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A Lesson from Philemon

It is a very short book and there are very few doctrinal points made in this letter, which makes it hard to scour to find nuggets to help one lead a Christian life.  Yet there is a lesson that is not mentioned in words but in the actions of Paul.

Now we are not privy to the exact conversations Paul and Onesimus had when they first met or began their friendship but what we can glean from the few words used is an example of how Christians need to treat those who are hurting, feel slighted or fail to meet their responsibilities (for lack of a better word).

First, Paul did NOT condemn Onesimus.  He did not berate the man nor humiliate him for his action of running away.  Second, Paul did not withhold any Christian duty or love from the man till he repented and did as Paul wanted him to do.  It was given freely, generously as Christ commands (...you have received freely so give freely...-paraphrased) so Onesimus could come to the realization about his actions, attitudes etc. and make the changes Christ would want.

Third, Paul used love, compassion and other Christ-like means to restore Onesimus.  We find that evidence in verse 11 'formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and me.' Paul did not abandoned hurting or imperfect people, he got involved and helped them obtain their rightful place with Christ so that they could be productive for Jesus and make the decisions He wants them to make.

Fourth, Paul knew his boundaries and asked for permission from Onesimus' master to keep him.  This is important as Paul is NOT usurping any authority over another man's possessions or responsibilities. Christians do not have the right to take ownership of what is not theirs nor dictate to others how they should respond in this type of situation.

Fifth, Paul takes financial responsibility for Onesimus' mistakes.  He doesn't have to and He doesn't do this for all aspects of Onesimus' life, just this one situation but Paul does so because it is the Christian thing to do to make sure believers have a real chance at a new life. 

Putting restored people back into their original situation without the means to meet the demands ensures these people's failure not success. Soon the burden of meeting these demands will drive the restored people away like before, only this time it will be harder to win them back. 

A restored hurting believer cannot be abandoned when they need a fellow Christian the most.  This does not mean one sends them to the secular world for their help, for then you are robbing God of the glory, robbing yourself of God's reward for being involved properly and robbing the restored believer of strengthened faith in God. Unless God directs you to do so (send someone to the secular government), the Church needs to be prepared to provide the right support till the hurting person is able to carry on by themselves, renewed in the knowledge that God is with them and helping them.

Restoring one's faith in God, helping them to place their eyes on Jesus not the world is the duty of the Christian church along with acting as Christ commands.  Of course, one does all this under the direction of Christ and with the Glory of God in mind.  It is not done out of forced motivations or ulterior motives but is genuine and honest.

Yes Philemon is a small book but it provides a giant example of how Christians are to respond to their hurting family members.  Hurting people are that, hurting people NOT a pariah of society.  They are NOT to be ignored, they are NOT to be deprived of Jesus' love and compassion, they are NOT to be treated as lepers of old but accepted and pointed in the right direction along with being provided the necessary help they need so that the NON-church world and other believers can see GOD in action and that He cares.

Then those people will give glory to God and see that when they are in the same position, they can rely on Him to help them through their tough times. Instead of having resentment rise in them against their fellow believers for their selfishness, and withholding of Christ's love and benefits, which would then be used of the devil to drive hose hurting believers away from God.

A Lesson from Moses

This article is going to be a bit different as it will use two texts as it starting point.  The first, Exodus 2:11-12 "One day, after Moses had grown-up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. Glancing this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand."

The second passage is found in Heb. 3:5 "Moses was faithful as a servant in all God's house."

Moses is given a place of honor throughout the Bible, He was chosen to lead God's people out of slavery; he was chosen to meet God at Sinai and bring the 10 commandments to the Israelites; he was chosen to write 5 books of the Old Testament and so on.  The list of accolades could go on as Moses was faithful 'in all of God's house', which means he humbly and obediently carried out God's wishes.

YET what was his beginning?  Was he a perfect man who did no wrong?  Was he above reproach? NO, as we see in the first passage, Moses was a murderer.  He willfully killed a man who was beating one of his own people. Killing someone in the defense of another person is NOT self-defense and would be considered murder by most standards of the world.

From this recorded first act of Moses we see him doing something that in today's world would banish him from the majority of congregations and keep him from the leadership of probably all denominations.  What do we see God do in this case, God does not reject Moses and cast him aside.  Instead, God calls him to service and despite Moses' many protests; he is pressed into service and is given great honor for his service.

How does this apply today? Simple.  Too often the organized church judges a man's ability to serve by the deeds he has done in the past and by doing so, rob God of raising up strong leaders to keep the church intact and on the right track.  They forget that a person CANNOT change what he has done, the past is the past and nothing anyone can do will alter what has preceded the present.

Unfortunately, the church does NOT let a person forget his misdeeds or mistakes and holds it over his head in one form or another. Or they place the person in an out of the way, small congregation and kind of forget about him, depriving him of needed support, help and encouragement.  Rarely, unless the person is someone the organized church can get some mileage out of, is the ex-felon given the opportunity to rise up in the ranks and be allowed to be used of God.

It is a sad situation as too many pastors, church leaders and congregations side with the world's ideas about people who commit crimes in their past and create stumbling blocks in the person's path so that they do not or cannot succeed. 

Does this mean that we accept every ex-criminal's confession of faith? No, but we need to use discernment to make sure it is a true repentance and accept those that have clearly and honestly turned from their sins, granting them equal status in the church. 

Does this mean that people are free to commit sin willfully knowing that they can repent?  No. One does not willfully commit sin or plan a life of sin then plan their repentance years later when they have had their fun. That is just making a mockery of God's salvation and Jesus' sacrifice.

What it means is, that if people made mistakes, committed crimes and then truly repented and followed Jesus, they are not to be denied, detoured, or hindered in their walk with God. if that means if God promotes them to higher office then the regular believer must not stand in their way but confirm that elevation.

We do not know the mind of God or whom he chooses to lead His flock. It is His church and He gets to make those decisions, whether we like it or not.  Though we do not blindly accept someone's word as God has given the church criteria to implement to double check one's declarations.  This is done so the rest of the body of Christ are not fooled and are led astray by a false leader.

The person whose past is murky must make sure that what they think they are hearing is from God and they will need confirmation from other believers.  But they too must not blindly accept a person's confirmation or lack of it, for such advice could be given out of the person's own preference, opinion, or personal feelings and not God's.

Becoming a Christian is not a golden ticket where one gets to receive whatever they want.  They are entering a world of spiritual warfare and must be careful.  God has rules, directions and instructions which need to be obeyed before one is found worthy to lead His people or have influence in His church.

Moses killed a man yet was still used of God and given much honor.  We should not be looking at the man's past, like the world does, but at the change God has made and help the person grow so that he too can be used of God.  What the world fears, God has removed and the believer needs to listen to God not the world, even when it comes to criminal acts.  For if they don't then they rob God of another tool and hinder His work.

The church needs to put the person through the test to ensure the conversion is real, then when it is found that it is, they should provide sound instruction and advice so the person can become who God wants them to be. The church is NOT the final determiner of where people serve, but they do have a duty to make sure the people serving are true servants of God and are faithful in God's work, like Moses.

A Lesson from David

1 Samuel 17 has the story of David and Goliath, one we have all heard from our youth but as it seems that we cannot get one more lesson out of its words, God brings one to light.  It is found in the little sling that David used to bring down the man who blasphemed God and His people.

Here we have a giant of a problem, and we all can relate to such challenges.  This one for David stood over 9 feet tall, wore heavy, thick armor and had huge weapons to retaliate with if David did anything wrong. What did David have? A little sling, his staff and his complete faith in God. 

We now the end result, David slung the rock and Goliath fell, defeated and the army of Israel pursued and beat the Philistines that day.  But why a sling?  Why not give courage to the whole army and have them fight.

Well, first, Israeli lives would have been lost, second, God's stature to the secular world would have been diminished and they would dismiss Him without fear thinking their Gods were stronger than Him. Third, in this battle, God did give courage to the whole army, through this one little boy's act of faith and bravery as they saw what God did and took heart, over-powering the Philistines chasing them back to their cities.

All the people of Israel had to know how great God was and this was the best way to show them.

When God helps His people overcome their problems, He often uses things that clearly demonstrate that He was the one who made it succeed.  With David's battle, He used a sling and a rock.  It looked impossible but that is how God is because He wants to make sure that those being helped, and those observing see HIM and give Him the glory.

If God did it any other way, then it would leave the door open for people to steal the credit or give the glory to someone else.  One example, if the army swarmed Goliath then people would credit the Israeli men or generals. But God wants people to have faith in Him; He wants the unbeliever to see Him as well. His power, His ability, His protection of His children. 

Without that witness, there is nothing for the unbeliever to motivate them to change their ways and repent of their sins. Anything less and God is looked upon as weak, unable to judge, punish and so on. We see this over and over throughout the Old Testament as God uses little things to show His people and the secular world that He is God and there is NO one else and none can defeat Him.

Another example of this is Gideon as he set out with an army of 300 men.  He started with thousands but again, the glory would have gone to the army, and seeds doubt would have been sown in the people's minds that God was not strong enough.  Then it would only be a matter of time before people started looking elsewhere to have their spiritual needs meet. God would not matter.

Proverbs tells us to 'Lean not to your own understanding...' and this is so when we face those challenges which are larger than us. If the alternative solution looks impossible, look to see if God is directing it, for if He is, then there is no need to fear, God will win the day. One must have complete faith and belief in God as David did with no doubt if one wants to resolve their conflicts.

A Lesson from Jesus

In recent years, people from many walks of life have been turning to science for their answers, as if science knows more than God.  It doesn’t, but some people think it does and demand scientific proof for just about anything relating to the scriptures.

But there is a problem with that attitude, especially if those people claim to be Christian as secular science seeks to keep God from the equation.  If you get a chance, read Dr. Del Ratzsch’s book The Battle of Beginnings.  He clearly shows the secular science position on pages 162 and 163:

Pg. 162- “ …a major driving force underlying each is the conviction that proper science can make no reference to, no appeal to or no explanatory use of anything beyond the purely natural. The supernatural, the miraculous, is strictly out of bounds in science”

Pg. 163- “…the NCSE says that ‘by the very definition of science scientists cannot offer God’s intervention as the cause for whatsoever they seek to explain’…In addition, ‘’science as practiced in modern times is necessarily naturalistic… Explanations founded on miracles cannot be allowed’

What does this mean for the Christian?  For one, they believer CANNOT turn to secular scientists and their theories to explain what God did.  These scientific experts are denying the very basic foundation of the Christian faith—God and look to credit non-scriptural sources instead of God. 

That should be a red flag to all believers as no matter if they are experts and trained for years in their field, one does not take their word over God’s.  As The Bible tells us, “Blessed is he who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly…”  If science says the Bible is wrong then the Christian must dismiss the science NOT the Bible, as science is too limited to make such conclusions and the believer must consider the source—these conclusions are coming from unbelievers, the very people God said not to follow.

One should not accept nor believe those who reject the God they say they love and serve, no matter how compelling their argument may seem. One must consider the source and look below the surface to see the errors of the secular scientist’s ways.  Jesus made the point better in John 5:46-7 when He said:

“If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?”

This is so true.  The theistic evolutionists, the progressive creationists and others who listen to secular science and accept their false ideas have many times over rejected what Jesus said and what the disciples have said throughout the New Testament.  Because they call Gen. 1-10 an allegorical section, they also call many parts of the New Testament allegory.

