Mark 9:24

“And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”

While Jesus was on the mountain with John, James, and Peter for the Transfiguration, a man brought his son to Him. The son was desperately ill, and the father had heard of the healings that Jesus had performed. Jesus’ other disciples were unable to help. So, when Jesus came down from the mountain, the father brought his son to Him. He needed Jesus to intervene.

The man’s son was possessed by an evil spirit. “How long has this been the case with him?”, Jesus asked the father. He told Jesus that he had been that way since he was a child. He also told Him that the spirit often threw his son into the water or into the fire to destroy him. Upon seeing Jesus, the spirit convulsed the boy, and he lay on the ground wallowing and foaming. After explaining the situation, and perhaps out of increasing desperation, the father said, “If you thou canst do anything, have compassion on us, and help us.”

In spite of the father’s desperate plea, and the suffering boy at His feet, Jesus seemed to be unhurried. He had a different focus. He spoke of the most important issue; “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.” The boy’s father responded as recorded in the verse above. Then, Jesus commanded the evil spirit to leave the boy, and to never come back. As it left the boy, the spirit screamed and convulsed him again, after which the boy lay still. He was so still that those around said he had died. Then, Jesus took the boy by the hand, lifted him up, and presented him to his father whole.

Hebrews 11:6 tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God. This is the quality for which God is looking in every person. Having faith, or believing, is not simply mental assent. It is a heart response to what God has said. It is trust in Him. It is taking action based on what He has said.

Faith has come to mean that which people believe. It may be doctrines of their church or things they have concluded for themselves. The variety of beliefs is wide including belief in multiple gods, or none at all. But, God is not as interested in what we believe as much as we want to think. What He wants is us to believe in what He says is true in His Word, the Bible. In that context, faith is trust in God. Jesus told His disciples in Luke 12:4, 5 “And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.” This is faith.

Faith is trust in Him. Is He God? Can He do mighty things? Did He create all things in heaven and on the earth? Does He hold together everything that we can see, as well as everything we cannot? Does He know everything? Is He everywhere present? Does He possess all power and might? Is Jesus Christ God? Are we sinners in need of God’s help to gain Heaven? Are our works inadequate to get us to Heaven? Must we rely only on Jesus for eternal life?

These questions are all addressed in God’s Word. According to the Bible, the answer to each of them is, Yes. Many verses can be found that teach these facts about God, Jesus, and our eternal destiny. Do we believe it? Do we believe God when He says these things are true? Are we willing to come only to Him for forgiveness through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, believing that we remain under God’s wrath if we don’t? Are we willing to set aside our own efforts to gain heaven and trust only in Jesus? Do we believe God’s Word? It tells us all of these things. That is faith that pleases God.

In the case above, the father believed that Jesus could heal his son. And, He knew that Jesus was God. But, the sad state of his son loomed large. He feared that some lack on his part could stand in the way of his son being healed. “Help thou my unbelief!” He walked away with his son healthy, and the assurance that these attacks would not come on him again.

Look how accommodating Jesus was to this man in his need! He raised the issue of belief, and then healed his son from his afflictions. There were no stern words. Only a gentle leading to a fuller understanding of faith. In this way, Jesus deals with all who trust in Him.

My faith has found a resting place,
Not in device or creed;
I trust the ever living One,
His wounds for me shall plead.

Refrain

I need no other argument,
I need no other plea,
It is enough that Jesus died,
And that He died for me.

Enough for me that Jesus saves,
This ends my fear and doubt;
A sinful soul I come to Him,
He’ll never cast me out.

Refrain

My heart is leaning on the Word,
The living Word of God,
Salvation by my Savior’s name,
Salvation through His blood.

Refrain

My great physician heals the sick,
The lost He came to save;
For me His precious blood He shed,
For me His life He gave.

Refrain (Eliza E. Hewitt)

Mark 10:18

“And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.”

In His reply to the rich young ruler, Jesus made a statement concerning God’s character. There is none good but Him. In the context of the story, Jesus was making the point that if the ruler called Him good, then he must also acknowledge His deity. Jesus’ command to sell all and give to the poor was an exercise of His deity, and the ruler’s reaction to it shows his heart toward God.

The concept that God is good is important. Since God is eternal, it must be that God has always been, currently is, and will ever be good. Everything He does is good. As recorded in Genesis 1, everything that He created was declared to be good, with the ending assessment that it was all very good. In Acts 14:17, Paul told the people in Lystra that God, “…left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” The blessings we receive, like rain and harvest, are evidences of God’s goodness.

But even Bible-believing Christians may balk when they put this concept along-side God’s judgments, recorded in the Old Testament. Many lives were taken, either through war or famine or pestilence. None of these things were outside of God’s control. And, God commanded Moses and Joshua to spare nobody, man, woman, or child, while taking the Promised Land. We fail to see how these things were good, as we think about it. But God is still good. Our estimate of what is good is faulty.

In human government, imperfect though it may be, judgment falls on those that have broken the law, and are found guilty. It is not good if someone is found guilty of a crime but goes unpunished. The punishment of crimes is good; it is a benefit to mankind. Any government that does not apply judgment is considered corrupt. Any judge that does not administer justice is despised.

So, God’s judgment was always good. He was never slack at administering justice. Many scriptures give God’s commandments. Disobedience to His commands brought and will bring judgment. As Deuteronomy 24:16 says, “…every man shall be put to death for his own sin.” Leviticus 18 provides a listing of the sins of which the nations in the Promised Land were guilty. In verse 24 the LORD says, “Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you: and the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants.” The nations were guilty before God, and He used the Israelites to execute His judgment. In this God was good.

