Scripture Reading Challenge (#17)

What is your biggest fear?  For a lot of people, it is the fear of public speaking.  When God called Moses, his lack of ability to speak became a point of contention.  God wanted to use Moses to deliver his people but Moses, whether it was the real reason for his apprehension or a cover, used his lack of speaking ability to try and say no.  However, God reminds Moses who both of them are.   I find this to be one of the most encouraging Old Testament passages for preachers and teachers.  God will help us share His gospel if we are faithful to obey the calling of God in our life.

Read Exodus 3:1-4:17

To my wife, I am called husband.  My children call me daddy.  My parents call me son.  The people at the church I serve call me pastor Jeremy.  When I teach, I am professor Kamer.  The same person is behind all of these names, but each one denotes a different aspect of my life or activity that I am engaged in.  One name or title does not encompass everything about me, except maybe my full name, but that name only means something to you if you really know me.  God is the same way.  The Bible is filled with the different names used to reference the One True God of Israel (that’s one of the names).  Why so many names?  Each title typically focuses on a single attribute or group of God’s attributes.  There is one name, however, that seeks to encompass all of God’s essence.  It is used whenever you see the name “LORD” in all caps (if you see Lord not in all caps, it is the word Adonai, meaning master).  The Hebrew pronunciation here is “Yahweh.”

We have seen a general Hebrew word referring to God, “Elohim.”  It means God is powerful.  It refers to God’s power in creation and His greatness.  Still, because of its generic background (“El” could refer to any god), the use of it by the Israelites kept God distant and largely unknown.  Moses asked God “who shall I say sent me?”  God told Moses, “I AM THAT I AM.”  He told them, simply the one that is, the one who is self-existent.  The God who does not depend upon anything for existence is our God.  This is God’s personal name.  It is sometimes called God’s covenant name and notes a personal relationship.  It’s like me telling someone “they usually call me Professor Kamer, but you can call me Jeremy.”  My personal name is the name I use to sign.  It’s who I am.  Now, all of God’s people have entered into a truly intimate relationship with Him.  He knows us by name, and we know Him by name.

In the first chapter of Genesis, Moses referred to God as Elohim.  In the second chapter, where we see a more intimate creation of humanity, Moses uses both names, Yahweh Elohim, the LORD God.  Why would Moses in this repeat of man and women’s creation use the personal name of God?  Perhaps, he eventually connected the dots that this Yahweh now speaking with Him is the same Elohim that created the world and called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees.  God told him that he was the one that created man and could help Moses speak.  This creator God had given his personal name.  He was no longer distant, but God was near.  Nothing, in the mind of Moses, would show God closer to humanity than breathing life into the nostrils of man.  Wow!  What an amazing God we serve.  He is not far but near.  He is not a stranger, He is a personal friend of mine and can be yours too.

Scripture Reading Challenge (#16)

There seem to be evil men in every generation.  Pharaoh of Egypt, as we will read, committed terrible acts because of jealousy and fear of God’s people.  In the middle of these tragic events, God would raise up a deliverer.  The Story of the Bible now introduces us to Moses, the man God would use to set His people free from slavery and organize Israel’s societal and religious values.

Read Exodus 1:1-2:25

If the question has not come to mind yet, it indeed does at this point, “How can God allow such evil things to happen?”  There is never a simple answer to this type of question.  However, it adds to the integrity of the Bible.  Scripture does not sugar coat real life.  Reality can be dark and grim, and God uses His Word to shine the light and spread hope in the dark world.  I will say, that in my answer to the questions, typically starts with, God has already done something to answer evil, and it leads to his promise to vanquish it forever.  Romans 1:18-32, speaks of God’s wrath against ungodliness and wickedness in summary fashion.  Like I said, it’s not an easy answer, and there is more to it, but basically, God’s beginning judgment on sin (the ultimate cause of evil) is to allow it to run its course.  This passage marks three times that God gives people over to their wishes to not have him around.  God allows evil because humanity has rejected him, and a broken world is the result.  In the end, God promises to set all things right and the one who tempts us to sin, the devil, and those who utterly reject God, will be cast into an eternal lake of fire, while the faithful enjoy eternal bliss in a new heaven and earth.

