Friday, April 5, 2024

Keeping our Eyes on Jesus

One of the events in the Scriptures in fulfilling the Messianic prophecies in Number 21:8-9 stated:

And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” 9So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.” ESV

After some time of travelling, Israel became impatient, grumbled, and even called God’s blessing of manna “worthless food.” God took offence at their sinful attitudes and sent fiery serpents as judgment. After seeing the fiery serpents and experiencing the consequences of their actions, they sought Moses and his intervention on their behalf to the Lord.  Moses intervened and sought the Lord for healing. Then God told Moses what to do:

And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live. 9So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.”

Allowing sinful attitudes of grumbling and discontent is not without its consequences, but with humility, God responded with healing. Here’s what happened:

God didn’t remove the snakes, but He provided the cure. But the remedy was not automatically effective for everyone. Each person had to believe God’s promise and look at the uplifted snake if he or she wanted to live. But when a person looked, he was healed instantly. There were no delays. He didn’t need to accumulate enough good works to merit healing. The instant he looked; he was miraculously healed.”[1]

In the Scriptures, two specific events showed the pattern of God in providing healing:

·       Moses used a bitter stick to sweeten bitter waters. (Exodus 15:25)

·       Elisha used salt to purify the harmful water. (II Kings chapter 2)

These Biblical accounts demonstrated that God is ultimately in control over everything. Moreover, He can bring beneficence or destruction to the world by employing any of the creatures he created.

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Moving forward, Jesus saw it as a picture of His redemptive act at the Cross of Calvary. Jesus declared, “Just as Moses lifted the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him” (John 3:14–15 ESV). The bronze serpent lifted in the wilderness became a foreshadowing of fulfilling the plan of God for the salvation of humanity, i.e., Jesus crucified
on the Cross of Calvary.

As the serpent on Moses’ staff was raised up to offer deliverance and healing, so, too, would Jesus eventually be lifted up on a cross to offer eternal life. The snake was elevated on a pole so that all of Israel could see it and be healed, just as Jesus was lifted up on the cross so that all might see Him and be drawn to Him for salvation.”[2]

Billy Graham shared, “God’s holiness demands that sin be punished—but God’s love has provided the way of redemption through Christ.”

God provided the only remedy for humanity’s redemption; it’s simply looking unto Jesus as the only source of redemption and trusting Him with our eternal life. Remember, any offers outside of His offer are distractions from the enemy. Don’t be fooled. Instead, become wise as our eternal destiny is at stake.

Remember Peter? “When Peter actually walked on water for a brief time, he was okay as long as he kept his focus on Jesus. It was only “when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me! (Matt. 14:30)”. That’s when “Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’” (Matt 14:31).”

How was Jesus able to keep Peter from drowning? Peter had to take his eyes off the winds, fix them back on Jesus and keep himself from sinking. Always keeping our eyes on Jesus makes a difference in our eternal destiny.

Let’s talk again!

Friday, March 22, 2024

Jesus, the Great High Priest

In the Scriptures, Melchizedek and Aaron were two of the most renowned High Priest:

·       Melchizedek only appears briefly in Genesis 14, yet this priest earns a role in the hall of faith in the New Testament. Melchizedek was not born into the Levitical priesthood but was appointed by God.

·       Aaron, the High Priest, was the man appointed by God to oversee the Tabernacle in the wilderness, a position of sacred responsibility. God chose Aaron, brother of Moses, to be his first High Priest.”[1]

The Old Covenant priesthood foreshadowed the priesthood of the New Covenant and a comparative allusion to the High Priest role given to Jesus. Compelling provided this insight:

 “In the Jewish system, a priest mediated between the people and God. Aaron and his descendants were appointed priests, with the tribe of Levi serving as assistants in the Tabernacle (Numbers 3:5-10). Most importantly, it was the high priest who entered into the Most Holy Place on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). Only the high priest could enter and, before doing so, he was required to make a sacrifice for himself. In this way the high priest was cleansed and could then go on to offer the cleansing sacrifices for the people (Leviticus 16).”[2]