But God did not act without warning or in haste. When God told Abraham that He was going to give the land to Israel, He said that the Israelites, “…in the fourth generation …shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.” (Genesis 15:16) There was timing to God’s promise. The coming of Israel into the land would be delayed until the Amorites were ready to be judged. That was about 470 years after God’s promise to Abraham. He was not in a hurry but was longsuffering. The sins listed in Leviticus 18 were why God judged them, and He used Israel to do it. This explains God’s command to judge the people in the land as He did. His law was broken by them, and He judged them. In this God was good.

God will again judge sin. Speaking of the whole human race, Romans 3:10-12 says, “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.” All of mankind is guilty before God. None of mankind is good. There will be a time when His judgment must fall again. And He will be good in doing so because justice must be served. He is good in everything.

This is hard truth. But it is hard because we don’t properly understand what is good. Jesus said that none is good but God. Believers must always hold that it is so, no matter how things may look. On the occasion of his loss, Job famously commented in Job 1:21, “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.” God’s comment concerning this in Job 1:22 is, “In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.” C.H. Spurgeon said, “God is too good to be unkind and He is too wise to be mistaken. And when we cannot trace His hand, we must trust His heart.” God is good.

Good Thou art, and good Thou dost,
Thy mercies reach to all,
Chiefly those who on Thee trust,
And for Thy mercy call;
New they every morning are;
As fathers when their children cry,
Us Thou dost in pity spare,
And all our wants supply.

Mercy o’er Thy works presides;
Thy providence displayed
Still preserves, and still provides
For all Thy hands have made;
Keeps, with most distinguished care,
The man who on Thy love depends;
Watches every numbered hair,
And all his steps attends.

Who can sound the depths unknown
Of Thy redeeming grace?
Grace that gave Thine only Son
To save a ruined race!
Millions of transgressors poor
Thou hast for Jesus’ sake forgiven,
Made them of Thy favor sure,
And snatched from hell to Heaven.

Millions more Thou ready art
To save, and to forgive;
Every soul and every heart
Of man Thou wouldst receive:
Father, now accept of mine,
Which now, through Christ, I offer Thee;
Tell me now, in love divine,
That Thou hast pardoned me! (Charles Wesley)

2 Chronicles 7:17-18


“And as for thee, if thou wilt walk before me, as David thy father walked, and do according to all that I have commanded thee, and shalt observe my statutes and my judgments; then will I stablish the throne of thy kingdom, according as I have covenanted with David thy father, saying, There shall not fail thee a man to be ruler in Israel.”

The occasion of these verses is the completion of the temple that Solomon built for the LORD. God Himself is speaking to Solomon, promising him that through him there would be an eternal kingdom established in Israel. This was a promise that the LORD made to David, Solomon’s father, “There shall not fail thee a man to be ruler in Israel.”

In the next couple of verses the LORD warns Solomon against idolatry. This would be the undoing of his kingdom. Idolatry would result in the Israelites being removed from the land which God have given them. David never fell into idolatry: his heart was always toward the LORD. Solomon was warned to do the same.

Solomon proved to be disobedient to God in the matter of idolatry. His many wives, many from the nations around Israel, lead him away into idolatry. The great temple that he built, where God had put His name, and the city of Jerusalem were full of the idols of each of the nations from which his wives came.

The books of 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, and 2 Chronicles provide a history of the rest of the kings in the nation of Israel, and in the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, which were divided from each other during the reign of Solomon’s son, Rehoboam. All of the kings of Judah were descended from David, sons of sons that took the throne. We are told that all of the kings of Israel held to idolatry, being called evil in the sight of the LORD. A few of the kings of Judah were declared to be good in the eyes of the LORD, but the majority were declared to be evil, just as the kings of Israel. Further, two of Solomon’s descendants, Jehoiakim and Jeconiah, his son, were such evil kings that God cursed them, saying that their descendants would not prosper on the throne of Israel (See Jeremiah 22:24-30 and 36:30).

Ultimately, both of the nations, Israel and Judah, were removed from their land. Israel was carried away by the Syrians, and Judah by King Nebuchadnezzar and the army of Babylon. They lived for 70 years in Babylon. There were no more kings, and the kingly line was lost. When they finally returned to the land, Israel had no king, and they were under the rule of the lands around them, ending with Rome after the time of Jesus. After the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Israelites were again removed from the land, around 70 AD, and did not have a kingdom or identity until 1948. The kingly line was certainly lost, and God’s promise of an eternal kingdom was unfulfilled. The kingly line starting with Solomon disobeyed the LORD, falling into idolatry. He promised that if they did so He would remove them from the land, and they were removed. What about God’s promise?

The LORD Jesus Christ was called on many occasions the Son of David. The Jewish leaders at His time knew that the promised Messiah would be descended from David. They expected that the Messiah would come to establish God’s eternal kingdom in keeping with God’s promise to David. But how could even Jesus Christ, the son of God, be made king in Israel if He were descended from Solomon? God could not and would not keep His promise to Israel of an everlasting kingdom because Solomon disobeyed Him, and because of the curses described above.

