John 12:43

“For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.”

Context wise, this verse comes at the end of a description of certain leaders at Jesus’ time. John 12:42 says, “Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on Him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue…” We would hope that such a thing would not be said of us. Many scriptures speak about the folly of seeking glory from men, and fearing men.

But the interesting part of this verse is the idea of the praise of God. Note that it is set in opposition to the praise of men. They are mutually exclusive. Desire for the praise of men puts us in the position of missing the praise of God. It also reveals short-sightedness, because the praise of men is temporal, while the praise of God is eternal.

There are some persons in the Bible who have received praise of God. One example is Abraham. James 2:23 states, “And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.” In his prayer recorded in 2 Chronicles 20:7 King Jehoshaphat asked, “Art not thou our God, who didst drive out the inhabitants of this land before thy people Israel, and gavest it to the seed of Abraham thy friend for ever?” Imagine hearing that said! Imagine being called the friend of God! That is praise of God.

Or David. Speaking of him, Paul said in Acts 13:22, “And when he had removed him (Saul), he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will.” In 1 Samuel 13:14, the LORD told Samuel to tell King Saul, “But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the LORD hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the LORD commanded thee.” In 1 Samuel 16, David was anointed to be the next king of Israel. Here is another thing we could wish God might say about us, that we are someone after His heart.

A parable that Jesus spoke, recorded in Matthew 25:14-30 suggests another instance of the praise of God. A master going to a far country called his servants and gave them his goods for their care. The master later returned and called his servants to see how they had done. From the master’s response, it is apparent that his expectation was that they would handle his goods as he would handle them. In both Matthew 25:21 and 23 we read, “His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.”

Imagine being told “Well done” by the Maker of the Universe. This is especially surprising when we take clear-minded stock of our lives and find what Romans 3:23 tells us is true of us, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God…”. All, of course, means all. Not only that, but every day we fall short of His ways in some fashion. Ours is not a case of occasional sin, but of continual falling short. And, if we are honest, we must admit that there are even times, perhaps daily, when we would rather do what we want, instead of what we know God wants. With this in mind, can we ever imagine hearing God say, “Well done” to us?

But He sees our heart. And everything that we do for Him, He sees. It is also by His enabling that we are able do anything for Him. He supplies His power as we do His work. And then, He is so gracious, and humble, that when He sees us doing His work, He says, “Well done.” And one day, when we see Him, He will say to us, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” It is no wonder that the Bible tells us that we will cast our crowns at His feet, for He is deserving of all glory, not us.

The world refuses to believe Jesus. They will endure God’s wrath; they will not receive praise of God. Believers in the LORD Jesus Christ will see Him forever, and give Him the glory He deserves. In this life, let us turn away from the praise of men, and seek to honor God.

Some day the silver cord will break,
And I no more as now shall sing;
But oh, the joy when I shall wake
Within the palace of the King!

Refrain

And I shall see Him face to face,
And tell the story—Saved by grace;
And I shall see Him face to face,
And tell the story—Saved by grace.

Some day my earthly house will fall.
I cannot tell how soon ’twill be;
But this I know—my All in All
Has now a place in Heav’n for me.

Refrain

Some day, when fades the golden sun
Beneath the rosy tinted west,
My blessèd Lord will say, Well done!
And I shall enter into rest.

Refrain

Some day: till then I’ll watch and wait,
My lamp all trimmed and burning bright,
That when my Savior opens the gate,
My soul to Him may take its flight.

Refrain (Fanny Crosby)

JOB 34:10

“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.”

Job’s three friends had gathered to comfort him after his great losses, described in Job 1 and 2. He had lost all of his material wealth, his children, and his health. After all of this, his wife told him to curse God and die.

Job’s initial reaction to his trial is recorded in Job 1:20-22. “… Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, and said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.” To accuse God of sin or iniquity because of events of life is to charge Him foolishly. God cannot commit iniquity. Job did not charge God foolishly.

The greater part of the book of Job records what Job and his friends said as they sought to find answers to Job’s situation. Ultimately, they arrived at no conclusion about why these things had happened. The reason he suffered these great losses is revealed in the first two chapters of the book. But neither Job nor his friends knew anything about that. Neither is there any indication regarding what God’s intentions were.

