GOAT – Greatest Of All Time

“The GOAT”

I remember the morning well, though it was a few years ago.  I had just opened the garage door to put something in the trash and I saw an animal walking up the slope in our back yard.  It took only a moment to identify it – it was a goat!  To this day I still don’t know why that goat made an appearance in my yard.

In my earlier years I saw another that might have been called a GOAT.  Adolph Rupp, who at that time was the winningest college basketball coach of all time, made a guest appearance at a local school.  I was already a Kentucky basketball fan, so I made sure I was present for his talk.  (Since then others have passed Rupp on that list of wins.)

GOAT?  It is now often used to designate someone as “the Greatest Of All Time”.  The term was used in 1992 for legendary boxer Mohammed Ali, and not many would dispute the appropriateness of that title for him.  Others, though, have been referred to as GOAT, and for these there will likely always be a debate.  It’s one reason sports is so fascinating: How do you measure greatness?  Everyone’s opinion is different.

An actual goat played an important role in Israel’s history.  Instructions for the Day of Atonement found in Leviticus 16:21 explain: “Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, concerning all their sins, putting them on the heat of the goat, and shall send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a suitable man.”

You likely know that this is the origin of the term “scapegoat”.  To put one’s blame on another is to make them a scapegoat.  That’s what we find happening in that text, except the sins of everyone in Israel was involved.

The greatest “goat” of all time, in this sense, was prophesied in Isaiah 53:6: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”  The same concept of sending sins away is spoken of, but in this case a person is envisioned, not an animal.

Who was this person?  John is one of the inspired writers who tells us: “And you know that [Jesus] was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin.”  Just as the scapegoat was sent out of the city, loaded with the sins of others, so was Jesus (see Hebrews 13:12).  Guilty of no sin, He bore the weight of all sins of all times.

Do we dare call Jesus a goat?  That term is often used as an insult.  But in this case we’re referring to Him as our scapegoat, the one who bore our sins and carried them away.  And I have no hesitation in referring to Jesus as GOAT – the Greatest Of All Time.  About that, in my mind, there is no debate.

Come to the light God offers!  Study His word, the Bible.  Worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4:24).  Get in touch with us if you’d like to discuss these ideas further.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Copyright, 2017, Timothy D. Hall

Christianity has passed through several generations, each one with its own antagonists and enemies of the cross.

“Our Victory In Jesus”

Every attempt on the part of Satan to destroy the church and lead saints into apostasy and eternal loss serves as another example of the great power of our God to overcome the forces of the devil, and bring victory out of defeat. Great battles have been fought from the very inception of the church; and there will be battles yet to come. But the final outcome will be victory in Jesus.

Christianity has passed through several generations, each one with its own antagonists and enemies of the cross. Some have suffered immensely; some only moderately. But regardless of the age in which we live, we remind ourselves of the words of Paul: “They that live godly lives in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12). When one considers the battles the Lord’s church has faced, and the eventual outcomes, he stands amazed at the power of God and the fulfillment of His promise that He would be with us “to the end of the world” (Matt. 28:20).

During the long succession of centuries the church has outlived an immense array of attacks by the devil, and it has remained intact, and in most instances, revitalized and stronger as a result. She has survived the encroachment of Judaism, the destruction of Jerusalem, the dissolution of the Roman Empire, and the rise and fall of nation after nation, few of which have lasted more than two centuries. She has overcome fierce persecutions from without, and heretical corruptions from within. The barbarian invasions, confusion of the dark ages, the papal tyranny, the ravages of infidelity and revolution, and the rise and fall of philosophical systems and social organizations without number – all have come and gone, and the Lord’s church still stands. And not only does she still live, she lives in greater strength and with a far wider influence than any ideology of man would have ever dreamed possible.

Christianity has been involved in controlling the progress of civilization, and the destinies of the world. She has marched over the ruins of human wisdom and folly, moving ever forward and onward. She has survived almost two thousand years of relentless attack, but she still lives. We can say without fear of contradiction that the church can never die. As Phillip Schaff has noted, “It will never see the decrepitude of old age; but, like its divine founder, it will live in the unfading freshness of self-renewing youth and the unbroken vigor of manhood to the end of time, and will outlive time itself.” Human systems will come and go the way of all flesh; but the church will never be destroyed. She will simply exchange her earthly garments for the white robes promised by our Savior. And once ushered into that heavenly abode, God’s people of every age will enjoy an endless day of glorious bliss promised by our Savior. That will truly be “victory in Jesus” as together the saints of every age sing the song of Moses and the Lamb.

I heard an old, old story,
How a Savior came from glory,
How He gave His life on Calvary
To save a wretch like me;
I heard about His groaning,
Of His precious blood’s atoning,
Then I repented of my sins
And won the victory.

