Gabriel Visits Mary (Luke 1:26-55)

As we read this portion of Luke chapter 1 today, think about Zechariah’s reply as it compares to Mary the mother of Jesus. We will see her response in vs 34.

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,
27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary.
28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”

The angel Gabriel plays a big role in this chapter as this is his second appearance in chapter 1. The first occurrence was with Zechariah when he came into the temple and announced the coming birth of John the Baptist to Zechariah’s wife Elizabeth. Gabriel comes straight from the throne of God Almighty Himself as we see in verse 26: “the angel Gabriel was sent from God”, but also in how Gabriel responds to Mary in vs 19: “And the angel answered him, ‘I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.'”

We find Mary’s response to Gabriel to be much different than Zechariah’s reply. Mary’s initial reaction seems to be fear and she was also troubled or confused. Wouldn’t any of us be confused if an angel appeared out of nowhere? Check it out:

29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.
30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.
32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,
33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

Mary asks “How will this be?” in verse 34. Compare that to Zechariah’s reply of doubt. He asks “how can I be sure what you’re saying is true?” back in verse 18: “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”

As further evidence that Mary’s answer was of faith and Zechariah’s was one of doubt, we saw that at Gabriel’s word Zechariah was left mute. He couldn’t speak until after John was born. I love Gabriel’s reply of assurance to Mary in verse 37 below.

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.
36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.
37 For nothing will be impossible with God.”
38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

“For nothing will be impossible with God.”
As believers, we tend to doubt God don’t we? We wonder if He can really do a medical miracle of healing, or we doubt that God can create the universe in 6 days. Why do you think we doubt God? I believe it’s because He doesn’t always do what we want Him to do. When we don’t see Him perform what we ask, then we doubt that He can.

But we know that’s not the way God works. God doesn’t give us every single thing we ask for. If He did, He would be doing no better than the parent that spoils their child. If we believe that God knows all, then we can believe that he knows what is best for us. We can also know for absolutely certain that He can do anything.

Jesus says so Himself:
But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
~ Matthew 19:26

And the prophet Jeremiah tells us the same:
‘Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.
~ Jeremiah 32:17

Mary had faith and Zechariah doubted. In this one chapter, Luke provides us this great contrast that we can all learn from. God shows us throughout His word that He is able to do absolutely anything. God saved Daniel and his friends because they had faith that He could. Victory was given to Gideon as He trusted God. Every time we have a challenge, we can choose to believe or we can choose not to believe. Faith is a choice we make every day. Even when we have doubt in our hearts, we can still choose to believe. I love the story of faith in the Gospel of Mark when the loving dad brings His boy to Jesus seeking healing and deliverance from a demon:

17 And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute.
18 And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.”
19 And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.”
20 And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth.
21 And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood.
22 And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”
23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.”
24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
25 And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”
26 And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.”
27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.
~ Mark 9:17-27

The father’s reply to Jesus is one I have quoted back to God many, many times. “I believe, help my unbelief!” God loves it when we affirm that we believe but still ask for help from God to get rid of any doubts. Imagine how different this story would be if Zechariah’s reply to God from Gabriel’s message had been “I believe, help my unbelief”. When we ask God for help dispelling our unbelief, we are affirming that we believe He can do it!

At the end of Gabriel’s visit to Mary, she responds in complete faith that He can do it, and in total trust that God’s will is best:
“Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

Wow, what faith this young girl had! She affirms that she is God’s servant, and then confirms that she wants God’s will over her own. God knew what He was doing to choose a young woman of incredible faith to raise Him up in complete faith that he is the Son of God.

Now, to tie this all back together with Zechariah, Elizabeth, and the birth of John the Baptist:

39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah,
40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.
41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit,
42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!
43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.
45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

Elizabeth affirms that Mary is in fact carrying the Messiah. She knows this only by God’s Holy Spirit and speaks it out in complete faith.

Again, in total faith, Mary responds in praise and worship to God Almighty:

46 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

(Lord, I do believe that you can do anything through me to reach this world for Jesus. Please help my own unbelief. I am your servant. Do with me and through me whatever you choose.)

By Myself, I’m Not Good Enough – Job 42

Job has been through an incredibly difficult time of pain and suffering with no answer from The Lord. (See our previous posts on what Job suffered as they are linked below)

Then God answers Job “out of the whirlwind” and says:

    “Who is this who darkens counsel By words without knowledge? Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me.” ~ Job 38:2-3

The Lord puts Job in his place and shows him all through ch. 38-41 just how awesome and powerful He as God truly is, and how powerless and foolish Job is to think he is “good enough”.

“When Job’s hope had vanished, God came in the power and strength of a tornado. Seated on an ash heap, scraping his sores and lamenting his loss, Job repeatedly called out for God’s justice. He sought his day in court to argue his innocence before God. With great self-righteous confidence he cried out in protest to the Lord:

    ‘Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. Even so, I will defend my own ways before Him. Oh, that I knew where I might find Him, that I might come to His seat! I would present my case before Him, and fill my mouth with arguments. I would know the words which He would answer me, and understand what He would say to me. Would He contend with me in His great power? No! But He would take note of me. There the upright could reason with Him, and I would be delivered forever from my Judge’
    ~ Job 13:15-24; 23:3-7

In his last recorded speech before seeing the Lord he cried out:

    ‘Oh, that I had one to hear me! Here is my mark. Oh, that the Almighty would answer me, that my Prosecutor had written a book! Surely I would carry it on my shoulder, and bind it on me like a crown; I would declare to Him the number of my steps; like a prince I would approach Him.’
    ~Job 31:35-37″

{from Donald Smith}

Job had been sure that he was absolutely innocent. He was certain he could make his case before God and convince The Lord that he had done no wrong. Today, there are so many people that feel like all they need to do to get to heaven is to do more good things than they do bad things.

Now in chapter 42 we see Job respond in confession and repentance:

    Then Job answered the LORD and said:
    “I know that You can do everything, And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.
    You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
    Listen, please, and let me speak; You said, ‘I will question you, and you shall answer Me.’
    “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You.
    Therefore I abhor myself, And repent in dust and ashes.”
    And so it was, after the LORD had spoken these words to Job, that the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.
    Now therefore, take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams, go to My servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and My servant Job shall pray for you. For I will accept him, lest I deal with you according to your folly; because you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.”
    ~ Job 42:1-8

Notice that in all of these chapters and even though Job made some wrong assumptions about his own innocence, God still thinks of Job as a “blameless” man. Job consistently proclaimed God’s power and glory all through the book of Job.

“Job was ‘blameless.’ This does not mean Job was sinless, but blameless. There is a huge difference. Sin is vertical, blameless is horizontal. . . . as Job lived before the watchful eye of his peers, no one could justly charge Job with moral failure. His reputation was impeccable.”
(Lawson as quoted by David Guzik)

“Job is not considered to be perfect or sinless. All the speakers in the book, including Job himself, are convinced that men are sinful. Job’s first recorded act is to offer sacrifices for sin. This is not the point. It is possible for sinful men to be genuinely good.” (Andersen as quoted by David Guzik)

    So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did as the LORD commanded them; for the LORD had accepted Job.
    And the LORD restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.
    ~ Job 42:9-10

Not only did The Lord restore Job, but “LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before”. God restores Job financially, He returns to Job his friends, and He even gives Job more children. Does this mean that if God loves me a whole lot, he’ll make me rich? Of course not. Does it mean that if God allows me to go through an incredibly difficult time, He will pile material blessings and lots of friends and family on me – twice what I had? Nope. What this tells us is that God cares about each of us deeply. He created us in His image, therefore we are so very special to Him. There is no other part of God’s creation that He considers more important than people.

He cares so much, that He sent Jesus to die in our place. Did God send a horse to die in the place of other sinful horses? No. Did God send a tree to die in the place of other trees, so trees could one day be in heaven with Him for eternity? Of course not. God loves us because we are that unique part of His creation who were created in a bodily form similar in appearance to God.

Therefore, God loves:

Every. Single. Person.

    So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. ~ Genesis 1:27

    For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb.
    I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.
    My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
    Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them.
    How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them!
    ~ Psalm 139:13-17

In Jeremiah 1 God says “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” God knew you before you were even born. He crafted you together, like a sculptor uses clay, into the person you are today. He loves you and me and wants us to spend eternity with Him in heaven.

