Exodus 25:8, 9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 48:14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Refrain

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

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

Refrain

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

Refrain

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

Refrain (Joseph H. Gilmore)

John 4:41, 42

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Refrain

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

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

Refrain

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

Refrain (Fanny Crosby)

Revelation 14:6, 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 146:2, 5, 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ezra 8:22

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Refrain

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

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

Refrain

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

Refrain

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

Refrain (Edgar P. Stites)

3 John 11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Revelation 2:4, 5

“Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.”

The church at Ephesus is commended for their stand for the LORD, their work and labor for Him, and their care regarding the teachers they heeded. But the above rebuke comes from our LORD, and a dire consequence was promised if things didn’t change. Revelation 1:20 reveals that the lampstands are the seven churches. The LORD was promising to take away the Ephesian church. Even Laodicea, as weak as they were, was not similarly threatened.

The problem in Ephesus was they had left their first love. At this point in the passage, preachers often go into discussion and encouragement to his hearers to love one another; to care for one another and those in the world. We want to avoid the fate of the Ephesian church and being encouraged to love one another is appropriate. Many scriptures encourage us along these lines. It is important teaching. But are we missing the point if we focus on the love for those around us? Is our LORD rebuking the Ephesians for a lack of love to each other?

The LORD’s rebuke of the Ephesians is they have left their FIRST love. The Greek word translated “first” could be translated foremost, chief, or first of all. Many Christians remember their first zeal for the LORD because of His salvation. They honestly admit that their lives are not what they used to be. They recall being evangelistic, sharing the good news with those around them. Is this the first love? Is this the foremost or chief love? Is it the first-of-all love? They also remember that their heart was overwhelmed with gratitude and love for God for His great salvation.

Jesus’ words in Mark 12:29-31 suggest an answer. “And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” Notice His use of the words first and second. The first command is to love God with all of our being and ability, and the second is to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Would it be stretching Jesus’ words in Mark too much to suggest that the first love, the love of God, is the one He means in Revelation 2? According to 1 John 5:2, the evidence that we love our fellow believers is that we love God and keep His commandments. In Joshua 22:5 Joshua reminds the Israelites, “But take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the LORD charged you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.” Note the separation between loving God and keeping His commandments. Firstly, they were to love Him, and then to walk in His ways, keep His commandments, and serve Him.

Jesus’ rebuke of the Pharisees in Luke 11:42 brings a charge that is similar to Revelation 2:4, “But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.” They were good about tithing and such matters, but they passed over the love of (or for) God! They were wrong in many other ways, but Jesus pointed out their lack of love for God.

Could it be that the church in Ephesus was so taken up with its works that they had forgotten Who it was that they served? Had they left their love for the LORD in pursuit of love for other things, even service for Him? The promise to remove the church, which apparently came to pass since there is not even a city of Ephesus any more, is a strong judgment. As noted before, this judgment was not put before any of the other churches in Revelation.

The Israelites of old were warned time and again to turn back to God. They refused to listen, and ultimately they lost their nation for a time. Other writers of God’s Word encouraged their readers to love their neighbors. But a judgment such as the loss of their church was not mentioned. Turning away from loving God would bring a strong judgment.

Did the believers in Ephesus set aside their love of God and the keeping of His Word in order to love their neighbors? Love for God is the first love that Jesus commanded in Mark 12, and it seems that it is the love the Ephesians left. Is the modern church becoming so focused on love for their neighbor that it is setting aside their First love? Is the second commandment being pushed ahead of the first? Churches have set aside teaching from God’s Word that might be unpopular so that they can be more appealing to their neighbors in the world. But our first love must be of God, His Word, and His ways. If that puts us at odds with the world, that is only what Jesus said would happen. If they hate us, remember that they hated Him, too. We must never set aside God’s Word and commands to accommodate the world. This is something for which the LORD ought to remove our church! How could He use or bless a church that does not love Him and keep His Word?

Is it possible for Christians to turn away from their love of God? Is it possible for Christians to commit any other sin? He is gracious and loving to us. Yet it is possible for us to become so enamored of work for Him that we miss Him altogether. Recently, a man preaching on this passage was heard to encourage his hearers to set aside theological correctness and to be working. If we do not cling to God’s Word, we have nothing to guide us. If work for God is our focus, and not Him, we miss out; we leave our first love. Let us pray that our LORD would show us if we have left our first love for Him.

O what an evil heart have I,
So cold, and hard, and blind,
With sin so ready to comply,
And cast my God behind!

So apt His mercy to forget,
So soon dissolved in ease,
So false, so full of all deceit,
And desperate wickedness!

What shall I do, my God to love,
My loving God to praise!
The length, and breadth, and height to prove
And depth of sovereign grace! (Charles Wesley)

Ezekiel 8:12

“Then said he unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen what the ancients of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the chambers of his imagery? for they say, The LORD seeth us not; the LORD hath forsaken the earth.”