They do not believe Moses and they do not believe Jesus.  If these people say to you, ‘I doubt my salvation depends upon me believing in Genesis’; you can answer ‘Yes it does.’  For if they did not believe God in the Old Testament, then how can they believe God in the New? 

Jesus believed in creation, as did all the disciples, and spoke on it.  He did not change what God said how he created the world, nor did the disciples, thus if people do not accept Moses then they are not accepting what Jesus said either. 

The lesson we have from Jesus here in this passage is that believers are to believe ALL the Bible, not just the parts that they want. Nor are they to dismiss passages so that they will be accepted by the secular world.

One cannot expect salvation from those they call a liar or claim that they did not mean what they said.  Christians are to believe all of God’s words or it just doesn’t work and they give evil the victory.

 

Lesson from Genesis

 

Genesis 2, 4, &10

 

Genesis 2:

This chapter, like its predecessor, courts controversy.  This section of this paper will look at two controversies and at the good news found within its boundaries.  Everyone has an opinion about the first 10 chapters of Genesis and most have to do with compromising it with secular science, but that will come second, first I will look at the debate of who wrote this chapter and end up with detailing some of those pieces of good news.

When people do not want to believe something, they will make up any excuse to justify their decision to reject whatever it is they refuse to accept.  Genesis 2 is no exception as we have excuse after excuse to dismiss this passage of scripture.

The first excuse is that this chapter was not written by Moses and must have been added at some later date. Dr. Julius Wellhausen made the Documentary Hypothesis famous and though it has been discredited, it is still an option held to by many archaeologists and scholars.

“One of the foundational assumptions of this so-called “higher critical” viewpoint is that the Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible) was not authored by Moses. Supposedly, several ancient writers contributed to this collection. These authors are referred to as J, E, P, and D.”1

Of course, no one has ever seen these documents and as K.A. Kitchen states, “They exist only in the minds of their modern creators…and as printed in their published studies, as theoretical works abstracted out of the standard text of the Old Testament books that we do have.’2

Thus the excuse of multiple writers is moot simply for the reason the critics of this chapter cannot produce any concrete or reliable evidence to support their contention.

A second excuse used is the literary style is not the same as the first chapter, and according to the skeptics, whoever wrote these chapters must be different people since they could not write in the same manner. This is a lame excuse for even I do not write the same way every time as it depends upon what I am writing about, who I am writing to and my mood at the time.  We have proof from ancient Egypt that more than one style was used for the same work:

Such differences may as much indicate a variance in the subject addressed as the suggestion of multiple authors. On the basis of archaeological evidence, Kitchen has shown that the “stylistic” theory simply is not credible. For example, a biographical inscription of Uni, an Egyptian official who lived about 2400 B.C., reflects at least four different styles, and yet no one denies the unity of its authorship (Kitchen, 1966, p. 125).3

So again we see a weak attempt to discredit the authority of the Bible by ignoring the reality of how people write. A third excuse used is the inference of supposed contradictions in the two accounts, yet a close look at the details in both chapter 1 and 2 will show that the latter is not doing a generalized overview as the former does but instead it provides more details about 1 day of creation. It focuses on the sixth and last day of the creative act.

“…beginning in 2:7 the text proceeds to answer it by recapping in more detail the creation of the man ... The remainder of chapter 2 thus leads naturally and directly into chapter 3, which describes the Fall and explains exactly how things got the way they are now. This account continues right through to the Flood story.

The alleged contradictions between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2:4b-7 does not demonstrate different authors for these chapters, for in fact the passages do not conflict. These verses actually tend to support the unified and integrated nature of the early chapters of Genesis”4

We find that the purpose of chapter necessitates a different style of writing than the purpose of the first chapter of Genesis not an indication of a different author.  This whole controversy points to what Ken Ham, of Answers in Genesis, believes, which is that these arguments are trying to undermine Biblical authority (5) and he is right. 

Even those who claim to be Christian yet reject the early part of Genesis, lean this way as they seek to give that authority that belongs to the Bible to science.  This rejection of God’s word has far deeper ramifications as Jesus said in John 5:47 ‘But since you do not believe what he (Moses) wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?’ (context Jn.5:45-47).

This is true for many Progressive Creationists and theistic evolutionists regard much of the New Testament as allegory and metaphor and do not adhere to the basic tenants of Biblical teaching. This leads us to the second controversy, science vs. creation.  As in chapter one, this chapter disagrees with most scientific ‘discoveries’ as it further shuts the door on alternatives (v.1) and ignores evolutionary teaching by explicitly stating that ‘God formed man’, ‘God planted a garden’, ‘God made plants grow’ and so on.

Yet the opposition seems to originate with Galileo:

Of course, Galileo himself recognized how threatening his researches were to the biblical view of the world…In a letter to the Benedictine B. Castelli in 1613 he presented his views on the relationship between the Bible and the knowledge of nature:  if scientific knowledge is certain and contradicts what the Bible says, a new interpretation of the Bible is due.’ 6(bold mine)

In Galileo’s eyes and the opinions of many scientists after, it is always the Bible that has to change not the science.  Science to them is infallible not fallible nor merely a tool to learn about what God has done but the final authority, putting it in competition with God and the authority of scriptures.

This contest has not stopped as we read the following later in Dr. Kung’s book:

“For Hawking’s view was that with such a unified theory of everything…the world would explain itself and God would no longer be necessary as creator. If the universe were completely shut up in itself, without singularities and limits, if it were described completely by a unified theory, then physics would have made God superfluous.”7

Because of this scientific influence and opinion, the removal of God from the creative act, we have ‘Christians’ today who try to marry the secular ideas with the spiritual and it just doesn’t work.  The two aren’t compatible as the Biblical view has God as the source of all things and He provides the purpose for all existence and the scientific view wishes to remove Him so humans can be masters of all.

It is a futile effort for ‘Christians’ to look to science to explain our origin but claim to love God. That is hypocrisy at its best, for 1 Cor. 13:7 tells us that love ‘believes all things’.  If a believer opts for science over Genesis 1 or 2, then they do not believe God in all things and they do not love Him either.

The Christian cannot compromise the Bible with secular science, the two are opponents not friends, each with a different agenda and purpose, one to provide the truth, the other to destroy it.

It must be noted that Galileo’s comment, about his work being threatening to the biblical view of the world, shows his misunderstanding and ignorance of the Biblical view of the world.  What he was fighting against was not God’s view but the interpretation held by the authorities of the Roman Catholic Church and those ideas did not line up with the true Biblical narrative.

Unfortunately, too many Christians have fallen in love with science and have allowed it to usurp the teachings of the Bible, and they have allowed the Bible to be demoted from an infallible text containing God’s words to a book that can be over-ruled by sinful men and women who do not grasp the truths of scripture. In doing so, these ‘believers’ miss out on the good news that is taught in chapter 2’s few verses and they must scramble for other explanations to answer the challenges that come when people ask about the origins of what we have in this world.

What are these pieces of good news that I am referring?  They start with Verse 1.

First, we have a closure on the creative act.  We know that evolution is not possible or still active today because God has said creation was complete on the 6th day. The mutations observed today have to do with the design of genes and the influence of the corruption that entered into the world at Adam’s fall, it is not evidence for evolution, micro or macro.

What is interesting to note is that the Bible does speak on modern subjects without using the modern terminology that everyone is familiar.  The word ‘evolution’ is a modern invention but the subject is actually an old one, Darwin was not the first to conceive of the theory. Its first recorded reference is found in 6th Century B.C. China. (8)

Second, we see the origin of the Sabbath.  Kenneth Ham, in his lecture series at Liberty Baptist Church, stated that ‘the day has its foundation in the earth’s rotation; the month in the moon’s orbit and the year in the earth’s orbit around the sun but the week is founded in the creative act’ (9) culminating in Chapter 2:2-3.

There is nothing in the universe that regulates the weekly periods except the word of God and His command, ‘six days shalt thou work …’(Ex. 31:15; 35:2; Lev. 23:3, Deut. 16:8 & Ez. 46:1). 

Third, we get details of the appearance of the pre-flood earth.  There was no rain at the time, and nothing grew until God planted His garden, there were underground springs, one main river which divided into four (of course here we need to make a note that since the flood we are not sure of the geography of the pre-flood world and if the rivers named today correspond with those four mentioned in ch.2. K. A. Kitchen makes a good argument concerning their modern location but I do not think it is strong enough as the Euphrates today is on the wrong side of the river (10).

Fourth, we have the origin of the names of all the animals.  They were not the invention of secular science or some ancient cultic ritual but the result of God’s decision to let His first man gain confidence in his abilities.  IT can be concluded that he did not name the millions of species but the categorical kinds and again we can see the ideas of evolution refuted before they become known.  Man did not marry a missing link but a full-fledged human created from his rib. Fifth, we see the origin of woman, her purpose and position.  She did not evolve over thousands of years, she was not from an ancestor of a monkey or gorilla, she came from man, thus her name, woman, reflects that origination.

Finally, we see the origination of the institution of marriage. Its roots were not found in secular societies nor was it a new creation after the flood, like the Sabbath day, marriage comes from the very beginning and has its source in God.  We do not know what ceremony they went through, most likely that is a later invention for all we are told is that from the 6th day forward, Adam and Eve were man and wife (v. 25).

Chapter two has a wealth of information about origins and all would lost if believers keep on compromising with secular science and replacing God’s word with un-provable scientific  theory and speculation.  Chapter 2, like chapter 1, speaks with confidence of the events it talks about and does not need science to validate its words, unfortunately secular science cannot provide any answers to those items on its own accord.  It must construct a more fanciful explanation that takes more faith to believe than the Bible does.

Genesis 4

This chapter contains many events from the murder of Abel down to the birth of Seth but I will deal briefly with a couple and more in-depth with another in the little space that I have.  I chose to do the murder in passing because volumes have been written on it and my few words will not be that groundbreaking.  Let it suffice that I mention just 2 things that we see in this act of rage.

The first thing that we see is that God had in place a legal system prior to any secular construction.  Life before the flood was not a free-for-all anarchy but it was regulated with God providing the justice.  Why we are not given the law code at this time is not made known but we can see through the reactions of Adam, Eve and Cain that they knew of the penalties of their actions and were not surprised to be punished.

There were no complaints ‘hey, you never told us…’, they accepted God’s action as if they knew in advance of what would happen if they did wrong.  This telling of the murder and Cain’s subsequent punishment refutes all arguments that the secular world invented the legal system, or that it evolved and that the Biblical writers copied form their non-religious neighbors.

We have here a full account of the trial and condemnation of the first

murderer. Civil courts of judicature not being yet erected for this purpose,

as they were afterwards, God himself sits Judge; for he is

the God to whom vengeance belongs, and who will be sure to make

inquisition for blood, especially the blood of saints11

                                                                                                                        

Moral and legal laws were in place long before secular societies came into existence and copied from God.  We know God’s laws were carried into the post-flood world because Noah was a righteous man and he would have taught his sons, and their descendants on what was right and wrong.

The second, item we observe in this account is God’s mercy:

God’s care for the guilty sinner after he has

been punished12

God is not a heartless God nor a tyrannical despot as some modern atheists would describe him as being.  God hears people’s complaints, He hears their cries and if it is warranted, He applies mercy, thus when He tells His people in Micah 6:8-9 ‘to …love mercy, do justly…’ He remains consistent with Himself and His commands.