    Since you were precious in My sight, You have been honored, And I have loved you…
    ~ Isaiah 43:4

    But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.
    ~ Romans 5:8-9

Notice also that God has Job pray for his friends who were in sin. We are called to pray for one another. Job’s prayer was for their sins to be forgiven, and we know that God answers the prayers of those that love Him.

    Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. ~ James 5:16

    Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.
    ~ 1 Timothy 2:1-3

The Lord loves to answer our prayers! This shows He loves us, and He reveals His own glory and power when He responds. He doesn’t always answer the way we want him to answer. But He always responds knowing what we truly need.

    Then they cry out to the LORD in their trouble, And He brings them out of their distresses.
    He calms the storm, So that its waves are still.
    Then they are glad because they are quiet; So He guides them to their desired haven.
    Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men!
    Let them exalt Him also in the assembly of the people, And praise Him in the company of the elders.
    ~ Psalm 107:28-32

Even Job admits that God’s will can be hidden from him, but that God does what He does for Job’s benefit.

    Look, I go forward, but He is not there, And backward, but I cannot perceive Him;
    When He works on the left hand, I cannot behold Him; When He turns to the right hand, I cannot see Him.
    But He knows the way that I take; When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.
    My foot has held fast to His steps; I have kept His way and not turned aside.
    I have not departed from the commandment of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth More than my necessary food.
    But He is unique, and who can make Him change? And whatever His soul desires, that He does.
    For He performs what is appointed for me, And many such things are with Him.
    ~ Job 23:8-14

Job’s Restoration

    Then all his brothers, all his sisters, and all those who had been his acquaintances before, came to him and ate food with him in his house; and they consoled him and comforted him for all the adversity that the LORD had brought upon him. Each one gave him a piece of silver and each a ring of gold.
    Now the LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; for he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, one thousand yoke of oxen, and one thousand female donkeys.
    He also had seven sons and three daughters.
    And he called the name of the first Jemimah, the name of the second Keziah, and the name of the third Keren-Happuch.
    In all the land were found no women so beautiful as the daughters of Job; and their father gave them an inheritance among their brothers.
    After this Job lived one hundred and forty years, and saw his children and grandchildren for four generations.
    So Job died, old and full of days.
    ~ Job 42:11-17

Our pastor was teaching in Exodus 17 this week about the Hebrews wandering in the wilderness. They were led by God to a place where there was no drinkable water.

    Then all the congregation of the children of Israel set out on their journey from the Wilderness of Sin, according to the commandment of the LORD, and camped in Rephidim; but there was no water for the people to drink.
    Therefore the people contended with Moses, and said, “Give us water, that we may drink.” So Moses said to them, “Why do you contend with me? Why do you tempt the LORD?”
    And the people thirsted there for water, and the people complained against Moses, and said, “Why is it you have brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”
    ~ Exodus 17:1-3

The people were led to this place in the wilderness by God. They were not simply wandering about with no leadership. God intentionally brought them to this place of thirst just like God brought Job to a place where he was crying out to God. They whined and complained and wished to go back to Egypt and slavery! But God wanted them here. It was in the wilderness with no water that they thirsted. Job was thirsting for a response from God. You and I often do the same.

That’s where God wants us. He leads us to a place where we thirst for Him – we thirst for a Savior, we hunger for someone to rescue us. God loves us so much! And He wants us in a place where we need Him. He will reply. He will rescue you. Call out to Jesus when you are in that place.

Look at this story of Peter and Jesus:

    But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary.
    Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea.
    And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear.
    But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.”
    And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”
    So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus.
    But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!”
    And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
    And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.
    ~ Matthew 14:24-32

Peter asked Jesus to call him out of the boat. Jesus does so, and then Peter cries out in fear “Lord save me!” By ourselves, we are not good enough to get to heaven. Only by faith in Christ can we be good enough. Jesus saves. We can believe on Him that He can save us and He will save us.

Previous Posts on Job:

Why Does God Allow he Righteous to Suffer?

Looking Through a Glass Darkly – Job 19

The LORD Speaks to Job out of the Whirlwind – Job 38-41

Looking Through a Glass Darkly – Job 19

As we saw last week, we all suffer in thus earthly life, and it seems that Job was getting the worst of it. Last week we discussed why God allows the righteous and the wrong to suffer https://sundayschoolbiblestudy.wordpress.com/2014/05/10/why-does-god-allow-the-righteous-to-suffer .

But here in Job 19, our poor friend Job still hasn’t learned that lesson. We can see the lesson now because we have the entire Bible that offers a complete perspective, but suffering Job didn’t have the Bible. As a matter of fact, did you know Job is the earliest-written book in the Bible? (Obviously the book of Genesis gives the creation account so it retells the oldest period in history, but it was written by Moses who lived after Job.)

Then Job answered and said:
“How long will you torment my soul, And break me in pieces with words?
These ten times you have reproached me; You are not ashamed that you have wronged me.
And if indeed I have erred, My error remains with me.
If indeed you exalt yourselves against me, And plead my disgrace against me,
~ Job 19:1-5

Job is incredible pain here, with suffering in his own body and flesh, but he is also suffering miles down deep in his very soul. He is in absolute torture and misery – complete distress.

There are so many verses in God ‘s Word that can help us through suffering.

The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit.
~ Psalm 34:18

He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds.
~ Psalm 147:3

My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
~ Psalm 73:26 (Job could have found comfort in this one!)

Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’
~ Isaiah 41:10

“God never allows pain without a purpose in the lives of His children. He never allows Satan, nor circumstances, nor any ill-intending person to afflict us unless He uses that affliction for our good. God never wastes pain. He always causes it to work together for our ultimate good, the good of conforming us more to the likeness of His Son”. ~ Jerry Bridges

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
~ Romans 8:28-29

We have a great example in Exodus with Moses and the young Hebrew nation. They had just come out of persecution in Egypt, God had just recently delivered them across the Red Sea. The Lord was providing for them at every turn because He is faithful!

So Moses brought Israel from the Red Sea; then they went out into the Wilderness of Shur. And they went three days in the wilderness and found no water.
Now when they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter. Therefore the name of it was called Marah.
And the people complained against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?”
So he cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a tree. When he cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet. There He made a statute and an ordinance for them, and there He tested them.
Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve wells of water and seventy palm trees; so they camped there by the waters.
~ Exodus 15:22-25, 27

It’s important to remember that God led the Israelites to this place of bitter water. It was exactly where he wanted them to be. Why? He was teaching them. Has God ever led you and I on a path that took us to harsh and bitter place? Of course he has. It’s exactly where he wanted you. Why? To teach you.

So what healed the bitterness for Israel? A tree – “the LORD showed him a tree. When he cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet.”

What can heal us? A tree!

Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”),
that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. ~ Galatians 3:13-14

Jesus hung on a tree, or a wooden cross made from a tree, so that we can be healed of our bitter state – our sin.

God then leads the Hebrew nation to a place of abundant blessings with 12 springs of water and 70 palm trees. If you’ve accepted Jesus death on the cross as payment for your sin, your place of abundant blessings awaits you. Take comfort in that today. Even in the pain of this life, God is bringing you to a place comfort, relief, and blessing!

Our account of Job continues:

Know then that God has wronged me, And has surrounded me with His net.
“If I cry out concerning wrong, I am not heard. If I cry aloud, there is no justice.
He has fenced up my way, so that I cannot pass; And He has set darkness in my paths.
He has stripped me of my glory, And taken the crown from my head.
He breaks me down on every side, And I am gone; My hope He has uprooted like a tree.
He has also kindled His wrath against me, And He counts me as one of His enemies.
His troops come together And build up their road against me; They encamp all around my tent.
~ Job 19:6-12

Job is responding to the accusations and the pain and the suffering like many of us would. He’s saying “I’ve done nothing wrong! Why God?? Why is the happening to me??” He’s crying out to God. He is voicing his pain.

However, Job says some things that show that he misunderstands God doesn’t he?

Job:
“If I cry out concerning wrong, I am not heard.”

Reality Check:
“In my distress I called upon the LORD, And cried out to my God; He heard my voice from His temple, And my cry came before Him, even to His ears.”
~ Psalm 18:6

The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears, And delivers them out of all their troubles.
~ Psalm 34:17

And the LORD said: “I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows.
~ Exodus 3:7

Job:
“He has fenced up my way, so that I cannot pass; And He has set darkness in my paths.”

Reality Check:
Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
~ John 8:12

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
~ Psalm 119:105

This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
~ 1 John 1:5

Job:
“He has stripped me of my glory, And taken the crown from my head.
He breaks me down on every side, And I am gone; My hope He has uprooted like a tree.”

