cle, while others were there to learn from Jesus and thought about His message. Some even asked: “Who is this?” Is it possible that after three years of all the teaching and miracles and healing and meetings, there were some who had never heard of Jesus? It seems to be so. Strange! Yet there are many today, who are completely ignorant about who Jesus is, despite going to Sunday school, receiving a Gideon Bible at school, passing Churches, attending weddings and funerals, hearing His name taken as a swear word on television and in every day life. Yet they still have no idea about who Jesus is. It is strange – but true! The religious people did not rejoice. Jesus brings people to a point of decision. Darkness hates light. The presence of light either disperses the darkness or makes it even darker. The Pharisees asked Jesus to keep the Disciples quiet. “I cannot. If the people do not rejoice, the very stones will shout out for joy at my presence.” Jesus was welcomed as a prophet. There had been no prophet from God for over 400 years since Malachi. This was a significant event. The act of carrying palm trees was an act of honour to a victorious person. John also says that many were there that day because Jesus had just raised Lazarus from death. They were drawn by the spectacular. How did the people respond? They shouted out three things. 1. “Hosanna. This means: “save us, we pray.” There was a great need of salvation in the hearts of the people and they called out to Jesus to save them. That was exactly what Jesus had come to do. 2. “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” Baruchaba is the Hebrew word for this phrase. It is sung today at the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem. Jesus said to the city on the occasion when He wept over the city – Jerusalem was the capital city of the nation and as such it represented the whole nation – “Behold your house is forsaken and desolate. I tell you that you will not see me again until you say – Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” Matthew ch 23 v 39. Until the Jewish people earnestly seek God with all their hearts, they will not find Him. Jesus had witnessed the rapturous reception in Jerusalem but He knew the hearts of the people and knew that they would not serve Him as long as he was the suffering servant – only if He had come to throw the Romans out of Israel. To that extent the taunts of Satan were right. Despite all the praise the real agenda of the crowds was some kind of coup. Pilate was afraid of just such an event, which is why shortly afterwards he had to resolve the matter very quickly. Jesus knew that they would not be shouting for His release when Pilate offered them the choice. Jesus could see right into the hearts of the people. He sees into the heart of every man. He knows just how committed he is to Him – whether he will last to the end of the time of worship – or half an hour beyond – or until Sunday night – or perhaps Tuesday, before he falls away. He knows those who will persevere to the end. That is why He could prophesy that the path to life would be narrow and few there would be who would find it. The praise was shallow for many and many had false hopes of an early departure of the Romans. The people were deceiving themselves. 3.”Hosannah in the highest.” Blessed is the Kingdom He is bringing in. Jesus had spent a long time teaching them about the Kingdom of God – the rule of God in the hearts of men. Some recognised His teaching in their shouts. But were they prepared to submit their lives to let God rule in their hearts? Many will attend Church for various reasons. Are they seeking the true meaning of life? Are they aware of the need to repent of their sins? Is it just an occasion for putting in an appearance and having their religious card stamped, in the hope that they will have enough stamps when the card is called in? Are they there to salve their conscience or to look good to the neighbours? If a man today had been in the crowd would he have taken off his jacket and it down in the mud for an ass to walk over it? There was an exuberant response from the people. However, as events later in the week proved, it was short lived. How fickle a crowd can be! Were there some in the crowd on that day as Jesus rode on the ass also in the crowd before Pilate shouting: “Crucify Him?” How easily a man is influenced by others. The Lord wants people who will not follow the latest fashion but follow Him in a determined fashion. Remember Jesus warned that many “Christs” would come with the purpose of drawing the people away from following Jesus. Who will heed the message today?
THE FUTURE OF BRITAIN. Amos ch 5 v 21 – ch 6 v 8.
It is a dangerous thing to ask the Lord a question. Because in His own time, He will answer it. However, the answer is not necessarily the one a man expects to hear. But, having asked the question, and having received the answer, he can no longer plead ignorance; nor can he have the excuse that he does not know what the Lord’s will is in that situation. And a message from the Lord always calls for action.
There are many questions in the Bible? The Disciples said: “Lord, why do you teach in parables?” When the Lord Jesus entered Jerusalem the whole city was in an uproar. “Who is this man?” the people asked. The rich young ruler asked Jesus: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” The Disciples asked Jesus: “When will the Temple be destroyed and what will be the signs of the end of the World?” And the Lord always answered the questions put to Him. It is rude not to answer a question.
Jesus says: “Watch and pray.” There is no point of praying in a vacuum and no point of watching and not praying. What of Britain? In a land, which was once strongly influenced by Christianity every kind of wickedness, immorality, violence, injustice, anxiety is evident.
In 1984 the Lord was asked this question: “Lord, what is the future for Britain?” It is as if He in turn asked a question. Now the great thing about the Bible is that God has hammered out His message on the anvil of history – after all it is His story. He said: “Look at my people Israel and see what I am saying to Britain at this time.” He showed five lessons.
The FIRST lesson. In the beginning the Lord heard the cry of His People in Egypt and He remembered His Covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and He was concerned for them. They had been there for 400 years but had not called out to God for help. If they had, surely he would have responded sooner. When they finally called out to God for help, God sent Moses to rescue them. It is a thrilling story how, through Moses, God led the people across the desert to the edge of the Promised Land. It is a story of miracles – the manna, the quails, water from the rock, sandals, which did not wear out, the pillar of fire by night and the pillar of cloud by day – assuring the people of His presence with them – the crossing of the Red Sea and so on. There are always miracles when God is at work. When Jesus came to live on Earth there were miracles. It is as if the supernatural God just has to break through the natural realm. Yet despite all the miracles, when they reached the Promised Land, the majority doubted that God would do what He said He would do – namely drive out the occupants of the land.
“There are giants in the land and the cities are fortified.” Because of the doubters, those who would not trust in God, the people turned back and spent 38 years in the wilderness. A whole generation apart from Caleb and Joshua died in the wilderness. It was their children whom the Lord led into the Promised Land.
What is God saying though all of this? The first lesson is this: Britain is to trust the Word of God always. If He says that He will do something, then He will do it. To doubt the Word of God is sin.
The SECOND lesson. God wanted His people to be different – not peculiar in a strange way but He wanted them to be a holy People. He did not want a bunch of religious fanatics stuck in the desert. He wanted a people who would be like Him and would live like Him in the midst of the World, so that the peoples of the World would know that their God was The God. However, the Children of Israel just wanted to be like other people – they wanted a king. They badgered Samuel to appoint a king like the other nations around them. It is exactly the same in Israel today. The Israelis want to be like the other people. Do you get tired of being different and want to be like your neighbours? Well the Jewish people had their king – Saul – and a bad lot he turned out to be. Every time God’s people did what they wanted and not what He wanted, they stumbled into difficulties.
What is God teaching through this lesson? God always knows better than we do.
The THIRD lesson. Time and again the Children of Israel turned away from God and God sent them a prophet – a holy man – one who was so close to God that he knew the mind of God and could speak the Lord’s message to the people. The call was always “turn back to God”. The very name “Israel” means “struggle” or “God strives”. Chapter after chapter the people struggle with God. One day they were all for Him. The next day they did their own thing. They were always prone to wander away from God. In Duet ch 28 Moses had warned the people right at the beginning of the task set before them by God of the consequences of disobedience and the blessings of obedience. Judges ch 2 v 10-14 shows how quickly the people can forget about God. Within one generation the people forgot about God. The Church is only one generation away from extinction.
What is the message from the third lesson? Britain has been warned by God of the consequences of departing from His ways.
The FOURTH lesson. By the time of Amos in the mid eighth century B. C. the people enjoyed great prosperity. There was no time for God. The Home Improvement Stores were sprouting all over the land. There were second houses in the countryside. The women were drinking heavily. There was injustice, corruption and nominal religion. Perhaps it all sounds a little familiar. Amos warned the people. So did Isaiah, Micah, Hosea and Habakkuk. Habakkuk even wrestled with God. Surely God would not allow His own people to be taken into captivity in Babylon passing through the gates of Babylon with their 337 snake gods. For the Jews it was like entering Hell itself. But God meant what He said and it came to pass. The warnings of the prophets went unheeded and the people went off into captivity in Babylon. The Northern Kingdom of Israel disappeared first and the Southern Kingdom of Judah followed into captivity in Babylon for 70 years not long after. It was only out of His mercy and for His own name’s sake that the Lord allowed them to return to the Land.
What can is learned from this lesson? Punishment follows disobedience. God is not only a God of love but also a consuming fire. Wrath is the other side of love.
The FIFTH lesson. Then the Lord Jesus Himself came to live on Earth, just as He had said He would in Ezekiel ch 34 v 11.
“Behold I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out.” In John ch 10 v 11 in one of the great “I am” statements Jesus called Himself “the good shepherd”. And Jesus taught and He healed and He performed miracles and He spoke the truth. He offered eternal life to all who would repent and serve Him as Lord. Yet only a remnant of the people followed Him. Thousands queued up for healing but when Pilate sentenced Jesus to death where were they? Not a voice was raised in protest. There were no marches or demonstrations. No wonder that Jesus speaks of the broad path to destruction and the narrow path to life. The whole Bible makes it clear that just a small number will respond to the call to repent and turn to God. Most people love their sins too much.
Then Jesus went up to Jerusalem. How the Lord loved Jerusalem, the city set on a hill. He said: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem how often I would have gathered your children as a hen gathers her brood under her wings but you would not. You would not. Behold your House is forsaken and desolate – until they say ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.’ ” And the Lord laid down His life for the sins of the World. The ordinary sinners ignored Him but the religious ones crucified Him. He allowed the religious, self-righteous ones to hammer Him onto a cross. 35 years later Jerusalem was sacked by the Romans and the Jewish People were dispersed for 1900 years. Just a tiny remnant spread the Gospel. People often marvel about the fact that 3,000 were converted on the Day of Pentecost. However, during the Passover celebrations Jerusalem was heaving with pilgrims and it is estimated that 300,000 were present in Jerusalem. 3,000 is a large number but it is only 1 per cent of 300,000.
Now the Jewish people had the Scriptures, they had the Covenant, the Miracles, they had the Law given by Moses, the promise of the land, they had the ritual worship and sacrifice system, the Patriarchs were the fathers of the Jewish people, the Lord Jesus Himself was Jewish and lived amongst them and at Pentecost they received the gift of the Holy Spirit. Apart from a small remnant, the Jewish people rejected God. They turned away from a living, trusting relationship to a formal religion. These are the sad facts. Those who survived the Roman persecution were driven out of Judea to the ends of the Earth.
What can Britain conclude from the fifth lesson? God gave the Jewish people all that He had to give. He gave them his Word, His Son and His Holy Spirit. He gave them Heaven. Surely the lesson is that rejection of God’s provision leads to disaster.
Well the question was: “What is the future for Britain?” Britain has had the Gospel for centuries, the Bible, Christian literature and books as never before, excellent Bible teachers, World evangelists, missionaries, peace – one of very few countries in the World – perhaps the only one, which has not been invaded for 900 years, it enjoys a temperate climate, material resources and there are Churches everywhere. This is a period of prosperity and medical facilities such as this country has never known since the beginning of time. Perhaps after Israel Britain has been the most blessed by God. The people have heard of Jesus all right. His name is on many lips – as a curse. When people bang their finger with a hammer why do they not say: “by Hitler”. But no! It is the name of Jesus, which is used, in order to drag that name down to the level of the gutter. T.V. screens mock the name of God. There is hardly a programme without blasphemy. Islam is regularly promoted but Christianity is limited to a few songs and a thought for the day, shared with Hindus and Bhuddists.
Britain is the twenty-third Empire to fall in the history of the World. What did the Lord say to Israel through Amos? “I hate your religious festivals. I cannot stand them.” Recently there have been religious people calling themselves Christians and denying the Word of God. In effect what they are saying is: “God is a liar. We cannot trust His Word.” It is not clear which offends God more – one who ignores Him or one who calls Him a liar! But this is clear. Anyone who calls God a liar will not inherit the promises of God – the promise of eternal life. For God Himself has said so in Rev ch 22 v 15. What does the Lord think about religious funerals for people who never went near a Church in their life and never showed the slightest interest in Jesus? God will not be mocked. For many it would at least be more honest to have a humanistic funeral.
Well, what will happen to Britain? Will there be an economic recovery? Will democracy prevail? Will the forces of law and order keep the peace or will crime spiral out of control? Could there be a Muslim Government one day? Muslims clearly state their desire for this to happen. Will Britain one day be ruled by foreigners? Unthinkable? Britain is virtually ruled by foreigners as it is. Spanish banks own many of banks and many of airports. Japanese cars fill the roads. Arab investments own a substantial part of London. Polish workers are often preferred to British people. Migrants from all over Europe work in Britain. What was it that Habukkuk asked the Lord? Ch 1 v 12-13. “Surely you would not let the pagan Babylonians capture Your chosen people?” “Would I not? ” said the Lord “You watch and see – I am going to do something, which will astonish you.”
So many presume on the love of God as He pours out His blessings on the righteous and the unrighteous. God showed His love – a love, which sent Jesus to die for the sins of man on the cross. But there is more in the Bible about the wrath of God than the love of God – more about Hell than Heaven. Countless millions were swept away in the Flood and Jesus has said of His Second Coming: “As it was in the days of Noah so it will be in the day of My coming again.”
Look at the five lessons, which the Lord showed from the Jewish people.
