The Ears-The Second Gateway to the Heart: Who are You Listening To?

hearing

The human ear is an extraordinary organ wonderfully designed by our Creator. Together, the ears are stereo receivers responsible for collecting sounds, processing them, and sending signals to the brain in a form that it understands. The ear also plays a critical part in the balance and positioning of the body, as it is the organ of equilibrium.

The ear consists of three different parts: the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear. The middle ear includes the eardrum, a thin piece of skin stretched tight like a drum. The eardrum separates the outer ear from the middle ear and three of the tiniest bones in the body, referred to as the ossicles. These bones—the hammer, anvil, and stirrup—respond to vibrations in the air and vibrate themselves in response to sound, translating these vibrations to the inner ear.

The chambers of the inner ear are filled with fluid that is jostled into motion by the vibrations coming from the ossicles. Within the inner ear is a bony structure coiled like a snail shell, about the size of a pea, called the cochlea. Within the internal spiral of the cochlea are thousands of specialized nerve endings in the form of tiny hairs that are the true sound receptors. There are some 20,000 of these tiny hairs, and they are super-sensitive to the slightest movement of the fluid in the inner ear, interpreting many different variations of sound. These nerve endings merge at the core of the cochlea and exit the inner ear in a nerve bundle known as the auditory nerve, which leads directly to the brain.

What an amazing instrument that God fashioned so His beloved could hear the sounds of His creation and receive the healing and power in His words!

So is what we hear vital to the health of our hearts? Absolutely! The Bible clearly states the significance and impact on the heart of what we are hearing with our ears. Jesus cried out several times in his teaching, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Matthew 11:15, nkjv). The Son of God knew the importance of tuning our ears to the voice of the Father that we might increase our knowledge, wisdom, love, and understanding of His Word.

God does not want us to be so careless with our eyes and ears that we become like the children of Israel whom Isaiah rebuked for not seeing and hearing the things of God:

Pay attention! Are you deaf? Open your eyes! Are you blind? You’re my servant and you’re not looking! You’re my messenger and you’re not listening! The very people I depended upon, servants of God, blind as a bat—willfully blind! You’ve seen a lot, but looked at nothing. You’ve heard everything, but listened to nothing. (Isaiah 42:18-20, msg)

God expects us to use our eyes and our ears to glorify Him and strengthen our spiritual health. Jesus exhorted His followers to “consider carefully what you hear” (Mark 4:24). If we are to truly be His disciples, we must carefully guard our ears, being discerning in what we are hearing and the voices we are listening to. Our hearts will never be radically devoted to Him if we are careless with our ears.

Faith Comes by Hearing

Hearing is fundamental to two of the most essential keys to Christian living: faith and obedience. Without hearing there is no faith, and we lose a crucial part of the armor of God, the shield of faith, which protects the heart from the fiery darts of the wicked one. If we do not hear God, we cannot please Him in our character and actions. Indeed, hearing is the prerequisite to faith:

How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? (Romans 10:14, nkjv)

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17, nkjv)

The first step in faith is hearing what God has to say. Therefore we must tune our hearts to hear His voice and His words. And it’s important we get good reception, for our hearing determines the quality, depth, and amount of our faith. Faith does not come from our thoughts or intellect, but faith comes from the heart, for “with the heart, one believes” (Romans 10:10). Without faith, the heart becomes dead to God and His marvelous ways.

Faith always dwells and blossoms in the heart, but it is born and originates in the ear. Faith grasps and holds onto the wonderful promises of God, but His words must first be heard and enter the heart through the gateway of the ear. As we hear the words of God and listen and reflect on their wondrous message, a fire of faith begins to kindle and burn in our hearts.

Faith is fueled by the deepest longing of the heart, which is to hear a word from God that is personal, intimate, and cherished, bringing us into deeper relationship with Him. His precious words build trust, faith, and confidence in the faithfulness and everlasting love of our heavenly Father. The prophet Isaiah said, “For the Lord spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me” (Isaiah 8:11, esv). When God speaks and we listen to His voice, it is as though He firmly grasps our hand or shoulder and says, “Trust in me. Lean on me. Believe in me. Rest in me. I am who I said I am, and I will do what I said I will do. My words will never fail you.” This is faith, and it always begins with hearing the voice of the Lord. The words of Scripture should both gently whisper to us and boldly sound the true heartbeat of the Almighty in our ears daily, rejuvenating and building our faith as a mighty stronghold in the heart.

In Romans 10:17, the Greek word for “word” is rhema, and it means a spoken word uttered by a living voice with a definite meaning. God is alive, and when He speaks, His words bring life, power, intimacy, and healing. When His words are written on our hearts, faith begins to breathe and send forth a pleasing aroma to God. But it all begins with hearing. Men and women were designed to live, thrive, and flourish by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).

Also in Romans 10:17, the Greek word translated “comes by” is ek, and it means “out of” or “out from” and denotes the origin or source of something. Our faith begins to breathe and comes alive from hearing the voice of God. Without hearing His words, there is no faith. Faith never magically appears out of nothing. It’s always rooted in the words of the voice we are listening to.

Few of us ever pay attention to what our ears are tuned to. We are so used to the noise of the world—TV, the Internet, talk radio, pop music, billboards—that we allow it to muddle and drown out the voice of God. As Christians, we must never be careless or indifferent to what we are listening to, because it has an enormous impact on our hearts. We must never forget this critical truth: Hearing is also the source of much of the unbelief, fear, anxiety, doubt, and turmoil that grips the hearts of so many throughout the world. The clamor of the world is extremely loud, almost deafening, and can quickly contaminate the sea of the heart with all kinds of spiritual flotsam and jetsam that can shipwreck our faith. We must make our ears receptive to the words of God if we are to courageously and boldly stand for the truth.

Hear and Obey

A heart’s obedience to God is the one thing the devil fears most. An obedient heart is unstoppable in the advancement of God’s kingdom on earth. When we begin to obey God, the devil knows he’s in trouble because his schemes and strategies melt by the wayside in the fire of holy obedience.

The obedient heart is one that is in optimum health and strength, beating to the rhythm of God’s commandments and protected by a wall of immunity through its devotion to God’s words. Romans 6:17 tells us that obedience comes from the heart. But for the heart to choose obedience, we must tenaciously guard our ears and be wary as to what we listen to.

The words we choose to listen to and reflect upon inform our beliefs, our faith, and the morals we live by. We tend to live our lives according to the words we believe. At the core of all philosophies, religions, ideas, and systems of thought are words that have been heard and taught. People decide which voice they pledge their allegiance, passion, and devotion to. Thus hearing will determine whose altar you build in the throne room of your heart and which god you worship. And it’s this god or idol or beloved object of worship that you will be conditioned to obey through the words you listen to.

Don’t you think the devil understands this? He knows he steal a heart and turn it away from God by bombarding the ear with a subtle and sly use of words designed to cast doubt, indifference, and even contempt toward the character of God and the integrity of His Word. Satan accuses, assaults, and destroys hearts through the use of bitter and condemning words that pour into the heart through the ear. His voice has caused kingdoms to crumble, relationships to shatter, churches to fall, and idols to rise. The devil slyly and deceitfully uses words to enslave men and women by controlling what they hear. His name in the Greek, diabolos, even means “slanderer” and “false accuser.”

As Christians, we are not to be ignorant of the enemy’s devices. We must understand that hearing is an essential ingredient for obedience and keeping vigilant watch over our ears in order to stand against the deception and lies of the devil. Without a disciplined focus on God’s voice, the heart will forever wander aimlessly in a sea of noise without true direction or purpose. The heart will become sick with the diseases of this world and will become broken and polluted if we are reckless in what we listen to.

Once all the layers are peeled away, you are either obeying God or obeying the devil, based upon what you attentively listen to and hear. You must “choose this day,” as Joshua proclaimed, whom you are going to serve! Will it be the Lord God Almighty or the god of this age, the false angel of light, the great enchanter, the prince of fascination, the father of all lies? We all serve something. We all obey something. We all are devoutly following something we have heard. We all have a voice that is directing our lives and controlling our hearts. Whose voice are you listening to? To whom have you committed your loyalty and trust? Whose voice have you chosen to obey? Do you begin to see how important the gateway of the ear is to the condition of your heart?

An examination of the Hebrew and Greek words for “obedience” reveal that “hearing” is foundation stone of obedience.  The Hebrew word for “obey” in the Old Testament is shama and means “to hear intelligently, to listen and give heed.” The Greek word translated “obey” or “obedience” in the New Testament is hupakoe, which literally means to “hear under.” This conveys a picture of listening and submitting to, or obeying, what is heard. Obedience is the result of attentive hearing and conscious listening. Jesus Christ summed up this definition when he said “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it” (Luke 11:28).

In secular Greek, this word spoke of one who, having heard a knock on the door, stands by the door and listens intently to find out who it is and what they have to say. What an amazing picture of obedience! Both God and the devil are continuously standing at the door of our hearts, knocking and calling out our names. Whose voice will you open the door to?

Incline Your Ears

God’s great plea to men and women throughout history is this: “Listen to me! Hear me! I will give you life if you only will hear my voice and obey my words!” Listen to the plea of God calling for you to turn your ear toward Him:

Listen, O my people, to my instruction; Incline your ears to the words of my mouth. (Psalm 78:1, nasb)

Pay attention, come close now, listen carefully to my life-giving, life-nourishing words. (Isaiah 55:3, msg)

The Hebrew word rendered here as “incline” is natar, which we studied earlier. Remember, it means to stretch out or extend toward someone or something; to bend or to turn. This word implies an energy and intensity where you are stretching out with everything you have. It’s like a runner straining and stretching to cross the finish line ahead of his competitors. God wants us to have this same intensity and zeal when it comes to stretching our ear out to hear what He has to say. God wants us to run to Him, extending our ears toward Him to receive His instruction, guidance, and loving words. So often we don’t experience God’s love in our daily lives because we have stretched our ear to hear another voice, and so we do not hear what the Lord is saying. Still, God is wonderfully merciful and full of grace so that even when we’ve turned our backs on Him, He is still gently calling us back into His presence, to His heavenly embrace.

If you stray from the path, whether to the right or left, you will hear a voice from behind you sounding in your ears saying, “This is the way, follow it.” (Isaiah 30:21, REV)

Should your heart stray into enemy territory and you begin to wander off of God’s righteous path for your life, God is always speaking and imploring you to come back, even when you’ve turned your back on Him. God is still calling from behind, chasing after you with relentless determination, pleading for you to turn back. He is always knocking at the door of your heart, never giving up, tenderly whispering in your ear of His great love and affection for you, urging you to get back on the path where your God-given destiny lies.

God is always speaking. His voice is always near, no matter where we may wander:

For this commandment I give you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear and do it?’ But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it. (Deuteronomy 30:10–14, nkjv)

Even if we venture to the most remote place on earth, God’s voice can still be heard. And when we return to His way, He will break our captivity and set us free from all bondage, burdens, and oppression. His voice is always very near, closer than our breath, speaking to us day and night with gentle whispers, tender calls, firm warnings, loving encouragement, and wise admonishment. His voice commands our attention, our respect, and our obedience.

A.W. Tozer writes in The Pursuit of God:

God is speaking. Not God spoke, but God is speaking. He is by His nature continuously articulate. He fills the world with His speaking Voice. …God spoke a Book (Bible) and lives in His spoken words, constantly speaking His words and causing the power of them to persist across the years. Our eternal welfare depends upon our hearing, and we have trained our ears not to hear. . . . This is definitely not the hour when men take kindly to an exhortation to listen, for listening is not today a part of popular religion. …[But] God says, “Be still and know that I am God,” and still He says it, as if He means to tell us that our strength and safety lie not in noise but in silence. The facts are that God is not silent, has never been silent. It is the nature of God to speak. …The Bible is the inevitable outcome of God’s continuous speech. It is not only a book which was once spoken, but a book which is now speaking.[i]

The voice of the Lord is just as powerful today as it was any time in history. God did not suddenly go silent and quit speaking after the apostles were martyred. Our God is not a silent God. He is the most renowned public speaker in all the heavens and earth! God is called “the Word” in John 1:1. God, by His very nature, is the Great Communicator. He is the very essence of the Word, where He speaks about the glory of His love, mercy, goodness, and faithfulness. The Bible is the voice of God in written words and it speaks the message of the living God to every generation. The Bible is the God-breathed living, powerful Word of God and it is the primary way that God speaks to our hearts daily.

God also speaks to us directly by revelation and through the words of His messengers, prophets, ministers, and brothers and sisters in Christ. He is never limited as to how He speaks, where He speaks, and through whom He speaks. But we must realize and understand the enormous amount of speaking that God does through His written Word. Every word spoken in the Bible has been specially chosen by God and measured by His mighty hand. Every word pulsates with spiritual life and is a thousand times more pure than any substance on earth. His words are the pinnacle of love and the utmost expression of truth. The Word of God is the perfect representation of His voice.

The surest way to hear the voice of God is to sit down in a quiet place with your Bible and let it speak to your heart. Read and meditate upon the words He has spoken in the pages of Scripture. Hear what He is saying. Ask God to give you understanding and insight into His heart, His will, and His purposes, which fill His written Word. Ask Him to give you ears to hear what He is saying—and the courage and heart to obey it. Ask Him to speak to your circumstances, problems, challenges, growth, purpose, and destiny.

Now listen! You can hear His voice! God is speaking to you personally! His Word is like a love letter revealing His passion for you. When you begin to listen for His voice, as you immerse yourself in page after page of His holy Word, He will begin to work a true spiritual transformation of your heart and life. As you draw near to Him, He will draw near to you (James 4:8). Indeed He will draw you to Him so close that you can feel the warmth and beauty of His presence as you’re soothed by the tenderness in His voice. But you must make time in your busy life for such intimate communion. Once you do, your life will never be the same.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in Life Together, writes:

The Word of Scripture should never stop sounding in your ears and working in you all day long, just like the words of someone you love. …Then ponder this word long in your heart until it has gone right into you and taken possession of you.[ii]

The wonderful words of Scripture are the words of a wise Father, instructing, encouraging, disciplining, and admonishing us that we may grow in wisdom and love. They are the words of the Lord of hosts, training, teaching, and preparing us for battle, showing us the tactics and strategies of our enemy and how to overcome him. They are a royal message from the King, declaring our royal position of honor and authority and reminding us of the power He has given us in the name of His Son.

Nothing on earth has more power to change us, heal us, revive us, and restore us than the words of our loving God. The Bible is not just a book of mere stories written by men. The Bible is the heart, the life, the wisdom, the knowledge, the very essence of God expressed in words. No aphorism ever uttered is more trustworthy than the words found in the Bible. In the written Word of God, there is not one lie, falsehood, or deception. Every word spoken in the living pages of Scripture comes directly from the heart of God and is worthy to be heard and believed. The words of God are completely faithful and can never be broken by the power of any circumstance, the reasoning of any intellect, or the changing winds of time. The words of God are the spiritual nourishment and sustenance the heart needs to be vibrant, pure, and free.

The words of Scripture must be sounding in your ears and living in you daily if you are to maintain a healthy heart, so incline your ears towards His Word and listen.

[i] A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (New York: Start Publishing LLC, 2012, originally published in 1948), 75, Kindle.

[ii] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community (Munich: Chr. Kaiser Verlag, Fifth Edition, 1949).

Tim Rowe

Excerpt from my book “The Heart: The Key to Everything in the Christian Life” Available on Amazon, and Kindle. https://www.amazon.com/Heart-Key-Everything-Christian-Life/dp/1483447928/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1488758382&sr=8-1&keywords=the+heart+the+key+to+everything

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Living in the New Covenant

4595051197_1585x702A covenant is an arrangement between people. All life operates or arises out of a covenant. When two people want to go into business together the first thing they do is draw up a contract or a partnership. That is the basic covenant that defines the terms of their operation. A marriage is that kind of a covenant. It is an agreement between a man and a woman to stick together against all odds, to work out their problems, to share their resources.

Life itself is the most fundamental covenant of all. Life is the agreement or the arrangement that God has already made with us that he will provide to us what it takes to operate, to act. None of us really supplies our own energy; God does. But God does this so continually that we get the illusion that we are supplying it, that it is something inherent in us. We are so used to making a decision and then promptly starting to do something that we never realize that if God didn’t give us power to act we could not do what we decided to do. We could not even move a muscle, raise an arm or wink an eye if it weren’t for power supplied from something outside of us. All men operate on this principle, but they are blind to this basic truth. It’s a funny thing that truth that is really basic is very hard to discover because we take it for granted. It is so much a part of us that we hardly even think about it.

In the Scriptures we have what the Apostle Paul calls an Old Covenant and a New Covenant. Now the passage I use oftentimes in teaching the whole truth of both of these Covenants, or arrangements for life, is found in Second Corinthians. In Chapter 3, Verse 4, Paul says some interesting words:

Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God.
What kind of confidence? Obviously, that is referring back to something. Paul is referring to the boldness, the confident sense of adequacy he has in his life that makes him able to function as a human being, and even in his work as an apostle. He says this confidence, this adequacy, comes from a certain source. I am not going to take time to expound this at any length, but I want to show you what kind of confidence Paul is talking about. In Chapter 2, Verse 14, Paul says,

Thanks be to God who in Christ always leads us in triumph… (2 Corinthians 2:14a RSV)

Now that is confidence. You are always going to be led in triumph not in defeat, not in failure, not in weakness even, but in triumph.

…and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere we go. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To one a fragrance from death to death and to another a fragrance from life to life. (2 Corinthians 14b-16a RSV)

Then Paul asks this question.

Who is sufficient for these things? (2 Corinthians 16b RSV)

Where do you get that kind of ability and adequacy? What kind of a study course will give you that? What kind of chemical compound will produce that? I am always fascinated by magazine ads. They are forever offering the secret of adequacy. If you get a certain deodorant you will be adequate to handle whatever comes you way. Or if you would use the right mouthwash, or the right toothpaste, it will help tremendously. Now everybody knows those ads are fake. Nobody even takes them seriously, although people do buy the product, which is what these ads seek. But if you really took seriously the claims of the newspaper advertising and billboard advertising you would think you had discovered the elixir of life in some of these things. They are offering adequacy because that is what human beings long for how to be able to cope, how to handle situations. And not only are chemical compounds offered, but also courses. One says, “Have you discovered all the hidden powers of your personality? Do you know the secrets of the ancients, now rediscovered? Send ten dollars for this course. Read this and you will get all these secret powers.” Again, it is the offer of the secret of adequacy. In a hundred ways today the world is offering this.

Paul continues, Verse 17:

For we are not like so many, peddlers of God’s word; but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ. Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? (2 Corinthians 2:17-3:2 RSV)

It is hard to believe, but these people in Corinth had been misled by some teachers who came down from Jerusalem and taught them that they ought to do like everybody else and boast about their accomplishments. These teachers even suggested that the Apostle Paul was not much of an apostle because he did not do this; and that he really was not one of the true apostles because he was not part of the twelve. They actually had the effrontery to suggest that these people write to Paul and suggest that the next time he came to Corinth he bring a letter of recommendation from the Apostle Peter, or James or John, or others of the real twelve, the real apostles.

Paul says, in effect, “Do you really mean that? Are you serious about that? Have you ever thought that you yourselves are our letter of recommendation?” Chapter 3, Verses 2-3,

You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on your hearts, to be known and read by all men; and you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. (2 Corinthians 3:2-3 RSV)

How were they a letter of recommendation? Paul says, “Look what has happened to you. Look at the changes that have happened in your lives since we came and preached to you the word of truth. Has anything happened?” In his first letter to the Corinthians, there is a beautiful passage, which says, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?” (1 Corinthians 6:9a RSV). It goes on to list such things as idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, drunkards, etc. Paul goes on to say, “Such were some of you, but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified” (1 Corinthians 6:11a RSV). Some amazing things had happened to them. So Paul says, in effect, “Take a look at your life. Do you think that these changes could happen if what we were saying was not the truth of God? Your own life is our letter of recommendation .”

Now I have listed in the study I have made on Second Corinthians certain qualities of this kind of life. First, there is a kind of unquenchable optimism. “Thanks be unto God,” Paul says (2 Corinthians 2:14a RSV). That marks the kind of life Paul lived. He was always giving thanks for everything that happened, no matter how rough and tough it was.

Then there is a pattern of unvarying success: “Who always leads us in triumph,” Paul says (2 Corinthians 2:14b RSV). Never in failure. That is, not triumph in his (Paul’s) plan, but Christ’s plan.

Then there is an unforgettable impact, as brought out in the last part of Verse 14 through Verse 16. Everywhere Paul goes he is like a perfume which fills a room, a fragrance of Christ. To some who are rejecting him, this fragrance is an odor of death unto death, but to those who accept it is an odor of life unto life.

Then there is this unimpeachable integrity, in Verse 17. It is summed up in the words, “We are men of sincerity, commissioned of God, living in the sight of God, speaking in Christ to you.”

And then finally, this note of undeniable reality. In Chapter 3, Verses 1-3, Paul says, “Your own lives are proof that what we say and what we do is by the power of the Spirit of God.”

That is what Paul means when he says, “Who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Corinthians 2:16b). Where do you find the secret of that kind of living? His answer is the New Covenant. In Chapter 3, Verse 4-6, he says,

Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God, not that we are sufficient of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God. It is he who has qualified us to be ministers of the New covenant, not as in a written code but in the Spirit, for the written code kills but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:4-6 RSV)

Everyone is born into this world operating on the Old Covenant, as contrasted with the New, which we can learn when we become a Christian. Now being a Christian does not mean that you automatically operate in the New Covenant. That is why you find Christians who are just as mixed up, just as torn up inside, just as unable to handle life as non-Christians are. Though they are Christians they have not learned the value of being a Christian. They have not learned how to operate on the New Covenant, which they have available to them in the Lord Jesus. They are still operating, for the most part, on the Old Covenant. That is what is fouling up their lives.

