Thursday, February 8, 2018

Rahab and the Security of the Believer

Some time ago, I wrote a post about an Old Testament character named Rahab, that you can find here but there is more to learn from this story in the Old Testament.

In I Cor. 10:11 we read  "Now all these things happened to them as examples and they were written for our admonition on whom the ends of the ages have come." 
The Old Testament scriptures for us are not simply an historical account of times long past but are still relevant and useful for us today to understand the teaching written in the books of our New Testament.

In I Tim. 3:16 we read ..  "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, "

"All Scripture " (in context) refers to the Old Testament, because at the time Paul wrote his letters, the only scripture the early church had was the Old Testament. 

In Acts 17:11 we learn of the Bereans who are commended for not taking Paul at his word, but rather searching the Old Testament to see if what he was teaching was true!  When we listen to a preacher or teacher expound on a New Testament scripture do search the Old Testament to test if what  he is teaching is true?

How do we prove New Testament doctrine by Old Testament scriptures?  
The New Testament will always give us the 'code' or 'clues' we need to find the corresponding scriptures ... we don't have to make anything up. 

Let me use the example of Rahab to show how New Testament teaching is confirmed in the Old Testament.

Rahab is a woman who is commended by Paul and also by James.  
In Hebrews 31:31 Rahab is held up as someone who 'did not perish' because of her faith. 
In James 2:25 we are told Rahab was justified by her works.  

The debates, and the books that have been written on the tension between works and faith -  between God's part in our salvation and man's part can hardly be numbered.  And yet all arguments can be laid to rest if we just look at the 'doctrine' taught in the story of Rahab. 

We all know the story found in the second chapter of Joshua .  
Rahab heard about the God of the Israelites and she 'believed'.  She knew  God had given her city to the Israelites. She knew the city would be destroyed and all the people would  'perish'. 
She had heard about the miracles the God of Israel had done on behalf of His people and she believed that He was "God in heaven above and on earth beneath." 

Not only did she believe but her actions proved her faith.  She boldly declared her faith to the spies and asked that she and her family 'be saved'.   The spies agreed to save her - on two conditions.  
One condition was that she hang out of her window a scarlet cord. 
The second condition was that she understood that anyone who she invited into the house would also be saved but only if they stayed in the house. If they left the house, for whatever reason, then their blood would be on their own head and they would be destroyed with the rest of the city.  
Rahab and those with her 'in the house' were saved and Rahab was named in the 'family' of Jesus! (see lineage in Matt. 1 and Luke 3) 

What truth or doctrine does this story teach?   

The 'key' pieces that reveal the spiritual truth embedded in this story are -- 'saved by faith',  'justified by works' -- and the 'scarlet cord'. Scarlet is the colour of blood and so scarlet is always symbolic of Jesus' sacrifice - symbolic of our salvation.   

So the key pieces unmistakably tell us this story lays out the doctrine of faith and works as they play out in our salvation. 

Rahab heard and believed --  God's invitation has gone out "whosoever will , may come !" (Rev. 22:17 , and John 3:16 )  Rahab was a heathen, a sinner, outside of God's chosen people - yet, when she heard of the true God, she believed and was saved. 

She showed her faith by her works.   Our actions will reveal what we believe.  
If I believe it is safe to put my money in the bank, I will put my money in the bank. If I do not believe my money will be safe in the bank, I will put it under my mattress.  
Rahab's works revealed her heart-belief. Not only did she hide the spies but also did according to what they told her to do.  She obeyed 'the word'. 
In hanging out the 'scarlet cord' she declared her faith in God. The one true God - by 'no other name' can we be saved, but by Jesus.  
If we put our faith in Jesus for our salvation, our walk will match our faith.  We will 'do' what we say we 'believe'.   

Rahab was not one to keep her faith secret -- she did not hide her 'light' under a bushel .  She went out to win others - her family, those she loved. She convinced them to also put their faith in the God of Israel so they too could be saved.  

