2 Corinthians 2:11

“…lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.”

Perhaps Paul’s assertion to the Corinthians sounds overconfident. The devices of the enemy of our souls seem myriad. It doesn’t seem possible to know everything he has up his sleeve. And, he has innumerable assistants. But, thankfully, neither the enemy or his associates are omniscient, omnipresent, or omnipotent.

The first encounter between mankind and the enemy is recorded in Genesis 3. He questioned Adam and Eve about the command that God had given them. God said, “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Genesis 2:17). After his questions, we read in Genesis 3:4,5, “…the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”

In what he said, the enemy told Adam and Eve two things about God. First, he outright refuted what God had said, suggesting that God had lied about the consequences of disobeying Him. God told Adam and Eve that in the day that they ate of the tree they would surely die. The enemy told them that they would not surely die. Here is an evidence of his devices. He knew what God had said, and he told Adam and Eve that what God said was not true; that God was lying to them.

Second, the enemy told Adam and Eve that God had kept something from them. He said that God knew that in the day that they ate from the tree, they would be like gods, knowing good and evil. The enemy made it sound like that was something wonderful that they would desire. But they did not even know what the knowledge of good and evil meant. Adam and Eve were living in a utopia with God’s companionship. What more could they possibly need or want? The enemy’s device was to make God seem to be unworthy of their trust. Genesis 3:12 tells us that Adam and Eve saw that the tree was to be desired to make one wise. Adam and Eve ended up using their own wits, instead of listening to God.

So, in Genesis 3:4,5 the enemy told Adam and Eve two lies about God. He told them that God lied to them about the consequences of eating from the tree, and that He was not giving them everything that they needed. To this day people still believe both of these lies about God.

In John 8:44 Jesus told the Pharisees, “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” We have seen in Genesis 3 that the enemy called God a liar, while himself lying to Adam and Eve. This continues to be his way. Paul was not ignorant of the enemy’s devices, because he has not changed them! For that matter, he has not needed to change them because mankind still believes his lies. But, God is ever trustworthy, and the enemy is ever a liar.

Consider all of God’s commandments. For each of them, hasn’t the enemy told us that God didn’t mean what He was saying? That the consequences of disobeying Him were not as harsh as He said they would be? Or hasn’t he suggested that God’s commandments were keeping us from something that is “better”? We can see from experience how the enemy has lied to us in exactly the same way as he lied to Adam and Eve.

We need to be aware that the enemy is a cruel enemy. He is uncaring for us and our needs. He hates anyone that sides with God. A clear example of this is the case of Job. After getting leave from God to take away all that Job owned, including his children, the enemy said to God, “… Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life. But put forth thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face.” as recorded in Job 2:4, 5. There was no care in the enemy for Job’s situation, only interest in defaming God and His servant, Job.

We are not ignorant of his devices. Our only stand against the enemy and his lies is trust in the word of the LORD God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

A mighty fortress is our God,
A bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great,
And, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side,
The Man of God?s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His name,
From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim,
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers,
No thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Through Him who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God's truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever. (Martin Luther)

Mark 14:63, 64

“Then the high priest rent his clothes, and saith, What need we any further witnesses? Ye have heard the blasphemy: what think ye? And they all condemned him to be guilty of death.”

In Mark 14:55-65 is told the details of the “trial” of the LORD Jesus Christ before the high priest, and the rulers of the day. Verse 55 tells us, “And the chief priests and all the council sought for witness against Jesus to put him to death; and found none.” From the beginning, the goal was that Jesus be put to death. In keeping with the law (related in Deuteronomy 17:6, “At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death.”), they sought for witnesses that would bring a death-worthy charge against Jesus. But they found none.

In Matthew 21, Jesus told a parable. He told of a King who desired to receive the harvest from His own land. But the farmers to whom He had lent the land refused to give to the King’s servants what He desired. In the parable, we read, “But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him.” See what the farmers said, “This is the Heir…” They knew Who He was!

Conventional wisdom says to not ask a question to which you don’t already know the answer. Because he could find no testimony worthy of death from many witnesses, the high priest put the question to Jesus Himself, recorded in Mark 14:61, “…Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” The high priest knew what Jesus’ answer would be.

His answer was the truth; “…I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” (Mark 14:61). It was then that the verses above came to pass. The high priest accused Him of blasphemy, and the whole crowd, having heard what Jesus said, declared Him to be worthy of death. Knowing full well Who He is, because He told them, they called Him a blasphemer, and called for His death on the cross. This is rightly called a mock trial, the greatest miscarriage of justice this world has ever known. A wholly innocent man, God Himself, was declared to be worthy of death.

