10:33-36, (Chronological Bible page 227, March 1)
So they departed from the mountain of the LORD on a journey of three days; and the ark of the covenant of the LORD went before them for the three days’ journey, to search out a resting place for them. And the cloud of the LORD was above them by day when they went out from the camp. So it was, whenever the ark set out, that Moses said: Rise up, O LORD! Let your enemies be scattered, And let those who hate You flee before You.” And when it rested, he said: “Return, O LORD, To the many thousands of Israel.”
Moses feared and worshipped the Lord above everything else and put Him first in the life of the people. The people of Israel? Not so much.
Since the Fall in the Garden of Eden, man has struggled to live by faith in the goodness of God and by the Word of God. Instead, we continue to live by sight, trapped in our fleshly existence, blind to spiritual truth and spiritual reality. In the book of Numbers, Israel has the promises of God regarding their existence and their land, plus the very presence of God in their midst. But still they walk in rebellion and unbelief. Today’s lesson will focus on four scenes from Numbers 11-16 that illustrate the depravity of the human heart.
Why do we study the Old Testament? Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10 that specifically this Book of Numbers is a warning to believers. In 1 Corinthians 10:6, 10-11 Paul says:
Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted… nor complain and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them as examples and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.
We are to note what God’s people did in the past and how their decisions affected their relationship with Him, in order to move forward with our own faith in the present. So, in looking at our passages for today, we are going to look at what NOT to do as God’s chosen people. I’m reminded of some sage advice my grandfather gave to me. He’d say, “Son, if you can’t be a good example, then do your best to be a horrible warning.”
Let’s look at Numbers 11:1-2 (Chronological Bible page 228, March 2) –
Now when the people complained, it displeased the Lord; for the LORD heard it, and His anger was aroused. So the fire of the LORD burned among them, and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. Then the people cried out to Moses, and when Moses prayed to the LORD, the fire was quenched.
Did your parents ever same something like, “quit whining or I’ll give you something to whine about.” That is exactly what the Lord did. Whatever they were complaining about was so insignificant that it wasn’t even recorded. The Lord send a warning of fire, and the people cried out to Moses and Moses interceded on their behalf.
What did the Israelite do in response? The continued to complain. Numbers 11:4-6:
Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense craving; so the children of Israel also wept again and said: Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and then garlic; but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!
Whaaaah. All we have is this stupid manna. When we are discontented with our current situation, we have troubles remembering how blessed we are. The Israelites “forgot” they were in bondage and slavery in Egypt and only remembered the “flesh pleasing” things.
Though manna was miraculously provided and was healthy nourishment, they tired of this provision from the Lord and lusted for other things.
Numbers 11:10-11,13-15, page 228:
Then Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families; everyone at the door of his tent; and the anger of the LORD was greatly aroused; Moses also was displeased. So Moses said to the LORD, “Why have you afflicted Your servant? And why have I not found favor in your sight, that you have laid the burden of these people on me? … Where am I to get meat to give all these people? For they weep all over me, saying “Give us meat that we may eat.” I am not able to bear all these people alone, because the burden is too heavy for me. If you treat me like this, please kill me here and now- if I have found favor in your sight- and do not let me see my wretchedness!
The people were complaining and Moses was complaining about their complaining! “Just kill me now,” he tells the Lord. “This job is too hard!” And yet Moses is humble and realizes that he is no better than they are!
It takes faith to accept God’s guidance and Israel’s faith wasn’t very strong. Among other things, mixed in among them during their journey were unbelievers that God had warned them about. The Israelites listed to these unbelievers who convinced the Israelites that maybe God wasn’t all good, maybe God was withholding something good from them. The people stopped appreciating their blessings and instead focused on what they didn’t have.
Even God’s people too easily forget what God has done and we grumble and complain about what we don’t have. Paul reminds us in Philippians 2:14-16:
Do some things…. No wait, do a few things… no, Paul says…
Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.
Complaining is contagious. Discontentment is at the top of the slippery slope of sin. When we rebel against Him, God often gives us our own way, which can lead to our destruction.
Let’s continue in Numbers 11:31-33, page 229
Now a wind went out from the LORD, and it brought quail from the sea and left them fluttering near the camp, about a day’s journey on this side and about a day’s journey on the other side, all around the camp, and about two cubits above the surface of the ground. And the people stayed up all that day, all night, and all the next day, and gathered the quail (he who gathered least gathered ten homers), and they spread them out for themselves all around the camp. But while the meat was still between their teeth, before it was chewed, the wrath of the LORD was aroused against the people, and the LORD struck the people with a very great plague.
The Lord gave them what they wanted, and it killed them. Moses called the place “the graves of lust.” It served as a reminder to the danger of asking for “my will be done” over “Thy will be done.” In both Exodus and Deuteronomy, the Lord warned Israel that the way they treated the daily manna would be a test of their obedience to His Word. By rejecting the manna, by rejecting the blessings, Israel really rejected the Lord and it was this rebellious attitude that invited the judgment of God.
Everyone in Israel knew that Moses, Aaron, and Moses’ sister Miriam were God’s chosen servants, but that Moses was designated by God as the leader. This had been evident from before they were brought out of Egypt. God had used Miriam to save Moses’ life and to lead women in worship. Aaron was the older brother chosen to help Moses with Pharaoh and to serve as the first High Priest. But Moses was the one to whom God spoke to and spoke through as the leader of Israel. But even among spiritual leaders, the sin of envy is ever present. “Envy” says, “that’s not fair! Why not me?” and it can affect anyone at any time
Numbers 12: 1-10 (Chronological Bible page 229, March 2).
Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married; for he had married an Ethiopian woman. So they said, “Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also?” And the LORD heard it. (Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth.)
Suddenly the LORD said to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, “Come out, you three, to the tabernacle of meeting!” So the three came out. Then the LORD came down in the pillar of cloud and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam. And they both went forward. Then He said,
“Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream. Not so with My servant Moses; He is faithful in all My house.
I speak with him face to face, Even plainly, and not in dark sayings; And he sees the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid To speak against My servant Moses?”
So the anger of the LORD was aroused against them, and He departed. And when the cloud departed from above the tabernacle, suddenly Miriam became leprous, as white as snow. Then Aaron turned toward Miriam, and there she was, a leper.
Despite the Lord clearly talking to Moses, Miriam attempts to be the boss, and convinces Aaron to join her in this rebellion. The Lord was angry and deals swiftly with her. At this point Aaron begs Moses to intercede, and Moses cries out to the LORD, saying, “Please heal her, O God!” So the LORD tells Moses to basically lock her outside the camp for a week and then the Lord will heal her.
God made it very clear that He was in control, God selects the leaders and the people were to respect their authority. Rebelling against His appointed leaders is the same as rebelling against the Lord.
When you review the history of Israel and their journey from Egypt to Canaan, you see that every time they resisted the Lord’s selected authority, it caused them great trouble. As the Lord sought to bring them through difficult situations and build their faith, they rebelled against His authority, blamed those He put in charge and made plans to return to Egypt. No society can function without authority and submission. God’s plan wasn’t just to free them from slavery but to establish Israel as a nation.
