Blessed are Those Who Hear
February 29 -March 1, 2020
I mentioned before that the book of Deuteronomy is Moses’ last speech, because Israel is just about to cross the Jordan and enter into that land that God promised them, but Moses knows that he cannot go. God’s already made it very clear, he’s not crossing that Jordan. This is His last opportunity to speak into their lives, and you can just sense the urgency in it, because He wants it to go well, He wants him to be victorious spiritually, He wants him to be blessed, and He knows that this is the key, and so He gives him some powerful words. In fact, in the book of Deuteronomy, you will find the greatest words that God has ever spoken. In fact, we know it’s the greatest because Jesus was asked, what are the greatest words, the foremost of all that God has ever said, and Jesus quoted right from Deuteronomy, “You will love the Lord with all of your heart.” That’s what God says. That’s what God wants.
Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. This is a very important message, sense of urgency, because He wants it to go well. When you get to chapter 18, He’s warning them here of spiritual dangers, because He knows that the land in which they’re going is filled with spiritual darkness. These nations, these people, they’re filled with all kinds of dark practices which God detests, He says, and that’s the reason He’s casting them out of there. To have nothing to do with them.
Part of spiritual revival is understanding how to keep your life from being spiritually shipwrecked, and this is the key. He knows that the key, for them to be in the place of greatest blessing, is revival. He wants revival. I’m telling you God still wants revival today. That warning that Moses gives to Israel is very much applied today, because we are living in a time of tremendous spiritual darkness, would you not agree? There is darkness like I have never seen before in my life. Keeping your heart from those things, away from spiritual darkness, is part of revival. With this warning, comes a tremendous promise. One of the greatest promises of the Old Testament are found in these verses, because he says it this way, he says, “Now those nations which you shall dispossess when you cross the Jordan, they listen to those who practice witchcraft, they go to listen to diviners, they go to those who practice witchcraft to get a word, they go to diviners to hear a word.”
God says, “Should not a people seek their God.” He says, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet, like me.” This is a direct prophecy of Jesus Christ, right in Deuteronomy, “You will listen to him, I will put my words in his mouth. He will speak in my name.” There’s just a powerful understanding of the prophecy of Jesus, but how it applies to our lives is critical. Let’s read it.
Deuteronomy 18:9, “When you enter the land, which the Lord your God gives you, you will not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire.” This was so wrong, so despicable what they would do. Actually, they would burn their oldest child in the fire as a sacrifice to The god of fertility, or whatever, so that their crops would be more abundant.
God says, “No, this is detestable. Have nothing to do with this.” It breaks the heart of God to see if people sacrifice their children. Then he says, “Let there not be found anyone who uses divination, or who practices witchcraft, or who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium or a spiritist, so one who calls up the dead. For whoever does these things is detestable to the Lord, and because of these detestable things, the Lord your God will drive them out from before you. You will be blameless before the Lord your God, for those nations, which you shall dispossess, they listen to those who practice witchcraft, and they go to diviners, but as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you to do so. For the Lord your God, and here’s that prophecy I was telling you, the Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you and your countrymen, and you will listen to him. This is very clearly a prophecy.
In fact, every Jew would tell you, he’s referring here to the Messiah, that great Messiah who will one day come. Well, we know who he is, we know his name. His name is Jesus. He is that exact fulfillment of the Scriptures because he will be a mediator. Notice what it says in the next verses. “This is in accordance to all that you ask of the Lord your God at Horeb, Mount Sinai, on the day of that assembly.” Remember what had happened, they all gathered at Mount Sinai. God spoke to the nation of Israel out of the mountain, out of the smoke in the fire, and the people said, “This is too much to hear His voice. Moses, you speak God’s Word to us.” They asked for a mediator, so God said they did well in asking for that, and I will send a prophet to be a mediator in the latter days.
Notice what it says, verse 16, “This is in accordance to what you said, let me not here again the voice of the Lord my God, let me not see this great fire anymore unless I die, Moses you speak.” And the Lord said to me, “They have spoken well with this. So I will raise up a prophet from you”, here it is, again, “from among your countrymen like you, and I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them as I command him.” Notice verse 19, “And it shall come about that whoever will not listen to my words, which he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.” Wow, these are great verses, and they apply directly to our lives. He’s telling them all of these dangerous, dark, spiritual things. “I detest these things, have nothing to do with him.” Because he wants revival. He knows that these things will draw people away and will destroy them spiritually. He wants revival. He wants people to love God with all their heart.