Now what do I mean when I say, “The Old Covenant”? Paul links this with the Law of Moses. He calls it, “the written code which kills, which was written on tablets of stone” 2 Corinthians 3:6), and so on. Why would Paul associate this with the Law of Moses? The reason is that Law was given to us in order to show us that the basis of our human life, inherited from Adam, is all wrong. It won’t work. The Law makes that clear to us and nothing else will do it. The Law makes a demand upon us and when we try to fulfill that demand, we find out we can’t, ultimately. Nobody has ever lived up to the Ten Commandments by trying his best to do so. If you doubt that, give yourself twenty-four hours in which you seek with all your strength and might to live up to the Ten Commandments. I will guarantee you will have broken one of them before fifteen minutes is over. If not any others, the last one: “Thou shalt not covet.” That means you must not look around this room and see anything that anybody has that you would like to have. That is the Law! It is given to show us that the way we are living now, the resources of our life in Adam, is not workable.

The New Covenant Paul describes consists of this: Nothing coming from us, everything from God:

Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us;[nothing coming from us, but] our sufficiency is from God[everything from God]. (2 Corinthians 3:5 RSV)
It is God at work in us that makes us act and produce this kind of living, if we are going to do it at all. If that is the New Covenant, what do you think the Old Covenant is? “Everything coming from us; nothing coming from God.”

At any given moment you are operating as a Christian on one or the other of those two. You never can draw from both at once. Jesus said so: “No man can serve two masters. Either he will love the one and hate the other or cling to one and despise the other,” Matthew 6:24). You cannot cling to both; you cannot draw from both. The only time you have to live is right now: The present is all there is; the future is not yet come; the past is gone.

You only can live in the present, and therefore the present moment is either being lived in the Old Covenant or the New, but not both.

“But,” you say, “I don’t understand that. How could a believer in Jesus Christ even act as though nothing depended on God? Of course we depend on God.” It’s amazing how easy it is to do this. We all know that God is there, but we really don’t expect him to do anything. That is the problem. And that is the great problem with the church today.

As I travel around the world I am continually astonished at how little Christians expect God to do anything, how churches are run and operated exactly like businesses, never expecting God to do a thing. Everything depends on us. It all has to be organized. It all has to be carried out by men alone.

Now God is a God of order, but he is not a God of organization, particularly. Organizations can often become the substitute for the Holy Spirit. Somebody well said that if the Holy Spirit were suddenly removed from most of the churches of this country, nobody would know that anything had happened because they were not depending on him anyway.

Let me illustrate how this can be. Think of that story of Jesus feeding the five thousand. The scene is by the seashore in the evening hours. The crowd has been listening all day and they are hungry. Philip came to Jesus and said, “Send them away. We have no bread to feed them with,” (Matthew 14:15b). Jesus said to him, “You give them bread. Give them to eat,” (Matthew 14:16). And what was Philip’s reaction? “We do not have money and the stores are all closed and we cannot get a loan from the bank and there is no way we can do this,” (John 6:7). Philip is counting on his human resources. Here is the Lord Jesus, whom he had just seen do wonderful things, standing in front of him, but he did not reckon on him at all. His reckoning was on the normal resources of life. Now, if Philip had been an atheist and Jesus had said to him, “Give you them to eat,” he would have said the same thing exactly. In other words, there is no difference between the believer and the unbeliever in the way he acts in that situation.

How often and how easily we do this. God tells us to do something and we start immediately saying, “Have I got the training, the background, the skill, the necessary knowledge. Have I had the course? Can I do this? Have I got the personality?” Now I am not implying that you don’t have to do some planning because God does direct us to do certain things and not to do other things. But the point is, whom do you reckon on when you do decide to do something? Is it you, or God in you?

That is the difference between the Old and the New Covenant. The Old is, everything comes from me, it all depends on me. If I don’t have what it takes, it can’t get done. On the other hand, your attitude can be that everything depends on God. He has called you and asked you to be his agent by which this comes. That is the New Covenant. That produces the kind of life Paul has been describing in 2 Corinthians 2:14-17. The Old produces what Paul calls in Galatians “the works of the flesh.” That is what the Old Covenant is: the flesh at work. Thus it produces the works of the flesh which he says are evident, manifest, easily visible: “The works of the flesh are plain: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like,” (Galatians 5:19-21a RSV).

That explains the struggle that Paul records for us in his own experience in Romans 7: “The thing that I would not do, that I do, and the thing that I would do, I do not,” (Romans 7:15). Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever seen a zealous, eager young Christian or older Christian desperately trying to do something for God and ending up after awhile so discouraged and defeated he just wants to quit? In fact, he probably does. But that is a very hopeful stage. Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, who have come to the end of their resources,” (Matthew 5:3). Why? “For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” That is the time when God can give you something. When you have ended your own resources, then he can give you his. That is why the Old Covenant is, “Nothing coming from God, everything coming from me,” while the New Covenant is, “Everything coming from God, nothing coming from me.”

You only have to look at yourself to see how much of your life is lived in that Old Covenant. You expect success by virtue of something resident in you: your ancestry, your training, your personality, your good looks or something like that. This attitude produces the extrovert, the kind that reckons on his resources: “I’ve got what it takes, I can do that.” Now he may be very modest in his language. We learn all kinds of little subtle tricks to hide this kind of egoism. We say, “I have never really had any special training for that, but I have had some experience in it, and I will do my best.” Thus we are subtly saying to people, “I have got what it takes.” Or we look at the demands, the problem, the situation we are asked to enter into or perform, and we say, “I don’t have what it takes. I can’t do that. Don’t ask me to do a thing like that. I am one of those people that was behind the door when the gifts were passed out, and I just can’t do anything like that.” But who are you looking at when you say something like that? Yourself! You are reckoning on your “unresources” but your eye is fixed on the same person, yourself. So both the introvert and the extrovert are wrong.

Most of us introverts always envy the extroverts and wish we could be like them; but, if we did, we would only switch to the extreme which is just as bad. So we don’t improve our position by being that. What we need to discover is how to get off any trust in ourselves at all and trust in the activity of God, who has promised that he would be in us and work through us.

Philippians 2:13 has a beautiful promise in which Paul says, “Go to work to work out your own solution.” (That is what he means when he says to “work out your own salvation” not in the sense of going to heaven, but of solutions to problems that beset you.) “Work out your own solutions,” he says, “knowing that God is at work in you, both to will and to work that which pleases him.” Now the only thing that pleases God is what God himself does. Anything a man does apart from God never pleases God. It is always a failure; it is always insufficient in some area. The only thing that can please God is perfection, and the only one who can perfectly work is God himself. Therefore, the only thing, the only life that is ever pleasing to God is the life lived by faith, that is, by expecting God to be at work in you. That is what faith is. That is why Hebrewstells us, “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6), and why God tells us himself that the only life that is pleasing to him is that which he himself does. That is the New Covenant.

It helped me a great deal to learn that the Apostle Paul did not know this for at least ten years of his life as a Christian. After he was converted on the Damascus Road, he made the same mistake that every one of us makes. He started out with a bit of knowledge of who Christ was and set out to convert the world for Christ by using the brilliance of his mind, the background and training he had, and even his ancestry as a Jew to convince the Jews. He thought he had what it took and he lists a most impressive array of credentials for us in Philippians, Chapter 3. “If any of you think that you are men of the flesh,” he says, “I’ve got something more to glory in. I was a Hebrew of the Hebrews born a Jew, circumcised on the eighth day, raised up as a Pharisee, trained as a Pharisee. I was blameless before the law. My morality was without rebuke in the eyes of the religious world in which I lived. My activity was zealous. I even persecuted the church,” (Philippians 3:4-6a). He had all these things going for him. So even after he became a Christian, he reckoned on the same things for success. But, when he tried it in Damascus, not one convert is recorded. Instead they organized a lynch party! Paul had to sneak out over a wall in a basket at night, just like a criminal.

Then he came up to Jerusalem, he tells us, and there he tried the same thing. He went in and out among the Hellenists (the Greek-speaking Jews) and tried to persuade them that Jesus was the Christ. This was his own crowd. He was so sure that he had what it took to reach them. But they organized another lynch party in Jerusalem.

Finally, discouraged and defeated, Paul went into the temple to pray. The Lord Jesus appeared to him and said to him, “I want you to leave Jerusalem because they will not receive your testimony about me,” (Acts 22:18). And what did Paul say? He tells us in Acts 22. I am going to paraphrase a little bit, but in essence what he said was,

“Lord, you don’t understand this situation. You are going to miss the greatest opportunity of your life. Do you realize the equipment I have to reach these people? I was one of them. I know their language. I know their customs. I know their attitudes. If anybody has what it takes to reach these Jews it is me. You don’t know what you are doing sending me away from here. Why, this is the greatest opportunity you have ever had.” Acts 22:19-20)
But Jesus replied in one word: “Depart!” (Acts 22:21a). Then he said, “Don’t argue with me. I am going to send you far hence to the Gentiles,” (Acts 22:21b).

So Paul was sent to the hardest place on earth, his home town, Tarsus. For ten years we never hear of him again, until Barnabas goes down to Antioch where a great awakening has broken out; but he comes down to help him, he is a different man now. He has learned to shift from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. He tells us in Philippians he learned a tremendous truth: that the things he once counted gain he now counts nothing but a pile of manure, compared with the richness and greatness of trusting in Christ to be at work in him… (Philippians 3:8).

Now that is the secret of life. That is the way man was intended to live. That is the way he did live in the beginning. When Adam was created he was a man indwelt by the Spirit of God, and therefore everything he did, he did by the power of God. Whenever Adam planted a tree, or weeded the garden, or picked up a shrub, or named the animals, or whatever it was, he did it by the wisdom and power of God. Therefore it was right. It fit the situation. It was done by God at work in him. Adam had a tremendous exhilarating sense of doing things right, knowing they were right, and doing so by virtue of the fact that he expected God who lived within him to supply what it took to do it. That is the New Covenant. When God gave him the choice of obedience, which involved Adam continuing to expect God to supply him with all the knowledge that he needed, Adam chose to disobey and he lost that whole relationship. The Spirit of God was withdrawn from his human spirit. He was plunged into the condition in which we are all born, that of counting on something in us for success. That is what destroys us.

This is basic to an understanding of human activity and the problems of human life. We have to teach people that the problem with them is that they are counting on the wrong resource. This is a painstaking lesson, one not easily learned. We must patiently set it forth and carefully show how it lies in the Scriptures, and then help people to recognize the flesh (the old life at work within them) and analyze various situations to see whether it was the Old or the New Covenant they are drawing on.

Nothing is more basic to getting people operating rightly than this. The Old Covenant is totally rejected by God. It is what the Bible calls “the flesh,” and the “flesh cannot please God,” (Romans 8:8 KJV). The flesh results in death, which is the experience of negative qualities in life, like boredom, worry, anxiety, hostility, anger, greed, etc. That is death and that comes by trusting in something you think you have got in yourself.

This does not mean that people become robots. The choosing is left up to us, just as it was to Adam. The power of choice is what is given to men, not the power to do. The minute you choose to act, something else must supply the power within you. Either it is the old twisted form of life called “the flesh,” or it is the new life from the Spirit which will produce “the fruit of the Spirit,” (Galatians 5:22). But the key is that you must reject the old, then you can choose the new.

Most of us know something about this life in the Spirit. We try to live this way, but the trouble is that we try to hang on to both. I find this everywhere. Talk to people about Body Life, for instance, in a church beginning to function this way, and you find they want to keep the whole program the way it is now and add Body Life to it. Nobody ever wants to tear down anything or get rid of anything, but until they do so they cannot put in anything new. That is what Jesus meant when he said, “You cannot put new wine into old wine skins. You cannot put new patches onto old garments,” (Matthew 9:15-16).You have got to get rid of it and start with everything fresh, in a sense. But we want to cling to the old, a dependence on something in us, and add God to it.

Do you ever see that in your prayers? Do you ever come to God and say, “Lord, I have worked this all out, I want you to bless it”? What is that saying? “It all depends on me. I want you to make it work, that’s all.” That is trying to mix the old and the new, and it will never work. You cannot do it. God will never go along with that process. He just folds his arms and says, “If that is the way you want to do it, you do it. I’ll watch you.” And he watches us until we fall flat on our face. But when we are discouraged, after finding out it did not work, and cry out, “Lord, help me,” he says, “Here I am. I have been here all along and I am willing to work through you right now, as long as you quit working, depending on yourself.”

This means that we are agents, not instruments. God allows us to make the choices and he works through us. We very definitely have decisions to make in these matters, and without these decisions it won’t work. But once we decide something, once we feel that we know what God wants us to do, then what do we count on to do it? That is the great question. That is what this New Covenant is all about.

Replies to comments and questions from the audience:

Both boredom and anger are fleshly reactions. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, patience, etc., and also excitement. God is exciting and his kind of life is exciting. But when you are living in the Spirit, it does not mean that you are keyed up to a high pitch all the time; I don’t want to give that idea. But life in the Spirit is never boring. It may be frightening, almost. Life can be filled with such intense problems that you hardly know how you are going to get through them, but you are not bored. You may even be scared, for fear and trembling is part of the Christian life. But not boredom, or anger. There is a right kind of anger, but there is also an impatient anger that is wrong. For example, we will see somebody operating in the flesh and we get upset or irritated with them, so then we are operating in the flesh. This is why, in that beautiful story of the woman taken in adultery, Jesus judged the judges. He would not let them sit there and self-righteously point their finger at this woman. He pointed his finger at them and said, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone,” (John 8:7).

Q. Is there a point in your life when you really come into the New Covenant, and you can recognize it, and live in it for days or weeks?

A. I would say that it is very unlikely that you would live for days and weeks in the New Covenant, simply because the enemy we are up against is very clever. The flesh is very deceitful. It is very unlikely, in my judgment, that you would live even a full day in the Spirit. Be glad if it is a few hours. But you never have to live long in the flesh. That is the point. You may catch yourself living in the flesh. (I do not mean tempted to live in it, that is a different thing. We must distinguish between the temptation to get angry, or to envy or lust or whatever it is. That is not sin in itself. It is how we deal with it that makes the difference.) But if we yield to it, we ought not to yield very long. We ought to learn to quickly recognize the flesh. That is the point. Irritability, upset, impatience, anxiety, whatever it may be, immediately recognize it, renounce it as being no longer necessary to us, immediately flee to the Lord and lay it before him. Then we are returned to the Spirit immediately, and we go on until the next fall occurs (which may not be very far down the road).

So the Christian life is not a continual life of unbroken victory, although ideally that would be possible. Jesus undoubtedly lived that way, but we don’t have that kind of understanding and recognition of the flesh, so we are apt to be trapped more. That is why the grace of forgiveness is provided for us, because those falls do not impede our progress if we return to the Lord. We have not lost it all by falling, since it did not depend on us in the beginning. If we ever begin to think, “Here I have been making it now for two and a half days — and now look at me. I have fallen again and all that time is wasted.” That shows you that you do not understand the New Covenant. It was not coming from you all that time anyhow. Return to your source of strength, thank God for being shown what was wrong, and then go on.

Notice how Paul often speaks of himself as approaching a demand made upon him with fear and trembling. Jesus did so too. When he went into the Garden of Gethsemane, he said, “My soul is deeply troubled within me,” (Matthew 26:38). He asked the disciples to pray with him because of this. Fear and trembling is simply a recognition of weakness, of inability. It is a normal thing in human life. It is the way we ought to approach every situation. But don’t stop there. It isn’t just fear and trembling; it is fear and trembling that leads us to faith, to the confidence that God is there and he will do it. Therefore we need no longer fear and tremble. But to be frightened and feel a bit nervous or upset by any demand made upon us is a proper thing and not one that we should try to cure.

Q. It is easy to think of the New Covenant in terms of the Lord and the apostles, the New Testament, etc., but how about Moses and the Old Testament?

A. Moses is the symbol of the Old Covenant, but he lived by the New. The Old Testament saints did understand and live by the New Covenant, even though it had not yet been historically laid. The New Covenant is laid in the blood of Jesus: “This blood of the New Covenant which was made with many for the remission of sin,” (Matthew 26:28). But as the Old Testament saints were saved by the death of Christ, just as much as we, so they lived by his life, just as much as we. When Moses, therefore, was reckoning upon God to empower him to speak to Pharaoh and trusted God to fulfill his word that he would put his words into Moses’s lips, he was living by the New Covenant. Now there were failures in Moses’s life, just as there are in ours. He disobeyed God when he struck the rock, when he should have spoken to it. As a result, he was not permitted to enter into the promised land. But he himself was restored by the activity of God at work in him, even though a limitation was set upon his leadership. As Moses himself was restored to God at work in him and went on, so we can go on to be productive and effective persons.

Yet as a type, Moses stands as a symbol of the Old Covenant because he is associated with the Law, and the Law is always linked to the flesh. If there were no flesh, there would never have been any Law. Adam and Eve were never given the Law. They did not need it. They had the law written in their hearts, as they were trusting the work of God within them. They knew what was the right thing to do in any given situation and that is the way we are to live too — by the Spirit. This is why Paul argues that the Law is ended the minute we believe. But the minute we disbelieve, the Law comes in again in order to show us our unbelief.

The Law as a standard of life will never change. The Law is nothing but an expression of the character of God, and God never changes his character. If we are to be like God, then that demand is always upon us, no matter how long the world, the heavens, and the earth last. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but these words [the words of the law] will never pass away,” (Matthew 24:35, Mark 13:31, Luke 21:33), because they reflect the character of God. In that sense, the Law remains always. But when you believe in Christ, it is the end of the Law for you. You do not need the Law making demands upon you then. I am not talking about becoming Christian when I say, “believe in Christ,” I mean trusting him as a Christian. In any moment that you expect him to be at work in you and to supply you with his life in you and you are counting on that, then you do not need any law. But the minute you stop doing that, you need law again. It is right there waiting to correct you.

In that sense, the Law only ends by faith. This is what Paul says in Romans: “Christ is the end of the law to everyone who believes,” (Romans 10:4 KJV). Now don’t quote that as, “Christ is the end of the Law.” That would contradict what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: “The law shall never pass away,” (Matthew 5:18). Christ is the end of the law to everyone who believes. The minute you act by faith you are not acting by law, because faith and works are exactly contrary to one another. When you try to obey the Law because it is there, that is works. But when you respond to the God who is in you, and act on that basis, that is faith. Then you will fulfill the Law another way.

Ray Steadman

courtesy of http://www.raysteadman.org

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Memorizing and Meditating on the Word of God

how-to-meditate-on-the-word-of-godBefore Jesus left for Calvary, He encouraged His fearful disciples with these words –

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” (Jn 14:26)

While this passage is one that uniquely applied to the disciples, it is applicable in principle to all believers. Indeed, the principle in John 14:26 begs the question “How can the Spirit bring to mind Scriptures that we have not previously stored in our mind?”

As John Butler says “The principle for believers is that the Holy Spirit helps us to remember Scripture and spiritual lessons. When a verse pops into the mind when teaching, preaching, studying or pondering a decision of some sort—it is not your memory that is bringing that text to your mind, but it is the prompting of the Holy Spirit that is doing it. However, for the Holy Spirit to prompt your memory, you must have previously stored the Scripture in your memory. The Holy Spirit is like the recall button on a calculator—if you do not put anything in memory in the calculator, the recall button will not bring up any information.” (Analytical Bible Expositor: John)

Beloved, let me encourage you to have a healthy spiritual diet and to daily “eat” His Word as if your very (spiritual) life depended on it, because it does! (Mt 4:4, Job 23:12note, Jer 15:16note, Ps 119:109note, etc).

God’s instructions to Joshua preparatory to entering the promised land to fight the good fight of faith in order to possess his promised possessions remains a proven “formula for spiritual success” for saints today who like Joshua have been set apart that we might become experiential possessors of our positional possession of every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus

This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your wayprosperous, and then you will have success. (Joshua 1:8note)

The best thing.
In the best place.
With the best of results.

David, a man after God’s own heart writes…

The law of his God is in his heart. His steps do not slip (Psalm 37:31)

Spurgeon comments: “The best thing in the best place, producing the best results. Well might the man’s talk be so admirable when his heart was so well stored. To love holiness, to have the motives and desires sanctified, to be in one’s inmost nature obedient to the Lord — this is the surest method of making the whole run of our life efficient for its great ends, and even for securing the details of it, our steps from any serious mistake. To keep the even tenor of one’s way, in such times as these, is given only to those whose hearts are sound towards God, who can, as in the text, call God their God. Policy slips and trips, it twists and tacks, and after all is worsted in the long run, but sincerity plods on its plain pathway and reaches the goal.”

John Trapp commenting on the phrase “The law of his God is in his heart” in Ps 37:31 adds: “He hath a Bible in his head, and another in his heart; he hath a good treasure within, and there hence bringeth good things.”

How sweet are Thy words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth (Psalm 119:103, cp Ps 19:10)!

Spurgeon comments: He had not only heard the words of God, but fed upon them: they affected his palate as well as his ear. God’s words are many and varied, and the whole of them make up what we call “the word”: David (Ed: The author of Ps 119 is not known for certain although many think it was David) loved them each one, individually, and the whole of them as a whole; he tasted an indescribable sweetness in them. He expresses the fact of their sweetness, but as he cannot express the degree of their sweetness he cries, “How sweet!” Being God’s words they were divinely sweet to God’s servant; he who put the sweetness into them had prepared the taste of his servant to discern and enjoy it. David makes no distinction between promises and precepts, doctrines and threatenings; they are all included in God’s words, and all are precious in his esteem. Oh for a deep love to all that the Lord has revealed, whatever form it may take. (Amen!)

Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth. When he did not only eat but also speak the Word (Ed: Which is one of the advantages of memorizing it!), by instructing others, he felt an increased delight in it. The sweetest of all temporal things fall short of the infinite deliciousness of the eternal word. When the psalmist fed on it he found it sweet; but when he bore witness of it, it became sweeter still. How wise it will be on our part to keep the word on our palate (Ed: How better than by treasuring it in our heart! cp Mt 12:34, Lk 6:45) by meditation and on our tongue by confession. It must be sweet to our taste when we think of it, or it will not be Sweet to our mouth when we talk of it.

They (God’s Words = Ps 19:7, 8, 9note) are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. (Psalm 19:10)

Spurgeon Comments: More to be desired are they than fine gold, yea, than much fine gold. Bible truth is enriching to the soul in the highest degree; the metaphor is one which gathers force as it is brought out; — gold — fine gold — much fine gold; it is good, better, best, and therefore it is not only to be desired with a miser’s avidity, but with more than that. As spiritual treasure is more noble than mere material wealth, so should it be desired and sought after with greater eagerness. Men speak of solid gold, but what is so solid as solid truth? For love of gold pleasure is forsworn, ease renounced, and life endangered; shall we not be ready to do as much for love of truth?

Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Trapp says, “Old people are all for profit, the young for pleasure; here’s gold for the one, yea, the finest gold in great quantity; here’s honey for the other, yea, live honey dropping from the comb.” The pleasures arising from a right understanding of the divine testimonies are of the most delightful order; earthly enjoyments are utterly contemptible, if compared with them. The sweetest joys, yea, the sweetest of the sweetest falls to his portion who has God’s truth to be his heritage….The inexpressible delights of meditation on Scripture.

Thomas Watson comments: Love the word written. Ps 119:97 (read Spurgeon’s note, especially his comments on “Meditation”). “Oh, how love I thy law!” “Lord,” said Augustine, “let the holy Scriptures be my chaste delight.” Chrysostom compares the Scripture to a garden, every truth is a fragrant flower, which we should wear, not on our bosom, but in our heart. David counted the word “sweeter than honey and the honeycomb.” There is that in Scripture which may breed delight. It shows us the way to riches: Dt 28:5 Pr 3:10; to long life: Ps 34:12note; to a kingdom: He 12:28. Well, then, may we count those the sweetest hours which are spent in reading the holy Scriptures; well may we say with the prophet (Je 15:16), “Thy words were found and I ate them, and Thy words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I have been called by Thy name, O LORD God of hosts.”

Aldous Huxley (who was interested in the supernatural but was not a believer) made a statement that relates to Scripture memorization when he declared that “Each man’s memory is his private literature.” (Interesting thought!)

Isaac Watts – Without memory the soul of man would be a poor, destitute, naked being, with an everlasting blank spread over it, except the fleeting ideas of the present moment.

William Evans – It has been said that “all other abilities of the mind borrow from memory their beauty and perfection.” In a very real sense it is true that all other faculties of the soul are useless without memory. Of what profit is all our wisdom, our reading, our study if we are unable to preserve the knowledge we have acquired? Of what benefit to us are all the intellectual attainments of our lives if they are lost as soon as they are obtained? Memory makes rich the mind by preserving all the results of our study and learning…Memory is the treasurer of the mind. (How to Memorize)

Rob Morgan – Think of (Bible memorization) as a shopping spree for the mind, a chance to collect and store up treasures you’ll enjoy for years (Ed: I would add for eternity!, cp 1Ti 4:7-8note, Isa 40:8, Mt 24:35). Restoring the art of Scripture memory is crucial for us, our churches, and children. It’s vital for mental and emotional health and for spiritual well-being. Though it’s as easy as repeating words aloud, it’s as powerful as acorns dropping into furrows in the forest. It makes the Bible portable; you can take it with you everywhere without packing it in purse or briefcase. It makes Scripture accessible day and night. It allows God’s Word to sink into your brain and permeate your subconscious and even your unconscious thoughts (Ed: Illustrationthink of a tea bag dipped in a cup of hot water – the more it is dipped, the greater the permeation of the water by the flavor of the tea. God’s Word is the “flavor” and our heart is the cup!). It gives you a word to say to anyone, in season and out of season. It fills your heart and home with the best thoughts ever recorded. It saturates the personality, satiates the soul, and stockpiles the mind. It changes the atmosphere of every family and alters the weather forecast of every day. It takes one minute a day, or five or ten—whatever you can devote to it. It can be done in your bath, your bed, at your desk, or in an airplane (you can’t say all that about too many things). It can be done on the go, in traffic jams, while shaving, at sunup, or before bedtime. It can be done alone, with another person, or in groups. It’s an amazingly versatile habit but also a vital one, profitable whether we’re in the nursery or in the nursing home. (100 Bible Verses Everyone Should Know by Heart- Robert J. Morgan – Highly Recommended) (Also available on Wordsearch Bible software)

Free resources –

C H Spurgeon tells a story which illustrates the importance of “internalizing” the Word of God…

Now what is a diamond? Suppose it is one worth two hundred thousand pounds — and some of those I have mentioned are said to be worth more than that — yet it is nothing but a little solidified gas. This diamond may fitly represent the whole world, with all its pomp’s, and vanities, and pleasures, and glories. Puff! it’s gone into thin air; death turns; it all to gas. Set your affections on those things which time cannot destroy, which eternity cannot impair.

There is a very beautiful story connected with the “Sancy” or “De Sancy” diamond, which is said to be worth about eighty thousand pounds. It is a comparatively small stone; and if I were stupid enough to wear such ornaments, I could wear it on my finger, if set in a ring. This stone was sent on one occasion by the Baron de Sancy, to whom it belonged, to his king, who was in ‘want of cash, and had proposed getting a loan of 40,000 pounds. The diamond was to be the security; in fact, to put it plainly, it was “to be left at the pawnbroker’s.” The Baron gave the stone to a trusty servant to take to the king. The servant disappeared, and people suspected that he had gone off with the diamond; but his master declared that he knew his servant too well to believe such a thing possible.

After some time the servant’s body was found, a little way from the road: he had been murdered and robbed. The Baron commanded that his clothes should be carefully searched for the missing diamond; but it could not be. found. He then ordered that he should be cut open, and the diamond was found in his body. He had swallowed the gem, which he had been unable in any other way to conceal from the robbers.

We should carry the truth of God within ourselves, in our hearts; so that if we were dissected, there would be found the truth of God in our innermost being. You remember that the Psalmist said, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee.” (Ps 119:11) (What the Stones Say)

Do you have difficulty memorizing Scripture? You are not alone. The most common reasons I hear for not memorizing Scripture are “Bible verses are for the children” or “I don’t have a good memory” or “I’m too old to memorize” and probably the most honest “It’s too much work and to tell you the truth I’m just too lazy!” But considering the advantages of memorization and meditation gleaned from just the two verses quoted above should be reason enough to motivate every believer to seriously consider (or re-consider) Scripture memorization as an integral part of disciplining (gymnazo – what does this sound like? what does it say about “spiritual discipline? Will it be a “no brainer”? Obviously not.) ourselves

“for the purpose of godliness” which “is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. (1Ti 4:7, 8notes).

As an aside note that Paul is not giving Timothy [or us] a suggestion but is commanding [Present imperative] that spiritual discipline be an integral component of one’s lifestyle, one’s daily delight! Be careful! Don’t fall into the subtle trap of legalism! Memorizing God’s Word is to be our our delight, not our dread, not our drudgery! All of God’s commandments come pre-packaged with all necessary components because His commandment always includes His enablement. The only way redeemed but still fallen men and women can keep the command continually (which is what the present tense calls for) is by continual yielding to and dependence on the Holy Spirit! The Holy Spirit is God’s provision of enablement for every commandment! May our Father grant each of us to continually walk in the freedom and power that found only in the Spirit of Jesus our Lord and Savior. Amen

If we truly believed what Paul wrote his young protégée Timothy, I think we would take the approach of the suffering saint Job who declared…

I have not departed from the command of His lips; I have treasured (tsaphan = same Hebrew word found in Psalm 119:11 – “I have treasured [tsaphan] Thy Word…”) the words of His mouth more than my necessary food. (Job 23:12note)

Two verses earlier Job had made the incredible (considering what transpired in his life in Job1 and Job 2!) declaration…

But He knows the way I take. When He has tried (bachan/bahan = Investigation to determine essential qualities of object – for an informative study see the 9 uses in Ps 7:9; 11:4-5; 17:3; 26:2; 66:10; 81:7; 95:9; 139:23 – note 3 synonyms in Ps 26:2, the first “examine” = bachan/bahan) me, I shall come forth as gold. (Job 23:10note)

Here’s the question — Do you see any relationship between Job 23:10note and Job 23:12note? Specifically, do these verses suggest some insight into how Job was able to persevere (“You have heard of the “endurance of Job” James 5:11) in the face of incredible sufferings and afflictions? I think you see the point — the value of Scripture memorization in surviving in a cannot be overemphasized!

I hear so many serious believers say “I ought to begin memorizing Scripture” only to find out weeks or months later they never followed through. Let me encourage you. Today is the best day in your life to begin the adventure of “eating” God’s Word in Scripture memorization. You will never regret your decision to launch out into the “great adventure” that lays ahead.

For additional motivation, read through some of the articles in the next section and then in the following section consider one of the established programs to begin your journey. If you would rather not use a computerized program, I would recommend the Navigator’s Topical Memory System – TMS (see also Scripture Memory Secrets) because it won’t overwhelm you and yet is still solid food which if you practice it, will train (gumnazo) your senses…to discern (diakrisis) good and evil. (He 5:14note).

The Bible is the language of heaven, and will not pass away (Mt 24:35), so let us enter into this spiritual discipline with delight, great joy and a sense of expectation, not out of a sense of guilt, legalism or onerous duty. We are not our own but are children and “bond-servants (doulos) of the Most High God” (In the OT the Name is El Elyon – Sovereign Over All) (Acts 16:17), who should be motivated by the love of Christ (2Cor 5:14) to have as our earnest “ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him” (2Cor 5:9) As with any “spiritual discipline” there is always the subtle danger of becoming pharisaical or prideful and we are ever in danger of failing prey to a subtle form of legalism.


JOHN PIPER’S TESTIMONY
RE: MEMORIZING THE WORD

At the beginning of 2009, John Piper challenged his congregation to memorize Scripture in his sermon entitled If My Words Abide in You

(John Piper began this sermon by reciting Psalm 1, Psalm 16, Psalm 103, Romans 5:1–8, Romans 8, Matthew 6:25–34, and 1 Corinthians 13.)

The point of reciting these Scriptures is to motivate you by way of example to memorize Scripture in 2009. This message is a mingling of my testimony of the value of memorizing Scripture with Jesus’ testimony in the Gospel of John.

My Testimony

My testimony can be summed up in eight short sentences.

Memorizing Scripture makes meditation possible at times when I can’t be reading the Bible, and meditation is the pathway of deeper understanding.

Memorizing Scripture strengthens my faith because faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ, and that happens when I am hearing the word in my head.

Memorizing Scripture shapes the way I view the world by conforming my mind to God’s viewpoint.

Memorizing Scripture makes God’s word more readily accessible for overcoming temptation to sin, because God’s warnings and promises are the way we conquer the deceitful promises of sin.

Memorizing Scripture guards my mind by making it easier to detect error—and the world is filled with error, since the god of this world is a liar.

Memorizing Scripture enables me to hit the devil in the face with a force he cannot resist, and so protect myself and my family from his assaults.

Memorizing Scripture provides the strongest and sweetest words for ministering to others in need.

Memorizing Scripture provides the matrix for fellowship with Jesus because he talks to me through his word, and I talk to him in prayer.

That’s my testimony. I hope it will motivate you to make your own discoveries. But what matters most is the testimony of Jesus. So focus for a few minutes with me on a phrase in John 15:7. (If My Words Abide in You)

Pastor Ray Stedman has a great discussion of the danger believers face in this area of legalism. His transcript is very good but if you have time I would recommend listening to his message as it adds inflections, etc, not possible in a written document. (Legalism – transcript or Legalism – Mp3)

The practice of Jesus Himself is ample testimony to the value of Scripture memorization. Jesus said Thus saith the Lord or God said or It is written or Have you not read that it was said 92 times! Clearly our Lord Jesus Christ, fully God and fully Man, left an example (hupogrammos) for (us) to follow in His steps (1Pe 2:21note). As Paul commanded the saints at Ephesus we should be imitators (mimetes) of God, as belovedchildren (Ep 5:1note)

Many years ago the village priest in Kalonovaka, Russia, took a special liking to a pug-nosed lad who recited his Scriptures with proper piety. By offering various inducements, the priest managed to teach the boy the four Gospels, which he recited nonstop in church one day. Sixty years later he still liked to recite Scriptures, but in a context that would have horrified the old priest. The prize pupil who memorized so much of the Bible was Nikita Khrushchev, former premier of the Soviet Union! John W. Alexander, former president of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, gives us this warning:

“There is little merit inherent in the mere process of memorizing Scripture. One could memorize voluminous portions and be an atheist. Satan memorized enough to use it to tempt Jesus…Memorizing is helpful when we yearn for Scripture to energize our whole lives….What makes the difference between superficial and beneficial Scripture memorization? I believe it is prayerful meditation. Memorization in itself may sharpen our intellectual capacities, but that’s about all. Memorization with a view to meditation helps us think straight in a crooked world. (excepted from Memorizing God’s Word)

Dr. Howard Hendricks has made the statement (and I paraphrase) that if it were his decision, every student graduating from Dallas Theological Seminary would be required to learn 1000 verses word perfect before they received their degree. May his tribe increase!

Well known Bible teacher Dr. Chuck Swindoll has written:

“I know of no other single practice in the Christian life more rewarding, practically speaking, than memorizing Scripture…No other single exercise pays greater spiritual dividends! Your prayer life will be strengthened. Your witnessing will be sharper and much more effective. Your attitudes and outlook will begin to change. Your mind will become alert and observant. Your confidence and assurance will be enhanced. Your faith will be solidified.” (from Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life)

Considering such indisputable benefits to one’s spiritual health, one has to wonder why there is not more emphasis on Scripture memory and meditation in the average American church. Could it be that it is still true that

When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart? (Mt 13:19)

But (Jesus introduces a dramatic contrast) the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest (kalos) and good (agathos) heart (kardia), and hold it fast, and bearfruit (karpophoreo in the present tense = they have the blessing of being continually “spiritually fertile and fruitful” bearing fruit that will last throughout eternity – Jn 15:16NIV, Jn 15:5, 8) – Do miss this “once in a lifetime offer too good to refuse”! You only go around once! cp James 4:14, Jas 1:10, 11note, 1Pe 1:24note, Job 7:7, Ps 103:15note) with perseverance (hupomone). (Lk 8:15).

So brothers and sisters let us persevere with great delight in this discipline of Scriptural memorization for one day we will discover the glorious truth that this was one of the most fruitful investments of our time that we could have ever made in this life.

INVEST IN A “STOCK”
THAT WILL NEVER DECLINE
AND WILL PAY DIVIDENDS FOR ETERNITY!

In my own practice of memorizing God’s Word, I have found that one of the most critical aspects (other than a constant dependence on prayer that God might graciously grant me a heart hunger to eat His Word) is frequent and systematic review of verses. I use a “multi-pronged attack” including: Typing or writing out scripture on small cards that I keep in my pocket for those times I’m stuck in elevators, long winded meetings or long lines at the super market. I also dictate the current verses I am focusing on into a mini recorder (Ipods work too) which is great for redeeming those times I get caught in traffic jams on the freeway and allows you to have several cassettes of your “favorite” verses. Most of these recording devices allow easy playback so that you can keep your eye on the road while driving. I also keep a small pocket sized Bible close at hand (car, briefcase, etc) to allow quick review of verses in context and I highlight those verses I have already memorized.

The Bible on tape/CD/Mp3 is another great modality, especially if you have a long commute time. CD versions are advantageous because they can be quickly “rewound’ to the beginning of a chapter to facilitate repetition. REMEMBER that NONE of these ideas or the resources below are of any value in memorizing the Word of God if you have not first sought the God of the Word. Otherwise all of these “tools” can be misused and potentially produce pride, pedantry and a Pharisaical attitude as alluded to earlier. The foundational keynote of “humility” is sounded by James who reminds us after

putting aside (apotithemi) all filthiness (rhuparia) and all that remains (perisseia) of wickedness (kakia), in HUMILITY (prautes KJV = “meekness” – with a meek disposition, a gentleness of spirit) receive (dechomai) the word (logos) implanted (emphutos), which is able (dunamai) to save (sozo) your souls (Jas 1:21note, cp the attitude of a little child in Mt 18:3,4)

As someone has well said sin will keep you from the Bible or the Bible will keep you from sin. Bibles that are “falling apart” usually belong to people who are not.

THE MEMORIZED “WORD OF LIFE”
IS THERE WHEN YOU NEED IT!

Beloved, you never know when you might need to recall the memorized Word. Darlene Diebler Rose was a missionary who was captured by the Japanese in WWII and spent four years in a prison camp. Below is her testimony to the power of God’s memorized Word, which truly became to her the “Word of Life!”

As a child and young person, I had had a driving compulsion to memorize the written Word (Ed: One cannot help but believe this was the All Seeing God’s gracious providence, His Spirit giving her the desire and power to “eat” His Word, for God knew WWII was coming!). In the cell I was grateful now for those days in Vacation Bible School, when I had memorized many single verses, complete chapters, and Psalms, as well as whole books of the Bible (Ed: Are you as convicted as I am?). In the years that followed, I reviewed the Scriptures often (Ed: This is the key – review, review, review!). The Lord fed me with the Living Bread that had been stored against the day when fresh supply was cut off by the loss of my Bible. He brought daily comfort and encouragement—yes, and joy (Ed: Cp 1Thes 1:6) —to my heart through the knowledge of the Word. . . . I had never needed the Scriptures more than in these months on death row, but since so much of His Word was there in my heart, it was not the punishment the Kempeitai had anticipated when they took my Bible. (Evidence Not Seen- A Woman’s Miraculous Faith in the Jungles of World War II- Darlene Deibler Rose)

A CONTEXTUAL
CAUTION

One note of caution – Be careful when memorizing single verses that you do not “wrench” them out of their context, lest you give the passage a meaning (and an interpretation) God never intended. Always examine the context surrounding the verse you are memorizing or even better memorize larger sections of Scripture, including chapters or even entire books.

As Billy Graham once said…

I am convinced that one of the greatest things we can do is to memorize Scripture.

When was the last time you memorized a passage of Scripture? God’s Word has a cleansing effect. You must (no excuses please – I include myself here!) get into the Word so that it can get into you and can then become effective in your life, as the Spirit uses it (“the washing with water through the word” – Ep 5:26note) to renew your mind and transform your thinking (Ro 12:2note) so that you are enabled more and more to discern the will of God (Eph 4:14note; He 5:14note). The Word daily imbibed and diligently obeyed is one of the best protectors and preventatives against the polluting power of this present evil age (Gal 1:4), an age which is in the process of passing away as are even it’s evil desires (1Jn 2:17note).

William Evans (1910) writes…

A few suggestions will be helpful here.

1. Memorize the location of the verse together with the verse. You will find it just as easy to say, “John 1:29, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,” as you would if you merely said, “Behold the Lamb of God,” etc., omitting to state the reference.

2. Learn it. Don’t get a faint, indefinite idea. If you want to remember any text in after years, let it make a deep, clear and vivid impression on your mind the moment you learn it.

3. Read the verse over, say twenty times; close your Bible and see if you can repeat it correctly, then to be sure, read it again. Once writing the verse is worth a dozen repetitions of it by mouth.

4. Review. This is the secret of memorizing. Review every day, every week, every mouth, and every year.

5. Practice. Use the passages of Scripture. Seek occasions for talking to persons who have difficulties.

See also William Evans’ book “How to Memorize


Why Memorize Scripture?
by John Piper

First, a few testimonies:

I have it third hand, that Dr. Howard Hendricks of Dallas Seminary once made the statement (and I paraphrase) that if it were his decision, every student graduating from Dallas Theological Seminary would be required to learn one thousand verses word perfect before they graduated.

Chuck Swindoll wrote,

I know of no other single practice in the Christian life more rewarding, practically speaking, than memorizing Scripture. . . . No other single exercise pays greater spiritual dividends! Your prayer life will be strengthened. Your witnessing will be sharper and much more effective. Your attitudes and outlook will begin to change. Your mind will become alert and observant. Your confidence and assurance will be enhanced. Your faith will be solidified” (Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994], p. 61).

One of the reasons Martin Luther came to his great discovery in the Bible of justification by faith alone was that in his early years in the Augustinian monastery he was influenced to love Scripture by Johann Staupitz. Luther devoured the Bible in a day when people earned doctorates in theology without even reading the Bible. Luther said that his fellow professor, Andreas Karlstadt, did not even own a Bible when he earned his doctor of theology degree, nor did he until many years later (Bucher, Richard. “Martin Luther’s Love for the Bible”). Luther knew so much of the Bible from memory that when the Lord opened his eyes to see the truth of justification in Ro 1:17note, he said, “Thereupon I ran through the Scriptures from memory,” in order to confirm what he had found.

So here are a few reasons why so many have viewed Scripture memorization as so essential to the Christian life.

1. Conformity to Christ

Paul wrote that

we all, . . . beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2Cor 3:18)

If we would be changed into Christ likeness we must steadily see him. This happens in the word.

The Lord revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the Lord” (1Sa 3:21).

Bible memorization has the effect of making our gaze on Jesus steadier and clearer.

2. Daily Triumph over Sin

How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. . . . I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you (Psalm 119:9note, Ps 119:11note).

Paul said that we must

by the Spirit . . . put to death the [sinful] deeds of the body” (Ro 8:13note).

The one piece of armor used to kill is the “sword of the Spirit” which is the word of God (Ep 6:17note). As sin lures the body into sinful action, we call to mind a Christ-revealing word of Scripture and slay the temptation with the superior worth and beauty of Christ over what sin offers.

Remember however as John Blanchard has warned…

There is more to Christian growth than knowing what the Bible says; nobody is ever nourished by memorizing menus.

3. Daily Triumph over Satan

When Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness he recited Scripture from memory and put Satan to flight (Mt 4:1-11).

4. Comfort and Counsel for People You Love

The times when people need you to give them comfort and counsel do not always coincide with the times you have your Bible handy. Not only that, the very word of God spoken spontaneously from your heart has unusual power. Pr 25:11 says, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” That is a beautiful way of saying, When the heart full of God’s love can draw on the mind full of God’s word, timely blessings flow from the mouth.

5. Communicating the Gospel to Unbelievers

Opportunities to share the gospel come when we do not have the Bible in hand. Actual verses of the Bible have their own penetrating power. And when they come from our heart, as well as from the Book, the witness is given that they are precious enough to learn. We should all be able to sum up the gospel under four main headings (1) God’s holiness/law/glory; (2) man’s sin/rebellion/disobedience; (3) Christ’s death for sinners; (4) the free gift of life by faith. Learn a verse or two relating to each of these, and be ready in season and out of season to share them.