Thankfully, God does not entirely leave this world alone.  In fact, Scripture teaches us that it is still the Holy Spirit that restrains evil incarnate from running rampant in this world (2 Thess. 2:7).  In the case of Moses, God heard the cries of the people and would send Moses to deliver them from Egypt.  It is tempting to read these Scriptures and think that God forgot them, after all, it does say God remember his covenant.  Haven’t we already discussed that God does not forget us?  One of the prophecies in Genesis foretold Israel’s 400 years of calamity in Egypt (Genesis 15:13).  We also have seen that God was preparing Moses and protecting his life well before we read of the people’s cry to God in the text today.  I think more of what is being said is that God was moving into a new phase of the plan of Salvation.  There are is no “plan B” with God.  Everything is “Plan Jesus Christ.”  When it states that God remembers the covenant, it seems that we see the next step taken in salvation history.  One big step closer to the time when God would send the Son and the world was ready.

Scripture Reading Challenge (#7)

How did the Old Testament people receive salvation?  Is Jesus Plan B?  These two questions are given solid answers in this chapter.  You may have heard someone say that the Old Testament was presented salvation by works and the New Testament by grace.  However, salvation is received in the Old Testament and New Testament the same way.  By faith.

Read Genesis 15:1-21

Paul wrote, “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us” (Romans 8:31).  Before Paul wrote that, God told Abraham, “Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward” (Genesis 15:1).  God offers us great assurance when we follow Him.  Yes, there are times of trouble, but God is on our side.  It’s a great thing to be on His side.

In returning to Paul, he makes a commentary on Abraham and our salvation in Romans 4:63 and Galatians 3:6.  James 2:23 agrees with Paul’s explanation.  Abraham trusted God’s promise, and God credited him with righteousness.  How were Old Testament individuals given salvation?  By faith, they looked forward in time to the completed work of Christ on the cross.  God added his work to their accounts.

Now, we can answer the second question, “Is Jesus Plan B?”  Our passage implies that Jesus was always God’s Plan A.  The law that will come later in Scripture is simply the “schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24).  The law is a tutor that shows no love.  However, it shows us just how loved we are by God, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).  A better question for us to answer then, “Are you living by faith?”

Seven Miracles in John: 1 – Water into Wine

John, the beloved disciple, shared his purpose for writing his Gospel account. He wrote, “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:31).  His presentation of the life of Christ is focused on showing the reader the power and purpose of Jesus.  One of the methods he employs to accomplish this task is the inclusion of seven miracles.  The following series of blogs will explore the beauty and meaning behind these miracles.

John 2:1-11

And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.  This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.

Emptiness is defined as

  • The state of containing nothing
  • Lack of sincerity and contentment
  • Meaningless
  • Futility
  • No value or purpose

We can have an empty soul, home, marriage, or life.  Perhaps one of the most detestable things for a person to have before God is an empty religion.  Scripture teachings that there are some that have a form of godliness, but deny the power” (2 Tim. 3:5-7).  The will of God is that rather we be full. But not just full of everything under the sun.  No, God would rather for us to be filled with him.

Miracle at Cana

You know the story of Jesus at a wedding in Cana.  During the celebration, they run out of wine, and Jesus’s mother asks Jesus to get more wine.  This is where Jesus performs his first miracle as he takes about six water pots, almost 30 gallons each, a total of nearly 120-180 gallons of water, and turns it into wine.

John goes on to say in 2:11, “This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory.”  Two words in the Greek are translated as our English word miracle.  The first is “dynamis,” which means power or strength.  It sounds familiar to dynamite which we understand as being explosive power.  The second word, “semios” which is the word John uses here, means means a “sign.”