I. Ambitiously Please God
Really, he’s drawing us to an understanding. God wants you to seek after a relationship where you would ambitiously please God, I just love this phrase, ambitiously please God. We live in a time where ambition is the mantra of the day, they’re driven, they’re ambitious. Well, did you know that the Apostle Paul was ambitious? He had ambition but notice the way he says it. 2 Corinthians 5:7 and 9, “For we walk by faith and not by sight, therefore, we have as our ambition to be pleasing to Him. That’s what I want to do with my life.” Paul says, “I want to bless the Lord, I want to please Him. I want to walk in such a way that God is blessed.” Revival is about relationship.
The key is relationship. There’s two parts to our relationship, there’s two sides to our relationship. That’s why he says, “Here’s the most important thing that God wants you to hear. Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.” That’s your part. You love, you pour out your heart and your soul, you love, but the other side is God. God says, “I love you. You are precious in my sight. You are treasure to me, you’re the apple of my eye.” He says, “I love you so much, I’ll send my Son that whosoever would believe in him would not perish but have everlasting life.”
Notice now, part of relationship is the desire to please, to bless one another, but part of the relationship includes understanding what does not please, that’s part of relationship too. We all have things we find displeasing, me too. For example, if we were in a close relationship, you would know that there’s some things I don’t like, I will not tell you what they are. There’s some things that we’re going to have a relationship, there’s just some things I don’t like. For example, I don’t like cussing. We’re going to hang out together and you’re going to cuss, it’s just not going to work out very well between us, I’m just not into it, I just don’t like it. I find it displeasing. I don’t like disrespect, I just don’t like it, I just don’t do disrespect. I think it should be the same, I’ll respect you, you respect me. I just think that that’s what we owe each other. I’m just not into disrespect. Dishonesty, I just think that there ought to be honesty in relationships. These are some things that I just think are good.
Humor, I love humor. I absolutely love good humor. I cannot stand potty humor. It’s just me. Maybe it’s just me, but I just don’t like it. There’s some things that we find displeasing. How much more is that true of God? God says that there are some things that He finds displeasing because God is good, and His nature is holy and righteous. It’s because of His nature He says these things.
Moses wants Israel to know that there are some things that God finds not only displeasing. He finds them detestable, because they’re contrary to His nature. The Scripture, in more than one place, describes this fact. In fact, Proverbs 6:16 and 19. It says very similarly, “There are six things which the Lord hates. Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him,” and He’s going to name them. He’s going to list them right off. Number one, Haughty eyes. God says I can’t stand that. A lying tongue, abomination to me. Hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, a false witness who out lies, one who spreads strife among brethren, can’t stand that, because of the nature of God.
A. God’s heart is to protect you from evil
Why is he saying these things? Because He knows that these things that He’s going to speak about will bring spiritual destruction. Here’s God’s heart. God’s heart is to protect you from evil, because this is a relationship, and God wants to protect from Every good parent wants to protect their children from evil influences. Any parent that is a good parent at all understands the point of this. You got to protect your children from evil influences because as parents, we’ve lived long enough to know how dangerous evil influences can be. We live long enough to know. These evil influences can be quite dangerous. Here’s the thing, children are not aware, they don’t recognize how dangerous they are, and that right there is why they need a parent.
You all know, of course, we raised five kids, and now we’ve adopted our granddaughter raising her, and one of the phrases that I used to love when raising our kids, things would have been a little tussle over this or that. One of my phrases I used to love is this, “And that right there, my friend, is why you need a parent.”
I’m going to bring all the wisdom I got into this parenting, because I know that these things from the world, these are evil influences and they’ll destroy your life.
Many of you know our story, I mentioned last week. Our daughter was murdered by a 17-year-old boy who fell under every imaginable evil influence this world had to offer. Influenced by gangs, drugs, dark side of the internet, you name it, every evil influence, he fell under it, and the end result was he destroyed his own life, took our daughter’s life, imagine the pain in his parents, the pain in ours. All because of the evil influences of the world around us. That’s why as parents, I urge, I’ve lived long enough, I’ve been a pastor long enough to see how many lives have been destroyed. Keep your children from the influence of bad friends, of the culture of drugs and alcohol, from the wrongful influence of social media, or the dark world of gaming, or the dark world and sexual side of the internet. There’s too many lives destroyed. Every culture, and every time has their own set of influences that come from spiritual forces of darkness.