Since the beginning of time mankind has determined to remove God from their lives and thinking. Upon their sin, Adam and Eve hid themselves from God. But, He was looking for them. The Israelites heard with their ears the voice of God speaking the ten commandments to them. But the rest of their history showed them to be uninterested in God, disobeying the commandments He had given them. 1 Samuel 8:7 tells about Israel’s desire for a king, rejecting God’s reign over them. But, lest we look down on them, the behavior of the Israelites in fact reveals the heart of the whole human race. As Paul told the Romans, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) The whole human race is guilty before God. We do not desire His ways and rule in our lives. In the “trial” of Jesus Christ, not only Israel, but all of mankind, rejected God, knowing Who He is, but refusing Him just the same.

But, at the same time, God’s plan was unfolding. Isaiah 53:6 puts it this way, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” As He was being arrested, Jesus said, “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?” (Matthew 26:53, 54). Jesus went to the cross intentionally, not accidentally. This was God’s plan.

God loves mankind so much, that He came as a perfect, sinless man. And to show that love further, He submitted to the worst death that mankind could devise, so that mankind could be reconciled to Himself. On the cross, Jesus endured the punishment we deserve for disobeying God’s commandments. Through His death, God’s justice was satisfied. Now, the promise of eternity in heaven with God is available to anyone who will take it. To those that still reject Him, God’s wrath for refusing His great Sacrifice still awaits. Turn to Him, He is risen!

Jesus, our Lord, with what joy we adore Thee,
Chanting our praise to Thyself on the throne!
Blest in Thy presence, we worship before Thee,
Own Thou art worthy, and worthy alone.

Refrain

Lord, Thou art worthy: Lord, Thou art worthy;
Lord, Thou art worthy, and worthy alone!
Blest in Thy presence, we worship before Thee,
Own Thou art worthy, and worthy alone!

Verily God, yet become truly human,
Lower than angels to die in our stead;
How has that long promised “Seed of the woman”
Trod on the serpent and bruised his head!

How didst Thou humble Thyself to be taken.
Led by Thy creatures and nailed to the cross.
Hated of men, and of God too forsaken,
Shunning not darkness, the curse, and the loss.

How hast Thou triumphed, and triumphed with glory,
Battled death’s forces, rolled back every wave!
Can we refrain then from telling the story?
Lord, Thou art Victor o’er death and the grave. (H. D’A. Champney)

Nehemiah 9:19

“Yet thou in thy manifold mercies forsookest them not in the wilderness: the pillar of the cloud departed not from them by day, to lead them in the way; neither the pillar of fire by night, to shew them light, and the way wherein they should go.”

In uncertain times, there is One Who is constant, One on Whom we can and should depend. That One is the LORD Jesus Christ.

The verse above is from a particular time in the history of Israel. Because of their idolatry, the LORD had scattered them to the nations around them. After 70 years, they returned to the Promised Land. The book of Nehemiah recounts part of the story of those who returned. In a prayer of confession to the LORD, the priests told the history of the nation from when they left Egypt up to their present day.

This verse is the second part of a sentence, the first part of which tells that Israel worshipped the golden calf. Up to that verse, the priests told of God’s myriad blessings in bringing them out of Egypt, and His provision to meet their needs on the journey.

Given God’s blessings, and Israel’s turning away from God’s commands, one might suspect that God would reject them. On a human level, if we did many kind things for somebody, and they refused or rejected us, we would be inclined to stop our kindnesses, and perhaps count that person as our enemy. Would God do the same in the case of Israel? Who would blame Him if He did?

But the verse above tells that God continued His blessings to the Israelites. In spite of their having disobeyed Him, He provided continued guidance in their travels, by the pillars of cloud by day and fire by night. He did not forsake them! The next verses after this tell that He continued to provide them with food and water during 40 years of travels, and maintained their clothing and shoes, so that they did not wear out!

Christians, followers of Jesus Christ, are sinners. Because of this, many worry about their status before God. In the prayer recorded in Nehemiah 9 we see that in spite of their neglect of God’s commands, He continued to maintain Israel and care for them. In spite of their behavior, He did not forsake them. So, for the true believer in Jesus Christ, this example from the Old Testament reveals something about God. He said, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” (Hebrews 13:5). But let us never forget Who it is that we hold to. He will never forsake us, but also tells us, “Go, and sin no more.” Praise His name we are forgiven through Jesus Christ. We must seek to honor Him with our lives.