Although Cain expressed not penitence, but fear of punishment, God

displayed His long-suffering and gave him the promise, “Therefore (ˆKe not

in the sense of ˆKe alo, but because it was the case, and there was reason

for his complaint) whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on

him sevenfold.”13

God sets the example for modern Christians on how they should act when they are involved with the legal system.  They should not follow the popular opinion, they should not follow an unjust code or sentencing guideline, they are to follow God’s example and find the true guilty party, apply true charges, and in their verdicts apply true decisions with just sentences, couple with mercy when it is needed.

If the believer does not do it, then who will? The believer must also remember that justice is for all and if one person does not receive justice then no one has it but it is up to the believer to make the stand against the crowd or the crowd will not hear of the better way.

The end of this chapter contains the second item I will touch on briefly and it is found in verse 25-26.  Seth is born. Now it is commonly held that Cain and Abel are the first two children and Seth is third yet scriptures doesn’t give us any information on their birth order except to say that Cain came before Abel and those two came before Seth.

At the birth of the first son Eve exclaimed with joy, “I

have gotten a man with Jehovah;”14

We do not know how many children Adam and Eve had or when, that information is not germane to the Christian faith nor to shore up faith in God. It does not matter who was the first birth or even the last. All this passage shows is that giving birth was the same in the beginning as it is now and that lost children are replaced by their parents with new children.

The reason Seth’s birth is mentioned is that it establishes the genealogical line for God’s purpose later on.  For some reason no other children, from Adam and Eve, are deemed worthy enough to contribute to God’s revelation. We know they had other sons and daughter’s yet God chose Cain and Seth to be in the forefront of His plan.

We know this by the genealogy of Cain in this chapter and the one for Adam in the next and it is in the genealogy of Cain that I find my main point I want to focus on.  We read in verse 19-22 the following:

19 Then Lamech took for himself two wives: the name of one was Adah, and the name of the second was Zillah. 20 And Adah bore Jabal. He was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. 21 His brother’s name was Jubal. He was the father of all those who play the harp and flute. 22 And as for Zillah, she also bore Tubal-Cain, an instructor of every craftsman in bronze and iron. And the sister of Tubal-Cain was Naamah.

In this short passage we find 3 interesting facts: 1. A descendent of Cain was the father of all nomads; 2. another descendent of Cain’s was the father of those who played certain musical instruments; 3. A third descendent of Cain’s became the instructor of every craftsman in two metals.  These are great distinctions for a man whose life was marred by a murder.  Seth’s line gets two distinction and they far overshadow Cain’s family honors, Enoch walked with God & Noah was a righteous man, but no one else in Seth’s line is credited like Cain’s.

For Cain’s descendants to maintain such honor, then they must have had descendants on the ark. They could not be the father of nomads or musicians or be the instructor of craftsmen if none of Cain’s people were carried to safety during the flood.  Since we know that Noah was of Seth’s line that makes his sons the same. They are of Seth But what of their wives?

We know nothing about them, except that they are mentioned as Noah’s wife, ‘and their wives’ and so on. No names, no heritage, nothing to indicate where they came from save for these few verses in chapter 4.

There does not seem to be any passages in the Bible referring to her other than the account beginning in Genesis 7:7 which mentions Noah's wife. His wife is not named in the Bible for certain; however, according to Jewish tradition her name is Naamah. Why Tubal-cain's sister (a daughter of Lamech by his wife Zillah, and sister of Tubal-cain, a descendant of Cain) should be specifically mentioned is unknown. Jewish tradition made her Noah's wife. Her name, meaning "the beautiful" or "the pleasant one," reflects the worldly mind of the Cainites, who looked for beauty rather than for character as the chief attraction in women15

So that means at least 2 of the wives were from Cain’s descendants which tells us that not all of Cain’s descendants were bad and not all of Seth’s people were good as they were lost in the flood like the rest of the population of that time.  We can conclude then that people from both lines survived the flood and the world contains the genes from all pre-flood humans.

We can see evidence of this in chapter 6 where it talks about the Nephilim, ‘The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterwards…’ (6:4).  The members of Noah’s family carried forward all the genetic combinations needed to produce more giants as time went on and it proves that this group were not ‘angels or spirit men’ as some believe(16) but actual human beings.

It is possible that all 4 were from Cain’s line or 1 was from Seth’s or another sibling’s, we just do not know, God is silent on the matter and all we have from the Book of Jubilees are their names:

All of these names are interesting for whatever value they might add to the story of our ancestors. Ham’s wife was Ne’elatama’uk; Japheth’s wife was Adataneses; and Shem’s wife was Sedeqetelebab. Each son built a city and named it after his wife. Noah dwelt on Mount Lubar, in the Ararat mountain range, where the Ark landed. Shem built a city in front of the mountain on the east; Ham built his city on the south; and Japheth built the city of Adataneses west of Mount Lubar.17

God may not  always tells us in explicit language what is happening but he does leave clues as to what has taken place and we must look to the Holy Spirit to help discern what those clues are telling us. 

Genesis 10

The advantage the believer has over the non-believer is that we have a book, Genesis, that talks about origins.  We do not have to waste out time in scientific study, or historical research to know where we came from and why. Gen. 1 has the origin of the universe and all that is within it. Chapter 2 has the origin of the Sabbath and woman. Genesis 3 has the origin of sin and spiritual judgment and Chapter 4 we have the civil disobedience and civil judgment.

Skipping to Chapter ten, we are now given the origin of the different nations of the world.  It is interesting to note the differing amounts between the sons as there was not an equal share:

“Twenty-six of the seventy descended from Shem, thirty from Ham and fourteen from Japheth.”18

No reason is given for such disparity and it really isn’t that significant that we know of, except it is Ham, who sins, has his son cursed but ends up with the most nations credited to him.

One of the controversies surrounding this list is that most modern scholars do not know where these nations ended up or who their modern equivalent is and because of this lack of information they are ready to dismiss the scriptures instead of their own lack of knowledge:

“While some of the nations listed are easily identifiable, some remain obscure. Numerous scholars have attempted to identify these unknown nations with varying degrees of success. Due to the archaic nature of the source material, there remains considerable ambiguity”19

We do not have sufficient records which track all people but if we look at near modern or modern examples we might get a clue as to why we lose track of their existence.  For the near modern example we only have to look as far as the Olmecs/Mayans/Aztecs to see that the people may have remained the same but their identity had been changed.

“The earliest of the major Meso-American civilizations was the Olmec culture, which is often regarded as the fostering influence behind the Mayan, Aztec, and other later societies”20

The modern example would be the North American Indian.  No longer thought of as different nations or different peoples, they are now identified by the name of the modern nation in which they reside.  They are called Canadians or Americans now, not the Iroquois, the Blackfoot, the Sioux, the Apache and so on.  Their independent identity is now lost and their records, achievements and history are now folded into North American lore.

So it is not hard to understand that many ancient nations are now lost to us forever plus the simple fact that we just haven’t discovered (dug up) those nations records.  One thing we do get from the Biblical list is the specific origins of some of the people who inhabit the earth.

In verse 4 we see that the maritime people arose and it is made clear that each had their own language, then in verse 8 we read of the exploits of Nimrod, and in verse 13 we are given the very specific origin of the Philistines (to remove all doubt about where they started). Finally we are given the exact boundary of Canaan in verse 19. 

With this information we have a general idea of the whereabouts of many ancient nations. Then we can turn to the secular records of the different nations throughout the world and get more information as to where these people scattered to. For example the 3rd book of the Popol Vuh has this to say about the Mayan origin:

“Tulan was a place of misfortune to man, for not only did he suffer from cold and famine, but here his speech was so confounded that the first four men were no longer able to comprehend each other. They determined to leave Tulan, and under the leadership of the god Tohil set out to search for anew abode. On they wandered through innumerable hardships. Many mountains had they to climb, and a long passage to make through the sea which was miraculously divided for their journey from shore to shore. At length they came to a mountain”21

Discovering the location of man of these ancient nations is not going to be easy.  Names change, records are lost or destroyed, if they are written at all, as is the case of the Aborigines of Australia:

“Aborigines had no written language before contact with Europeans, but have a rich oral history”22

Does it matter if we cannot locate these nations?  Is the Bible discredited because their identity and location remain a mystery? No on both counts, for it is an unrealistic expectation to have the Bible list modern versions of the ancient names, when the names listed were the modern version. Also it is not the Bible’s purpose to track all the different nations and their changes. It is sufficient that the Bible lists the origin, for that is what the book of Genesis is all about.

Plus as Keil and Delitzsch state Genesis originates the preparations for the coming Messiah:

“In this respect the genealogies prepare the way for the promise of the blessing, which was one day to spread from the chosen family to all the families of the earth”23

And we can see the consistency of God as He starts in the beginning to reveal His plan and carries it out throughout the whole Bible.

Turning briefly to Genesis 10: 8-12, we come to the story of Nimrod and some commentators feel that the meaning of the name determines his character and personality.  It may be so but we are not told anything of the sort in the Biblical account:

“Was “Nimrod” Godly or Evil?
First, what does the name Nimrod mean? It comes from the Hebrew verb marad, meaning “rebel.” Adding an “n” before the “m” it becomes an infinitive construct, “Nimrod.” (see Kautzsch 1910: 137 2b, also BDB 1962: 597). The meaning then is “The Rebel.” Thus “Nimrod” may not be the character’s name at all. It is more likely a derisive term of a type, a representative, of a system that is epitomized in rebellion against the Creator, the one true God. Rebellion began soon after the Flood as civilizations were restored. At that time this person became very prominent.”24

And we have this from Keil and Delitzsch:

“The name itself, Nimrod from dræm;, “we

will revolt,” points to some violent resistance to God.”25

But that is faulty reasoning in and of itself.  For that would mean that every person named Paul would be small in stature and humble or that every person named David would be beloved but we know that that just isn’t so, for the latter is the name of many different serial killers and none of them are ‘beloved’.  Thus to assume that Nimrod rebelled against

                                                                                                                      

God simply because his name means ‘we will revolt’ is an assumption that should not be made and further evidence is needed.

What we do know about Nimrod is that he was a mighty hunter, a mighty warrior, a builder of cities and a traveler.  Since Genesis is a book of origins, probably the only reason Nimrod is mentioned is to provide a clue as to the origin of Sumer (26) or the first organized civilization after the flood.

Other than that one only has questions as to why Nimrod is mentioned at all, but we cannot limit him to just Sumer, for it is mentioned in the next verse that he traveled to Assyria and built more cities there, contributing to the Assyrian society.  This would raise a question as to who came first, Sumer or Assyria.

Though Ch. 11 may provide some clue as the tower of Babel was built in the plain of Shinar after a migration from the west.  But this is an investigation for another time.  Suffice it to say that it is possible that Nimrod was a rebellious person, that he was the one who started to lead Noah’s descendants astray from God, we cannot be sure as Shem lived 500 years after the flood (11:11) and his influence would have been strong, (also, giving reason for the migration to the east).

The story of Nimrod is an interesting one, its inclusion has a purpose though it is not clear except to show the origin of the people who lived in the land of Shinar and that he was the first conqueror of other lands. The theories abound.

Finally, in Genesis we have a variety of events even in the 3 chapters discussed here, and the theme is a common one. From the creation to the Diaspora, and beyond, the reader is given origin after origin, which, in turn, answers all the questions people have about their own existence.