Hundreds of years before Christ, the nation of Israel, by then divided into the nations of Israel and Judah, was taken away from their land. Israel was first carried away to Assyria. Then, 140 years later, Nebuchadnezzar took the nation of Judah captive to Babylon.

After the city of Jerusalem was destroyed, and the people of the land of Judah were carried away, Ezekiel was sent by God to speak to them in Babylon. His job was to tell them why it was they were taken captive. If they had been listening to God’s many prophets, Ezekiel’s words would have been familiar. They told Israel and Judah that they would be taken out of their land because of their idolatry. At God’s command, those prophets warned them repeatedly to turn away from their idols, and turn to God. But, they turned their back on the LORD God and His prophets, and worshiped the idols of the nations around them: the nations that Israel had displaced in the land. Their idols did nothing for those nations, and they were unable to do anything for Israel. Their God was the Living God.

Earlier in chapter 8, Ezekiel recorded a vision that the LORD had given him of the idolatry of the leaders of Judah; idolatry that they carried out even in the temple of the Living God. The very last phrase of the verse above reveals their thinking; “… The LORD hath forsaken the earth, and the LORD seeth not.” The idolatry of the leaders was great, and though they thought it was unknown, the LORD was fully aware. Their ignorance of God was so deep that they thought that He didn’t care about what was going on with them, Israel, or in the world. They forgot God’s great history of caring for them, all the way from bringing them out of Egypt, leading them (not forsaking them) in their travels through the desert (though they had forsaken Him), fighting for them as they took the promised land, and providing leaders.

Similar words to those above are recorded in Ezekiel 9:9, “Then said he unto me, The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is exceeding great, and the land is full of blood, and the city full of perverseness: for they say, The LORD hath forsaken the earth, and the LORD seeth not.” This is what the people were saying. The attitude of the leaders, above, had taken hold of the whole nation. Ezekiel was told that because of their view of God, their city was full of blood and perverseness. Like their leaders, their ignorance of God was so deep that they thought that He didn’t care about what was going on in the world. They, too, forgot God’s great history of caring for them. Their idolatry ruined their city, and ultimately led to them being taken captive.

This kind of thinking about God continues to this very day. Many believe it. But, just as it was a lie in the days of Israel’s captivity, so it is today. The scriptures that they had told a different story about God. So do the scriptures that we have today. In both He is called good and righteous and holy and faithful and merciful and loving, to name only a few. Colossians 1:16, 17 tell us, “…For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” That is, He holds all things together. Throughout history it has been the case that the things that happen are because of mankind’s sinful nature, not God’s lack of interest. We think that He won’t take action regarding our sin, and when He doesn’t we conclude that he doesn’t know or care.

About 100 years after Ezekiel, it was recorded in Jeremiah 51:5, “For Israel hath not been forsaken, nor Judah of his God, of the LORD of hosts; though their land was filled with sin against the Holy One of Israel.” In spite of their sin, the nations of Israel and Judah had not been forsaken by God. In the context of this verse in Jeremiah, God promises to bring Israel and Judah out of captivity, back into their land, and back to Himself.

In John 14:1-3 Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” Jesus’ care for His people is evident in these words. He is not ignorant of what is going on in their lives.

All of these last few scriptures show that the LORD sees, and neither has He forsaken the earth. Opposite to what the leaders in Ezekiel’s day said, Zephaniah 3:17 says, “The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; He will save, He will rejoice over thee with joy; He will rest in His love, He will joy over thee with singing.”

Rejoice, the Lord is king! Your Lord and king adore;
Mortals give thanks and sing, and triumph evermore;
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

Jesus, the Savior, reigns, the God of truth and love;
When He had purged our stains He took His seat above;
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

His kingdom cannot fail, He rules o’er earth and Heav’n,
The keys of death and hell are to our Jesus giv’n;
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

He sits at God’s right hand till all His foes submit,
And bow to His command, and fall beneath His feet:
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

He all His foes shall quell, shall all our sins destroy,
And every bosom swell with pure seraphic joy;
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice,
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

Rejoice in glorious hope! Jesus the Judge shall come,
And take His servants up to their eternal home.
We soon shall hear th’archangel’s voice;
The trump of God shall sound, rejoice! (Charles Wesley)

Matthew 27:34

“They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink.”

The Roman soldiers nailed another victim to a cross. Per procedure, the victim was offered a dose of vinegar mixed with gall. According to tradition, this mixture had a stupefying effect, perhaps to reduce the victim’s pain, or to prolong his suffering. But this one refused.