'In the house'  symbolizes the 'Kingdom of God' that we are born into when we accept Jesus as our Saviour.   As Rahab was totally safe and secure in her house - no need to fear that anyone would break in or snatch her out of it  - so  we also are totally safe and secure in Jesus.  No one can harm us spiritually nor can anyone snatch us from His hand.  We belong to the 'family' of Jesus - part of His bod

But - the same warning that the spies gave Rahab is also true for us.  
 Rahab and her family were absolutely safe in the house, but they were not locked in. Their free will was not taken away.  The doors and windows were not bolted or barred from the outside.  
The spies were careful to warn  that if anyone CHOSE to leave the house their 'blood was on their own heads'.  In choosing to leave they brought destruction upon themselves.   

So we too do not lose our free will when we are saved. We have the freedom to return to the world from which we were saved. No one and nothing can take us from the hand of the Lord, except our own will to walk away. 

In John 10 the verse is oft quoted that says .. "And I give them eternal life and they shall never perish, neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand."  But that promise is prefaced by by two conditions ... "My sheep hear My voice"  and "they follow Me".  The ones who hear His voice and follow Him are the ones who never perish and have eternal life. 

When someone questions whether or not they are still 'in the house', my question to them is ... "Do you WANT to be in the house?   Do you want to know and follow the Lord?"   The answer is usually 'yes'  ... and then my reply is ... "Then you are  in the house."   
We will all stumble and fall - we are all in process of being perfected - but the Lord will hold us up, protect us and help us as long as in our heart we want to be His. 

We readily acknowledge how foolish it would have been for someone who responded to Rahab's invitation to come and 'be saved' and then decide to leave the house!  It takes a determined and willful denying of Christ and and rebelling against His commandments  to make the decision that results in  choosing to walk away from the security that is IN Christ. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

Blessings for the New Year !

Here we are in the first month of yet another new year.  I always wonder, as I'm sure we all do, what will this new year hold?  The year is yet uncharted  ... but we do know one thing  -  as we have trusted and believed in the past we can trust and depend on the goodness of God to carry us through.
I wish for all you reading this post a year covered and overflowing with the blessings of our Lord. 

I know not everyone agrees with me, but I love snow (not to drive in, I agree!) but I love the beauty of it and to me it is always a picture of the blessings and benefits from God -- they fall on all, the good and the bad - not by personal merit but by the mercy of God.

What would we need for this year to be as perfect as this earthly, physical life could get?
I think, first of all, we need peace , peace of mind and peace in relationships.  Then physical health would be a wonderful thing,  and safety from harm , and living under the blessings of provision.  Of course a given is that we would need an abundance of good food ...  and we would all love to at least 'feel'  young !
Would you not agree that if you had all those things to fill this coming year you would really want for nothing?

That list is not always descriptive of our life ... all of us lack in one or the other and sometimes we feel we have none of the blessings in my list.  And when hard times comes, sad times, difficult times , when anxiety fills our hearts,  we question God.  "Where are you, God?  Do you see?  Do you care what is happening to me ?  Do you hear my cries?"

So what would God's list of blessings/benefits look like?  Can we know? Actually, we can - God gives us His list in Psalm 103:2-5. 

If we look at this passage, we see that before God gives us His list there is an admonition to us.
We are told, "DO NOT FORGET God's benefits!!"

Here is God's list .....

  • He forgives all our iniquities --   If we are free of all guilt, forgiven, we have peace in our minds, in our hearts and in our relationships.   Jesus came to set us free and He is our Peace. 
  • He heals all our diseases -- God does not want us to suffer in broken bodies - His desire for us is health and strength
  • He redeems us from all destruction -- God does not want us to live in fear ... He wants us to dwell safely -  free from all alarm ! 
  • He 'crowns' us with lovingkindness and tender mercies --  all we need or desire flows down from above , His blessings abound from His riches in glory ! 
  • He satisfies us with good food -- God our Father desires His children to be fed from the abundance of good food that He provides 
  • He renews our youth like the eagle -- getting 'old' was not God's idea -- God desires for us to live 'forever young' 

I'm sure you see how God's list is exactly what we need and desire for a good life, paralleling my list, but I'm also sure of the question that is in your mind.   "That may be God's list, and I agree it's a good one -- BUT -- where is the reality of it in my life?   I don't have all those things and I see some people around me who have none of them! Where is God in that list as it plays out in our lives?"