All one has to do is accept the answers by faith and believe but too often they wish to remain with the questions and seek for their answers in the wrong places because they cannot bring themselves to accept these accounts.  They have allowed alternatives to fill the void even though those alternatives do not answer their questions but leave them with more.

Such wastes more time, energy and money but people are stubborn and deceived thus they would rather do the former instead of opting for the simple way.  God has spared us much time, and expense by giving us the answers without having to search for them for He knows we have better things to do than be distracted by foolish quests insufficiently answered by incomplete data (historical records).

Genesis may be the book of origins but it is also a book of answers.

Lesson from Nehemiah

Nehemiah Chapters 1, 4, & 5

In these selections I will generally deal with the whole passage but specifically target certain points that stand out from the rest of the verses. I will not get bogged down into the academic debates or controversies that come with the books of the Bible as they are not germane to the purpose of this assignment.

Suffice it to say that skeptics do abound and one example is:

“While the book as a whole is considered to have come from Nehemiah, it

consists in part of compilation. He doubtless wrote the greater part himself,

but some portions he evidently took from other works.”1

Such arguments and debates detract from the message being given by God to His people and seek to discourage them in their Christian life.  Though the Christian needs to be aware of such controversies, they should not be made of much importance when it comes to the study of God’s word.

The believer needs to focus on what God is saying and believe that He has transmitted His word perfectly so that they can have confidence that they are studying the truth.  Without that confidence the believer opens the door to being led astray and away from vital aspects of the Christian life.

Chapter 1

Here in the beginning of the book we are given the setting for what is to follow.  The time of the arrival of the news from Nehemiah’s homeland is but a backdrop and has no real significance except for the very opening line:

“By the addition "son of Hachaliah,"

Nehemiah is distinguished from others of the same name (e.g., from

Nehemiah the son of Azbuk, Neh 3:16). Another Nehemiah, too, returned

from captivity with Zerubbabel, Ezra 2:2. Of Hachaliah we know nothing

further, his name occurring but once more, Neh 10:2, in conjunction, as

here, with that of Nehemiah”2

Nehemiah makes sure that the reader clearly knows who the author is and that there is no confusion with other men with the same name.  This is important merely for the fact that many skeptics would use the generality to cast doubt upon the validity of the work and make all sorts of false accusations against the author. Pus they would attribute other men’s evil or disqualifying behavior to the real Nehemiah hoping to discredit him and his work.

With the clarification, the reader is ensured of the character of the author and that his life and work cannot be sullied.  After Nehemiah hears the news, we get an insight to his character in v.4, which states: ‘When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven…’

Here we see the love Nehemiah has for his love and concern for his people who were left behind in Judah and not taken into captivity.  There is nothing selfish about the man and nothing prideful.  We know this because he does not tell the reader of his position in the Babylonian court until the end of the chapter and does so more as an afterthought than a point of conceit. As we see by this comment by Hayford’s Bible handbook:

Our first glimpse of Nehemiah is in his role as cupbearer at the court of Artaxerxes. A cupbearer had a position of great trust as advisor to the king and had the responsibility of keeping the king from being poisoned. While Nehemiah no doubt enjoyed the luxury of the palace, his heart was in Jerusalem, a little city on the far frontier of the empire.

Nehemiah’s prayer and fasting, qualities of leadership, powerful eloquence, inspirational organizational skills, confidence in God’s purpose, and quick, decisive response to problems qualify him as a great leader and man of God. Most importantly, he shows us a self-sacrificing spirit whose only interest is summed up in his repeated prayer, “Remember me, O my God, for good.”3

What was important to Nehemiah, and this is very clearly pointed out in verse 4, is not what he could gain, who he was or if anyone knew his good fortune, but the condition of his people.  This is an attitude that should be reflected in modern day Christians yet, the pursuits of modern activities have pushed such feelings out of the majority of Christian congregations.

This attitude of concern and importance compelled Nehemiah to do 3 things.  First, he wept, and we see this pure emotion reflected in Jesus action at the tomb of Lazarus when we are told ‘He wept.’ There were no ulterior motives in these actions, just pure love for the person, and in Nehemiah’s case the people of Judah. Nothing else concerned them than what has happened to the people and it causes them to cry without fear, showing the purity of their feelings and action.

Second, he fasted.  The pure sorrow that Nehemiah felt for his people caused him to forgo eating and concentrate on the problem that vexes his spirit.  This bad news is so important to Nehemiah that his own nourishment takes a back seat the issue at hand. This act is a good example for the modern believer on how they should be when they obey the instruction to fast and pray.  Fasting is not a mere fulfillment of a command, and done merely to meet the instruction but shows what the true attitude of the believer should be and that it is done because the sorrow is too great and one’s wellbeing is secondary to solving the problem.

The third action we see Nehemiah doing is prayer.  He does not first go to his supervisor, he does not go first to the ruler of the land, he even does not first go to a priest or spiritual leader with his sorrow or request. He goes to God, and he provides another great example for the believer to follow.  The Christian is qualified to come to God and can make direct supplication to Him, they do not need permission of man to become involved with the problems of those they love, a believer just need God’s permission and direction.

One note, the act of prayer is qualified in the next few words. Nehemiah did not pray in front of people, He did not advertise his prayer, he drew no attention to himself and what he was doing. He simply did it before God and for God to see alone.  Again, we see the New Testament instruction, ‘Go into your prayer closet and pray secretly…’ (slight paraphrase) exampled for the modern believer, in the Old Testament.  This shows that what was taught in the Old is as valid as what is taught in the New and that God is consistent with His teachings and is not hypocritical.

Now from verse 4 to 11 we get the content of Nehemiah’s prayer and it is a great example for the New Testament believer to follow.  It does not contradict Jesus’ example but compliments it.  We see by the opening line the recognition of who God is, just like the Lord’s Prayer, the great God of heaven.  Mathew Henry has this to say:

. “His humble and reverent address to God, in which he prostrates himself before him, and gives unto him the glory due unto his name, v. 5. It is much the same with that of Daniel, ch. 9:4. It teaches us to draw near to God, 1. With a holy awe of his majesty and glory, remembering that he is the God of heaven, infinitely above us, and sovereign Lord over us, and that he is the great and terrible God, infinitely excelling all the principalities and powers both of the upper and of the lower world, angels and kings; and he is a God to be worshipped”3

Nehemiah humbles himself before He makes his request, to make sure his heart is right before God. Then in the next words we see him remind himself and God what God does, ‘who keeps His covenant of love with those who love Him and obey his commandments…’

Nehemiah is not assuming anything but makes a reminder that he needs to love and obey God to ensure that his requests are granted, he cannot be hypocritical  and needs to make sure his life is in order with God’s demands.

Matthew Henry refers to this as having confidence in the fact that God keeps His promise and bestows mercy upon His people.4

Then with that requirement met, he then asks, not demands, that God would listen and observe his servant’s actions prior to making this request. Nehemiah proceeds to confess not only his sins but the sins of all the people. He did not need permission to do that for his sorrow was so great that he had to confess on their behalf so that they would receive the fulfillment of his request. Matthew Henry states;

“In the confession of sin, let these two things be owned as the malignity of it—that it is a corruption of ourselves and an affront to God; it is dealing corruptly against God, setting up the corruptions of our own hearts in opposition to the commands of God.”5

Before we ask, we need to cleanse our hearts of the sin that has brought the affliction that harass us. Nehemiah goes beyond himself for his request is not for himself, it is for God’s chosen people. It is an unselfish act driven by a pure heart which has been made remorseful upon hearing the news of the condition of his people. The serious believer needs to take note of this heart attitude if they want to accomplish much for God.

Next Nehemiah reminds God of His promise to Moses, that ‘if you return to me and obey my commandments, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my name.’

This promise cannot be far from the modern Christian’s mind, for it shows that God will not forsake His people and will restore them BUT only if they return to obey His commands.  This is a problem that has plagued the modern organized church for centuries.  It has allowed itself to be compromised, to be lead astray from God’s commands and instructions that it is of little use to God. 

The modern church has disobeyed what has been taught in the Bible and the church has become weak and spread out in its thinking, so that what is taught in many churches is far from what God has said.  It has accepted secular teachings over what the Bible has said thus its impact is minimal at best.

The true believer must start to pray for the God’s people, confess not only their sins, but the sins of those who claim to be Christian and then start to rebuild the faith that keeps believers safe from the strategies of the devil. The heart of the believer should be with God’s will not their own and they should be remorseful, in deep sorrow and begin to fast and pray for the condition of the modern believer, so that they can be restored and make an impact for God before it is too late.

Nehemiah ends his prayer with another reminder of who he is praying for—God’s servants and people. We can transfer this request to the modern believer as well. They are God’s people and servants whom God has redeemed through Jesus’ sacrifice.  Finally Nehemiah does not rest upon his own supplication. He mentions that there are others praying who do obey God’s commands and worship Him. As Matthew Henry puts it:

. “He pleads the relation wherein of old they stood to God: "These are thy servants and thy people (v. 10), whom thou hast set apart for thyself, and taken into covenant with thee. Wilt thou suffer thy sworn enemies to trample upon and oppress thy sworn servants? If thou wilt not appear for thy people, whom wilt thou appear for?’’ See Isa. 63:19. As an evidence of their being God’s servants he gives them this character (v. 11): "They desire to fear thy name; they are not only called by thy name, but really have a reverence for thy name; they now worship thee, and thee only, according to thy will, and have an awe of all the discoveries thou art pleased to make of thyself; this they have a desire to do,”6

Nehemiah closes with a plea for a positive answer, but it must be made clear that Nehemiah is not making a selfish request. He is not looking to benefit from his request, he does not even ask God to make him the leader of the task to restore God’s people, He lets God decide how he will answer and whom He will choose to lead the restoration.

Prayer must be made honestly and without hidden motives, they must be pure so that the petitioner cannot take credit for the answer or success of the venture. That glory, that honor belongs to God so that even the unbeliever will take notice and know that God acts and is responsible for what transpired.

Chapter 4

We turn now to chapter 4 and we see where Nehemiah faces opposition and the modern believer must be reminded of the fact that whenever they do something for God, they will face opposition.  Not only from the unbelieving world but also from their own side, (2 Tim. 3 & 4) and Nehemiah sets the example once again for the modern believer to know how to act.

One of his enemies was Sanballet and we know a little about him:

Sanballet is also mentioned in a papyrus from Elephantine in upper Egypt. He is well known as the devious and malicious enemy of Nehemiah. He was governor of the province of Samaria in 445 B.C., when Nehemiah arrived in Zion; by 410 B.C. Sanballet was an aged man, whose son Delilah acted in his name. Sanballet gained notoriety in the Bible for his opposition to the restoration of the walls of Jerusalem, and for conspiring against the life of Nehemiah, in league with Tobiah, the Jewish governor of Amman, and Gashmu (Geshem), king of the Qedarite league.7

Like modern Christians, Nehemiah was faced with what seemed like a formidable foe but unlike some modern Christians who take opposition as a sign that they are going against God and quit, Nehemiah turns to God for help. Not all opposition, even that from Christians, is a message from God indicating one is doing wrong.  The modern Christian needs to do what Nehemiah did and look to God to see them through.

After the prayer, Nehemiah went back to work.  This is another example for the modern Christian, as once they have prayed many do not return to their task, but Nehemiah’s action shows faith in God and we see that that faith was rewarded.  It is a simple act, but it says a lot about Nehemiah’s attitude. He knew who God was, he had confidence in Him and he knew he was doing God’s work thus he did not falter, he did not put his eyes on his enemies but kept them on God.