6. Communion with God in the Enjoyment of His Person and Ways

The way we commune with (that is, fellowship with) God is by meditating on his attributes and expressing to him our thanks and admiration and love, and seeking his help to live a life that reflects the value of these attributes. Therefore, storing texts in our minds about God helps us relate to him as he really is. For example, imagine being able to call this to mind through the day:

The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will He keep His anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust. (Ps 103:8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14notes)

I used the word “enjoyment” intentionally when I said, “communion with God in the enjoyment of his person and ways.” Most of us are emotionally crippled—all of us, really. We do not experience God in the fullness of our emotional potential. How will that change? One way is to memorize the emotional expressions of the Bible and speak them to the Lord and to each other until they become part of who we are. For example, in Psalm 103:1note, we say,

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name!

That is not a natural expression for many people. But if we memorize this and other emotional expressions from the Bible, and say them often, asking the Lord to make the emotion real in our hearts, we can actually grow into that emotion and expression. It will become part of who we are. We will be less emotionally crippled and more able to render proper praise and thanks to God.

There are other reasons for memorizing Scripture. I hope you find them in the actual practice.

Listen to John Piper discuss his approach to memorizing Scripture. Two of the keys? Pray for discipline and set aside time. How do you memorize Scripture?


Simon Kistemaker on his comments on Jude 1:17 makes a statement that relates to Bible memorization…

In the days of the apostles, the believers relied on memory for the singing of psalms and hymns in their worship services. They learned by heart numerous messianic passages from the Old Testament and retained the message of the gospel they had heard from the apostles. They were forced to develop their retentive memories because they had only limited access to the written books of Scripture kept in local churches. In our day we have become accustomed to relying on the written word and therefore fail to exercise our memories. We claim that as long as we are able to refer to something in print, we have no need to memorize it. Our minds, then, are like erasable boards; we retain facts for immediate use but soon replace them with new information.

This mind-set also prevails when we worship God on the Lord’s day. Routinely we enter the sanctuary each Sunday morning to hear the pastor preach, yet our minds will retain his message for only a few days. As statistics show, during a given Sunday we retain only 30 percent of the sermon the pastor preaches that day. This percentage dwindles to less than 5 percent by the last day of that same week.

In the Old and New Testaments, however, we are told to treasure God’s Word. The psalmist rejoices in that Word and confides to God, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Ps. 119:11). And Jesus exhorts the churches in Thyatira and Philadelphia with these words: “Only hold on to what you have until I come” (Rev. 2:25; with variation, Rev 3:11). (Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and the Epistle of Jude)


 

From Valley Bible Church (Why Memorize)

Why we should memorize Scripture

A. It helps us

1. It renews our mind (Romans 12:2)

2. Purifies our heart (Psalm 119:9; Hebrews 4:12)

3. It helps us resisting temptation (Psalm 119:11; Matthew 4:1-11)

4. It helps us to know God (Psalm 119:10)

5. It provides guidance (Ephesians 5:17)

6. It aids us in worshipping God (John 4:24; cf. John 17:17)

7. We are commanded to meditate on God’s Word (Joshua 1:8)

8. It helps our prayer life (John 15:7)

9. It helps our study of the Bible (2 Timothy 2:15)

10. It can protect us against wrong doctrine (Ephesians 4:14)

B. It helps others

1. It helps us to evangelize unbelievers (ex. Acts 2:14-36)

2. It helps us to teach believers (Psalm 119:24)

Why we don’t memorize Scripture

Excuse: “I have a poor memory.”

Excuse: “I don’t have time.”

Excuse: “I am too old.”

Excuse: “I have tried before and failed.”

Excuse: “Why bother now that I have my new computer program.”

Excuse: “Memorizing Scripture will make me spiritually proud.”

The real reason is that we choose not to.

Bible memory verses often taken out of context

A verse out of context is a pretext. We all have probably used Bible verses to say things that are simply not meant by the biblical author. We should understand what the Bible says and not divorce words from their context. Bible verses are often taken out of context when we have heard others use a verse in a certain way and believe that understanding to be correct. Then every time we read the verse in the Bible we impart to the verse what we think the meaning is, rather than reading it for what it says. This is a problem even if our misunderstanding does not lead us into doctrinal error. We still miss the true meaning of the verse that is misused. Furthermore, it begins to warp the context for other verses

Romans 8:28 – “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” The common understanding – God works everything out for our good. The correct understanding -God works all things together for good as long as the condition is met: We must love God and be called according to His purpose. This certainly does not apply to everyone. Loving God and being called according to His purpose are two sides of the same coin. If this is true for us then this promise applies to us.

Revelation 3:20 – “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me.” The common understanding – Christ is standing at the door of every person’s heart. Each person has the opportunity to receive Him into their life and enjoy salvation which brings true fellowship with Jesus Christ. The correct understanding – Christ is addressing the church of Laodicea, through a messenger. This is not a verse directed at individual unsaved people that we may encounter in our evangelistic endeavors. It is to a church whose members were professing believers but were in fact spiritually dead. The church is called to repent and become zealous for God. (Read the entire excellent 8 page paper – Why Memorize – from Valley Bible Church, Lancaster, CA)


Rick Warren answers the question – Why Should You Memorize Scripture?

“Whoever looks intently into the perfect law … and continues in it — not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it — they will be blessed in what they do.” (James 1:25NIV)

If you’re serious about being spiritually strong and mature, the greatest habit you can develop is memorizing Scripture. In fact, the Bible says in James 1:25 that it’s one of four habits that leads to a blessed life: “Whoever looks intently into the perfect law … and continues in it — not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it — they will be blessed in what they do” (NIV).

  • Read your Bible. “Whoever looks intently …”
  • Review the Bible. “… continues in it …”
  • Remember the Bible. “… not forgetting what they have heard …”
  • Respond to the Bible. “ … but doing it …”

You don’t want to be a spiritual baby anymore. It’s time to grow up and live the blessed life you’re meant to live. Hiding God’s Word in your heart is an important way to start.

You may not think you have a good memory, but you remember what’s important to you. You remember the phone numbers and dates that you care about. I’ve heard people say they can’t memorize anything, but they can quote songs from the 1960s and rattle off the statistics of their favorite baseball players.

Memory is a skill you can learn. It’s a muscle you can strengthen. In fact, memorizing Scripture will cause your brain to have a stronger memory in other areas. I guarantee it. Study after study has shown this.

Why is it important to memorize Scripture?

  • You’ll always have God’s Word with you. When you’re tempted, you don’t have a Bible open or by your side. When you’re witnessing to someone who doesn’t know Jesus, is under stress, needs comfort, or is in a crisis, there’s usually not a Bible around. You need God’s Word in your mind so you can remember it and review it right when you need it.
  • You can meditate on Scripture wherever you go. You can’t review God’s Word unless you remember it. If you’ve memorized Scripture, you can think about it when you get into bed at night or as you drive to an appointment. You can think about the Bible because you’ve memorized it. That’s called meditation. The only promise of prosperity and success that God gives us in the Bible says that meditating on his Word is the key (Joshua 1:8).

Start memorizing Scripture today. Pick a verse a week. In a year, you’ll have memorized 52 verses. In two years, you’ll have memorized more than 100 verses.

Talk It Over

  • What changes do you need to make so that you are regularly reading and studying the Bible?
  • You already know the ways you learn and memorize best. What tools, tactics, or people can help you memorize Scripture?
  • How do you respond when God brings Scripture to mind in certain situations? How should you respond?

Courtesy of http://www.preceptaustin.org, a wonderful website for study of Scripture. See http://www.preceptaustin.org/Memorizing_His_Word

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The Name of Yahweh

yahweh-aThe Sacred Name of God is a prominent feature in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) and appears nearly 7,000 times throughout its pages (6,828 times in Codex Leningradensis). In the actual Hebrew text, the Divine Name of God is written as four letters, YHWH (known as the Tetragrammaton). These four consonants representing the Divine Name have been referred to as the ineffable or incommunicable Name of God. The reason for such descriptors is because the Divine Name has been deemed to be too holy and sacred to be uttered for concern that one might misuse The Name, even unintentionally. Thus, for centuries religious authorities have sought to protect The Name from being abused by not permitting the actual Name to be spoken but always deferring to other generalized honorific terms. Even to this day, some conservative religious authorities only refer to YHWH by saying “Ha-Shem” (i.e., “the Name”).

Reluctance to utter (or even write at times) the Divine Name is not just due to sentimentality. Some people believe that The Name must never be used in a profane (common) way, and in order to conserve its sacredness, they forbid mentioning it at all. Prohibiting The Name from being spoken or written was a safeguard intended to prevent it from being demeaned and becoming banal. And so, the use of abbreviations or circumlocutions to stand in place of the Divine Name has been implemented as a way to guard against careless mentioning of The Name.

But the strictest defense for not saying the Divine Name is drawn from several passages in Scripture that sternly warn against misusing the Name of God (Exod. 20:7; cp. Lev. 19:12; 24:16). Many early religious leaders developed a superstitious fear that even speaking The Name could result in possible misuse. Thus, the argument of most religious authorities was that if you never speak The Name, then you will never misuse it, and thus, you will never break the commandment. However, the misuse of The Name does not concern mispronunciation or a casual remark but rather disgraceful and/or contemptuous use. This latter category consists of using The Name in sworn oaths that one does not keep by failing to fulfill what they promised, or invoking The Name in circumstances that bring disdain upon God’s character or will, or connecting The Name with expletives or other defiling expressions that besmirch its sanctity.

Another issue involved in the tendency to police the use of the Name of God is that scholars dispute the proper pronunciation of The Name. With the ancient Hebrew language originally not containing any vowels, the true pronunciation of The Name became lost. Therefore, some authorities have advocated that since the true pronunciation of the Divine Name is uncertain, no one can know if they are mispronouncing The Name, and thus, it is both reverent and wise to not even attempt to vocalize it. This was considered a very serious matter in early Jewish tradition as they took the grave threat of execution (as stipulated in the Old Testament) to even entail mispronunciation of The Name (cf. Lev. 24:16).[1]

However, while the intention to keep the Name of God sacred is certainly honorable and well-meaning, the drawbacks and detriment involved in making the Divine Name too sacrosanct to even speak can be far reaching. As will be discussed below, the advantages and benefits of including the Divine Name in the Bible and in conversation are esteemed to far outweigh the negative stigma that many people have placed upon it being spoken and/or written.

The Problem With Suppression

Safeguards against misusing the Name have transferred over into most English translations by way of using generic terms (“Lord” or “God”) in place of the Sacred Name. In most English versions, an attempt is made to distinguish between The Name and less sacred Hebrew titles (e.g., Adonai, Elohim, El, etc.) by often setting The Name in small caps (“Lord” or “God”) and other titles in normal case (“Lord” or “God”). However, this poses definite obstacles for accurately perceiving when The Name is actually used in the English text. This is absolutely the case when Scripture is verbally communicated, such as in public reading or in conversation. In these circumstances, perceiving such distinctions through auditory recognition is utterly negated since the listener cannot distinguish between the use of The Name (“Lord”) and other titles also translated “Lord” because the two words are phonetically identical.

Using small caps to denote The Name may be perceived by the visual reader who can see the stylistic difference. But when reading Scripture, the possibility of glossing over the occurrence of The Name readily exists. Readers must constantly be evaluating the style of the text to notice the slight variation. In addition, and most unfortunately, the realization of the significance behind the style representing The Name (“Lord” or “God”) can be easily confused or forgotten, especially for new and/or infrequent readers. Thus, utilizing these types of substitutions for The Name can make reading the text not only more taxing and obscure, but indeed, less effective overall.

And thus, the unique Divine Name of God is suppressed in Scripture, concealed from the listening ear, and encrypted from the casual eye, making it far from easily discernible to all who desire to know and recognize when it appears in the Hebrew text of the Old Testament. This complication produces a hurdle in the text that will not only result in irreparable loss for listeners, but may even yield considerable loss of intelligibility for readers as well.

Why Restore The Name?

Restoring the Name of God in translations of the Hebrew text carries with it significant advantages and benefits to both the reader and listener of the Old Testament. Aside from the simple benefit of readily perceiving the places where it does occur, employing The Name in Scripture delivers additional advantages that warrant its use. Following are several examples of the inherent profit in restoring the Name of God in Bible translation:

1. The Divine Name is actually God’s personal Name and is explicitly used to refer to the one true God.

2. Use of the Divine Name can bring people into a deeper and more intimate relationship with God by knowing and using His personal Name.

3. Use of the Divine Name will generate associations in the text and in the mind of the reader/listener that might otherwise be easily glossed over through translation with general titles like “Lord” or “God.” Such connections are critical and necessary in order to grow in the awareness of when God’s personal Name is used in Scripture.

4. Use of the Divine Name will produce in the heart of the reader/listener an understanding of the nature and character of God that is absent through the use of general titles in place of His personal Name.

These reasons indicate that there are a number of important advantages in using the actual personal Name of God that is of inestimable value for the believer.

The Name of God – Jehovah or Yahweh

If the Name of God is going to be used in Bible translation, what must be decided is which form of The Name will be used. The most well-known English form of the Name of God is probably Jehovah. This form of The Name is widely recognized and used by the majority of readers as the Name of God. However, scholars have rightfully criticized this form, and in place of it, they have provided ample evidence that favors the form Yahweh as a more accurate rendering of the Hebrew.[2] While there is no definitive way of knowing how to precisely replicate the true Name of God, there is a general consensus among Hebrew experts that the form Yahweh is likely the closest representation of the Divine Name. Some slight variations have been proposed, but Yahweh has been accepted in the field as the most appropriate and most faithful to the ancient Hebrew.

The older and more well-known form Jehovah had its beginnings in the sixteenth century when it was introduced as an English pronunciation for the Name of God transliterated from the Hebrew. In William Tyndale’s Pentateuch (1530 ad),[3] the Name appeared one time in Exodus 6:3 in the Old English form Iehouah, before the development of the modern English letter “J.” After the modern pronunciation scheme emerged, Iehouah transformed into the more familiar form Jehovah. This transliterated form was introduced because in the ancient Hebrew manuscripts the vowel pointing of either the word Adonai (“Lord”) was superimposed on the Tetragrammaton—YHWH.[4] This hybrid construct was intentional by Jewish scribes in order to prompt the reader to substitute a different sounding pronunciation than the true Name of God. Thus, the pronunciation of Jehovah is simply the phonetical representation of this hybrid construct and not actually the Name itself. This hybrid construct was never intended to actually represent the true Name but was to be a signal so that whoever was reading the Hebrew Scriptures out loud would not pronounce the Divine Name but rather would supply an alternate pronunciation while reading.

Probably the most overlooked issue involved in using the phonetical pronunciation Jehovah is that the Hebrew language does not have the “J” phoneme at all (i.e., Hebrew has no letter or letter combination that sounds like the English letter “J”). This fact alone is more than enough for one to realize that the form Jehovah is an artificial rendering of The Name. Even considering the supplied vowel pointing from Adonai, the form Jehovah fails to be a faithful substitute and is acknowledged to be a foreign and invalid pronunciation.[5]

The Meaning of The Name

The Divine Name of God was used before the time of Moses (Gen. 4:26; 13:4; cf. Exod. 6:3), but the meaning and understanding of The Name was not revealed until God made it known to Moses.[6] To understand the meaning of the Divine Name is to understand the character of God revealed by that name, [7] and thus, to know someone by name means to have come into intimate and personal acquaintance with a person.[8] In other words, knowing the Divine Name does not just equate to simply knowing what it is or how to pronounce it—knowing the meaning of the Divine Name means knowing the God that is expressed by that Name.[9] This is true of God but is also true of many other figures in the Old Testament. A person’s name often represented certain characteristics or events associated with them.[10] Moreover, the Name is declared numerous times in the Hebrew Scriptures pointing to His specific acts or words.[11]

God revealed His character most fully first of all to Moses when He sent him to deliver His people from Pharaoh in Egypt. After God appeared to Moses in the burning bush on Mt. Horeb, God revealed himself to Moses by the designation “I AM WHO I AM” or “I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE.”[12] Moses was instructed to tell the children of Israel that “I AM” has sent me to you (Exod. 3:14). The next statement Moses was to proclaim to the children of Israel was that this God who calls himself “I AM” was actually Yahweh, the God of their fathers.

Exodus 3:15-16 (HCSB)
God also said to Moses, “Say this to the Israelites: Yahweh, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever; this is how I am to be remembered in every generation. 16“Go and assemble the elders of Israel and say to them: Yahweh, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, has appeared to me and said: I have paid close attention to you and to what has been done to you in Egypt.

God did not tell Moses to reveal His Name to the children of Israel in order to simply proclaim and validate that it was, in fact, Yahweh who sent him. God revealed His Name in order for Moses to remind the children of Israel who their God was and that their God had been with them all the time and He had demonstrated His covenantal nature through His relationship with their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Divine Name conveyed that God had not forsaken His people or neglected to hear their cries. The Name was intended to do much more than confirm a mere identity to the children of Israel.[13] The children of Israel did not need merely “to know facts about God’s character or that He was simply a covenant God present in their time of need, but to be reassured that this God would meet them in their time of need, proving true His character and promises.”[14]

When Pharaoh refused to free the children of Israel, God told Moses to tell the Israelites that He would deliver them, for His name is Yahweh (Exod. 6:6). The act of deliverance from Egypt was intended to convince the children of Israel that Yahweh is their God and for them to know His character through the signs and miracles that they saw Him perform. Such experiences were meant to prove Yahweh’s covenant faithfulness to the children of Israel and in order that they might know that “I am Yahweh your God.”

Deuteronomy 29:2-6 (HCSB)
Moses summoned all Israel and said to them, “You have seen with your own eyes everything the LORD did in Egypt to Pharaoh, to all his officials, and to his entire land. 3 You saw with your own eyes the great trials and those great signs and wonders. 4 Yet to this day the LORD has not given you a mind to understand, eyes to see, or ears to hear. 5 I led you 40 years in the wilderness; your clothes and the sandals on your feet did not wear out; 6 you did not eat bread or drink wine or beer– so that you might know that I am Yahweh your God.

While the Divine Name can be viewed as primarily denoting the covenantal nature of God with His people, it also carries a broader meaning that describes God as the One who “is,”[15] who “causes,”[16] who “acts,”[17] and who is “there.”[18] In order to better understand the Divine Name, the pattern of thinking that The Name has a single equivalent must be done away with because it is not possible to have a single, exact equivalent expression that embodies the entirety of the Name.  In other words, the Divine Name cannot be reproduced precisely in English with a single designation that can encompass everything it stands for. God is so vast and multifaceted, and His Name reflects this reality. Therefore, translators have tried to represent it in different ways in order to tap into at least part of who God really is and what His Name is meant to represent.

Several times in the Old Testament, God revealed aspects of what His Name signifies about Himself and how people have come to know the God that is expressed by that Name. Assuming that only one aspect of the Divine Name is sufficient to understand what the Name represents is to fail to understand the majesty of the God who is expressed by The Name. God has revealed His Name in a multiplicity of ways because God is not defined by only one or two finite descriptions. However, the Divine Name is best defined by that one simple yet so complex self-designation that God told Moses—I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE (Exod. 3:14). This description of Yahweh entails a vast identity that cannot be limited to a couple of finite ideas by which we can categorize God.

As mere mortals with such limited understanding, the Divine Name is like a deep well that we cannot see the bottom of. The descriptor I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE imports the idea of an adaptive, absolute, and all-powerful Being who consists of righteousness, love, and mercy, and yet displays His wrath and exacts judgment with perfect wisdom and holiness.

When God told the prophet Jeremiah that He would punish His people and exile them to a faraway land for their sins, God also declared that He would gather them again and restore them to the land that He gave their ancestors (Jer. 16:1-15; 25:1-14). Through this process, God would demonstrate His power and might and by that display of greatness, God’s people would come to know that the name of God is Yahweh.

Jeremiah 16:21 (HCSB)
Therefore, I am about to inform them, and this time I will make them know My power and My might; then they will know that My name is Yahweh.

God reveals Himself and proves Himself through what He says and how He acts. This is the way He made himself known to the Israelites when He delivered them from Egypt, and it is the way He made himself known to the descendants of Judah when they were exiled to Babylon and then brought back to the land of Canaan.

Yahweh is the true God, an all-powerful, eternal, intimate, and present God, who keeps covenant faithfulness with His people, making Himself known by everything that He has said and done. Even though Yahweh has revealed much of who He is to His people, there is still much more that yet remains unknown. As Job stated, “Yes, God is exalted beyond our knowledge; the number of His years cannot be counted” (Job 36:26 HCSB). It is hard to fathom how Yahweh is infinite, eternal, and perfect in all His ways, and yet He is so personal and intimate and cares for His creation.

When Moses was turning over his role of leading the people of Israel to Joshua, he gave one piece of advice that he had come to realize about their God, Yahweh. Through all the journeys from Egypt, through the desert wilderness, and to the border of the Promised Land, God had always been there leading His people, providing for His people, and being present with His people. Therefore, Moses told Joshua, “Do not be afraid or discouraged.”

Deuteronomy 31:8 (NJB)
Yahweh himself will lead you; he will be with you; he will not fail you or desert you. Have no fear, do not be alarmed.

 

In the Old Testament, Israel was designated to be Yahweh’s chosen people to declare to the world His glory and grace.[20] As Yahweh’s covenant people, Israel’s mission was to be a people whom He would raise above all the other nations for praise, fame, and glory “to Yahweh, as he has promised” (Deut. 26:16-19 NJB). Furthermore, it was to Israel that Moses said, “’From you Yahweh will make a people consecrated to himself, as he has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of Yahweh your God and follow his ways. The peoples of the world, seeing that you bear Yahweh’s name, will all be afraid of you” (Deut. 28:9-10 NJB).[21]

Bearing the Name

The Divine Name is a personal Name, and as it is applied to His covenant people, it symbolizes His ownership of and presence among them as their God. In ancient cultures, it was customary for vassals to bear the insignia of the king or magistrate whom they served. In a similar way, Isaiah describes how some will write on their hand “I belong to Yahweh” as a sign that they are devoted and bound to Him (Isa. 44:5 NJB). Writing on one’s hand was an act that symbolized intimacy and connection. Thus, bearing the Name of God in this way could be viewed as a form of branding indicating servitude but also as a sign of commitment and involvement.[19]

It was on account of carrying the name of Yahweh “on” them, like a badge or endorsement, that the other nations of the world would revere Israel and understand the power of their God. However, Israel did not always live up to the responsibility of bearing the name of Yahweh and honoring Him in the ways they should have. When the Israelites were defeated at Ai after conquering Jericho, it was due to the fact that some of them were unfaithful in obeying Yahweh. And Joshua, unaware about Israel’s unfaithfulness to follow the commandments of Yahweh, was overly distressed about Israel’s failure to defeat the men of Ai. He was concerned about the disdain and mockery that this failure would incur upon the “great name” of Yahweh, their God.