Then Jesus came into the scene with a specific purpose in mind and knew about these two individuals acting in the interest of God. Yet, He became the Great High Priest with a purpose, i.e., opened direct access and reconciled many to God. He then qualified Himself because of His sacrifice for our sins at the Cross of Calvary. The apostle Paul expounded it in the book of Romans:

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But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5:8-11 ESV)

Most importantly, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, those who believed and sanctified in Him became part of the royal priesthood, “. . .and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (Revelation 1:6 ESV)

Martin Luther shared this wonderful insight: “In his life Christ is an example showing us how to live; in his death he is a sacrifice satisfying for our sins; in his resurrection, a conqueror; in his ascension, a king; in his intercession, a high priest.”

Clearly, Melchizedek and Aaron fulfilled their roles as God intended for them. But God knew better when He removed the limitations of the human priesthood by sending Jesus, the Son of God, as the Great High Priest. Remember, in the Old Covenant, the high priest approached the throne of God, represented by the Mercy Seat, only once a year. But Jesus, our Great High Priest, approached the throne of God directly without any restrictions because, at His death, the Temple curtains ripped in two. Matthew recorded this great event:

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. 51And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.” (Matthew 27:50-53 ESV)

Jesus fulfilled the plan of God flawlessly. Thus, everyone who believes in Him can come boldly to the throne of God with confidence. Ray Pritchard summarized it excellently:

Because Jesus is our great high priest, we’ve got a friend in high places. We’ve got connections in heaven. We’ve got a friend at the throne of grace who delights to answer our prayers. Come boldly. Come often. Come to the throne of grace and pour out your heart to God. You will not be turned away.”

Let’s talk again!

Friday, March 15, 2024

The Scapegoat: Jesus the Sin-Bearer

In the Scriptures, you will find many fascinating things that God required from the book of Leviticus. It involves the sacrifice of a Scapegoat. How did this animal become relevant to us today? Let us begin our study on this fascinating topic. John Barnett shared this insight:

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The scapegoat was guilty of nothing. But the High Priest, as it were, laid all the sins of the people on the scapegoat and sent him away. He was without sin. But sin was credited to His account as if He had personally committed it and then God punished Him though the fact is He never committed any of it. That’s imputation.”[1]

Moreover, Bible Study Tools Dictionary expounded:

When the priest laid Israel's guilt on the scapegoat, the goat was sent into the wilderness as a reminder that their sins went away out of the land where the people lived. I think of God casting our sins away in Micah 7:19. Because a scapegoat “carried away” the sins of the people, Jesus is often compared to being the Scapegoat of all believers.”[2]

The Scapegoat is an extraordinary depiction of the Messiah yet to come. The prophet Isaiah saw Him so clearly and inspired to pen the following:  

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. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, everyone, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:5–6).

Upon seeing Jesus, John the Baptist uttered, look and "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 NASB) Jesus became the Scapegoat of Leviticus. In this position, He carried all our sins for our complete redemption. In doing so, Jesus gave us an abounding hope and an inexpressible joy when “…our sins are removed as far as the East is from the West” (Psalms 103:12). It happened when He became the “scapegoat” carrying the sins of the people at the Cross of Calvary.

Emma Danzey wrote in her article, “How Is Jesus Our Scapegoat Today?” shared:

Knowing that Jesus is our scapegoat frees us from the burden of having to go through a priest anymore. We no longer have the pressure to have a ceremony correctly to cover our sins, but we have the blood of Jesus over our lives.”[3]

God sent His Son Jesus as the sacrificial Lamb and a Scapegoat to complete His redemption plan for us.