Events of life cause us to worry, and can cause us to doubt. But God has never lost control, neither is He surprised. In Matthew 6:31-33 Jesus is quoted as saying, “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Admittedly, the context is food, drink, and raiment (just like the Israelites, described in Nehemiah 9), but the phrase to note is, “your heavenly Father knows that ye have need of all these things.” He knows us thoroughly. He knows that we need food, drink, and covering. He knows what is necessary for our health. Not even a virus can invade us without His knowledge, or affect us outside of His will. And when, in His will, our time comes to die, He promises to never forsake us.

Sadly, many do not believe on the LORD Jesus Christ as their Savior. For them, there is no assurance like what has been described thus far. As Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:18, “He that believeth on (the Son) is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” At the time of Israel’s early history, many other nations were not blessed by God like they were. Egypt suffered God’s wrath. So it is with many people to this day. They ignore Him and His ways, yet expect that He will bless them anyway. We all will have to answer to God. If He is not your Savior and LORD, you are “condemned already.” Let the uncertainties of these days cause you to turn to the LORD Jesus Christ.

I sing of the love of my Father,
Who chose me, — I cannot tell why;
He might have condemned me,
but rather He sent His Beloved to die.

Chorus

O wonderful, wonderful love of my God
Redeeming my soul at the cost of the blood!
I cannot conceive it, but O I believe it ?
This wonderful love of my God!

I sing of the love of my Savior,
Who left heaven?s glory to be
A ransom for sin, that God?s favor
Might justly be given to me.

Chorus

I sing of the love of the Spirit,
My Comforter, Teacher and Guide,
By whose gracious pow?r I inherit
The blessings Christ bought when He died.

Chorus

I sing of God?s love ? O receive it!
God loves the whole world, He loves you!
For you Jesus died, — O believe it!
This wonderful love is for you.

Chorus (W. R. Newell)

Exodus 25:8, 9

“And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it.”

Up to this point, the history of mankind was spiritually dark. In the comforts of a perfect environment, Adam and Eve were given what would seem to be a simple commandment; Do not eat from that tree. It was a command that they soon disobeyed, not regarding Who it was that had given it. From that time, until the release of the Israelites from Egypt, the scripture reveals continued lack of interest in God, because of which there was, for example, the judgment of the flood. Death reigned over all of mankind from Adam’s fall until the day of the above words, and its reign continues up to today.

Not long after the LORD’s words above, the Israelites made and worshiped a golden calf. This was against God’s command, which they had heard with their ears only a few days before. As they travelled from Egypt, the Israelites complained about God’s provision. They complained about the lack of water. They complained about the manna that came in a miraculous way. They even wished to go back to Egypt, where they were so harshly treated. The LORD delivered them from oppression in Egypt, and they wanted to return.

Even worse was their idolatry. They brought idols from Egypt with them. Instead of honoring and worshiping God, the One Who performed miracles to bring them out of Egypt, they worshipped those idols. This not only revealed the condition of their hearts, but shows the condition of every human heart.

But, the words above, which were spoken by the LORD, reveal something about God’s heart. In spite of the history of Israel, which He fully knew, He wanted to dwell among them. So, He gave them instructions about the dwelling place they were to make for Him. The details were very specific. Particular materials were to be gathered. Specific designs were given. The orientation of the tabernacle to the points of the compass was given. The only way to have God dwell with them was His way. But it was what He wanted! He told them what to do so He would be able to dwell among them.

God’s desire to dwell with His people is also seen in the days of the creation. Where was God the day that Adam and Eve broke His commandment? In Genesis 3:8, 9 we read, “And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden. And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?” God was seeking for Adam and Eve, though He knew where they were and what they had done. They were used to being in His presence. But, after they disobeyed, they ran from Him, knowing something was different. But, He went looking for them.

Long after Israel arrived in the Promised Land, King Solomon built a temple for the LORD. It took him seven years to finish. In 1 Kings 6:12, 13 the LORD told Solomon, “Concerning this house which thou art in building, if thou wilt walk in my statutes, and execute my judgments, and keep all my commandments to walk in them; then will I perform my word with thee, which I spake unto David thy father: and I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will not forsake my people Israel.” Again, a promise to dwell among His people. This is God’s heart.

In Hebrews 13:5, the LORD is quoted as saying, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Jesus told His disciples in John 14:23, “… If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” He still desires to dwell among His people.