One of the reasons many people turn away from God and their belief, is that they do what Peter did when he walked on water towards Jesus.  They take their eyes of Jesus and put it on the secular world and its threats and soon doubt creeps in and destroys them. We have seen this happen in archaeology where people like Bart Ehrman, a born again Christian who was studying to become a Biblical scholar.  He took his eyes of Jesus and put them on the fact that the original manuscripts were lost and he was soon destroyed by doubt.8  He did achieve his objective of becoming a Biblical scholar but he is a skeptic, an unbeliever and a critic of the Bible.

The next thing we see take place in this chapter is that the threat did not disappear right away. Sanballet and others conspired to attack Jerusalem, but this did not get Nehemiah upset, or afraid.  He simply put guards up at different points around the city while half the men did the work.  This is another good Old Testament reality that provides a good foundation for New Testament teaching.

Here we see that after prayer, Nehemiah acted which provides the example for the unbeliever that they are not just to pray and stand around waiting for a supernatural act but that they are to do things to protect themselves.  We see in Ephesians one act that they can do to help keep them safe.

It is called putting on the whole armor of God, (Eph. 6:10ff)  As Nehemiah had to pick and arm his men, so must the Christian pick up his or her armor and arm themselves for  possible battle. Yes God promises to help, but that does not mean that the believer does nothing.  One of the big misunderstandings in the Christian world is how is God going to act.  Most people expect God to wave a ‘magic wand’ or do some other powerful act when that is just not so.

As we see by Nehemiah’s example, he had to physically post guards, give them weapons, then tell his people to actually fight for what is theirs but he also had them keep their eyes on God for he encourages them with the words, ‘Our God will fight for us.’  Now some may take the English there to say that God will physically come down and take part in the fighting, but that is not how God does it. He usually provides aid to the person directly so that they will see their foes vanquished enabling them to become stronger in faith in Him.

As with Nehemiah, the Christian does not have to worry about if his enemy will hear about who defends them.  Nehemiah 4:15 tells us that ‘his enemies heard that the Hebrews were aware of the plan and that God had frustrated it.’ The word will get out and it will cause unbelievers to tremble or be afraid so that they will not attack.

Just like when Joshua lead the people of Israel against Jericho (Joshua 2) the people of that city were overcome with fear and we know what took place at that time.  The same with Nehemiah, his enemies threatened but never attacked and he was able to complete the wall without loss of a man.  The modern believer needs to take heart from this example of faith through adversity and see how God keeps his people safe.

Now there is one contingency to all this. Nehemiah’s people did not just put their armor on when they worked, then took it off when the felt like it.  No, verse 22, tells us that he and his men kept their clothes on and their weapons handy even when they went to get water. So must the modern believer keep his full armor on for one never knows when they will be attacked by evil.

This chapter of Nehemiah presents the modern believer with many examples to base their own actions upon. First, when trouble comes they need to turn to God.  God will direct them to the right place, the right people, the right weapons, the right Bible verse and so on but the believer has to be patient and wait for that instruction.

Second, when going to God and trusting in Him, the believer must not take their eyes of Jesus.  They need to keep their faith and not look at the trouble or the people bringing the opposition for then they will be overwhelmed and defeated.

Third, as with Nehemiah, the believer doesn’t just sit there waiting for a miracle, they put their defenses on and arm themselves in order to be ready for battle. Then they continue working, striving to finish the task given to them by God.  They do not give up, they do not quit, they do not whine nor complain, they stand strong.

Fourth, this was not touched on earlier but it is very important, they help defend each other just as Nehemiah instructed his men to do.  Christians do not win all their battles alone, they do need the help and support from their fellow believers or the enemy will overwhelm them and destroy what has been built.

Finally, the believer needs to remain defended and armed at all times.  Again like Nehemiah and his men who went nowhere without their sword and armor, so must the believer be clothed with the armor of God.  Spiritual warfare takes place at any time and most without warning thus the believer must be prepared and ready to do battle.

Nehemiah 5.

One of the first things we notice in this chapter is that even with a pure hearted endeavor as Nehemiah’s there are those who oppress the less fortunate people in the country.

“The people complain of oppression.-V. 1. There arose a great

cry of the people and of their wives against their brethren the Jews, i.e., as

appears from what follows (v. 7), against the nobles and rulers, therefore

against the richer members of the community”9

What is important to see here is that even when God has commissioned a work, He does not restrict freedom of choice. This outcry from those less fortunate provide evidence for this fact.  The rich in this case have the same ability to choose to do God’s way as instructed by the Mosaic law (still in force at this time for the Jewish people) or they may choose to follow their own desires and benefit from evil endeavors.

It seems that they chose the latter and without any leniency or mercy:

“Apparently the situation for the poorer members of the community was rather severe. They had come to the point of desperation and hunger… Some of the people had mortgaged their properties in order to secure the necessary funds to buy corn.

4–5. Others had borrowed money in order to pay taxes to the king. The problem was compounded by the fact that some of them had sold their children into bondage, and now they could not redeem them. The entire situation was one of destitution. They were without money, food, property, and family.”10

In this chapter we see that God remains consistent with Himself, and His way of doing things.  As He gave Adam and Eve free choice to obey or not, so He gives the Israelites the same opportunity and men being who they are fall to the temptation of acquired wealth. Though to be fair we cannot assume that all of the rich were this way for we are given only generalities in the passage.

We can see this consistency in God’s character today as He gives the modern church the same freedom to obey His commands and teachings or not.  God is not some despot who ruthlessly forces His people to follow Him upon threat of imprisonment or death. He allows His creation to make choices and He allows them to make mistakes, hoping that they will learn from them and become wiser people who will be willing to make an impact for Him among the unbelievers

Since Nehemiah is the leader of these people, he hears these complaints and he too must make a choice, does he support the rich or does he make things right.  But we have an advantage, we know Nehemiah’s character and pure heart thus we already know what he will do without further reading the passage—he will make things right:

“Nehemiah was angry when he discovered the injustice of this situation. He gathers the rich members of the community together and brings this injustice to their attention… Nehemiah calls all of the Jewish community together for a great assembly.”11

From verse 7 this chapter provides the modern day believer an example for what to do when their fellow Christians are openly committing sin and disobeying God.  There is no kangaroo court, there is no dictatorial sweeping decision, there is no action taken that would cast suspicion on the honesty, the justice, the decision. Christians need to conduct their affairs in such a matter that God is held without blame, that they present a good example so that the unbelieving world can see the difference between their system of ‘justice’ and God’s:

“If they continued to sell their brethren into bondage, then this will give opportunity for the heathen to criticize and despise them. Nehemiah was conscious of the fact that the heathen would look for every opportunity to mock the Jewish community. Consequently, they were to portray to the outside world a community of love and understanding. This is also true today. Christians sometimes mistreat one another, and this ultimately gives a bad testimony to the heathen community.[1][1]”12

What does Nehemiah do that sets this apart from secular legal proceedings? First, He takes His own counsel:

“By this it appears that his anger was

not excessive, but kept within bounds, that, though his spirit was

provoked, he did not say or do anything unadvisedly. Before he rebuked

the nobles, he consulted with himself what to say, and when, and how.”13

He does not seek to prejudice his own perspective by calling in friends, advisors or legal experts, he looks for the right way to do things,  We may assume that he looked to God at this time, but we  cannot be sure for we are not told what took place during this time. Thus the modern Christian must do the same, instead of looking for reasons to justify their own goals and desired action, they must consult themselves and God to see what is the correct way to go.

Second, Nehemiah did not make a false accusation but charged the nobles with the exact offense. He did not seek to add more crimes to their deeds as some modern prosecutors do today, he stuck with the actual complaints. (v.7). The believer can do no different, to add more charges would be wrong and shows a unjust motive in one’s actions.

“but Bertheau

has shown that the expression used, which is peculiar to Nehemiah, cannot

have this meaning, since it is not the taking of usury that has been

complained of, or that Nehemiah is especially anxious to stop, but the

lending of money upon the security of lands, houses, or children, with its

consequences, the forfeiture of the lands and houses, with the enslavement

of the children. He therefore translates, “I rebuked the nobles, and the

rulers, and said unto them, Ye lend upon pledge.14

Notice that Nehemiah’s charge is very exact and made so that the accused clearly understand what they have done wrong.

Third, after the accusation or filing of charges, the ‘trial’ is made public and the accused get to face their accusers.  Notice that those being accused said nothing in their defense as 2 Cor. 13: 8 tells us that we ‘can do nothing against the truth’ and we see that exampled here in the Old Testament.

The modern believer needs to speak the truth at all times if they want to leave the accused with no defense for their actions. And honestly achieve their objective.  God does not want His people to use sin, He does not grant permission to use sin to do His will or for the Christian life thus the modern believer needs to prune the secular ideas and practices from their minds and attitudes and replace them with God’s ways and teachings.

Fourth, Nehemiah doesn’t practice hypocrisy and includes himself in the decision (v. 10). One cannot be a true leader or follower of God if they tell others to do what they won’t. leaders are not exempt from following God’s ways and the modern believer needs to take note here, that they are not here to tell others what to do, while they enjoy a different set of rules, they are not above God’s ways and must conform to them if they want to be effective for God and bring justice to the church.

Fifth, we see that Nehemiah not only extracts a promise from the accused to change their ways but he makes them swear an oath in front of the priests and people. One may think that swearing an oath is meaningless but God does not see it that way as He warns in the New Testament about not keeping one’s oath (Mt. 5:33ff) and that it is better not to swear but simply make your word your bond.

Sixth, It should be noted that Nehemiah did not threaten these rich men with prison nor ruin their lives.  In today’s world to many people, both Christian and non, think that sending someone to prison for a long time, ruining their lives, is the solution to today’s problem.  It is not, for that usually breeds contempt for what is right and those who pretend to follow it.

Law and order does not necessarily mean that justice is done, even Hitler used the idea of to help him win power:

"The streets of our country are in turmoil. Communists are seeking to destroy our country. Russia is threatening

us with her might. Yes, danger from within and without. We need law and order. Without law and order our nation

cannot survive" Adolph Hitler 1931 (15)

The sentence must be just, must be done God’s way so that repentance, rehabilitation can be real and so that all the people can see that justice was done and is for all.  The sentence passed by Nehemiah here was reimbursement and you can read the specifics in v. 11.

The final thing that needs to be highlighted is that this was not just a decision made by one person as we see in v. 13 that all the people agreed and then praised God for the just action that had taken place. The people’s burden was lifted and the accused were not ruined.

It is important to see the last line of that verse, “ And the people did as they promised.’  It is a simple statement to notify all that harsh threats, imprisonment, and other punitive measures were not needed.  Just one’s word was enough.  Justice was served, the people were satisfied and the rich were rehabilitated.  God’s ways is the best way and the modern believer needs to separate themselves from the world and do the same, if they want their testimony to have any meaning and reap a harvest.

Conclusion

There are two things of importance found in the book of Nehemiah which the modern believer needs to realize.  First, the book of Nehemiah is an example of how the believer should conduct themselves.  Everything that this cupbearer does finds support in the New Testament teachings of Jesus and His disciples.