Reality Check:
My soul, wait silently for God alone, 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.
Trust in Him at all times, you people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.
~ Psalm 62:5-8

Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
~ 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Often in our anguish, we call out to God in our sense of hopelessness. But we need to remember that we are crying out to a God who is our hope! While we look at our present circumstances, God is looking at our future glory! While we see utter despair all around us, He sees beautiful blessing in our future!

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
~ 1 Corinthians 13:12 KJV

Have you ever tried to look through a brown glass bottle? It’s actually pretty difficult to see what is on the other side. You can catch glimpses of what is behind the bottle, but you certainly can’t see through it clearly. That’s how we see eternity. “For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” We can spot little bits and patches of how God might be stitching things together to work in our lives. But we cannot possibly see the entire quilt that covers us with His warmth, protection, loving grace and mercy until we get to heaven and God allows us to see it all.

I love the way this verse creates a word-picture that I can understand! Life is like that brown glass bottle. We can only barely see through it while God has the big picture view in mind.

There is not much that hurts more than being in incredible pain and at the same time feeling abandoned by everyone. That’s what Job describes next.

He has removed my brothers far from me, And my acquaintances are completely estranged from me.
My relatives have failed, And my close friends have forgotten me.
Those who dwell in my house, and my maidservants, Count me as a stranger; I am an alien in their sight.
I call my servant, but he gives no answer; I beg him with my mouth.
My breath is offensive to my wife, And I am repulsive to the children of my own body.
Even young children despise me; I arise, and they speak against me.
All my close friends abhor me, And those whom I love have turned against me.
My bone clings to my skin and to my flesh, And I have escaped by the skin of my teeth.
~ Job 19:13-20

Perhaps you’ve been in a terribly painful place. If that is in your past, know that it is history, it is part of who you are, and the God of the universe has brought you through it. He allowed it to happen for a reason, or for many reasons. Perhaps he allowed the painful junk to occur to make you into someone He can use in the lives of others. He certainly allowed you to be changed through it didn’t He? You are not the same person you were before that heartache.

When it feels like everyone has abandoned you, and perhaps it feels like even God has abandoned you, know that He did not. If you are still here, reading this, it’s because God has great plans for you!

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.
And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.
I will be found by you, says the LORD, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the LORD, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive.
~ Jeremiah 29:11-14

Remember, God does have a plan for you – (“I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope”).

He has a beautiful future for you! In order to grab hold of that hope and that future, you have to grab hold of Jesus! “Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”

He is there, just waiting to be found by you.  Call out to Him!

What is His response when we call out to Him to find Him?

“I will be found by you, says the LORD, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the LORD, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive.”

Don’t rely on the world to save you, the world cannot save you from your pain or your distress.  Don’t rely on your friends, your relatives, or yourself. There is only One who can save.

The LORD your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.
~ Zephaniah 3:17

In the end, Job realizes that his friends cannot save him. There is only One who can.

Have pity on me, have pity on me, O you my friends, For the hand of God has struck me!
Why do you persecute me as God does, And are not satisfied with my flesh?
Oh, that my words were written! Oh, that they were inscribed in a book!
That they were engraved on a rock With an iron pen and lead, forever!
For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth;
And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God,
Whom I shall see for myself, And my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!
If you should say, ‘How shall we persecute him?’—Since the root of the matter is found in me,
Be afraid of the sword for yourselves; For wrath brings the punishment of the sword, That you may know there is a judgment.
~ Job 19:21-29

Job knows that he is looking through a glass darkly. He cannot see the big picture of his life. But He also says he knows “that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth”. Job recognizes that God is on the throne and in control!

In the end, if you are a Christian, you will see God and He will show you the huge quilt that He stitched together, creating a masterpiece of your life.

“And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God,
Whom I shall see for myself, And my eyes shall behold, and not another.” Job 19:26-27

There is so much hope!

Lastly, how does God want us to respond to someone in distress?

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
~ Proverbs 17:17

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
~ John 13:34-35

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
~ 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

 

It’s Resurrection Sunday – Hallelujah, He is Risen!

This Sunday is Easter Sunday, the day Jesus was raised from the dead three days after being killed as a criminal, also in fulfillment of the prophecies about Him. I love the account we read from Luke chapter 24.

Last week we talked about Palm Sunday. Jesus came riding into Jerusalem humbly, on a young colt, not as the victorious King the Jews expected. Yet they praised and worshipped Him in fulfillment of the prophecies.

    1 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared.
    2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb,
    3 but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.
    4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel.
    5 And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?
    6 He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee,
    7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”
    8 And they remembered his words,
    9 and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.

Jesus knew what was coming for Him, He even told the Apostles about it ahead of time.

    And he strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” ~ Luke 9:21-22

    “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.” ~ Luke 9:44

These angels are here to remind the disciples of Jesus’ words and to testify that it had happened just as Jesus said it would. If you are a believer in Jesus, you also have that testimony!

The New Testament teaches that God sent the Holy Spirit to glorify Jesus as the Son of God. Jesus said, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth…. He will glorify me” (John 16:13). The Holy Spirit …. opens our eyes to see the self-authenticating glory of Christ in the narrative of his life and death and resurrection. He enables us to see Jesus as he really was, so that he is irresistibly true and beautiful. The apostle stated the problem of our blindness and the solution like this: “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God…. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4, 6). ~ Pastor John Piper

Even King David believed and foretold Jesus’ resurrection, and the Apostle Paul saw Jesus after His resurrection, he believed, and then he spoke in his testimony about it:

    22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—
    23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.
    24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.
    29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.
    30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne,
    31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption.
    32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.
    ~ Acts 2:22-24, 29-32

Others will also testify of His resurrection

    10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles,
    11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.
    12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.
    13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem,
    14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened.
    15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them.
    16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.
    17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad.
    18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
    19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people,
    20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him.
    21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened.
    22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning,
    23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive.
    24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”
    25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!
    26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”
    27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
    28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther,
    29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them.
    30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them.
    31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight.

These disciples don’t recognize Jesus at first. Though they’ve been told that He has been raised from the dead, somehow they can’t see the miracle of Him standing right in front of them! Luke tells us “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself”. The whole of the Bible points us to Jesus as the Savior of the world. Here we see that Jesus is able to show them the Old Testament scriptures that point to Him. Yet, even as He is doing so, they are still unable to see the risen Savior. It reminds me of how the Holy Spirit works in the lives of those around us, and yet they can’t recognize Him. He is doing miracles in their lives, for their good and His glory. Yet they don’t seem to see or understand that it is God working.

Suddenly, we see a transformation that happens when “their eyes were opened, and they recognized him”! What a beautiful thing it is when that happens today! It brings joy to my heart when a unbeliever is beautifully transformed as the light of Christ dawns on their dark heart, and they choose to believe on Jesus to be saved. Or a believer that has strayed far from God has suddenly had his or her eyes opened to see and remember of who Christ is. These disciples remind us that God does these miracles, He opens minds and hearts to reveal Himself.

As we read the Bible, learn the Scriptures, and testify of what God has done in our lives, God uses what we’ve learned and our testimony to reveal Himself to others around us.

    32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”
    33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together,
    34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!”
    35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.
    36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!”
    37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit.
    38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?

Sometimes the work of God can be frightening or startling. That’s our human flesh, our doubt, our lack of faith. That is simply human. Jesus responds to their fear with “why?”

God has done miracle after miracle after miracle after miracle in my life. I have no reason to fear. I’m still afraid.

I’m afraid of the future. I’m afraid of the unknown. I’m afraid for my family. I’m afraid of evil. I’m afraid of crime. I’m afraid of my bank account. I’m afraid of what others think. I’m afraid I’m dumb, boring, ignorant, pompous, self-righteous, angry, abrasive, and sinful.

Yet Jesus assures me. He shows me how powerful He is just as He assures the discipes.

    39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”
    40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.

He shows us in the Bible that He has risen from the dead. We have many eyewitness accounts of His resurrection. Why should I be afraid? I have a Savior God that does miraculous and wonderful things!

Jesus Eats with the Disciples

    41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?”
    42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish,
    43 and he took it and ate before them.
    44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”
    45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,
    46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead,
    47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
    48 You are witnesses of these things.
    49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Here we see Jesus remind them with His words that He was to suffer, die, and rise again “that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations”. He explains the Scriptures to them and in doing so, “he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures”. As we read God’s word, the Bible, God does the same for us. It’s important to read and study both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Both of them point to God’s eternal plan for us and they point to Jesus Christ. If we read only one of the other, we don’t see the whole picture that God has given us. Jesus gives us that example, right here in Luke 24 and also throughout the New Testament, as He uses the Old Testament in His teaching.