At the end of the world there will be a new heaven and a new earth. We read in Revelation 21:3, “And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.” That coming day will include God dwelling among His people. Later, in Revelation 21:22, we read, “And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.” In the new Jerusalem, there will not be a tabernacle, such as the Israelites were told to build, neither will there be a temple, such as Solomon built. But God, Himself will be the temple; God will dwell among His people.

Since the beginning of creation, God’s desire has always been to dwell among His people. With Israel, with the followers of Jesus Christ, the church, and one day on this earth, God has and will make provision to dwell among His people. And so shall we ever be with the LORD!

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?

In every condition, in sickness, in health;
In poverty’s vale, or abounding in wealth;
At home and abroad, on the land, on the sea,
As thy days may demand, shall thy strength ever be.

Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake. (John Rippon)

Psalm 48:14

“For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death.”

From the beginning of this psalm the focus is on Jehovah and His city, Jerusalem, the place where He has put His Name. His greatness is the beginning of the psalm (“Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised…”) and His exploits on behalf of Jerusalem are described.

Many scriptures speak of God’s greatness. He has done many things that emphasize this fact. Consider the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. The plagues that fell upon the land prior to their leaving show His mighty control over His creation. Frogs, gnats, flies, the Nile River, disease, storms, locusts, light and dark were all under God’s control. In some of the plagues His control was seen in that the Egyptians were affected, but the Israelites were not.

In Joshua 10, the story is told of the battle of the Israelites against the armies of five kings of the Amorites. During the battle, Joshua commanded the sun and the moon to stand still in the sky, and they did. The sun stayed still in the sky for a whole day. Because of this, Israel defeated her enemies. Who else but God could do such an astounding thing?

Or, consider 2 Kings 20. King Hezekiah was ill with a life-threatening disease. Through Isaiah the prophet, God told Hezekiah that he would be healed of his disease. As a sign that He would do as He said, God asked Hezekiah to choose which way the shadow on the sundial should be moved by ten degrees; forward or backward. Hezekiah chose backwards, and so the shadow moved backwards. Only God could do this.

There are many more, but these are clear evidence of the greatness of God. Not only did the celestial events happen, but otherwise life continued as normal. Nobody flew off the planet when the earth stopped in Joshua’s day. God maintained gravity. He created all things in the universe and on the earth. Psalm 104 and Isaiah 40 note that God stretches out the heavens as a curtain. The curtain of the sky is all that stands between us and God.

As the verse above notes, the psalmist says that He is our God for ever and ever. His might, noted in Psalm 48 and in the examples given above, are evidence of Who He is; evidence of His greatness.

How could anyone claim that Almighty God is their God, and their guide? What a wonderful thing it would be to be able to say that!

In John 16:27, Jesus says, “For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.” Any claim of God as being our God is given substance through what we think of Jesus Christ. The good favor of the Father is based on our relationship with Jesus. His love for us is because of our love for Jesus. Do we love Him and believe He came from God? If so, then this Almighty God is our God.

As Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:18, “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” Like John 16:27, the key to any relationship with God is what we think of Jesus. If we believe Him, we are not condemned. If we believe not, then we are condemned already.

The psalmist also states in Psalm 48:14 that this great, Almighty God is his guide, even unto death. At our weakest moment we can trust Him to be with us, for He has promised that He will never leave us or forsake us. In John 16:13, 14 Jesus said, “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.” The person of the Holy Spirit indwells everyone that has trusted in Jesus, loved Him, and thus are loved by the Father. And He will be with us, be our guide, even unto death. We will never be out of His leading or control. This God is our God!

He leadeth me, O blessèd thought!
O words with heav’nly comfort fraught!
Whate’er I do, where’er I be
Still ’tis God’s hand that leadeth me.

Refrain

He leadeth me, He leadeth me,
By His own hand He leadeth me;
His faithful follower I would be,
For by His hand He leadeth me.

Sometimes mid scenes of deepest gloom,
Sometimes where Eden’s bowers bloom,
By waters still, over troubled sea,
Still ’tis His hand that leadeth me.

Refrain

Lord, I would place my hand in Thine,
Nor ever murmur nor repine;
Content, whatever lot I see,
Since ’tis my God that leadeth me.

Refrain

And when my task on earth is done,
When by Thy grace the vict’ry’s won,
E’en death’s cold wave I will not flee,
Since God through Jordan leadeth me.

Refrain (Joseph H. Gilmore)

John 4:41, 42

“And many more believed because of his own word; and said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.”