This One was none other than the LORD Jesus Christ, the Messiah, Who was sent by God to solve a problem in His creation. God’s creatures were at odds with Him; under His wrath for disobeying Him. From the days of Adam and Eve until this very day this has been the case. For mankind’s disobedience, God the Judge’s sentence is, “Hell.” Many scriptures speak of Hell, and it is described in very strong terms. As given in scriptures, Jesus spoke more about Hell than He did of Heaven. It is a real place. Hell is fire, torment, and complete consciousness for those therein. It is a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. It is called outer darkness, and is the place where Satan and his angels will be judged for eternity, along with disobedient mankind. In Revelation 14:9-11 we read, “…If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.” They have no rest night or day.

The torments of Hell are endured in complete consciousness. This can be seen in the story of the rich man and Lazarus. Jesus relates this story in Luke 16. In verses 22 and 23 we read, “And it came to pass, that [Lazarus] died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; and he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.” Note that the rich man did not request to be released from the torture, he asked only for a drop of water on his tongue. He knew that he was where he was supposed to be. But he wanted relief. None would be given him. He then requested that his brothers be warned from joining him. He was thinking clearly and fully aware of his torments. He wanted the slightest of reliefs, and that others be kept from ending up where he had.

The solution to the problem of sin was that Someone needed to be a substitute before the Court of Heaven. Someone Who would suffer the entirety of God’s sentence of judgment. Of course, it had to be Someone who was innocent before God. The only One that could meet that requirement was God Himself. Mankind is guilty, and cannot in its own efforts satisfy God’s justice and avoid the sentence. The Substitute would have to bear the whole of God’s wrath against mankind’s sin. Any part left undone would mean the work was not finished, and mankind’s situation would be unchanged.

Jesus’ refusal of vinegar mixed with gall was because if He were not fully conscious, then He would not have endured the whole of God’s wrath against the sin of mankind. Unlike the rich man, Jesus did not seek relief. Had He taken that drink, He would not have endured the full wrath of God, and mankind’s sin would remain. But, Jesus said, It is finished!

“They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink.”

The Roman soldiers nailed another victim to a cross. Per procedure, the victim was offered a dose of vinegar mixed with gall. According to tradition, this mixture had a stupefying effect, perhaps to reduce the victim’s pain, or to prolong his suffering. But this one refused.

This One was none other than the LORD Jesus Christ, the Messiah, Who was sent by God to solve a problem in His creation. God’s creatures were at odds with Him; under His wrath for disobeying Him. From the days of Adam and Eve until this very day this has been the case. For mankind’s disobedience, God the Judge’s sentence is, “Hell.” Many scriptures speak of Hell, and it is described in very strong terms. As given in scriptures, Jesus spoke more about Hell than He did of Heaven. It is a real place. Hell is fire, torment, and complete consciousness for those therein. It is a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. It is called outer darkness, and is the place where Satan and his angels will be judged for eternity, along with disobedient mankind. In Revelation 14:9-11 we read, “…If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.” They have no rest night or day.

The torments of Hell are endured in complete consciousness. This can be seen in the story of the rich man and Lazarus. Jesus relates this story in Luke 16. In verses 22 and 23 we read, “And it came to pass, that [Lazarus] died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; and he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.” Note that the rich man did not request to be released from the torture, he asked only for a drop of water on his tongue. He knew that he was where he was supposed to be. But he wanted relief. None would be given him. He then requested that his brothers be warned from joining him. He was thinking clearly and fully aware of his torments. He wanted the slightest of reliefs, and that others be kept from ending up where he had.

The solution to the problem of sin was that Someone needed to be a substitute before the Court of Heaven. Someone Who would suffer the entirety of God’s sentence of judgment. Of course, it had to be Someone who was innocent before God. The only One that could meet that requirement was God Himself. Mankind is guilty, and cannot in its own efforts satisfy God’s justice and avoid the sentence. The Substitute would have to bear the whole of God’s wrath against mankind’s sin. Any part left undone would mean the work was not finished, and mankind’s situation would be unchanged.

Jesus’ refusal of vinegar mixed with gall was because if He were not fully conscious, then He would not have endured the whole of God’s wrath against the sin of mankind. Unlike the rich man, Jesus did not seek relief. Had He taken that drink, He would not have endured the full wrath of God, and mankind’s sin would remain. But, Jesus said, It is finished!

The cross! The cross! The blood-stained cross!

The cross of Christ I see.

It tells me of that precious blood

That once was shed for me.

The wrath! The wrath! The awful wrath

That Jesus felt for me;

When bearing my sins heavy load

He died on Calvary.

But Jesus lives! The Savior lives!

In heav’n He pleads for me;

And boldly I approach to God,

His blood my only plea.

He comes! He comes! The Savior comes!

Who bled and died for me;

Then will I sing, with rapture sing,

When gazing, Lord, on Thee. (John H. Stockton)

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