J. Allan Peterson shared this story:

I read about a small boy who was consistently late coming home from school. His parents warned him one day that he must be home on time that afternoon, but nevertheless he arrived later than ever. His mother met him at the door and said nothing. At dinner that night, the boy looked at his plate. There was a slice of bread and a glass of water. He looked at his father’s full plate and then at his father, but his father remained silent. The boy was crushed. The father waited for the full impact to sink in, then quietly took the boy’s plate and placed it in front of himself. He took his own plate of meat and potatoes, put it in front of the boy, and smiled at his son. When that boy grew to be a man, he said, “All my life I’ve known what God is like by what my father did that night.”

Because of His great love for the fallen humanity, He sent Jesus as the Lamb of God and a Scapegoat for our redemption and salvation. What is remaining is our response to this great love. We can only reciprocate by recognizing our need for a Saviour and Lord. Therefore, may we respond to His call and not harden our hearts now. Securing our eternal status in Christ is of paramount importance. Remember, if we missed this opportunity, we only have ourselves to blame. Hear what Peter said to the crowd when asked:

Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:37b-38 ESV).

It’s your turn now to do so.

Let’s talk again!

Friday, March 8, 2024

The Sacrifice Acceptable to God’s Standard

Moses interceded for Israel’s deliverance from God’s wrath by offering himself as the payment: “But now, if you will forgive their sin—but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written” (Exodus 32:32 ESV).   

Maybe you are wondering why Moses made such an offer to God. Bridgeway Bible Commentary provided Moses’ commitment to Israel: “In a display of genuine love for the unbelieving people, Moses offered to die on their behalf and so be punished for them.[1]

What occurred that God became incensed with anger against Israel? Moses took longer than expected to receive God’s Tablet of Stones at Mount Moriah. Here’s what happened:

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him” (32:1).

While in the mountain, God told Moses what the people did in his absence:

And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. 8They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” 9And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. 10Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you” (32: 7-10).

After hearing what God wanted to do, Moses interceded on behalf of Israel and offered his life instead. However, God said no to his offer. Bridgeway Bible Commentary shared, “But God would not accept the death of one person for another, for all were sinners, though the extent of their sin varied. God would hold each person responsible for his or her actions. He would show mercy on the unfaithful nation, but he would punish individuals who rebelled against him.”[2]

Although God acknowledged the intercession of Moses for his people as a righteous act, unfortunately, his life is not considered a sufficient payment for the sins of Israel. Moreover, God reserved the right as far as His justice is concerned based on His prerogative. Simply stated, “33. . .the LORD said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book. 35 Then the LORD sent a plague on the people because they made the calf, the one that Aaron made.” (32:33, 35).

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Dr. Constable's Expository Notes shared, “He chose not to take Moses’ life as a substitute for the guilty in Israel since this would not have been just. Moses being a sinner himself could not have served as a final acceptable substitute for other sinners in any case.”[3]

God didn’t accept Moses’ life because of God’s requirement of an unblemished life. Moses, even as God’s chosen individual, overstated his status.

God, in this episode, provided the qualification of anyone doing so. God’s plan and purpose became
evident. Thus, Jesus’s sacrifice paid for the penalty of sin, i.e., death on the cross became the only sufficient payment required by God. John the Baptist, in seeing Jesus declared: “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 ESV).

What Jesus did become the only acceptable payment for the sins of humanity: “Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand (Isaiah 53:10 ESV).

When God sent Jesus, He fulfilled what anyone, including Moses, cannot do, i.e., redemption from God’s wrath against sin. Most importantly, without Jesus and His sacrifice for us at the Cross of Calvary, we remain in our sin and cannot expect forgiveness from God.

In addition, the author of Hebrews has made it abundantly clear that Jesus fulfilled in His death what the Old Testament sacrificial system could only point to. In Hebrews 10:1-4 (ESV), it stated:

For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. 2Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? 3But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. 4For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”

There’s no doubt that Jesus embodied the fulfillment of God’s requirement. Between Moses and Jesus, there’s no comparison as to who fulfilled the redemption requirements against God’s wrath. Knowing this, why wouldn’t anyone put their trust in Jesus?

Let’s talk again!