Not surprisingly, there are two genealogies of Jesus given in the Bible, one in Matthew 1 and the other in Luke 3. It is not surprising because He had two parents, His mother, Mary, and his step-father, Joseph. The genealogy in Matthew 1 includes all of the kings of Judah starting with David, through Solomon, and including Jeconiah, one of the ones who was cursed. The genealogy in Luke 3 includes none of the kings of Judah, but we find that Nathan, another son of David, is the one through which that line goes. The genealogy in Matthew 1 is of Joseph’s line to Jesus. Because Joseph was not Jesus’ physical father, the curse on the kings did not fall on Him. Luke 3 records Jesus’ line through Mary, which came through Nathan.

Man’s sin and disobedience will not thwart God from His purposes. God promised David that of his line would be an everlasting kingdom. Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise to David, Who was descended from David through Nathan. His coming kingdom will be the fulfillment of God’s promise! How great is our promise keeping God!

Standing on the promises of Christ my king,
Through eternal ages let His praises ring,
Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing,
Standing on the promises of God.

Refrain

Standing, standing,
Standing on the promises of God my Savior;
Standing, standing,
I’m standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises that cannot fail,
When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
By the living Word of God I shall prevail,
Standing on the promises of God.

Refrain

Standing on the promises I now can see
Perfect, present cleansing in the blood for me;
Standing in the liberty where Christ makes free,
Standing on the promises of God.

Refrain

Standing on the promises of Christ the Lord,
Bound to Him eternally by love’s strong cord,
Overcoming daily with the Spirit’s sword,
Standing on the promises of God.

Refrain

Standing on the promises I cannot fall,
Listening every moment to the Spirit’s call
Resting in my Savior as my all in all,
Standing on the promises of God.

Refrain (R. Kelso Carter)

Lamentations 3:40


“Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the LORD.”

The book of Lamentations was written by the prophet Jeremiah. It chronicles the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonian army, led by King Nebuchadnezzar. The first two chapters of the book give sad accounts of what happened to the inhabitants of Jerusalem during the siege.

In chapter three are two verses about God’s faithfulness which, with the backdrop of the first two chapters, might seem misplaced. Lamentations 3:22, 23 says, “It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” Jeremiah saw that the Israelites were not completely destroyed because God is merciful, compassionate, and faithful; great is God’s faithfulness.

How could it be that in judgment God is being merciful, compassionate, and faithful? Idolatry was why judgment fell upon Jerusalem. Nearly all of the prophetic books point out Israel’s idolatry, God’s anger with it, and His desire that they turn from it and obey and worship Him. Idolatry is equated with adultery in the Bible. In their idolatry, the people were being unfaithful to God. By practicing idolatry, they forsook God, the only One that really cared for them; Who wanted nothing but their best. But, though they had offended Him in this way, He was compassionate and merciful to them, and He was faithful to them. In spite of God’s many warnings through the prophets, they refused to turn away from their idols; they refused to turn to and trust in Him. And so, God’s judgment fell, as told in Lamentations. In the verse above, Jeremiah suggests a plan of action; “Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the LORD.”

First, Jeremiah says, Let us search our ways. The Hebrew word means to search with diligence. He wanted them to think about where they were headed and the paths that they were using to get there. Note that he includes himself in this search. If people really desire to see Almighty God, do they think that He can be approached in just any way? Some say that there are many paths to God. They seem to think that anything they choose is OK, without considering that the One Whom they “seek” might have thoughts about it. Could He have feelings and rules about how to approach Him? Let us not be presumptuous with God. He does indeed have prescriptions about being in His presence that MUST be followed or we will not be able to be in His presence.

Then Jeremiah said they should try their ways. Having searched out their ways, they were to try or test them. What would be a good test? What would be a trustworthy standard? The philosophies of men fall too short for consideration. The Bible has much to say about how to approach God. Would their ways pass that test? And, what if they found that their approach didn’t line up with God’s Word? Would they be willing to set aside their notions and come to Him on His terms? Are the paths we have chosen in accordance with what He requires? Let us try our ways.

Jeremiah then says that, having searched and tested their ways, they should turn again to God. The Israelites were under God’s judgment, and Jeremiah tells them to turn to Him again. Could it be that having rebelled against Him as they have, He would accept them again? Remember what Jeremiah said, “It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” And, Hosea 6:1 states, “Come, and let us return unto the LORD: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up.”

Turning to Him means seeking and coming to Him in His way, believing that He will accept us. If we are honest, we quickly see that our ways are not even close to what honors Him. We must turn to His ways. And, incredible as it may seem, scripture clearly teaches that when we seek for Him we will find Him! Even in their adulterous idolatry, God would accept the Israelites if they turned from their sin.

So, what is His way? The Bible teaches that without faith it is impossible to please God. As recorded in Genesis 15, Abraham believed God and his belief was counted to him for righteousness. His belief was in God concerning a promise that He had made that his descendants would be innumerable. At the time, Abraham was 75 years old, and didn’t have any children.

At the center of the Bible is the death, burial, and resurrection of the LORD Jesus Christ. This is the event upon which all matters of eternity hang for every person. God says that we must be reconciled to Him through the sacrifice of Jesus. Jesus has reconciled us to God, we cannot reconcile ourselves. Nothing we can do can make an eternal difference. We must stop trying to convince God that we are good enough, and humble ourselves before Him. Our only hope before God is to take Jesus as our Savior from God’s wrath. We must have faith in Him. Jesus said He is the Way to God. Everything else is idolatry.

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ name.

Refrain

On Christ the solid rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness seems to hide His face,
I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

Refrain

His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.

Refrain

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh may I then in Him be found.
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.