1. Are the people of Britain trusting in the Word of God today? There are a lot of religious people. There are many who have said: “My father was an elder in the Church of Scotland.” Gordon Brown speaks of his father being a minister in the Church of Scotland and having a moral compass – yet he never quotes the Scriptures. Experienced Christians estimate that one per cent of the population of Britain are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. Just a remnant. David Pawson speaks of the need for 5 per cent being believers in order for the salt to influence society. British laws are no longer based on the Bible but on the European Court of Human Rights. The leaders of the nation no longer consult the Word of God or the Church for moral guidance. Therefore the nation as a whole is not trusting in the Word of God.
2. God knows best. Those who know the spiritual scene in Britain today will say that humanism is the religion of the day. Glory to man in the highest – marvel at his achievements. Millions are worshipping the god of their imagination today but are running away from the real God. The prisons are full to overflowing. There are so many in prison that the government lets some out to reduce the over-crowding. The mental hospitals were full until the Government decided to tip the human contents out into the community to effect savings. Divorce was one in three – the highest in Europe. Now so many are living unmarried that statistics are difficult to determine. God cannot be impressed. Humanists put their faith in human nature. People say of a particularly bad crime: “It is enough to make you lose your faith in human nature.” That is where they put their trust – in the inherent goodness of man. But human nature is fallen. God alone is trustworthy. God would lead the people along the paths of righteousness, if they would seek Him. The conclusion from listening to the leaders in the nation is that they claim to know better than God.
3. Britain has been warned. On the night the Russian Revolution took place on the streets of Russia the Russian Clergy were meeting to decide the colour of their vestments for the following year? God may be about to astonish Britain. Many of the consequences of disobedience listed in Deut ch 28 are already being experienced in the life of the nation. Foot and mouth disease. Flooding. Financial crisis. Political turmoil. The breaking up of the Kingdom of Great Britain. The worship of many false gods. Is the Church heeding the warning? Some years ago David Pawson warned that Britain will or might become the first Islamic country in Europe. Little attention was paid by the Church to his message
4. Punishment follows disobedience. The wrath of God is simply His implacable hostility to sin. There is a lot of suffering already in Britain – the misery of broken relationships – aids and sexual diseases are on the increase. Shoddy workmanship has lost Britain business to her competitors. Drugs are pouring into the land. There is a danger of a break-up of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland with division and isolation. The country is being invaded financially. The financier Rothschild said: “Give me control of the finances in a country and I do not care what policies the government pursues.”
5. Disaster follows rejection of God’s provision. In the case of the Jewish people they are back in their own land. This is not because they deserve it. It is only because God promised in His Word to do it and He is desperate to show to the World that He is a God of mercy and to receive glory. There is no such promise to Britain in the Word of God.
Malachi ch 3 v 10 says: “Put me to the test and you will see that I will pour out on you in abundance all kinds of good things.”
Will there be total rejection of God leading to disaster or will Britain turn back to God?
“Lord, what is the future for Britain?” The answer is this:- “The future for Britain depends on the response of the people of Britain to the Word of God.” The call to the nation is to repent and turn back to God. There is a limit to the patience and longsuffering of God. Of those to whom much is given, much is expected. There are a number of occasions in Scripture when God said: “Enough is enough. Your wound is too deep to heal.” Nahum ch 3 v 19.
It is late in the day for nice Bible stories and academic theological points. Who runs this country? God or man? Judgement appears on almost every page of the Bible. The state of Britain is too serious to ignore the Word of God. Britain needs much prayer, if it is not to fall under the judgement and wrath of God.
Britain has broken all the Commandments.
1. False gods have been welcomed into the land. The law has even legalised witchcraft. Prince Charles wants to be the Defender of faiths.
2. Britain is a materialistic society – sport – property – cars –computers – television – art – science and entertainment. They have all become more important than worship of God.
3. God’s name is taken in vain in public life and on television.
4. The Sabbath is no longer kept. Increasingly sporting events and Party Conferences take place on Sunday.
5. Parents are despised and not honoured. The young no longer respect the aged and mature members of society
6. Abortion Act in 1967. 7 million babies have been murdered and there are 1,000 murders in Britain each year.
7. Divorce is no longer a sin. Partners live together out of wedlock. Promiscuity is rife.
8. Theft and tax evasion is on the increase as is organised crime.
9. Truth is a stranger to advertising and politicians. Gossip is a national pastime.
10. Greed has gripped the nation. The National Lottery encourages man to covet.
From 1957 there has been a succession of legislation passed contrary to the Word of God. As soon as man departs from the ways of God, he loses his vision of where he is going. Problems increase in relation to the economy, lack of success in business, a fall in agricultural production, health, rainfall and the fertility of the land, international reputation and mental health problems. Britain is the 23rd Empire in the history of the World to go into decline and the same symptoms are evident in each empire as it declines.
Acts ch 1 v 1-11. Rev ch 1 v 9-20. Rev ch 2 v 12-17.
Acts ch 1 v 9. Jesus was lifted up and disappeared into a cloud. The cloud is a physical picture to teach the spiritual truth that God is present. He appeared as a cloud by day to the Hebrews as they made their way across the desert. The Disciples would have understood that Jesus had gone back to be with God His Father as he disappeared from sight into a cloud. What a wonderful 33 years it had been looking back but was that it all over? Could Jesus not have stayed on Earth? Logically how else could the Disciples have understood it? Then two angels appeared and told them that Jesus would return some day in the same way. Naturally they expected that to be quite soon. There was not a hint that it might be over 2,000 years in the distant. Such a comment would have destroyed and devastated the Disciples. So the Disciples taught that to the early Church. It is apparent from the letters of Paul that he too expected Jesus to return quite soon.
Initially the believers were changing the World of the Roman Empire in which they lived. Paul was accused by religious leaders as one of these followers of Jesus, who has been turning the World upside down. But 60 years later still there was no sign of the return of Jesus. The Roman Empire continued its cruel oppression of those who stood against it and now there was a command to worship the Emperor. Chapter 1 v 10. Lordy day was the day when believers were called on to worship the Emperor as Lord. Only Jesus was their Lord. Many believers were falling away and had serious questions.
1. Are all the wonderful promises of Jesus really true?
2. Is it worthwhile following the way of Jesus?
3. Is Jesus really coming back to Earth?
4. Is there no one in control of this World full of injustice and cruelty?
5. Is Jesus really God the Son?
6. Will there really be a day of judgement for all men?
These were the real questions then – as they are today. The Church badly needed a word of encouragement. The revelation to John was just such a word. “Hold On!“ Yes – Jesus is in control of every detail of the affairs of this World. Yes – Jesus is definitely coming back to Earth. Yes – it is worthwhile following Jesus. Yes – there will be a day of judgement when all men will have to give account for everything they have said, done and thought.
The Revelation of Jesus to John was given in response to these problems in the early Church. Many have assumed that Revelation is for the really educated believers and not for ordinary believers. What nonsense! There was nothing special about the early Church. They were ordinary people – fishermen, farmers, traders etc. The revelation is in the form of a series of simple pictures in words. They understood it. It is not a complicated chronology. The first picture John received and passed on was of the glorious risen Jesus. This was not the same Jesus John had spent time with as a Disciple and for 40 days after Jesus rose from the dead. This is Jesus in His glorified body. The second picture was of the seven Churches on Earth representing the Church throughout the whole of history. It was not such a pretty picture. There were glaring faults in each Church. By direct contrast the third picture was of the throne room in Heaven. John ran out of superlatives to describe what he saw. It was simply too glorious for words. When God gives man a physical picture there are 4 steps to be taken.
1. What is the physical picture?
2. What truth does it teach?
3. How did it apply to those to whom it was given at the time – the early Church?
4. How does it apply to me today?
The message to each of the seven Churches follows the same pattern.
1. A greeting. (To the angel of the Church in Pergamum.)
2. A title of the risen Jesus from chapter 1. (The words of Him who has the sharp two-edged sword.)
3. Praise for what is good in the Church. (You hold fast my name and did not deny Jesus even when a believer was killed under persecution.)
4. A criticism of what is wrong. (You have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam and some who hold the teaching of the Nicoliatans.)
5. A warning. (Repent then.)
6. An exhortation to listen to the message. (Listen to what the Spirit is saying.)
7. A promise of a prize to those who overcome. (To him who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna. Also a white stone with a new name written on the stone, which no one knows except him who receives it.)
The most beautiful promise of a prize is in the message to the Church at Pergamum. Chapter 2 v 17. The prize is twofold – the hidden manna and the white stone with a name written on it. What is this prize and could it be for you?
When the Babylonian Empire was overrun by the Persians the sorcerers fled from Babylon (now Iraq) to Pergamum in what is now Turkey and they set up their home there. There was a library at Pergamum. It was the administrative centre for the Asian Province of the Roman Empire and as such was a centre of religions. There was an altar to the god Zeus and there were healing ministries taking place there. Acepius was called the saviour. His emblem was the serpent. Satan was performing miraculous healing. There was Caesar worship. The believers were outlawed because they would not sign a certificate to declare that Caesar was Lord. One of them Antipas was killed on the altar of Pergamum for being a believer in Jesus. Others held to their faith despite the threat of death. However, others were influenced by false teaching – the teaching of Balaam and the Nicoliatans.
In the late 19th century the German Kaiser sent his people to Pergamum. Piece by piece they removed the Pergamum altar to Berlin. Today it is located in the Pergamum Museum. Also there are the original walls of Babylon complete with the 337 snake gods on the gates. When the Israelites were led captive to Babylon they entered the city through the gates of Babylon. As they walked past the 337 snake gods they considered that they were entering Hell itself. There are certain places where Satan is in control and operates. He is territorial. Is it any surprise that with Satan having his seat in Berlin there have been two World Wars involving Germany. During the Second World War 6 million Jewish men, women and children were deliberately and systematically murdered. Millions more were killed throughout the World? When is mankind ever going to take Satan seriously?
The Nicoliatans were involved with compromise. This name would be applied to those who promote Churches together – inter-Church meetings with the Catholic Church and other religions. They would see nothing wrong in infant baptism. They would be happy to appoint elders, who are not believers. They would see nothing wrong in having trees and lights in their house in December to celebrate the pagan mid-winter festival. 25th December was widely regarded amongst pagan religions as the birthday of the Babylonian Messiah Nimrod. In pagan Rome it was regarded as the birthday of the unconquered sun. Believers are called to worship in spirit and truth. How dare believers accept things, which they know are wrong. 1 Cor ch 5 v 5. Paul told the Corinthian Church to expel the man who was sinning so as to bring shame on the Church. He was acting in a way, which was unacceptable to the pagans. As a result of this act of disobedience the wrath of God fell on the whole Church and they all suffered. It was difficult to be a believer in the Lord Jesus in Pergamum.
The hidden manna is quite straight forward. God provided food for the Children of Israel in the wilderness. He sent manna each morning in order to sustain their physical life. It was physical food. As such is a picture of the real spiritual food, which God Himself would provide. The new spiritual life of each believer given by God needs daily support in the form of spiritual food. A portion of the manna was to be placed in the ark and thus hidden from human view. This hidden manna was a divine plan for the salvation of the human race. It was also provided by God as a gift. It was hidden until the time of Christ’s coming to Earth to feed the people. Jesus claimed that He is the bread from Heaven and that His words are the spiritual food of believers. When believers pray: “Give us this day our daily bread” they are asking for spiritual food as well as physical food. The words of Jesus are the food of our love – the food of our faith – the food of our obedience – the food of our peace – the food of our joy – the food of our healing. No soul, which hungers and thirsts after righteousness, is sent away empty. The believer’s life is hid with Christ in God. The outward signs may be visible but the inner life is invisible. So also is the nourishing of the spiritual life like the hidden manna. During their pilgrimage on Earth they need to feed daily on the words of Jesus. They simply cannot sustain spiritual life without them. Deut ch 18 v 19. There may be some words of Jesus, which are very special to you. It is as if they have been spoken and written just for you.
The white stone. Some interpret this to mean that the white stone was given to one declared innocent after a trial, while a black stone was given to one declared guilty. However the better interpretation is the reference to the tessera hospitalis. This was a well-known practice in the ancient World at the time of the early Church. It was a tally or token of hospitality used by the people of that day. At that time houses of public accommodation were less common and generally unsafe. Private hospitality was very necessary. There were times when one person was received kindly by another or a contract of friendship was entered into. Then the tessera or token was given. It was four-sided and made of wood or stone. It was divided into two by the two contracting parties – the one who gave hospitality and the one who received it. Each party wrote his own name on one half of the tessera. They then exchanged pieces. Therefore the name on the piece of the tessera, which each received was the name of the other person, which he had written on it. No one else knew the name but the one who received it. It was carefully prized. It entitled the bearer to protection and hospitality in the home of the other person.
It is a beautiful illustration of the Gospel truth. The Saviour visits the sinner’s heart. He is welcomed and received as a guest. He bestows the white stone, the token of His unchanging love. The sinner does not desire the token. It is lovingly given by Jesus. Having stood at the door of his heart knocking for entry and having being given entry, Jesus comes in to sup with the sinner. He chooses the sinner’s heart as the place of the feast. Jesus enrols the sinner’s name among His friends. He promises never to leave him or forsake him. He gives the sinner the white stone – the tessera hospitalis. It is a token of His promise to provide hospitality whenever it is required.