Friday, February 23, 2024

Intimacy with God: No More Limitations

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A. W. Tozer shared his thoughts about intimacy with God and what it meant: “What's closest to your heart is what you talk about, and if God is close to your heart, you'll talk about Him.” However, intimacy is a word that many frown upon. People think that being intimate with God is for special people only. People assumed intimacy with God was a special call that an average person could not experience. They felt disqualified due to compromised sinful Christian life. Others claim it is too hard to figure out the 'how' to's of being intimate with God.”  Unfortunately, those claiming intimacy with God but never describing the process of attaining it are useless to many trying to achieve it.

Moses, as the prophet of God, provided a glimpse of what intimacy meant: “11Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent” (Exodus 33:7-11 ESV). Moses showed a glimpse of seeking intimacy with God and how God responds to genuine seekers and His willingness to accommodate those who wholeheartedly seek it. Enduring Word Commentary[1] shared this insight:

 “Moses was unique because of his personal intimacy with God. The term face to face does not literally mean “physical face to physical face,” but it has the idea of free and unhindered communication. Moses had a remarkably intimate relationship with God.”

Here’s how the Scripture described Moses and his desire for intimacy with God when he made a daring request to God, “Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight.” (Exodus 33:13 ESV). Then God replied to Moses, “And the LORD said to Moses,This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name” (Exodus 33:17 ESV).

One important lesson about this episode: God always welcomes, with open arms, any requests for insights into His heart and purposes through intimacy with Him. Being intimate with God cannot happen without anyone seeking it with the intensity of desire and complete humility. God hears and accommodates His people, especially in matters involving intimacy with Him.

Moving forward, Jesus provided the best picture of intimacy with His Father:

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Matthew 11:26-30, ESV)

The most important revelation is this: God sent His Son Jesus to re-establish an intimate relationship with God’s people through His Son Jesus. In the Old Testament, intimacy with God is shown only with specific individuals God chose. Thus, God, in His great love for humanity, made intimacy possible again through His Son Jesus.

From Adam and Eve’s intimacy with God, Enoch’s walk with God, and Moses’ intimacy with God, a common thread exists, i.e., each had limitations on the revelations of God and the level of intimacy experienced. However, when Jesus walked the earth, He revealed a specific distinction between His intimacy with God and the new level of intimacy with anyone who believes Him:

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” “…Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:6-7, 9 ESV)

Simply stated, intimacy is God’s idea. God sent His Son Jesus and made it happen. Now, it’s your turn. When you surrender your life to Jesus, the path to intimacy with God begins.

Let me end with this insight from Malcolm Webber:[2]

When they saw the Lord Jesus, they saw the Father. When they heard the Lord Jesus, they were listening to the Father. When they touched the Lord Jesus, they were touching God. This was how Jesus lived. This was the source of all of His life and ministry, inward union with His Father.

Let’s talk again!

Friday, February 16, 2024

The Manna From Heaven

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God sent Manna to Israel for a specific purpose and timetable as recorded in Exodus 16:35, “The people of Israel ate the manna forty years, till they came to a habitable land. They ate the manna till they came to the border of the land of Canaan” (ESV).

Manna, basically a word that means “what is it?” is a bread-like substance that fell from heaven (Psalm 78:24), and that tasted like honey. The Israelites would go and collect a daily portion of manna each day, ensuring to get a double portion before the Sabbath (so they didn’t work for their food on the Sabbath). If they grabbed too much or too little, they suffered the consequences (Exodus 16:20).”[1]

Maybe you have this question: Why Did God Send Manna to the Israelites? One of the primary reasons is God meeting their physical need for hunger. Next, God wanted their trust and obedience in collecting them as commanded. Unfortunately, some of them collected more than enough manna on some days, and it rotted in their tents, full of maggots. Others didn’t obey the command of God in collecting double portions before the Sabbath, and they ended up hungry on the Sabbath because manna didn’t fall that day. Finally, it is God foreshadowing the coming of Jesus as the Manna from Heaven. God wanted a foretaste of what heavenly bread tastes like as a temporary relief. How about receiving a more permanent solution with an eternal impact?