Pastor Matthew and I are soon going to be going to Africa. We’re going to be teaching at a couple of pastors’ conferences there. I will tell you, in Africa, that these practices are still very much happening in Africa. You go there, and you can see in pretty much every city, there are the witch doctors still there, in fact, they raise up their flags. You can see right where, there’s one there, there’s one over there, there’s one over there. Every occultic practice is still influencing the people.
There’s a pastor missionary friend of mine, who was telling me a story about, he was in a church service, and the pastor was dedicating one of the children. Okay, we do this, it’s a very important part of the life of the church, and he’s dedicating one of the children. The point of that, of course, is you thank God for the gift this child has been to this family, that’s part of it. You’re praying, we always ask the church, extend your hand in the posture of blessing, because we want God’s hand of blessing to be on this child, but part of that is also we’re asking God’s hand of protection over this child because of the evil influences of the culture in which we’re living. God, protect this child.
Well, okay, this pastor was there in this church service, the pastor was dedicating this child. Before he prayed, he turned to the parents. He said, “Before God in this church, promise me that you will keep this child away from witchcraft.” Now, I’m telling you, such a thing ought not to have to be promised, but it needed to be because it was very much part of the culture which they’re living.
I tell you what, that is very much true today in that same sense, there is evil all around us today. Is there not? We are living in a very dark and dangerous time. There’s a very much in necessity of praying, protect our children, but also us. He says have nothing to do with these things because it will spiritually shipwreck your life, so he names names.
When Israel is going across the Jordan, they’re going to be entering into this land, filled with all kinds of spiritual practices of darkness. He’s going to like name names, say what it is, in verses 10 through 14, because there’s a spiritual reality of darkness of demonic nature. Don’t be involved in these things, he says, because they’re detestable to God.
Not only that, but He knows that the nature of man is such that I think they have their way, they would do both. He knows the nature of man, if they get out their way, they would do both. They would want the things that the world does, and they would want God’s things. This is the nature of man, want both. I want the things of the world, and I want God’s things. The same is true today. It’s the nature of man. There are many people today, if they get to have their way, they would do both. They would do the things that the world’s got, and they would do God’s things. The problem is, you do both things and you’re going to find yourself compromised, and you’re going to be what I call the miserable middle, because you’ll be miserable because you’re in the middle. It’s miserable there.
In fact, Jesus said, He called it being lukewarm. “I would rather you either be hot or be cold, but if you’re lukewarm, you’re in the middle, I’ll spit you out of my mouth,” He says, that’s a pretty strong word. Don’t be in middle, but that’s the nature of man, they want both. These very practices, God speaks and says, have nothing to do with them.
It’s like this, in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, He says, “What partnership have righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness? What harmony does Christ have with Belial?” That’s another name for Satan. “Or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord. “Do not touch what is unclean. I will welcome you, and I’ll be a father to you, and you will be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”
That’s a great verse right there, because he’s saying, look, this is about relationship. I’ll be a Father to you, you’ll be sons and daughters to me. We’re going to have this amazing relationship, come out, don’t touch those things, be separate, He says. He starts naming names. He starts saying what it is. Divination. Trying to see the future through a cultic means, and there are those who do this today, whether through reading tea leaves, or palm reading or tarot cards, Ouija boards. He says this is a cult thing, have nothing to do with it.
Witchcraft. This is the attempt to use dark spiritual powers to speak against other people’s lives, like casting spells or speaking incantations. Did you know there’s actually a modern resurgence of witchcraft today? Although they call that white witchcraft, I’m not sure what the difference is. I guess white witchcraft is environmentally friendly. I don’t know, but it’s a resurging or soothsayer. These are those who predict the future using astrological signs.
Back in the day when newspapers were a thing, it was common for newspapers to print the horoscopes of the day. People would read the horoscopes for one purpose, to seek counsel, to seek direction. What does the horoscope say that the direction? What should I do? God would respond. You go to that? Should not a people seek their God? That’s a great word.
Then he speaks of interpreting omens. This is the practice, or people would see events in their lives as indicators of either what is to come or what they should do. They look for these omens as indicators of what they should do with their lives, and this has been true in history. Throughout history, long history, they used to cut up an animal to see what the angels would say to them. Or they would cut up an animal to see what the liver had to say to them. God says have nothing to do with these things.
Then there was sorcery, the using of drugs to bring about a spiritual experience. Our modern word “pharmacy” actually comes from the Greek word pharmacia, which originated in the idea of using drugs to create a spiritual experience. The drug culture of the ’60s, I know many of you are not old enough to know much about the ’60s, but I read all about it in history books, so I know that the drug culture of the ’60s, actually, started out as the desire to seek after spiritual experiences, and to use the drugs in order to induce it. The idea was to seek a spiritual influence. He says have nothing to do with this.