Refrain (Edward Mote)

Song of Solomon 3:4


“… I found him whom my soul loveth: I held him, and would not let him go …”

The book of Song of Solomon describes the love between a man and woman. In the verses that precede this one, the woman is seeking her beloved. Her search started at night, and led her to go into the city on her own. So great was her love for her beloved that personal safety did not deter her. We are told that she searched in the streets and the broad ways. It is also told that, “The watchmen that go about the city found me: to whom I said, Saw ye him whom my soul loveth?” In her search, she requested aid from the city guards. But, they were unable to help her in her search. But, she finally found her beloved. And, as it says above, she held him and would not let him go.

     God encourages His people to search for Him, saying in Jeremiah 29:13, “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” This sounds like the woman described above. Searching, even at the possible risk of life. We are also encouraged to look to Jesus in our lives. Hebrews 12:2 says, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Look for Him. Seek out where He is. Prefer the people that are His. Search with undivided loyalty. Let not any worldly attraction take His place. This equates to the woman in Song of Solomon.

But, we may turn our ways in directions that are not toward Him. The woman in the Song of Solomon searched in the broad ways and in the streets of the city. Jesus taught that the broad way leads to destruction. It is the way that many people take. It is the world’s way. It is appealing and attractive. But Jesus is not there. Neither did the searching woman find her beloved there. Hebrews 13:13, 14 tells us, “Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.” Jesus cannot be found in the streets of the city either. He is found outside the gates, away from the world’s influence. That is where we can find Him.

As noted before, the book of Song of Solomon is about the love between a man and a woman. Ephesians 5:32 teaches us that marriage represents the relationship between Jesus Christ and the church. Jesus Christ is the one whom our souls love. We must be taken up with Him, and trust Him and lean on Him in everything that comes our way. The Westminster Catechism includes an oft quoted question with its answer, “What is the chief and highest end of man?”, “Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.” The search that the woman made parallels this question and answer. Her great desire was for her beloved, and to be with him forever.

Speaking of Jesus, 1 Peter 1:8, 9 reminds us, “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.” Having found her beloved, the woman in the Song of Solomon held him, and would not let him go. So it should be with us. Jesus is altogether lovely. He is more precious than gold. And, He is worthy of our full affection and attention. We are to take Him with us into our daily responsibilities. He is God. His guidance and wisdom in every matter is available and invaluable. He is available to help in time of need, and time of blessing. In this way, we are on a good start toward glorifying God and fully enjoying Him forever! Avoid the ways of the world. Search for Him with all your heart! Do not let Him go!

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s a light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

Refrain

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
Over us sin no more hath dominion—
For more than conquerors we are!

Refrain

His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

Refrain (Helen H. Lemmel)

Deuteronomy 5:29

“O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!”

The book of Deuteronomy is a recounting by Moses of the things that happened to the Israelites, and what they were taught and commanded by the LORD, from when they left Egypt until their arrival at the Promised Land. Moses was not going to go with them over Jordan, his death is told at the end of the book. So, he takes up this historical review; Moses’ last testament to them of God’s glorious works on their behalf.

In Deuteronomy 5 Moses reviews with them the awe-inspiring day, first recorded in Exodus 19 and 20, when the Israelites saw God, and heard His voice. It was at Mount Horeb when the LORD spoke to them the Ten Commandments. Moses repeated those commandments in Deuteronomy 5, and then went on to relate something else that happened that day.

Exodus 20 tells that afterward the Israelites asked Moses that they be kept from hearing and seeing God. The sight was so terrible that they knew they couldn’t bear to hear His voice any more. They wanted Moses to talk with the LORD, and then tell them what He said. They promised to do whatever the LORD commanded them to do. In Deuteronomy 5 Moses tells of his conversation with the LORD concerning that request.

In the verse prior to the one above, the LORD commends the people for their request. And then came verse 29. There is something in this verse that is not seen in too many other places in God’s Word. It is as if you can hear the LORD’s heart, “O that there were such an heart in them…” They had promised that they would obey Him, but He knew better. He spoke of what He wanted for His people, Israel, “…that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always…” even knowing that they would turn their back on Him. Not long after, they were worshipping a golden calf, directly violating the very first commandment they ever heard God speak. “O that there were such an heart in them…” This was not a desperate lament. God was not wringing His hands and wondering what He would do next. He wasn’t at a loss. In fact, He had a plan that was in place even before He created the earth.

In 2 Samuel 14 an interesting story is told. King David was estranged from his son Absalom because Absalom tried to take the kingdom from his father. Through a series of events a woman went to King David to appeal for Absalom. She said to David, in part, “For we must needs die, and are as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again; neither doth God respect any person: yet doth he devise means, that his banished be not expelled from him.” Her point was that God does not favor one person over another, yet He put in place a plan by which (as the Hebrew expresses it) those that are cast out of His presence are not cast out of His presence. She encouraged David to do the same.

This incredible insight concerning God goes with God’s words in Deuteronomy 5. It tells of a plan devised by God to fulfill His desire for His people. Though Israel, and, in fact, all of mankind, turned their back on God, and were thus banished from His presence, yet He devised a way for all of us to be accepted in His presence, through the sacrifice of the LORD Jesus Christ. He reconciled mankind with God. Jesus executed the plan by which sinners are allowed into God’s presence. Those who take His sacrifice for themselves are declared righteous before God, and though at one point were banished from His presence because of their sin, they are not expelled from Him forever. And, thereby have a heart to fear God and obey His commandments always.

Romans 8:3,4 puts it this way, “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and the working of the Spirit in a believer’s life, God’s heart cry in Deuteronomy 5 is fulfilled in us. Our hearts are right with Him, we fear Him, we obey His law, and we will be eternally well.