So, what do these seven signs say and in at this moment, this particular sign?  John says to show God’s glory.  We are going to see God’s glory and power.  We are getting a glimpse of God’s purpose in sending Jesus.  This first miracle will demonstrate all of this.

The water pots

So, what does this miracle teach us about Jesus and the purpose of His coming?  This sign shows that we can be filled with the goodness of God.  We who were filled with vile things are now filled with the joy of the Lord.  How does he demonstrate this?  Notice that John includes a key detail about the waterpots, “and there set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews.”   This is an important aspect of information John wants to include for us.  It also makes this miracle a little disgusting.

In the Jewish law that we find in the Old Testament was high on the distinction between clean and unclean.  One of the significant aspects of the law was that uncleanness was unavoidable.  One of the traditions the Jews adopted was ritual washing with water.  Full body, foot washing, hand washing, and washing the face are all references for Jewish washing from uncleanness.  So in reality, the water pots that the people were drinking the wine from were bathtubs or at least wash basins.

Thank the Lord, there is cleansing, but I don’t think that is the single purpose sign in this miracle.  Cleansing or purifying of the water pots is only implied and hopeful.  Who would want to drink from something where you wash your face and feet?  Instead, imagine being a Jew and what these water pots would mean to you. It’s like what we see when we pass by a cross or church.  They would have been reminded of their religion.  Their faith.  And this is what Jesus’ miracle of transforming the water into wine.

You look at the pots, they were full of emptiness.  They were filled with water, but the pots themselves represented to many the emptiness of what their religion had propagated.  The law made nothing perfect (Heb. 7:19).  In those waterpots was about 180 gallons of law, guilt, and filth. But, Jesus turned it into 180 gallons of grace.  The water in Jewish law was a symbol of an external ritual.  The wine represented to the Jewish mind meant joy and blessing.

The law made nothing perfect. The law didn’t fix anything.  It was a temporary covering.  It was something to point us toward the salvation that only Jesus Christ could bring.   The wine represents the blood of Jesus that was shed for us.  Matthew 26:27-29 reads, “And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”  We are forgiven of our sins by the blood of Jesus.  We have moved from an external washing by water to an eternal cleansing and filling by the blood of Jesus.

The sign shows our fellowship with Christ and the ultimate joy of heaven.  Matthew continues, “But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (26:29).  We have fellowship with Jesus through the shedding of His blood.  Our relationship with God is restored through the work of Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection.

Jesus comes to fill the emptiness that is in our life.

Can you be a room full of people and still be alone? Can you have good health, a full bank account, lots of friends, a busy schedule, a beautiful home, a good job, a great family and still feel empty?  Jesus took the empty law and transformed it into something full of life.  Returning to John’s narrative telling of this miracle, the last verse says that the disciples believed on Jesus. He filled them with faith.  If you have given up, Jesus can fill you faith.

If your life is empty, your faith is empty, Jesus can fill you full.  As the wine was a symbol of joy, Christ can fill your life with joy.  Jesus’ first miracle is a showing that “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (Jn. 15:11).

SOM: Blessed are the Pure in Heart

“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” – Matthew 5:8

If one thing is clear in the Sermon on the Mount, it is that the Lord is concerned with more than outward cleanliness and show. He has emphasized the spiritual life of His people in comparable ways to the physical.  Poor, hunger and thirst are just a few words that are normally physical descriptions have now been used to describe our inner man.  Now, He points toward heart purity and our future opportunity to see God.  As the writer of Hebrews puts it, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14).  With such weighty reward, what does it mean to be “pure in heart?”

