Because of Israel’s wickedness, the Lord gave them over to the Midianites who severely oppressed the Jews for seven years. When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon the idea of being a mighty warrior was the farthest thing from his mind. He and his people had been living in constant fear and poverty for years as the Midian army destroyed their crops and stole livestock. How could this angel call him brave and fearless when he was living like a scared animal? The angel was speaking God’s vision into Gideon…that the blessing of the Lord was upon him. And when the angel called Gideon a mighty warrior, he was declaring to Gideon what he was yet to become. So many times, God’s vision for us is so astonishing, we are stunned and flabbergasted by Him even suggesting we could do it. But remember, like Gideon, God’s blessing is with us, and He is speaking into us what has yet to take place.
When Jesus told this parable to the crowd, He was telling them things they already knew…mainly that if you lost a sheep, any respectable and determined shepherd would go out looking for it. That’s because sheep equaled money, and each lost or dead one acutely effected the shepherd’s bottom line. And no where else do we see this idea better explained than in the 23th Psalm. For David was himself a shepherd, caring for his father’s flocks, which may have led him to ponder the correlation between himself and his sheep and how he could trust the Lord, his heavenly Shepherd. In Biblical times shepherds were a scrappy bunch, but there was one thing about them you couldn’t deny…when a sheep wandered off, they were relentless in their search to bring it back safely to the flock. Jesus is just as determined…refusing to give up, for He tells us in Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”
Job’s three friends…and I use the term loosely…had all wrongly assumed that his painful suffering had been brought on by some grievous hidden sin Job had committed. Their discussions with Job centered around the premise that he had wandered from God…which was untrue, but they were very quick to point out the possibilities. We are much the same…we are quick to point out people’s sins, even if we don’t have all the facts. We pass judgment on those who are spiritually weak or have slipped into immorality without even thinking of the damage it’s doing. Let’s face it, we know when we’ve sinned, and we don’t need some self-righteous “friend” to show us the error of our ways. Rather, what we need is someone coming up to us in love and discretion putting a arm around our shoulder and pointing us back to Jesus.
After the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Jewish religious sect redirected their anger to His followers, the apostles. And why not, they were daily out in public preaching and teaching the Gospel Message to the crowds. So it’s no wonder they wanted them silenced. But it’s very curious what the angel told them to do. Rather than telling them to run and hide, the angel instructed them to go back into the Temple Courts, proclaiming the word of the Lord. But why? The apostles had just been miraculously freed by an angel…a faith-building experience for anyone going through it. For not only were they emboldened by the event, but bolstered with confidence that the Lord was truly with them.
The Prayer of Jabez is a well known passage in the Bible. But today I’d like to focus just on two areas. The first being, can you see how relevant this prayer is for today in the middle of a Pandemic? Jabez is asking the Lord to deal kindly with him, to keep His hand of protection on him, and to hinder sorrow, distress, and hardship from coming into his life. Jabez is also asking God that he could be free from physical and mental anguish and grief. Now you’d have to agree we all could use prayers like this. But look at the last sentence for the very best part of this prayer…”And God granted his request.” Jabez asked for a blessing and God gave it to him….and He will do the same for you!
The Law can never make us right with God…just as any man-made religious ceremony, ritual, or rite will ever have the ability to make us pure before Him. The forgiveness of our sins can only be atoned for by the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ…making a way to mend our broken relationship with God the Father.
Today with high-definition Ultra Sounds, what was once a mystery is now very clear…you can see what your unborn baby looks like. But on the other hand, even with High Tech Doppler Radar, Meteorologists are often at a loss to effectively track and/or forecast tornadoes. When Jesus tried to explain to Nicodemus the concept of being “Born Again”, He used the wind as an example of the incapability of the human mind to understand. “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.” (John 3:8) So it is with Heavenly things…mysteries far above our understanding that we must accept at face value and place our trust in.
Adam and Eve were instructed by God to not eat from two trees in the Garden of Eden…the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and the tree of life. We all know how the story goes and how they were deceived by the serpent and kicked out of the garden. For in Genesis 3:22 we hear God saying, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” But in this verse in Revelation we see the mention of that same tree…the tree of life…but in a completely different context. For here we are invited to eat from the tree of life and live forever. We are given the right to partake from the tree of life and have eternal life.
Any Believer can be lead astray…any Follower of Jesus can find themselves deceived. And it’s our responsibility as the Body of Christ to bring them back into relationship with the Lord. It’s called restoration…but too often our response is anything but restorative. We gossip, point fingers, and shun rather than putting our arms around them…loving them back into the Kingdom.
The gist of this verse is so simple…if you’re in trouble, pray. So why is it so hard? Why is prayer the last thing we resort to rather than the first thing we think of? In Psalm 50:15 the Lord exhorts us to, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor Me.” All our lives are full of trouble…suffering, hardship, loss, and pain…but our lives should also be full of asking the Lord for His grace, mercy, and deliverance.