In Luke ch 24 v 28-31 Jesus acted out this contract of friendship. The two men begged Jesus to stay with them and come in and have a meal with them. In the course of the meal Jesus revealed Himself to them. Later in Rev ch 3 v 20 Jesus repeated the invitation.
On this white stone is inscribed a new name. The part of the tessera, which the each receives contains the name of the other party. The name of Jesus is given to the sinner who believes. The sinner – now a saint – bears the name of Jesus as “Christian.” Believers should rejoice in being known by the name of Jesus Christ. Others may mock or deny or falsely accuse or object. But the saint knows the name of Jesus as his friend. When things are difficult down here on Earth for the saint, he is never far from the home of his friend. There is a friend close by, who recognises the other half of the white stone. The saint has only to present it to claim the fulfilment of the promise. The door is never closed to the friend. Day or night the door to Heaven is open. Why? Because his friend neither slumbers nor sleeps. He will never be received reluctantly. He will never be regarded as an intruder. Jesus is never ashamed of His poor relations. Jesus never treats his relations coldly, because they have found themselves in trouble. Even if, for whatever reason they have slipped off the narrow path to life, they are welcomed.
When the saint crosses the river from death into eternity, he takes his best treasure with him. He carries the white stone with him. He has never been there. However, he has treasured this promise in his heart. With the white stone in his possession he will not be looking for an inferior home. He remembers the words of his friend Jesus in John ch 14 v 2. “In my Father’s house there are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you.” With unhesitating step the saint will advance right to the door of the palace of the great King. There he will present the tessera, with the name of Jesus upon it. The angelic guards will recognise the tessera. They will be holding the other half with the saint’s name on it. The saint will hear the words of welcome; “Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom.”
There is a condition to receiving the white stone. Rev ch 2 v 17. It will be given to him who overcomes. What has to be overcome to possess this most precious token?
Before conversion there was no battle to be fought – there was nothing to overcome. The Devil’s suggestions and the inclination of the sinner’s heart were at one. The sinner did the enemy’s bidding willingly. But when the light shone into the sinner’s heart and he welcomed Christ into his life, the struggle to overcome began in earnest.
There are three enemies of the human soul.
1. The Devil and his demons. Many are his clever fiery darts of temptation – his subtle lies – his wiles and tricks to rob us of joy and peace and health – his cruel accusations – and his thoughts of what might have been – if only. Those who fail to watch and pray are sure to be defeated by such a foe.
2. The flesh. Depravity lurks in the heart of even the true believer. James ch 1 v 14. Do not be misled. Temptation is the pull of a man’s own evil thoughts and desires. The old man is not yet fully put to death and fights for control with the new creation. Which believer has not some sin, which besets him and is a constant source of pulling him back? Which believer is totally in control of his tongue and can claim that no gossip passes his lips? Paul recognised the struggle within himself. The things he should have done he often failed to do. There were things he should not have done, yet sometimes he did them.
3. The World. This represents man organised in community without reference to God. What seems right to man without seeking the opinion of God – that is the World. Many are the attractions of the World – food, work, sport, travelling, studying. They are not all evil in themselves. However each has the potential of becoming first in the life of the believer and displacing God, who claims the right to be first in his life.
These are the enemies of a man to be overcome. The battle is joined at the moment a sinner repents and accepts Jesus as Lord and saviour.
There are no exemptions in the battle. All believers face this battle.
No truce is ever sounded.
No white flag is waived by the enemy, which can be trusted.
The enemy may leave for a season and things are going well. But he will be back. Either the believer will trample Satan underfoot or Satan will trample him underfoot and drag him down to Hell. It is a warfare unto death. There is no time of retirement. Search the scriptures and if you find it – but you will not find it.
It is not easy to fight this fight as some suppose.
It is not easy to crucify the flesh. It is not easy to deny ungodliness. It is not easy to cut off the right hand or to pluck out the right eye.
It is not easy to be in the World, mixing with sinners but not to be part of it. It is not easy to see the attractions of the World and not be ensnared by them. It is not easy to be diligent in the duties of the World but yet not absorbed by them.
It is not easy to pray and see no immediate result and still to pray on.
It is not easy for a believer to prepare for a World he has never seen and knows so little about – when there is so much to do down on this Earth where he has always lived.
The saint should be overcoming his sin, while the sin is overcoming the sinner. There are two things to remember. The believer is not alone in the battle.
Firstly he has the strength of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit wills him to finish the course and win the fight against the Devil, the flesh and the World. Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit – the comforter and the strengthener.
Secondly he has the presence of angels. They are sent by God to minister salvation to those who are being saved. Heb ch 1 v 14. How many fiery darts of the enemy are blocked by angels to protect the believer. Have you ever experienced an unworthy thought trying to lodge in the mind? Somehow it cannot quite get established? An angel is blocking the way. Angels are sent to help and care for those who are to receive God’s salvation.
When the going is difficult and there are set backs – and there are for all believers – it is good for the saint to feed again on the words of Jesus as his spiritual food. It is good to feel in the pocket of his trousers and pull out the precious white stone. This stone holds out the promise of the place prepared for him by Jesus. His Lord has gone ahead to prepare that place of rest. The hidden manna and the white stone.
Eph ch 3 v 1 – 12. Ch 1 v 9 – 12. Rom ch 8 v 28. Revelation.
Too many believers do not grow as they should. They are not maturing into spiritual adulthood. They are still fed on a diet of milk and not meat. Many leaders are afraid that they will lose their congregations, if they tell them the whole truth of the Gospel. They hold back the people from understanding the eternal purpose of God. Many believers are taught that salvation is the whole purpose of God for them and they are content to be saved. They are not taught that salvation is a process and that they are to go on being saved and working out their salvation. The original Greek language uses a verb, which means the present tense continuing. The believer is to go on believing, go on repenting, go on trusting God, go on working to extend the Kingdom and go on working out personal salvation. It is a lifelong process, which commences at the moment of the new birth. Many believers are not preparing for the work they will have to do after they die and enter Heaven.
What is the eternal purpose of God? Ephesians ch 3 v 11. Romans ch 8 v 28. Believers ought to be able to answer this question in one single sentence. Without a vision the people perish. What a vision – to understand the eternal purpose of God. This is not for the special believers but for every believer. It is the birthright of every believer to understand God’s eternal purpose. It is essential to have an understanding of God’s eternal purpose in order to make sense of the Scriptures. God surely wants His children to understand the Scriptures. The eyes of the heart can be opened by the Holy Spirit to anyone who has eyes to see, if they want to know this purpose. The eternal purpose of God is centred on the Messiah. Romans ch 8 v 28 gives the clue. Those who love God find that they have been called according to His purpose. His purpose is far greater than singing praise forever in eternity.
Salvation is not an end – but a means to an end. It is not enough to rest on the fact that believers were once saved. They are saved for a purpose. It is the means by which God has brought them back into His original purpose for human beings, who were the pinnacle of His creation. What is the high calling in Christ Jesus? It is sad that so many believers have such small horizons. The idea that they are saved to be satisfied with their salvation – without seeking the eternal purpose of God – makes nonsense of Scripture. They are called to a greater purpose than their salvation. Salvation only brings man back into God’s original purpose.
There is a correspondence between the first three chapters of the Bible and the last three chapters of the Bible. In the first three chapters, man learns about the creation of Heaven and Earth – paradise lost – Satan entering – Earth being cursed – two human beings are created. There is a garden with the tree of life in it and God is found walking in the midst of the garden at least once a day. God’s plan of marriage is introduced. The river of life is the walk of the believer through life. A river brings life-giving water to the land. It is symbolic of living life to the full.
In the last three chapters, man learns about the new Heaven and the new Earth – paradise is regained – Satan is cast out forever – there is no longer a curse for the Earth – humans are innumerable – there is a city garden with the tree of life in the midst of the city – God is at home dwelling in the midst of the city – there is marriage between the Lamb and the Church for ever.
God brought all the animals to Adam for him to name. Adam was without sin but he was not perfect. God was drawing out of him an inner loneliness. Adam could not live with the animals as a help-mate. God asked Adam: “What will you call this one Adam?” Adam could not live with any of the animals. Adam needed a mate to help him. So God created a woman for Adam as a help-mate. They were one. Marriage is an eternal principle of God. It is the basis for family life. Marriage and family life are the building blocks of society and social order. That is why Satan is so anxious to destroy marriage.
When Jesus was crucified and proclaimed dead a spear was inserted into His side. John witnessed that there flowed out blood and water. Salvation was accomplished when Jesus died to pay the price for the sins of mankind. The curtain in the Temple was torn in two, signifying that man now had access to the Holy of Holies – into the very presence of God. The soldier came along after Jesus was dead. John saw the blood and water. What was the significance of the spear? God put Jesus to sleep and by the blood and water, the Spirit has produced a bride – those who are born of blood and the water. The three bear witness – the Spirit – the blood – the water. As God took a rib from Adam’s side to produce a bride for Adam, so God took the blood and the water from the side of Jesus to create a bride for Jesus – the Church.
God’s original purpose was that man was to be a steward of the Earth. Gen ch 1 v 26. What a privilege to manage God’s wonderful creation! Man was to have dominion over the whole Earth. What a miserable mess man has made of his privilege – due to sin. Isaiah ch 24 v 5 provides a picture of the Earth at the end of the World. The Earth lies polluted under its inhabitants – the air, the sea and the land as well as the moral and spiritual World. If man was given a role to play on Earth, will he also be given a role to play in eternity – in Heaven? Or is man to sit around on a cloud playing a harp forever and ever? Surely not!
In Genesis ch 2 v 10 the river, which was in the midst of the Garden, flowed out and became four rivers. In the land into which it flowed there were three materials – gold, pearl (sometimes called bdellium), and onyx stone. In the last three chapters of the Bible there are only three minerals, out of which the holy city is built – gold, pearl and precious stone. What relevance do these three precious minerals have for daily life? God must have mentioned them for a purpose.
Gold. In its natural state, it is buried in the sand. It does not appear naturally as it is found in jewellery. It has to be discovered and the only to find it is to follow the river of life. It is necessary to search for it in the sand and to sift it out. It is hard to find.
Pearls are also always found in water and man has to follow the river of life to find them. Pearls are fished up in the Persian Gulf. It takes great effort and it involves a degree of danger to dive for them. At the centre of each pearl is a useless piece of grit. The useless piece of grit falls into the clam, which attempts to reject it and in the process it surrounds the piece of grit with pearl.
Precious stones have to be cut out of the rock in the dark places of the Earth. The onyx stone sums up all the precious stones of the Earth.
Wood, hay and stubble and other materials are not found in the city. Most believers are like sponges – taking in and not giving out. God’s eternal purpose is that they – having been saved – should search for the precious things in life in order to serve the eternal purposes of God. The price to be paid for growth in the Christian life is costly experience or hard endeavour. It is not the case that God will make His children perfect, if they have done nothing in their life to serve His interests. They may or may not lose their salvation but they shall lose their inheritance. There is a combination between the grace of God and their own response and obedience to His commands. Jesus always did what pleased His Father – even unto death. Because of His obedience, Jesus was found worthy to receive the inheritance, which His Father has for Him. Revelation chapter 5 gives the picture of Jesus alone being found worthy to open the Scroll – the will of God – and thereby to be in control of the events of the history of the World as it unfolds. When a Jewish man made a will he rolled it up and sealed it with seven seals in order to protect it. The Jewish readers understood that the scroll was God’s will or the inheritance of Jesus in terms of His Father’s will. The believer will receive his inheritance only to the extent that he also is obedient to the will of His Father. Rev ch 10 gives the picture of the little scroll – where man has a lesser part to play in controlling the events of this World. Believers are co-heirs with Christ and are seated with Christ in the Heavenly places – now, while they are alive on Earth. God gave the Promised Land to the Hebrews as an inheritance forever as a physical picture to teach the spiritual truth about the inheritance, which will be given to the believers in eternity.
In Genesis time begins. Eternity begins. The Holy Spirit moved across the face of the waters. He brooded over the face of the waters. The word used is like an eagle hovering over its young. It is to do with bringing and cherishing life – seeking to build a nest and bring life. In Revelation the Spirit says: “Come.” He has obtained what God intended from the beginning. No more building or creating. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured out on 120 people to become 120 members of the body of Christ. At the end of time on Earth, the whole number will be entered in the Lamb’s Book of Life and the book will be closed.
Origins, processes and issues. Genesis is about origins. From Exodus to Jude the Bible is about processes. In Revelation it is about issues. The battle between good and evil – light and darkness – Christ and the anti-Christ. The Bible is an unfolding theme about God’s eternal purpose. It does not tell everything about the World in which man lives but it does tell man all he needs to know about salvation and sanctification. Origin determines destiny. If man does not begin with God, he cannot end with God. Man must be born again. What is born of flesh is flesh. What is born of the Spirit is of the Spirit. What begins with man, ends with man. What begins with Satan, ends with Satan. Dabbling with the occult is a beginning with Satan and may well end up in total bondage to Satan. Begin with God and His grace is available to help man to end with God. Satan is determined to lure believers back to the ways of the World – to use things and to interject things into their life, which are not of God in the work of God, so as to undermine the work of God. God saved believers, because He wants them to be part of His rule and reign in eternity. Like it or not, believers are in a battle.