The woman at the well had a meeting with the LORD Jesus Christ. The Man who asked for a drink revealed Himself to be the Messiah, the One she knew was coming. From the conversation she had with Jesus, it was clear that she was not a keep-at-home kind of woman. And He told her everything she had ever done. This is what she went and told the men in the city. One can imagine the men going ashen-faced. And, as Doctor Bob Cook would say, “The men all came tumbling out of the city to see who it was that told on them!” John 4:39 relates that many of the Samaritans believed on Jesus because of the word of the woman.

They asked the LORD Jesus Christ to stay in their village. He was there for two days teaching them about Himself. There is no record that Jesus performed any miracles while He was there. It was during these two days that the conversation in the verses above occurred. The verse above tells us that many more believed because they heard the words of Jesus.

And this is the wonderful thing. It was the words of Christ that had this impact. It’s true that the words of the woman telling the truth about Jesus had an impact. But here the people testified that hearing His words for themselves convinced them. Hearing convinced them. God’s word, His truth, is powerful by itself. Hebrews 4:12 tells us, “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

Peter, James, and John had the opportunity to witness Jesus’ glory. In the Transfiguration, Jesus’ clothing became as white as snow, bright in appearance. As they watched in wonder, a voice from heaven gave testimony, “This is my beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.” Later, Peter related the story to his readers in 2 Peter 1:16-18. There we read, “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.”

But, only Peter, James, and John saw this vision. Peter tells this story to prove that he had not made this up. But the vision happened only once. And, Peter, James and John were told by Jesus to not even tell anyone about it until after His resurrection. Literally millions of followers of Jesus never saw such a vision. Neither did the other nine disciples. What about all of them? One might think that Peter, James, and John had some advantage because of what they saw.

But Peter goes on to say in 2 Peter 1:19, “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed…” What Peter meant was there is something more reliable, more firm, more steadfast than a great vision of God! And what is that thing? God’s Word! Peter didn’t tell his readers to seek visions or miracles. He wanted them to see that God can always be believed and trusted for His Word, and on that basis alone.

Deuteronomy 1:29-33 records, “Then I said unto you, Dread not, neither be afraid of them. The LORD your God which goeth before you, he shall fight for you, according to all that he did for you in Egypt before your eyes; and in the wilderness, where thou hast seen how that the LORD thy God bare thee, as a man doth bear his son, in all the way that ye went, until ye came into this place. Yet in this thing ye did not believe the LORD your God, Who went in the way before you, to search you out a place to pitch your tents in, in fire by night, to shew you by what way ye should go, and in a cloud by day.”

In what did they not believe God’s Word? He told them He would go before them into the Promised Land, and defeat their enemies. But, they didn’t believe what He said. They believed the words of the ten spies that came back to tell them that they could not defeat the inhabitants of the land. God brought them out of Egypt, defeated Pharaoh’s army, lead them all the way to Canaan by a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of cloud by day. But they didn’t believe God’s word about taking the land. As a result, they wandered for another forty years before they finally went into the Promised Land.

Believing God’s Word is essential. Believing what He says, without requiring mighty displays of His Person or His power, is called faith. And without faith it is impossible to please Him. As Jesus said in John 5:24, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”

We all must listen to and believe God’s word.

O troubled heart, why seek in vain
The balm of rest from earth to gain,
While Jesus waits, your king to reign,
And all your sins forgive!

Refrain

Awake, arise! no more delay;
He calls you now—His voice obey!
The loving words He speaks today,
Oh hear, and you shall live!

He calls again; on Him believe,
His gift of grace thro’ faith receive;
Your truest friend no longer grieve,
But haste your heart to give.

Refrain

To Jesus come, and at His feet
That precious name with praise repeat;
Oh, trust Him now, and learn how sweet
The peace His love will give.

Refrain (Fanny Crosby)

Revelation 14:6, 7

“And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.”

Through John, the Lord gave to us the book of The Revelation of Jesus Christ. For the most part it describes judgment that is yet to come on the earth and its inhabitants. The verse above calls it the hour of God’s judgment. Similar to the verse above, Revelation 9:20, 21 states, “And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.” The LORD also relates in Revelation 16:9, 11, “And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory… And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds.”

Mankind will not repent even though God’s judgements are falling. By Revelation 14, fourteen of the 21 coming judgments have been described. This makes these verses surprising. It will be that far along in God’s hour of judgment when an angel will be sent to the people on the earth to preach the everlasting gospel, saying, “Fear God and give glory to Him, …and worship Him…” With a loud voice the angel will tell them, who are enduring God’s judgment, to be reconciled to Him! Even at that late hour, His arms are open wide to mankind!