[Chorus]

I heard about His healing,
Of His cleansing pow’r revealing.
How He made the lame to walk again
And caused the blind to see;
And then I cried, “Dear Jesus,
Come and heal my broken spirit,”
I then obeyed His blest commands
And gained the victory.

[Chorus]

I heard about a mansion
He has built for me in glory.
And I heard about the street of gold
Beyond the crystal sea;
About the angels singing,
And the old redemption story,
And some sweet day I’ll sing up there
The song of victory.

Chorus

O victory in Jesus,
My Savior, forever.
He sought me and bought me
With His redeeming blood;
He loved me ere I knew Him
And all my love is due Him,
He plunged me to victory,
Beneath the cleansing flood.

May God help us to rest upon His glorious promise that “the gates of hell shall not prevail” over His church (Matt. 16:18). In so doing, not only can we sing “Victory in Jesus,” but we can live it with confidence and expectation of that eternal home Jesus has promised all of God’s faithful children.

By Tom Wacaster

“I’d Like You To Meet My Pastor. . .”

Most people who use the above phrase are using the word “pastor” as synonymous with the words preacher, evangelist or minister.  In other words, they intend to introduce you to the man who preaches in the pulpit where they go to church.  Yet despite the word being overwhelmingly used in this way, the Bible teaches that a pastor and a typical preacher are not the same.

There are three principal words or concepts which the New Testament uses to describe the men called pastors and their work.  Besides the word pastor (or shepherd), the words elder and bishop (or overseer) are also used.  These terms refer respectively to the tending and feeding of the flock, the age and spiritual maturity of these men, and to the work of overseeing to which they are appointed.  These concepts come together and show themselves to be referring to the same men in such scriptures as Acts 20:17,28 and Titus l:5,7.  Notice that in Acts 20:17, these men are called “elders of the church,” and in verse 28 they are told to tend, shepherd, or be pastors of the church of God, the flock over which the Holy Spirit had made them overseers (or bishops).  Likewise, in Titus l:5, instructions about appointing elders begin, and in verse 7, a man doing the work is described as an “overseer.” It is obvious that all of these descriptions are simply different slants on the same men or work.

But the differences between preachers and pastors are more than semantics or a nit-picking technicality.  For one thing, the Scriptures always speak of a plurality of elders in every church.  So if a church has only one pastor, it has at least one too few.  Furthermore, specific qualifications and characteristics must be met before men can be appointed as pastors (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9).  At times, the work of preachers and pastors may overlap, but they are not the same.  If we understand what we mean, we are on safe ground by calling Bible things by Bible names.

-by Jim King

The Holy Spirit Among the Kings

    We pick up where we left off Friday, having examined the Holy Spirit in the lives of Kings Saul and David. After 2 Samuel 23:2, the next reference is in the ministry of Elijah, the prophet…

1 Kings 18:12

    Elijah wants to have a face-to-face confrontation with Elijah but Obadiah fears that he will go get Ahab but the Spirit will “carry” away Elijah to some place where Obadiah does not know. In what way could the Spirit carry away Elijah? We do not know. We might easily presume that since Obadiah believes it could have happened, then perhaps it had happened more than once before.

1 Kings 22:24; 2 Chronicles 18:23

    Here is the incident between the prophet Micaiah and the kings Ahab (of Israel) and Jehoshaphat (of Judah). Zedekiah himself had been claiming to have been led by the Lord Himself back in verse 11. So, how do you know who is speaking the truth? Both men claim to be speaking the word of the Lord.

    Remember, from Deut 13:1-6 and 18:15-22, there are two tests for prophets: 1.) Can they accurately predict the future? 2.) Are they teaching the Law of Moses accurately? Here, Micaiah challenges Zedekiah and King Ahab (vs 28).

2 Kings 2:16

    The “sons of the prophets” wonder if Elijah has been carried away. We know that Elijah was taken up into heaven (vs 11). This reflects the same idea from 1 Kings 18 that the Spirit could miraculously transport Elijah to some safe place.

1 Chronicles 12:18

    David’s military commander is said to have the Spirit. This particular verb means “clothed” (It is also used in Judges 6:34). The Greek word in the LXX used here, ενδυω, is the same verb Jesus will use when He tells His apostles that they will be “clothed” with the Holy Spirit in Luke 24:49.

2 Chronicles 15:1

    The prophet Azariah prophesies to King Asa and warns him that if he turns away from following God, God will no longer be with him.

2 Chronicles 20:14

    Jahaziel of the tribe of Levi, gives a Spirit-guided message to King Jehoshaphat and encourages him in the Lord.

2 Chronicles 24:20

    The Spirit of God comes over (“clothes”) Zechariah, son of the priest, and he gives a message to the whole people assembled together, which leads to his death (See Matthew 23:35).

Nehemiah 9:20, 30

    Notice (vs 20), God gave them the “Spirit” for the purpose “to instruct” them. This verb means to “instruct, teach, give insight, be smart.”