Israel had journeyed from Mount Sinai on their way to Canaan. Just before they get to the Promised Land, Israel sent out spies to look over the land which they were to possess.
Numbers 13:1-3 (page 230, March 2):
And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the children of Israel; from each tribe of their fathers you shall send a man, every one a leader among them. So Moses sent them from the Wilderness of Paran according to the command of the LORD, all of them men who were heads of the children of Israel.
Notice that the Lord’s promise: I am giving this land to the Israelites. No conditions attached, it’s yours. Moses selects twelve men to travel to Canaan to survey the land in Numbers 13:4-16, way too many names to read, but this is where we first meet Caleb. Joshua we met earlier in Exodus 17 as one of Moses’s generals and Joshua also went up Mount Sinai with Moses in Exodus 24.
Moses sends the twelve spies to the land of Canaan on a reconnaissance mission. You know, check out the schools, the cost of living, local museums, that sort of thing. The spies are told to bring back evidence that this is indeed the land of milk and honey. In Numbers 13:21-25,
So they went up and explored the land from the Desert of Zin […] When they reached the Valley of Eshcol, they cut off a branch bearing a single cluster of grapes. Two of them carried it on a pole between them, along with some pomegranates and figs. […] At the end of forty days they returned from exploring the land.
Can you imagine a single cluster of grapes so large that two men have to carry it on a pole between them? At the end of 40 days, the spies return to Moses and say in Numbers 13:26-29,
They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit.
But…. You knew there was a “but,” didn’t you?
But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large.
Caleb demonstrates his faith in God’s promises by saying in verse 30,
Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”
It’s ours. What are we waiting for?
The other 10 spies begin to spread a false report out of fear. The land isn’t good anyway and we can’t move in. They’re asking for 1st and last month’s rent in advance. The people doubt God’s plan out of fear.
Which brings us to a question. Where is your faith? Is it in God’s promises, or is it your own eyes? Let’s same your name is John Ruiz, you’re a boxer from the USA, and your opponent on December 7, 2005 is Nikolai Valuev, nicknamed “the Beast from the East.”
Nikolai is 7’ 2” and weighs 323 pounds. You look at him like one of the giants from Canaan and you feel like you have zero chance. You are like a grasshopper in his eyes, and worse, you look like a grasshopper in your own eyes, too.
John Ruiz wasn’t afraid to take the fight to Nikolai. In that way, he was like Caleb. I love what John Ruiz said the night before the fight, “I plan on taking the fight to him. His head is the size of a Volkswagen. I can’t miss.”
Twelve spies went into the Promised Land. Ten saw obstacles, and two saw opportunities. It’s a matter of perspective, and it’s the difference between fear and faith. Ten spies looked up and saw giants, Joshua and Caleb looked up and saw God. And what did the people do?
They freaked out.
In chapter 14 it says they wept all night, then complained against Moses and Aaron. They cried out, “We are going to die! It would have been better if we had died in Egypt, or in the wilderness.” And then they started planning to select a new leader and go back to Egypt.
Fortunately, God’s selected leaders stood up to speak in verse 5:
Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel.
But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes; and they spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying: “The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. If the LORD delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, ‘a land which flows with milk and honey.’ Only do not rebel against the LORD, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the LORD is with us. Do not fear them.”
And what was the people’s response? Were they supportive? Humbled? Agreeable? No, verse 10:
And all the congregation said to stone them with stones.
After hearing the criticism, the doubts, the fears, Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before the Lord and prayed for them. Joshua and Caleb try to encourage the multitude and inspire their faith. “The Lord will do it,” they proclaim. “The Lord is with us!” But no, fear and rebellion ran deep.
Then the Lord spoke, verse 11
… “How long will these people reject Me? And how long will they not believe Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them? I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.”
Once again Moses prays,
And now, I pray, let the power of my Lord be great, just as You have spoken, saying, ‘The LORD is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He by no means clears the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation.’ Pardon the iniquity of this people, I pray, according to the greatness of Your mercy, just as You have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.”
Moses appeals to the Lord based on the Lord’s attributes, reputation, and character. Moses fights his battles from his knees.
And so, the Lord determined that they would wander in the wilderness until all this faithless generation perished, those 20 years and older, except Caleb and Joshua. Only these two would be able to enter the Promised Land. Why? Because Joshua and Caleb followed the Lord with complete faith and trust.
This story tells the story of many of our lives. It was God’s plan that the children of Israel should go straight into the land He had promised them, the land of Canaan, but the people would not. We can put difficulties between ourselves and God like the people of Israel or put God in between ourselves and our difficulties like Joshua and Caleb. The Lord wanted them to enter the Promised Land, but their fear and unbelief kept them out. Their faith failed. They doubted God’s plan.
Is your fear keeping you from all that God has for you? Fear can paralyze even the bravest of hearts. Joshua and Caleb weren’t blind to the giants in their lives. They just remembered God’s promise, and God was bigger than any giant.
God demonstrated His goodness, grace, and mercy by choosing Abraham and His descendants as His own special people, rescuing them from Egypt and leading them to the Promise Land. And yet, Israel’s response to God’s favor reflects the proud, stubborn, rebellious heart of all humanity. People haven’t changed in thousands of years. We continually question whether God is good and whether God keeps his promises.
In our lesson today, we have learned that indeed, if one cannot be a good example than one can be a horrible warning. To stay on the path of the righteous, to walk in the way of the Lord, avoid these horrible warnings:
• Grumble and Complain about God’s Blessings
• Tell God He’s Not the Boss of You
• Doubt God’s Plan
Or if you want to walk in the way of the Lord, do the opposite –
• Give Thanks and Praise
• Submit to God’s Love
• Trust in the Lord’s Promises
To God be the Glory. Amen.
So this week’s lesson finds God’s people in the wilderness worshipping a golden calf. If you’ve been reading along in the chronological bible, you might wonder how we have strayed so far from God’s plan for us in the Garden of Eden. What was God’s plan for Israel?
But God is faithful and continually rescues us from our own choices.
After Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden because of their sin, we then read about the sons of Adam and how they continually chose sin. God literally washed away their sins in the age of Noah, bringing a flood, but even Noah’s children and grandchildren strayed from God’s plan.
Then we get to Abraham, Adam’s 17th generation grandson. The Lord told Abraham in Genesis 15:3-18 that Abraham’s descendants would be more numerous than stars in the sky, but first, due to man’s choices, they would live as captives in a foreign land for 400 years before God would rescue them, deliver them, punish their captors, and return Israel to the land of Canaan.
Joseph, through the actions of his jealous brothers, is sold into slavery to the Egyptians, but God brings him through the pit, the prison, the palace, and makes him Pharaoh’s prime minister, second in command. Through famine, Abraham’s family relocates to Egypt. Over the next 400 years, they lived with Pharaoh’s blessing and grew from 70 people of Abraham’s family to a nation of several million people.
But eventually Joseph dies. The Egyptians forget what Joseph and the Israelites have done for them. Pharaoh enslaves the people of Israel. The people cry out to God for salvation.
God answers. God raises up a deliverer, Moses, to fulfill the promise God made to Abraham, to bring His people back to the land of Canaan after 400 years. To save His people, God provide amazing miracles. Turning a staff into a serpent, bringing the plagues to Egypt, turning the Nile into blood, parting of the Red Sea. God will do anything to deliver His people.