We see how one is to pray, a forerunner to Jesus’ teaching the disciples and if one wants to compare prayers they will see how close they really are.  Then we see how one’s heart condition is to be as Nehemiah does not ask anything for himself but is unselfish and of a pure heart.  Which supports the many passages in the New Testament speaking on having pure hearts or having one’s heart purified.

In chapter 4 we are provided with an example of how to act when faced with opposition when carrying out God’s will, and supports the actions done by the disciples as they were put in prison or threatened with violence.  Plus it lays the groundwork for the passage of scripture talking about putting on the whole armor of God.  The Christian must be ready , must be prepared and we see that in this book as well as the passages of scripture in the Old Testament that punish those who are sinful.

Sin cannot be a part of what God does or authorizes and the believer must take the time to cleanse themselves so that their work will be untainted and God will be honored.  Providing the sinful world with excuses is not what God is about, nor should the believer as God gives all people enough chances to repent from their sinful ways so that in the time of judgment, they are without excuse and can say nothing because the truth has been presented.

Finally in this point, we see how Christians should conduct their disciplinary actions so that they are above reproach and full of what God requires: Micah 6:8-9…’love mercy, do justly and humbly walk with God…’  Christians cannot follow the world’s ideas or strategies as that would be disobedience to God and His commands.

It also shows the unbelieving world that the believer’s system has nothing to offer them, that it is the same fallible unjust circus they so hate.  There is a reason why God says not to follow the world and this is one of the main ones. If the Christian world is not different then they have nothing to offer those who are seeking a better way, or an escape from the present corruption they must endure.

The second item of importance that needs to be highlighted is that throughout this whole book, God is silent.  He does not answer Nehemiah, He does not give special instructions and He does not intervene overtly.

This is very important to the modern Christian as in many cases they expect God to speak to them like He spoke to Abraham, to Moses or to Samuel yet He does not do that with everyone.  He did not do that with Nehemiah either. He has spoken and communicated His will in the Bible and it is up to the believer to implement those instructions and commands.  God will speak to certain people, prophets and prophetess, but to the general public He remains silent save for what He has already written.

That does not mean that the believer is free to apply the Bible in any method they wish. No, they need to follow the rules and allow the Holy Spirit to bring them to the truth so they know what they must do and obey.

Thus the believer needs to act on those commands and not wait for a physical voice to tell them what to do.  This does not mean that God is not intervening, we see in the fourth chapter that God did intervene, but He did so that was not in a supernatural, miraculous manner like he did with Paul when he was persecuting believers.

Nehemiah is full of lessons which apply to the modern Christian’s life and situations and this tells us that the Old Testament is as valid today as it was in Jesus’ time. It provides many living examples of what has been taught in the New Testament so that the believer will not be confused on what the New is telling them to do.

Lesson from Revelation

Revelation 2, 13, 20

Chapter 2

The Book of Revelation has a wealth of information, whether it be symbolism, metaphorical, foretelling the future or giving hope to the world weary believer.  Yet this paper is not going to focus on the symbolism, it is not going to decipher the metaphors, nor will it focus on geography of the 7 churches or other earthly references nor will it try to interpret who the different characters are.

There are other items of interest included in these pages that need to be brought forward as sometimes they are lost in the rush to focus on what is going to happen during the end times.  Over the years I have noticed how almost all new Christians turn to the last book of the New Testament first to find out what is going to happen in the future.

This attitude is a carry forward of the sinner’s desire to know what is coming in their life as they go to fortune tellers, psychics and other avenues that they think will help them find security in telling them the future. Of course these secular ways fail but they do not lose that curiosity.

This paper also will not address the spiritual inferences of the number ‘7’.  We all know the arguments and opinions on its significance:

“SEVEN is the number constantly symbolizing Christ and denoting

Perfection”1

It will touch on the 7 churches and I will discuss bits and pieces of all seven churches but focus more on Chapter 2 yet include chapter 3 because they are related and important for the believer.

One of the first lessons learned about Revelation is that it demonstrates the limited use of archaeology and science in general. The book is talking about the future and about the sins of those who follow Jesus. It is prophetic and outside the realm of secular science and archaeology.

This is one reason why we cannot totally trust these fields of study and must place the Bible ahead of them, for the Bible is not limited nor restrained by humanistic rules as secular science has been.  This is where a believer’s faith must stand strong and overcome the skepticism of the world.  Not everything can be analyzed by scientific study and secular science, let alone any field of study, is the final authority. Its conclusions, considering the source, are guesses at best especially when it comes to information pertaining to the Bible.

Thus the believer needs to let go of the secular fields when it comes to dealing with scriptures and its message, because the unbelief which permeates those fields of study distorts what God is revealing to the believer and look to the Holy Spirit to guide them to the truth, then stand firm in what they are being shown.

In chapters 2 &3 we have 7 churches mentioned and their sins are listed as God and Jesus wants them to repent and become better servants and better witnesses for them.  These sins are: lost their first love; false teachers; false teachings; sexual immorality; dead in Christ; incomplete deeds; being lukewarm.

Though it is interesting to note that not every church of this group had sins laid against them, 2 were given promises but even in those cases the same two phrases are used: ‘He that has ears, let him hear…’ and ‘He that overcomes…’ These are the two phrases that I will focus on in this first section of this paper.

Albert Barnes says this about one of these phrases:

“This expression

occurs at the close of each of the epistles addressed to the seven churches,

and is substantially a mode of address often employed by the Savior in his

personal ministry, and quite characteristic of him. See <401115>Matthew 11:15;

<410423>Mark 4:23; 7:16. It is a form of expression designed to arrest the

attention, and to denote that what was said was of special importance”2

He is correct as what is being said is of special importance and the modern Christian needs to take note.  The use of the general pronoun ‘he’ is very important for it is not limiting the message to just these 7 churches but is telling the modern Christian that they need to pay attention to what is being told to these congregations.

“What is written in the scriptures is spoken by the Spirit of God.

What is said to one church concerns all the churches, in every place

and age.”3

This is important for the modern believer to consider as the message of the Bible is not limited tone place and age, but is timeless for it applies to all of God’s followers. These churches are no different than the congregations that we have today as we hear of compromise, false teachings, wrong goals, and other activities by the church members and their pastors today. 

What God is telling them, He is telling all churches because all churches are made up of humans with the ability to freely choose what they will believe and follow.  All churches, as Jesus tells us, contain those members who would be considered the ‘tares’ (Mt. 13:36-43), who will sin or lead others to sin and it is important thus they are not exempt from what is being said in these chapters.

One thing that needs to be noted is that it is inferred that not everyone will listen to these warnings and promises. The structure of the sentence ‘He who has ears, let him hear…’ tells us that there will be those who will not be listening as they do not want to listen simply for the reason they do not believe nor want to change their lives.

In essence, the structure of the sentence is more of an imperative to all people to listen but reflects the assumption that many will ignore what was written to these churches. We are not given that information explicitly but it is there, covertly.

The second phrase that must be considered here is found at the end of each letter.  Not as an afterthought or as a bribe but as a clear cut promise that one can count on without worry. The phrase says ‘He that overcomes…’ and that tells us that modern believers cannot just rest upon their repentance and initial receiving of Jesus as their Savior, they must do things, they must stay true to God’s commands and teachings.

They must endure the persecution, pass on the temptations, keep from sin and if they are caught up in any of those sinful activities, they must repent.  God has rules, people do not like that fact as they want to be free to do whatever they want and still be able to make it to heaven.

Yet, that is just not so or God would not tell His followers ‘to overcome’ or make the promise ‘he that overcomes…’ The believer is not allowed to live the way they want, they must live according to the way that God says and turn away from evil. John Wesley has this to say:

“And in them to everyone that

overcometh; that goeth on from faith and by faith to full victory over the

world, and the flesh, and the devil. In these seven letters twelve promises

are contained, which are an extract of all the promises of God. Some of

them are not expressly mentioned again in this book, as “the hidden

manna,” the inscription of “the name of the new Jerusalem,” the “sitting

upon the throne…In these promises sometimes the enjoyment of

the highest goods, sometimes deliverance from the greatest evils, is

mentioned. And each implies the other, so that where either part is

expressed, the whole is to be understood”4

Then after that admonition to overcome, the promises are made, not to bribe or entice but genuine rewards for those who have heard His commands, who have rejected sin and overcome their deceitful ways.  God does not ask His people to do something for nothing, He does ask them to use faith and faith is required here to make it to the end to receive those rewards promised for hearing and obeying.

There is no alternative but to use faith, as neither archaeology nor science can provide any proof, or evidence that these rewards exist or will be given. We have to look to the Bible to draw strength as we endure to the end. The Bible shows the many promises of God being fulfilled through other people who had faith in Him. One example, the people of Israel receiving the promised land after leaving Egypt (a fulfillment of not one but two promises. One to Moses and one to Abraham).

The believer must take strength from those examples to help them keep their faith in God and His word.

Revelation 13

The focus of this section will not be on the identity of the two beasts nor of the wound that is healed for that would be mere speculation and impossible to support.  We are not told the identities by God and like the generality of Genesis 1, we are only given a generality in this chapter for the simple reason that Christians are not to waste their time in trying to track down what they cannot stop.

The believer’s duty is to do God’s work not be distracted by useless details which end up harming innocent people and ruining the reputation of the Christian and creating a stumbling block to Christ. In Genesis 1 we are only told, ‘In the beginning…’ for when the beginning was is not germane to the believer’s faith, nor is it important, it has taken place and cannot be undone.  What is important, is the following phrase: “God created…’  That is germane to the believer’s faith and that is what we are given.

The same for Revelation 13.  The identity of the beast is not given because it is not germane to the believer’s faith. Knowing who they are prior to their birth will only lead believers to commit sin trying to eradicate His ancestors to stop his birth or prevent his rise to power. That is not the Christian duty and it only brings disrepute upon the name of Christ.

What is important is the description of the beasts so that in those times, when they do take power the Christian can recognize who they are and preach warnings to all, to prepare food and other items to help those who do not take the mark and to be prepared for the coming of Christ.

To waste time worrying or investigating what cannot be known only removes precious preparation time, and takes away from doing God’s will. There are still many hurting people out there who need to experience Christ’s love, forgiveness and intervention in their problems and to stop meeting those needs is robbing those people of needed care and opportunities for Christ. The believer is being warned here of what is to come.  They have an advantage over the non-believer and they need to make the most of that grace period, not to get involved in worldly affairs but to do God’s work and prepare for those rough times.

Too many commentators try to identify the Roman Catholic Church as one of the beasts6 and one has this to say:

‘Both Daniel (7:25) and Revelation refer to the blasphemies (v. 5) associated with this beast. In New Testament times, blasphemy was defined as making oneself equal to God (John 10:33) and claiming the authority to forgive sins (Luke 5:21). The popes have done both of these things, making the papacy the quintessential blasphemer’.6

But to do so without confirmation or real proof would be foolish.  The believer needs to be content with the general description of who they are that is given in the Bible.  The believer is well prepared to identify false teachers and prophets because both Jesus and the disciples give criteria that clearly show the difference between true Christians and those who preach an alternative. (Mt. 7:15, 24:11, 2 Cor. 11:13, 1 Ti. 1:3,2Pe. 2:1).  These are the things that need to be taught young believers so that they may be aware of what to look for and be able to flee those that are false.

We do not need to teach them the personal identity of each one for we never know that until we encounter them face to face and if we do not know the signs of a false teacher, then we cannot be prepared to withstand their deceptive methods.