    In verse 30, we have a different verb used with an interesting turn of phrase. The verb “bore” (משך) means to “seize, carry off; to pull, drag; stretch, draw out,” suggesting the idea that God had to drag the Israelites kicking and screaming to get them to be faithful. The verb “admonished” (עוד) means to “bind, sustain, be a witness, warn, admonish.” 

    The Hebrew text says, “You admonished them by your Spirit by the hand of your prophets.” The use of the word “hand” draws a contrast to the “hand” of the peoples of the land into whom God gave Israel. In other words, they would not be dragged by the hand of the Spirit, through the prophets, so God gave them into the hand of their enemies.

    What have we learned about the Spirit in the days of the kings?

    1. While the “Spirit” is only mentioned 18 times in the days of the monarchy, the word “prophet” is used 137 times! Certainly many of those refer to false prophets but the point is that the Spirit was very active once the monarchy was established.

    2. The Spirit largely spoke to kings and the nation of Israel through inspired men; He also, apparently, gave inspired wisdom and knowledge to certain military men, like Saul and Amasai, as He did the judges.

    3. We have not noticed the miracles performed, largely in they days of Elijah and Elisha, but they would / could only have been done through the power of the Holy Spirit and we would see that miracles were done almost always through the mediation of a prophet of God.

    Soon, we’ll examine “The Holy Spirit in the Poetry Books.”

–Paul Holland

The Holy Spirit in the Reigns of Kings Saul & David

Through to the end of the book of Judges, into Ruth, there is no reference to the Holy Spirit of God. While we have a reference to Samuel being a prophet (1 Sam 3:20), there is no reference to the Spirit acting in some other way. The next series of references to the Spirit are in the life of King Saul, five to be precise…

1 Samuel 10:6, 10; 11:6; 19:20, 23

The first two occasions have to do with Samuel anointing Saul as king over Israel. To establish the truth of Samuel’s behavior, he gives Saul a few signs to look for, a few events that would happen. In this way, Saul could trust Samuel’s word that he would, in fact, be the king of Israel. One of those signs is that Saul would receive the Spirit, prophesy, and be changed to another man. We do not know what or how Saul prophesied on this occasion, only that he did and under the guidance of the Spirit.

Next, we see in 11:6 that, as with the judges, when Israel was threatened by the Ammonites, the Spirit of God takes an active role. Verse 11 informs us that King Saul brought victory to Israel, guided as he was by the Holy Spirit.

While King Saul is pursuing and persecuting David, after his anointing as king and his victory over Goliath, Saul has the Spirit of God come over him one more time, chapter 19:18ff. I have no doubt that this “prophesying” – whatever the message was or how it was delivered – was to persuade Saul to quit following David and trying to kill him. I presume this is God’s way of trying to preserve Saul’s life and get him to focus on being the king of Israel.

In the presence of Samuel, King Saul takes his clothes off, lays down and prophesies all day and all night. If there was not a more powerful message that God could have sent Saul, I do not know what it could have been. King Saul has every opportunity to repent of his antagonism of David, humble his heart toward God, quit pursuing David, and gone back to taking care of the kingdom. But, of course, he does not.

Now we turn to the Spirit in the life of David, with noticeably fewer references:

1 Samuel 16:13, 14; 2 Samuel 23:2

This first chapter deals with Samuel going to Bethlehem, without Saul’s knowledge, so that he could anoint the next king over Israel. Once David was anointed king, the “Spirit of the Lord” came mightily (we saw this verb when we talked about the judges) upon David from that day forward. What the Lord did to / for David in this text is not said. We do know that David did some ungodly things just in 1 Samuel, even before we get to the Bathsheba / Uriah incident in 2 Samuel 11. We will talk in just a moment about David’s inspiration.

In the meanwhile, observe verse 14. We have noted before that the presence of the Spirit does not keep one from sinning and here we see that the Spirit can leave an individual and when we examine the Spirit in the book of Psalms, we’ll see where David prays that the Spirit will not leave leave him as He does here with King Saul.

The only other text that deals with the Spirit and King David here in the historical books is 2 Samuel 23:2. Here is the classic definition, a biblical definition, of inspiration. The English word, “inspiration,” coming from the Latin inspirare, means “to put the breath [Spirit] into.” The Spirit speaks by David, as he did through Balaam in our Numbers 22-24 passage. The Spirit is the Spirit of truth so His words through the mouth of David has to be the truth. The New Testament agrees with this sentiment of David (Acts 4:25).

By way of summary:

  1. In different moments of Israel’s history, the Holy Spirit gave men (and a woman) supernaturally endowed wisdom, knowledge, skill in battle.
  2. There were a few times when men (and a woman) prophesy.
  3. The Spirit did not stop men from sinning (cf. Jephthah & King Saul).
  4. The Spirit could leave an individual.
  5. The definition of inspiration is that the Spirit puts His words in the mouth of His spokesman.