I saw the cross of Jesus,
When burdened with my sin;
I sought the cross of Jesus
To give me peace within;
I brought my sins to Jesus,
He cleansed me by His blood;
And in the cross of Jesus
I found my peace with God.

I love the cross of Jesus,
It tells me what I am—
A vile and guilty creature
Saved only thro’ the Lamb;
No righteousness or merit,
No beauty can I plead;
Yet in the cross of Jesus
My title there I read.

I clasp the cross of Jesus
In every trying hour,
My sure and certain refuge,
My never failing tower;
In every fear and conflict,
I more than conqu’ror am;
Living, I’m safe—or dying—
Thro’ Christ the risen Lamb. (George Mueller)

Isaiah 25:7,8


“And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it.”

Students of the Bible will find these words familiar. They remind of ones found in the books of 1 Corinthians and in the Revelation. Like many prophecies in the Old Testament, these words have been fulfilled, and are yet to come.

The first promise is the destruction of the covering cast over all the people, the vail spread over all nations. Both phrases describe the same thing. In the tabernacle, a vail was hung before the Holy of Holies, in which was placed the ark of the covenant. Nobody except the high priest was allowed to go into the Holy of Holies. Only once a year was he allowed to go in. The book of Hebrews says that this showed that the way into the presence of God was not yet revealed (Hebrews 9:8).

When the LORD Jesus Christ died on the cross, He shouted, “It is Finished!” and the vail in front of the Holy of Holies was torn in two, from the top to the bottom. Upon Jesus’ death that vail was torn from above. Thus, the way into the Holy of Holies, God’s presence, was now made available. This all happened because of the sacrifice of the LORD Jesus Christ. This is the first fulfillment of this promise in Isaiah 25.

Philippians 2 teaches that the day is coming when all nations will see Jesus for Who He is. The hidden things of God will be revealed, and every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the Father. In that day the vail concerning Who Jesus is will be removed from before all nations; all will acknowledge Him as Lord. This is the future fulfillment of this promise in Isaiah 25.

Next, we read in Isaiah 25 that He will swallow up death in victory. This, too, has a dual fulfillment. Through the sacrifice of the LORD Jesus Christ, death has been defeated. Our sin, which held us in eternal death, was forgiven. Those who have the LORD Jesus Christ as their Savior are assured of eternal life. Those who don’t are assured of eternal death. Eternal death has been swallowed up in victory for those that have received eternal life.

Certainly, physical death has not stopped. But, a day is coming when the specter of physical death will also be swallowed up in victory. A glimpse of that is seen in the resurrection of the LORD Jesus Christ. His death was surely swallowed up in the victory of resurrection. He is called the firstfruits of them that are resurrected. This means that His resurrection is not the only one. Neither will it be the last! His was simply the first.

The third promise in Isaiah 25 is that God Himself will wipe away tears from off all faces. For those that have the LORD Jesus Christ as their Savior this is true in many ways. God’s presence and comfort are promised to us in the trials of life. God is called faithful. He goes through all of our trials with us.

But one day, in God’s eternal presence, tears will be wiped away, and nothing will be left except eternal joy, as promised in the book of Revelation. While tears are still shed on this earth for now, at the coming of the LORD Jesus Christ a new government will be established with Jesus as head. Then, there will be a new heaven and new earth. Old things will be passed away including tears and pain and sorrow (Revelation 21:4).

The last promise in Isaiah 25 is that He will take away the rebuke of His people from off all the earth. Sin is a rebuke to all people. When the LORD Jesus Christ came, the curse of sin was taken away in His sacrifice on the cross. The wrath of God due to all mankind for their sinful nature, and the resultant sin, was poured out on Jesus. Those who know Jesus as Savior are no longer under God’s rebuke.

Meanwhile, those who are God’s people endure the rebuke of the world, which rejects Jesus and God. God’s people suffer for their faith in God in many ways, even cruelly, at the hands of those that reject Him. But, the day is coming when that rebuke will be done away, too. He promises that He will take it away from off the whole earth. In that day, all of God’s children will be seen for who they are, and God will be glorified!

Finally, Isaiah 25 says that the LORD has spoken these things. His Word is sure. The Bible says that it is impossible for Him to lie. The things described in Isaiah 25:7, 8 have and will come to pass because they are God’s Word. He will perform what He promised, as noted in the beginning of verse 7. For those that are God’s these verses are a great assurance. For those that aren’t, here is a great warning, to be ignored at great peril. Either way, these promises have come to pass, and will come to pass. God has promised.

Standing on the promises of Christ my king,
Through eternal ages let His praises ring,
Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing,
Standing on the promises of God.

Refrain

Standing, standing,
Standing on the promises of God my Savior;
Standing, standing,
I’m standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises that cannot fail,
When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
By the living Word of God I shall prevail,
Standing on the promises of God.