The walk from Egypt to Canaan isn’t far. From Cairo to Jerusalem is about 300 miles. At 20 miles a day, should take about 2 weeks to walk there. Or an hour and 20 minutes if you fly Turkish Air. But due to Israel’s unbelief and rebellion, instead of 2 weeks to cross the wilderness, it takes 40 years. Not one man stopped to ask for directions. I just wonder how long it took for one of the wives to say to their husband, “Seriously? You’re not going to pull over and ask for directions?”
The rest of Israel’s children weren’t any better. “Are we there yet? Are we there yet? I wanna go home!” Instead of acting in faith and trust, instead of being grateful for their freedom, Israel whined, complained. They blamed God and Moses for their circumstances. They even threated to turn this car around right now and go back to Egypt and live in slavery again.
As we read along in our Chronological bible, this is what’s happened this week –
Today’s lesson will actually cover tomorrow’s daily scripture reading. Some of you have asked me how the lessons line up with the reading, so I make this list for this week. Sometimes our lessons will be based on what we just read the previous week, sometimes the lessons will be for the same weekend, and sometimes it will be the day after or even the week after bible study. Don’t let that discombobulate you.
During this week, all of God’s directions, promises, blessings are communicated to the people in specific ways. God spoke to Moses on the mountain, and the people below could hear thunder, see lightening and even smoke coming from the mountain.
And it becomes a regular pattern. Moses goes up the mountain to talk to God. Moses goes down from the mount to talk to the people. Moses goes up the mountain, comes down the mountain. He goes up the mountain…
Where is Moses? Why didn’t he come down from the mountain? And that brings us to today’s bible study of Exodus 32. Moses went up the mountain to talk to God. The expectation of the people was that Moses would come back at a specific time. They expected God to do something on their schedule. But Moses is still on the mountain.
This is the same mountain where they had seen fire and smoke, thunder and lightning. They knew God was at work on the mountain in a significant way and been delivering messages, guidance, instructions for a tabernacle and an ark.
They also knew that Moses had a connection with God that was unique and powerful. They had seen this first-hand as they crossed the Red Sea and received water and manna from heaven. They were standing where they were, at the foot of the Mountain, because of the leadership of Moses under the guidance and authority of God.
Not that I am ever impatient when waiting on the Lord.
|God to me:||Me to God:|
|Psalm 46:10a||Psalm 83:1|
|“Be still, and know that I am God.”||“O God, do not remain silent.”|
What was God doing? Exodus 31:18 –
When He had finished speaking with him upon Mount Sinai, He gave Moses the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written by the finger of God.
After all the instructions for building a temple, the ark, the commandments, God write Moses a personal letter. With God’s own finger. From our perspective, maybe not as big as parting the red sea, but God stepped out of heaven to take action in our world and created a miracle and engraved the Ten Commandments into stone.
The fingers of God have been at work since the beginning of creation. We saw it in the Creation Era. And now the finger of God has given us solid instructions in stone on how to live as a covenant people in the Patriarch Era. And Moses was holding that personal letter of stone. Moses was intimate with God; God spoke to Moses in a unique, personal, intense, and extraordinary way.
So, Moses was still on the mountain and the people were down below in the wilderness. We know from Exodus 24 that Moses was up on the mountain 40 days and 40 nights. Before the 40 days were over, the people became impatient that God wasn’t following the expected timetable. The people has become impatient with God.
If you’ve been a Christian a long time, this has probably happened to you. You have a difficult decision to make or a need for an answered prayer. You pray and you study, and God answers. The next time you have a difficult decision or a need for an answered prayer, you pray and you study…
Nothing but silence. Stillness. Quietness. God is not responding the way you expect. God is still on His mountain, and all you hear is the silence.
And the people of Israel waited for Moses and in Exodus 32:1,
Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.”
Sometime before the 40 days were up, the impatience of the people reared its ugly head. Notice how it says, “as for this Moses.” Not, “I hope that man who led us out of Egypt is ok.” It’s “this Moses. Yeah, I know we saw the fire on the mountain and heard the thunder, but hey. Now it’s this Moses.” What has he done for us lately?
The people “gathered together;” God is too slow, let’s take action. And they didn’t ask Aaron, they demanded, “Come and make us a god.” Exodus 32:2,
And Aaron said to them, “Break off the golden earrings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” So all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool and made a molded calf. Then they said, “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!”
Where did they get all this gold? Exodus 3:21-22 as Moses was getting ready to lead them out of Egypt, God says,
I will grant this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and it shall be that when you go, you will not go empty-handed. But every woman shall ask of her neighbor and the woman who lives in her house, articles of silver and articles of gold, and clothing; and you will put them on your sons and daughters. Thus you will plunder the Egyptians.”
In order to prepare the Israelites for the journey through the wilderness, the Lord provided everything they needed, and the gold had come from their captors. The Lord has provided these blessings to the people, and the people used these blessings to fashion an idol and blaspheme the Lord.
The people wanted a man-made god. A god that they would have to pick up and carry. A convenient god, there when they need it. One that they could see and feel, perhaps rub it for luck. And lest we think the Israelites are idiots, that’s exactly what we the people crave today. A convenient god, there to fulfill our wishes. A god who has eyes, but cannot see, like Adam and Eve who didn’t want God to see them in their nakedness and sin. A god who appears strong, a mighty bull, but in reality lacks power, unable to punish our sins. A god who is here before us but demands nothing of us. In other words, a god who doesn’t interfere with our lives.
The people want a god that allows them to express themselves sexually, immorally, and without restraint or judgment. A god who only appears powerful.
Not even Christians are immune to this. Many Christians are only familiar with a couple of verse – God makes all things good, God has plans to prosper you, Jesus is the way, the truth and the light. Truth is, though, is that God is far more complex than that. Last month when we studied Job, we studied how God can lift his hand of protection, and God has a purpose for everything, including suffering.
Truth is, not every verse found in the bible can be embroidered on a pillow. Certainly not Judges 19:29,
When he reached home, he took a knife and cut up his concubine, limb by limb, into twelve parts and sent them into all the areas of Israel.
Or Psalm 38:7,
For my loins are filled with a loathsome disease, and there is no soundness in my flesh.
And yet, we just skip over uncomfortable verses because we want to believe our God is only a God of love and mercy, but not a God of wrath and justice. And yet we cannot truly understand His love and mercy without also understanding God’s wrath and justice and how he saved us from our sins.
Aaron was the brother of Moses, a leader of the people, the first priest of the Israelites. And on his first day of the job has already broken the first three commandments, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image,” and “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” Three strikes, you’re out.
So when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow is a feast to the LORD.” Then they rose early on the next day, offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.
Now this is a god the people like. So the people rose up to eat, drink, and party.
How long did it take for the people to go from following God out of Egypt to making a false idol and partying? Less than 40 days, barely a month.
Did God notice? Our God sees everything. Our God is not the God we want Him to be. Our God is the God who is.
And the LORD said to Moses, “Go, get down! For your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them. They have made themselves a molded calf, and worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!’ ” And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people! Now, therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation.”