Marriage is about a beginning. For some it is an end – the end of a life of personal freedom and a new life of shared commitments. The Bible ends with a marriage of Jesus and His bride forever and ever. It is the end of one life on Earth and the start of a new life in Heaven. It does not tell a man what he will do in Heaven. God has a tremendous thing in His heart to do and He wants His children to be there with Him. Jesus started His ministry at a wedding by turning water into wine.
At the centre of the Bible is Ecclesiastes and the Song of Songs. The Song of Songs is an allegory of the love of God for His people. Ecclesiastes ch 3 v 11. God has set eternity or foreverness in the hearts of men, but men cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. God has designed each man with a gap in his inner being, which was meant to be filled with God. It is like a God-shaped blank. Fill it with money, and it will end in vanity. Fill it with business, and it will end in vanity. Fill it with sport, and it will end in vanity. Fill it with relationships, and it will end in vanity. Fill it with anything else but God and it will end in vanity. But once God fills the vacuum with God in the person of Jesus, then man begins to see what God has purposed.
In Song of Songs there is a progress. It starts with “My beloved is mine and I am His.” It focuses on “my” this or that and then there is the Lord. It emphasises meism. It speaks of my pulpit, my fellowship, my Church. My, My, My. People are saved, because they are in need. God offered what man needed. No one is saved because he loved God. Rom ch 3 v 11. “No one seeks for God.” Every one who is saved is saved because he was in need. God has what each man needs. Inferiority complex. 70% of believers have an inferiority complex and need God. They have no confidence in themselves. If there is no need of God, then there is no salvation. Eventually her refrain changes. “I am my beloved’s and He is mine.” Then later it changes to “I am my beloved’s.” The word “mine” has disappeared. God wants man to lose his interests and to submerge them into God’s interests. Jesus did just that – unto death.
John started his Gospel with the wedding at Cana. A wedding is the heart of God’s purpose. This is what it is all about. John was the best man. Israel is not mentioned in the first three chapters or in the last three chapters. Israel is pictured as a bride of God, who wandered away and chased after harlots. God sought to bring her back. Hosea is the very picture of this theme. The revelation was to the Jews. Then the Gentiles became the fellow heirs of Christ. To the Jews were entrusted the oracles of God. They wrote the Scriptures. Salvation is of the Jews. An understanding of the role of the Jewish people enlarges a man’s vision of God.
Eph ch 3 v 3 – ch 1 v 7 – Rev ch 21 v 9 – ch 22 v 1 – 2. Rev ch 3 v ch 4 v 17.
Understanding the eternal purpose of God frees believers from bondage to the Church and denominations. The first three chapters have the beginnings of things and the last three have the end of things. The first two chapters show the original purpose for mankind. If man follows the river of life, he finds precious things. He finds these in the ordinary situations of life, rather than in the special events of life. At the end of the Bible the Heavenly city is formed out of only gold, onyx and pearl. The Holy Spirit builds the home for God. Only the precious things are suitable to be used to build a home for God.
There are three strands from the beginning of the Bible to the end – the redeemer, the work of redemption and the redeemed. Man’s so-great salvation is only the means to the end. It was the means to put him back into His original purpose. The high calling is not to be saved but, when man is saved, it is to fit in with the original purpose of God. The eternal purpose is to be bound up with the Messiah – as all things are to be gathered up in the Messiah. The eternal purpose is never to be found outside of the Lord Jesus or else Jesus is devalued. The purpose is man in the Messiah. In Him man has been made a heritage. Everything is “in Him.”
There is no salvation outside of Jesus. There is no way to the Father outside of Him. There is no truth outside of Him. There is no way to receive eternal life without Him. Col ch 1 v 15-16. In Him were things created. In Him all things hold together. The whole creation of the Universe was through Jesus and for Him. In Him it all holds together. He is the head of the body – the Church. The purpose is the Lord Jesus and the redeemed. Col ch 1 v 27. “Christ in you – the hope (certainty) of glory. The more of the Messiah in man, the more glory. The Messiah cannot be in a man, if the man is not in Him.
In Revelation the city is symbolic. There is only one street and 12 gates. It is a cube. The Holy of Holies was a cube. It is 1,400 miles long, broad and high and only one street! It is the Holy of Holies – the dwelling place of God. The number 12 is central to the passage in Revelation. 12 gates, 12 tribes, 144 is 12 times 12. 12 is the figure for government in the Scriptures. It is all to do with government. Isaiah ch 9 v 6 – 7. There are two pictures wedded in one. A capital city and a bride. A husband has never referred to his bride as his capital city. A capital city is the centre of government. It is the headquarters of administration, where policies are executed – where the interests of the King are safeguarded. Many believers are like civil servants.
They are the people who exercise government. To be part of the capital city it is necessary to have
1. Adulthood – maturity. Man does not hand over authority to govern his children. There is an emphasis to growing up in the Lord – moving from milk to meat. Heb ch 5 v 14. Some have never grown up. They should be leaders and are still babes in Christ, dependant on the Minister.
2. Full knowledge through education and training.
3. A developed spiritual intelligence. An awareness of spiritual principalities and powers.
4. Wisdom through experience. Knowledge is about facts but wisdom is how to handle the facts.
5. Discipline. The higher the position, the more discipline God will take man through. It is essential to be able to cope with difficulties – welcome trials and difficulties. 1 Pet ch 1 v 6. Those who overcome will be put in charge of the government of God. It is not true that God will wave a wand and transform believers into perfect beings able to run His government. The grace to go on with God is available to each one but man has to respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
The Bride. A bride speaks of a union of two into one. It is the most intimate relationship known to mankind. The union is of two who share one name, one life, one character, one home, one family and one destiny. Believers are heirs of God and joint heirs with Messiah. It requires maturity to grasp this truth. Jesus does not want to marry a baby but a mature person – not a beautiful looking person, who has nothing to say. For a real marriage on Earth, there has to be maturity to ensure that the marriage will work. There needs to be understanding and sensitivity. Companionship – God provided a help-mate for Adam. The bride is to be a help-mate for Jesus. Man was to have dominion over the Earth. He was to look after the garden. Believers are to share in the government of the Lord Jesus now and in the future. Jesus gave His Disciples full authority over the demons. Luke ch 10 v 17 – 19. John ch 14 v 12. “You will do what I have done.”
“Return to your first love.” First love is a quality of love. First love never counts the cost. Nothing is too much. It never complains. God wants for Jesus a civil service, which can govern with love – who have a heart for Jesus and a heart for the purposes of God. Real love moves a man to sacrifice for others – as it did Jesus. There is no greater love than for a man to lay down his life for others. The pinnacle of love is for a man to do good to his enemies. “You never so touch the ocean of God’s love as when you love your enemies.” The World knows no such love.
The bride of the lamb is made out of only gold, precious stone and pearl – no hay, brick, stubble or even silver. Silver is the symbol for salvation. Salvation is at an end in the city – in eternity. Gold represents the divine nature – the life and character of the Messiah. Rev ch 3 v 18. Buy gold. The cost is experience. To experience Jesus and do what He did is through deep, painful experience. Precious stone represents the excellencies and beauties of the Messiah. His plan of salvation is so deep and so costly. Ritual can never save anyone. Precious stone is found in the dark places in the World – deeply hidden in mines. It has to be dug for and searched for. Precious stone is often produced in man’s life in the dark places under pressure to conform to the ways of the World or to go along with the schemes of others – to join the ecumenical movement – to give up deep-seated loves. There are things which appear to be worthy in themselves, yet which need to be given in obedience to the call of God on man’s life. To give them up, especially if they bring him into relationship with others, may leave him with a sense of loneliness. The Christian life is hard and at times difficult. Not to give up, when there seems no point in going on, allows precious stone to develop in man’s character.
Pearl. Every pearl has at its heart a worthless piece of grit. When the grit falls into the soft heart of the clam, the clam attempts to get rid of it and each time it surrounds it with a coat. Eventually it is a pearl. Man is a worthless piece of grit. Every time he strives to serve the Lord in faith through difficulties, his worthless piece of grit – his filthy rags – is clothed with righteousness. When he is weak, then the Lord is strong. The gates of the city are all pearl. God has special believers to whom He gives very extraordinary things to face, to live with and to handle in order to forge their character to make it like the life of Jesus.
The discovery of producing and fashioning these materials. These materials have to be discovered only by the Holy Spirit, at a place and time when man least expects to find them. They are buried and hidden in circumstances, where he would never think there was gold or precious stone or pearl – a difficult person or problem in his life. Man does not receive these things on the mountain top experiences of life. He has to discover them and refine them within his life. They are all in the life of Messiah. That inexplicable problem, which he want rid of so badly, is precious stone or a pearl. The difficult relative or the objectionable customer is precious stone, as he overcomes the difficulty. Welcome trials and difficulties. 1 Pet ch 1 v 6. There is a fine line. Sometimes man does need to be delivered. But at times he has to face the difficulty and overcome it. In that situation God is working it out. These are not found in the natural life but in Messiah in a man. Isaiah ch 45 v 3. The real problem is the un-crucified self-life. Man does not find the precious stone in his natural self-life. Persecution will sort him out, when it comes. God could have removed Satan when Satan rebelled against God. However God chose to use Satan to carry out His purpose of bringing growth into the lives of His children.
The precious materials all speak of the life and nature of the Messiah. Col 1 v 27. “The Messiah in you.” Glory is related to these materials – the life of Christ in man – man being changed into His likeness – from one degree of glory to another degree of glory. Man has one short life in which God has to bring him to salvation – into union with Himself and the Messiah and to the discovery of these materials and then to work them into him. The cost of working them in a man is experience. Then these materials become his experience and part of his flesh and blood. It is there a man finds precious stone. Only these precious materials are found in Heaven. Everything else is discarded. Gehenna is the place where the rubbish was thrown. It is known as Hell. It is a place where every single person is incredibly self-centred – with no attributes of the Messiah. It is God’s purpose to change each man to be like Jesus in His character. The grace and the power is available to man – if he wants it. A man must take hold of the grace and power, which is available to him. It is his personal responsibility to take hold of them.
Rev chs 4 and 5. John was being worked to death in a forced labour camp. A man might least expect to find revelation in such a situation. A man does not normally have a meeting with God on a mountaintop. Paul wrote the best letters while chained to a rough Roman soldier – hardly conducive to inspired writing. God works in the realm of a man’s expectations. People grow character in adversity and not in times of plenty. When God blesses people tend to become satisfied and deteriorate morally and spiritually. Seals were used for wills or testaments or inheritances. God’s inheritance or purpose is within the scroll. Who was worthy to open it? No one moved. John burst into loud sobs or tears. Jesus was found worthy to open the scroll and receive the inheritance of His Father. Amen means to believe “Amin” is the Hebrew word. When a man says “Amen”, he means “I believe it.”
The heir has been found in Jesus. There is no eternal purpose outside of the Messiah. Jesus is the focal point of the whole purpose of God from eternity to eternity. But not just the Messiah. Believers are in Him and joint heirs with Jesus. There is no point of waiting for others to join. If God calls a man to a task, he should get on with it, even if he cannot see the sense in it or a clear purpose.
Nothing can stop the eternal purpose of God. The demons always end up doing the work of God. Every time the Devil tries to do anything evil, God uses it to fulfil His purpose. God used the Holocaust to bring the people of Israel back to their own land in their own state. Jesus is the head and, if the head is over the line, the whole body has won the race. A man may still feel the tension, but the head of the Church has won the battle. There are many evil things to happen on Earth such as the Battle of Armageddon. But victory is absolutely assured.
It is a costly business to follow the Lamb, but there will be precious stones when that happens. Those who follow will become over-comers. Man only receives grace when he needs it. When he exercises faith, he receives the grace he needs to fulfil the purpose of God. The lion who is of the tribe of Judah, the root of David has overcome. It has something to do with God’s dealing with His people in the past and His plans for the future. Isaiah ch 11 v 1. This was a prophecy concerning the Messiah. Time and again God confirmed Jesus as the Messiah in every one of His three roles – prophet, priest and King. Son of David – mean the heir of God. He was the crown prince, coming to claim His inheritance. He was born the King of the Jews, He died as King of the Jews. He rose as King of the Jews. He reigns today as King of the Jews. He has never abdicated. He will return as King of the Jews and will be crowned in Jerusalem.
Where does Israel figure in the eternal purpose of God? “In Abraham shall all the families of the Earth be blessed. You shall be the father of a great nation.” In the Bible, the word “nations” appears time and again. The prophets of the Jewish people spoke of a time when the Gentiles would come into the purpose of God and His salvation. Isaiah ch 11 v 10. Isaiah ch 42 v 1. He will bring justice to the nations. He will be a light to the Gentiles. God’s purpose was to create a people through whom God could reach the World. Through them the oracles of God would be communicated. God would bring the Messiah to the World through the Jews. Isaiah ch 49 v 6. Salvation to the ends of the Earth. Zechariah ch 8 v 23. The one of whom people take hold of His skirts is the Messiah. Romans ch 3. What is the benefit of being a Jew? Much in every way. The Jews received the oracles of God. Eph ch 3 v 4 f. The Gentiles are heirs with Israel. Romans chs 9 – 11. The real Israel is inside the outer Israel. There will be an explosion of resurrection life when the Jewish people accept their Messiah. The believers and the Jewish people are on a course, where they will meet under the banner of the Messiah. 2,000 years ago the Jews would have been horrified at the thought that God would save the Gentiles. Today many believers are horrified at the thought that God will do a work to save the Jews. The enemy is at work doing his best to prevent the purpose of God. The grace of God watched over each man, when he was in his mother’s womb. The grace of God watched over each believer, before he was saved and provided for him in so many ways. The grace of God led man to receive salvation.