In verse 9 we again see the sentence that was used in chapters 2 and 3: ‘He who has an ear let him hear.’  The description and warnings are very important to the believer and they must start preparing for those times; mentally, physically and most importantly spiritually as the beast and his followers will make war on the saints.

“The Great Tribulation will be the hardest times of persecution the Jews have ever known”7

The believer is also warned in v. 10 that they will need patience, endurance and faithfulness as part of their arsenal.  Thus God is preparing His people, giving them advance warning so that they can take the right steps to be ready for what will come.  He is protecting His people even though they are going to suffer.

This is one thing a believer needs to be made aware, protection does not always mean hiding from or keeping away from danger.  As an example, parents often protect their children from danger, let’s say a power tool, by keeping the child away from the tool because they do not want their children to get hurt.  Unfortunately, the child may still get hurt later when using a power tool simply because they were not given proper instruction on what to do when using them. They had been shielded not taught. Protection is instruction.  Teaching the proper way to handle a tool is protecting the child and giving instruction on what to do when accidents happen is also providing protection.  Sheltering simply makes them afraid and incapable of handling difficult situations. 

Here God is protecting His people by instructing them of what is to come and admonishing them to listen for if they do not listen now, then they are vulnerable to the destructive forces later and unprepared to handle what comes.

The last thing in this chapter that needs to be highlighted comes in v. 16 & 17, ‘ He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead,  so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark…’

This is not a conspiracy theorist fantasy, it is the reality and we see it taking place right now.

People need to be trained, they need time to adjust to new things and they also need to be convinced that the new method is the right way to go.  It has taken decades to get people to operate via a number.  At first it was credit cards and those were given only to a few people and usually via department stores.  Then whole corporations sprung up offering free credit to those who qualified and soon the idea of using a number instead of cash became the norm.

But it wasn’t just banks who and department stores that offered this service.  In the past 15 years grocery stores and other businesses have been offering discount cards which provide sales but also tracks one’s shopping preferences and their time in the store.  In essence they are being conditioned to using a number to purchase what they want, all the while they are allowing themselves to be tracked.

Toll booth cards also do this as more and more people opt for the convenience of the automatic gates operated by electronic devices instead of using the cash lanes (of course these have cameras to help capture one’s use of these roads). The toll booth cards keep a record of your movements on certain roads, the grocery cards keep a record of your shopping excursions.

Soon all one’s time will be recorded and open to being traced, allowing officials to keep track of their citizens.  The old 70’s movie, A Thief in the Night’ describes this keeping track of all people8 but at the time technology did not exist to allow such record keeping.  Now there is technology that exists which tracks people and their movements. Like the credit card, the inventions of certain items had good causes behind their existence; for example, GPS for keeping track of cars and children (it is now being placed in their clothing).

There was a time when people went out of sight of their possessions and relatives, they were out of sight. Now a flick of a switch and they can be tracked anywhere at any time and there are businesses that do that for a person (On-star, etc.).  Were these part of an original conspiracy theory, I doubt it but like any invention for good purposes, guns for hunting, knives for many other human needs, they have a sinister side to them that can be exploited when the time is right and the general populace will be enslaved.

The problem is, they will not fear this because they only look at the good things, law and order, safety of their children, protection from those who dissent (Christians) and so on. Yet God has provided protection for His people by warning them of these things to come and all the believer has to do is recognize the signs and make the right decisions.

They also must be strong and prepare in advance for such times, as God’s people must always be prepared. I close this section with the words from the book, Revelation: Four Views:

“Many see in this passage a prediction of a cashless, worldwide economy in which credit/debit numbers assigned to individuals around the world replace the use of actual currency. Modern innovations in the banking industry may be leading in this direction. Eventually this number will be placed on the body of its possessor, possibly as an implanted computer chip or a laser-tattoo, in order to eliminate the possibility of theft or credit card fraud. Ryrie offers the basis for this literal view: “The word ‘mark’ means an impress made by a stamp, like a brand used on slaves and animals.” But not all, including Weidner, take it as a literal mark upon the skin:

Most commentators think that we dare not interpret here literally of an actual mark impressed,—that as in the case of the servants of God no actual visible mark is intended, so here the mark signifies, as Alford says, “rather conformity and addiction to the behests of the beast.’ ”

Without this number, it will be impossible for anyone to do business, placing men under intense economic pressure to conform, which Biederwolf envisions as including something of a mandatory labor union: “The Antichrist will control the labor market. In order to buy or sell one will have to join the organization of which the Antichrist is the head.”

Walvoord adds that “the mark is simply a token that they are beast worshipers, and it serves as an identification necessary to conduct business and to purchase the necessities of life. It is another device to force all people to worship the beast.”

Mounce seems to think that the implied “economic boycott seems to be a harassment of believers rather than a means of putting to death.” But most understand the text to teach that those who do not conform will have to face death. Those who do conform, receiving the mark, will face worse consequences than death in being cast into the lake of fire (14:10–11). As Gaebelein puts it,

the most terrible persecution is connected with this idol-worship. The most awful tyranny exists then, for all commerce is controlled by the Beast. Whoever does not have the mark of the Beast on hand and forehead cannot buy nor sell, and whoever does not worship the Beast will be killed. And those who worship the Beast and receive the mark are lost souls.”9

Revelation 20

In this section, I am not going to be bogged down in doctrinal debates of pre, post or amillenialism.   Such labels and doctrines are not germane to the Christian life and we find no Biblical teaching of any of the three.  What the focus of this section will be is on what will sustain the believer throughout all the trials and tribulations they will face because they opted to reject the world and follow Christ. That sustenance is called ‘hope’.  There are two events found in this chapter that provide ‘hope to the believer.   The first is found in verses 1-3 which state that Satan is finally bound, made captive and removed from working his evil on earth.

“ekrathsen <2902>. The word denotes “the employment of strength” or

“force”; and it implies that he had power superior to that of the dragon.”10

What this tells the believer is that God and His angels are stronger than the devil, and they will overcome his evil work.  It also tells them that what they endure is temporary and the evil they suffer will come to an end.

These two facts alone provide the needed information for the believer to be patient, to endure and to continue to have faith, as they are exhorted to do in a previous chapter.  These verses help the believer to ‘keep their eyes on Jesus’ as they are tempted, tortured, and tormented by the forces of evil. Something Peter was to do when he stepped out of the boat in a storm to walk towards Jesus.

What we are not told is why the devil must be set free for ‘a short time’ (v.3).  God has seen it fit not to tell us the reason and the one found in the King James Commentary is not a sufficient answer:

Why? Simply, God would reveal to us that he has not changed his nature, and that man still is susceptible to his wiles and stratagems.11

We must console ourselves with the Scripture found in Isaiah, ‘My ways are not your ways’ (paraphrased0 and trust in God and realize His purpose for Satan is not complete.  There is still more to do.  One theory could be that after the thousand years of forced obedience, God still wants His creation to freely choose Him, by speculation is not good here and we must rest in the fact that God is in control at this time as He always has been.

The second event we notice that provides hope to the believer is found in verses 11 to 15 and they describe the final judgment:

We behold the throne, and tribunal of judgment, great and white, very

glorious and perfectly just and righteous. The throne of iniquity, that

establishes wickedness by a law, has no fellowship with this righteous

throne and tribunal.12

After a lifetime of seeing injustice, bad decisions, bribery, and all other manner of games which help the offender escape paying for their crime, the believer can take heart in the fact that the final judgment contains nothing evil and all will be judged fairly, honestly, with justice.  There will be no favoritism, no leniency for the weaker sex as all face the same judge and all have the same rules applied to their lives.

“The issue of the trial and judgment; and this will be according to the

evidence of fact, and rule of judgment. All those who have made a

covenant with death, and an agreement with hell, shall then be condemned

with their infernal confederates, cast with them into the lake of fire, as not

being entitled to eternal life, according to the rules of life laid down in the

scripture;”13

No one escapes this judgment, no one can run as the seas and hell give up all the dead they contain and earth  flees from them so that there is no place for the sinner to hide. Then as verse 13 tells us each person is judged, no exceptions.  This fairness appeals to all believers and gives them that hope that justice will finally be done.

“Even the unsaved who have died on the seas, whose bodies have never been recovered, will not be exempt from this august tribunal (cf. Jn 5:28, 29). Death (used here for the grave) gives up the bodies; hell gives up the souls. No one is said to escape or enter eternal bliss. All the unsaved will suffer their eternal doom”14

Though this is a joyful time for the believer as death and hell were thrown into the lake of fire but that joy should be tempered with sadness as those who rejected Christ are also sent to the same punishment.  Unlike earthly prisons, there is no escape for these people, there is no early release, nor compassionate leaves, the guilty are there forever.

“There is no indication that any individual at the Great White Throne ever escapes judgment. The cause of their final doom—not that they did not accumulate sufficient good deeds in the books—is that their names were not found written in the Lamb’s book of life (cf. 3:5; 13:8; 21:27). This is all-inclusive, from Cain to the end of human history.”15

One cannot be happy to see God’s creation destroyed in such a manner, even though they are being rewarded for their faithfulness.  If anything this part of the chapter should provide motivation for the modern day Christian, that they would look on sinners in a different light, and spur them to live better for Christ and pursue God’s will over their own desires.

It should stop the abuse of scripture, ‘we are free to enjoy all things’, and help the believer to put down the toys, and pursuit of those toys, of the world and get serious for Christ.  There is a lot at stake here and to make a final impact for Jesus the modern church needs to stop playing games, roll up their sleeves and return to work for the harvest.

Conclusion

In all three chapters we see the importance of living for Jesus.  We see that in chapters 2 & 3 that the churches and their congregations are not exempt from judgment and punishment and that the followers of God should listen up and change their ways if they are doing wrong.

We also see the promises made for those who do turn from sinful practices. They are promised many rewards for forsaking sin and we know that God keeps His word, as evidenced throughout the Bible accounts.

Then in chapter 13 we see that those who do turn away from sin will need patience, endurance and other positive attributes to make it through the trials they will face.  It is not easy going hungry, it is even more difficult when one does so voluntarily because they refuse to compromise and take the mark that will sustain their earthly bodies.

Their reward on earth will be rejection, hatred, endless pursuit and other actions that come with the false idea of providing safety for all the other people in the world and for law and order. But if they endure then they will receive their promises which will make the pain they endured worth it.

They will also see that they are the real victors and that they had made the correct choice as they hear their names called from the Book of Life and  receive justices as they watch those who persecuted them justly judged and sentenced.  They will also feel relieved as that sentence is carried out without appeals, delays, plea bargains or interference from human rights groups.

The only rules that matter are the ones that God wrote in the beginning and used to measure all men throughout earthly time:

“but those whose names are written in that book (that is, those

that are justified and acquitted by the gospel) shall then be justified and

acquitted by the Judge, and shall enter into eternal life, having nothing

more to fear from death, or hell, or wicked men; for these are all destroyed

together. Let it be our great concern to see on what terms we stand with

our Bibles, whether they justify us or condemn us now; for the Judge of all

will proceed by that rule. Christ shall judge the secrets of all men

according to the gospel. Happy are those who have so ordered and stated

their cause according to the gospel as to know beforehand that they shall

be justified in the great day of the Lord!”16

For the modern believer, the Book of Revelation should not be just a book of promise or hope, it should be a book of motivation, spurring them to do God’s will unlimitedly in hopes of sparing a few more souls of eternal punishment. 