Then Elihu spoke. The verse above is part of what he said: “Far be it from God that He should do wickedness.” He was saying that God certainly was not playing some awful trick on Job. God is God and God is good. He would never do anything wicked. Throughout the history of mankind, many have falsely accused God of wickedness, charging God foolishly. Every event that takes lives or is of a great magnitude, not under man’s control, is cited as evidence that God is not in control. Because of these things, some have concluded that God has done wickedness. But that is false. And that is Elihu’s point. Far be it from God that He should do wickedness.

Elihu also said, “Far be it that the Almighty should commit iniquity.” God’s laws are not for us only, but they are for Him. He will never violate His own laws, He cannot violate His own laws, neither does He even think about doing so. We are capable of iniquity and sin and we continually violate God’s laws. When someone does something that we don’t like, we conclude that they are committing iniquity; acting out of a sinful nature. Saying that God has violated His laws is to charge Him foolishly. God cannot do that. Far be it that He should commit iniquity. For example, He commands us to not bear false witness. It is certain that He will never lie. Scripture tells us it is impossible for God to lie (Hebrews 6:18).

At the end of the book, Job’s three friends were rebuked by God for their observations about Himself. “And it was so, that after the LORD had spoken these words unto Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath.” (Job 42:7) Job and Elihu were not rebuked by God. The verse above, and the whole of what Elihu said about God, shows a clear understanding of His character. He told the truth about God, unlike the other three. To summarize, Elihu said, “Listen to me, men of understanding, God is Almighty, glorious, all knowing, merciful, gracious, kind, and good, neither does He do wickedness, nor commit iniquity.”

May we never charge Him foolishly.

God is good! I will not fear
The trials that await me here;
His promises are true and sure;
His Word forever must endure.

Refrain

O blessèd hope, O joy indeed,
His mercy covers all my need!
God is good! His love to me
Is broad and boundless as the sea.

God is good! His hand supplies;
I cannot need what He denies.
I’ll trust His love from day to day,
And follow where He leads the way.

Refrain

God is good! He will not fail,
Tho’ Satan’s fiery darts assail;
I trust His grace from hour to hour,
And do not fear the tempter’s power.

Refrain (Charles H. Gabriel)

Jeremiah 32:27

“Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?”

As recorded in Jeremiah 32, King Zedekiah asked Jeremiah why he was prophesying that Jerusalem would be destroyed. So, Jeremiah related to him what the LORD had said and done. Context-wise this verse comes when God had told Jeremiah to purchase a plot of land, to which he had right of redemption. The LORD told him to make it a public transaction, in the gate of the city. And, He told Jeremiah to take steps to preserve the documentation of the sale.

At the same time, Nebuchadnezzar and his army surrounded the city. Jerusalem was under siege. In about three years the city would be taken and destroyed. This was in keeping with the prophecies that the LORD had given to Jeremiah for the people of Jerusalem and King Zedekiah. Just prior to the verse above Jeremiah asked the LORD, “Behold the mounts, they are come unto the city to take it; and the city is given into the hand of the Chaldeans, … and what thou hast spoken is come to pass; and, behold, thou seest it. And thou hast said unto me, O Lord GOD, Buy thee the field for money, and take witnesses; for the city is given into the hand of the Chaldeans.” (Jeremiah 32:24, 25) Jeremiah wondered about God’s command.

It seemed foolhardy to buy land and document and secure the purchase when the city and the land were soon to be given to invaders, according to God’s Word. Why would He give this direction to Jeremiah?

Through Jeremiah’s answer to Zedekiah’s question, the LORD wanted Zedekiah to know that He is God, and that He would turn events according to His will. In Daniel 4:25 the same Nebuchadnezzar told about learning that God sets over every kingdom leaders of His choosing. For now, because of the idolatry of the people of Jerusalem, they would be under the rule of Nebuchadnezzar. This was God’s will because of Israel’s sin against Him.

It is recorded three times in the book of Jeremiah that the LORD promised that captivity would last seventy years (Jeremiah 25:11, 12, and 29:10). In Jeremiah 29:10 we read, “For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.” Not only would the end of their captivity come, but God promises a return to their land, and His blessing in it. We read in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” His presence and blessing were promised.

In Daniel 9:1, 2, Daniel wrote, “In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans; in the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.” He realized that the seventy years had finished, and he began praying to the LORD to do what He had promised.

In the verse above, Jeremiah was graciously told that God can do anything, “…is any thing too hard for me?” May it never be! Nothing is outside of His might. It didn’t matter what Nebuchadnezzar was doing. God promised that the time would come that the land of Israel would be restored, and the Israelites would again own land. Jeremiah was given foreknowledge against the day when they would be back. He would be the first one with real estate, even though he endured the siege with the rest of the residents of the city.