Salvation is a process of going on with the Lord. Knowledge of the Lord personally is the key and costly experience is the way to discover the materials. Man discovers the Lord in the difficult experiences of life. The materials are purified and polished as he goes on with the Lord. Then they become something of eternal beauty and glory. The flaw in a piece of jade can become the focal point of the precious stone. A fault in man’s life can be the most precious thing in his life e.g. an inferiority complex – a mistake or a weakness, an accident or a sick relative. In man’s weakness is His strength. The New Testament speaks of people of every tribe and tongue coming from the Gentiles to join the Jewish people.
There is a theme through the Bible. If the Lord is not at the centre of a life or Church or Christian work, it is all useless. Believers do not have to bother about the things, which God has not revealed. He has not disclosed everything. But He has disclosed everything man needs for personal holiness.
In a minora the seven branches represent each of the 7 Churches. In the midst of the 7 lamp stands is the Messiah. He has a message for each of the 7 Churches, fitted to the need of each Church. The 7 Churches are chosen to represent the whole Church of God in time on Earth and in a given locality and place. The number “7” means completeness or fullness. The 7 spirits of God means the complete work of the Holy Spirit. It represents the whole Church in all its imperfection and every worthwhile attribute. Jesus holds the keys of Hell and death in the midst of the 7 Churches. He is absolutely supreme in Heaven and on Earth. Satan does not have the keys. Jesus holds the keys. Why is it a lamp stand? Exodus ch 25 v 31. God instructed a lamp stand to represent the light of God. “I am the light of the World.” Zechariah ch 4. A lamp-stand is not a beautiful piece but it is there to give light. The lamp-stand represents the home of God. It is the building programme of God. It is an eternal building programme of human beings being built into living stones. God allows mountains to be put in the way to prove that the work is going ahead by His spirit. The top-stone of the building is the Messiah. When the building programme has been completed, it will be entirely the grace of God, who started the work and continued it and finished it.
The olive tree. Trees always represent human beings in the Bible. A tree planted by rivers of living water. Jer ch 17 v 7. The trees of the field will clap their hands. The trees on either side of the minora represent human beings. Gold is poured out of the olive trees. The precious stone is poured out of the human beings into the building programme of God. Man will find that the light of God will be removed, if he does not place Jesus at the centre of the life of the Church. Rev ch 3 v 14. Even a perfect Church can shut Jesus out of the activity of the Church. If anyone will open the door and let Jesus in, He will enter in. Without Jesus, the Church is nothing, despite all the ceremonies and ritual. Traditions, denominations and so on will go on but Jesus is no longer there in the midst. When Jesus is there, the Church becomes a prophetic declaration of God to the community. As soon as Jesus is devalued, the Church becomes institutionalised and the building programme grinds to a halt. Living stones are to be built together in relationship with one another and with the Lord. The precious stone cannot be there, where there is division amongst brothers. The enemy uses division to stop the building programme. The emblem of Israel is a minora with two olive trees on either side. It was a prophetic choice by David Bengurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel in 1948.
Jesus ends with the same message to each Church – “to him who overcomes.” He who has an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the Churches. Where the Lord is speaking, the enemy always implies doubt. The enemy only attacks what is of God.
In the last 2 chapters of Revelation, there is no need of light. The Lamb is the light of the World. The lamp is on the stand. The stand is the city. The glory of God shines through the Lamb in the body of the believers. He who overcomes will inherit the city of God. Man can only be an over-comer, when he lets Jesus, who is the over-comer, into his life. He who hears will say: “Come.” The key to the book of Revelation is the desire for spiritual character. Believers leave all their money – they land safe on Canaan’s side with knowledge, experience and achievements. Man came into the World naked and shall go out naked. The only thing he can take into eternity is what God has worked into his character. It is His business to make man like Himself. That will last forever. The Church on Earth is a training school. The real Church on Earth, where man lives in time on Earth, is the sphere of his spiritual education, the sphere of his spiritual training and sphere of his spiritual discipline. Believers are to be living stones built together into a wall for a habitation of God in the spirit. It is the sphere of overcoming. There was only one Church in the New Testament. There were different families in different places. For most people it is the relationship with other believers, which is the problem. But the supreme test of man’s love is how he can love his fellow believers. It is easy to love those believers in Africa, when man does not have to speak to them. It is man’s humility in dealing with other believers in the immediate Church, which matters. There is a big “I” in each man. It is easy to get on with everybody when a man is alone. God puts everything to the test in the relationship with the brothers and sisters in Christ. The Church of the New Testament was the building yard of God. All building yards are a mess. A kitchen is a mess, when a big banquet is being prepared. Even if there was a perfect Church for a short time, it would not last long as those with huge problems come in to the Kingdom. God will have a perfect Church one day in the future. Believers will overcome in the way they wash the feet of their brothers and sisters. Believers are defeated or overcome in their relationship with their brothers and sisters. Believers must find other believers meeting together in the Messiah under His government. There they must stay. Only if the lamp-stand is taken away, do they go with the lamp-stand. They must be very sure that they are following the lamp-stand. The challenge of Jesus is to be over-comers. In staying where they are, they become perfected.
If a believer is part of a difficult Church, where there are big problems – e.g. like Corinth, a believer should stay where he is. Paul told those in the Corinthian Church, who wrote to him about the problems, to stay where they were. Overcoming is one of the main themes of the book of Revelation. “God is in control” is one theme but man must not sit and wonder but must overcome. It is what he does with the power of the Holy Spirit and the grace of God, which matters. God will provide the grace and the power to meet man’s own difficult background or problems. That is why God will not tolerate any excuse.
Philippians ch 3. Paul counted everything as loss, as long as he might attain Him. What does he mean? The more Paul knew of the Lord, the more he knew he did not know. The more a man sees, the more he will be gripped with the need to press on to the goal to win Jesus as a bridegroom. To press on will cost a man everything. Men want Christ on the cheap. The price will not come down. The cost is the personal cross. Man needs vision plus 100% commitment. Everything has to go in order to attain the prize of knowing Jesus as the bridegroom. Grace and power are available to enable a man to achieve this purpose.
What job does a believer want to have in eternity in the government of Jesus? Is he striving for a real role in that government? God started with two people and will finish with the perfect number.12 x 12 x 1,000. 144,000 is His total number for government in the Universe. It is the eternal purpose of God that each believer will use every situation to develop character in order to be an attractive bride to Jesus and to serve His purposes here on Earth, so that he is qualified and experienced to receive a position in the government of the Universe, when time on Planet Earth has ended.
God redeemed the Children of Israel from bondage in Egypt with an outstretched arm and with mighty wonders. These came in the form of plagues, which He poured out on the land and the people of Egypt. The plagues were more than a demonstration of God’s power. Each one was a judgement on the idolatrous worship of a pagan Egyptian deity. The plagues took place around 1260 B. C. A major factor, which protected the Hebrews from the plagues is that the Hebrew villages were more than a few miles from the River Nile. The Egyptians lived along the side of the River Nile. The ten plagues demonstrate an environmental domino effect made worse by cultural traditions.
The first plague was blood (dham). Exodus ch 7 v 14-24. This was an attack on the false god Hapi, the father of the gods, who was “god” of the River Nile. He was the one who was worshipped for bringing water to all of Egypt. It was the water of the Nile, which sustained the life of the people. He was credited for watering the fields and bringing the dew. He was worshipped for bringing the annual inundation when the River Nile rose and flooded the fields. As a fertility god he is associated with Osiris. The Nile was considered to be the link between this life and the life after death. The Nile was considered to be the blood of Osiris. The priests of Egypt held blood in abhorrence and yet they cruelly made sport of the blood of the captive Hebrew slaves by casting their children into the River Nile. The Egyptians worshipped the River Nile. When the waters turned to blood it excited their loathing and detestation. The calamity covered them with confusion and shame of their god Hapi being defamed. Other deities connected with the Nile are Amon and Khnum, who was the guardian of the Nile.
The cause. The Nile turned to blood and the fish died. This was probably a pfisteria surge. If there is an exceptionally high flood of the Nile the waters bring down red earth from the basins of the blue and white Niles. It may well have brought down microcosms known as flagellates and associated bacteria. As well as making the water red in colour these would cause the death of fish on a large scale and cause the waters to stink. Pfisteria live in fresh water and secret neurotoxins, which kill fish and eat away their flesh. The toxins turn the water red when released.
The second plague was frogs (tz’fahr’day-a). Exodus ch 8 v 1-15. This was an attack on Heka (Heqt) the toad goddess, wife of Knepfh (Khnum), who was the goddess of the land and resurrection and procreative powers. Frogs and toads were very sacred to the Egyptians. They were consecrated to Osiris and were symbols of inspiration. If a man killed a frog, even unintentionally, he was punishable by death.
The cause. Toads and frogs lay relatively small clutches of eggs but toads can lay millions of eggs. With fewer fish to eat the toads’ eggs, the population exploded. The decomposing fish along the banks of the Nile would have polluted and infected the usual feeding places of the frogs and toads. The frogs and toads then came onto the land attracted to the heat and light of the house fires, which attract insects for them to eat. So the frogs infested the buildings and died and decayed there.
The third plague was gnats (kinnim) Exodus ch 8 v 16-19. This was an attack on Geb, the great cackler who was god of the earth and vegetation. He was the father of Osiris and the husband of Nut.
The cause. “Lice” was a general term since the concept of categorising plants and animals was introduced by Aristotle 1000 years later. Midges or mosquitoes (NoSeeEms) bite people but not livestock. They are poor fliers and were limited to fifty yards from the shore where they breed on water. The exceptionally high river may have increased their breeding. So they would attack the Egyptians living alongside the Nile but not the Hebrews who lived away from the River.
The fourth plague was flies (arov) Exodus ch 8 v 20-32. This was an attack on Khepfi, who was the god of insects.
The cause. In the climatic conditions the stable flies bred at an exceptional rate. They bred on the decaying vegetation along the banks of the Nile and did not affect the Hebrews living inland.
The fifth plague was livestock (dever). Exodus ch 9 v 1-7. This was an attack on Apis, who was the bull god. His counterpart was Hathor the cow goddess. Their place of worship was at On (Heliopolis). The Egyptians held many beats in idolatrous veneration. The lion, wolf, dog, cat, ape and goat were very sacred to them but especially the ox, heifer and ram. (Khnum.) The soul of their god Osiris was believed to reside in the body of the bull Apis. Mnevis, the bull god was a symbol of fertility.
The cause. The cattle but not the people suffered a sickness. The blue tongue or African house sickness was common in the area. This may be a form of anthrax arising from the death of the frogs and toads in the fields. These sicknesses are spread by insects. If the Hebrew cattle were held in stalls and not in the fields they would not have been infected.
The sixth plague was boils (sh’chir). Exodus ch 9 v 8-12. This was an attack on Thoth (Imhotep) who was the god of medicine and intelligence/wisdom. The Egyptians had several medical deities to whom on special occasions they sacrificed humans. The people were burned alive on a high altar and Mosheh took ashes from the furnace and cast them into the air. As the ashes were scattered by the wind, descending on the priests, people and beast they were believed to bring a blessing to them.
The cause. The now unknown disease of glanders is spread by stable flies and only infects people. The flies feeding on the decaying frogs and cattle would bite people and infect them. The boils particularly affected hands and feet. This may explain why the magicians could not stand before Moses.
The seventh plague was hail (barad). Exodus ch 9 v 13-35. This was an attack on Nut, who was the sky goddess. This was harvest time – the time of plenty. It was also an attack on Isis the goddess of life and Seth the protector of crops.
The cause. A hailstorm destroyed the crops. Hailstorms are rare in Egypt but happen every 20-30 years on average. The crops of barley and flax were flattened and destroyed.
The eighth plague was locust (arbeh) Exodus ch 10 v 1-20. This was an attack on Anubis, who was the god of the fields, especially cemeteries. This plague finishes up the work, which was done by the hail. The locusts devoured every herb of the land and the fruit of the trees. This was also an attack on Isis, protector against locust and Seth the protector of crops.
The cause. The high rainfall in Ethiopia and Sudan, which gave rise to the flood of the Nile gave favourable conditions for a plague of locusts, which would have been driven up the Nile Valley into Egypt by the east wind. The locusts would eat the rest of the crops. Locust droppings would have contaminated the fields and the remaining grain.
The ninth plague was darkness (choshekh). Exodus ch 10 v 21-29. This was an attack on Ra or Amon-Re the sun god. Darkness was considered a creation of Seth and it seemed like he had defeated and killed Re the sun god. At the same time as the Egyptians had darkness, the Hebrews had light because they lived inland away from the River Nile. Re was believed to be the father of all the Pharaohs.
The cause. A severe sandstorm – khamsin – brings darkness by blotting out the sun. Cloudless skies are the norm in Egypt. The dried out red earth brought down by the Nile from Ethiopia and Sudan would have increased the darkness.
The tenth plague was death of the first-born (makkat b’khorot). Exodus ch s 11 and 12. This was an attack on Pharaoh, who was the god king. Pharaoh considered himself a god and his first born who would succeed him to the throne was also a god. The first-born people and animals were often worshipped. Pharaoh was considered an incarnation of Ra the sun god and Osiris the giver of life. So when his son died it was as if a god of Egypt had died.