–Paul Holland

A Charlie Brown Religion

    Reading biographies will give you insight into a person’s character, thinking, and motivations. I especially enjoy reading presidential biographies but occasionally pick up others: Nick Saban, Randy Owens, and Charles Schulz. The latter’s biography is a biography specifically of “Sparky’s” religious journey. It is subtitled Exploring the Spiritual Life and Work of Charles M. Schulz, by Stephen Lind.

    Schulz’s parents were Lutherans in Minnesota. He was not particularly religious himself until he came back from a three-year tour in World War II. Back in Minnesota, he began worshiping with a Church of God. He liked their worship style, less formal than the Lutherans and he liked that they referred to themselves as a “movement,” rather than a “denomination.” He also liked their upright, moral lifestyle – no smoking, drinking, cursing or crude jokes.

    In 1948, Schulz embraced the faith of the Church of God but was never baptized (for any reason). In an interview that year, he commented, “I am a firm believer in Jesus Christ.” He taught the adult Bible class and led them through a systematic study of the Old Testament.

    Schulz’s first Peanuts cartoon ran October 2, 1950. By 1958, he had only used phrases from the Bible, twice. He did not tell where the phrases originated. It was in that year that Schulz and his wife moved to California, north of San Francisco. Without a Church of God there, he worshiped with a Methodist church and began soon to teach the adult Bible class there. But he rarely stayed for worship services. They were too formal and ritualistic.

    Lind writes that Sparky marked on nearly every single page of his Bible through the years – underlines, notes on timelines, key words circled. Through his time at the Methodist church, he would teach through the entire Bible four times. His family typically did not attend.

    We are all very familiar, I’m sure, with A Charlie Brown Christmas. At the time it hit the airwaves, less than 9% of Christmas episodes were overtly religious. Thus, Schulz broke the barrier with his award-winning program, first aired on December 9, 1965.

    Lind gives some statistics for the religious content of Sparky’s Peanuts (pg 115). He drew 17,897 comic strips over a nearly-fifty year period. More than 560 of them contain explicit religious and theological references. By contrast, only 415 dealt with Snoopy’s World War I Flying Ace theme and only 61 featured Charlie Brown, Lucy, and the infamous football scene.

    Spiritually speaking, in 1970, in a weak marriage, Sparky began a two-year romantic relationship with a woman. He divorced his wife in 1972 and married a third woman in ‘73, sixteen years younger than he.

    From 1979 until 1987, while other comic strips touched on religious themes barely half a percent of the time, Sparky’s Peanuts would do so 4.4% of the time. In one interview, Sparky stated, “Of course, I do believe that the scriptures are holy, but I do not believe that the Bible itself is a holy instrument to be worshipped. After all, the words are only the words which men put down under inspiration” (Lind, 122).

    By Lind’s count, through the years, Peanuts’ characters referenced 32 out of the 66 books of the Bible. In 53 strips, the characters directly quote Scripture while in 34 strips, quotes are placed around statements to indicate they are from Scripture. In 6 strips, Sparky has a child read directly from the Bible while in 32 strips, Scripture is embedded into the dialogue without reference to specific passages and without identifying quotation marks.

    Peanuts characters went to church in over 40 strips and prayer is featured in about the same number. He had one Sunday comic that dealt with the Supreme Court ruling which took prayer out of public schools.

    Of the 75 animated features that Schulz and his team put together, only 13 have no religious or spiritual content to it. To summarize, there was a “church” reference in 20% of the animated titles and a biblical quotation or biblical character referenced in 30% of those cartoons.

    It is clear that Schulz was a religious man, dedicated to his beliefs and willing to share those beliefs with upwards of 300 million daily readers. Unfortunately, the “Jesus” whom he served was a “Jesus” created after his own heart. Amy, a daughter who would become a Mormon, lamented the fact that her dad did not pass on his religious convictions to his children. In the words of Lind, “He had taught her to lick the bowl when she was done with her ice cream, but not what it meant to believe in a Heavenly Father” (165).

    Remember his marked-up Bible? According to Lind (185), when it came to John 14:6… “Without noting the reason, Sparky underlined the first half of the verse, stopping before Christ said ‘no one comes to the Father, but by me.’” 

    Sparky did not want to accept the exclusive claims of Jesus and His apostles. For that reason, I point out that Sparky served a “Jesus” after his own image. That is unfortunate. In the Bible which Sparky apparently loved so much, the Holy Spirit told him over and over again, “Repent and be immersed for the forgiveness of sins” (Acts 2:38). But Sparky grieved the Spirit and refused to listen. That, too, is unfortunate.