Mark Woods in his article “Three Lessons For Today From The Manna In The Wilderness” shared the following reasons why God wanted them to collect what’s only needed for the day:

The Israelites at this time were a travelling people, reliant on finding grazing and supplies where they could. They were unable to store up large reserves of food. So when God gives them food that can't be stored up for a rainy day, he is encouraging them to depend on him daily. It was a way of warning them not to hold on to good things too long. Many of us face this temptation: we like things as they are, and we are resistant to change. But hold on to things instead of letting them go, and they can turn very sour.” [2]

Let’s always remember that the provision of God comes daily and supernaturally with a specific purpose for the exact benefit of His people. God’s miracles may not manifest as they did in the past, but instead sent the greatest miracle of them all, i.e., Jesus Christ. Jesus embodied and contained the miracles of God in the past, present and future in Him.

More than 1,000 years later, Jesus Christ repeated the miracle of manna in the Feeding of the 5,000. The crowd following him was in the "wilderness" and he multiplied a few loaves of bread until everyone had eaten their fill. Some scholars believe that Jesus' phrase, "Give us this day our daily bread" in the Lord's Prayer, is a reference to manna, meaning that we are to trust God to supply our physical needs one day at a time, as the Jews did in the desert. Christ frequently referred to himself as bread: "the true Bread from heaven" (John 6:32), "the Bread of God" (John 6:33), "the Bread of life" (John 6:35, 48), and John 6:51: "I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." (NIV)[3]

God sent Jesus as the Eternal Bread of life, and those who believed in Him received the full blessing of eternal satisfaction that God promised. In sending Jesus, God is a constant and abundant provider of all our needs. The feeding of the five thousand became an enduring reminder in our daily Christian life that nothing on earth is too big for God. Therefore, if Jesus can do it, He can do it again for us today.

Let me end with this insight: “Jesus points out that the manna the Israelites ate in the wilderness only sustained their life for a short time, but they eventually died. The bread that He’s offering will give them eternal life. And He is that bread. He goes on to tell them “this bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.[4]

If Jesus can fulfill the hunger of our hearts, why wouldn’t you receive Him as the Bread of Life now?

Let’s talk again!

Friday, February 9, 2024

Jesus, the Author of the New Covenant

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In the pages of the book of Exodus, Moses introduced God’s covenant with Israel through the blood of animals: “So Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, "This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words" (Exodus 24:8 ESV)

What does the Old Covenant represent then?

The roots of the Old Covenant actually trace back to Abraham, the forefather of Israel. God initiated a covenant with Abraham in which He promised to make a special nation of his descendants. It is these descendants who later entered into a covenant with God at Mount Sinai.  Exodus 20-23 is called “the book of the covenant” (Exodus 24:4, 7).[1]

What does the Old Covenant mean for us today?

 “As hard as we try, we cannot keep the Law perfectly. The Law shows us how sinful we are, but God's plan of salvation was to send his Son Jesus Christ to save us from our sins. The Ten Commandments are a guide for right living, but keeping the Law cannot save us.”[2]

The apostle James reiterated this simple fact: “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it (James 2:10 ESV).”

Here's the clincher that God, through the Old Covenant, provided His people an opportunity to experience His presence and to understand His mindset from a distance.

Paul states the law was only meant to be our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ (Galatians 3:24 KJV). The law does not create a sense of frustration and failure to leave us there. What it does is make us aware that we are incapable of meeting the demands of the law so that we are driven to Christ, the only one who fulfills in us what the law demands.”[3]

When the right time came, Jesus introduced the New Covenant with His shed blood on the Cross. During his Passover meal with His disciples, “He said to them, "This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.”

Christ fulfilled the Old Covenant by demonstrating how to live the demands of the laws of God and maintaining a higher standard of living as Christians through His grace and mercy alone. “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17 ESV).

What does the New Covenant represent?