Joshua 7:6-9 (NJB)
Joshua then tore his clothes and prostrated himself before the ark of Yahweh till nightfall; the elders of Israel did the same, and all poured dust on their heads. 7 And Joshua said, “Alas, Lord Yahweh, why did you bother to bring this nation across the Jordan, if it was only to put us at the mercy of the Amorites and destroy us? If only we could have settled down on the other side of the Jordan! 8 Forgive me, Lord, but what can I say, now that Israel has turned tail on the enemy? 9 The Canaanites, all the inhabitants of the land, will hear of it; they will unite against us to wipe our name from the earth. And what will you do about your great Name then?”

At other times, though, Israel sought Yahweh their God and obeyed Him faithfully. When Asa became king of Israel, he removed all the pagan altars and shrines and chopped down all the pillars and idols and brought Israel back to seeking the Yahweh and obeying his instructions and commands. Then, when Zerah the Chushite came to attack Israel with an army twice as large, Asa brought the men of Israel out and called upon Yahweh and proclaimed that they were coming there to fight in His name and for His purposes.[22]

2 Chronicles 14:11 (NJB)
Asa then called on Yahweh his God and said, “Yahweh, numbers and strength make no difference to you when you give your help. Help us, Yahweh our God, for, relying on you, we are confronting this horde in your name. Yahweh, you are our God. Human strength cannot prevail against you!”

Yahweh had placed His name upon His people so that wherever they went, they would bear His name before all the nations, making Him known and representing Him. Through this act, though, Yahweh’s name and reputation were also subjected to the behavior of the people who bore the brand of His Name. The name of Yahweh became known throughout the land as the God of Israel and Yahweh did great things among His people for his namesake, but to their own shame and demise in bearing the name of Yahweh, Israel did a deplorable job of honoring Him to the point that even when they went into exile in Babylon the other nations became confused about the character of Yahweh. The prophet Ezekiel described Israel’s failure as reflecting poorly on Yahweh with the result that His name became desecrated.

Ezekiel 36:16-21 (NJB)
The word of Yahweh was addressed to me as follows, 17 “Son of man, the members of the House of Israel used to live in their own territory, but they defiled it by their conduct and actions; to me their conduct was as unclean as a woman’s menstruation. 18 I then vented my fury on them because of the blood they shed in the country and the foul idols with which they defiled it. 19 I scattered them among the nations and they were dispersed throughout the countries. I sentenced them as their conduct and actions deserved. 20 They have profaned my holy name among the nations where they have gone, so that people say of them, “These are the people of Yahweh; they have been exiled from his land.” 21 But I have been concerned about my holy name, which the House of Israel has profaned among the nations where they have gone.

In Micah’s prophecy about the last days when God’s kingdom will be established and Zion will be restored, nations will no longer train for war and there will be peace and security according to Yahweh’s rule. This is what Yahweh has promised (Mic. 4:1-4). And in those days, Micah proclaims that “though all the peoples each walk in the name of their gods, we will walk in the name of Yahweh our God forever and ever” (Mic. 4:5 HCSB).

Bearing the name of Yahweh is not only an Old Testament notion; it also appears in the New Testament as well. But in the New Testament, it is Jesus the Messiah who comes in the name of Yahweh (cp. Matt. 21:9; 23:39; Mark 11:9; Luke 13:35; 19:38; John 12:13). When Jesus is making his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the people spread their robes and tree branches on the road and began shouting “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD [Yahweh]” (cf. Psa. 118:26). “It is in the person of Jesus that the function of the Name of Yahweh as a form of the divine self-manifestation finds its fulfillment.”[23] As the active vice-regent for God on earth, Jesus was Yahweh’s earthly representative who revealed His heart and character to the world. Thus, bearing the name of the Messiah is inextricably linked to bearing the name of Yahweh. One cannot bear the name of the Messiah without also bearing the name of the God who sent him. By being spiritually united together as God’s people, believers today collectively bear God’s Name through their connection with His chosen Messiah.

Bearing the Divine Name, by being a follower of the Messiah whom God sent, carries with it an expected duty to represent God and the Messiah as God’s people. People will judge the character and nature of God by seeing how His people behave. Personal conduct has always been a criterion used to evaluate the character of the one whom someone serves. Believers are to accurately reflect the character of God and bring honor to His Name through their actions and attitudes.

Misconduct on the part of God’s people will deliver a bad testimony on behalf of God and will mar His Name. James speaks against rich people who oppress and drag believers into court and who “blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called [i.e., that you bear]” (Jas. 2:7 ESV).[24] Also, in his letter to Titus, Paul exhorted him to “show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us” (Tit. 2:7-8 ESV). Paul’s emphasis was for Titus to adopt a lifestyle commensurate with godly conduct and speech so that there would not be opportunity for the Name of God or His Messiah to be slandered by opponents. Paul’s message to Titus was that bearing the Name of God carries with it an inherent responsibility to properly represent the One to whom you have been called and now belong. Being called by (or bearing) an honorable name requires an honorable response in return. God’s people are charged with protecting and upholding the dignity of that Name by not affording any cause for it to be defamed or spoken evil of.

Revelation 3:12 (HCSB)
The victor: I will make him a pillar in the sanctuary of My God, and he will never go out again. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God– the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God– and My new name.

Conclusion

As the Psalmist David proclaimed, “Yahweh, our Lord, how magnificent is Your name throughout the earth! You have covered the heavens with Your majesty” (Ps. 8:1 HCSB). The Divine Name of God is certainly magnificent and it signifies a God who is true and faithful in all that He is and does.

The Divine Name “points to God’s relationship to Israel in both His saving acts and His retributive acts, manifesting His phenomenological effectiveness in Israel’s history. What God says, He will do. His Name promises that. And He will act on behalf of His people.”[25] This means that God has revealed Himself through the miraculous acts of deliverance that He performed among His chosen people, Israel. Those acts have since been a source of testimony about who God is, and more specifically, who and what the Divine Name expresses.

The Exodus narrative became a hallmark message throughout later writings of the Old Testament, especially of the prophets who used the record to remind God’s people who Yahweh was and who they were as His people. Furthermore, the New Testament points to the Exodus account as a “type” of how God has again called out a people from among the earth through the salvation (deliverance) that is offered in Jesus the Messiah.[26]

The Divine Name embodies the true substance of God’s character and virtue in all its manifold expressions and infinite diversity. God will be whatever God wills to be. It is the God expressed by the name Yahweh who we can come to know and who is worthy of all praise and worship. Glory be to Him both now and forevermore.

Psalm 72:17-18 (NJB)
May his name be blessed for ever, and endure in the sight of the sun. In him shall be blessed every race in the world, and all nations call him blessed. 18 Blessed be Yahweh, the God of Israel, who alone works wonders;

 

Endnotes:

[1] Samuel Cohon, S., “The Name of God, A Study in Rabbinic Theology,” HUCA 23 (1951): 579-604. Daniel I. Block, “Bearing the Name of the Lord with Honor,” BSac 168 (2011): 20-31.

[2] For an overview of the Semitic progression for pronouncing the lettering of the Tetragrammaton, see Martin Rösel, “The Reading and Translation of the Divine Name in the Masoretic Tradition and the Greek Pentateuch,” JSOT 31 (2007): 411-28. For an older study of the tetragrammaton see Leroy Waterman, “Method in the Study of the Tetragrammaton,” AJSL 43 (1926): 1-7.

[3] Francis B. Denio, “On the Use of the Word Jehovah in Translating the Old Testament,” JBL 46 (1927): 149-49.

[4] Rösel, “The Reading and Translation,” 411-28.

[5] While the more accurate pronunciation of the Hebrew letter yod (י) is a “Y” sound rather than a “J”, people have become very accustomed to reading many Hebrew proper nouns like Jacob, Joshua, Joab, Jehoshaphat, Jerusalem, Judah, Jubal, and many others with the “J” phoneme. But since the Name of God has not been consistently translated in English versions, it is not as well known among English readers. Therefore, this lack of familiarity with it provides the opportunity for a more accurate pronunciation to be introduced and utilized without the need for extensive recourse in re-learning the pronunciation of the Divine Name.

[6] “In the character which this name declares, that is, as the God whose love would be in virtue of certain qualities, even His elect, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, had not as yet known Him.” Andrew Jukes, The Names of God in Holy Scripture (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1967), 49-50.

[7] Charles R. Gianotti, “The Meaning of the Divine Name YHWH,” BSac 142 (1985): 38-51.

[8] J. Alec Motyer, The Revelation of the Divine Name (Leicester: Theological Students Fellowship, 1959), 15-16.

[9] “It is not a question of whence this name [YHWH] comes and what its linguistic stem is which moves mankind, not whether it is Hebrew, Sinaitic, or Egyptian, not whether Moses or his chronicler first discovered the sense of the sounds, not the question of whether the interpretation fits the verbal explanation; the important question is the meaning eternally fixed in this name, namely the meaning established by the deeds of the name-bearer.” Joseph Kalir, “The Problem of Moses’ Name and the Divine Name,” RelEd 71 (1976): 377-91.

[10] Gen. 25:26 (ESV) “Afterward his brother came out with his hand holding Esau’s heel, so his name was called Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them.” Gen. 29:32 (ESV) “And Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben, for she said, ‘Because the LORD has looked upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me.’” Gen. 30:23-24 (ESV) “She [Rachel] conceived and bore a son and said, ‘God has taken away my reproach.’ And she called his name Joseph, saying, “May the LORD add to me another son!’” Gen. 32:28 (ESV) “Then he [Yahweh] said, ‘Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.’”

[11] The Old Testament is filled with Yahweh’s self-disclosure of his personal Name. For example, the phrases “I am Yahweh…” (e.g., Gen. 28:13; Exod. 6:2, 29; 7:5, 17; Lev. 18:5-6, 21; 19:13, 16, 28, 30, 32, 37; 22:2-3, 8, 30-31, 33; 26:2, 45; 31:12); “I am Yahweh who…” (e.g., Exod. 6:7; Lev. 18:2, 4, 30; 19:3-4, 10, 25, 31, 34; 23:22, 43; 25:55; Num. 10:10; 15:4); and “For because I am Yahweh …” (e.g., Exod. 31:13; Lev. 11:44; 21:15, 23; 24:22; 25:17; 26:1, 44). Each of these phrases is an explicit declaration by Yahweh of His identity, His character and conduct, and the justification for everything He is and everything He does.

[12] The Hebrew expression EHYEH-ASHER-EHYEH (אֶֽהְיֶ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֶֽהְיֶ֑ה) in Exodus 3:14 is commonly translated by the phrase “I Am That [Who] I Am,” but Hebrew scholars readily concede that this is not the only possible (and perhaps the most accurate) translation. Much has been learned about the ancient Hebrew language in recent decades and Hebrew scholars debate about the best way to bring this complex Hebrew phrase into English. Some have suggested “I Am Who I Am,” “I Am Who I Shall Be,” “I Shall Be Who I Am,” and “I Shall Be Who I Shall Be” [Gerardo Sachs, “Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh,” JBQ 38 (2010): 244-46]. Furthermore, a recent proposal has advocated for a cohortative construction: “I Would Be Who I Would Be” to elicit the idea of a direction of the will to an action [Randall J. Pannell, “I Would Be Who I Would Be! A Proposal for Reading Exodus 3:11-14,” BBR 16 (2006): 351-53]. Embedded in this designation is all the complexity and versatility of God Himself and we do not have sufficient means to express that reality in one single, short phrase. Indeed, the various translation proposed all capture an aspect of what EHYEH-ASHER-EHYEH means and they lend to the understanding that all that Yahweh is cannot be confined into one simple statement in English.

[13] As Robert Davidson explains, the Name of God that Moses was instructed to bring before the children of Israel was the Name that embodied the reality that “I am the God who is and who will be active in whatever situations you are called to face.” Robert Davidson, The Old Testament (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1964), 27.

[14] Gianotti, “The Meaning,” 46.

[15] Robert Lockyer describes Yahweh as revealing “God as the Being who is absolutely self-existent, and who in Himself, possesses essential life and permanent existence.” Robert Lockyer, All the Divine Names and Titles in the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975), 18.

[16] David Freedman sees the name Yahweh as essentially meaning, “I cause to be what comes into existence,” or as Julian Obermann advocates, “I sustain—I am He who sustains.” David N. Freedman, “The Name of the God of Moses,” JBL 79 (1960): 151-56. Julian Obermann, “The Divine Name YHWH in Light of Recent Discoveries,” JBL 68 (1949): 301-23.

[17] Sigmund Mowinckel understands the name of Yahweh to entail the way that God reveals himself through his actions in history. Yahweh expresses himself in active being as the “God who acts.” Sigmund Mowinckel, “The Name of the God of Moses,” HUCA 32 (1961): 121-33.

[18] J. Alec Motyer concludes that “the heart of the Mosaic revelation of Yahweh was that He was going to redeem His people.” Yahweh is with his people and he helps his people. He is always there. Motyer, Divine Name, 24.

[19] Jeremiah 15:16 speaks of the prophet Jeremiah being “called by Your name, Yahweh God of Hosts” (HCSB) in the context of being under the protection and care of Yahweh, God of Armies.

[20] God’s messengers (e.g., angels), who are His agents and representatives, are also described as bearing the name of Yahweh, cf. Exodus 23:20-21 (HCSB): “I am going to send an angel before you to protect you on the way and bring you to the place I have prepared. 21Be attentive to him and listen to his voice. Do not defy him, because he will not forgive your acts of rebellion, for My name is in him.”

[21] Block, “Bearing the Name,” 20-31.

[22] “Blessed in the name of Yahweh is he who is coming! We bless you from the house of Yahweh.” (Ps. 118:26 NJB)

[23] Walter Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament (trans. J. A. Barker; vol. 2; Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1967), 45.

[24] A custom may underlie the expression “to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38; 10:48), because after baptism new believers were recognized as bearers of the Name. James P. Martin, James (WBC: Word, 1988), 67.

[25] Gianotti, “The Meaning,” 48.

[26] For an overview of the Exodus in the Old and New Testament, see Robin E. Nixon, The Exodus in the New Testament (London: Tyndale Press, 1963).

 

References

Block, Daniel I. “Bearing the Name of the Lord with Honor.” Bibliotheca Sacra 168 (2011): 20-31.

Cohon, Samuel, S. “The Name of God, A Study in Rabbinic Theology.” Hebrew Union College Annual 23 (1951): 579-604.

Davidson, Robert. The Old Testament. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1964.

Denio, Francis B. “On the Use of the Word Jehovah in Translating the Old Testament.” Journal of Biblical Literature 46 (1927): 146-49.

Eichrodt, Walter. Theology of the Old Testament. Translated by J. A. Barker.  Vol. 2. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1967.

Freedman, David N. “The Name of the God of Moses.” Journal of Biblical Literature 79 (1960): 151-56.

Gianotti, Charles R. “The Meaning of the Divine Name YHWH.” Bibliotheca Sacra 142 (1985): 38-51.

Jukes, Andrew. The Names of God in Holy Scripture. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1967.

Kalir, Joseph. “The Problem of Moses’ Name and the Divine Name.” Religious Education 71 (1976): 377-91.

Lockyer, Robert. All the Divine Names and Titles in the Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975.

Martin, James P. James. Word Biblical Commentary. Word, 1988.

Motyer, J. Alec. The Revelation of the Divine Name. Leicester: Theological Students Fellowship, 1959.

Mowinckel, Sigmund. “The Name of the God of Moses.” Hebrew Union College Annual 32 (1961): 121-33.

Nixon, Robin E. The Exodus in the New Testament. London: Tyndale Press, 1963.

Obermann, Julian. “The Divine Name YHWH in Light of Recent Discoveries.” Journal of Biblical Literature 68 (1949): 301-23.

Pannell, Randall J. “I Would Be Who I Would Be! A Proposal for Reading Exodus 3:11-14.” Bulletin for Biblical Research 16 (2006): 351-53.

Rösel, Martin. “The Reading and Translation of the Divine Name in the Masoretic Tradition and the Greek Pentateuch.” Journal for Study of the Old Testament 31 (2007): 411-28.

Sachs, Gerardo. “Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh.” Jewish Bible Quarterly 38 (2010): 244-46.

Waterman, Leroy. “Method in the Study of the Tetragrammaton.” American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures 43 (1926): 1-7.

This article is courtesy of the truth or tradition website authored by John Schoenheit/

Courtesy of http://www.truthortradition.com/articles/yhwh-the-name-of-god

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Idolatry: The Principle Crime of the Human Race, Part 5: The Spirit of Baal-the Counterfeit Yahweh

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Dee Brestin in Idol Lies: Facing the Truth about Our Deepest Desires says:

The mighty wind is awakening God’s slumbering children to see what has kept them from transformation. The first step is to see the treacherous stones lurking beneath the deep waters of our souls-stones that have stymied our journey and cut us to pieces….So often we have failed to conquer a besetting sin because we have attacked the symptoms of our sin instead of its cause….Unless we as believers identify the root problem that leads to a multitude of surface sins, we are doomed to failure. Though our surface sins are many, they spring from a small number of heart idols….It is not enough to attack the near sin. The “god” producing that sin must be destroyed. But it is important for you to know that this is not an easy fix. The false god has many disguises, often appearing as something positive in your life. It takes time to see him and name him….I want to help you see the stone gods in your heart. Being released from the power of sin is gradual, for bondage has layers. Being satisfied with being delivered from the penalty of sin is to settle for the lesser life, for the occasional picnic in the desert. Seeking release from the power of sin means recognizing the idol lies that keep us from God and allowing the Stonecutter to replace them with Himself.[i]

We must allow God to awaken us out of spiritual slumber, and open our eyes to see every idol that is lurking in the deep waters of our hearts. We must smash these idols because we do not want to leave the door of our hearts open to the Devil, giving him a room as a welcomed guest. We must not allow our enemy to set up a command post in our hearts through any idol we have exalted above God. Anything that hinders us in building our lives completely around Christ must be ruthlessly removed. Idols allow the kingdom of darkness to harass, oppress, and control us. Christ has rescued us from the exercised power of darkness, but playing with idols is like walking right back into the dark forest of Satan’s kingdom. Idolatry is a spiritual grenade in your heart. You cannot walk blindly into the minefields of idolatry and think your actions are harmless. This is why the Bible tells Christians to flee from idolatry (I Corinthians 10:14). Run from it! Get away from it! Move our hearts far from it! Idolatry is the express purpose of every scheme, purpose, and attack from the Devil. If he can get you to sell your heart to an idol, then he has captured the one thing he lusts for the most, the human heart. He then has an open door to wreak havoc, and to steal, to kill and to destroy our lives, our faith, and our intimacy with God.

The Spirit Behind the Idol

There is a wicked spiritual power behind every idol, a strong spiritual force that pulls the heart like a powerful magnet into its snare. We must understand this important truth to see the spiritual danger of idolatry. When people worship idols, they are not simply worshipping the idol, but are worshipping the spirit behind the idol. Every idol has a spirit from the kingdom of darkness behind it that drives a person to love and worship it. An idol opens our heart to the enemy, and allows the spirit behind the idol to oppress our lives.

Even in ancient pagan cultures, the idol was believed to be the house where the god resided. The idol was the dwelling place for the god it represented, and a place where it lived and communicated with its worshippers. The Bible has a number of verses in both the Old and New Testament that indicate that one worships an idol, they are worshipping the demon spirit behind the idol (Deuteronomy 32:16-17; Leviticus 17:7: II Kings 17:6; Psalm 106:36-38; Psalm 96:5 (Septuagint); Acts 7:42; I Corinthians 10:14-22; Revelation 9:20).

The Spirit of Baal

One of the most prevalent spirits of idolatry in the Old Testament is the spirit of Baal. This spirit of Baal is still alive today, and is feverishly at work to turn the hearts of an entire generation away from God. There are more altars to Baal in people’s hearts than almost any time in the history of civilization. If we think the spirit of Baal is dead in our enlightened culture, we are severely mistaken. The spirit of Baal is the driving force behind the countless idols that plague the world, and is at the center of the widespread rebellion against God Almighty. The spirit of Baal moves freely on our college campuses; it is broadcast from our televisions, radios and computers; it lives in our political systems and moves in our courts and judicial systems; it reigns in the education systems of our children; it dominates the major religions around the world; its influence can be felt in our churches, and it often lurks behind the pulpits and the sermons of this age. It rules nations and destroys kingdoms. The spirit of Baal has permeated every level of our culture and has molded the hearts of many. The spirit of Baal is a spirit of unbelief and causes people to distrust God, deny His faithfulness and hate His promises. It causes people to revile and mock the God of the Bible. It cries out “God is not enough!” Where is your God?” “God has forsaken you!” “God is a fake!” “God is not who He claims to be!”

This essence of the Baal spirit is described in the record of Gideon in Judges 6. Gideon’s father Joash was a Baal worshipper, and Gideon grew up with an altar of Baal at the center of their household. The spirit of Baal had not only invaded his family, but the entire nation of Israel. The spirit of Baal plagued the heart of Gideon with unbelief in the God of Israel. The spirit of Baal had built a stronghold in Gideon’s heart. The angel of the Lord came to announce God’s calling for Gideon to deliver Israel from the Midianites and uttered these powerful words: “The Lord is with you O mighty man of valor.” However, in response, we see the strong influence of the spirit of Baal come pouring forth from Gideon’s heart.

Gideon responded, “Excuse me, sir! But if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all the miracles our ancestors have told us about? Didn’t they say, ‘The Lord brought us out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and has handed us over to Midian.” (Judges 6:13, GW)

The spirit of Baal says: “Where is your God? Where is He when you need Him? Why are your prayers unanswered?  Why are these things happening? Where is the evidence that God is at work? Where are the miracles? Don’t you see God doesn’t care? God has forsaken you! God has abandoned you! Your God is a failure!”