As we look at our immediate circumstances, we may conclude that there is no way through. It may look as if God cannot, or will not, do anything about them. Will things ever get back to how they should be? Do we hear a strange request from Him? Do we think He is leading in an incredible direction? Our part is to obey God’s Word, no matter how it may seem in our circumstances.

Though it was a promise to Israel, Jeremiah 29:11 can be taken by the church, because God is unchanging, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” He is good for His word, He can be trusted. Remember God’s word to Jeremiah, “Behold, I am the LORD,… is there any thing too hard for me?”

Nothing is too hard for Jesus,

He the roughest road hath trod;

He can aid us in our trials,

Safely bring us home to God.

 

Refrain

 

Nothing is too hard for Jesus,

Tell the news all around;

Quickly spread the joyful message,

Wheresoever man is found.

 

Nothing is too hard for Jesus;

Tempted one and sorely tried,

Satan hath no power to conquer,

If in Christ thou dost abide.

 

Refrain

 

Nothing is too hard for Jesus;

Friend, the Savior speaks to thee,

I will give thee life supernal,

Lasting as eternity.

Refrain (Charles W. McCrossan)

Matthew 20:15

“Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?”

In His parable, Jesus told of a house holder who went to the marketplace to hire workers to labor in his vineyard. He said that the kingdom of heaven is like this.

The house holder went to the market in the morning, then at the third hour, at the sixth hour, at the ninth hour, and at the eleventh hour, and hired workers. With the first group, hired at his first visit to the marketplace, he agreed on a wage; a penny, which at that time was a sustenance wage. The others were told they would receive what was right.

When the time came to be paid, at the house holder’s direction, the ones that were hired last were paid first, and those who were hired first were paid last. And, everyone was paid a penny. Seeing that the last hires were paid a penny, those that were hired first thought that they would receive more, because they had done the most work, and had born the heat of the day. But, when they received the wage they had agreed to, they were upset. The verse above is part of the conversation the house holder had with one of those workers.

The first question he asked emphasized his position. What he had was his to manage at his own will. Nobody else had control over or claim on his things. This is as it should be. He and the first group of workers had agreed to a specific amount. To the rest, he promised he would pay what was right. There are many things he could have done, such as prorate their pay based on the time they worked. But He chose to pay them all the same.

That was appropriate because all of the workers had what they needed to get through the day. Had he not paid all of the workers a penny, some would have not been able to meet their daily family obligations. Anything less would have been to the workers’ detriment. What the house holder did was kind, and right.

When it comes to salvation, it is not what an individual has done or endured that matters. It depends solely on the generosity of the House Holder. He is free to do as He pleases with what is His, including who may come into His presence. Blessings are gained from His hand only in accordance with His will and ways. He is very generous, good, and kind. But just like any house holder, there are things that simply cannot be brought into His home. For example, speaking of the LORD, Habakkuk 1:13 states, “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity…”. Speaking of mankind as a whole, Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God…” Nothing of sin will be allowed into His eternal presence, and we all fall far short of His glory.

The second question summarizes the parable; “Is thine eye evil, because I am good?” The first-hired workers concluded that the house holder was being unkind to them. They worked the whole day while others worked only one hour. Yet he paid them all the same amount. So, they grumbled at him. They were not thankful for what he did give them, which was according to the agreement that they had made in the first place. Rather, they accused him and thought evil of him because he was being generous.

This exposes the human heart, as does the first question. In mankind, there is an expectation that God will just hand out whatever we demand of Him. We think that our view of matters is correct, and our solutions are right. And if He doesn’t deliver, then He is not worthy of our attention, much less our affection. We accuse Him of being ungenerous, unkind, and uncaring.

God does want to have fellowship with mankind. But, in order for that to happen the problem of the sin of mankind must be addressed. As noted above, there is nothing we can do to solve that problem. But, God took matters into His own hands, solving the problem through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. In our place Jesus took God’s wrath, which we deserve, for our sin. And through His sacrifice, mankind has a legal way to gain eternal blessings from the House Holder. How much more generous does He need to be? Are we angry with Him because of His generosity? May it never be!

Great God of wonders! all Thy ways
Display Thine attributes divine;
But the bright glories of thy grace
Above Thine other wonders shine:

CHORUS
Who is a pardoning God like Thee?
Or who has grace so rich and free?
Who is a pardoning God like Thee?
Or who has grace so rich and free?