When Christ instituted the New Covenant with His shed blood (Luke 22:20), He made it possible for us to be truly cleansed from sin (Hebrews 9:13-14; 1 John 1:7). The result was that animal sacrifices were no longer required as symbols because Christ was the ultimate fulfillment of that symbolism.[4]

What does the New Covenant mean for us today?

Contrary to the belief of many, the New Covenant does not abolish all the terms of the Old Covenant. Both covenants include provisions for a sacrifice for sin, a priesthood serving in a tabernacle, obedience to God’s laws, and promised blessings from God. However, in each case, the changes in the New Covenant amplify the terms of the Old Covenant! Under the Old Covenant, God presented the Israelites with two options and told them to “choose life” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20). What makes the New Covenant “new” is that it is a far better agreement than the one entered into at Mount Sinai.”[5]

Another revelation is that God, through the New Covenant instituted by Jesus, provided His people an opportunity to experience His presence intimately through Jesus and the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence daily.

In the end, God’s promise declared in Genesis 3:15 covered the Old Covenant pages towards the fulfillment of the promise through Jesus’ birth, life, death, burial, resurrection, and coming back again for those who believed and trusted Him called the New Covenant. Thus, from Adam to Jesus Christ, God’s plan was fulfilled at the right time and by His plan and purpose (Galatians 4:4) for humanity and His glory alone.

Jack Zavada shared this insight: “Both the Old and New Testaments are the story of the same God, a God of love and mercy who gave his people the freedom to choose and who gives his people the opportunity to come back to him by choosing Jesus Christ.”[6]

Let’s talk again!

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Releasing Forgiveness as God Intended

The story of Joseph and the scene of forgiving his brothers is familiar. This episode conveys redemption, healing, and a firm decision of forgiveness. In Genesis 45:1-15, the story unfolded and seemed unreal. However, it became the occasion where God set up shocking everyone and having disbelief in the story.

Nowhere in this chapter is the sin of his brothers minimized. Joseph identified the treatment they had given him as sinful, yet his words were filled with hope and encouragement. Verses 5-8 assure these men that their sin had not thwarted the purposes of God. “You sold me,” Joseph said, “but God sent me” (verse 5). Their purpose was to destroy, but God’s was to save.” 

Somebody said, “Reconciliation heals the soul. The joy of rebuilding broken relationships and hearts. If it’s healthy for your growth, forgive and love.”

The lingering question many asked: “Was Joseph in Egypt because of the sin of his brothers or because of the good plan of God?” In effect, they are both true. If this is the case, forgiveness made sense in both aspects because of what they represent. We forgive because people sin and need it. And most importantly, seeing them from God’s perspective, as the apostle Paul declared, “All things work together for good…” 

In releasing forgiveness, Joseph summarized how forgiveness becomes possible when understood from God’s perspective. In releasing forgiveness, Joseph realized that God ruled his life, not good or evil individuals, not circumstances or fate. Because God was in control, God made sure all things worked together for the best of everyone involved.

The story of Joseph is a prophetic picture of what Jesus fulfilled at the cross of Calvary when He prayed, “Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice” (Luke 23:34 NLT). Enduring Word Commentary explained the rationale of this prayer:

In this Jesus fulfilled His own command to love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good for those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you (Matthew 5:44). Jesus recognized the blindness of His enemies in His prayer. However, this prayer did not excuse the guilt of those who put Jesus on the cross. Instead, Jesus set His enemies in the best possible light in His prayer to the Father.”

Because Jesus forgave His enemies, He provided the platform to His genuine disciples on how forgiveness becomes a way of behaving towards people who wronged us. In releasing this forgiveness, Jesus paved the way for future disciples that it is impossible to live for Jesus without doing what He did. Thus, Stephen, the first martyr and disciple of Jesus, imitated this attitude during his stoning (Luke 7:60). 