Refrain (R. Kelso Carter)

Korea and the Gospel

Missions Article 2018

Timothy Stafford

Itaewon Bible Chapel

Missions Article 2018

South Korea’s formal name is “Republic of Korea” but it is affectionately referred to as “The Land of the Morning Calm” (Kim, 2012). It is believed that this definition is derived from two Chinese characters; (조선, 朝鮮) Jo and Seon. Jo (朝) meaning early; associated with morning, and Seon (鮮); meaning quiet or calm (Wikipedia, 2018). Korea has over 5,000 years of recorded history as well as artifacts of its prehistoric existence that date back as far as 8,000 years (Kim, 2012). Korea in its earliest days was a country whose people were divided into smaller groups, tribal clans and were united only during brief periods of their history such as the Joseon period (from which they get their “Land of the Morning Calm” nickname) and even today tragically remain a divided people (Kim, 2012). Much of the early division was due in part at least to the rugged geography of Korea with its steep mountain ridges that made travel difficult and hampered regular contact with distant communities via means of usual lines of communication such as roads, bridges, and waterways. This current division which cuts the Korean peninsula in half at the 38th parallel is not the result of naturally occurring obstacles but rather an artificially imposed, man-made structure, known as the demilitarized zone (DMZ) (Kim, 2012). This barrier that prevents free travel between the North and South is the result of the Korean civil war which began on June 25, 1950 and ended with a fragile cease fire on July 27, 1953 (Kim, 2012). The DMZ however, had its beginnings after WWII when control of half the peninsula was given to Russia and half to the US (Gelézeau, 2010).

Sadly, much of Korea’s long history has been marked by bloody wars; fighting from within and without. The country has been involved in many conflicts from its regional neighbors like China, Japan, Mongolia, and Russia (Kim, 2012). In spite of the relentless military incursions from countries outside her borders and the political turmoil within her borders; the resiliency of her people along with God’s grace have preserved her and kept her strong, and perhaps now even stronger than ever before (Kim, 2012).

Before Christianity

Korea’s early religions were Shamanism, Animism, Buddhism and Confucianism (Kim, 2012; Oak, 2013; Yu, 2016). These early religions whether indigenous to Korea or introduced by means of trade or other interactions with the outside world have undoubtedly had a significant influence on Korea (Yu, 2016). Some religions (e.g., Confucianism) may have in some ways prepared Korea to receive and embrace the gospel as Confucianism highly prizes education (Yu, 2016). Christian missionaries used this as a door to reach the people with the gospel by opening schools teaching women and children how to read and write, which prior to their arrival was kept from the ordinary people, especially women, and reserved for the upper class of society only (Yu, 2016).

Korean people are by practice very religious people and give themselves wholeheartedly to the religion of their choice (Baker, 2008). Religion itself seems to be a contributing factor that further divides this common people (ethnically homogenous) into a seemingly endless variety of religious camps. Notwithstanding the variety of religious camps occupied by Koreans, there is a toleration of these differences in the larger society (outside the camps) and according to Baker (2008) this stems from the fact that there is no real predominant religion in Korea but rather a society that freely associates and interacts with one another as a common people. This is more likely the result of conforming to the social order established upon Confucian and Buddhist tenets than a spirit of toleration. If one would act against the strict Confucian order, which is so deeply ingrained in the fabric of Korean society, so much so, that they own it as their native culture, one would be considered a barbarian and might well be disowned.

Shamanism and Animism can live side by with one another as neither contradicts the other. Shamanism is essentially the belief in a spirit world occupied by good and bad spirits and the spirits of ancestors that passed from this world into the next (Walraven, 2009). Animism on the other hand asserts that all things have life within them presenting no challenge to Shamanistic ideology and both Shamanism and Animism are referred to in Korea as Mudang 무당 or what westerners might call “Folk Religion” and is rife with superstitious believes used to control through fear and intimidation (Baker, 2008). In fact, many of the present day Shamans would claim Buddhism as their religion while others might claim Confucianism or Ancestral worship as their religion (Baker, 2008). Some Shamans invoke Buddhist gods while others claim to speak to deceased ancestors asking help for the family or community by driving away evil spirits or to appease offended ancestors (Baker, 2008; Walraven, 2009). Blending of religions is not uncommon in the world and this form of syncretism (when one religion incorporates parts of another religion rejecting neither the old nor fully accepting the new) was in play in Korea throughout its developmental history (Walraven, 2009). When a new religion was in its ascendency the old was not completely discarded but rather assimilated into the new making the new neither fish nor fowl (Walraven, 2009).

The light of gospel dawns

The earliest recorded introduction of Christianity into Korea came via the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) in the later years of the 18th century during the Joseon period via books that were brought into Korea from China where the RCC had a foothold (Roux, 2012). Many of the earliest converts to the RCC were martyred for their faith by government officials (Roux, 2012). Confucianism was at its zenith during this time and the introduction of RCC teachings stood in stark contrast to Confucianism’s tenets of ancestral worship and this threatened to disrupt the social order established on Confucianism (Roux, 2012). Those accused and convicted of refusing to participate in ancestral worship were beheaded (Roux, 2012). There was an attempt by RCC missionaries to blend Confucianism and Catholicism but there are too many insurmountable challenges to this idea (Oak, 2013).

Protestant missionaries brought the gospel to Korea approximately one-hundred years after the RCC had introduced Christianity and more specifically the idea of monotheism, a concept heretofore unknown to Korea (Baker, 2016). The gospel flourished seemingly uninhibited from the waning days of the Joseon period from 1876 until the Japanese annexation of Korea in 1910 (Baker, 2016; Kim, 2012; Oak, 2013). From 1910 throughout the Japanese colonization period of Korea’s history the gospel suffered opposition as it stood in opposition to the Japanese preferred religion of Buddhism (Oak, 2013).