What is the everlasting gospel that the angel will preach? Colossians 1:20-22 says, “For it pleased the Father that in (Jesus) should all fulness dwell; and, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:”

Imagine being holy and unblameable and unreproveable in the sight of God! Our good deeds will never have that impact. God took the action to reconcile mankind to Himself through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. He came to earth to die under God’s wrath against sin. He bore in the place of mankind the punishment that they deserve for their sin. This is the everlasting gospel that has been preached since the resurrection of Jesus, and will be preached in that coming day by the angel.

There are two things that the angel will say that people must do. First, they are to “…fear God, and give glory to Him…” And, they must, “…worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.” There needs to be a dramatic change for hearts to turn to Him like this; to worship, fear, and glorify God. Because of the fall of mankind, most of the world wants nothing to do with God. But, the only way to be reconciled with God is through the everlasting gospel of the LORD Jesus Christ, which God planned from before the foundation of the world. Jesus Himself said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no man comes unto the Father but by me.” Once we repent of our sin and accept the sacrifice of Christ as being for us, He lives in us, the necessary change of heart happens, and we have free access to God, having been reconciled to Him. We also desire to worship, fear, and glorify Him.

In these three verses from the book of Revelation, we see that it will be possible for people to turn to God even in His hour of judgment, throwing themselves on God’s mercy, if only they would! The everlasting gospel will be preached for them to hear. It is God’s desire that people turn to Him even then. 2 Peter 3:9 tells us that, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” A way of repentance is always and will always be available until the end of the world!

We are not yet living in the days of God’s judgment. But, the everlasting gospel is available now for all who will come to the gracious, kind, merciful, good God.

Though all the world my choice deride,
Yet Jesus shall my portion be;
For I am pleased with none beside;
The fairest of the fair is he.

Sweet is the visions of thy face,
And kindness o’er thy lips is shed,
Lovely art thou, and full of grace,
And glory beams around thy head.

Thy sufferings I embrace with thee,
Thy poverty and shameful cross;
The pleasure of the world I flee,
And deem its treasures only dross.

Be daily dearer to my heart,
And ever let me feel thee near;
Then willingly with all I’d part,
Nor count it worthy of a tear. (Gerhard Tersteegen)

Psalm 146:2, 5, 6

“While I live will I praise the LORD: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being… Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God: Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is…”

Praising the LORD God is always the right thing to do. He is worthy of all of the praise and glory and honor and worship His creation can bring. Scriptures speak of praising Him in all circumstances and at all times. The writer speaks above of praising God as long as he was alive and had any being; as long as he lived. Unto the moment when his abilities were drained, he wanted to be praising the LORD. As God’s people, our last breath will usher us into His glorious, eternal presence. There we will praise Him with infinitely better ability than we possess now. And we will do so forever.

Praise to God does not depend on anything. He is deserving of praise simply for Who He is. Our circumstances should never change our praise to Him. Though our circumstances change, He does not. He is always the same, and so always worthy of praise. And, He is always good. Our circumstances do not reflect on His character in any way. In Job 34:10, Elihu told Job and his friends, “Therefore hearken unto me, ye men of understanding: far be it from God, that he should do wickedness; and from the Almighty, that he should commit iniquity.” God is good to us and faithful, and, He is always with us no matter our circumstances.

Verses 5 and 6 give reason to praise the LORD. “Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help.” The story of Jacob shows God’s faithfulness and goodness. God had changed his name to Israel. He was the father of that nation. From his four wives were born 12 sons, each one a head of the tribes of Israel. But Jacob had trials in his life. Perhaps the hardest was the day that he heard that his favorite son, Joseph, had been killed by a wild animal. His grief was great. On seeing his grief, none of his sons told Jacob what had happened to Joseph. They knew where he was, but told Jacob that Joseph had died! Years later, those same sons worried about what impact further loss would have on Jacob.

A great famine came on the land. We know from scriptures that it was not only in Canaan, but also in Egypt. We also know that this famine was going to last seven years. But in Egypt was a wise man who had prepared the land for the famine. Through his wisdom, he was able not only to keep the Egyptians alive, but also people from other nations. This wise man was Joseph, Jacob’s “dead” son! In time, Jacob and his whole family moved to Egypt, where they were saved from the famine. So, after 14 or 15 years, Jacob saw Joseph alive again! This situation was used by God to save Jacob and his family.