As parents we all have a 'list' for our children when they are born -- what we desire for them , what we want their life to look like.   We are often disappointed as they grow,  that our list doesn't easily fall into place - circumstances beyond our control interfere and hinder our being able to give our children what we wish we could.  Sometimes we have to bring pain into their life -- medical treatment, dentists, discipline -- but the suffering we allow in their lives is not because we have thrown our list away but rather because we believe it will move them toward the fulfillment of our list.

But ... you might argue ... God is so much more powerful than us earthly parents , He CAN do whatever He wants, and if that truly is His list of desires for His children then why doesn't He just make them happen in my life?

Consider the following ....

  1. We live in a sinful world of our own making. Even Adam and Eve living in a perfect world could not resist exercising their own 'free will' and do what they desired instead of trusting God's command.   Having given us the gift of free will - for the highest purpose of our worship and love toward God being freely given -- it has the default 'side effect' of us needing to be disciplined by experience to know good and evil and to personally choose good. 
  2. We live in a fallen world -  it was not just man affected by 'sin', all creation fell from its perfect state ... and as a result there are things that cause harm and destruction - from germs to natural disasters. 
  3. People with free will can chose to be evil -- and evil people around us do things that affect others often through no fault of their own .  
"Okay, that is true,"  you might agree. But then you raise the objection .. "So then what good is God's list if He can't fulfill it anyway? What good does it do us to know what God WOULD want to give us in a perfect world that we don't live in?" 

I think there is great comfort in having God's list.  In the list we see God's Father heart for His children.  If we know and believe that He loves us and His thoughts and desires for us are good, then we can trust Him even when things go sideways.  "Why?" you ask?    
Because even when things went wrong in you life growing up, either by your own choices or by things outside of your control, - if you had loving parents - you trusted them that  you could count on them being there for you, that they would help you through your difficulty, that they would do all they could to make things right again and support and encourage you until they were. You believed that they had your good in mind. 

So can we not trust God to do beyond what any earthly parents would or could do?   If we know that no matter what our life looks like today, God's heart and purpose and desire is for us to partake of His benefits then we can trust that He is working to bring those benefits into our life.  We might not understand the why He has allowed what came our way but if we hold onto His love , we can know that in the end we will understand.  And until we do fully understand , let us not FORGET HIS BENEFITS , not forget where God's heart is toward us.

And while God desires  - and does -- bless us in this life,  we know that one day He will create the New Earth that will make that list the 'order of the day'  every day and we will life forever under the goodness and blessing of our Father God. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Deception's Lullaby

I read a 'missionary joke' years ago that probably had more truth in it than 'joke'.  The story goes like this....
The first year missionaries are on the field and they find bugs in the food on their plate, they throw the food out.
The second year they are there and they find bugs in their food, they pick the bugs out and eat the food.
The third year, they ignore the bugs and just eat them along with the food.
The fourth year, if there are no bugs in the food on their plate, they add them!

I was thinking about that this morning and I thought, while we chuckle at the story, it is an apt picture of how we become so accustomed to sin around us that we are lulled to sleep and no longer recognize the danger of deception.
I am purposely not going to mention any specific sin, but if you think about how much we, even as believers, not only tolerate, but accept and even participate in - be it attitudes, beliefs or actions - that would have a few short decades ago horrified us ...  we have to admit that we very much fit into that missionary scenario.

Adolf Hitler understood this about human nature when he said, “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.”
I think of the well-known saying, "Familiarity breeds contempt..."  What becomes familiar, we no longer question, no longer test, no longer are alarmed by it .  If we feel any nudge of conscience at all, we shrug it off as inconsequential.

I think of the verse in I Tim.4:2 ..  "... having their conscience seared ... "  in other words, lulled to sleep, no longer hearing the alarm, warning of danger lurking.

I am reminded as well of the verse in Isa_59:14 , " Justice is turned back, And righteousness stands afar off; For truth is fallen in the street, And equity cannot enter." 