–Paul Holland

GOD’S SERVANT IN ISAIAH 49

Isaiah 49:1 says, “The Lord has called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother has he made mention of my name.”  The speaker in this verse is Jesus Christ the Son of God, and he continues to speak until probably at least verse 13.  Christ is the one whom God named and called from even before he was in the womb (Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-38; 1 Pet. 1:18-21; Rev. 13:8).  He is also the one whose mouth is a sharp sword (Isa. 49:2; Isa. 11:4; Rev. 1:16; Rev. 2:12,16; Rev. 19:15, 21).  Christ is the one whose job it was to gather Israel back to God (Isa. 49:5-6; Matt. 15:24; John 1:31; Acts 5:31; Acts 10:36), and also to be a light to the Gentiles to bring God’s salvation to the ends of the earth (Isa. 49:6; see also Isa. 42:6; Isa. 60:3; Luke 2:32; Acts 13:46-49; Acts 26:23).  In fact, Isaiah 49:6 is quoted in Acts 13:47 and applied to Christ (and verse 8 is quoted in 2 Corinthians 6:2), so the Holy Spirit confirms in the New Testament that the speaker here is Jesus Christ.  Christ is also the one God gave as a covenant to the people (Isa. 49:8; Matt. 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25; 2 Cor. 3:6-18; Heb. 7:22; Heb. 8:6-13; Heb. 9:15; Heb. 10:16-17; Heb. 12:24; Heb. 13:20-21).  He was sent to release the prisoners from the bondage of sin (Isa. 49:9; Isa. 29:18; Isa. 32:3-4; Isa. 42:7; Jer. 48:47; Isa. 49:6,39; Ezek. 16:53-57; Zech. 9:11; Luke 4:17-21; Acts 26:13-18; Rom. 6:6-7, Rom. 16-23; Rom. 7:23-25; Rom. 8:1-2, 21; Eph. 4:8; 2 Tim. 2:24-26; 2 Pet. 2:18-20).

God’s servant called “Israel”

God calls Jesus “Israel” in Isaiah 49:3: “And said unto me, Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”  Some people wrongly conclude that this means that the one who is speaking in these verses is the nation of Israel.  But “Israel” of Isaiah 49:3 is not the nation of Israel, as the descriptions of this “Israel” in Isaiah 49:1-9 do not fit the nation of Israel.  Verses 5-6 specify this “Israel’s” job was to gather “Israel” back to God.  The nation of Israel was not going to gather itself back to God!  The prophecy said that the nation of Israel was going to reject and abhor God’s servant (Isa. 49:4,.7, which was fulfilled in the quotation in Acts 13:42-49).  “Israel” in Isaiah 49:3 is God’s “servant.”  Jesus was God’s faithful servant.  He committed no sin (John 8:46; Heb. 4:15; 7:26; 1 Pet. 2:22; 1 Pet. 3:18), did only God’s will and nothing of himself (John 4:34; John 5:30; John 6:38; John 8:28-29), and grew to spiritual perfection (Luke 6:40; John 15:9; John 17:20-26; Heb. 2:10).  Truly, God was glorified by everything that Jesus did on this earth (Isa. 49:3; John 17:4).  All the descriptions of God’s servant Israel in Isaiah 49:1-9 only fit Jesus Christ, and the New Testament agrees that Jesus is the speaker in these verses (Acts 13:47; 2 Cor. 6:2).  Therefore, Jesus is the “Israel” of Isaiah 49:3.  It is unusual that Jesus is called “Israel” in Isaiah 49:3, but it does make sense for a number of reasons.  First, Jesus was an Israelite (Matt 2:6; Luke 1:68-75; Luke 2:25-34; John 1:11; Acts 3:25-26; Acts 13:22-23; Heb. 7:14).  Second, Jesus fulfilled the law (Matt 5:17-19; John 19:28-30) that God had given to the nation of Israel (Deut. 5:1-3), which they had not fulfilled (Jer. 31:32; Heb. 8:8-9).  Jesus the Israelite accomplished the purpose of the entire nation.  Third, the primary work that Christ did on this earth was to seek to save the lost souls of Israel (Isa. 49:5-7; Matt. 15:24; John 1:31; Acts 5:31; Acts 10:36).

Prophecy of Christ’s work

Isaiah 49:5-6 mentions two of the great works that God’s Son and servant would accomplish on the earth.  First, God sent Jesus “to bring Jacob again to him” (Isa. 49:5), and “to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel” (Isa. 49:6).  (Note that Jesus would restore Israel to God, not to the land as Premillennialists wrongly allege.)  This aspect of Jesus’ work would not be extremely successful in terms of the number of Jews who were converted (John 1:11; Rom. 9:31-33; Rom. 10:1-3,21; Rom. 11:1-10).  Concerning this, Jesus said in Isaiah 49:4, “Then I said, I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain: yet surely my judgment is with the Lord, and my work with my God.”  Nevertheless, God would view Jesus’ work successful because Christ would fulfill God’s will.  “Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and my God shall be my strength” (Isa. 49:5).  Secondly, God said to Jesus in Isaiah 49:6, “I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.”  This aspect of Jesus’ work would be much more successful, numerically.  “Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship, because of the Lord that is faithful, and the Holy One of Israel, and he shall choose thee” (Isa. 49:7).  “Thus saith the Lord, In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee: and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages” (Isa. 49:8).