Then there’s the communicating of the dead. Trying to communicate to the dead through mediums or spiritists or other means, for what purpose? For what purpose? To seek counsel. To seek counsel from the dead, and that’s why later on in the history of Israel, a great prophet arose, his name is Isaiah. Isaiah said, and this is in 8:19, “When they say to you consult the mediums and the spiritists, who whisper and mutter– I love what he says, “Hey, wait, should not people consult their God? Should they consult the dead on the behalf of the living?” He says, “Have nothing to do with this, because these things are detestable to God,” he says.
Do not imitate the things of darkness that are in the world around you. We are living in a time of spiritual darkness. The spiritual warfare that we are encountering is very, very real. I have been a pastor long enough to see many lives destroyed. Has anyone else seen that? That’s why the words that Paul says in Ephesians 6:11-18 are very much relevant today. He says, and he’s showing us how to be victorious. He says, “Put on the full armor of God.” Then he’s going to explain what that means.
Put on the full armor of God so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil, for our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers and powers, against world forces of darkness, against spiritual forces of wickedness in heavenly places. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything to stand firm, stand firm, therefore. He’s saying, “Look, we need people who can stand firm in their faith to arise to set your feet on a rock and to stand firm today.” Because he’s giving a warning to Israel, and frankly, it’s a great warning to us. These things will shipwreck your life. He says I want a relationship of revival.
B. God is joy and Pleasing peace
This is what he’s drawing them into, enjoying us into, “Hey, pleasing God is joy and peace.” That’s a beautiful picture. See, there are things which please God very much. It’s joy, it’s peace. “I want that peace. I want that joy. I want that love. I want my soul filled with the Spirit of the Living God. I want those things, desire those things,” he says. It’s peace and joy.
May we come to the end of our lives and hear these words. This is Matthew 25:21. “Well done,” Jesus says. “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master.” What great words. You know you got one life to live. You got one life. Don’t you want to live it in such a way that when you come to the end of it, you’ll hear those words? “Well done, well-lived, my good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master.”
There is that worship song by Timmy Hughes. I love the song. I love the lyrics. I want to just quote some of the lyrics because it captures it so beautifully. He says it this way, “May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart, bless your name. Bless your name, Jesus, and the deeds of the day and the truth in my ways, speak of you. Speak of you, Jesus. For this is what I’m glad to do. It’s time to live a life of love that pleases you, and I will give my all to you. Surrender everything I have and follow you. I’ll follow.” It’s based on Psalms 19:14. It’s a great song.
Listen to those words. Psalm 19:14, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, My Rock and My Redeemer. Isn’t that a great verse? I love those words. It’s time, it’s time to live a life of love that pleases you, Lord.
In the book of Ezekiel, he describes what pleases God. God says, “I am pleased when I see the one who was once wicked, turn from his wicked ways and come into a relationship to the living God. I love to see that.”
There’s another verse in Zephaniah 3:17. I quoted it last week, “The Lord your God is with you. He is mighty to save; He will take great delight in you. He will be quiet in His love, and He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.” That’s what he’s speaking to. Have nothing to do with those things because God wants that kind of relationship where there’s revival, there is rejoice, the rejoicing, there is victory in the Lord.
II. God’s Word will be Required of You
Then He gives this next word, this prophecy that Jesus fulfills, but it’s so important to recognize the significance of what He says, “I will raise up a prophet. We know His name. I will put my words in His mouth. And when He speaks in my name, those words I will require of you. That’s just a powerful statement. It means this, God’s Word will be required. I will put my words in His mouth, take note of this. If you come about that whoever will now listen to those words which that Prophet speaks in my name, I will require it of him.
A. He is the mediator between God and man
God will require it of every man, because He makes it clear in this word of prophecy that he who is to come will be the mediator between God and man, he is that mediator. We need a mediator. We need a mediator, he says, because no man can save himself.
God spoke a powerful word, Jesus is the fulfillment of that. 1 Timothy 2:5, “For there is one God, there’s one mediator between God and them, the man Jesus Christ. He was eight-six, but now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises.
When John the Baptist was in Israel baptizing for repentance, they came to him and he said, “Are you the one? Are you that Prophet spoken of in the book of Deuteronomy?” All they longed, they waited, they knew one day that prophet would come. John said, “I am not the one, but He who comes after me.” Then later when John was arrested and knew it would end with his life, he sent messengers to Jesus wanting to hear just confirmation. “Are you the one?”