The cause. There was a tradition that the first-born received double rations of whatever food was available. The nation was in a drought situation. Wet crops buried in granaries under a heavy layer of sand from the sandstorm would have started to rot. The high levels of cellulose in grain would be an ideal growth medium for fungus, which would contain mycotoxins. Mycotoxins cause internal bleeding in the lungs and the patient dies without any externally visible cause. Only the first born with their double rations would have eaten the lethal quantity of food. Pharaoh had been warned but it is difficult to change or give up traditions, which are entrenched in society. Pharaoh would not have known the danger of lung disease from eating the damaged crops.
There were many local gods in Egypt. The nearest thing to a truly national religion was the cult of Osiris with his wife Isis and their son Horus. The king Osiris was believed to have been murdered by his wicked brother Seth, after which he became the ruler of the realm of the dead. Osiris triumphed in the person of his posthumous son and avenger Horus, who with the support of his mother Isis gained his father’s kingship on Earth. Osiris was also linked with the annual rise of the Nile with rebirth of life. (This family is similar to the Babylonian mystery religion surrounding Nimrod, his wife and son Tammuz.
In the plagues God was passing judgement on the people of Egypt for their false religion. Instead of giving praise to Him as provider of the waters of the Nile and every aspect of life, they worshipped false gods even when He demonstrated His power through Moses. It is a lesson and a warning to all peoples throughout history of the dangers of ignoring the true living God.
Mark Ch 10 v 46-52. Mat ch 20 v 29-34. Luke ch 18 v 35. Psalm 146. Isaiah ch 42 v 1-13.
This short passage describes an event, which took place nearly 2,000 years ago. There are only seven verses – 167 words. Yet it has so much to teach. The Bible is like a tutorial. As a man listens to the words and puts himself in the situation, he finds that he is thinking about how he would react, how he would handle the situation or how guilty he would feel. Imagine being one in the crowd that day, as Jesus left the northern gate of Jericho on His way to Jerusalem. Jericho, a city with a proud tradition. It is one of the oldest cities in the World. Then 5,000 years old, now 7,000 years old. Jesus was there in this city.
It is interesting that Matthew records that two people were healed that day. Mark and Luke record just one person healed. Sometimes people, looking to criticise, point to this situation and say: “How can you believe the Bible, which is full of inaccuracies?” Is it? If a man goes down town and meets two people he may return and relate meeting one of them. Later when speaking to another person he narrates meeting two people. There is no untruth there. Both accounts are true. Why Mark and Luke mention only one and not two is not know, but it does not detract from the truth. There was a meeting between Jesus and Bartimaeus. Bar is the same as Mac and means son of – Son of Timaeus.
Imagine being in the crowd wanting to hear what Jesus has to say. Everyone is quoting Jesus and talking about the miracles, the confrontation with the religious leaders of the day, the countless people who have been healed. Will there be a healing today? Will a Pharisee turn up and ask some trick question? Maybe there will be an opportunity to speak to some of His closest followers later on. Did anyone notice that there was a blind beggar sitting by the roadside? Suddenly he called out: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” Who told him to be quiet? He was disturbing the meeting. Was it right to tell him to be quiet. Jesus was speaking? The Son of God, in human flesh was speaking and naturally the people wanted to hear His every word. Was it a surprise that Jesus Himself stopped walking and talking and asked some of the crowd to call the blind beggar over? The blind beggar did not need to be asked twice. Although blind, there was nothing wrong with his hearing or with his legs.
It is comfortable to be in a group where everyone knows the others. What if someone brings in a lonely person, with big problems? It will never be the same again. Is it right to deny others the life, which Jesus offers? What would happen if, during a Church service, someone were to call out to be healed? Would it be embarrassing? Are Church members too busy to take the time to meet a lonely or disturbed person at their point of need? Jesus did just that. What was the point of talking, if it did not lead to action and did not help someone in real need? After all, it was the same Jesus who said: “It is the sick, who need a doctor, not those in good health. My purpose is to invite sinners to turn from their sins, not to spend time with those who think themselves already good enough.”
Believers cannot afford embarrassment or concern about what others will think. If they see a need, will they respond in the name of Jesus and with the compassion of Jesus? “Well done good and faithful servant.” It has to be one of the objectives of a group of believers to meet people at the point of their need – whether that is physical, emotional or spiritual.
It is interesting that Jesus did not call the man Himself but asked someone else to be involved. It is the same today. Jesus would ask believers to call people to join Him. The Holy Spirit may be at work in the life of another. Indeed without the work of the Holy Spirit nothing will happen. But then He usually works in conjunction with a human being. Perhaps a particular believer is the one He wants to use to issue the physical call to come to Jesus. It is also interesting that Jesus did not approach Bartimaeus. Jesus healed all who came to Him. Was it a coincidence that Jesus passed by that way? Did He see Bartimaeus at the side of the road and slow down, giving Bartimaeus the opportunity to call out? Perhaps the two were not the only blind beggars there that day. There is a mystery why some respond and others do not.
There is another mystery. How did Jesus heal the man? When there is healing today, how does the healer believe that there will be a healing? What makes it different from just wanting the man to be healed, however honourable that may be? Jesus said: “I only do what I see my Father doing?” Did Jesus ask His Heavenly Father; “Do you want to heal this man?” Did He then hear the word of God from Psalm 146 v 8. “The Lord opens the eyes of the blind.” Perhaps it was from Isaiah ch 42 v 6-7. “I have given you to my people as the personal confirmation of my covenant with them. You will open the eyes of the blind.” Knowing what His Father wanted to do, in faith, Jesus spoke the words and the man was healed. Could that be the way it happened? Is that the way for believers to act, when it comes to healing?
Bartimaeus was not only blind. He was also lonely. Blindness was not uncommon in these days. Because of his blindness, he could not earn his living and had no alternative but to beg. That was his daily routine. What else could he do? If he had had family or friends, he would not have had to beg. Just another day, until Jesus met him at his point of need.
The World is full of lonely people. Loneliness is capable of hurling the heaviest weight the human heart can endure. Only those who have really been lonely will know the anguish it can cause – a prison inmate or an elderly person, who closes the curtains at 4 p.m. in the winter and does not see another person until the following morning. There can be children at school who are lonely – who have no friends – and have to hide themselves, pretending to be busy, so that their loneliness does not show. Perhaps when they go home on a Friday, it is simply to continue their lonely life, busying themselves with their video games and hidden away in their rooms, wishing that there was some way out of their lonely existence. Do not be too occupied with the words of Jesus in meetings and Bible study, to miss the lonely people, who are desperate to be involved in real life.
In a sense this man is a helpful picture of those who, the Bible says, are blinded by the god of this age. They do not know Christ as their personal Lord and Saviour. Bartimaeus was helpless and hopeless, with no prospect of improving his lot in life. He was just waiting out his days on Earth. Those who are spiritually blind are just moving relentlessly to the day when their physical life will end and they have no hope of a life after death. Indeed they do not enjoy life to the full right now. So often people say that they are doing something to help pass the time. Time is a gift from God to mankind to be used for the glory of God. A man only has so much time and ought to use it and not let it pass by. Look what Jesus packed into three short years and learn from Him how to use the time available to effect. Do not waste it. Use it. The enemy comes to rob, steal and destroy. He will steal a man’s time and encourage him to fritter it away. There is a worldly attitude of doing as little as possible. In light of the gift of eternal life, believers cannot do enough for the Lord. God’s children should not do as little as possible but as much as possible.
For a blind beggar, who relies on the generosity of people, a crowd passing by increased the possibilities of a better than average day. But this was no ordinary crowd. In the crowd was Jesus. This incident took place near the end of Jesus’ three-year ministry. He was on the way to Jerusalem where He would lay His life down for the sins of the World. Bartimaeus must have heard talk of the miracles of Jesus, the healings of Jesus and the difference Jesus had made to lives of other people in deep trouble. He had plenty time to think and reflect. Would Jesus heal him if he asked Jesus? “If some are healed, why not me?” Faith feeds on facts and Bartimaeus had heard the facts. What had he to lose? This might be his only opportunity. Jesus may never pass this way again. In fact Jesus never did pass that way again. A man’s opportunities to be in touch with Jesus are always today and never tomorrow. The Bible says – today is the day of salvation.
It is clear that Bartimaeus had been thinking. He knew about sin and the need for forgiveness. Maybe he harboured envy and bitterness in his heart because of his condition. Mercy was what he needed and he was not too proud to let it be known in public. On another occasion Jesus said: “Forget about yourself.” That is the key. Realising that man is a creature. He is the Creator. A man is nothing in His glorious sight. Many people cannot see past their own interests. It is not difficult to find someone worse off. Satan became Satan because he put his interests before God’s interests. A blind person has little room for pride.
There was no great dialogue – nineteen words by Jesus and six by Bartimaeus. “What do you want me to do for you?” “O, Teacher, I want to see.” “All right, it is done. Your faith has healed you.” There is a lesson about prayer there. K.I.S.S. Keep it simple Saint. Believers beat about the bush so often, never quite getting to the point. God knows what a man wants, before he asks Him. A man should make sure to ask the Lord for what he wants.
So many people get close to God and let the moment slip by. Perhaps when they are in hospital undergoing surgery, they realise that they might have died and they were not ready to face God. They say to themselves: “When I get home, I am going to do something about this.” Others hear of a tragedy – a plane crash and realise that they might have been on that plane. Some hear the Word of God preached and go home poised to make a decision. They meet someone on the way and the moment is gone. Others want to keep an open mind. There is a danger that, if a man keeps his mind open too long on any matter, his brains will fall out.
This passage has something to say about physical healing. The problem of loneliness challenges believers about their attitude to the needs of others and the compassion of Jesus. It also has something to say about the difference between knowing about God and knowing Him personally. The main distinction is between deists and theists. The idea that a person can know God personally is ridiculous to most people. Yet that is what the Bible offers.
Religion v Christianity. Ideas about God abound. Usually they are the ideas of man transferred onto God. The mark of error in religion is that its gods are scaled down to a size, which the human mind can accommodate and its demands encourage the idea that man’s religious practices can contribute to his own salvation. Jesus said: “I am God.” Did He? “Before Abraham was, I am.” The religious leaders said of Jesus at the trial: “You, a mere man, make yourself out to be God.” They understood His message.
How well a man knows someone depends on how much of himself that person chooses to reveal of himself. When a man knows someone, he does not know all about him. If a man loves another he wants to know everything about that person. Heb ch 1 v 3. God has spoken through the Bible and His Son Jesus to reveal Himself.
It is one thing to talk about Jesus. It all comes down to one question at the end of the day – “Does a man want to know God personally.” Only those who want to know God personally and are interested in His interests, will be in Heaven. The real question is not – “If you die tomorrow, will you go to Heaven?” It is – “If you live tomorrow, will you live in Heaven under the authority of God?” The Kingdom of Heaven is the rule of God in the hearts of men.
Bartimaeus obviously knew about Jesus. That was essential if he was to call upon Him as he did. “Jesus, Son of David.” The title meant the anointed one. The one who was to come from Heaven. Batimaeus knew about Jesus but did not know Him personally – until that day in Jericho. There he met with Jesus personally. His life was clearly changed. Not just physically but after the meeting he followed Jesus on the way. Once a man knows someone special he wants to know all about that person. That is how it is with popular idols – pictures, autographs, magazines, and so on. So it is with Jesus. When a man has met Him his desire for knowledge about Him should increase so that he can get to know Him better. There is also this idea. Jesus needed people like Bartimaeus. He did not court popularity but in His humanity Jesus needed human company. It is a truth found throughout the Bible that God works though people. In one sense God needs no one to accomplish His purposes. He is all-powerful and can do anything. But given that His plan for this World has been shown to be worked out through people, He does need people. He delights in the company of His adopted children. There is a story (not a true story) of Jesus’ return to Heaven. When asked by an angel what arrangements He had made for His Church on Earth the reply was: “I have left it all in the hands of twelve Disciples. No other arrangements have been made.”
The people saw in Jesus a great leader. They, who had physical sight, were blind spiritually. Bartimaeus, who had no physical sight, had spiritual sight. He recognised this man as God.
Just 167 words, but this encounter between Jesus and Bartimaeus has a lot to teach.
There are 2,930 characters in the Bible. Each one is a real person in a real situation. God brings out certain aspects and experiences of their lives in order to teach truth. There are no fictitious or mythological characters. Adam and Eve are real. The very words recorded as spoken by Adam and Eve are words actually spoken by them. If Adam and Eve were not real people, the Bible would not be a book of truth, which it holds itself out to be. There are people mentioned in the parables – like the Good Samaritan – who are not real people. But a parable is a figure of speech, not based on true stories. There was not a real Samaritan who bound up the wounds of a Jew. It was obviously a story to illustrate a point of truth. God generally teaches truth through the experiences of real people in real situations.
Nebuchadnezzar was an emperor of the greatest empire the World had known up till that time. “How could he possibly relate to my life?” One reason why he is relevant today is because of Saddam Hussein, who called himself Nebuchadnezzar II. The same demonic principality, who controlled Nebuchadnezzar I, also controlled Saddam Hussein, longing to be the greatest leader in the Middle East, prince above the other demonic princes, using and abusing people to achieve his own ends. In the Spiritual World there are structures of government and power struggles going on in the unseen World.