    50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them.
    51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven.
    52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy,
    53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.
    ~ Luke 24:1-53

The Gospel of Luke begins it’s story in the Temple in Luke 1, and Luke also ends his gospel account in the Temple here in Chapter 24. Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s Temple. God shows us again and again throughout His Word that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah – and the fulfillment of God’s eternal plan.

    18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?”
    19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
    20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?”
    21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body.
    22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
    John 2:18-22

The temple was designed by specifications given from God early in the Old Testament. God uses His entire Word to testify of Himself. We have that testimony as well! We can be witnesses, just as the disciples were, of a risen Savior.

Hallelujah, He is risen! He is risen indeed!

The Lamb of God Who Takes Away the Sins of the World

Last week we discussed how Jesus is our Passover Lamb.

This week we want to take some time to look at the many way God shows us that Jesus is the Passover Lamb. He is the Lamb of God that was offered as a sacrifice for our sins. Much of the below was taken from Matthew Henry’s commentary on Exodus 12:1-20. Matthew Henry’s words are in italics:

(For a primer on the verses from Exodus 12 click here.)

The (Passover) lamb was typical (or a ‘picture’) of Jesus

Christ is our passover

Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.
~ 1 Corinthians 5:7

Christ is the Lamb of God

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
John 1:29

Often in the Revelation he is called the Lamb.

All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.
Rev 13:18

The Lamb was to be in its prime; Christ offered up himself in the midst of his days, not when a babe at Bethlehem. It was to be without blemish; the Lord Jesus was a Lamb without spot: the judge who condemned Christ declared him innocent.

Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats. Exodus 12:5

It was to be set apart four days before, (from vs 3 and verse 6 – the 10th and 14th of the month) denoting the marking out of the Lord Jesus to be a Savior, both in the purpose and in the promise. (Jesus was “preferred” or chosen and set apart).

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! “This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ ~ John 1:29-30

It was to be slain, and roasted with fire, (vs 6 and 8) denoting the painful sufferings of the Lord Jesus, even unto death, the death of the cross. The wrath of God is as fire, and Christ was made a curse for us.

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. ~ John 3:36

Not a bone of it must be broken, which was fulfilled in Christ, denoting the unbroken strength of the Lord Jesus.

But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs.
~ John 19:33

The sprinkling of the blood was typical (or a ‘picture’) of Jesus

The blood of the lamb must be sprinkled, denoting the applying of the merits of Christ’s death to our souls; we must receive that atonement.

For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
~ Romans 5:10-11

Faith is the bunch of hyssop, by which we apply the promises, and the benefits of the blood of Christ laid up in them, to ourselves.

These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
~ 1 Peter 1:7

It was to be sprinkled on the door-posts, denoting the open profession we are to make of faith in Christ.

Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. ~ Matthew 10:32

It was not to be sprinkled upon the threshold; which cautions us to take heed of trampling under foot the blood of the covenant. It is precious blood, and must be precious to us.

Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?
~ Hebrews 10:29

The blood, thus sprinkled, was a means of preserving the Israelites from the destroying angel, who had nothing to do where the blood was. The blood of Christ is the believer’s protection from the wrath of God, the curse of the law, and the damnation of hell.

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. ~ Romans 8:1

The solemn eating of the lamb was typical (or a ‘picture’) of our gospel duty to Christ

The passover lamb was not to be looked upon only, but to be fed upon. So we must by faith make Christ our own; and we must receive spiritual strength and nourishment from him, as from our food.

Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed.”
~ John 6:53-55

It was all to be eaten; those who by faith feed upon Christ, must feed upon a whole Christ; they must take Christ and his yoke, Christ and his cross, as well as Christ and his crown.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
Matthew 16:24-26

It was to be eaten at once, not put by till morning. To-day Christ is offered, and is to be accepted while it is called to-day, before we sleep the sleep of death.

For He says: “In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
~ 2 Corinthians 6:2

It was to be eaten with bitter herbs, in remembrance of the bitterness of their bondage in Egypt; we must feed upon Christ with sorrow and brokenness of heart, in remembrance of sin. Christ will be sweet to us, if sin be bitter.

Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of The Lord.
~ Acts 3:19

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. ~ 1 John 1:9

It was to be eaten standing, with their staves in their hands, as being ready to depart. When we feed upon Christ by faith, we must forsake the rule and the dominion of sin; sit loose to the world, and every thing in it; forsake all for Christ, and reckon it no bad bargain.

The Hebrews were called to be ready to leave everything behind them. This world offers nothing for us that we can take into eternity.

Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come. ~ Hebrews 13:12-14

The feast of unleavened bread was typical (or a ‘picture’) of the Christian life

Having received Christ Jesus the Lord, we must continually delight ourselves in Christ Jesus. No manner of work must be done, that is, no care admitted and indulged, which does not agree with, or would lessen this holy joy. The Jews were very strict as to the passover, so that no leaven should be found in their houses. It must be a feast kept in charity, without the leaven of malice; and in sincerity, without the leaven of hypocrisy. It was by an ordinance for ever; so long as we live we must continue feeding upon Christ, rejoicing in him always, with thankful mention of the great things he has done for us.

Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. ~ 1 Corinthians 5:7-8

Jesus – He truly is our Passover Lamb.

See also “No Roof Over Your Head” for a great blog on how God covers us.

Simple Basics about God and the Bible

The Bible itself was not written by men, it was written by God through men

    All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
    ~ 2 Timothy 3:16-17

    “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
    ~ 2 Peter 1:20-21

The various Bible writers lived at different times, some separated by hundreds of years. In many cases they were complete strangers to one another. Some were businessmen or traders, others were shepherds, fishermen, soldiers, physicians, preachers, kings-human beings from all walks of life. They served under different governments, and lived within contrasting cultures and systems of philosophy. But here is the wonder of it all: When the 66 books of the Bible with their 1,189 chapters made up of 31,173 verses are brought together (KJV), we find perfect harmony in the message they convey.
(From http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/questions/who-wrote-it )

“Thus says the Lord” occurs 418 times in the NASB, 413 in the KJV; and “God said” occurs 46 times in both the NASB and the KJV. (From http://carm.org/bible-inspired )

God was not created nor born, and God will live forever
God tells us that He exists “from everlasting to everlasting” meaning eternally in the past and eternally in the future, He has existed and will always exist. Think of a timeline with no ends in either direction.

    Before the mountains were brought forth, Or ever You had formed the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. ~ Psalm 90:2

    I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty. ~ Revelation 1:8

In the beginning no one else existed – except that God was God in three parts: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit
We know that God the Father/Creator and God the Holy Spirt both existed at the time of creation based on what we read in Genesis.

    In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. ~ Genesis 1:1-2

We also know that Jesus Christ, also called the “Word of God”, was with God at the time of creation

    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
    He was in the beginning with God.
    All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.
    In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.
    ~ John 1:1-4

And here we see that God created everything that exists, including angels and demons (demons were originally created as angels before their fall)

    For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.
    And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. ~ Colossians 1:16-17

Angels were created by God as servants of Him for a variety of jobs
Some are assigned the special job of being God’s messengers, some are protectors, some serve Him in His heavenly courts, others as warriors, some are used in judgment, and Michael as an Archangel is a protector and defender of Israel.

As a messenger and as a protector:

    Behold, I send an Angel before you to keep you in the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared.
    Beware of Him and obey His voice; do not provoke Him, for He will not pardon your transgressions; for My name is in Him.
    But if you indeed obey His voice and do all that I speak, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.
    For My Angel will go before you and bring you in to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites and the Hivites and the Jebusites; and I will cut them off. ~ Exodus 23:20-23

As agents of God’s judgment:

    So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
    ~ Matthew 13:49-50

    And the angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings. ~ Luke 1:19

As warriors, particularly Michael the Archangel:

    And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought. ~ Revelation 12:7

    But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia.
    ~ Daniel 10:13

God needed no tools or help when He created the world
He is so almighty and powerful, He simply spoke it into existence.

    Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.
    Then God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.”
    Then God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so.
    Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth”; and it was so.
    ~ Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, 11

    By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.
    He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap; He lays up the deep in storehouses.
    Let all the earth fear the LORD; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.
    For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.
    ~ Psalm 33:6-9

There are other Bible verses that say God created the earth in six days besides those in Genesis 1
(Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day. ~ Genesis 1:31)

    Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
    Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates.
    For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
    ~ Exodus 20:8-11

Jesus even confirms that what Moses wrote in Exodus (above) is true:

    For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me.
    But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?
    ~ John 5:46-47

God specially created each and every one of us
He created us in His image, and that makes us unique and special among all of His creation.

    Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
    So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. ~ Genesis 1:26-27

    But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’
    ~ Mark 10:6

    For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb.
    I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.
    My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. ~ Psalm 139:13-15

God is Omnipotent, Omnipresent, and Omniscient
“Is God omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient? In answering such questions, we should always begin with another question: ‘What does the Bible teach on these matters?’ If our beliefs are not rooted in God’s inspired word, they are not beliefs worth having!” ~ Wallace Smith

Omnipotent – God is all-powerful

    And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!
    ~ Revelation 19:6

Omnipresent – God is everywhere

    Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?
    If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
    If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
    Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me.
    ~ Psalm 139:7-10

Omniscient – God knows everything

    Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, But the night shines as the day; The darkness and the light are both alike to You.
    ~Psalm 139:12

    Would not God search this out? For He knows the secrets of the heart.
    ~ Psalm 44:21

The world and everything in it
My money, my car, my house, City Hall, the White House, the city of Spokane, the state of Washington, my wife, my kids, my mom and my dad, the sun, the moon, the stars, and me – everything belongs to God. Why? He made it all.

    A Psalm of David. The earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell therein.
    For He has founded it upon the seas, And established it upon the waters.
    ~ Psalm 24:1-2

    Indeed heaven and the highest heavens belong to the LORD your God, also the earth with all that is in it.
    ~ Deuteronomy 10:14

    Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, The power and the glory, The victory and the majesty; For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, And You are exalted as head over all.
    ~ 1 Chronicles 29:11

God made the earth beautiful so that it could glorify Him, and also because He loves us

    Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; Praise Him in the heights!
    Praise Him, all His angels; Praise Him, all His hosts!
    Praise Him, sun and moon; Praise Him, all you stars of light!
    Praise Him, you heavens of heavens, And you waters above the heavens!
    Let them praise the name of the LORD, For He commanded and they were created.
    ~ Psalm 148:1-5

    For you shall go out with joy, And be led out with peace; The mountains and the hills Shall break forth into singing before you, And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. ~ Isaiah 55:12

“…Turn to Genesis 2 and see what we can see. The first thing to notice is that the beauty and goodness and lavishness of creation is God’s idea. The trees are described as pleasant to the sight and good for food. Then God says, ‘You may eat from every tree, except that one.’ One ‘No’ in a world full of yes. Beautiful trees, tasty fruit, a party in your mouth—and it’s all for you, with divine endorsement.”
(From http://www.hopeingod.org/sermon/why-god-created-world )

God’s “rules”
God creates rules and laws for our benefit, our good, our protection, and for His glory.

    Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, The Holy One of Israel: “I am the LORD your God, Who teaches you to profit, Who leads you by the way you should go.
    Oh, that you had heeded My commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, And your righteousness like the waves of the sea.
    ~ Isaiah 48:17-18

None of us can follow the rules and laws perfectly. Therefore, we have what the Bible calls sin which leads to eternal death (or separation from God).

We cannot be saved from eternal death by following the rules, rather only by faith in Jesus Christ.

    For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
    For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
    ~ Ephesians 2:8-10

    And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
    So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” ~ Acts 16:30-31

Have you been saved by Jesus? God made it so easy! Simply talk to God and tell Him you believe in Jesus, and ask Him to save you.

Also take a look at From Useless Things to Mercies and Manna

Apostle Paul Before Felix – (Acts 24)

In chapter 23 we left Paul in a Caesarean jail after having committed no crime.

    Then Paul took the men, and the next day, having been purified with them, entered the temple to announce the expiration of the days of purification, at which time an offering should be made for each one of them. Now when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews from Asia, seeing him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him, crying out, “Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against the people, the law, and this place; and furthermore he also brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.” (For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.) And all the city was disturbed; and the people ran together, seized Paul, and dragged him out of the temple; and immediately the doors were shut. ~Acts 21:26-30

Paul had done nothing to stir up the crowd, in fact he was minding his own business. Yet here we see the Jews so determined to convict Paul that they bring in the high priest Ananias, the elders, and a lawyer named Tertullus. And they gather these together in five short days to present their case to Felix the Governor, as we’ll see.

The Jews Present Their Case

    Ch. 24, Vs 1-4 Now after five days Ananias the high priest came down with the elders and a certain orator named Tertullus. These gave evidence to the governor against Paul. And when he was called upon, Tertullus began his accusation, saying: “Seeing that through you we enjoy great peace, and prosperity is being brought to this nation by your foresight, we accept it always and in all places, most noble Felix, with all thankfulness. Nevertheless, not to be tedious to you any further, I beg you to hear, by your courtesy, a few words from us.”

Immediately, Tertullus (the lawyer) begins by heavily flattering Governor Felix. He really lays it on thick, hoping to sweet talk a conviction out of him against Paul.

“We enjoy great peace” – In fact, under Felix, they did not enjoy peace and Felix was pulled from office in A.D. 60 because he hadn’t dealt well with a dispute between Jews and Gentiles right here in Caesarea.

“Prosperity is being brought to this nation by your foresight” – “In reality he [Felix] had put down several insurrections with such barbarous brutality that he earned for himself the horror, not the thanks, of the Jewish population.” (Stott)

He goes on to say that Felix is “most noble” and that the Jews “accept it always and in all places… with all thankfulness”. – In fact “Tacitus, the Roman historian, describes Felix as ‘a master of cruelty and lust who exercised the powers of a king with the spirit of a slave’ (Historiae 5.9, cited in Longnecker)” from David Guzik.

The point here is that all our lives, people will try to convince us to do one thing or another with flattery.

    For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple. ~ Romans 16:18

    These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage. ~ Jude 1:16

Sometimes these folks have good intentions, other times they do not. It’s not always obvious to us if they have the best intent, or if they intend for evil. While only The Lord knows their heart, we can guard against flattery by remaining humble, testing their words against what the Bible says, and guarding our own heart!

    Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. ~1 John 4:1

    Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. ~James 4:10

    But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts. For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness—God is witness. ~1 Thessalonians 2:4-5

Tertullus continues to present his case:

    Vs 5-9 “For we have found this man a plague, a creator of dissension among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. He even tried to profane the temple, and we seized him, and wanted to judge him according to our law. But the commander Lysias came by and with great violence took him out of our hands, commanding his accusers to come to you. By examining him yourself you may ascertain all these things of which we accuse him.” And the Jews also assented, maintaining that these things were so.

Tertullus accuses Paul of creating trouble among the Jews and profaning the temple (by allowing a Gentile -Trophimus- to enter with him.)

Paul Defends Himself Cheerfully!
Vs 10-14 Then Paul, after the governor had nodded to him to speak, answered: “Inasmuch as I know that you have been for many years a judge of this nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for myself, because you may ascertain that it is no more than twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem to worship. And they neither found me in the temple disputing with anyone nor inciting the crowd, either in the synagogues or in the city. Nor can they prove the things of which they now accuse me. But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets.

Notice a few things about Paul’s defense:

1) Paul responds “cheerfully”! Paul knows he did nothing wrong, and he knows that he has the Creator of the universe on his side.

    But let the righteous be glad; Let them rejoice before God; Yes, let them rejoice exceedingly. ~Psalm 68:3

(Paul has been made “righteous” by faith in Jesus so he can be joyful and glad in this situation.)

    The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? The LORD is for me among those who help me; Therefore I shall see my desire on those who hate me. It is better to trust in the LORD Than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the LORD Than to put confidence in princes. ~Psalm 118:6-9

(With God on Paul’s side, Felix can only do what God allows.)

    Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ ~Isaiah 41:10

(When God is with us, we are told not to fear. I love that! I needed that today.)

2) Paul doesn’t try to flatter Governor Felix at all. If he did flatter Felix, wouldn’t this seem to reveal a lack of faith? As if God can’t work on Felix’s heart with facts alone, but He needs Paul to massage the message with pretty words. No, Paul is simply laying out his defense by telling the facts.