God did indeed notice, and God’s holy response to sin is wrath. In barely a month, after all that God had done for His people, they had forsaken God’s commands.
The people are described as “stiff-necked”. It’s two Hebrew words, qasheh `oreph (קָשֶׁה עֹרֶף). It’s literally “hard of neck,” a phrase all-too-familiar to the Israelite. They used an ox for plowing, and the plowman used one hand to guide the plow, and the other hand held an “ox goad,” a light pole with an iron spike on the end of it. He would use the ox goad to tap the ox on the neck to turn it. If an ox was hard to control or it was stubborn, it was “hard of neck.” In scripture, this means the “stiff-necked” people were stubborn and non-responsive to God’s guidance. Oh yes, God knew these people. And He knows you and me. God’s response to sin is not to destroy the calf, but to destroy the idol worshipper.
And Moses is still up on the mountain, Exodus 32:11-14,
Then Moses pleaded with the LORD his God, and said: “LORD, why does Your wrath burn hot against Your people whom You have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, ‘He brought them out to harm them, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your fierce wrath and relent from this harm to Your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of I give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’” So the LORD relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people.
Moses’ prayer is not bargaining, it’s intercession. He prays for the people. Verse 11 says Moses “pleaded” and the Hebrew word is חָלָה châlâh and very difficult to translate. Often used to indicate illness or wounded, these are various translations –
So Moses interceded in prayer for his people. Moses is considered a “type of Christ,” something I didn’t really understand until I spent some time with that phrase. The bible itself defines what “type of Christ” means, but there are 4 different words used,
Some Old Testament stories are shadows of prophecy and truth yet to come about our Savior. Moses is considered a “type of Christ,” and as special as Moses was with his relationship with God, Moses himself says a greater prophet will arise. Moses delivered the people from Egypt, but Christ will deliver the people from our sin. And so Moses intercedes on behalf of his people, pleading for their lives. And prayer changes God’s mind.
That always amazed me, that prayer can change the mind of God. But Moses was a high priest, a type of Christ! Well you know what? So are you. And so am I, and all believers. We are the priesthood of Christ, we are to show the light of Christ within us. 1 Peter 2:9 says,
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.
James 5:16 says
Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
It amazes me that the God of the Universe loves my prayers and God acts on those prayers.
But the caveat is that it’s the effective prayer of a righteous person. Righteous in Jesus Christ, asking for things that are in God’s will… and I probably resemble Aaron more than I’d like to admit, more than I resemble Moses or Christ. After pleading to God, Moses finally goes back down the mountain, and in Exodus 32:21-24,
And Moses said to Aaron, “What did this person do to you that you have brought so great a sin upon them?” So Aaron said, “Do not let the anger of my lord become hot. You know the people that they are prone to evil. For they said to me, ‘Make us gods that shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ And I said to them, ‘Whoever has any gold, let them break it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I cast it into the fire, and this calf came out.”
So Moses pleads for his people. Aaron says, “those people are evil. Me, I just threw a bunch of gold in the fire. Whoa, look, a cow came out.”
While we are called to be a royal priesthood, sin is always crouching at our door. We must be vigilant, on guard, and patiently waiting on the Lord.
Let’s update this photo for today’s world.
The god people want is a god that tolerates everything the golden calf stood for. Immorality. Selfishness. Irreverence. Impatience. Rejection of God’s teaching so that they can mold a god that is less judgmental and more tolerant of their lifestyle. A god that only appears powerful but cannot see any wrongdoing. A god that answers every sin with, “God just wants me to be happy.”
But we can’t make God into something. God is who He is. He is fire, He is wrath, He is mercy, He is love. He is faithful, He is mighty, He is strong, He is power, He is God of all the ages, He is the truth, He is the light out of the darkness, He is Holy, He is Holy, He is Holy. The beginning of wisdom is to fear the Lord and who God truly is, and not a golden calf representing our desire to eat, drink, and party.
After we leave this classroom, after we leave this church, and we return to the world and the worldly ways, don’t let the world tell you who God is. Study the bible, put on the whole armor of God, and let God tell you who He is.
To God be the Glory. Amen.
A guy named Pete gets a job as a switchman with the railroad, and undergoes weeks of training. The supervisor then takes him into the switch booth to test his readiness. The following exchange takes place:
Supervisor: “Imagine you were sitting here alone and you learned there was a train coming from the North on that track, and another coming from the South on the same track. What would you do?”
Pete: “I’d throw this switch right here and put one train on the other track.”
Supervisor: And what if that switch didn’t work?”
Pete: “I’d go down to the track and throw that big switchlever there, putting one train on the other track.”
Supervisor: “And what if that switchlever didn’t work?”
Pete: “Then I’d come back here and call the dispatcher to stop both trains.”
Supervisor: “And what if the phone didn’t work?”
Pete: “Then I’d go to that gas station across the street and use their phone.”
Supervisor: “And what if their phone didn’t work?”
Pete: “Then I’d go get Uncle Joe.”
Supervisor: “Uncle Joe??? What would he do?”
Pete: “Nothing, but he ain’t never seen a train wreck.”
Many of us, though, have seen a trainwreck in our lives or the lives of somebody close to us. Something terrible, something awful, that left us with a feeling of “why me?” When I was young, and I’m fortunate that I don’t remember this traumatic event, I’m was told that a man in a mask burst into my room, grabbed me by my ankles, lifted me up, and while I hung there naked, he smacked me on the bottom. They told me he was the doctor, I certainly hope so. As a newborn, I was already having a hard time maintaining my dignity. I mean, really, what did I do to deserve THAT? And it seems sometimes that some people have been trying to smack me around ever since.
Perhaps you’ve been smacked around, too. A marriage that failed, a mother or father that died. I have a friend up in Conroe who has a granddaughter that’s permanently brain damaged since the age of 8 months because of a tragic home accident. When calamity happens, we want to ask why, we want to question God. Some may want to step away from their faith in anger at God. Why do bad things happen to good people?
There are lots of possibilities. For the unbeliever, God will use pain and suffering to turn the unbeliever away from evil ways. Repent, turn from sin, and face God. For the unbeliever, God has only 1 instruction: Believe in Him.
For one who professes Christ but leans on men or perhaps lean on their own understanding, God sometimes uses calamity to strengthen faith. If a Christian leans on money, God sometimes takes that crutch away through a family emergency, perhaps loss of a job. If a Christian leans on his own works, God may allow health issues to make him dependent on God. For a strong, upright and faithful Christian, God uses calamity to sanctify him, to bring him closer to God.
And then sometimes, we don’t have any idea why we suffer. We look at ourselves for unrepentant sin, something we’re doing wrong, we think God’s trying to tell us something, and we just can’t figure it out. It’s undeserved. We’ve been smacked on the bottom and been through a trainwreck, and we don’t know why.
The book of Job is an illustration of undeserved suffering. Job is a prominent and wealthy servant of God, and in a matter of minutes, Job loses everything. Financially, emotionally, physically, spiritually, all took a beating. To Job, it might appear that God had deserted him and offered him no comfort or explanation. Yet through all of his suffering, Job remained faithful to God and even stopped to worship Him in the midst of suffering. That’s inspirational, a perfect example of how God wants us to respond in everything.