Nebuchadnezzar was King of his little World. It was a big World in one way and yet a small World in God’s eyes. No one dared question his authority. The World revolved around him. Each man has his own little empire, whether it is his classroom, his office room, his business or even just his bedroom. This is where “I am in charge. No one is going to tell me how to run things within my little empire. It is my domain. I rule here. I am king here. Who dares to interfere!” Is there not an element of that attitude in every life? The very concept that the personal domain is in existence by the grace of God – as a gift from God to be used for the glory of God is not often evident. God had to teach Nebuchadnezzar something about grace and his dependence on grace, which man needs to learn for his life. Nebuchadnezzar had risen to the most powerful position in the World by the grace of God and yet, as a result, he did just as he pleased.
Within the thinking of Nebuchadnezzar the people around him were there to serve his purposes. The idea of a verse like Galatians ch 6 v 10 – “never cease doing good to everyone you meet, especially your brothers in Christ” – just never entered his thinking process. But it should enter the thinking process. Then man begins to realise that everything he has is at the disposal of Jesus, if it can serve his fellow human beings. That might mean giving up the treasured room, or business or even sharing the most treasured personal possessions, if they are needed for the purposes of God.
Nebuchadnezzar was in the habit of manipulating people and cajoling them and, if necessary, threatening and even killing them to get what he wanted. Is man guilty of doing that sometimes? Maybe not killing them physically – but socially – dropping people who are of no use or manipulating them. Believers do not do a good turn to use it in the future to get something back, when it is needed. If a believer does a good turn, he does it because of the grace and mercy of God to him a sinner. He does not expect to be repaid, even though God does say that He will honour those who honour Him. If someone wants to return the good deed, that is acceptable but it should not be expected as repayment for the initial good deed. In this area of life the believer should have a quite distinctly different attitude to life from those in the World.
Nebuchadnezzar even demanded of others more than he expected of himself. He demanded that the astrologers tell him the meaning of a dream, which he could not remember. He was not asking them to make bricks without straw. He was asking them to make bricks without even clay. That was not fair. Does a man sometimes expect and demand of others standards, which he is not prepared to live up to himself? A man expects others to look after him on the roads and show a high degree of care towards his vehicle, but is he as careful towards others? A man is indignant if others gossip about him, but is he always careful in what he says about others? In Mat ch 7 v 1 Jesus points out that in the same way as a man judges others, so shall he be judged. A man sets the standards he requires of others, yet fails to match that himself. So a man is his own judge. A man condemns himself by failing his own standards. Often people quote the verse to say that man should not judge others. That is not what Jesus was saying. He was saying two things. First, the standard a man sets is the standard, which will be applied to him on judgement day. Second, others will treat that man as he treats them. If he criticises them for failing the standards, which he set for them, they will be very quick to criticise him when he fails the same standards. There is a saying: A whale only gets caught when it spouts. By spouting off man is in danger of bringing himself under judgement. Jesus goes on to warn about a man taking the speck out of a neighbour’s eye, while ignoring the log in his own eye.
God came to Nebuchadnezzar in the person of Daniel. There was no written Bible in these days, so God spoke through a man. In times of trouble, where does a man turn? Nebuchadnezzar tried everything he could – his wise men – the occult – and as a last resort, he tried the word of God. He called for Daniel. When a man hits trouble, is God his first port of call or does he try friends, the doctor, his family or the Bible? Nebuchadnezzar was interested in what God had to say through Daniel but it did not change his life. Often a man is interested in the Bible but it does not change his life. God must be first in a man’s life. There is a great contrast in the story between Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar. Faith needs a crisis to walk on. Daniel faced a few crises in his life and he turned to God for help and guidance. In a crisis it is not at all clear which way to proceed. Daniel found God helped him by faith. By faith Daniel shut the mouths of the lions. Heb ch 11 v 33. He believed the word of God, which came to him, that he would not be eaten by the lions. Psalm 37 v 39. He believed that word and it came to pass. Nebuchadnezzar, for all his wealth and power, had no faith in God. If a man is in the habit of turning to God in every situation in life, it should be natural to turn to Him in difficult times, welcoming the difficulties and seeking a way through to glorify God. All men face trouble and difficulties, even the rich are not immune. Every human being faces death and must be ready for that moment. Wealth is no safeguard to difficulties in life.
When Nebuchnezzar had his dream – it frightened him very much – he found that only the man of God, speaking the Word of God in his situation, could solve his problem. Ch 2 v 46. Nebuchadnezzar might have thanked God for His intervention. He did not do that. He honoured Daniel. He gave Daniel high honours and great gifts. He had not really grasped that it was the grace of God working through Daniel, which was inviting Nebuchadnezzar to know God for himself. Sometimes a man is guilty of elevating a human being, who has been used by God to bless him. Instead God should get all the glory. Isaiah ch 48 v 11. Always make sure that if God intervenes to help someone, He is given all the glory. God will not share that glory with another. Jesus teaches the same thing. Mat ch 6 v 3. “When you do a kindness to someone, do it secretly – do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Your Father, who knows all secrets, will reward you.” If a man tells others, it shows that he is looking for the praise of men and, that way the man gets the glory and not God.
Nebuchadnezzar had never fully understood that it was God personally who had intervened and told him the meaning of his dream. He had been a worshipper of polytheism – many gods – the idea of a personal God, who intervened in the affairs of man, did not occur to him. As a result he could only think to honour the man. It is obvious that God was not real to him, because the next thing he did was to build a golden image to be worshipped. His actions betrayed his thinking and understanding. “Bow down and worship the image.” A man’s actions and words give away what is in his heart? If man has been in the presence of God – really aware of His holiness – should his conversation so easily revert to the mundane? Should there not be a longer period when he is awe-struck by the holiness of God? Believers think about the Word of God during Bible study. How long does it last in their thinking? Is it still real the next day or has it been relegated to the subconscious – or dismissed altogether. Nebuchadnezzar did not believe the Word of God. The word of God through Daniel had made no lasting or significant impression on Nebuchadnezzar. How often does God need to tell a man to mend his ways, before he falls into obedience? How many sins are believers still committing, which they should have abandoned years ago?
God turned the world of Nebuchadnezzar upside down. He sent him out to graze in the fields, like an animal. What stupidity to ignore the Word of God. The Lord banished the Children of Israel from the Land, when they abandoned Him. A Church can be closed down by the withdrawal of the Holy Spirit. Nations are brought to nothing, when God withdraws His Holy Spirit. Nebuchadnezzar was struck down from the heights of Emperor to live like an animal. Often people are described as being like animals. That is an insult to the animals. Man, without the grace of God, lives well below the standard of an animal, losing all social relationships, cleanliness and care for his own body and wellbeing. No animal ever stoops that low. Learn the lesson from Nebuchadnezzar. It is deadly serious to walk out on God. God had a purpose in that He wanted to win his affection and show how much Nebuchadnezzar depended on God’s grace. It worked for a while but it did not last. Many make promises but do not keep them. Nebuchadnezzar ascribed the grace of God to himself. Think what he could have done for others with the resources God had put at his disposal. Nebuchadnezzar was so concerned for himself that he never thought about others. It was meism on a grand scale. But it is the same with any human being whose world centres on himself. A man can so easily be set in his ways that there is no room for others, let alone the Holy Spirit.
Just as there is a deep lack of awareness of sin in the society, there is just as great a lack of awareness of grace. Nebuchadnezzar had no awareness of grace. He looked over his garden and said: “I did that.” If it had not been for the grace of God, he would have achieved nothing. Grace sustains a man’s very existence. Grace is undeserved favour to sinners, who deserve nothing but condemnation. He was proud of his achievements. Is a man sometimes proud of what he has achieved and put it down to his natural abilities? It is all grace – every breath is a gift from God. A man’s special abilities are a gift from God, whether that be musical ability, mental ability, strength, the ability to play well at sport, the ability to run a business – it is all grace from beginning to end. Most men cannot even grow food to feed themselves but for grace. It is God who makes the plants grow, by sending the rain. It is one of the greatest sins that a man ascribes the grace of God to himself and declares himself righteous – good enough for God – as if God should be so very grateful to have the company of that person in Heaven. What judgement awaits the proud person! Proverbs ch 6 v 16. There are several things the Lord hates. Top of the list is pride. The proud man only looks down and not up. In fact it was pride, which blinded Nebuchadnezar and led him to condemn three of his best ministers to the fiery furnace. Pride can blind man to the truth. The truth is that a man relies on grace each day. There is a song, which starts: “Every hour I need you.” Pride can deceive a man into thinking that he is not too bad as a sinner. Pride caused Nebuchadnezzar to threaten with death anyone who questioned the correctness of his opinion. Is a man ever so confident about his opinions that he kills others – not physically, but with his looks or words. Sometimes looks kill, because of a man’s pride.
The amazing thing is that Nebuchadnezzar was very unimpressed by the miracle of the deliverance of the three men from the furnace. After that there was another dream and again Nebuchadnezzar called for the magicians and astrologers. Can believers ever stop praising God and thanking Him for the gift of eternal life? There were those who followed Jesus for the miracles – something to talk about. “Were you there that day the loaves and fishes were multiplied?” “Do you remember the day the blind man saw and the religious leaders doubted it?” It can very easily be all talk and no action. Where is the change in character – where are the people of integrity? It is after all the only thing a man can take into eternity. A man can easily be caught up with the action and not the business of holy living.
Nebuchadnezzar had no relationship with God, despite all his interest in the Word of God through Daniel. It is easy to be talking about God and never to trust Him. There is a great contrast between Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel had wealth and lost it. Nebuchadnezzar had wealth and hung onto it. Daniel used the loss of his wealth and position to develop his service to God. Nebuchadnezzar probably never got round to it.
It is extraordinary how many of the situations facing the life of the World’s top man in his day face people today as they live 2,500 years later in a modern, technological day. The Bible is full of questions. Often it leaves a story or a character with an unanswered question. Dan ch 4 v 34 – 37. What happened to Nebuchadnezzar? Did he finally repent or was he still tossing the ideas about God around in his mind? Many people think about God, but never make a commitment. That is why Jesus stressed that it is not those who hear His words, or admire His words, or think about His words, but those who obey His words, who find eternal life. Whether Nebuchadnezzar is in Heaven or Hell is not known.
Acts ch 13 v 16-25. 1 Sam ch 17 v 31 – 47.
David is described in Acts ch 13 v 22 as a man after God’s heart. God said: “I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.”
1 Sam ch 13 v 14. God told Samuel that He had found a man after His own heart. A man who would do His will. “The Lord has sought out a man after His own heart and the Lord has appointed him to be prince over his people.”
David was to be King of Israel. He was rejected by the World but anointed by God. In 1 Sam ch 16 Samuel came to appoint one of Jesse’s sons. David was not present when Samuel arrived. One son after another was presented to Samuel. But God told Samuel that none of those presented was His choice. His father Jesse never even thought to arrange for David to be present. How hurtful is that? David was not even considered a possibility by his own father. David was the eighth son of Jesse. Eight in the Scriptures is the number for a new beginning. Circumcision was on the eighth day. There were eight people in the ark as God began again with the human race. The number for Jesus is – eight. God was planning a new beginning by appointing David King of Israel.
1 Samuel ch 16 v 7. When Eliab the first son of Jesse was presented God told Samuel: “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord sees not as man sees. Man looks on the outward appearance but the Lord looks on the heart.”
God looked into David’s heart. He saw something, which no one else saw. What he saw pleased the Lord.
David, a man after God’s heart. You might be wondering: “How can this be?” When we consider some of the things David did, how could he be a man after God’s heart. There were three incidents, which show David in a bad light.
First. David had defeated Goliath. Yet in 1 Sam ch 21 v 2 David lied to the priest Ahimelech. He told the priest that he had been sent by Saul. He said that he was entitled to eat the shew bread. That was a lie. David did not need to tell a lie. He deliberately deceived Ahimelech. As a result of David’s visit to Ahimelech 85 priests and their families were slaughtered by Saul. The story is told in 1 Sam ch 22. In v 22 David acknowledged that it was his fault. He had caused their deaths. Fearlessly David had confronted Goliath. Carelessly he ignored the presence of Doeg the Edomite. He should have known better than to tell a lie to Ahimelech. He should not have spoken openly in front of Doeg who was an enemy of Israel. On that day David was only looking after his own interests. He was at best careless and at worst foolish.
Second. In 2 Sam ch 11 is the sorry story of David and Bathsheba. David already had wives and a considerable harem. He was fifty years old at the time. Therefore to take the wife of a one of his best soldiers was all the more inexcusable. There are not degrees of adultery. Sin is sin. One mistake leads to another. One sin leads to another. David should have been away at the war leading his troops but he stayed behind. An idle mind often leads a man to waste time and leads him into trouble. Idleness gives great advantage to the tempter. How often do children with nothing to do get into trouble? David had a wandering eye. Bathsheba made sure that it wandered in her direction. What was she thinking about, bathing on the roof in full view of the King and maybe others? It is not a sin to be tempted but it is a sin to yield to the temptation. If believers let the Devil have an open door, they can expect trouble. How many say: “I never thought that it could happen to me.” It may be boring to play safe but it helps believers to keep safe. There is a real warning in this story.