Fulfillment of prophecy

Jesus fulfilled this prophecy as he preached and labored to save the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matt. 15:24; John 1:31; Acts 5:31; Acts 10:36).  And Jesus also fulfilled this prophecy as his apostles carried the gospel to the Gentiles.  In fact, Acts 13:47 quotes Isaiah 49:6 and the context reveals a complete fulfillment of both of Christ’s works, to save both Jews and Gentiles, and the fulfillment of the fact that few Jews believed, but many Gentiles did believe.  “And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath.  Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.  And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God.  But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming.  Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.  For so has the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.  And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.  And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region” (Acts 13:42-48).  Jesus is the mediator of the New Testament (Isa. 42:6; Isa. 49:8; Jer. 31:31-34; Jer. 32:39-40; Ezek. 16:60-63; Ezek. 34:22-26; Ezek. 37:26-28; Matt 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25; 2 Cor. 3:6-18; Heb. 7:22; Heb. 8:6-13; Heb. 9:15; Heb. 10:16-17; Heb. 12:24; Heb. 13:20-21), which includes the Gentiles (Isa. 2:2; Isa. 11:10; Isa. 49:6,22; Isa. 54:3; Isa. 60:1-5,11; Isa. 62:2; Luke 2:10,30-32; Rom. 1:16).

Now is the time

Isaiah 49:8 says, “Thus saith the Lord, In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee: and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages.”  God would hear and help his servant and Son Jesus accomplish his work in the “day of salvation.”  This “acceptable time” and “day of salvation” is defined in 2 Corinthians 6:1-2 as including the entire New Testament period, beginning in the First Century A.D.: “We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.  (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succored thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)” Isaiah 49:8 associated the prophecy of this passage with the giving of the New Covenant, and 2 Corinthians 6:1-2 agrees.  The work of Christ to reconcile all men to God encompasses the entire New Testament period until the end of the world (Matt. 28:18-20; 1 Cor. 15:24-28).

Jon Macon

“HE ONLY IS MY ROCK”

My soul waiteth in silence for God only: From him cometh my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation: He is my high tower; I shall not be greatly moved (Psalms 62:1-2).

There is something about a large rock that intrigues the mind. I’m not talking about the small rocks you might stub your toe on, or the little pebbles that might grace a gravel driveway. I am speaking of large rocks such as The Rock of Gibraltar, Mount Rushmore, El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, or Stone Mountain. It has been my privilege to visit the Grand Tetons, drive to the top of Pike’s Peak, and cross the Appalachian Mountains into Virginia. Many years ago I had the opportunity to spend a few night’s in the midst of the Rockies, and view the majestic mountains that surrounded me. To the southwest I could see Mt. Massive at 14,441 feet. Further to the south lay Mt. Elbert at 14,433 feet. Travelling west you are surrounded by the Mosquito Mountain range (with peaks rising 13,000 feet), and the Collegiate Mountain range (with Harvard, Princeton, and Penn  Mountains, all over 14,000 feet). Those mountains stand as a mighty manifestation of our God’s creative power. Their very presence admits to the power of the One Who made it all. Let those who deny the existence of our God, or who question the literal account of Creation as set forth in Genesis 1-3, explain to us the origin of such majestic peaks. Only the fool would deny the great and mighty power of God. I weep when I think that those in control of the institutions of higher learning and public education deny the very One Who made all this, and that the next generation may very well look at these same mountains and declare that it all happened by blind chance, giving the glory, NOT to the God of Heaven, but to the foolishness of man’s anti-God philosophies. Now listen to the Psalmist. Because God is our Rock, as God’s children we are blessed with the following:

Confidence: “My soul waiteth in silence for God only: From him cometh my salvation” (verse 1). Here David expresses his absolute trust in God. He recognizes that God is the true source of deliverance and salvation. He perceives of God as his rock, salvation, and high tower, and expresses confidence that he will not be moved by the enemy. We have before us a man who had seriously contemplated his life, the condition of his soul, and, having taken stock of all of his resources, declared, “My soul waits in silence for God alone. It is from Him whence I derive my salvation.” Yes, God is our Rock; available to all, but sadly embraced by few.