Let’s walk through Job’s life and see what happens. If you have your bibles, let’s turn to the chapter on Quality. You know, Quality. Quality is Job 1.
Job 1:1 –
In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.
Job was “blameless and upright.” He was morally sound, mature, full of integrity. The Hebrew word for “blameless” is “תָּם tâm” and also means “perfect.” Job walked the straight and narrow path.
Job “feared God and shunned evil.” This doesn’t mean he was a coward; a healthy fear and respect of the power of God is necessary for good spiritual discipline. Proverbs 1:7 says “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.”
I think the phrase “feared God and shunned evil” together are interesting – “feared God” meant Job always did the right thing, but more than that he shunned evil, or also avoided the wrong thing. He was a complete man of God, not one who did good when people were watching and evil when people were not. Job was not a hypocrite who said one thing and did another, he was a man of perfect integrity, doing what was right and avoiding what was wrong.
He was also a very wealthy, prosperous man. Let’s look at his tax return –
Job was like sort of a cross between Billy Graham and Warren Buffett. In verse 4 through 5, we also learn that Job was blessed not only with material wealth and public prestige, but also a loving family. Seven sons and three daughters that regularly broke bread together and Job would pray for them and offer sacrifices on their behalf.
Now, in verse 6, we step away from the human world and into the spiritual world where there is some sort of conference going on in Heaven. The angels of the Lord are presenting themselves before the Almighty, and Satan also arrives in heaven.
“Where have you been?” says God.
“Checking things out, wandering around, looking for some mischief.”
God says, “Have you considered Job? He’s the best of the best, blameless and upright, fears God and shuns evil.”
This disturbs me. I’d like to avoid the devil and stay as far away from him as I can. Yet here God is saying to Satan, “Dude, are you bored? Check out my man Job.” Why would God do this?
The short answer is, we don’t really know. No one can truly know the mind of God. Here’s a few things we do know, however – we know that Romans 8:28 says
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
All things, including what’s about to happen to Job. How could calamity be considered good? Well, Job wouldn’t know this of course, but he turned out to be an example for thousands of years of God’s power and absolute control. That’s good for us to know, even if Job didn’t.
We also know that God promises not to give us more than we can handle. In 1 Corinthians 10:13,
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
God will not permit anything to come into our lives that we are not capable of withstanding. That doesn’t mean tragedy won’t come our way – only that when it does, we’ll either be able to stand up under it or provide a way out.
“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
I’m not surprised Satan cops an attitude with God. Satan says that the only reason Job fears the Lord and is a man of perfect integrity is because God pays Job to be a great guy. God has built a hedge of protection around Job and blessed Job abundantly.
Have you ever prayed for a hedge of protection? It’s a good prayer, to protect ourselves from evil. But this verse shows that the hedge of protection is taken down as easily as it is put up, either by God or by a very aggressive landscaping company, but more importantly, if the hedge of protection is taken down, it may not have anything whatsoever to do with our morality.
Are we shallow Christians that believe that if we are doing God’s will, God will bless us? That’s what the heresy of the Prosperity Gospel teaches, a “name it and claim it” attitude. Are we making some sort of bartering agreement with God? OK God, I mowed my neighbor’s yard this week. I helped a little old lady across the street. I said, “God bless you” when somebody sneezed. Now listen God: you owe me. That is a shallow Christian that misunderstands the will of God. We do not do God’s will in order to receive blessings. We do God’s will so that God may do His will. We may or may not receive blessings on this earth. In my experience, we all receive an abundance of blessings that we take for granted, but earthly blessings are fleeting. God’s blessing to us is His son Jesus, sacrificed for our sins and shortcomings so that we may have life everlasting with our Savior. That’s our blessing.
And yet, on this earth, God *is* a God of blessings, but He is not *only* a God of blessings. He’s not some magician we produce at parties to pull a rabbit out of a hat for us. I’ve heard some people give an excuse for their behavior by saying, “God just wants me to be happy.” That is not God’s primary desire. The gift of joy comes from the Lord, but God’s primary goal is for us to bring glory Him, to worship He who created us and to point others to the good news. We cannot excuse your behavior by saying, “God wants me to be happy.” When you read about the disaster about to befall Job, can you still say God wants Job to be happy? No, God wants Job to glorify God.
We also know here that Satan badly misjudges Job, and God is perfectly right and accurate. Satan believes that if Satan is allowed to wreak havoc in Job’s life that Job will renounce God and curse God to His face. God knows Job, though, just as He knows you and me. God will be able to use Job’s calamities for God’s purposes.
“The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.”
What would happened if this exchange was about you? What if God and Satan were talking about you in heaven? “Have you considered my servant Michael? Have you considered my servant Gene? Have you considered my servant Elizabeth? Put your own name in the blank. God knows where you are spiritually, and He promises not to give us more than we can handle, but how would you feel about God talking about you with Satan?
God is sovereign, all powerful. We like to believe that God is all good and nothing evil comes from Him, but that’s an incomplete picture. God *is* all good, but He is also sovereign, in charge of everything. Notice Satan has to ask God’s permission before he is allowed to mess with Job.
The humans in us would like to say God’s answer should be, “Nope, don’t mess with Job, he’s mine.” We like to think of God and Satan as being the great generals of a massive battle between good and evil, battling it out in the heavens and on earth. Obi Wan Kanobe versus Darth Vader. Professor X versus Magneto. Captain America verses Thanos. Aslan versus the White Witch.
We think Satan is reeking his havoc on Earth from Hell, but that’s not quite right. From the book of Job and in 1 Peter 5:8, we know that the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour, and Revelation 20:10 tells us that Satan will not be cast into the Lake of Fire before Judgment Day. God isn’t battling Satan, God is sovereign. God is referred to as “The Almighty” in the book of Job 31 times. When Satan wants to do evil, he has to ask God’s permission. This is true in the New Testament, too, by the way. In Luke 22, the disciples are squabbling over which one of them will be considered the greatest in Heaven, and Jesus rebukes them and tells them to be more concerned about serving. Then he says in Luke 22:31:
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat.”
Look, Satan is asking for permission again.
Does it bother you that God gives permission for suffering? A big mistake in our Christian walk is to misunderstand what “God is in control” means. We think that since God is in control, we have a right to expect Him to keep bad things from happening to us. We want to think that because we want to keep bad things from happening to our friends and family, and if we think that, God should think that. We are children of God, are we not? How could God let something bad happen to us or our loved ones if He is in control?
But let me ask you some blunt questions. Did God have a son? And did that son suffer? And did that suffering work for God’s glory? God does have a plan, God is in control, and it is human folly to think that God’s plan does not include suffering. As Christians, we know that our suffering will be used by God for His purposes. We know that it is our response to disappointments in life that makes us stronger in our faith to our almighty God. The sinner doesn’t have this comfort. To the sinner, suffering is pointless. Suffering makes a sinner bitter. Suffering makes a Christian better.
Let’s see what sort of things we’ve learned so far about God.
Lessons Learned about God:
– God is sovereign over all, good and evil.