This was the LORD’s doing and it was marvelous. From Jacob’s perspective, all was darkness and his son was dead. Nothing else mattered. But, God knew of the coming famine and arranged to save Israel and his family. Joseph’s trip to Egypt was engineered by God. In Genesis 50:20 Joseph told his brothers, “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” As it says above in Psalm 146, “Happy is he that has the God of Jacob for his help.” Jacob discovered that God is a sure and steadfast help in time of trouble. Happy, indeed, is the one that has the God of Jacob for his help.

The Psalmist also says that happy is he, “whose hope is in the LORD his God: Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is…” All of creation stands as a monument to God’s might. Its immensities have yet to be fully fathomed by mankind. The sky for its vastness and the sea in its depths are beyond our ability to fully explore. The more we learn the greater we find God to be, Who created all things in the smallest detail.

His creation and His dealings with Israel are only two things that reveal His might. Is He our hope? Do we trust Him in all things? Do we believe that He is the good God that He says He is? He made the way for mankind to be reconciled to Himself when He gave His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross. Jesus took the penalty for our sin, bearing God’s wrath.

Psalm 46:1-3 says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.” When God in His good wisdom determines to shake and undo His creation (as He will do soon), those who are His will have no reason to fear. Jacob learned what the psalmist said, He is our refuge and strength, and a very present help in trouble. He is worthy of our trust and our praise.

Praise the Savior, ye who know Him!
Who can tell how much we owe Him?
Gladly let us render to Him
All we are and have.

Jesus is the name that charms us,
He for conflict fits and arms us;
Nothing moves and nothing harms us
While we trust in Him.

Trust in Him, ye saints, forever,
He is faithful, changing never;
Neither force nor guile can sever
Those He loves from Him.

Keep us, Lord, O keep us cleaving
To Thyself, and still believing,
Till the hour of our receiving
Promised joys with Thee.

Then we shall be where we would be,
Then we shall be what we should be,
Things that are not now, nor could be,
Soon shall be our own. (Thomas Kelly)

Ezra 8:22

“For I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way: because we had spoken unto the king, saying, The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him; but his power and his wrath is against all them that forsake him.”

Ezra had been sent by King Artaxerxes to Jerusalem. At the same time, he was to take back to the temple of God everything that had been taken by Artaxerxes’ predecessors. Ezra 8:26, 27 describe the amounts of gold, silver, and copper that were being taken back: “…I (Ezra) even weighed unto their hand six hundred and fifty talents of silver, and silver vessels an hundred talents, and of gold an hundred talents; also twenty basons of gold, of a thousand drams; and two vessels of fine copper, precious as gold.” A talent was 75 pounds, as we would reckon it. So, the total weight of silver was 56,250 pounds (28 tons) and the gold came to 750 pounds. A dram was a Persian gold coin of indeterminate value, but, clearly, the value of the described basins of gold and copper was great. So, Ezra and his companions were about to take a journey from Babylon to Jerusalem, approximately 1678 miles (2700 km), carrying all of that treasure!

Since he had strong backing from King Artaxerxes, one might think that Ezra would have asked for one more favor; that the king would send along some of his army to protect them on the way. He and his companions had grown up under the oppression of the kings of the day. They were not trained in war. And, there were only about 1,700 of them. Surely, many enemies were along the way, and aware of Ezra’s journey and the great wealth that they carried.

Ezra’s thinking is seen in the verse above; he was ashamed to ask for protection. They had told Artaxerxes about the greatness of Jehovah, and that He would be their protection. Ezra was ashamed to now turn around and ask Artaxerxes for help. The time for his journey had come.

But Ezra said more to the king. Not only did he speak of God’s almighty hand for good on behalf of them that seek Him, he also told the king about judgment for them that forsook God. His power, for good to them who sought Him, would be turned against those who didn’t, and His wrath would fall upon them. One might say that Ezra had painted himself into a corner. At this juncture, he must either follow and trust God, or he would be guilty of forsaking God, and find himself under God’s wrath. In the verses around this one, Ezra and his companions fasted, and appealed to God for His hand of protection, and for His guidance in the way. They trusted God and sought Him.

Forsaking God requires knowledge of Him and His ways in the first place. Forsaking is not done in ignorance. It is an act of the will with knowledge of the Person being forsaken. Ezra really wasn’t facing a decision. He already knew what he was going to do, and that was to trust God. He didn’t ask for the king’s assistance for the trip to Jerusalem. He was ashamed to do so. He was going to trust God.