Gideon had forgotten the greatness of God as his eyes were blinded by the spirit of Baal. This powerful spirit had seized his heart as he cowered in fear, thinking God had deserted him. Gideon had to tear down the altar of Baal in his heart before he could have Hebrews 11 faith, and move forward as God’s mighty warrior against the Midianites.

Tearing Down the Altars of Baal

The spirit of Baal imprisons the heart with unbelief against God Almighty and His Word, and in essence calls God a liar. It calls into question God’s love, mercy, care and grace, and attempts to put a stain upon His character. The spirit of Baal is always a barrier to deliverance. Its voice must be silenced by an unwavering faith in God if the heart is to remain in top spiritual condition. We must never let the deadly poison of the spirit of Baal infiltrate our hearts causing us to doubt God’s faithfulness.

David Wilkerson in Tearing Down the Altars of Baal says:

Baal is still very much an idol today. And if our repentance is to be complete, we have to tear this idol down. Otherwise, it won’t matter how much we cry out to God, pray or fast. None of our actions will have any impact whatsoever, until we pull down the idol that has taken hold of so many hearts. You may ask, “So, what is this Baal? Where do I see it at work? How could an ancient false god be present in our modern society?” In the Old Testament, Baal was represented by a carved idol, made of wood, stone or metal….Even though this idol was only a dead piece of material, there was a powerful spirit behind it. This spirit is sent forth from hell for one purpose: to cause people to doubt the reality of God. It is a spirit of unbelief, plain and simple. And it assaults our minds with doubts about God’s faithfulness. It is absolutely dangerous to entertain this spirit. If it isn’t cast out immediately upon the first attack, it will infiltrate the mind. And once doubt and fear are allowed to enter, the Baal spirit takes possession of the soul. Left unchallenged, the Baal spirit of unbelief moves in and sets up an altar. Without question, unbelief is an idol. It bends you down in submission to its power. And it opens up your soul to all kinds of evil… Satan had accomplished his single, overriding mission: to implant in the minds of believers that God isn’t who the Bible says he is. The devil wants to convince you God isn’t all-knowing, all-powerful and all-caring. He’s constantly at work planting seeds of doubt in you. He causes you to think God doesn’t hear your prayers, that he doesn’t keep his promises to you. And he sends forth the Baal spirit to complete this work in you. You may think, “I don’t have any idolatry in my life. How can I tear down an altar to Baal?” Let me re-emphasize, Baal is a spirit of unbelief. You may have repented of sin, cried out to God for mercy, and heeded all prophetic warnings. But if you have doubts in your heart about God’s faithfulness to you, you’re subject to the Baal spirit. And God is telling you, “You must tear out that spirit of unbelief from your soul.”[ii]

The spirit of Baal is one of the most dangerous enemies of the heart. It has ruined countless lives and turned the hearts of millions away from the true God, leading them into spiritual, physical, and emotional darkness. It deceives people to abandon God and give the treasure of their hearts to worthless idols.

We would do well to heed the warning given in Hebrews 3:12: “Brothers and sisters, pay close attention so you won’t develop an evil and unbelieving heart that causes you to abandon the living God.” The purpose of the spirit of Baal is to build an evil and unbelieving heart. This is a favorite scheme of the enemy to send forth this spirit to harass God’s sons and daughters in an attempt to get them to doubt their God, weaken their faith, and plant seeds of uncertainty of the faithful character of God.

When will our eyes be opened to the eternal truth in Jonah 2:8 “Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them.” Let us never call into question God’s fathomless love, His everlasting mercy, His saving grace and His caring heart. Let us never doubt His power to deliver and the completeness of His salvation. Let these God-breathed words forever ring true in our hearts: “For God Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. I will not, I will not, I will not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let you down nor relax My hold on you! Assuredly not!” (Hebrews 13:5b, AMP).

Baal: The Counterfeit Yahweh

This spirit gained its power from the seductive ideas surrounding the false god Baal. To understand the spirit of Baal, and why it was worshipped so fervently, we must have some basic knowledge of this idol. There was great uncertainty of life in the ancient world, and human survival was often precarious, depending on the successful growing of crops and raising of livestock. Agriculture was such an important part of life, and the cycles of weather were critical ingredients to a good growing season and harvest. Baal was believed to be the giver of life, and entire nations were devoted to Baal because they believed he was the one who would sustain their farms, flocks and families. They believed Baal was in control of nature and people. They thought he controlled the rains and the weather, and gave fertility to women, blessing them with children. Baal became the key to the basic necessities of life. Baal was worshipped in Old Testament times as the god that was necessary for success in the everyday affairs of life. He was the great fertility god who would secure an abundant family life. He was the god who had power over rain, wind and clouds and would provide rich, fertile lands and plentiful harvests. He was the god of growth and productivity in all living things. He was god of nature who would control the seasons and cycles of life. He was the sun god who gave light, warmth and life to all creation. Baal was worshipped as the lord of the earth as his name literally means possessor, lord, owner, and master.

Baal was the counterfeit Yahweh that its worshippers claimed was the all-sufficient one meeting their daily needs. Baal was the counterfeit savior that people turned their hearts toward to preserve, sustain, feed and prosper them. Baal was a fertility cult that promoted an indulgence of fleshly lusts with sexual orgies with the temple prostitutes.

As Israel entered the land of promise, it was infested with Baal worship. It became a great temptation and thorn in Israel’s side throughout the Old Testament. The spirit of Baal dominated many, and ruined their trust and intimacy with God. It robbed them of the blessings of God in their social, family and spiritual life. The spirit of Baal ultimately brought about the destruction of Israel and Judah bringing them into captivity to Assyria and Babylon.

The Name of Yahweh: An Eternal Indictment Against All Idolatry

At the heart of every idol is doubt about the character of God. This is what the spirit of Baal feeds upon because the devil knows that unbelief leads to rampant idolatry. But God revealed in His name that we never have to doubt His love for us, and His desire to help us in all life’s difficulties. In this magnificent name Yahweh, God is telling us He is everything we will ever need. We will never have to turn to an idol for anything. The very name Yahweh and its meaning is an eternal indictment against all idolatry.

The voice of God declares in every generation “I am Yahweh, that is my name! I will not give my glory to another, nor my praise to graven images!” (Isaiah 42:8). The name of Yahweh is so glorious that every idol fades into oblivion in the brilliant light of His powerful name. No idol can offer one speck of what Yahweh gives to those who trust and love Him with all their hearts.  The name of God, Yahweh, is used over 6800 times in Scripture and perfectly illustrates the character and nature of God.

Yahweh is a personal covenant name of promise to the children of God. Yahweh’s name is the pledge and unbreakable bond of faithfulness and commitment to His people. Yahweh means the Eternal, Immutable One. He who was, and is, and is to come.  Yahweh is a form of the verb hayah and means to be or to become. Yahweh was, is and always will be alive, active and present.

Yahweh: He Is

First of all, the name Yahweh means “He is!” He is everything perfect, good, just and holy in an endless capacity. He has no beginning and no end. He is the everlasting God; the self-existent One, absolutely perfect and limitless in everything He is. A.W. Tozer in Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God: Their Meaning in the Christian Life says: “God is infinite. We mean by infinite that God knows no limits, no bounds and no end. What God is, He is without boundaries. All that God is, He is without bounds or limits….Only God has no degrees.”[iii] God’s love, strength, goodness, mercy, holiness, wisdom and grace are so immense and infinite that they cannot be weighed, counted or measured. These attributes are limitless in quality and perfection. They never diminish, change, or weaken.

Everything that God is, is for the benefit of His children. Yahweh is the name that represents a personal invitation to partake fully in everything He is, and to experience the fullness of God in all His manifold characteristics. Yahweh is the very essence and origin of all life. He is the Life-Giver. He is the Creator. He is the maker of every star, planet, and galaxy in the universe. There is no limit to what God can do in our lives.

The ancient cultures had thousands of gods for every occasion. But the name Yahweh declares that God is the only one you ever need in every circumstance and season of life. You can be completely satisfied in Him.

Jeremiah 32:17 proclaims that Yahweh made the heaven and earth by His great power “and nothing is too hard for Him!” When Sarah laughed at the impossibility of giving birth at the age of 90, God declared, “Is there anything too hard for Yahweh?” The Hebrew word for “hard” means marvelous, extraordinary, wonderful, surpassing, and beyond one’s power or ability. There is no mountain in life that Yahweh cannot move, there is no obstacle in life that Yahweh cannot overcome, and there is no need in life that Yahweh cannot abundantly provide. Yahweh is the solution, the answer, and the key to everything in life. Nothing is beyond Yahweh’s power. Nothing is above Yahweh’s understanding. Nothing is greater than Yahweh’s ability to act and bring about miraculous results. Nothing is ordinary or mundane about Yahweh! When Yahweh is called into action, it causes one to marvel at the wondrous and astonishing things He brings to pass. Praise God that Yahweh is!

Yahweh: The Coming and Becoming One

Secondly, Yahweh means “He who will be, the ‘Coming One’ or ‘Becoming One.’ We have the assurance that God never changes. What He is today, He will be tomorrow. He is the same glorious, perfect and limitless God yesterday, today and forever. Yahweh is the “Coming One”, always ready to come to the rescue and deliver His children from any enemy, problem, and oppression. He is ready to intercede with all His might when we call upon His name. He will come like lightening to fight all the battles of His beloved sons and daughters if we will only turn to Him.

Yahweh is also the “Becoming One.” God becomes whatever is lacking in our time of need. God is the “Coming One” ever ready to rescue and deliver His children from everything that holds them in bondage. He is always ready to abundantly provide for their needs and bring them into the land of His faithful promises.

Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’ God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations. (Exodus 3:14-15, ESV)

Yahweh as the “Becoming One” is the great “I Am” who says I am whatever you need at any point in your life. Yahweh wants us to remember that this is His very nature to be for us and meet our needs. Yahweh invites us to fill in the blank for our need. Do we need strength? Then He is our strength. Do we need healing? Then He is our healing. Do we need deliverance? Then He is our Savior. Do we need peace? Then He is our peace. Do we need provision? Then He is our provider? Do we need courage? Then He is our courage? Do we need assurance? Then He is our confidence? Do we need comfort? Then He is our comforter?  Are we tired? Then He is our rest. Are we fearful? Then He is our refuge? Do we need love? Then He is our love. Are we depressed? Then He is our joy. Are we hungry? Then He is our Bread of Life. Are we in darkness? Then He is our light. Are we in bondage? Then He is our freedom.

Do we feel worthless and downcast? Then He is the lifter of our heads. Do we have fears, worries and anxieties? Then He is our burden-bearer. Do we need solutions to life’s problems? Do we feel the pressures of this life are crushing us under their weight? Then He takes the weight on His shoulders and becomes our Liberator. He is our solution and answer to ever single dilemma, circumstance and challenge we will ever face in this life. We do not need a thousand idols. We only need Him. He is the ever-flowing fountain of life and river of living waters that will sustain us all the days we draw breath on this earth.

The Psalmist declares that Yahweh is the only God he will ever need.

My soul wait thou ONLY upon God, for my expectation is from Him. He ONLY is my rock and my salvation; he is my defense; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation, and my glory: the rock of my strength and my refuge is in God. (Psalm 62:1-2 KJB, Cambridge Edition)

Idolatry rises in the heart of a person when their expectation is in another other than God. Idolatry rises in the heart when we wait on another one for our salvation instead of God.

Hannah Whitall Smith in The God of all Comfort so wisely said:

The last and greatest lesson that the soul had to learn is the fact that God and God alone, is enough for its needs. This is the lesson that all His dealings with us are meant to teach; and this is the crowning discovery of our whole Christian life. God is enough![iv]

This is the great lesson to be learned that God is enough! This is the crowning discovery of the heart that God is enough! We never need to exalt or worship an idol.

Yahweh: The God Who Acts

Thirdly Yahweh means, “The God who acts!” He is the God who expresses Himself in action. He is never stagnant, asleep or on vacation, but is always active. The Bible declares in Jeremiah 9:24 that “Yahweh is the God who acts.”

The Hebrew language is all about action as “to be” is “to do!” In Hebrew something is defined by what it does, not by how it appears. Activity is the key to character not appearance. The verb “to be” means action that intimately reveals the character of the one doing the acting.

God is always actively present and His actions reveal His love and goodness. Yahweh does not sleep like the idols. Yahweh is always moving and His kingdom is advancing. The forward progression of God’s purposes is unstoppable. He is the Creator, the tireless God who is always working. His deeds never end, and always display His splendor in countless ways. Yahweh’s mighty acts distinguish him from every idol. Yahweh is the true God that does great and wondrous things daily; all His works are amazing and marvelous; His deeds are breathtaking in majesty and power.

In the day of my trouble I shall call upon You, for You will answer me. There is no one like You among the gods, O Lord, Nor are there any works like Yours. For You are great and do wondrous deeds; You alone are God. (Psalm 86:7-8,10, NASB)

An idol is a god of inaction, who fails to act when we need it. Look at the showdown between Elijah and the prophets of Baal in I Kings. The prophets of Baal cried out “O Baal answer us!” hour after hour. They danced around the altar and cut themselves in a frenzy until their blood gushed out. Yet no action, response, or mighty deed from the idol Baal, just silence. They had no answer, help or power in their hour of need.

Then Elijah called on the name of Yahweh and fire fell from heaven and consumed the altar, demonstrating that Yahweh is the God who acts. No idol can ever stand against the God of action or produce one billionth of the magnificent works of YahwehYahweh is a warrior who fights for His people. Yahweh is our victory and He goes to battle for us. He is our shield, refuge and protection. With unfailing love Yahweh moves into action for His people.

Flourishing of Idolatry: Calling False gods Yahweh

Throughout the centuries people have been deceived into thinking that an idol can be their Yahweh. In their hearts they have passionately followed a counterfeit Yahweh, and have laid down their sacrifices of love, time, money and worship at its altar. This is clearly seen in the book of Genesis when men and women began to call their false gods Yahweh. Genesis 4:26 is often misunderstood to mean that people were calling on the name of Yahweh, but a deeper study of this verse reveals just the opposite.  Idolatry was beginning to flourish in the human race and at the center of it was the desecration of the holy name of God, Yahweh.

A son was born to Seth also, and he named him Enosh (Enos). At that time people began to call on the name of Yahweh. (Genesis 4:26, HSCB)

E.W. Bullinger, the great biblical scholar, in the Companion Bible, says the last part of the verse should be more accurately translated “people began to call upon their gods by the name of Yahweh or began profanely to call upon the name of the Lord (Yahweh).”[v] The Hebrew word for “began” means to profane, defile, pollute, desecrate, dishonor, and cast down. In just 235 years from the creation of Adam, the generation of Enosh began to profane and desecrate the name of Yahweh. They rejected Yahweh as the true God and defiled His holy name by calling their idols Yahweh.

This is the beginning of idolatry on such a scale that it boggles the mind. The ancient Jewish commentaries confirm this translation as the Targum of Jonathan translates this verse as follows: “And to Sheth also was born a son, and he called his name Enosh. That was the generation in whose days they began to err, and to make themselves idols, and surnamed their idols by the name of the Word of the Lord.”

The Sin of Enos

Rabbi Maimonides, in his Commentary on the Mishnah says:

In the days of Enos the sons of Adam erred with great error, and the counsel of the wise men of that age became brutish, and Enos himself was (one) of them that erred….And they began after this manner to make images in temples, and under trees, and on tops of mountains and hills, and assembled together and worshipped them….And this thing was spread through all the world, to serve images with services different one from another, and to sacrifice unto and worship them. So, in process of time, the glorious and fearful name (of God) was forgotten out of the mouth of all living, and out of their knowledge, and they acknowledged him not.[vi]

Sadly the grandson of Adam, Enos, was instrumental in causing people to forget the glorious name of Yahweh and all it represented. He was responsible for this great error of the heart that plagues all the peoples of the earth to this very day. Enos did not believe God was enough. Enos did not believe that God is everything He will ever need. Enos did not have confidence in Yahweh, and did not trust His character. He changed the glory of the incorruptible, eternal, perfect Yahweh into an image he could serve and worship. Enos encouraged his generation to make this monstrous substitution and foolishly began to call his idols Yahweh. Idolatry spread like wildfire throughout the world, and it all began with the profanation of the name of Yahweh.

The Aman of Abraham: His Unwavering Faith in Yahweh

Abraham presents a vivid contrast to Enos concerning the name of Yahweh. Abraham is called “the father of all them that believe” in Romans 4:11, and even though he came out of a family and culture of idolatry, he crushed the power of idolatry in his heart by a firm, steadfast faith in Yahweh alone, that never wavered.  The first usage of the word “believe” in the entire Bible concerns the faith of Abraham in the name of Yahweh.

And Abram believed the Lord (Yahweh), and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith. (Genesis 15:6, NLT)

The Hebrew word “believed” is aman and means trustworthy, faithful, stable, certain and dependable. It is to lean on, trust and confide in. It is to consider as true, and to stand firm in unwavering confidence. It is something that is firmly established, steadfast and reliable because it is utterly faithful. It is certainty that cannot be shaken or disturbed.

There are derivative words of aman that have the meaning of support and reliability like pillars, doorposts, nurses, guardians, master craftsmen and trustees. It is like a nursing baby who would find stability, support and comfort in the bosom of a loving parent. The Hebrew word “truth” even comes from this word aman.

Abraham believed he could lean on Yahweh as completely trustworthy and dependable. Not one ounce of unbelief concerning Yahweh’s faithfulness ever penetrated his heart. Yahweh was the firm pillar of support and the master craftsmen of his life. He rested like a newborn infant in the bosom of Yahweh. His confidence was in Yahweh only as his steadfast rock in all the circumstances of life. He stood firm as a shining example to all generations that Yahweh is the only faithful one to give our hearts to. He knew Yahweh was everything he would ever need. He believed and obeyed the words of Yahweh and counted them as absolutely true and reliable. With unshakable faith he refused to allow any doubt or fear to seize his mind that God would not fulfil His promises. He knew Yahweh would never fail him. He knew Yahweh would never forsake him. He knew Yahweh would never abandon him. He knew after living seventy-five years in the midst of idolatry that no idol was worthy of his trust. No idol was worthy of his faith. No idol was worthy of his heart.

Abraham was rare in his generation as a man who firmly trusted in Yahweh and did not allow his heart to be turned after idols.

Who Lives in Awe of Yahweh Anymore?

The Psalmist found the dilemma that no one believed (aman) Yahweh anymore, and those who trusted in His faithfulness seemed to have vanished from the human race.

Help, Lord, for no one is faithful anymore; those who are loyal (aman) have vanished from the human race. Who freely strut about when what is vile is honored by the human race. (Psalm 12:1, 8, NIV)

The distinguishing mark of generation after generation in this world is the total lack of faith and confidence in God. Hardly anyone loves, serves and worships God with unwavering devotion and adoration. We have no respect for God. We do not fear the Lord. Our eyes do not see and our ears do not hear the majesty of God Almighty, the Creator of every living thing. We abandon God time and time again for worthless idols and our hearts fall into darkness, utterly blind to His blessings.

The prophet Jeremiah made a bold announcement to Israel and Judah about the rebellious hearts of God’s own chosen people. He said that even if you ran up and down every street in Jerusalem, and searched high and low throughout the city, you could not find one just person who loves and follows Yahweh with all his heart.

“Make this announcement to Israel, and say this to Judah: Listen, you foolish and senseless people, with eyes that do not see and ears that do not hear. Have you no respect for me? Why don’t you tremble in my presence? I, the Lord (Yahweh), define the ocean’s sandy shoreline as an everlasting boundary that the waters cannot cross. The waves may toss and roar, but they can never pass the boundaries I set. But my people have stubborn and rebellious hearts. They have turned away and abandoned me. They do not say from the heart, ‘Let us live in awe of the Lord (Yahweh) our God, for he gives us rain each spring and fall, assuring us of a harvest when the time is right.’ Your wickedness has deprived you of these wonderful blessings. Your sin has robbed you of all these good things. (Jeremiah 5:20-25, NLT)

How the hearts of people turn away from God and abandon Him! Oh how few there are that live daily in the awe of Yahweh! We have been robbed of God’s wonderful blessings because we have allowed our hearts to be turned.

[i] Dee Brestin, Idol Lies: Facing the Truth about Our Deepest Desires (Brentwood: Worthy Publishers 2012), 18.

[ii] David Wilkerson, Tearing Down the Altars of Baal, Sermon delivered October 21, 2002.

[iii] A.W. Tozer, Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God: Their Meaning in the Christian Life (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1961), 766, Kindle Edition.

[iv] Hannah Whitall Smith, The God of All Comfort (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1953)

[v] E. W. Bullinger, The Companion Bible (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publishing, 1990), Appendix 21.

[vi] Rabbi Moses Maimonides, Commentary on the Mishnah, Composed during the years 1145-1168.

Excerpt from Tim Rowe’s book “The Heart: the Key to Everything in the Christian Life” https://www.amazon.com/Heart-Key-Everything-Christian-Life/dp/1483447928/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1483371363&sr=8-1&keywords=the+heart+the+key+to+everything

 

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The Greatest Christmas Gift of All

jesus-the-true-gift-of-christmas-1024x782Jesus Christ is the fulcrum, the pivotal point of all history. He will eventually intersect with every life upon the earth. We may think we can avoid him, ignore him, overlook him or reject him, but all of us one day will stand before him. He will be the rise or fall of our life. He is the judge of the living and the dead. His name is above all names upon the earth. He is God’s plan of restoration, redemption, salvation and healing. He will one day sit as the greatest king to ever rule over the earth and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Every knee one day will bow to that name.

Philippians 2:9-10: So God raised Him up to the highest place and gave Him the name above all.10 So when His name is called, every knee will bow, in heaven, on earth, and below. 11 And every tongue will confess “Jesus, the Anointed One, is Lord,” to the glory of God our Father!

The question that Jesus posed to his close followers, “Who do you say I am?” is the most important question that every man and woman will ever answer. Who do you believe Jesus to be? Precious Rock of Ages or a Rock of Offense? Son of God or just a man.