– God provides hedges and removes them according to His will.
We’ve learned a few things about Satan during this exchange. I learned Satan has access to God in Heaven. I read this exchange and thought, Holy Smoke, how did Satan get in there? That’s not allowed! But it’s true, Satan has access to God, and must ask God for permission before he can do evil. We learn that Satan is evil, but not sovereign over evil. Satan has to ask God’s permission.
Lessons Learned About Satan
– Satan has access to God’s throne in Heaven.
– Satan has to ask God’s permission before he can touch God’s people
What happens to Job after this? Satan may not lay a finger on Job – God set that boundary and Satan must obey – but Satan sends destruction. Job 13-19, the Sabeans steal the ox and donkeys, then kill all the servants. Then lightning strikes and kills the sheep, then the Chaldeans steal all the camels, and then a mighty wind collapses his son’s house and kills all of his children. In a matter of minutes, Job loses everything. Everything.
Now I know that in this room, we all have tragedies in our lives. Death. Divorce. Pain. Unemployment. Why do we have to suffer? When we’re facing a calamity, the first thing as Christians that we must do is self-reflection. We must look inside ourselves for unrepentant sin. The Old Testament is replete with examples of God sending His perfect wrath in order to turn His people away from evil and toward Him. We’ll never be 100% righteous, but we know when we are sinning and it feels too good to stop. God will get our attention one way or another.
But what if we’ve examined ourselves for unrepentant sin and find none? God did not allow Satan to bring harm to Job just to say to Satan, See, I told you. God’s not trying to prove a point. God knew Job’s faith was real, and God knew this before he allowed Satan to do what he did. God’s purposes in allowing suffering are complex and it is not possible to reduce the purpose of suffering to some simple explanation. But our response to that suffering illustrates our faith.
I know how I have reacted to suffering in my life. Anger. Depression. A mix of both. Sometimes it’s been directed at God, how could you do this? How could you let something like this happen? But let’s see how a faithful man of God reacts, see what he does and does not do. Job 1:20,
At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship.
Instead of tearing robes we wear black, but ancient signs of grief included tearing his robe and shaving his head. It is ok to grieve. It is ok to cry. We are commanded to love one another, and I’ve discovered that love means emotional risk. The loss of love is most certainly a time for grief. God gave us emotions, and it’s ok to have those emotions. But Job didn’t stop at the crying and wailing about his calamities. Job said,
Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised.”
Job fell to the ground and worshipped God. An amazing response. A teachable lesson to me.
As Christians, we can recognize that everything in this life is a gift from God. Our possessions, sure, but our relationships, our children, our very breath of life. We came into this world naked, slapped on the bottom by a strange man in a mask. We come into this world with nothing. And when we leave, we take nothing with us. The Lord gives it all to us, and the Lord takes it all away again. “May the name of the Lord be praised.” It is easy to praise the name of the Lord when he gives. When he takes away, can we still praise the name of the Lord? Are we only thankful for things he gives? He may have many reasons for taking away, all according to His purpose. Can we give thanks to God for taking it away?
How do we remain thankful while suffering? Rather than blame God for what he doesn’t have, Job thanks God for what he does have. In 1 Thessalonians 16:18, Paul tells us,
“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
We recognize that it is God’s will for us to be thankful in all circumstances. Job could thank God because Job realized that everything Job had didn’t belong to Job; it all belonged to God. God owns everything. Job had the privilege of managing it for a little while. And in Job’s careful stewardship and praise, we learn one more thing about God: When Satan attacks, God uses it for His own good and His glory. Job 1:22,
“In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.”
It’s ok to be angry. It’s ok to be depressed. Our emotions are something God gives us. Job certainly had intense feelings of grief. But Job did not sin because he didn’t say God was wrong. He didn’t say God was neglectful. He didn’t say God has bad intentions. Through all Job’s grief, he said, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Job stayed strong. He didn’t whine, “Why meeeee?” His character remained that which God approved, even in the midst of suffering. Job was strong, patient, even resigned. And Satan must have been disappointed. Here was a man who loved God more than money, more than his earthly possessions, more than his family. Job’s relationship with God was not dependent on his circumstances, his position in society, or his stuff.
In Chapter 2, Satan goes back to God and says, “well, ok, so that didn’t work, but you didn’t let me touch him. He’s still a healthy person. Let me take away his health.” I don’t know what this illness was, maybe he had more than one thing. In chapter 2, we know he has boils from the sole of his foot to the top of his head, and they itch. In Chapter 7 through 30, we learn that it also includes a haggard appearance, running sores, loss of sleep, depression, severe weight loss, acute pain, darkened and peeling skin, and fever. Oh, and bad breath. In verse 7, Job sits down in the ashes of his life and scrapes himself with a piece of broken pottery. Sort of symbolic, like his life had now become a piece of broken pottery.
His wife was less than helpful.
“Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die already.”
Before we pick on Job’s wife too harshly, let’s remember that she, too, was intensely affected by all of this. She, too, had lost all of her children, she’s lost any importance she thought she had in the eyes of the community, and her husband is some foul-smelling creature sitting in a garbage dump scraping sores with a piece of pottery. So Job’s wife was certainly under a lot of stress. It’s easy to pick on her, but she’s in pain. Perhaps she thought her own pain would end if Job would just die. Perhaps she just loved Job and wanted his suffering to end.
Job still didn’t sin; sometimes it’s easier to remain faithful to God when you’re alone, but remaining faithful to God when you’re with others is harder. Job tells her that she’s talking foolishly, that her faith is not wise enough.
“Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?”
We do not always have a choice in our circumstances, but we do have a choice in how we respond. Job’s wife responded first with her emotions. Job responded with his faith.
Job’s closest friends were more helpful. What did they say when Job first lost everything? Nothing. When they came to visit, they were shocked, they cried with him, then sat on the ground with him for 7 days and said nothing. Nothing. Just sat and grieved. Sometimes there’s nothing you can say, so there’s no need to try. Just be there.
I want to close with a few examples. How many here saw the movie “United 93” about the flight that crashed in Pennsylvania because of the terrorist attack of 9/11? It’s a powerful movie, mostly for what it doesn’t say. There’s no commentary explaining people’s motives, just a real-time account of people’s actions. We see the confusion of the people at the FAA, the hysteria of the passengers, the evil of the terrorists bound on killing as many people as they can.
Many of us have heard of Todd Beamer, who uttered the famous, “Let’s roll” during the passenger’s revolt against the terrorists in an attempt to regain control of the airplane. What a lot of us may not know is Todd Beamer’s family were devoted followers of Christ. Can you identify with Todd’s wife, Lisa, the grief she must have suffered? She turned her faith in God into a powerful testimony and wrote a book that encourages people to build their lives on a firm foundation of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Here’s what she wrote about 9/11:
We all have the choice to look at the things we’ve lost or to look at the things we have, to become bitter or to become better, to live in fear or to live in hope. I’ve chosen to live in hope, not because I’m a strong person but because of the heavenly, eternal perspective that God has given me. Lately I’ve been trying to look at the bigger picture, to discover what I’m supposed to learn from all this. Probably the most important truth is that my security must be in God rather than in anything or anyone in this world.