In the incident with Bathsheba David broke almost all Ten Commandments in one day. He coveted another man’s life. He lied. He committed adultery. To cover the original sin of adultery David tried to get Uriah the Hittite to break his principles. The Hittites were the military power in Canaan when the Children of Israel entered Canaan. Uriah came from a fine military tradition. David wanted Uriah to have intercourse with his wife. That was forbidden during a time of war. Then the child might appear to be Uriah’s. He made Uriah drunk in order to manipulate him. Is it worse to rob a man of his mind than his money? If this plot had worked, would Uriah have lived anyway? David could have been open to blackmail from Bathsheba or Uriah, if Uriah had found out. David arranged for Uriah’s death and involved Joab in his crime. David asked Joab to arrange for Uriah to be sent to the most dangerous part of the battlefield. David’s hope that Uriah would be killed was fulfilled. Others died as a result. There would probably have been something of a reward for Joab. Sin loves a companion. David invited Joab to be his companion. This was David – a man after God’s heart?
But what was Bathsheba’s situation? Is she to be written off as a flirt and an immoral woman? She was married to a foreigner. Uriah was a Hittite. In Deut ch 7 Israel was told to wipe out all the people living in the land of Canaan, including the Hittites. However Israel failed to do that. There can be stresses in a marriage when the two parties are not from the same culture. As a Hittite Uriah had a fine military tradition and he rose to be one of David’s finest soldiers. Perhaps he wanted a career in the army before having a family. Uriah may well have been away from home on duty for long periods. While Uriah was in the army and away fighting battles for the nation the marriage may have been under greater stress. When soldiers are away for six months at a time the wives are under great pressure. Was Bathsheba lonely? Loneliness can hurl the heaviest weight the human heart has to bear. Perhaps her friends were all having children and Bathsheba was distressed. It was a form of disgrace if a Jewish woman could not have children. No one knows her whole story. Perhaps there are people who are considered in a poor light but no one knows all the facts. People should not be quick to judge.
Third. In 2 Sam ch 13 is the story of how one of David’s sons Amnon. Amnon raped his sister Tamar. One of the most powerful statement and emotional statements is made by Tamar in v 13. She said to Amnon: “As for me, where could I carry my shame?” David was angry but seems to have done little about the incident. David was a poor father so far as discipline was concerned. David’s children fought over the Kingdom of Israel. He had failed to leave clear instructions about his successor. David’s sons were rebellious. Perhaps that is not too abnormal. If there is a rebellious spirit in a family, it is difficult for a father to cope. David’s son Solomon followed in his father’s footsteps and married 700 wives. Solomon started well in life and ended up a disaster.
What about the statement by God? “David was a man after the heart of God.” How can that be justified? There are six instances in the life of David to justify that statement.
1. In 1 Sam ch 17 is the story of David and Goliath. David took on Goliath because he had zeal for the name of God. God honours his name and His word above everything else. Psalm 138 v 2. God is jealous for His name. Ezekiel ch 36 v 20-23. In the last century God brought the Jewish people back into the land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He did this not because they deserved it. He did it for the honour of His name. He said that He would do it. So God had to do it or else people would not trust in His word. Ezekiel ch 39 v 25.
David was ashamed that no one would defend the honour of the name of God before the Philistines. “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” Goliath mocked the name of Israel’s holy God. The soldiers of Israel were invited to rise to the challenge by the offer of a free prize. They were offered a wife and exemption from taxes. What sort of basis is that, when the name of the Lord is at stake? David was not interested in the prizes. He was prepared to put his life on the line to defend the name of the Lord. In that way David had a heart for God. He was in tune with God’s heart. How concerned are we, when people take the name of Jesus in vain? Some Church leaders marry and bury people, who have no concern for the holy name of Jesus. They just want the respectability of a Christian funeral. Should the leaders be prepared to say that they will not take part in the ceremony? Or do they comfort themselves by saying that it is a matter for the individual. They will have to answer to the Lord on Judgement Day? The Lord’s name is taken in vain in many different ways daily. There is not a murmur from the Church. Believers are the only ones who know the dreadful consequences of Exodus ch 20 v 7. “You shall not take the name of the Lord in vain.” Some people will sue in the courts of law for defamation of character, if another takes his name in vain. What about the name of the Lord – “You shall call His name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” We may not take the name of the Lord in vain. We are allowed to use it in praise, in prayer and in spiritual warfare. By his zeal for the name of God, David was a man after God’s heart.
2. On two separate occasions David did not take revenge on Saul – 1 Sam ch 24 in the cave when Saul had gone in to relieve himself and 1 Sam ch 26 when Saul was asleep in the camp. David was severely tempted by his colleagues. They urged him to kill Saul. David refused to lift his hand against the Lord’s anointed. David said: “I will not lift my hand against the Lord’s anointed.” This principle applies to the voice as well as to the hand. Do not lift your voice against the Lord’s anointed. So many believers criticise their leader. The one anointed by the Lord may be in sin but that does not justify a man criticising him in public. That is God’s business. He may be working something out in the life of His anointed man. Saul was in a state of rebellion against God. David knew that the matter was between God and Saul. It was not right for him to intervene and take the law into his own hands. David preferred his conscience to his advantage. Saul was the one appointed by God to be king but he had lost the anointing. David had the anointing but had not yet received the appointment as king.
David did not desire to get even. 1 Pet ch 2 v 23 tells us that Jesus did not threaten to get even with His enemies. He left matters with the judge of all. David showed mercy to God’s anointed Saul. The enemies of Jesus did not acknowledge Him as the appointed one of God. David alone acknowledged Saul the appointed one of God. Do we show respect for our leaders in whatever position they are? Leaders have a difficult task. They do not need rebellion from those they are leading. We do not have to kill someone to get even. Just a few cutting remarks in the ear of another. That will be enough.
It is one of the ways of the World to get even. It is a principle of the Kingdom of God to do good to your enemies. In Luke ch 6 v 27 Jesus commands His Disciples: “Do good to your enemies.” You never so much touch the ocean of God’s love, when you do good to your enemies. David touched the ocean of God’s love when he sheathed his sword and walked away from Saul. In this way David was a man after God’s heart.
3. In 1 Samuel ch 23 David set out to help the men of Keilah. At that time David was involved with his own problems. David was being hunted by Saul and hiding in caves. Word came to him that his fellow countrymen were being plundered by the Philistines. He had every justification for leaving them to sort out their own problem. They had not stood against a corrupt King as David had done. Why should David bother with them and put his own life at risk? David’s men were not in favour of going to help the men of Keilah. But David set out to help the men of Keilah. Saul continued to come after David. By going to help the men of Keilah David put himself in a dangerous situation.
Even after David had delivered the inhabitants of Keilah from the Philistines, they did not do anything to help David. In fact they were prepared to surrender David into the hand of Saul. David probably knew that he would get no thanks from these men. David ignored his own problems and did not dwell on them. He could have said: “I have enough problems of my own right now!” He put the interests of others first. Jesus left the realm of glory to seek and save the lost. He could have said that we were a miserable people and deserved nothing. He would have been right. But Jesus gave up everything for you and me. Jesus deliberately put Himself into the hands of evil people. Consider the position of Jesus immediately before the trial and crucifixion. In John ch 17 with the public execution uppermost in His mind Jesus prayed for His Disciples. He prayed for you and me.
David had the same approach. His heart was right with God. It is easy to push others aside, when we have problems of our own. But those who are sensitive to the prompting of the Holy Spirit will consider others. They will do this even when they are beset with their own problems. On the cross and in extreme pain Jesus had time for a thief and made arrangements for His mother. He also preached a sermon. His last words were a challenge to the World. He defiantly declared that He would rise again. Psalm 22 speaks of Jesus hanging on the cross, surrounded by His enemies. It concludes with the words: “Future generations will serve me.”
Gal ch 6 v 10. “So then as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” The challenge is to start each day by saying to the Lord: “How can I be an instrument of blessing to everyone I meet this day?” Try doing that every day for a month. It may become a habit. Then you will be a blessing to everyone you meet each day. When David saw a need he was an instrument of blessing to those around him. He was a blessing to the men of Keilah. In this way David was a man after God’s heart.
4. In 1 Samuel ch 30, we find David caught up in a difficult situation. While he and his men were away from home, the Amalekites had raided Ziklag and taken their wives and children captive. David’s two wives had also been taken captive. Suddenly David’s leadership was under threat. His men were not amused. They threatened to stone David. How fickle is a crowd when things are not to their liking. How fickle we can be when difficulties arise in our life. In the crisis David exercised faith in God. He asked God for direction: “Shall I pursue after this band?” God replied: “Pursue; for you shall surely overtake and shall surely rescue.” Then David acted upon the Word from the Lord. Faith needs a crisis to walk on. David had a crisis on his doorstep. His men were threatening to stone him.
The 600 men set off. On the way 200 said that they were too exhausted to go on and sat down to rest. The other 400 went on and caught up with the Amalekites. They wiped them out and recovered their wives. By the grace of God, the men came across an Egyptian slave. He led them to the camp of the Amalekites and David and his men captured loot. On his way back with the loot David proposed to share it out amongst all 600 men – the 400 who went on and fought and the 200 who were too weak to go on. The 400 complained that they had done all the work. They claimed that the 200 should not get anything. David echoed the words of Jesus in the parable of the vineyard in Mat ch 20. Jesus concluded: “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity? ” David knew that God had been generous. God had given the Amalekites into his hand as well as the Kingdom of Israel. David was entitled to be as generous to the 200 men as God had been to him. If God has blessed us with an abundance of good things, how generous are we with God’s gifts to us? God had looked into the heart of this young man David and seen the generosity in there. In this way David was a man after God’s heart.
5. David learned to wait on God. He was chosen by God to be king of Israel. Saul was still the king. David’s time would come. He called out to God. He waited patiently for God to respond. David wrote Psalm 40. In v 1 we read: “I waited patiently for the Lord; He inclined to me and heard my cry.” And in v 17: “As for me I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not tarry, O my God.” We live in a day of the instant – instant coffee – instant meals – electricity at the press of a switch – but some things take time to happen – healing – holiness. We have to learn patience, which is part of the fruit of the Spirit. We have still to redeem the time while we are waiting. David believed that God could and would, if He chose, change the situation. There is a risk of being sidetracked in life. If we let the Devil get a foothold in our lives, we will lose our vision. Habits, apathy, failure, fear etc can all sidetrack us. God had waited patiently thousands of years before sending Jesus into the World. Jesus waited patiently for thirty years before He began His public ministry. Jesus would die for the sins of the World. He was not in a hurry to get it done. Jesus had many things to accomplish in His life before he offered Himself for public execution. David waited for God’s timing. In this way David was a man after God’s heart.
6. In 2 Sam ch 12 Nathan the prophet told David a parable to convict him of his sin. David repented towards God. The parable told of how a rich man with many sheep took the only lamb of a poor man in order to feed a visitor. When Nathan told him the parable David was angry, and with good cause. Even then he did not see his guilt until Nathan told him outright: “You are that man.” Man often sees in others the faults, which he has in himself but does not admit. Nathan trapped David and caused him to judge himself. The sins of the father were visited on the son – Solomon. He too loved many women and used them for his own ends. He had learned from watching his father at work. People learn more by watching than by hearing. Regret is being sorry about what has happened to me. Remorse is concern for the one who has been wronged. Repentance is confessing to God that He is the one who has been wronged. In Psalm 51 v 4 David confessed: “Against you only have I sinned and done that which is evil in your sight.” Each sin is a personal affront to God.
David repented. Though he fell, he was not utterly downcast. The child of David and Bathsheba died. Why did the child die? The sins of the father are visited on the children of those who despise the Lord. David had wronged God. He had given the enemies of God an opportunity to reproach Him. What if a believer professes his faith in Jesus and yet sins openly? He belittles the God whom he professes. That is clearly seen today. Many people seem to think little of the Lord they claim to serve. God let the World see that, though He loved David, He hated the sin. He chose to take the life of the child. David had blinded himself to his own sin. He had justified himself in his own eyes. That is what humanists do. They declare themselves good enough for God’s Heaven. David convicted himself by his own mouth. Believers should consider how greatly the Lord has blessed them. Then how dare they let Him down before others? It is good for believers to reflect on and testify about the blessings, which the Lord has bestowed on them. God forgave David, but there were consequences. In 2 Samuel ch 16 v 15-23 David’s wives were publicly disgraced as he had disgraced Uriah’s wife. Absalom went into his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel.” A man reaps what he sows in this World. David found that. That principle includes believers.
By the grace of God David recovered and found mercy with God. God allows believers to fall into sin. But He will not allow them to lie still in it. It is God who takes the first step to help David find his way back. He used Nathan the prophet. Through Nathan God reminded David of the many blessings He had bestowed on him. God calls on all men to repent. He goes to great lengths to invite men to repent and call upon Him for mercy. By his repentance David honoured God. In this way David was a man after God’s heart.
In these 6 ways, David was a man after the heart of God.
He was zealous for the reputation of God.
He wanted to do the will of God. He committed his future into the hands of God in trust.
He had a concern for others in need, regardless of what they deserved.
He had an inclination to be generous and to share out the gifts of God for the benefit of all.
David learned to wait on the Lord.
David genuinely repented before God.
Let me ask you this morning. What does God see when He looks into your heart?
Does he see zeal for His name and His reputation?
Does He see a life of obedience to His Word?
Does He see a concern for others? Or are you consumed with your own problems, however real they are?
Does He see a generous heart towards others?
Does He see perseverance? Those who persevere to the end shall be saved.
Has there been genuine repentance for sin?
David was a man after God’s heart. God said that. What does God say about you and me?