Such deep transgressions to forgive!
Such guilty sinners thus to spare!
This is Thy grand prerogative,
And in this honor none shall share:
CHORUS

Pardon, from an offended God!
Pardon, for sins of deepest dye!
Pardon, bestowed through Jesus? blood!
Pardon, that brings the rebel nigh!
CHORUS (Samuel Davies)

Genesis 6:5, 6

“And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.”

These verses include a word regarding the LORD that may strike us as odd. According to them, God saw the wickedness of men, and He repented that He had made man on the earth! We might wonder, God repented? As we see it, repentance is turning away; to go the opposite direction; to change the mind. Is this what God is saying in these verses? Not only in this verse, but in the Old Testament, the word repent, or related, is used 45 times. In all but eight, the context shows that it is the LORD that is repenting, or is being asked to repent. Did He decide that He made a mistake when He made men on the earth? Can an omniscient God make mistakes? Can He change His mind?

The Hebrew word translated “repented” can be translated “sigh”. All parents can think of instances when they gave direction to their children. Then, in childishness or rebellion, they went a different way, and ended up in trouble. When that happens, every parent can only shake their head and sigh. They are disappointed. They see how the child’s actions brought about their trial, and they know they told them differently. Parents may even be put in a position where there is nothing they can do to help their children. The children are forced to deal with the consequences themselves. And parents sigh. They know that if the children had listened, their situation would be much different.

When the LORD saw the direction that His creatures had taken, and the results of their actions, He repented; that is, He sighed, and was grieved. It didn’t surprise Him. He had given them rules. But they refused to listen. Their situation was of their own making. He was not surprised because He is omniscient, knowing all.

But God must also be true to His character. To ignore their transgressions would have violated God’s own laws. And, it would not have been good for the people. It was because of God’s justice and the people’s sin, that the flood fell on creation. Their behavior put men and women at odds with God. There is no telling how awful things would have gotten if mankind had not been stopped. But it surely would have gotten worse. So, in that sense, God was being merciful.

There are only two realms in which mankind lives: physical and spiritual. Scriptures teach that the physical is temporary and the spiritual is eternal. After living in the physical, every human being goes into the spiritual realm for eternity. Via the flood, every one of those people were ushered into the spiritual realm. They were stopped in their rebellion against God’s commands, and stood before the Lord. Then they were judged for their behavior. Death was not their judgment. According to Hebrews 9:27, after death comes judgment, “… it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment…”.

We are also told that the behavior of people grieved God’s heart. Again, He wasn’t surprised. He wasn’t wondering about what Plan “B” would be. Because they want nothing but the best for them, parents are grieved at the behavior of their wayward children. So was God grieved at His wayward creatures. A parent’s desire is to see their children succeed and do well. So is God’s heart for His creatures. The behavior of those people before the flood was against God; only evil continually, as the verse above notes.

The word that is translated “repent” in Genesis 6:6 can also be translated console or comfort. For example, after the first child that was born to David and Bathsheba died, scriptures tell us that David comforted his wife, and in time Solomon was born. (2 Samuel 12:24). In the physical sense, it is impossible to see comfort in the events that brought about the flood, or in the flood itself. But spiritually, God had a plan from before He created all things. By His plan, He would reconcile mankind to Himself. That plan involved Him coming to earth as a man and enduring God’s wrath against mankind’s sin in their place. In that way, God’s justice would be satisfied, and mankind would have a way to spend eternity in His presence. Jesus came to earth for that very reason. The Father sees in Him the comfort of a way to reconcile mankind to Himself. “This is my beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17)

Though He sighed and was grieved, God was not taken aback. He had devised a plan by which mankind would be able to spend eternity with Him, and He with them. As dark as the flood was in the history of mankind, and in spite of the wicked wandering hearts that are in the breasts of mankind to this very day, so bright is God’s plan of salvation. “Their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” (Hebrews 8:12)

Not all the blood of beasts
On Jewish altars slain,
Could give the guilty conscience peace
Or wash away the stain.

But Christ the heav’nly Lamb,
Takes all our sins away;
A sacrifice of nobler name,
And richer blood than they.

My faith would lay her hand
On that dear head of Thine;
While like a penitent I stand,
And there confess my sin.

My soul looks back to see
The burdens Thou didst bear,
When hanging on the cursèd tree,
And hopes her guilt was there.

Believing, we rejoice
To see the curse remove;
We bless the Lamb with cheerful voice,
And sing His bleeding love. (Isaac Watts)

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)

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