Think about it: the World Trade Center represented economic power, success, and security; yet it was shaken and destroyed in less than an hour. The Pentagon is the symbol of our nation’s military might; yet it, too, proved vulnerable. Where can we find true security these days?
I have found safety and security in a loving heavenly Father, who cannot be shaken, who will never leave me or forsake me, and in whom I can trust completely. For those looking for hope, I recommend grabbing the hand of your heavenly Father as tightly as possible, like a little child does with his parent. God is a hero who will always be there when you need him.
And Joni Eareckson Tada who has founded a ministry on sharing the gospel and equipping churches with the tools to evangelize and disciple people affected by disabilities. Joni said that when she gets to heaven she is going to fold up her wheel chair hand it to Jesus and say, “thanks, I needed that.”
There’s our example. Thanks, Jesus. To truly worship you and bring you glory, I needed that.
To God be the Glory. Amen.
There are many sources for inspiration.
Inspirational movies, Like Rocky I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X. Now they’ve changed the names of the movies to Creed and started over at I. But the story of a man overcoming all odds to become a winner is inspirational.
And “It’s a Wonderful Life.” I watch this every Christmas, the story of a man who feels he has nothing left to live for finds his life worth living in the lives of everyone around him. I’m not convinced the theological message of angels and their wings, though. Great story, inspirational.
There are inspirational books, like “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff”. I love the subtitle, “and it’s all small stuff.”
Inspirational people like Nick Vujicic. He was here at Second a few years back. He’s an Australian man born with Tetra-amelia syndrome, is missing all four limbs and has only 2 small toes protruding from his left thigh. He graduated at the age of 21 with a double major in Accounting and Financial Planning, he surfs, swims, plays golf and soccer. And when he’s done describing how wonderful his life is, I remember him asking the audience, “the crazy thing is that you’re sitting in your seats envious of me. I’m happy; why aren’t you?”
But the bible is different. I get more out of a single paragraph from Paul than I do from all the “Harry Potter” movies combined. And do you know why? Because the bible isn’t just an inspirational book of sayings. It’s the very inspired word of God.
Let’s spend some time in 2 Timothy 3:15-17 and see what the bible says about the bible,
and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
One paragraph from Paul. If you spend enough time in the bible, the evidence of God’s inspiration is amazing. There’s just nothing else like Scripture in all of literature, in movies, in reality TV. A heart tuned in to God will find inspiration in Scripture that can’t be found anywhere else.
Beginning next week, Second Baptist will start a 52 week series on a chronological study of the Bible. We’ll go through the fourteen eras of the Bible in our quest to understand the overall scope of Scripture like never before. We will see how God’s plan is rolled out, how man rebelled, how God’s love overcomes God’s perfect justice, and how the End of Days gives final victory of God over evil and life forever with our savior.
I’m looking forward to every bit of it. Well, with the possible exception of Exodus. I like the story of how God rescued Israel, but man, that Moses was a basket case.
If you don’t think that was funny, you’re in da Nile.
But before we begin that series of lessons, let’s look this week at how important, helpful, and useful Bible knowledge is.
Paul is writing to Timothy at a time when wayward elders and teachers have been deceived and are deceiving others, even to the point of abandoning the truth. Some of these leaders are twisting the truth for their own ends, teaching false doctrine, and worse, leading others astray. Those who seek to follow Jesus must remember to keep their eyes on Jesus, and not be distracted. I think of one of Jesus’ closest disciples, Peter.
I like Peter, probably because he was such a mess. One minute incredibly devout and trusting, and then the next minute doing some sort of bone-headed move. Reminds me of me. Anyway, in Matthew 14, Jesus had just heard about his friend John the Baptist had been arrested by Herod and then beheaded. Jesus withdrew to a secluded place by Himself, but a huge crowd followed him. Jesus had compassion, healed the sick, fed the five thousand with five loaves and two fish. He must have been exhausted and sent his disciples into a boat while Jesus went up on a mountain to pray. When it was dark, the boat was offshore, and Jesus walked across the water. And all the disciples were like, “Aiieee! A ghost!”
Here’s why I like Peter – he said to Jesus, “Lord, command me to come to you on the water,” and then Peter, too walked on the water. What incredible faith and trust. But then Peter started looking around, saw the waves, he got frightened, he began to sink, and cried out, “Lord save me!”
Focusing on Jesus gives us the power of the Holy Spirit living with in us. Taking our eyes off Jesus sinks us. That’s what Paul was telling Timothy about the false teachers, Paul says in 1 Timothy 1:18-19,
Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith.
Focusing on Jesus we can walk on water, fight the good fight. Anything else is a shipwreck. It makes a shipwreck of our own faith and the faith of others. Paul tells Timothy to oppose heresy by remaining faithful to what he has learned, both verbally from Paul and from the written Scriptures.
When I was a new Christian, it took a while for me to get pointed in the right direction. I went to several churches with incomplete doctrines and light Christianity. One of my weirdest experiences was at a church where one of the members told me that the bible had a secret code in it that foretold Martin Luther King’s assassination, the twin towers of 9/11. You just needed a computer to find the hidden patterns.
Of course, it’s a bunch of hogwash. The Bible is not to be read to discover “magical number formulas,” hidden scientific discoveries, or as an answer book for every question about the world or God that we might have. The Bible doesn’t tell us all we want to know, but it does tell us all we need to know. The main objective of scripture is to tell the story of God and his people – where we came from, who God is, what went wrong, and how God is setting everything right through Jesus Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Bible invites us to join this story by becoming “saved” – people who accept God’s truth in Scripture, people who respond as He asks us to respond, and people who live to proclaim His truth to others.
When Paul wrote this letter to Timothy,
and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Paul presents two central truths about Scripture: its origin and its purpose.
When Paul says that the Scriptures are useful to make us wise for salvation, this tells us the Bible’s first purpose isn’t history – although the bible is historically accurate. The bible’s first purpose isn’t science – although the bible does present truth without contradicting known scientific facts. The bible’s first purpose isn’t a series of object lessons or proverbs or parables. The purpose of the bible is to show the way to salvation and help us live lives that are pleasing to God.
What does Paul mean by “all Scripture?” How can we be sure he’s referring to what we call “the Bible” today?
Let’s just try the two words, “all scripture.” What does “all” mean? It means “all”. Not “some,” not “most.” Not “the majority” or “the parts I like.” I might be going out on a limb here, but I believe “all” means “all.” That includes both Old and New Testaments.
Paul encourages Timothy to receive and stay true first to the teachings of what we today call the Old Testament. In Romans 3:2, Paul refers to the Old Testament this way,
First of all, the Jews have been entrusted with the very words of God.
Paul refers to Old Testament writing as “the very words of God.” God’s word was relevant to the Jews, but it also means they are relevant for Christians today.
In this same letter of 2 Timothy, Paul reminds Timothy that Timothy learned doctrine from Paul himself and from the other apostles, so it’s also clear that Timothy would understand the word “scripture” to include select writings from Paul and the other apostles.
There are other reasons to consider the New Testament writings as part of scripture, including:
After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea.