Gary Smalley provided a picture of how forgiveness works as Jesus intended:

Forgiveness involves pardon. Basically, it is like erasing offenses toward us from a marking board. We immediately wash their offenses away like a wave washing away a message in the sand. Second, forgiveness involves caring for the offending person because most people who offend us have something in their own heart that needs healing. When we forgive others, they are released from our anger and we are healed by God.”

C. S. Lewis wonderfully summarized what forgiveness really means for the followers of Jesus: “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”

Let’s talk again!

Monday, January 22, 2024

Sold for the Price of Slaves: The High Price of our Redemption

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Many of us have never experienced becoming a slave or being sold as one. However, people are going through this experience in our modern times. Did it change throughout these many years? It is unlikely because the reasoning behind it comes from the same motivation Joseph experienced from his brothers. Thus, one of the worst experiences in the life of Joseph came from his brothers when they sold him for the price of a slave.  In the book of Genesis, we find this record:

Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? 27Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers listened to him. 28Then Midianite traders passed by. And they drew Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. They took Joseph to Egypt.” (37:26-28 ESV)

“In Hebrew culture, thirty pieces of silver was not a lot of money. In fact, it was the exact price paid to the master of a slave if and when his slave was gored by an ox (Exodus 21:32). The slave’s death was compensated by the thirty pieces of silver.”[1] What went wrong in this scenario? The odds between them, whether Joseph became aware or not, caused undue friction leading to Joseph’s outcast: 

From Joseph’s point of view, these dreams were evidence of divine blessing, rather than his own ambition. From his brothers’ point of view, however, the dreams were further manifestations of the unfair privilege that Joseph enjoyed as the favorite son of their father, Jacob (Gen. 37:3-4). Joseph’s failure to recognize this put him at severe odds with his brothers.[2]

Isaac Khalil in his article “Lessons From the Life of Joseph” (December 15, 2021) shared, 

Remember the dreams Joseph had when he was young? The brothers had interpreted the dreams as Joseph ruling and lording it over them (Genesis 37:8, 10). So they attacked him based on this interpretation. It wasn’t until Joseph revealed himself that they realized the dreams weren’t about lordship, but about salvation and service. God sent Joseph before them to save them from a terrible famine that was coming. Joseph told his brothers, “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive” (Genesis 50:20).[3]

In this case, they took offence without understanding the whole picture. When people look at any situation, the immediate reaction comes in a positive impact or taking offence. However, God is always looking at the long view of His plans, and no matter what happens, He’s got a plan for you and me regardless of what people think or feel about us. Joseph’s life provided a parallel truth in Jesus’ betrayal as Matthew shared it: 

 Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. 16And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him” (Matthew 26:14-15 ESV).

For many, it is unthinkable what Judas Iscariot did to Jesus. G. Connor Salter, in his article, “Did Judas Iscariot Have a Choice to Betray Jesus?” (March 14, 2022) shared:

We know from historians that various people claiming to be the Messiah were active in Judea at the time, many trying to overthrow the Romans or change the religious order. Therefore, it’s possible that Judas figured Jesus was going to seize authority for himself soon and being part of Jesus’ “in-group” would benefit him. Once he realized that Jesus’ goals didn’t fit his own agenda, he may have been angered by that and wanted Jesus out of the way.”[4]

The betrayal of Jesus for the paltry price of a slave became the ultimate price of our redemption from the slavery of sin, Satan, and death’s power at the cross of Calvary. It is the message the apostle Paul reminded the Corinthian believers: “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Jesus redeemed us from a life of slavery and set us free, although not set free to do whatever we want. Rather, being free in serving Jesus, the One who died and redeemed us for His purpose and plan (1 Peter 2:16).  Jesus went through it all so we can become more than conquerors for His glory and praise. 

In the end, Judas Iscariot, and many others like him confirmed that an outward devotion to Jesus is hollow unless Christ is followed wholeheartedly as a genuine disciple. Following Jesus is having His agenda front and center of our lives while our agenda becomes set aside. When we do it His way, our lives are enriched from an eternal perspective.

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