This particular idea is not something new but is a rather common expression found even in the Old Testament.  While there is some truth that the “bowels” was also a place where emotions and feelings were believed to arise from, there is plenty of consistency (probably more) that the heart in scripture is still a place of thinking, feeling, and motive, just as it is commonly used today.  This is especially true for the psalms and Jesus.  David in the psalms could write about what it takes for a person to see God upon His holy hill in Psalm 24:4, “He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart.” After confessing his sin with Bathsheba, David requests God to, “Create in me a clean heart, O God” (Psalm 51:10).  There is a definite contrast in the eyes of Jesus toward those who are outwardly cleansed but have dirty, rotten hearts.  One such example is when he looks at the pharisees and says, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness” (Mt. 23:27).  It is already clear that we, like the pharisees, can be whitewashed tombs that house decay.

To be “pure” includes so many different reference points.  This word could mean to be clean, as with clothes.  It also references produce, such as corn, which has been winnowed or sifted and cleansed of all chaff.  Lastly, it could refer to an army which has been purged of all discontent, cowardly, unwilling, and inefficient soldiers, and is now a force composed solely of first class fighting men.  The basic meaning then of pure becomes something that is unmixed, unadulterated, singled-out.  The “pure in heart” then equals those who have a “singleness of heart,” they’re filled with an honesty which has no hidden motive, no selfish interest, and are true and open in all things.

This is only possible in a heart that is justified and sanctified by God.  It is only possible to approach other people with a pure heart when we have been purified by God.  We cannot see God in this life and in glory unless we have cleansed by His Word.  Remember the phrasing in Hebrews 12:14, that no one can see God without “peace with all men” and “holiness.”  Another phrasing of holiness in some circles is heart purity.  That verse combines the to approach both the vertical (God) and horizontal (Man) relationships with a pure heart.  This begins with God and spreads towards others.  God knows our heart and can cleanse us of our sin and foul intentions.  Then we can approach others with love and sincerity.

SOM: Blessed Are They Which Do Hunger and Thirst After Righteousness.

“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” Matthew 5:6

This is the last beatitude that focuses on our relationship with God.  The remainder will focus on our relationship with other people around us.  With that in mind, we find words in this verse that are commonly used to express our greatest desires and needs.  This fits well in the progressive stages of our relationship with God that we find in these first four beatitudes as it ends with our continually seeking of the things of God.  As the psalmist writes, “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God” (Ps. 42:1).  There will never be a time during our life where we stop growing and seeking after God.

The words, “hunger” and “thirst,” not only point out a desire but a need.  Hunger and thirst are associated reactions to the need for food and drink.  They remind us of our limited ability to sustain ourselves and the need for outside resources.  The same is true about our spiritual life.  As we cannot supply food and water for our physical body within ourselves, neither can we supply for our spiritual life.  God alone is able to supply that which we need in our soul.  God alone satisfies our spiritual appetite and God alone is able to quench our thirst for the water of life.

Jesus is concerned that we are hungry and thirsty for righteousness.  This is a word used throughout the scripture and it is rich in meaning.  For us, it particular means to be “made righteous,” “justified,” or one of my favorites, “right-a-fied.” It is the act of God where he takes guilty sinners and pronounces them just and innocent because Jesus has taken their place.  It shows the quality of one who is pronounced righteous by the eternal Judge.  The righteousness of Christ is placed on us.  Paul in the book of Romans discusses righteousness in great detail but in the end we know that we are, “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:” (Rom. 3:24).

We must hunger and thirst after God’s righteousness rather than our own.  The Old Testament prophet writes, “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away” (Is. 64:6).  Our innocence is lost due to the power of sin.  We stand before quilty without a defense except when we come by faith in Jesus.  Then his righteousness is imputed (transferred legally) onto us before God.  We are “satisfied” or “filled” by Christ’s righteousness.  The moment faith in Christ has come, at that moment, righteousness is declared.  The wrath of God is fully satisfied and judgement is becomes a place of reward.  Our longing soul is satisfied from it empty and dark state by the decree that we are justified in the sight of God.