What a challenge Ezra’s declaration puts before us. Have we ever boldly declared our trust in God and His abilities in the comfort of our home, only to balk under different circumstances? Does our trust in God pale when our comforts melt away, or the face of the crowd is scowling? Ezra was in the position to show where he stood, and stand he did. Perhaps nobody would blame him if he allowed the fears of the trip overtake him, and he requested the king’s help. But, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, he put his trust in his God, daring to stand with Him no matter the consequences.

Exodus 3:11, 12 records the conversation between Moses and God when Moses was sent by God to Egypt to lead out the Israelites. “And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt? And he said, Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain.” The evidence that Moses was wise in trusting the LORD would come when he came back, after the Israelites had left Egypt. Ezra was similarly rewarded upon the completion of his trip to Jerusalem. As recorded in Ezra 8:31, “Then we departed from the river of Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month, to go unto Jerusalem: and the hand of our God was upon us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy, and of such as lay in wait by the way.” Our reward for trusting may come after the fact, but it shall surely come. To trust Him more!

Simply trusting every day,
Trusting through a stormy way;
Even when my faith is small,
Trusting Jesus, that is all.

Refrain

Trusting as the moments fly,
Trusting as the days go by;
Trusting Him whate’er befall,
Trusting Jesus, that is all.

Brightly does His Spirit shine
Into this poor heart of mine;
While He leads I cannot fall;
Trusting Jesus, that is all.

Refrain

Singing if my way is clear,
Praying if the path be drear;
If in danger for Him call;
Trusting Jesus, that is all.

Refrain

Trusting Him while life shall last,
Trusting Him till earth be past;
Till within the jasper wall,
Trusting Jesus, that is all.

Refrain (Edgar P. Stites)

3 John 11

“Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God.”

These words of John to the well-beloved Gaius clearly divide. The division is between good and evil. At the same time, it is between them who are of God, and them who have not seen God. There are only these two groups of people. John spoke of no middle ground. One group has not seen God, and the other is of Him, or belongs to Him.

They that do evil are the ones who have not seen God. Quoting various Old Testament scriptures, Romans 3:10-18 puts it this way, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: their feet are swift to shed blood: destruction and misery are in their ways: and the way of peace have they not known: there is no fear of God before their eyes.” These words of Paul speak of the one group; the one that has not seen God, to use John’s words.

John meant something other than seeing God with the eyes. What he spoke of is taking heed to God. Is it the evil that they do that keeps them from seeing God? Or is it that they have not seen Him and so commit evil? The above words from Romans 3 tell us it is the latter. Scripture speaks of His law being written in men’s hearts. Many do not heed His law that is there. In fact, at the end of Romans 1:32 Paul ends a list of sinful behaviors with this, “… Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.” It is because they don’t take heed to God that they do evil. This is not ignorance of God, but awareness of His demands, and choosing to set them aside. It is rebellion.

But, John also said that he that does good is of God. Romans 3, above, speaks of the whole human race. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. There is none righteous, no, not one. Yet something is different about certain ones. They do good and are said to be of God. Some change has come upon them. The difference is because of the LORD Jesus Christ. Colossians 1:19-22 relates, “For it pleased the Father that in (Jesus) should all fulness dwell; and, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight …” God has effected a reconciliation between Himself and mankind through the death, burial, and resurrection of the LORD Jesus Christ. This was the reason Jesus came to earth.

Ephesians 2:7-9 notes, “That in the ages to come He might shew the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” Paul tells the Ephesians that their works, good deeds, do not come into the equation when it comes to being saved. This is entirely the gift of God through His grace, kindness, and mercy.

For the group that has not seen (neither heeded or acknowledged) God, a change is possible. It must start with acknowledging our sin, and the person of God, and His claim on their life. And, ends with resting on the LORD Jesus Christ as Savior. Then, doing good comes, showing that they are of God.

For the group that is of God, the verse above brings a command; “Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good.” It must be that though they are of God, it is possible that they could follow after evil. So, John provides this reminder. The ways of the world are still attractive to us. Praise God, His salvation is not taken back by Him when we stumble. As Paul told the Romans, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1) May we strive to follow God and do that which is good.

The caution is not vain:
We may unfaithful prove,
And turn from God to sin again,
And fall from pardoning love;
Yet will we boldly press
T’ward our high calling’s prize,
And follow after holiness,
And to perfection rise.

Perfection is the good
Which wrestling saints receive,
Worthy of all to be pursued
Who in our Lord believe:
Perfection is the goal
Which terminates our race;
And comes to that, the spotless soul
Expires in his embrace. (Charles Wesley)

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