A Lesson From 2 & 3 John

For this article things will be a bit different as the appropriate scriptures will be quoted first, followed by a few comments.

'...because of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever...I rejoice greatly that I have found some of your children walking in truth, as we received commandments from the Father...I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in the truth...'

It has been said on this website before but it bears repeating as so many people who call themselves Christians do not walk according to the truth but according to their own interpretation of God's word.

This is a great problem for the message that this attitude communicates is that God is saying different things to different people and that is just not the case. The ramifications of this mis-communication are immense as for one, God would not be able to judge His creation if He was giving a different message to each and every one.

Two, no one would really know what the truth was and if God used 'interpretation' then He would not need Jesus to say, 'ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free'. 

Three, to provide different messages to different people would only cause confusion amongst God's followers and God is not the author of confusion. He has stated His word clearly so everyone, not just the elite or the educated, would understand what he was saying. No one would know what to do for there would be so many different opinions concerning what God had said.

Fourth, to follow 'interpretation' means that God's word is subjective and that God's creation has authority over it when they do not. If God's word is subjective and changeable, then how could any person find any hope or comfort in His words? The words would be applied differently by different people and causing stress as people agonized over which interpretation to follow.

Fifth, subjectivism leads to existentialism and the latter is not of God and renders God's word mute and His message void for too many people would be putting their own spin on the Bible and soon what God said becomes lost in a myriad of voices trying to re-arrange scripture to fit their own ideas.

Finally, if God's word was subjective and open to being changed by a human's interpretation, then how would the non-churched world know what is or isn't God's word? How would they find and accept salvation with so many different people altering its words because many would not want to accept Jesus as the only way to heaven?

These are the problems when people ignore the truth and do not walk in it. The message gets lost, people do not know what to do or how to live and the conflict from the confusion would totally hinder the work of Christ.

Christians need to look for the truth and Jesus promised that the 'Spirit of Truth will come and lead us to the truth'. We cannot do anything less than follow the Holy Spirit to the truth and when we do so, all confusion erodes away and clarity replaces it. We know what to do, how to live, what to say about salvation and life and so much more.

But if we ignore the truth as so many have done, then evil gets to work its magic in the lives of believers and the church, rendering them and it useless and worthless.  Christians are the servants of God, it is He whom they serve thus it is not being obedient servants when one takes God's message and 'interprets' it to fit their ideas and desires.

That is not what a faithful servant does. The faithful servant removes his or her personal opinion and relates the message as given by his or her master. They do not change it to be popular, to be accepted or to be thought of as cool or hip. They leave it in its original form, explaining it in such a fashion that all will understand what it means.

The faithful servant also does not distort words, or phrases to justify their actions nor do they use God's word as an excuse for the pursuit of what the world offers or to alter the truth to fit their pet theories. 

The truth is important and believers cannot be slack in seeking or promoting it. There is more on the line here than many really realize and if they are not serious about God, His words and His work then the product they present is unattractive and repulsive.

Christians need to put down their game playing, their siding with secular organizations and people, their refusal to gain knowledge, wisdom and understanding. They need to separate themselves from the pursuits of the world, their strategies, ideas and desires and live correctly for Jesus.

There is little time left to reap the harvest and it is time for the organized church and its members to grow up and get serious for God. They need to put down their 'interpretations' and let the Holy Spirit guide them to the truth so they can make an impact for God in these final days before it is too late.

A Lesson from Noah

In Genesis 6: 13-14 we read: 'And God said to Noah, 'The end of all flesh has come before me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth. GMAKE YOURSELF an ark of gopher wood; make rooms in the ark and cover it inside and outside with pitch...' The passage continues with more instructions from God, all the way down to verse 21 and in verse 22 we read the following: 'Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did.'

There are several points that need to be considered in this passage that apply to the church today. First, God gives the commands to His people, God is not the servant waiting to fulfill any request His followers make.

Second, God provides the details on how His people are to carry out His commands. They are not left to their own devices, they are not left wondering how to do it, God knows how He wants it accomplished for He knows His own purpose and the hearts of those involved. He also knows what will reach them and accomplish His will.

Third, and this is the most important point and it is found in the simple words- 'Thus Noah did...according to all that God commanded...' Notice that Noah did not sit there and question God, trying to see if the command and the action makes sense to him. Neither did Noah complain or whine, he set out and did as he was told.

Now some would call this 'blind faith' or 'blind obedience' but God simply calls it being a faithful servant.  There is nothing blind in Noah's response. He knew God, was a righteous man and knew that God is not frivolous, and so on, thus he knew that his duty was to build the ark as God described.

The modern servant or employee does not ask his employer for reasons why he must carry out his duties, nor complain or whine about them, they carry out their duties if they want to be seen as good and faithful servants or employers. Those who want to be seen as unfaithful or as troublemakers, cause problems because they think they know better than their masters or employers.

The problem is the servant or employee is not privy to all the master's business, and they are given only a partial amount of information in order for them to carry out their duties and for them to question, complain or claim they could run things better means that they have forgotten that they do not see the whole picture, they do not have the risks that their masters have nor do they have the money invested their master has thus their conclusions and complaints are moot and off  because of this fact.

The duty of the servant or employee is to do the will of those they serve or work for.  Unfortunately today this concept is missing from the organized church.  Too often pastors, who are merely stewards in the service of God, veer off in their own directions and seek to implement their own wills, using interpretation not truth to lead their charges, putting God and His ways in the background as they adopt secular ways and ideas to accomplish their goals.

For example, the current trend is to promote women to the status of pastor, assistant pastor (or whatever equivalent word one wants to use) and allow them to speak in the church and its services. This of course is contrary to what God said, 'Women are to be silent...' As servants of God we do not have the authority to change what God has commanded no matter what the current culture demands. We do not serve the secular world, we serve the Most High God and our beliefs must be in line with His will.

Some may ask, 'what is the problem with this?' Well when people who claim to follow and serve God, use arguments like, 'the culture of that time...' or something similar, they are removing God's instructions from the life of the church. The problem is, they have nothing to replace those divine words except the secular thinking of the day, and they fall into disobedience to God on two fronts. The not following the commands God gave as to how the church is to operate and by 'walking in the counsel of the ungodly'. Something God was very clear that believers were not to do.

Once someone removes God's commands and instructions, they are communicating many things--they do not believe God; they think they know better than God; they want the world not God. Among other things. They also leave themselves with a huge problem as God did not say- 'follow culture'; or 'follow the world's thinking...' He said, and Jesus said the same thing, 'Follow Me...' It is that obedience that is missing from the modern organized church today, the same obedience that was found in Noah so long ago and recorded in Genesis 6.

The modern church is not following God, for the most part,  and have allowed themselves to be compromised, to be watered-down, to be unprepared and almost incapable of doing any work for God as they have lost sight of Noah's humble simple attitude of doing what God had commanded. The church is NOT to fit in with the secular world, they are not to please them, they are not to follow their ways as the secular world is not looking for God but their own ways, their own desires and they live for this world not the next.

The church is to do as Noah did--obey God in all that He commanded and we find the beginning of those commands in the Bible; commands and instructions that God has not changed since the beginning of time. Culture does not determine what the church follows, the secular world does not determine what the church follow, only God does that and the church must  be prepared to meet opposition from the secular world for the latter does not want to follow God and serve an evil master, who has a different agenda from God. The church is to have nothing to do with them when it comes to this aspect of Christianity.

The Bible is very clear on what the believer is to do and it is up to the believer to humbly obey God in everything, no matter the cost or circumstances. God will provide for His people and He will provide the correct answers so that His people will not have to sin when caught in uncomfortable situations.

We do not see the whole picture and we are not in a position of authority to question God's commands, we are in the position to simply obey.

A Lesson From Judges

In today’s world, whether it be secular or christian, people tend to do things on a large scale and in full public view. They raise lots of money, engage top professionals, make big splashes so the rest of the world knows what is going down.

 One good example in the Christian world over the past 40 years has been the huge worship complexes built by many congregations. It doesn’t matter if they are single structure sanctuaries or multiple building compounds, the churched world wants the secular world to know that they are successful.

Sadly this is a problem within the church today as they tend to over-do things in the name of the Lord. I am sure they still praise him for their efforts, but sadly one wonders how much glory is really God’s when the people have done so much.

The book of Judges touches on this a bit in the chapters describing Gideon’s call to serve God and his eventual participation. We find 3 different mini-lessons in those chapters dealing with the above modern attitude and they combine to form one big lesson on how a believer should approach his work for Christ.

1. Being humble—This is not a false humility to look spiritual but a true feeling of inadequacy and knowing one’s place in the scheme of things. These words are found in  Chapter 6 verse 15 and I quote:  “ But Lord, Gideon asked, how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”

Gideon knew where he stood and he could not see how he could be of service for God. His standing, in his mind, disqualified him from such influence and impact. Yet as we see throughout the Bible, God does not always pick the best and the strongest, He picks those who will obey and be humble knowing that it is not they But God who accomplished the task at hand.

2. Being sure & honest—Gideon did not just assume or leap to a conclusion that he was given a job to do by God and he did not go off half-cocked or plunged ahead with bold ambitious plans. He stopped and put it all at risk to make sure what he was told was God and of God.  Later in Chapter 6 verse 39 we read the following: “Then Gideon said to God, ‘do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece.’”

Gideon did not take over and start running the show browbeating others to follow and support him. No, he simply and humbly asked God to confirm the task so that he knew for sure that God was going to be with him and that he was actually supposed to do as he was told. Notice the wording and phrasing of Gideon’s request.

It is simple, to the point and very prepared to accept a ‘no’ answer. The New Testament tells us to test the spirits so if we do it in the correct manner being prepared to receive the negative reply cancelling the project. It takes honest people to put themselves in such a position but honesty is what God wants. At no time do God’s followers have permission to sin and we need to be honest not only with others but ourselves as well, so that God’s task is not hindered by any sin.

3. Being second fiddle—This is one of the hardest things for humans to acceptor accomplish. Many times we want to look spiritual so our fellow believers will look at us in a better light but when we do things for God, we must take the second chair because the glory belongs to Him not us.

Chapter 7 verse 2 lays it all out for us: “The Lord said to Gideon, ‘You have too many men for me to deliver Midian into their hands. In order that Israel may not boast against me that her own strength has saved her…”

God does not share the glory and there is reason for that. The world needs to see God in interested in them and I action in today’s world. If believers boast and claim to have done things then it is easy for the unchurched world to reject or doubt what took place was really from God. But if it is done in such a manner that it was impossible for humans to do, then the unbeliever is without excuse and cannot dismiss what took place.

We see this over and over in the pages of the Bible. God picks the lowly, the rejected, the weakest to do many great things. Elijah heard a still, small voice, Saul was made King, then David. Fishermen, tax collectors and other lowly outcast people were made disciples. A young woman became the mother of Jesus, Noah’s qualification was that he was a righteous man not a king, or community leader.

The Christian world does not need huge edifices to proclaim success with God. It simply needs people who are humble, honest, not glory hounds and who will obey putting God’s and Jesus words into their lives each day.

The unbelieving world can spot a hypocritical person or a phony, they are not stupid. They can also spot a true believer. The former erects stumbling blocks to Christ by their actions and the latter tears them down. The christian world needs to follow Gideon’s example, making sure that what they are doing is of god before doing it, then not going too far so that they can boast that they did it.