3) Paul is not ashamed or afraid to admit that he worships God “according to the Way”. Tertullus had accused Paul of being “a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes” (the “sect” being called The Way). We’ve discussed “The Way” before, it’s simply the name given at that time for Christianity (or those who follow the Gospel). The word “gospel” means “good news”, and Paul was not afraid to tell the good news that Jesus came and died for all of us, and that those who believe in Him can have eternal life.

    For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.
    ~Romans 1:16

    And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” ~Acts 16:30-31

The Saved and the Unsaved Will Both Be Resurrected

    Vs 15-21 “I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust. This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men. Now after many years I came to bring alms and offerings to my nation, in the midst of which some Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with a mob nor with tumult. They ought to have been here before you to object if they had anything against me. Or else let those who are here themselves say if they found any wrongdoing in me while I stood before the council, unless it is for this one statement which I cried out, standing among them, ‘Concerning the resurrection of the dead I am being judged by you this day.’ ”

Paul reminds them that there will be a “resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust”. This means that both will rise from the dead: those who are just -“justified by Christ”- will be resurrected to eternal life, and the unsaved, or “unjust” will be resurrected to eternal death.

“There shall be a resurrection of the dead, the dead bodies of men, of all men from the beginning to the end of time. It is certain, not only that the soul does not die with the body, but that the body itself shall live again; we have not only another life to live when our present life is at an end, but there is to be another world, which shall commence when this world is at an end, into which all the children of men must enter at once by a resurrection from the dead, as they entered into this, one after another, by their birth. It shall be a resurrection both of the just and of the unjust, the sanctified and the unsanctified, of those that did well, and to them our Saviour has told us that it will be a resurrection of life; and of those that did evil, and to them that it will be a resurrection of condemnation….The just shall rise by virtue of their union with Christ as their head; the unjust shall rise by virtue of Christ’s dominion over them as their Judge.”
~Matthew Henry

This is supported in both the Old and the New Testaments:

    And come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. ~John 5:29

    And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt. ~Daniel 12:2

No Decision Is, In Fact, A Decision

    Vs 22-27 But when Felix heard these things, having more accurate knowledge of the Way, he adjourned the proceedings and said, “When Lysias the commander comes down, I will make a decision on your case.” So he commanded the centurion to keep Paul and to let him have liberty, and told him not to forbid any of his friends to provide for or visit him.

    And after some days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, “Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you.” Meanwhile he also hoped that money would be given him by Paul, that he might release him. Therefore he sent for him more often and conversed with him. But after two years Porcius Festus succeeded Felix; and Felix, wanting to do the Jews a favor, left Paul bound.

Here we actually see Felix postpone two decisions and thereby in effect, he makes two choices:

The first choice he makes is when Governor Felix postpones a decision on Paul’s fate hoping that he can let him go when Paul offers him a bribe. By doing so, Felix decides to leave Paul in prison for two years.

Felix’s second choice was to avoid a decision to accept the free gift of salvation, mercy, and grace offered through Jesus’ death and resurrection. The Scripture tells us “Felix was afraid”. That is often the case with folks that can’t decide – they are afraid. What was Felix afraid of? Fear of commitment, fear of what God may ask, fear of losing his old lifestyle (debauchery), fear of loss of social status among his friends, or fear of losing his financial status? We don’t know. But fear held him back.

From Guzik: “Many respond to the gospel in this way; they express their rejection through delay, by procrastinating their decision to commit to Jesus Christ – but it is rejection none the less.

    For He says: “In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
    ~2 Corinthians 6:2

Now is the time. Now is the day. Make up your mind.

Other great resources:

Making the LORD His Own

WE Need to Be Reminded

Apostle Paul in Jerusalem (Acts 21-22)

We last left Paul in Acts 20 departing Ephesus by ship. Paul had been feeling called by the Holy Spirit to make it to Jerusalem in time for the day of Pentecost.

    “And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me.” ~Acts 20:22-23

Acts 21:1-25 tell us about Paul’s trip, some discouraging words from his followers, his arrival in Jerusalem and his visit with James, the church leadership, and believers there.
As an example of Paul’s willingness to become all things to all people, he agrees to go to the temple to purify himself and take four men with him who were also under a vow. Verse 24 tells us they suggested he “be purified with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads.”

Paul even talks about this in his first letter to the Corinthians:

    For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you. ~1 Corinthians 9:19-23

Should we feel sorry for Paul?

    Vs 26-30 Then Paul took the men, and the next day, having been purified with them, entered the temple to announce the expiration of the days of purification, at which time an offering should be made for each one of them. Now when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews from Asia, seeing him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him, crying out, “Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against the people, the law, and this place; and furthermore he also brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.” (For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.) And all the city was disturbed; and the people ran together, seized Paul, and dragged him out of the temple; and immediately the doors were shut.

Paul’s own prophecy that he will be jailed and persecuted is about to come true. The believers surrounding Paul had, on several occasions, discouraged him from going to Jerusalem. Isn’t it interesting how they believed his prophecy that he would be persecuted, yet they didn’t believe his calling from the Holy Spirit to go!

The believers around Paul had finally come to the point of acceptance:

    So when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, “The will of the Lord be done.”
    ~Acts 21:14

We feel sorry for Paul or for any suffering believer, and we feel prompted by the Holy Spirit working on hearts to help. God wants us to feel compassion and to do compassionate things when we see suffering! So I don’t fault the believers around Paul for being concerned. Look at the situation of Pastor Saeed Abedini in this blog from his wife. He has been kept in an Iranian prison for 15 months now, and the prayers of the church all over the globe are being lifted up to heaven asking God for his release. But like Paul in his suffering, God is using Pastor Saeed in prison to spread the Gospel!

We don’t always understand God’s will. But we know that God is good – all the time.

“We must believe, and shall find reason to do so, that Paul in the prison… is as truly glorifying God, and serving Christ’s interest, as Paul in the pulpit was.” ~Matthew Henry

So while God wants us to have compassionate hearts, to act compassionately toward others, and to show them the love of Jesus; God also asks us to trust Him. He is doing His good work even in times of terrible persecution.

Follow Jesus’ Example

    31-36 Now as they were seeking to kill him, news came to the commander of the garrison that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. He immediately took soldiers and centurions, and ran down to them. And when they saw the commander and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. Then the commander came near and took him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains; and he asked who he was and what he had done. And some among the multitude cried one thing and some another. So when he could not ascertain the truth because of the tumult, he commanded him to be taken into the barracks. When he reached the stairs, he had to be carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the mob. For the multitude of the people followed after, crying out, “Away with him!”

Once again we see Paul’s teaching turn into a riot among the Jews. I love how David Guzik compares Paul’s life to Jesus’ life, and then to our own lives:

Similarities between Jesus and Paul as shown in Acts 20 and 21:
a. Like Jesus, Paul traveled to Jerusalem with a group of disciples.
b. Like Jesus, Paul had opposition from hostile Jews who plotted against his life.
c. Like Jesus, Paul made or received three successive predictions of his coming sufferings in Jerusalem, including being handed over to the Gentiles.
d. Like Jesus, Paul had followers who tried to discourage him from going to Jerusalem and the fate that awaited him there.
e. Like Jesus, Paul declared his readiness to lay down his life.
f. Like Jesus, he was determined to complete his ministry and not be deflected from it.
g. Like Jesus, Paul expressed his abandonment to the will of God.
h. Like Jesus, Paul came to Jerusalem to give something.
i. Like Jesus, Paul was unjustly arrested on the basis of a false accusation.
j. Like Jesus, Paul alone is arrested, but none of the other followers of Jesus.
k. Like Jesus, Paul heard the mob crying out, Away with him!
l. Like Jesus, the Roman officer handling Paul’s case did not know his true identity.
m. Like Jesus, Paul was associated with terrorists by Roman officials.
n. In a way unique to most of us, Paul really did know the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death (Philippians 3:10).

Paul’s particular call and ministry make these similarities especially striking, but we are called to follow after Jesus also. We shouldn’t be surprised when events in our lives are like events in Jesus’ life. There may be a time of temptation in the wilderness, a time when people come to us with needs only God can meet, a time when we seem at the mercy of a storm, a time when we must cry out to God as in the Garden of Gesthemane, a time when we must simply lay down our lives, and trust God will gloriously raise us up. We, like Paul, are predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29).
(Taken from David Guzik: Study Guide for Acts 21)

Paul has a Heart of Boldness and Compassion!