Sermon on the Mount: Introduction – The Sermon of the King

I could fill a book with countless lessons and quotes given by my father.  Many were quite interesting.  If you asked me to narrow it down to primary teachings on life, I would still have quite a handful.  That seems to be exactly what Jesus did in his famous sermon on the mount.  It would seem at first glance that Jesus is giving a summary sermon in the early days of his earthly ministry.  Indeed, it does seem to put all the teachings (at least in principle) in a concise format.  In whatever way you look at it, The Sermon on the Mount is a very important section of Matthew’s gospel and the Holy Scriptures.

Matthew’s gospel was written by Jesus’s disciple of the same name.  Matthew was a Jewish tax collector that Jesus had called out.  It is really an interesting calling in itself.  Matthew was one of the dreaded tax collectors known for taking advantage of his fellow Jews when collecting taxes.  When Jesus called him to follow, Matthew was sitting in the tax booth doing his job.  In other words, Matthew was in the middle of his sinful behavior of thievery when Jesus called him away from it and to follow him.  We should be thankful that the Lord calls us away from our sin even when we are deep in it.

This particular account that Matthew gives about Jesus was written sometime between A.D. 55-65.  So, it is about 20-30 years after the resurrection of Christ that Matthew writes, give or take a few years.  He primarily writes to Jewish Christians and therefore pulls more Old Testament references into his Scripture than the other gospel writers.  In this we find the primary perspective he has of Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah.  He begins by showing how Jesus fulfilled the lineage requirements to David and continues to fill all the other prophecies concerning the Messiah, the one that would “save his people from their sins” (1:21).

The first four chapters narrate to us what has taken place in the thirty years.  The first two chapters are concerned with his birth and care as a child.  Chapters three and four will then share what took place shortly before this sermon.  This is important because it begins to lay a foundation as to the shape and intent of the sermon.  As the Holy Spirit moves on Matthew to write this Gospel with Jesus as the messiah we must also gain an insight as to messiah is.  The word Messiah itself means, “anointed one.”  In the Old Testament, there were only three types of anointed vocations, the prophet, the priest, and the king.  The problem is that no one seemed to embody all three at the same time.  Maybe, prophet-priest or prophet-king but never all three together (Saul tried and got in trouble).

Only one person in the Old Testament seemed to embody all three (at least priest-king) and that was Melchizedek in the book of Genesis.  He was the King of Salem and thanks to the book of Hebrews we know that Jesus was after the order Melchizedek rather than the priests of Israel, making him able to be prophet-priest-king in one person.  Prophet in that he reveals to us the Word of God, priest in that he takes our sins away, and king because he is Lord of all.

Matthew is going to hit all three of these in mind but the overarching one is the Lordship of Jesus.  Still, before the sermon he wants to show Jesus’ being anointed as the messiah.  The anointing being the public inauguration of Jesus.  Of course, there is no oil shown in this but there is a baptism in chapter three.  During the course of the baptism he is recognized by John and baptized and God the Father announces from Heaven the Jesus as His son and the Holy Spirit in the likeness of a dove landing on him.  The baptism of John symbolizes the anointing recognized by man and the Holy Spirit as a dove is the anointing recognized in heaven that Jesus is the Messiah King.

Chapter four will record Satan’s reaction and attempt to thwart the newly inaugurated messiah, only to be put out by the very words of the Jesus.  Jesus will then go around preaching and calling his disciples to follow him.  As the crowds begin to gather, he goes up in a mountain and begins to speak.  The next three chapters are a record of what Jesus shared.  With the inauguration of Jesus as the Messiah King, we begin to understand the importance of this opening sermon.  It is Jesus’ inauguration speech not only of his rule but the beginning of the new kingdom that he is going to rule over.  In the sermon he will describe what the citizens of His kingdom are like.  Is Jesus your King?  Hear what he has to say in the Sermon on the Mount, the inauguration speech of the newly appointed and eternal King of our salvation.