Is that not an apt description of what we see in our world today?  Ask the question , "What is truth?" and it will be most often answered according to personal interpretation, or the concept of absolute truth will be denied.  'Truth fallen in the streets' - ancient truths that stood the test of time are no longer valued and lie discarded in the streets.

We live in a vulnerable, violent, vexing time in history ... so how are we, as Christ-followers to live? 

So often, God's way is the opposite of what we would humanly choose or think to do - and for a 'time such as this', God's directive seems totally incongruent. 

Jesus spoke of the end time and the trouble defining that time, yet He said in   Luke_21:28,
 "Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near." 

To 'lift up your heads' means to be encouraged rather than bowed down with dismay, worry, and fear. It means to rejoice .. and to look for our redemption -   The best is yet to come and it is nearly here!

Though the world around me is in darkness, 
I dwell in the Light of the God who is above all Gods, 
the One who is the beginning and the end,
 the One is the Judge of all, 
the One whose Word will stand forever 
and the One who is in control of all things!!  

"Lord, help us today, in a sinful world around us, to stay separate, to cling to your Truth as the standard that will never change ...Open our eyes to see the deception around us, that we will neither stumble, nor sleep.  Thank you, that you have made 'our redemption' sure ... 
Come soon, Lord Jesus!" 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Jehoshebeath - A Woman of Influence

In our fast paced world where nothing stays the same and no one has enough ‘time’ .. it is hard sometimes to focus on the important things of life that do not change.
It is hard to feel that we can make a difference when we see the tsunami of evil invading every aspect of our society.  We see hearts growing cold and life becoming less and less valued.
But God is not diminished, He is not out of control,  He is not frustrated that His plan is not working out – in fact, the opposite is true.  God’s promises are still true, God is still totally in control, His plans for His children as viable and important as ever they were.


 Is that your question ?  Do you sometimes feel there is nothing that God has called you to do that will make a difference, nothing important enough to even be noted or remembered?
God has given us His word, and He declares that in it is written all we need to understand Him and His ways and to find comfort and guidance in every area of our lives.
He oft ‘teaches’ us through the stories of people who have gone before.  Though they may have lived thousands of years before our time, their situations, the difficult circumstances of their life or the evil around them is oft picturing our own  times.  And we can find answers in their stories that apply to our questions.

Have you heard of Jehoshabeath?  Probably not.  Yet she is immortalized in the pages of our scriptures.  Let me take the facts recorded in II Chronicles 21-23, and read between the lines fleshing out the scanty details we are given, so  that we can ‘feel’ Jehoshabeath’s life and recognize the example she is to us.

Jehoshabeath  was  the daughter of a King and the granddaughter of a King.  We would imagine that her life would have been the sheltered life  of an adored princess, filled with affluence and luxury and servants. 
 But it  wasn’t.  
She was born into a very dysfunctional home. He father, Jehoram,  was evil, feared/hated by all who knew him.  The kind of father you would wish on no child.  Her mother, Athelia,  was the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, brought up to think and do what was evil and wicked.

Jehoshabeath, growing up, would have suffered the attitude, reactions and whispers of people who recognized her as the daughter of the hated king, and having  a mother  even more evil than her husband. 

Jehoshebeath  was a tender-hearted girl who loved the Lord.  We wonder how she was able to stay pure of heart and soul living in a home where evil ruled.
I wonder … was Jehoshebeath named for her grandfather, Jehoshaphat?  Did she have a special relationship with him and learn about God at his knee?

When Jehoshaphat was about to die, he divided his wealth among his sons but left the throne to his oldest son, Jehoram.   Jehosebeath was about 13 years old when her father was established as King in Jerusalem.
The first thing Jehoram did upon taking the throne,  was to secure his position by killing all of his brothers.   I can’t help but feel the shock and horror that must have filled young  Jehoshebeath’s heart to witness her father coldly murdering his own brothers. 
Jehoram was  a wicked king,  not following his father’s godly example,  but rather following the council of his wicked wife, Athelia.   

Jehoshebeath must have feared every day what would happen next …  what violence would invade her fragile world.