Matthew 16:13-17
(13) When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
(14) They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
(15) “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

“But what about you?” was Jesus’ question to his disciples, because it doesn’t really matter how others answer the question. What matters is, “Who do you say I am?” Finding the answer to this question is not like struggling with some complex formulas in an advanced mathematics course. This is an “open-book” exam with the answer clearly laid out now in the pages of Scripture.

Unlike those who walked with him who had trouble seeing the “picture,” today we get the benefit of hindsight. This allows us to piece together the colorful mosaic and see the details of the Masterpiece. The most important question for every person alive today is still the same one Jesus asked two thousand years ago, “Who do you say I am?”

We all see things differently because of our varied backgrounds, callings, gifts, and needs. Jesus is gracious enough to meet us where we are.

The proper answer to his question, “Who do you say I am?” is what the Bible says, which is The Lord of Lords, and King of Kings; he is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the Firstborn from among the dead, the Firstfruits, and the Savior of all mankind. He is the Anointed one, the Chosen one of God, and the Messiah of all mankind. He is the Mediator between God and man, and he is the Way to everlasting Life!

Mankind has a massive problem that the religions of the world ignore and have no solution. Something has gone wrong within the human race. It doesn’t take a theologian or a psychologist to tell you that. Read a newspaper…Most of the misery we suffer on this planet is the fruit of the human heart gone bad. This glorious treasure has been stained, marred, infected. Sin enters the story and spreads like a computer virus…Any honest person knows this. We know we are not what we were meant to be…Something has gone wrong. We know that much. Whatever else we know, whatever else our convictions may be, we know that something has gone terribly wrong with the world, with us, with Life. It is at the center of every wrong, every crime, every evil, and every injustice is sin. It is our inheritance spiritually.

 

The Sin Problem

Ephesians 2:1-3: And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Spiritually dead, trapped in the course of this world, slaves of the prince of the power of the air, who is the god of this age, governed by our lustful passions with no hope for eternity. Not a pretty picture.

Romans 5:12: Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—

It is the condemnation, the curse and the malady that hangs over the human race like a dark could. Sin is like a deadly virus passed on to us by our parents. It is in the blood which is the life of the flesh and it is passed to every child at birth. No one can escape it.

Romans 3:9-12: For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”

We are all under the weight and penalty of sin and every single member of the human race is useless or worthless without God. The word “worthless” is an enlightening word as to the nature of man without God. In the Greek, it means: to be worthless; to be useless; to be unprofitable; to render unserviceable, and to be unfit for any useful purpose. The Hebrew word used in the same verse in Psalm 14:3 means: to go bad and to become sour like milk.

God vividly says that a person without God under the power and influence of the sin nature is like a carton of sour milk. Sour milk is worthless for any good use and cannot be used for its intended purpose. The highest and best the human race has to offer in society, government, academics, arts, and every other category amounts to nothing more than sour milk without God. Every life, every purpose, every idea, and every goal lived apart from the truth of God and His Word is wasted and worthless.

We are sinners by nature, by birth and it is our habit and first tendency to sin. It came from Adam, pulsating thru our bloodstream. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, sin poured into their nature, causing them to miss the purpose and goal that God had designed for their lives. Their entire relationship with God was defiled and disturbed as bitterness, hostility, separation, and enmity against God flowed into their nature like raw sewage or muddy contaminated waters. We have an instinctive unwillingness to acknowledge the truth of our condition without Christ as God Himself sees and states it. Worse yet, we seem to prefer our own assessment rather than His. Sin is deceptive and it blinds us as to its nature and its workings. The judgment of God upon sin reveals its nature and presence. There is a day of God’s wrath and reckoning coming when all mankind whether Jew, Muslim, Republican, Democrat, atheist, scientist and lawyer, intellectuals, white, black and every race will stand before Him and receive the consequences and just penalty for sin. Jesus Christ will be the judge: Acts 17:30b,31: “But now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” Sin is a cruel master and there is a day coming, a day of reckoning, where the price for sin must be paid. Who will pay the price for your sin? Buddha? Mohammed? Your good works? Your political affiliation? Your job resume? Your social pedigree?

The essence of sin is to be against God. It makes us enemies of God and rebels against Him. Sin is always evil and it is an act of rebellion against God. Sin has the power to convince us to act using our own frame of reference rather than God’s. It has the power to convince us that we are the final arbiters of right or wrong, that we are the final determiners of truth, that we are the final judges. Sin succeeds in convincing us that we are gods of our own little world. Sin makes us neglect and be indifferent towards God. It convinces us that we do not need Him. It is setting our will above God’s. If God offers heaven, sin despises it. If He threatens hell, sin disregards it. Sin blinds us to the truth of God revealed in the Bible. What are we compared to the great Yahweh? Sin discredits God and brings reproach to His great name. God is infinitely worthy of all of our love, honor and obedience. The grievous error of sin is loving sin more than you love an infinitely glorious God of delighting in the things of this world and our own lusts more than God.

Who can break this power of sin whose wages is death? Who has the keys and power to crush sin in our lives? Who can pay the wicked penalty of sin? Justice demands the price of sin be paid. The whole world lies helpless under the power and enslavement of sin desperately in need of the Savior. Nothing other than Christ can deliver us from the devastating consequences and penalty of sin. He is the ransom, the payment, the substitute and the conqueror of sin. No one else. No philosophy, political ideology, religion or person can deliver us from the crushing oppression of sin.

Isaiah 44:22: (New International Reader’s Version): I will sweep your sins away as if they were a cloud. I will blow them away as if they were the morning mist. Return to me. Then I will set you free.

Only Jesus can set us free from sin, wash us as white as snow and pay the price for our every sin.

Revelation 1:6-8, And from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his bloodand made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail[b] on account of him. Even so. Amen.“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” 12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.

Jesus Christ holds the keys to death, hades and eternal life. No one else. He is the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last. He is the coming one who will astonish the world with his majesty and glory. Are you ready?

I John 5:9ff: If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. 11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.

There is no eternal life without the Son. Do you believe it or do you make God out to be a liar by not believing it?

This is the gospel message of Christianity in these following verses. This is the true joy of Christmas. What love, mercy and grace of God is shown in the gift of Christ.

Ephesians 2:4-10: But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

From the depths of sin to eternal salvation and a seat in the heavens next to Christ. From dead in sins to God’s ultimate masterpiece in Christ with the true power to help others.

Romans 5:6-11: For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

God could have left us as rebels, enemies and sinners but His love is so great He sent us His Son to pay the price of sin with his blood so we might be fully justified and reconciled to God.

I Timothy 2:3-6a: This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all,

Acts 4:12: And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

The Bible makes it clear there is no other way to salvation and no other mediator between God and man. Only one paid the ransom with his life, Jesus.

All the other gods of this earth bring chaos, confusion and ultimately cause us to self-destruct. There is no other way out of sin and to wholeness, healing, restoration and salvation than Christ.

True verse of Christmas and Wheeler Mission; John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

From God’s cry of “where art thou?” in the Garden after the fall His plan was to bring men and woman back into a full relationship with Him through the giving of His Son. This is embodied in the first promise of Christ in Genesis 3:15: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” Bruise means to crush, overwhelm and break all the plans and purposes of the Devil. The word “enmity” in the Hebrew means: hatred and hostility with a desire to injure. There is no truce in this battle. There is no peace agreement. As long as Satan’s kingdom operates upon the earth, it will be opposed vigorously by Christ. God revealed His ultimate plan of grace with the Seed of the woman, the second Adam, Jesus Christ, who by His death and resurrection made available the free gift of righteousness leading to acquittal from the penalty of sin and right standing again with God.  The court of God legally pronounces the declaration of acquittal when a man or woman confesses Jesus Christ as their Lord and believes God raised Jesus from the dead. Sin and death reign in this world because of Adam’s one act of disobedience, but now through the obedience of one man, Jesus Christ, and his sacrifice, we can reign as kings in this life and the one to come.

Christ gave deliverance from the power of darkness and gave us citizenship into His kingdom. Colossians 1:14;

Colossians 2:13ff: You, who were spiritually dead because of your sins and your uncircumcision (i.e. the fact that you were outside the Law), God has now made to share in the very life of Christ! He has forgiven you all your sins: Christ has utterly wiped out the damning evidence of broken laws and commandments which always hung over our heads, and has completely annulled it by nailing it over his own head on the cross. And then having drawn the sting of all the powers ranged against us, he exposed them, shattered, empty and defeated, in his final glorious triumphant act!

At Calvary, Jesus Christ stripped and disarmed the power and authority of the devil’s kingdom for every born-again believer. No devil spirit in the devil’s kingdom, no matter what its rank, can defeat you when you stand in the strength of the Lord’s redemptive work for you at the cross. The picture Paul is painting is of a triumphant general who has routed the enemy and leads the captive foes and spoils of his victory behind his chariot in a grand public procession through the city.

In the Roman world, this was the highest honor that could be bestowed upon a victorious Roman general. It was called “the triumph.” There must have been at least 5,000 enemy soldiers killed, and there must have been a gain of Roman territory in the conquest. It was an awesome display of the power, strength, and might of the Roman Empire. It was a spectacle that few would forget its images, as the triumph declared to the world that the enemy had been overwhelmed and crushed, now to be publicly humiliated through the streets of the city.

How much greater is the triumph of Christ as the captain of our salvation?  What a triumph on the cross! What a victory against the forces of darkness! What a crushing blow to Satan’s kingdom! What a public display of victory to all those who have eyes to see and ears to hear! You become identified and in vital union with this triumph on the cross and all its far-reaching glorious effects when you become a new creation in Christ at the new birth. You are marching right beside Jesus Christ in this magnificent victory march with every wretched captive in chains under your feet. With great freedom, the power of the old sin nature has been stripped off and crippled, and the power of Christ in you flows and energizes every cell of your human body. You are a super conqueror who always triumphs in Christ. Jesus Christ cut away Satan’s firm grip on us and smashed the kingdom of darkness’s authority, control, and rule over our lives. No longer must we be a slave to sin or the bondage of this world. Jesus Christ victoriously led captivity captive for every Christian, according to the book of Ephesians, as he crushed and defeated every form of mental, physical, or spiritual bondage. What a triumph on the cross! What a victory in Christ!

He rescued us from the power of darkness and gave us full legal rights as a son or daughter of God. The word “power” in Colossians means: the exercised power to do something; liberty of action to do as one pleases; the delegated authority and power to act, and the right to exercise power. The Devil and his kingdom no longer have the liberty or power to do what they please in your life when you stand upon the triumph of the cross. The Devil  no longer has the right to act freely with authority and power over you. We have been set free. He must flee when we stand against him. God has given us the full armor of God to stand firm against the onslaughts of the Evil One.

Christ shattered the kingdom of darkness. We no longer need to be enslaved by it. He can break the power of any sin, any addiction, any weakness and any affliction.

The goodness of God has its ultimate triumph in the Lord Jesus Christ. Evil has its sentence of doom and ultimate destruction in the Lord Jesus Christ. What Jesus Christ accomplished at Calvary is so magnificent, so awesome and so astounding, that it permanently crippled Satan’s kingdom and one day will obliterate every remnant of it from off the face of the earth. The Lord Jesus Christ broke the curse of sin and death that hangs over the world like a dark cloud. He regained everything that Adam and Eve had lost on that tragic day in the Garden of Eden and so much more. He paid the price for the complete redemption and salvation of the soul of every person who comes to Him. Through Jesus Christ, righteousness is restored to a person so that they can stand in the presence of God without any sense of fear, shortcoming, guilt, or unworthiness. The ability to have deep fellowship and communion with the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ has been recovered and given as a gift to all those who confess Jesus as their Lord and Savior. The Court of God has wiped our slate clean; we are as white as snow, as our redeemer has paid the ransom and penalty for our sin. We no longer have to live in bondage to sin, fear, worry, sickness, disease, poverty, misery, hatred, selfishness, and ignorance, for we reign as kings in life through the Lord Jesus Christ. You are a super-conqueror; you are a new creation; you are a glorious son or daughter of God with all the dignity that comes with God’s calling through Jesus Christ.

In Christ all depression ceases. In Christ all fear and worry melt away. In Christ all oppression is crushed. In Christ all addictions are shattered. In Christ all the chains of bondage are loosed. In Christ all condemnation is obliterated. In Christ we are made free from all the forces of darkness that plague mankind. No religion, idol, and god whether Islam. Buddhism, Wicca or Hinduism can set a person free from the exercised kingdom of darkness and the clutches of sin and death. Only in Jesus Christ is our redemption, salvation and liberation finished.

Only Jesus can heal the brokenhearted (broken in pieces, tread down and crushed, to shatter, to suffer extreme sorrow), set at liberty those who are oppressed (broken by calamity) and bring deliverance to the captives (the prisoners of sin) and give sight to the blind.

What a season to celebrate Christ: The hope for all ages.

Today there is a gateway of hope. God is the original and ultimate rescuer. And for all who want to be rescued, He is able. There is no sin too great, God cannot forgive it. There is no loss, He cannot restore. There is no scar, He cannot heal. There is no distance you can go, His grace cannot reach. There is nothing—absolutely nothing—to stop His love and mercy for you. If there is breath in your being, there is hope. There is hope.

The thief on the cross confessed that he failed miserably and admitted he deserved the horrible death he was dying. It was all over for him—hell waited, its mouth open to devour him. At least that was what he believed. Yet because of his confession and the marvelous grace of God, he will make it into paradise  with the Son of God (Luke 23:43).

It is never too late. God is not mad at you. He is, in fact, for you. Don’t give up. Mighty to save and faithful to love is He (Zephaniah 3:17–19). It is to the very ones who know the pain of personal failure that He comes and extends hope: He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, . . . to comfort all who mourn,. . . to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor (Isaiah 61:1–3).

Ecclesiastes 3:1-3:

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

Tis the season: We have all been thru rough seasons in life; now it can be a new season, a new beginning, a new dawn. Are you all in for God. He can turn our ashes in beauty, our mourning into gladness, and our weakness into strength. Are you ready for Jesus?

Verse 11:

11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart,14 I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him.

Think about eternity, a life that never ends. Where do you want to spend eternity? Do you want eternal life or in your pride do you reject it?

I Samuel 12:16: Now therefore stand still and see this great thing that the Lord will do before your eyes.

The world has yet seen what God will do with and for and through and in a man who is fully and wholly consecrated to Him. Nothing is impossible with God no matter what your past, no matter where you came from or no matter where you are. He can save to the uttermost.

What or who compares to God? What compares to the inheritance awaiting you in Christ? There is nothing on earth greater.

Our past seasons: A season to forget.

When I called, you did not answer; when I spoke, you did not listen, but you did what was evil in my eyes and chose what I did not delight in. Isaiah 65:12b.

But God is ready for the new season, are you?

I am ready to be sought by those who not ask for me. I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me. I said, “Here I am, Here I am..I spread out my hands all day to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices.  Isaiah 65:1

 

There is a promise of a new life in Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17,18a: Therefore, if anyone is united with the Anointed One, that person is a new creation. The old life is gone—and see—a new life has begun! 18 All of this is a gift from our Creator God, who has pursued us and brought us into a restored and healthy relationship with Him through the Anointed.

Today this Christmas can bring us to a new season, a new life. The old is gone. The new begins with Christ and the promise of the Father. It is

Christ in you, the Great Mystery revealed, which God planned for all ages. If Satan would have known this truth, he would never have crucified Christ (I Corinthians 2:8,9). This is how big the Christmas message is. A Savior has come, His name is Wonderful, the Rock of all Ages, the Liberator and the Deliverer. We need to look nowhere else.

Ephesians 1:19ff: The God of our Lord Jesus the Anointed, Father of Glory: I call out to You on behalf of Your people. Give them minds ready to receive wisdom and revelation so they will truly know You. 18 Open the eyes of their hearts, and let the light of Your truth flood in. Shine Your light on the hope You are calling them to embrace. Reveal to them the glorious riches You are preparing as their inheritance. 19 Let them see the full extent of Your power that is at work in those of us who believe, and may it be done according to Your might and power.

Friends, it is this same might and resurrection power that 20 He used in the Anointed One to raise Him from the dead and to position Him at His right hand in heaven. There is nothing over Him. 21 He’s above all rule, authority, power, and dominion; over every name invoked, over every title bestowed in this age and the next. 22 God has placed all things beneath His feet and anointed Him as the head over all things for His church. 23 This church is His body, the fullness of the One who fills all in all.

Is our life full of God’s purposes or our own? Who is writing the story of your life? In Christ, it is a new life, old things passed away. We become a new person, a new creation. The new season has begun. Are you tired of calling the shots in life; A new season begins with this question: “Lord what do you want me to do with my life?” Are we following Jesus or are we inviting Jesus to follow us? At its core sinfulness is selfishness. Its enthroning yourself-your needs, your desires, your plans-above all else. We may seek God, but we don’t seek Him first. He comes in third or fourth in our division. This is the season to go all in. The season to do all for the glory of God. The season to let Jesus be our Lord, our Captain and our Anchor.

Are we missing the time of our visitation? Are we ignoring the tug of God on our heart? Are we turning a deaf ear? Do we see the light?

Luke 19:41ff: And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

Are we missing the greatest invitation ever given to us? Is now the time of your visitation?

Luke 14:16ff 16 But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. 17 And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant[c] to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18 But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ 19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ 20 And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21 So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ 22 And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23 And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. 24 For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’”

What are our excuses not to go all in? What excuses do we have to decline the invitation for a new life, for salvation and for restoration? Why won’t we sit at His banquet table?

 

It begins with the invitation from Jesus Christ-the invitation for a new life, a new power, a new joy, a new hope, and a new direction. In the midst of our turbulent times, He is still the only hope for mankind.

Who is this Red Thread of the Bible?

Who is the Red Thread? Jesus Christ is the Red Thread of the Bible – the thread that binds the Word of God together…You find him everywhere in the Bible, the Word of God! In Genesis, he is the promised seed of the woman. In Exodus, he is the Passover Lamb. In Leviticus, he is the high priest. In Numbers he is the star to rise out of Jacob. In Deuteronomy, he is the two laws-love God and love your neighbor. In Joshua, he is the captain of the lord of hosts. In Judges, he is the covenant angel named Wonderful. In Ruth, he is the kinsman redeemer. In Samuel, he is the root and offspring of David. In Kings, he is the greater than the Temple. In Chronicles, he is the king’s son. In Ezra and Nehemiah, he is the rebuilder. In Esther, he is the savior of God’s people. In Job, he is the daysman. In Psalms, he is the song. In Proverbs, he is the wisdom of God. In Ecclesiastes, he is the one among a thousand. In Song of Solomon, he is the bridegroom of the bride. In Isaiah, he is Jacob’s branch. In Jeremiah, he is our righteousness. In Lamentations, he is the unbelievers’ judgment. In Ezekiel, he is the true shepherd. In Daniel, he is the stone that became the head of the corner. In Hosea, he is the latter rain. In Joel, he is God’s dwelling in Zion. In Amos, he is the raiser of David’s tabernacle. In Obadiah, he is the deliverer on Mount Zion. In Jonah, he is our salvation. In Micah, he is the lord of kings. In Nahum, he is the stronghold in the time of trouble. In Habakkuk, he is our joy and confidence. In Zephaniah, he is our mighty lord. In Haggai, he is the desire of the nations. In Zechariah, he is our servant-the branch. In Malachi, he is the son of righteousness.

In Matthew, he is Jehovah’s Messiah. In Mark, he is Jehovah’s servant. In Luke, he is Jehovah’s man. In John, he is Jehovah’s Son. In Acts, he is the gift of holy spirit. In Romans, he is the believer’s justification. In Corinthians, he is the believer’s sanctification. In Galatians, he is the believer’s righteousness. In Ephesians, he is the believer’s heavenly standing. In Philippians, he is the believer’s self-adequacy. In Colossians, he is the believer’s completeness. In Thessalonians, he is the believer’s soon glorification. In Timothy, he is the faithful men. In Titus, he is the fellow-laborer. In Philemon, he is the love of a believer. In Hebrews, he is the high priest for sin. In James, he is the royal law. In Peter, he is the pastor. In John, he is as we are. In Jude, he is the beloved. In Revelations, he is the king of kings and lord of lords.

He is the doom of the adversary as promised in Genesis 3:15 and accomplished in Revelation 20:10. He is the “no night” of Revelation 22:5, of which Genesis 1:1 is night. He is the light of Revelation 21:13, of which Genesis 1:16 and 17 is the sun and moon. He is the “no more death, neither sorrow nor crying” of Revelation 21:4, of which Genesis 3:16 and 17 is sorrow, suffering, and death. He is the “no more curse” of Revelation 22:3, of which Genesis 3:17 is the curse. He is the welcome home to paradise of Revelation 22:2, of which Genesis 3:22 to 24 is the banishment from paradise.

Who is this Jesus Christ?

He is Abel’s sacrifice, Abraham’s ram, Isaac’s well, Jacob’s ladder. He is Judah’s scepter, Moses’ rod, Joshua’s rams’ horn, Samuel’s horn of oil, David’s slingshot, Hezekiah’s sundial, Elijah’s mantle and Elisha’s staff. He is Job’s prayer, Isaiah’s fig tree, Ezekiel’s wheel, Daniel’s Jerusalem window, Jonah’s sea monster and Malachi’s storehouse. He is Peter’s shadow, Paul’s handkerchiefs and aprons. He is the lily of the valley and the rose of Sharon in life’s desserts. He is the pearl of great price. He is the rock for pilgrims in a weary land. He is the believer’s justification. He is the believer’s righteousness. He is the believer’s sanctification. He is the believer’s redemption. He is the believer’s knowledge. He is the believer’s wisdom. He is the believer’s all-in-all in all. He is the believer’s completely complete completeness. He is the bright and morning star, and he’s my Lord and my Savior.

He is knocking at the door of your heart right now. He is inviting you this Christmas to open the door and let him into your heart. Confess him as Lord and believe that He is alive because God raised him from the dead. Repent and turn to him and receive the power of the gift of Holy Spirit and receive the new birth. This is the greatest Christmas gift of all.