During the period following the Japanese colonization of Korea the gospel once again spread freely without much opposition from the government, albeit the country had been divided in half after World War II with the Southern part of the country occupied by Allied forces made up primarily of US Military with the Russian military occupying the North (Ryu, 2018). During this period of time Kim Il Sung the first dictator of North Korea the “Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK)” began his rise to power where initially there was a cool indifference to Christians and Christianity (Ryu, 2018). There were even some Christians that initially held office in the DPRK but after the civil war when Kim reluctantly agreed to a ceasefire to consolidate power he quashed any form religious freedom that would contradict the states ideology of Juche which some interpret as the ideology of self-reliance which when boiled down to its basic elements, Juche is veneration of the state (Ryu, 2018). Be that as it may, the gospel continues to bring light to a dark DPRK (Ryu, 2018). Some conclude that believers are driven underground and cannot openly express their faith for fear of severe persecution (Ryu, 2018). However, the evidence of continued Christianity in DPRK comes about indirectly as there are no official statistics to substantiate its existence other than by way of speeches made by leaders acknowledging the existence of Christians and their need for reeducation (Ryu, 2018).

South of the DMZ is another story! The gospel truly is unfettered and every mainstream denomination of Christianity is seemingly thriving and it would appear that all is well… But appearances can be deceiving (Baker, 2016). That is not say that there are not reasons for joy and thanksgiving for there are many to be sure. The gospel is preached and Christ is believed on and the local Church is growing. In the city of Seoul alone there are thousands if Churches. There is however work to do here in Korea and IBC is blessed to have a part in that ministry.

Ongoing work

Although the gospel has fully taken root in Korea, the Old religions of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Shamanism have not been fully rooted out. There is no question that Christ has been preached and the message has been fruitful. He has impacted Korea and significantly influenced its culture, there are still vestiges of its past that remain which inhibit the full blessing of the gospel – some visible and some invisible. It is the invisible ones that are the greatest threat to the building up of the local Church to the full stature of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-13, New International Versions), especially the vestiges of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Shamanism that seem to have crept into the church unawares (Jude 4, New International Version). Confucianism is antithetical to biblical teaching on the Church, in that it teaches hierarchical schemes of rank and position that encourage some to think of themselves as better than others and to expect to be honored by those that are deemed of a lower order (Philippians 2:3, New International Version). This is not unlike the Pharisaical system that was in existence at Jerusalem during Christ’s ministry where the Lord castigated them for seeking honor from each other rather than from God (John 5:44, New International Version). Buddhism on the other hand asserts that there are many ways to God while Christ teaches He and He alone is the way, the truth, and the life and no one comes to the Father but by Him (John 14:6, New International Version). Shamanism teaches that there are many gods and man must learn to appease them to gain their favor while the bible teaches that by grace we are saved through faith and that God who is One, has been appeased by the cross work of Christ his Son (Ephesians 2:8,9; Mark 12:29; Romans 3:25, New International Version). The work that must continue in Korea and will continue in Korea as the Lord permits is the purging out of the old leaven and looking solely to Christ for he is our all in all (1 Corinthians 5:7 and Colossians 3:11).

Update

Along with reaching people with the Good News of Jesus Christ Itaewon Bible Chapel (IBC) aims to preach and teach the world of God according to the light that God has given. As some of you may already know, in response to the Lord’s leading we have planted a church in Itaewon, a small enclave in Seoul, Korea. Although still in fellowship with the local Korean Church community, we function autonomously under the headship of Christ. This work is directed primarily toward foreign nationals living and working in Seoul. Inclusive of that group are internationally married couples (Korean to others), US military, foreign workers, and also local nationals. IBC has had believers in fellowship from all over the world; Africa, Brazil, China, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, Panama, Philippines, and the USA.

The idea of establishing an English speaking meeting in Korea came out of our experience in bringing in non-native Koreans into the Korean assembly at Noryangjin and the difficulties the language barrier presented. Although we were welcome and great efforts were made to accommodate us it became increasingly obvious that the language barrier would inhibit the free exercise of the priesthood and we would remain on the outside looking in rather than an integral part of the fellowship of believers. In consultation with the elders from Noryangjin and our home assembly we sought the Lord’s leading and believed the Lord would have us start a separate English speaking meeting that would function autonomously under the headship of the Lord Jesus Christ. IBC is the only English speaking New Testament Pattern Assembly in Korea. Our first meeting was held in January 2015 and the Lord has continued to faithfully provide and care for us.

We are always looking for ways to enhance the learning experience of those at IBC and the local community of Churches in Seoul. To realize this vision, as we are able, we invite brothers and their families from the US and surrounding areas to come to Korea share what the Lord lays on their heart for us. Our first visitors, Ken and Joyce Hardisty came from the Philippines to help in outreach to the local Filipino community for several home bible studies and visits to some of the local Korean Assemblies. Keith and Naomi Keyeser came and helped with the establishment of IBC in its first couple of months while still a home meeting, and then were exceedingly gracious and returned to continue to help build us up in God’s word. Randy and Sylvia Amos also kindly accepted an invitation to come and work with us for a few weeks and held a mini-conference at Noryangjin Assembly where brother Randy spoke on “The Brides of the Bible” and visitors from as far away as the Philippines came to attend. We also had a very special visit from Jim and Lisa Cagliostro and were able to host them for a few days and they were kind enough to share from the word of God with us.