Calmness: The Psalmist’s mind was at ease in knowing that all was in the hands of God. Consequently he would wait “in silence.” The idea is that the Psalmist had a sense of calmness. All was in the hands of God; Jehovah was worthy of his trust and confidence. Barnes captured the Psalmist’s sentiments: “The feeling is that which exists when we have entrusted all to God; when, having entire confidence in his power, his goodness, his wisdom, his mercy, we commit the whole case to him as if it were no longer our own” (Barnes, 167). The New Testament equivalent is found in 1 Peter 5:7: “Casting all your anxiety upon him, for he careth for you.” When once the soul realizes its complete dependence upon God for release from its troubles, the peace for which one seeks will finally be his to enjoy. “Such is the calmness – the peace – the quiet – the silence of the soul when all is left with God” (Barnes, 169). Several years ago a submarine was being tested and had to remain submerged for many hours. When it returned to the harbor, the captain was asked, “How did the terrible storm last night affect you?” The officer looked at him in surprise and exclaimed, “Storm? We didn’t even know there was one!” The sub had been so far beneath the surface that it had reached the area known to sailors as “the cushion of the sea.” Although the ocean may be whipped into huge waves by high winds, the waters below are never stirred. If we would find true peace we must “wait upon God” and let Him direct us by His word. In this connection Spurgeon noted, “Faith can hear the footsteps of coming salvation because she has learned to be silent” (Spurgeon, 48).

Completeness: I am using the word here to emphasize the fact that God, and God alone, is our source of strength. We find our completeness in Him. The emphasis throughout the Psalm is the complete and unique assistance that God gives to His children. The Psalmist was writing to friend and foe alike and telling them, “It is from HIM, and HIM ALONE that my salvation comes.” Our generation needs to learn this important lesson. We need to learn to listen to the voice of God as it is communicated in His holy word.  Unfortunately the noise of the world often drowns out the voice of God. It is often the case that men fail to hear God’s message because they refuse to listen. Instead, they turn their ears towards every “wind of doctrine” that might blow their way (Eph. 4:14). They are enamored with the claim of modern day revelation as they seek for signs and wonders to confirm whatever ‘sophisticated silliness’ they wish to believe. The completeness we have in Christ is emphasized is such passages as 2 Timothy 3:16-17, 2 Peter 1:3, and Colossians 1:28-29. No wonder the Psalmist declared, “He only is my rock and my salvation.”  Old Testament history teaches us that God will not allow us to have His counsel mixed with the counsel of false gods. It is either ALL God, and ONLY God, or it is NO God at all. David would trust in none other, nor would he seek salvation from any other source. The New Testament equivalent is found in Acts 4:12, “And in none other is there salvation: for neither is there any other name under heaven that is given among men, wherein we must be saved.”

Courage: Because God was David’s “Rock,” he could courageously declare, “I shall not be greatly moved.” I don’t know who wrote the following, but it certainly captures the sentiments of a man like David who recognized God as his Rock and Tower in life:

I am part of the fellowship of the unashamed. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I am a disciple of Jesus. I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure. I am finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tame visions, mundane talking, chincy giving, and dwarfed goals. I no longer need pre-eminence, prosperity, position, promotion, plaudits, or popularity. I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded. My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my Guide is reliable, my mission is clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, diluted, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity. I won’t give up, shut up, or slow up for the cause of Christ. I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go till I drop, preach all that I know, and work till He comes. And when He comes to get His own, He’ll have no trouble recognizing me. My colors are clear! (copied into my personal notes in 2006; source not recorded).

In this life we will have tribulation. But it is the “big picture” that we must keep before us. The ultimate outcome will be victory, not defeat. We may occasionally be “moved,” but not “removed.” That victory is possible because God is our Rock!

By Tom Wacaster

FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT

We sing with our kids almost every day about the fruits of the Spirit.  It’s a song that is one of their favorites about the scripture, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Gal. 5:22). There are times after we sing the song that I ask for examples of how they’ve demonstrated a fruit of the Spirit that day. They have to think a little about what it means to live and make decisions that conform to what they like to sing about. There are other times we talk about situations where they, or others they’ve seen that day, fell short. But the point is that it’s often easy to read about praising God, or loving Jesus, or being a follower of Christ, but we should closely examine and understand what that means in the context of what we do each day –or refrain from doing.

Praising God in song on Sunday morning may sound easy, but do we praise Him in our thanksgiving, “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name” (Heb. 13:15)? It’s easy to be thankful when things go well, but do we have the mindset of Paul when Jesus told him that His strength was made perfect in weakness? Paul concluded, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong (2 Cor. 12:9-10). This part is not so easy.

Loving Jesus seems even easier; how could one not love Jesus? But then we see the reminder with command that, “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also” (1 John 4:20-21). And of course we know on the day of Judgment that we’ll be judged as to how we’ve treated Christ by whether we showed our love to the “least of these my brethren…” (Matt. 25:40).

And it’s easy to talk about being a follower of Christ but the full requirement reads, “…if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23b). What do we deny ourselves, or what daily cross do we bear to be a follower of Jesus?