Tim Rowe

 

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Idolatry: The Principal Crime of the Human Race, Part 4, Golden Calf Disease

calfWe Become What We Worship

God wants us to get our identity from Him alone. He has uniquely designed each one of us to bear His glorious image to this lost and dying world. We cannot gain our true identity from any other image. We model our life after the prevailing images in our hearts. We begin to believe that the image gives us value and worth. We begin to worship our images and we reflect in our character the images of our worship. The heart bears the image of its god and is a mirror that reflects either the image of the true God or the image of its idol.

G.K. Beale in We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry says:

People become one with, and thus identified with, that to which they fully devote themselves…Idolatry is not a mere matter of external worship, but of internal commitment by the heart. It is apparently the presence of the spiritually empty idol in one’s heart that changes the being of the idolatry into a spiritually empty creature…Idolatry enforces the notion that what we are committed to we are joined to and shared in its nature in some significant way. This accounts for why people who are committed to the living God reflect his living image and why people committed to the world’s dead idols reflect the lifeless nature of these idols.[i]

The Lesson of the Golden Calf

There is no greater example of this truth in Scripture than the golden calf in the wilderness. The Bible reveals the immense seduction of idolatry and the power of the images associated with it. The children of Israel had seen the ten plagues in Egypt, the deliverance of the Passover, the pillar of fire by night and the cloud of glory by day, the parting of the Red Sea, and the destruction of the most powerful army in the world. They saw the raining of bread from heaven to feed them in the wilderness, water coming forth from the rock of Horeb, and God speaking from the thick cloud of Mount Sinai. Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and seventy of the elders of Israel actually saw the God of Israel with the stunning work of sapphire stone under his feet. What an awesome manifestation of the glory and wondrous works of God! They were witnesses of some of the most amazing and spectacular things that human eyes have ever seen. They witnessed God Almighty moving in such a breathtaking way. Yet unbelievably this was not enough, and they yearned for an image, and another god to worship and lead them.

Exodus 32:1-6 (ESV):

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.”

So Aaron said to them, “Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.”

So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron.

And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!”

When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.”

And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.

The golden calf is a sober lesson to all of God’s children. This record has such significance that it is mentioned in Deuteronomy, Psalms, Nehemiah, Ezekiel, Acts and I Corinthians. It sets a pattern for Israel’s subsequent idolatry, and it reaches its height in the sin of Jeroboam, who made golden calves to be worshiped in the northern kingdom of Israel at Dan and Bethel. God calls it “chataahgedolah” 3 times in Exodus 32, which is a sin of the highest magnitude. The ramifications of golden calf worship reverberated throughout all of Jewish history. Even today this sin is often rampant in the camp of believers.

Three thousand people died because of this heinous sin against God in the wilderness. Countless others have been robbed of the blessings of life by falling into the snare of a golden calf.  The golden calf incident is so important in God’s eyes that He says in Deuteronomy 9:7 to remember what happened in Exodus and never forget it. When God tells us to never forget something, and always remember it, we would be wise to take heed to His admonition.

Epidemic of Golden Calf Disease in Christianity

The lesson of the golden calf is of immense importance to the heart. God wants to enlighten our eyes to its dangers, and make us aware that a golden calf is always crouching at the gate of our heart. God warns us in I Corinthians that this record is written for our instruction. If we think we are standing for God and immune from idolatry, “Watch out!” that we do not fall. We must never allow a golden calf to gain a foothold in our heart for it will corrupt our walk and intimacy with God. We must not become obsessed with the thousands of golden calves of the world that cause us to thrust God Almighty to back of the line.

We must be vigilant in guarding our heart, that we do not worship an image, like a golden calf, proclaiming, “This is our god!” We must be watchful in examining the attachments, emotions and devotions of our heart. What is your driving passion? What moves you? What gets you off the couch? You must look with spiritual eyes at the motives of your heart. Examine the images your eyes are beholding. Do you conform your heart to the images of this world that are at enmity with your Heavenly Father? Are you making an image the lord of your life? Is there a golden calf that is molding your heart into its image? Have you sold out to a golden calf, running wild after it, rejoicing and loving it as your savior?

Don’t think this just happened in the Old Testament by the foolish Israelites. Golden calves are being worshiped by many Christians, including pastors. We have an epidemic of golden calf disease in Christianity that has seized the hearts of God’s people, destroying Christian lives around the globe. We have become victims of the ultimate spiritual scam as we have rejected God by trading him for a counterfeit image. We have been robbed of living our life in Christ. Psalms describes this terrible rip-off.

Psalm 106:19-22 (NET):

They made an image of a calf at Horeb, and worshiped a metal idol.

They traded their majestic God for the image of an ox that eats grass.

They rejected the God who delivered them, the one who performed great deeds in Egypt, amazing feats in the land of Ham, mighty acts by the Red Sea.

Let us examine in more depth Aaron, the children of Israel and the golden calf to gain some important insight into the battle against idolatry. The first truth that leaps out from the pages of the Bible is how quickly their hearts turned from God to blatant idolatry. For forty days Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the law and instructions of the covenant of God.. The people could see the glory of the Lord like a devouring fire on the top of Mount Sinai as Moses communed with God, but this did not stop them from setting up idols in their hearts.

God told Moses that the people had corrupted themselves and turned from the way of God’s commandments to idol worshiping with frenzied delight. The Hebrew word “corrupted” means to destroy, ruin, spoil, and lay waste. It also means to be marred, rotted and putrid. It is the same word used when Lucifer destroyed his perfect wisdom and beauty by his rebellious mutiny in heaven. It is the same word used when the generation of Noah corrupted God’s way upon the earth by their great wickedness revealed in the imaginations and thoughts of their hearts.

Both Lucifer and the generation of Noah let the wicked images treasured in their hearts ruin and corrupt them. Idolatry arose like a mighty warrior from these evil images that they harbored in their hearts. They became spoiled like rotting fruit from their making of an image and exalting it above God.  Likewise, the children of Israel in their impatience and refusal to wait on God, embraced the image of the golden calf, causing the putridness of idolatry to fill their hearts.

How quickly they had forgotten God’s mighty acts and His glorious commands. They demanded Aaron rise up and make a physical representation of god, an image, a god with a face, like all the images of the gods they had seen in Egypt. They wanted an image they could see with their eyes and touch with their hands. They wanted to be the creator of their own gods. They chose to reject God for their new image which brought them temporary delight. They displayed far more enthusiasm for their golden calf then they ever did for the God of Abraham. Their hearts did not respect God or honor Him. No matter what God did, they were not thankful, but were stiff-necked and hardhearted, constantly complaining about everything. They lost their passion for God. They lost their desire for God. They lost their confidence in God. They refused to seek God with their whole hearts. These attitudes made the soils of their hearts fertile breeding ground for idolatry.

This was God’s own chosen people, the apple of His eye, His special covenant children, His holy nation, and His most beloved possession. Exodus 19:4 declares Israel was to be “a kingdom of priests” where every person had the priestly function of serving God by showcasing His magnificence to the world. They were to shine as the image of God’s glory and majesty to the world. When they obeyed God’s commands and walked before with a pure heart, the entire world marveled at the acts of God through them. God says in Isaiah 49:3 that He would display His splendor through His servant Israel.

How could Israel turn their backs on this great mission? How could they forsake such a privileged calling? How could they be so blind? How could they be so foolish? How could they be so deceived? Yet they chose to commit spiritual treason by declaring in their impatience that God was not good enough. They lusted after the gods of Egypt. They wanted a god that would indulge their flesh as they let loose their lustful passions. They had in a manner of days grown weary with God and wanted a replacement for Him.

Does this speak loudly to our generation? Have we grown tired of God? Do we believe God needs to be replaced for something better? Do we think God needs a makeover to fit in with our lives? Do we think God needs a new image? How quickly have we forgotten God’s love, mercy, grace and compassion? How often have we lost our thankfulness and failed to see God’s blessing? We have allowed our hearts to be full of complaining, bitterness and resentment? How often have we reveled in delight with our golden calf and forsaken God’s commandments and holy instructions? How easily the heart can be fooled into worshiping an image!

This message cannot be forgotten. There are hundreds of golden calves that capture the hearts of every generation. Our eyes, ears and thoughts are bombarded daily with images demanding our attention and asking for our hearts. The prince of the power of the air knows it is an inherent characteristic of our sin nature to lust after a golden calf. We must not spoil our commission as the lights of the world, the salt of earth and the preachers of the gospel by turning toward a golden calf. We make the choice of our heart’s devotion: God or a golden calf? Unfortunately, among God’s people throughout the ages, God has come in second in this election of the heart.

How Quickly God’s Leaders Can Fall into the Snare of Idolatry

Another valuable truth from this record is how easily God’s man, leader, priest and shepherd fell into the snare of idolatry. How could Aaron, that stood by Moses and witnessed firsthand some of the most amazing manifestations of the power of God, be so easily persuaded to fashion a false god for the children of Israel? How did the seduction of idolatry capture his heart so effortlessly after he heard the Ten Commandments spoken from the mouth of God? He told the people to bring him the rings of gold so he could fashion a golden calf. This was the leader of God’s people’s idea! Aaron devised the scheme of the golden calf! He took an engraving tool and labored with his own hands to make a god. He imagined what it should look like. He had an image in His mind, not of Yahweh, but of a golden calf, and he worked tirelessly to make a physical representation of his imagined god. Aaron even built an altar to the golden calf and cried out, “This is your Elohim, O Israel!” He delighted in the work of his hands and said, “This image I created delivered you and brought you out of the bondage of Egypt!”

These statements are mind-boggling. How could God’s chosen high priest utter such blasphemous words? Aaron knew who delivered the children of Israel from the slavery of Egypt. He saw the plagues that devastated Egypt that neither Pharaoh nor the gods of Egypt could stop. He saw the Red Sea part and the children of Israel walk through its midst while the powerful Egyptian army was completely destroyed. He saw the manna from heaven and water gush forth from a rock. He knew who have delivered Israel more than anyone. How could he give the name of God to an idol? How could he flagrantly break God’s commandments?

The pressure of his congregation caused Aaron to betray God in an unspeakable fashion. He encouraged them to make sacrifices and offerings to this false god. He ran with them on the treacherous path of idolatry. He watched as the people engaged in the most vile sexual practices and wild lusts all in the celebration of their newly fashioned god. Aaron could have stopped this debauchery in its tracks, but he chose not to do so. He exposed God’s people to grave danger and led them into great sin.

The great responsibility of every clergy, priest, pastor, prophet, and teacher is to lead the people to God and keep them from idols. Aaron failed this test miserably. Aaron even tried to justify his actions by mixing idolatry with the worship of the true God by proclaiming that “tomorrow will be a feast to the Lord!” This never works as God declares in Isaiah 42:8 “I am Yahweh, that is my name, I will not give my glory to another, nor my praise to a graven image.”

You can never serve two masters. You cannot truly worship God and worship your idols. You cannot justify your idols by giving God token praise so you feel better. Do you sit down and eat and drink from the Lord’s table on Sunday and rise up to play with your fleshly idols the rest of the week? You cannot have it both ways. Idolatry is never acceptable in the eyes of God no matter how you sugar coat it. God expects His leadership to take a bold stand against idolatry. The shepherds of God’s people can never let the ravenous wolves of idolatry enter through the gate, scattering and devouring the sheep.

So many times God’s leaders have allowed idolatry to remain in the church by dressing it up and surrounding it with the things of God, encouraging people to praise their golden calves and God at the same time. The tragic history of the church has illustrated that idolatry is often brought into the body of the church through its clergy. Idolatry has too often galloped into the church through the words and actions of its own ministers.

This was the great sin of the spiritual leadership that Aaron committed in the sight of all Israel. Moses told Aaron that he had introduced this sin of idolatry into the camp of Israel. He turned the people loose to indulge in it. Throughout the history of this battle between God’s kingdom and the devil’s, Satan has always made it a key strategy of war to go after God’s leaders and seduce them into the trap of idolatry. He has ruined many ministries, callings and churches by deceiving God’s leaders into replacing God with an image they have devised in their own wicked imaginations. O let us pray to God that every pastor in the pulpit never allows this to happen. God’s leadership needs to rise up again and shatter the idols, tear down the altars, and worship the Lord God only with all of their hearts. They must be vigilant watchman standing at the doors of their congregation, clothed in the full armor of God, wielding the sword of the Spirit, and refusing to allow one idol entrance.

Addicted to the Idols of Egypt

The golden calf also illustrates the children of Israel’s addiction to the idols of Egypt. Time and time again in the wilderness, they had the overwhelming desire to return to Egypt, the house of bondage, the land of slavery, and everything it represented. They tossed God aside like an old rag and “their hearts turned back to Egypt” (Acts 7:39). In their 400 years of captivity, they developed a love of Egyptian gods and had not completely let go of them. Their eyes feasted on the idols of Egypt and they treasured them with delight. God told them to cast them away from their hearts, but they stubbornly refused. Their heart cry is revealed in Jeremiah 2:25 when they said “It is no use! I love foreign gods, and I must go after them!”

Ezekiel describes their addiction to the idols of Egypt:

Ezekiel 20:7,8 (ESV):

And I said to them, Cast away the detestable things your eyes feast on, every one of you, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.

But they rebelled against me and were not willing to listen to me. None of them castaway the detestable things their eyes feasted on, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt.

Israel would not forsake the idols of Egypt and chose to keep them on the throne of their hearts. The Hebrew word for “forsake” means to depart from, to leave behind, to let alone, to desert and abandon. It was used when one let go a beast from its bonds, and when a slave was loosed and set free. They did not want to leave their idols behind.

God called Egypt the house of bondage for a reason. Israel was not only physical slaves of Egypt, but they were spiritual slaves held captive by the gods of Egypt. Joshua, who witnessed firsthand the golden calf incident, exhorted Israel to throw away the gods of Egypt that their fathers had served and worshipped during their captivity (Joshua 24).

In dramatic fashion God not only showed Pharaoh, but the children of Israel, by the ten plagues, that he was infinitely more powerful than any of the gods of Egypt. Each plague was specifically directed at one of the treasured Egyptian gods so there could be no doubt that Yahweh was the one and only true God and worthy of their trust, love and obedience. Yet they refused to be loosed from the spiritual slavery of their idolatry. They loved the idols of Egypt! Even as they left Egypt, they carried the idols of Egypt in their hearts. Now in the pressure of the wilderness, the true desires of their heart began to be revealed.

Mike Wilkerson in Redemption: Freed by Jesus from the Idols We Worship and the Wounds We Carry explains:

Despite all of God’s wooing, deliverance, provision and care for them, their hearts longed for what they left behind in Egypt…The deep allegiance of their hearts was to Egypt and its ways. We have already seen hints of this turning back to Egypt in the Israelites’ longing looks over their shoulder for security, food and water that began almost the day they left Egypt. But what they truly wanted was much more than food: they wanted to go home…The Israelites loved Egypt and its ways…Idolatry isn’t just about bad behavior; it’s about what you love…It whispers lies. “The idol takes care of you; God doesn’t. The idol gives you what you want, what you crave; it relieves your pain; it liberates you. Fight for your idol. Serve and defend it.” To believe those lies is to declare your allegiance to the Enemy. [ii]

The Israelites were more at home with the idols of Egypt than God Almighty. They craved to worship their gods again. The golden calf was one of their favorite idols and they delighted to make a physical representation of an Egyptian god they adored.

Allan Langer in The Golden Calf and Ra says:

Who was the god depicted as the Golden Calf? Was it not a god they had known and worshipped in Egypt? …In Ancient Egypt, the most important object of worship was the bull. Both gods and kings were called “bull” as a title. The bull was considered not only the abode of god but its active and objective manifestation. The people of Egypt saw heaven as an immense and friendly cow standing over them. The Apis bull of Memphis came to be associated with the solar deity Ra, the oldest as well as the father of all Egyptian gods. The worship of Ra was both ancient and universal…Ra was often thought to have been a golden calf, born in the morning from a heavenly cow, and growing into a bull by day…A calf as a young bull at the height of its vigor was associated with fertility. Amongst pagans, fertility rights were marked by untamed and unbridled revelry…It was not the Golden Calf as such, but Ra, who was being hailed as the one who brought them out of Egypt. For Ra was also a universal god. The God of Israel was being replaced by the pagan deity Ra. Moses, reared in the royal court of Egypt, was undoubtedly familiar with the worship of Ra. What he witnessed was not a celebration of God, but the affirmation of a pagan deity…In Exodus 32…two verses stand out as likely allusions to Ra. In verse 17 when Joshua heard the noise of the people…Joshua heard not simply noise but “b’raah” an affirmation of Ra. Another likely allusion to Ra can be discerned in Aaron’s response to Moses ‘Thou knowest the people are set (b’ra) on evil’ (v. 22). Here the reference could also be to Ra, and Aaron was saying to Moses: “Thou knowest the people are still set on Ra.” Israel may have left Egypt, but the worship of the chief Egyptian god Ra had still not left Israel.[iii]

Ra was worshipped in Egypt as the sun god, the father of all creation, and the king of the gods. The mighty Yahweh had obliterated this false god of light with the ninth plague of darkness over all of Egypt for three days. God also destroyed this golden calf image as having any power or authority with the fifth plague where the livestock of Egypt was destroyed. Yet the children of Israel were deceived and the counterfeit god of Ra still captured the hearts of God’s chosen. Even in the wilderness they still loved and treasured this worthless Egyptian god.

This golden calf idol became so rooted in the hearts of God’s people that even hundreds of years later, King Jeroboam fashioned two golden calves for the people to worship in Dan and Bethel.  Jeroboam cried out to the Israelites the same idolatrous words as Aaron: “Behold O Israel, your Elohim, that brought you out of Egypt!” As long as the northern kingdom of Israel lasted, the golden calf continued to be worshipped. This great sin of Jeroboam is mentioned twenty-one times in Scripture as a sober warning to the children of God that if they want to walk in the blessing of God, all golden calves must be eradicated from the heart.

Hosea 8:5, 6 (NLT):

“O Samaria, I reject this calf—this idol you have made. My fury burns against you. How long will you be incapable of innocence?

This calf you worship, O Israel, was crafted by your own hands! It is not God! Therefore, it must be smashed to bits.

These idols we worship are not God! This should be a wake-up call to our hearts. How could we bow to such worthless things? How could we give our heart to such foolishness?  How could we even think the idols of our heart as our Elohim, savior and deliverer? Have we forsaken the idols of our Egypt, the former things of the flesh that enslaved us, or do we continue to feast our eyes upon them as we desperately won’t let go? Why would we ever want to return to the things of the world and lusts of our flesh that once held us in bondage?

Are You Being Robbed by A Golden Calf?

Are our golden calves robbing us of intimate fellowship with God and sustained growth as a Christian? We should open our eyes and see the worthless nature of every idol that stands against God being exalted as the king of our hearts. It is time for all idols to be obliterated once and for all in the glorious power of Christ. We can no longer wallow in the darkness of idolatry.

Can’t we hear His gentle voice whispering “Arise my beloved and beautiful one, and put away all your idols and come away with me!” We would smash every idol, image and false god if we really knew how much God loves us. Not one idol would remain if we grasped one iota of His fathomless, everlasting love for us. The fire of God’s love melts every idol of the heart.

Listen to the invaluable words of truth of the Apostle Paul:

Acts 14:15 (NIV):

Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them.

Acts 17:29,30 (NIV):

Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man.

What Fault Do You Find in Me?

God continues to cry out to this generation “Why are you doing this?” His heart-felt plea is “I have singled you out, called you by name, and you don’t even know me! I am God, the one and only! Besides me there are no real gods. I have no rival gods. So turn to me and I will help you wherever you are. I promise I will deliver and rescue you from your house of bondage, your Egypt and set you free. I am the faithful one and I never take back what I say!”

In anguish God cries:  “What fault did you find in me that you strayed so far from me? My people have exchanged their glorious God for worthless idols!” (Jeremiah 2, NIV). Yet our hearts run after idols. We have been blinded to God’s burning love for us. Day after day we chase after the worthless, lifeless and valueless. We rebel against His love. We close our eyes to His goodness. God weeps over our wasted lives and how we freely give our hearts to other gods.

Men and women have formed thousands of images in their imaginations in a vain attempt to make a god that would compare to the living God who created the heavens and the earth. It cannot be done. It is utter foolishness. It is an exercise in futility and is highly destructive to the heart. Time and time again in the Bible we see God’s men tearing down the altars, obliterating the idols and destroying the high places of idolatry. God’s command concerning these worthless idols of the heart is always the same: “Smash them into pieces and get rid of every single remnant of these idols from your hearts!”

Deuteronomy 12:3 (NLT):

Break down their altars and smash their sacred pillars. Burn their Asherah poles and cut down their carved idols. Completely erase the names of their gods!

The Hebrew word for “smash” is one of the most destructive words in the Hebrew language. It means to break into pieces, to shatter, crush and destroy. In no uncertain terms, God is telling you to shatter every false god and image from every corner of your heart. Nothing must remain. It must never be rebuilt or put back together again.

Israel and Judah’s problem was they had a long history of rebuilding their smashed idols, which led to their oppression and destruction. It is too dangerous to leave even one piece of any idol in the temple of our hearts. Idols allow sin to reign in our bodies, thoughts, words, and actions. Idols of the heart cause us to be slaves to sin and under the power of this cruel taskmaster. Jesus Christ freed us from the captivity of every idol that has ever plagued our hearts as he crushed their power on the cross and in His resurrection. We must count them dead, and declare them powerless to enslave us again. We cannot allow any idol to remain as lord of our hearts. No idol has any claim to one inch of our hearts. We should never utter the name of any other god, but Yahweh.

Your heart cannot be the sacred home of any idol. You cannot let the seeds of even one idol remain in the soil of our heart. Every idol’s altar must be torn down and Jesus must be allowed to be Lord of everything in your life. Whatever we do in word, deed or thought can never be done in the name of another god. We do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving continual thanks to our Heavenly Father through Him.

Tim Rowe

Excerpt from “The Heart: The Key to Everything in the Christian Life”

[i] G. K. Beale, We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2008), 238,239.

[ii] Mike Wilkerson, Redemption: Freed by Jesus from the Idols We Worship and the Wounds We Carry (Wheaton: Crossway, 2011), 125,126.

[iii] Allan Langer, The Golden Calf and Ra (Jerusalem: Jewish Bible Quarterly, Vol. 31, No.1, 2003).

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