 One of the ways we are building up believers is by conducting English Language Bible (ELL) studies. This work is an in-reach to minister to those in fellowship at IBC and also an outreach to encourage those interested in learning the English language to come and hear the Good News of Jesus Christ. Please consider putting IBC on your prayer list that the Church may continue to grow and be used mightily for the Lord. Our specific prayer requests are the following:

  • Lord’s leading to procure a larger building to accommodate increasing numbers.
  • The Lord’s wisdom regarding a curriculum in ELL program
  • Fuller development of Sunday school program for youth

References

Baker, D. L. (2008). Korean spirituality. University of Hawaii Press. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=RCBe9w9C2UkC&oi=fnd&pg=PR7&dq=Korean+Spirituality&ots=WvX-pBushh&sig=mJOH_-CzX8NCd-3vChBsMlPd0wI

Baker, D. L. (2016). The impact of Christianity on modern Korea: An overview. Acta Koreana, 19(1), 45-67. doi:10.18399/acta.2016.19.1.002

Kim, J. (2012). A history of Korea: From “Land of the Morning Calm” to states in conflict. Indiana University Press. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.contentproxy.phoenix.edu/lib/apollolib/detail.action?docID=1031819#

Oak, S.-D. (2013). The making of Korean Christianity: Protestant encounters with Korean religions, 1876-1915. Baylor University Press. Retrieved from https://muse.jhu.edu/book/26828

Gelézeau, V. (2010). Beyond the ‘Long Partition’. From divisive geographies of Korea to the Korean ‘meta-culture. European Journal of East Asian Studies, 9(1), 1-24. doi:10.1163/156805810×517643

Roux, P.-E. (2012). The great Ming code and the repression of Catholics in Choson Korea. Acta Koreana, 15(1), 73. Retrieved from http://www.academia.edu/download/31610067/08_Roux_15-1.pdf

Ryu, D. Y. (2018). Kim Il-Sung and Christianity in North Korea. Journal of Church and State. doi:10.1093/jcs/csy079/5127077

Walraven, B. (2009). National pantheon, regional deities, personal spirits? Mushindo, sŏngsu, and the nature of Korean shamanism. Asian ethnology, 55-80. Retrieved from http://www.academia.edu/download/34714888/NationalPantheon.pdf

Wikipedia. (2018, November 4). Names of Korea. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Names_of_Korea

Yu, K. K. (2016). Korea’s Confucian culture of learning as a gateway to Christianity: Protestant missions in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Studies in World Christianity, 22(1), 37-56. doi:10.3366/swc.2016.0136

Hebrews 10:32, 33

“But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions; partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used.”

     We are encouraged in many scriptures to remember things. We are to remember the LORD and His afflictions, death, burial, and resurrection when we worship, “This do in remembrance of me.” Through his second epistle, Peter writes to help his readers to keep certain things in remembrance. Remembering God, Who He is, and what He has done is vital.

     The author of Hebrews tells his readers to call to remembrance their afflictions. This is not what we want to remember. We would rather forget them. In context, the writer wants them to recall where they had been in their lives. He was concerned that they were in danger of leaving their faith, and returning to previous beliefs. He tells them in verse 35, “Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward.” They were in a position of confidence before God, and he didn’t want them to leave it behind. So, he told them to remember what they had endured when they first trusted in Christ.

     The author speaks of enduring a great fight of afflictions. This is more than snide remarks, but includes the full range of things Christians endure, including ridicule, shunning, torture, and even death. His readers had not yet endured death. But, they had endured a great fight of many other afflictions. The writer tells them that the reason they endured such things was because they were illuminated, or made to see. Using the same word, Paul told the Ephesians 1:18-20, “The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places…” Their illumination was in the things of God through Christ. And because of this they “…were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions…” and they “… became companions of them that were so used.”

     The term gazingstock has the idea of being on stage. Someone who is on stage is the center of attention. Every action they take is observed and noticed. Everything that happens to them is seen by the audience, and evokes emotion. The Hebrews were put in the position of being gazingstocks because they were followers of the LORD Jesus Christ. Because of their faith in Him, they endured reproaches and afflictions. And, as if they were on stage, everyone knew what they endured. Their situation was known by everyone that watched. And, it was all because they were followers of Jesus Christ.

     At the same time, because they were illuminated, they “…became companions of them that were so used.” The readers of this letter were not the only ones that were paying this price. Everywhere the gospel was preached those who believed endured the ridicule and disdain of those around them. This is true to this very day. In times of trial it is helpful to know that we are not alone. But there is more.

This was exactly what Jesus said would happen. In John 15:18 Jesus told His followers, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.” And, in Matthew 5:11, 12, Jesus said, “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” There is reward for the things that are endured for the Lord by His people. The writer wanted his readers to realize that the things they endured would be for God’s glory, and to their eternal benefit.

But, the writer was warning his readers not to turn away from their standing before God through Jesus Christ. Their afflictions were because they were His, and they have the sure and certain hope of spending eternity with Him. Hebrews 10:34 continues, “… knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.” God sees and knows what His people endure. Their reward will be great. Trust God!

Blessèd are they that for His sake

Are persecuted and reviled;

Our Savior’s love a Heav’n can make,

When storms of earth are fierce and wild.

O, thoughts of Him who bore the cross,

Should teach our hearts to bear with joy

Their burdens, tho’ in pain and loss,

Whatever ills of earth annoy!

Whatever ills of earth annoy!

Blessèd are they!
Blessèd are they!

 

Blessèd are they that for His sake

Are persecuted and reviled;

May nothing here our courage shake,

While on we bear His yoke so mild.

O, still be faithful to the last,

Untempted e’en amid despair!

Tho’, round the faithful, snares are cast,

Theirs is Heav’n’s kingdom, bright and fair.

Theirs is Heav’n’s kingdom, bright and fair.

Blessèd are they!
Blessèd are they! (George Cooper)

Come on Lets Talk