God stirred up the Philistines and the Arabians to come against Jehoram because of his wickedness.. They came and ransacked the palace taking his possessions and his sons ,carrying them off. Only the youngest by the name of Ahaziah, Jehoshebeath’s brother, escaped. 

Soon after, the invasion, Jehoram,  came to the end of his eight year reign.  God struck him with a horrible, painful condition of his intestines and he died.  His ephitaph was that “to no one’s sorrow, he departed.”  
Did Jehoshebeath mourn her father’s death?   I don't know,  but I think she would have been afraid of what her brother and his mother would do now.   Jehrom’s only remaining son, Ahaziah, took the throne with his mother beside him.

Sometime either shortly before her father died or shortly after – we are not given the time- something very unusual happened in Jehoshebeath’s life.
God was watching over her and had an ‘escape’ planned for her.  Marriage … That in itself is not unusual but what was very unusual was WHO she married.  She married a priest by the name of Jehoiada, who was about 50 years older than Jehoshebeath.

A princess never married a priest!  It was not done. And a priest marrying the granddaughter of Ahab and Jezebel? Never…  I don’t know how God worked circumstances to make it happen – just this once!  … Maybe He spoke to Jehoiada and told him to marry the beautiful young princess who faithfully came to the temple to pray and to bring her sacrifice.  Maybe Jehoiada reminded Jehoshebeath of her grandfather and she longed to ‘be safe’ with someone who loved God as she did.
What we do know is that God had His eye on this girl…  guarding, guiding her through her life because He had a purpose for her to fulfill.

Her brother when he took the throne followed the example set by his father and did wickedly according to his mother’s advice.  God sent Jehu against those remaining of Ahab’s household and all were killed.  Ahaziah hid himself, but Jehu found him and killed him too.
When Athelia heard that her son was dead, she immediately set about to kill all the royal heirs – which would have included her grandchildren.

Someone quickly informed Jehoshebeath what Athelia was doing – or had ordered someone else to do -  and she reacted quickly.
Jehoshebeath snuck into the palace and snatched up her one year old nephew, Joash,  and his nurse and hid them in a bedchamber in the temple.
She and her husband Jehoiada became the only parents Joash would ever know. They  loved and protected him, treating him with kindness.

For six years Athelia ruled.

Then one day, when Joash was seven years old, Jehoiada gathered together men of the tribe of Levi and armed them.  They surrounded Joash as he was taken out of hiding and brought to the temple where he was publically crowned, given the law, anointed and declared king to the shouts and cheers of the people.
Athelia , hearing the tumult and shouting came to the temple to see what was going on. When she saw the boy Joash standing by the  temple pillar, she shouted “Treason, treason!”  but no one stood with her.  Jehoiada commanded that she not be killed in the temple but that she be taken outside and killed. 
And so Joash reigned for 40 years over Judah, listening to and following the godly counsel of his father Jehoiada.  And the people had peace.  I find it interesting that Jehoiada lived to be 130 years old ... so that he could advise Joash for his 40 year reign ..  and maybe to be a husband for Jehoahebeath as long as she needed him?   Even Moses only lived to 120. 

Jehoshebeath’s name means “Jehovah is my oath” .  A very significant meaning.  It was through Jeshoshebeath that God was able to keep His oath/promise to King David , that there would always be a descendant to sit on his throne, until the Messiah came.  If Jeshoshebeath had not rescued Joash, all of David’s descendants would have been killed. And in rescuing him, she brought him under the godly influence of herself and Jehoiada. 

I admire this woman we seldom look at. I love how she stayed true to God, kept her faith in Him, turned her back on the luxury of the palace for a simpler life in the temple.  She rather married a godly man than a prince or man of wealth. She also proves to us that we do not have to be bound by our circumstances or the sin of our parents. 
I also hear her speak  that if God had a purpose for her … He has a purpose for everyone of His children …  Not a one of us is unnecessary in His kingdom, not one life is without meaning.  No matter how dark it looks around us, how hopeless – as it must have for young Jehoshebeath – we know that God is watching over us, guiding us according to His good purposes and covering us with His love and grace.

 "(God), who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began ...  
And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. .....  
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. " 
- II Timothy 1:9, II Corinthians 9:8 , Romans 8:28