It takes thought (and forethought) to understand how to walk after the Spirit and not the flesh (Gal. 5:16,25) because Paul said, “…the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14). Let’s pray for spiritual discernment and strength to not only acknowledge what is good, but be doers of it.

–Matthew Johnson

How badly our opponents can treat us, but how special is God’s care

How badly our opponents can treat us, but how special is God’s care

Read the following chapter and stand amazed at what our enemies can contrive against us simply because we are God’s people, but whom God can use to come to our aid – from governors to armies to a small child! Why should we ever fear? This chapter should be on the best-seller list!! And it’s all true history!! God’s history.

I don’t care who opposes me, because just knowing God is on my side is enough help for me!! Hebrews 13:6

Now read the chapter, and then some more comments to follow.

Acts 23
And looking intently at the council, Paul said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.” 2 And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. 3 Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?” 4 Those who stood by said, “Would you revile God’s high priest?” 5 And Paul said, “I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest, for it is written, ‘You shall
not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’”
6 Now when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.” 7 And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. 8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all. 9 Then a great clamour arose, and some of the scribes of the Pharisees’ party stood up and contended sharply, “We find nothing wrong in this man. What if a spirit or an angel spoke to him?” 10 And when the dissension became violent, the tribune, afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him away from among them by force and bring him into the barracks.
11 The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.”

12 When it was day, the Jews made a plot and bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. 13 There were more than forty who made this conspiracy. 14 They went to the chief priests and elders and said, “We have strictly bound ourselves by an oath to taste no food till we have killed Paul. 15 Now therefore you, along with the council, give notice to the tribune to bring him down to you, as though you were going to determine his case more exactly. And we are ready to kill him before he comes near.”

16 Now the son of Paul’s sister heard of their ambush, so he went and entered the barracks and told Paul. 17 Paul called one of the centurions and said, “Take this young man to the tribune, for he has something to tell him.” 18 So he took him and brought him to the tribune and said, “Paul the prisoner called me and asked me to bring this young man to you, as he has something to say to you.” 19 The tribune took him by the hand, and going aside asked him privately, “What is it that you have to tell me?” 20 And he said, “The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul down to the council tomorrow, as though they were going to inquire somewhat more closely about him. 21 But do not be persuaded by them, for more than forty of their men are lying in ambush for him, who have bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they have killed him. And now they are ready, waiting for your consent.” 22 So the tribune dismissed the young man, charging him, “Tell no one that you have informed me of these things.”
23 Then he called two of the centurions and said, “Get ready two hundred soldiers, with seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen to go as far as Caesarea at the third hour of the night. 24 Also provide mounts for Paul to ride and bring him safely to Felix the governor.” 25 And he wrote a letter to this effect:
26 “Claudius Lysias, to his Excellency the governor Felix, greetings. 27 This man was seized by the Jews and was about to be killed by them when I came upon them with the soldiers and rescued him, having learned that he was a Roman citizen. 28 And desiring to know the charge for which they were accusing him, I brought him down to their council. 29 I found that he was being accused about questions of their law, but charged with nothing deserving death or imprisonment. 30 And when it was disclosed to me that there would be a plot against the man, I sent him to you at once, ordering his accusers also to state before you what they have against him.”

31 So the soldiers, according to their instructions, took Paul and brought him by night to Antipatris. 32 And on the next day they returned to the barracks, letting the horsemen go on with him. 33 When they had come to Caesarea and delivered the letter to the governor, they presented Paul also before him. 34 On reading the letter, he asked what province he was from. And when he learned that he was from Cilicia, 35 he said, “I will give you a hearing when your accusers arrive.” And he commanded him to be guarded in Herod’s praetorium.

Notice v.10, “the tribune, afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him away from among them by force and bring him into the barracks.”
The High Priest strikes Paul on the mouth. Opponents want to tear a Jewish Christian to pieces. Sadducees and Pharisees in violent conflict simply because Paul spoke some gospel truth to them. Now you might say that Paul knew of the differences of belief about the resurrection, but he is still only trying to teach them some truth that will lead to eternal life – “the hope and the resurrection of the dead.”  Is anything we say so upsetting that our opponents want to tear us to pieces? Didn’t Jesus say something about coming to bring a sword and division?
Matthew 10:16-39. Of course, in all of this, God is at work finding ways to get an apostle to survive the Jewish persecution and get the gospel to Rome!
Brad, in his Greek Word Studies, said this word for “tear to pieces” is ‘diaspao,’ and it is only found in this verse in Acts 23, and also in Mark 5:4, where, as Brad noted, “Demons were able to provide people with the strength to “wrench apart” chains.” Wow! If Satan can give that much strength, think how much God can give!! Isaiah 40:28-31. If Satan is that powerful, how much more powerful is God?? (Brad’s study inspired this essay.)

–David Carr