    Vs 37-40 Then as Paul was about to be led into the barracks, he said to the commander, “May I speak to you?” He replied, “Can you speak Greek? Are you not the Egyptian who some time ago stirred up a rebellion and led the four thousand assassins out into the wilderness?” But Paul said, “I am a Jew from Tarsus, in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city; and I implore you, permit me to speak to the people.” So when he had given him permission, Paul stood on the stairs and motioned with his hand to the people. And when there was a great silence, he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, saying,

The boldness that Paul demonstrates to us all throughout his ministry makes me smile! What an incredible testimony to each of us to read this brief conversation. It brings such encouragement to my weak and simple soul to see Paul turn to this Roman commander and, with all courtesy and respect (“May I speak to you?”) he asks if he can address the crowd.

The other encouragement we see here is Paul’s incredible heart of compassion for those that want him killed. He feels so led the love of God toward this unbelieving crowd that he wants to take a few minutes to share his testimony with them!

    Chapter 22
    Vs 1-22 “Brethren and fathers, hear my defense before you now.” And when they heard that he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, they kept all the more silent. Then he said:

    “I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers’ law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women, as also the high priest bears me witness, and all the council of the elders, from whom I also received letters to the brethren, and went to Damascus to bring in chains even those who were there to Jerusalem to be punished.

    “Now it happened, as I journeyed and came near Damascus at about noon, suddenly a great light from heaven shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ So I answered, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ “And those who were with me indeed saw the light and were afraid, but they did not hear the voice of Him who spoke to me. So I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Arise and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all things which are appointed for you to do.’ And since I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of those who were with me, I came into Damascus.

    “Then a certain Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good testimony with all the Jews who dwelt there, came to me; and he stood and said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that same hour I looked up at him. Then he said, ‘The God of our fathers has chosen you that you should know His will, and see the Just One, and hear the voice of His mouth. For you will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’

    “Now it happened, when I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, that I was in a trance and saw Him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, for they will not receive your testimony concerning Me.’ So I said, ‘Lord, they know that in every synagogue I imprisoned and beat those who believe on You. And when the blood of Your martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by consenting to his death, and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.’ Then He said to me, ‘Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles.’ ”

Paul gives them the gospel truth here. He explains to the crowd how he was a sinner like them. His example was how he persecuted and murdered believers. The depth of his sin hit him like a ton of bricks when Jesus came to visit him on the road to Damascus. The he was led by the hand, like a small child, to someone who could explain to him our simple need to call on the name of the Lord to be saved, repent, and be baptized.

Jesus is our hope!
Paul is hoping and trusting in Jesus that He will reach their hearts and change them with the Gospel. Notice that Paul never misses an opportunity when he has a crowd to share the Good News of salvation!

    For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. ~ Jeremiah 29:11

    Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began. ~ Titus 1:1-2

    So that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. ~ Titus 3:7

    Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. ~ 1 Peter 1:3

God promised us the hope of Christ from ages ago! I love that God planned ahead for my salvation from the beginning of time.

    Vs 22-30 And they listened to him until this word, and then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he is not fit to live!” Then, as they cried out and tore off their clothes and threw dust into the air, the commander ordered him to be brought into the barracks, and said that he should be examined under scourging, so that he might know why they shouted so against him. And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said to the centurion who stood by, “Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman, and uncondemned?” When the centurion heard that, he went and told the commander, saying, “Take care what you do, for this man is a Roman.” Then the commander came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman?” He said, “Yes.” The commander answered, “With a large sum I obtained this citizenship.” And Paul said, “But I was born a citizen.” Then immediately those who were about to examine him withdrew from him; and the commander was also afraid after he found out that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him. The next day, because he wanted to know for certain why he was accused by the Jews, he released him from his bonds, and commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear, and brought Paul down and set him before them.

God-Given Gifts
Even though Paul knows he is called to be persecuted and he even senses that he may be executed, he doesn’t mind using his Roman citizenship to buy a little time and perhaps even a reprieve. There is nothing wrong with using the gifts that God gave us as long as we are surrendering them to His perfect will. Paul knows that as a Roman, he has certain rights they can’t violate.

God has granted each of us certain gifts in our lives. Some Christians are wealthy, some are movie actors, some are musicians, some are great dancers, others may be wonderful writers. God puts us where He wants us. He works in us and through us when we allow Him to. That’s exactly what Paul was doing here. It was an honorable thing to be a Roman citizen in this period, and Romans had rights that others did not. Paul claims those Roman rights that God gave him and because he does, God uses him to preach the Gospel again in chapter 23. What gifts has given given me that I can use for Him? What gifts has he given to you?

    Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. ~James 1:17

Also check out Questioning Without Doubt

Is There an Unknown God? Acts 17

Have you ever wondered if there really is one God in heaven?

And if there is how can we know Him, truly know Him? The folks in Athens of Paul’s day wondered the same thing (as we’ll see shortly.)

Last week we left off with Paul and Silas leaving Philippi, and now we see them traveling to Thessalonica in Acts 17.

    Vs 1-3 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ.”

The Jews had been waiting for years for their promised Messiah. They didn’t understand or believe that their savior would have to suffer and die before setting up His kingdom. A King like David – that’s what they were looking for. Paul took his time with them, loving them enough to spend three Sabbaths with them. He explained to them the Scriptures that point to a suffering Jesus as the Savior because we are separated from God by our own sin.

    But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear. ~Isaiah 59:2

No doubt Paul also told them the same thing he told the Romans when he wrote to them:

    For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. ~ Romans 3:23

For our sin, we needed the perfect sacrifice:

    Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;
    Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
    Smitten by God, and afflicted.
    But He was wounded for our transgressions,
    He was bruised for our iniquities;
    The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
    And by His stripes we are healed.
    ~ Isaiah 53:4-5

As Paul preaches to them week after week, many begin to understand and believe, while others get jealous and start trouble.

    Vs 4-9 And some of them were persuaded; and a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women, joined Paul and Silas. But the Jews who were not persuaded, becoming envious, took some of the evil men from the marketplace, and gathering a mob, set all the city in an uproar and attacked the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some brethren to the rulers of the city, crying out, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too. Jason has harbored them, and these are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king—Jesus.”
    And they troubled the crowd and the rulers of the city when they heard these things. So when they had taken security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.

Over and over and over

This same situation is one that the Apostles seem to encounter over and over and over in his ministry. (See Acts chapters 9, 12, 13, 14, and 16 so far in our study.) He preaches and many come to salvation in Jesus while others get upset and stir up a mob to kick them out of town. In this case, they actually grab the poor guy that had been letting them stay at his house (Jason) and force him to pay a bail or ransom.

I love the phrase they used to describe the Apostles! Oh that we would be described the same as “these who have turned the world upside down”!

How does God want us to turn the world upside down?

Can we change the world? No, but God can change the world using us!

Let’s look at a couple of world-changers:

Hudson Taylor
Born in 1832 in England, Hudson Taylor changed the way foreign missions reached the lost. “Between his work ethic and his absolute trust in God (despite never soliciting funds, his China Inland Mission grew and prospered), he inspired thousands to forsake the comforts of the West to bring the Christian message to the vast and unknown interior of China. Though mission work in China was interrupted by the communist takeover in 1949, the CIM continues to this day under the name Overseas Missionary Fellowship (International).” Taken from Hudson Taylor

D.L. (Dwight) Moody
Born in 1837 in Massachusetts, DL Moody “was revolutionary in his evangelistic approach.” He evangelized “throughout America, often preaching in major cities and at various universities. His heart was for his schools, and he spent much of his time in Northfield (MA). Moody was a visionary who always seemed a step ahead of the status quo. From training women, to reaching out to lost children, to bridging the gap between denominations, he was unlike any other. D.L. Moody effectively changed the way evangelical ministry is done and his “vision for the mission movement grew as it spread around the world to Europe and South Africa.” Taken from D.L. Moody Story

Paul and Silas in Berea

    Vs 10-15 Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men.

    But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was preached by Paul at Berea, they came there also and stirred up the crowds. Then immediately the brethren sent Paul away, to go to the sea; but both Silas and Timothy remained there.
    So those who conducted Paul brought him to Athens; and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him with all speed, they departed.

In spite of the constant persecution the Apostles faced, God’s Word continues to impact and change lives. The Thessalonicans “received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily” such that “many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men”. God makes us able to do His work. His Holy Spirit works in us when we allow Him to, and in us He does incredible things in the lives of people!