Paul tells Timothy to read his letters in public worship, alongside the Old Testament. Paul says the same thing in 1 Thessalonians 5:27.
The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For Scripture says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.”
Here, Paul intermixes Old Testament and New Testament. The first quote is from Deuteronomy 25:4, the 2nd quote is from Jesus in Luke 10:7. Paul calls both of them “scripture.”
When you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.
Paul claims divine inspiration, one who speaks the very words of God.
What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.
This is a direct claim to inspiration by God, which is a distinctive characteristic of Scripture.
Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.
There’s that shipwreck again when one doesn’t focus on the truth of Jesus. And Peter also says in 2 Peter 1:21,
For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
It is sometimes taught by the secular world that there wasn’t a “Bible” as we know it until several centuries after the death of the apostles. But what does history teach us about the early church and the acceptance of the bible?
Clement was Bishop of Rome from 88AD till his death in 99AD; you can tell from this photograph that cell phone cameras were not very advanced back then. The apostle John is thought to have died in 100 A.D. During John’s lifetime, Clement reveals that he is very familiar with Matthew, Mark, Luke, the letters to the Corinthians, Ephesians, Timothy, Titus, and 1 John. These were treated by Clement as authoritative Scripture while the last apostle John was still alive, and clearly John would have spoken up if he disagreed. Clearly the early church accepted these letters and writings as authoritative truth from God.
Marcion was excommunicated in 144 AD for teaching there was no connection between the Old and New Testaments, meaning the early church already saw this as heresy, so the early church also accepted the authority of the New Testament.
Polycarp, who lived from 69 to 156 AD was a direct disciple of the Apostle John, and Polycarp referred to Old and New Testament books as “Scripture.”
The early church had recognized the 27 New Testament books as canon by AD 200, though it’s not likely they were collected as one volume, even though the individual books were regularly referred to as authoritative. They were already being translated into many languages, demonstrating their value, and Origen of Alexandria in approximately 220AD began writing commentaries on them.
By 367AD, the canon of the New Testament – including the same 27 books affirmed 150 years prior – were officially gathered and recognized as authoritative by Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, in the East, and the Council of Carthage in the West. This council didn’t grant new authority to the books we now think of as Scripture as much as it denied authority to other books not considered inspired, affirming the long-held view that there is something distinct about the New Testament books that make up the “canon.” All the books recognized in 367 had been used, studied, and treated as Scripture from the time of the early apostles. It’s an important distinction to note that the canon was not created in 367AD. It was rather closed, definitively so.
We can, with confidence, state that Paul’s assertions about the origin of Scripture refer to all the books that Christians today call the Old and New Testaments.
So when Paul tells Timothy that all of scripture – remember what “all” means? All of scripture is “God-breathed,” what does “God-breathed” mean?
Some translations use the word “inspired” instead of “God-breathed” which is more or less accurate, but the original Greek work packs a lot more meaning into it. The word is “theopneustos,” “θεόπνευστος,” and literally means “divinely breathed by God.” God spoke His Word to us with purpose for us.
Paul isn’t claiming that there is simply something exceptional about Scripture. He goes much further than this, Paul claims that scripture is the very breath of God. As B.B. Warfield once wrote, the Bible isn’t so much “in-spired” as it is “ex-pired.”
“God-breathed” does not mean dictation, as if God somehow “possessed” the biblical writers and wrote through them. When scripture is read in their original languages, the biblical writings clearly display that each writer has different levels of education, style and personality. But God oversaw what they were writing to supernaturally produce completely reliable truth.
2 Timothy 3:16 offers four purposes of Scripture with two positives and two negatives.
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.
The first two pairs of purposes are “teaching” and “rebuking.” This refers to Scripture as the final authority on doctrinal truth. The positive angle, teaching, proclaims Scripture’s usefulness to tell us what is true and what we need to know. The negative angle, rebuking, speaks of what is in error and what must be rejected, so that we believe the right things and reject everything that is false.
The second pair of positive and negative purposes, “correcting” and “training”, refers not to what we believe, but to how we should live. 2 Timothy 3:16 is the only place in the New Testament when the word that is translated “correction” is used; outside the Bible, the Greek word typically refers to helping get someone who has fallen back on their feet. So the spirit behind the action isn’t to simply condemn people for committing these acts, but to help people get back on the right path. The negative “correcting” refers to Scripture’s role in moving us away from harmful, sinful, God-dishonoring actions, such as the lists found in Colossians 3:5 and 8:
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.
The positive “training in righteousness” refers to Scripture’s many admonitions about how to live, such as the list found in Colossians 3:12-13:
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Notice that both doctrine and life matter, both thoughts and actions. Belief alone is not enough. Consider James 2:19,
You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder.
Clearly Satan believes the right things about God, but Satan’s actions are certainly displeasing to God. Correct beliefs are not enough.
On the other hand, if we live a “good” life that resembles how Scripture calls us to live but believe lies about God, such as believing that salvation can be gained through anyone other than Jesus, we are also in error. Salvation is obtained only through trusting in the perfect sacrifice in our savior to pay the price for our sins. I have met some truly wonderful people over the years with such a wonderful, encouraging, helpful attitude, but have no interest in trusting Jesus. Our life and our beliefs work together, as Paul tells Timothy directly in 1 Timothy 4:16:
Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
Then, continuing in 2 Timothy 3:17,
So that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
The “servant of God,” or in the Greek anthrōpos theos (ἄνθρωπος θεός), means the “one who belongs to God.” It’s a title of endearment. We are God’s treasured possessions.
This means we cannot expect nonbelievers to accept this book or to try to follow its rules just because the Bible tells them to. The Bible is a love letter to those who love God; it’s not a book of verbal hand grenades to toss at people who don’t yet believe. If someone doesn’t accept Jesus, obeying the Bible won’t save them. They need to come to Jesus first, and obey second.
However, Scripture is powerful enough that when it is read correctly and appropriately, it can draw others into a life of faith. Consider Hebrews 4:12:
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
My wife recently had shoulder surgery; she had some damaged cartilage and a torn rotator cuff. The doctor would have used a sharp scalpel to cut out the damaged tissue in order to repair the shoulder. The bible is sharper than a scalpel and helps us cut out the sin and damaged life so that as “servants of God,” God’s treasured people, we can be
Thoroughly equipped for every good work.
I recently read this story in the news, but it’s been around for awhile.
The Oakland Raiders used their first round draft pick of 2007 to select JaMarcus Russell, a 6’-6”, 265lb quarterback. In the NFL, he was a mediocre player; coaches suspected he wasn’t preparing for the games like he should. The coaches sent him home with some blank videotapes, and the next day asked him what he had studied on the tapes. JaMarcus answered, “blitz packages.”
As Christians, disciples of Jesus, ones who belong to God, we should study the game tapes.
Scripture gives us everything we need to be thoroughly equipped. If we read them, meditate on them, listen to them, ask God to enlighten us through them, and then apply them, we won’t be lacking for anything when it’s “game day.” We’ll be thoroughly prepared and have all the wisdom and truth we need as parents, friends, teachers, and workers on behalf of Jesus Christ.
Our Scripture is the very Word of God. John 1:1,
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
To God be the Glory. Amen.