    But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
    ~2 Timothy 2:20-22

Are we a vessel of gold and silver, or a vessel of wood and clay? If we allow God to clean out the junk of sin in our life and we accept the free gift of salvation from Jesus, He will do His work in our lives. Flee away from the temptations of life and pursue Christ! “Pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”

Paul’s Sermon in Athens

    Vs 16-34 Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols. Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there. Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, “What does this babbler want to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods,” because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak? For you are bringing some strange things to our ears. Therefore we want to know what these things mean.”
    For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing.

    Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’

    “Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”

    And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, “We will hear you again on this matter.” So Paul departed from among them. However, some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.

The Athenians and Greeks believed in lots and lots of gods. Many cultures still do today. Paul explains to them that there is only one true God, and he wasn’t built by a sculptor or an artisan like their gods.

What does the verse say about God?

    “He is Lord of heaven and earth”, and “does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings.”

So God is Lord of all, He can’t be contained by anything, He can’t be built or duplicated by an artist, He gives life to every breathing thing, He created all mankind from one man (Adam), and He determines when we live, where we live, and when we die.

The only way we can know Him is through Jesus, the Deliverer sent by the one God that cares about you and about me.

Also take a look at:

Cultural Elites | The Next Unreached People Group

and

We Are Able

Paul is Called on His First Missionary Journey (Acts 13)

We left off in the last lesson with Barnabas, Saul, and John Mark (who wrote the Gospel of Mark) going from Jerusalem to Antioch of Syria. (Notice we’ll see another city named Antioch that they travel to in this chapter. There were actually 16 different cities named Antioch in the New Testament world. All were named by King Seleucus of Syria for his father Antiochus.)

    Vs 1-2 Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

Is your calling different than your job?

What was King David’s job? He was a shepherd before he was called to be king.

    And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all the young men here?” Then he said, “There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him. For we will not sit down till he comes here.” So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking. And the LORD said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!” ~1 Samuel 16:11-12

What was Jesus’ job? He was a carpenter until he was called to preach to the Jews and die for all mankind.

    And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing Him were astonished, saying, “Where did this Man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands! “Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?” So they were offended at Him.
    ~Mark 6:2-3

Notice that a job pays the bills, and it may be what God has called you to do to serve him and to give him glory with your life. But a calling is not necessarily the same thing as a job. David was a shepherd. He was called by God to leave that job and become a king. Jesus was a carpenter just like His earthly father Joseph. However, when He was 30 years old, Jesus was called from carpentry (His job) to preach and teach for 3 years before sacrificing His life for mankind.

So what was Paul’s job? He was a tentmaker.

    After these things Paul departed from Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla (because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome); and he came to them. So, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and worked; for by occupation they were tentmakers. ~Acts 18:1-3

Even after he was called to preach, Paul kept making tents once in a while to pay the bills. Currently I work in the real estate industry. My job pays the bills and takes care of my family, both things that God wants me to do. But I am also called to teach Sunday School at church. I love teaching kids about Jesus, I’m passionate about it. I feel called by God in that.

    Vs 3-12 Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. And when they arrived in Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. They also had John as their assistant. Now when they had gone through the island to Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew whose name was Bar-Jesus, who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man. This man called for Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. But Elymas the sorcerer (for so his name is translated) withstood them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. Then Saul, who also is called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, “O full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord? And now, indeed, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you shall be blind, not seeing the sun for a time.” And immediately a dark mist fell on him, and he went around seeking someone to lead him by the hand. Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had been done, being astonished at the teaching of the Lord.

Two more callings

Here we see two more callings:
First we see as the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, “called for Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God.” God called Barnabas and Saul by the Holy Spirit working in Sergius Paulus to come preach to him. Many times God uses other people in our lives to reveal His calling. Sometimes they are simply affirming the call, other times those folks are being used as a tool by God to say “come”.

Second, we see the Holy Spirit calling on Sergius Paulus to come to repentance in Jesus. “Then the proconsul believed….being astonished at the teaching of the Lord.” Jesus is calling each of us to repentance, mercy, and grace in Him. Sergius Paulus heard the call of God in his life, the tug of Jesus on his heart, and he believed. He came to find salvation that day!

    The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. ~2 Peter 3:9

    For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance. ~Matthew 9:13b

    So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” ~Acts 16:31

Repentance and belief in Jesus’ death & resurrection for us (and therefore salvation) is a calling from God for every one of us.

Preaching in Antioch

    Vs 13-15 Now when Paul and his party set sail from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia; and John, departing from them, returned to Jerusalem. But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and sat down. And after the reading of the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent to them, saying, “Men and brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.”

Here we see Paul, Barnabas, and John Mark arrive in Antioch of Pisidia (a different Antioch than the previous city – this one being in Galatia or modern day Turkey). The rulers of this synagogue have asked Paul and Barnabas to teach them.

    16-25 Then Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said, “Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen: “The God of this people Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an uplifted arm He brought them out of it. Now for a time of about forty years He put up with their ways in the wilderness. And when He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He distributed their land to them by allotment. After that He gave them judges for about four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet. And afterward they asked for a king; so God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. And when He had removed him, He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.’ From this man’s seed, according to the promise, God raised up for Israel a Savior—Jesus—after John had first preached, before His coming, the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. And as John was finishing his course, he said, ‘Who do you think I am? I am not He. But behold, there comes One after me, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to loose.’

Paul begins his sermon by recounting the history of the Jewish people. This would have been a history they all knew. God has woven together His Word to constantly remind us of how He works in us, through us, and for us. He’s doing that right here with the Jews. Paul is reminding them of what a great and awesome God they serve.

    All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
    ~2 Timothy 3:16-17

    For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. ~Romans 15:4

Paul is also reminding them that a Savior was prophesied, the Savior is Jesus, and John the Baptist pointed the way to Christ as Savior.

    The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God. ~John 1:29, 34

John humbly points to Jesus as Savior rather than allowing people to look to Him. There’s a lesson for us all! Paul is doing this here as well.

    Vs 26-37 Men and brethren, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to you the word of this salvation has been sent. For those who dwell in Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they did not know Him, nor even the voices of the Prophets which are read every Sabbath, have fulfilled them in condemning Him. And though they found no cause for death in Him, they asked Pilate that He should be put to death. Now when they had fulfilled all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the tree and laid Him in a tomb. But God raised Him from the dead.

    He was seen for many days by those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are His witnesses to the people. And we declare to you glad tidings—that promise which was made to the fathers. God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.’

    And that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, He has spoken thus: ‘I will give you the sure mercies of David.’ Therefore He also says in another Psalm: ‘You will not allow Your Holy One to see corruption.’ For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and saw corruption; but He whom God raised up saw no corruption.

Again, Paul is reinforcing the truth that Jesus was sent to them as a Savior: “to you the word of this salvation has been sent” (vs 26). Also that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Promise of God: “that promise which was made to the fathers”.

    Vs 38-41 Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses. Beware therefore, lest what has been spoken in the prophets come upon you: “Behold, you despisers, Marvel and perish! For I work a work in your days, a work which you will by no means believe, though one were to declare it to you.”

The prophets also prophesied that the Jews would not believe and many in fact had not. Paul is giving them a warning here from Habakkuk 1:5.

Rejection by the Jews and the Gentiles believe

    Vs 42-51 So when the Jews went out of the synagogue, the Gentiles begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath. Now when the congregation had broken up, many of the Jews and devout proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God. On the next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy; and contradicting and blaspheming, they opposed the things spoken by Paul.

    Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have set you as a light to the Gentiles, That you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ”

    Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was being spread throughout all the region. But the Jews stirred up the devout and prominent women and the chief men of the city, raised up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. But they shook off the dust from their feet against them, and came to Iconium.

Paul’s earlier warning was that the Jews watch out for they might fulfill the prophecy of Jewish rejection of Jesus. Here we see them do just that! In fact, Jesus was even rejected as Savior while He was still in His earthly ministry:

    Then He went out from there and came to His own country, and His disciples followed Him. And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing Him were astonished, saying, “Where did this Man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands! “Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?” So they were offended at Him.

    But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house.” Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He marveled because of their unbelief. Then He went about the villages in a circuit, teaching. ~Mark 6:1-6

In fulfillment of the words of the prophet Habakkuk, among God’s chosen people to whom the Promise was given, He was not accepted as the Savior.

    Vs 52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

When we are fulfilling God’s call in our lives, we are “filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit”. There is so much joy and fulfillment in following God’s call, nothing else can compare to it!

    Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ. ~Philippians 3:8

Related Resources:

The Messenger of the Covenant

and

Effectual Calling, a great sermon by Charles Spurgeon