In Luke 7:22, Jesus answered and said to them, the messengers of John, “You go and report to John what you have seen and what you have heard. The blind see, the lame walk, leapers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. You go tell John that and he’ll know the answer.”
Remember when Jesus fed 5,000 with the five loaves and the two fish, it’s in every gospel. One of the great miracles of the Lord, it says that afterward the crowd marveled. It says in John 6:14, when the people saw this sign, which He had performed, they said, this is truly that prophet who was to come into the world. He will be a mediator between God and man, because our sins have separated us from God, and no man can save himself. God doesn’t save us. No man can be saved, but God sent His Son to seek and to save that which was lost. He is the way. He is the truth. He is the life. No man comes to the Father but by Him, Jesus said.
B. Write these words on your heart
Lastly, and I want us to really see the significance of this word. I will put my words in his mouth. He will speak in my name, and I will require those words of you. In other words, those words are so important. Write these words on your heart. Write these down but write them on your heart. Take hold of them, they will be required of you. It’s like in Deuteronomy 11:18, where Moses said, you will impress these words on your heart. You will impress these words onto your soul, bind them as a sign in your hand, and as frontals on your forehead. How do you make a word permanent?
I remember when I was in Bible college, and I was in these classes. I’m amazed at this powerful truth, and I remember I had a favorite professor, Dr. David Needham. He’s spoken here many times. I’m listening in his class. I’m saying to myself; this is good. This is power. This is truth. I need these words. So, what do you do? You’re hearing them. That’s good. You’re hearing the words. They’re too important; I want more. You write them down; you write them on a notebook. That’s not enough. Then it comes time for the test. I got flash cards. I’m memorizing them, I’m going to put him in my mind. No. They’re more important than that.
It’s one thing to have them in your mind. It’s a whole another thing when you put them on your heart. Write them here, Lord. Write them on my heart. Let them be as treasures to my soul, because God will use them. God will use them. It says in the book of Luke 8:15, Jesus is teaching about the Word of God being sown like seed on ground soil. He said the seed and the good soil. These are the ones who have heard the word, but they’ve heard the word in an honest and good heart, and then they hold it fast. Hold on. I would give my words to this one. He will speak in my name, and I will require it of you. Write this down, hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.
Here is another. Proverbs 6:21-22. Listen to these words. Bind them continually on your heart. Tie them around your neck. When you walk about, they will guide you. When you sleep, they will watch over you. When you awake, they will talk to you. I love that verse. Ain’t that good. That’s the way to be transformed. Bind them on your heart, he says. Tie them on your neck. When you walk, they will guide your steps. When you sleep, they will watch over you. When you’re awake, they’ll talk to you. They’ll guide your life.
When you hold His words in your heart, when you take them as treasures with the soul, they will be used of God to make you to a good man. They’ll make you a good woman. When you hold His words, when you write them on your heart and take them as treasures for the soul, they will be used of God to make you into a good man or a good woman.
Psalm 119:9-11, how could a young man keep his way pure, or a young woman? How does that happen? He says by keeping it according to your word. Your word have I treasured in my heart, that I might not sin against you?
Jesus said in Luke 6:45, I love to quote this because it’s so true today. The good man, out of the good treasure of his heart, will bring forth what’s good, but the evil man, out of the evil treasure of his heart, will bring forth what is evil, for the mouth speaks from that which fills the heart. You hold this work, you write this on your heart, you hold it as treasure in your soul, God will use it to make you into a good man or a good woman. I’ll put my words in his mouth. He’ll speak in my name, and I’ll require it. It’s that important.
Father, thank you so much for your word. Thank you for sending it in power. God, we say to you today, write these truths on our hearts. We want to be transformed. We want to take them as treasures into the soul. Write them down. Write them on my heart, God. Imprint them deeply into my soul that I might say to you, may the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart, bless your name. May the deeds of the day and the truth of my ways speak of you, for this is what I’m glad to do. It’s time to live a life of love that pleases you. Church, today, would you say that? Would you say that to the Lord’s time?
I want to live my life in such a way that it pleases you. May the words of my mouth, may the meditation in my heart be pleasing in your sight, oh my Lord and my God. Write this on my heart. Its time. Its time to live a life that pleases you. Church, would you say that to the Lord? You want to live a life that pleases the Lord? Would you say to the Lord, write these on my soul? These words will be required, but these words will transform. Write these on my soul, I want to live a life that pleases you. You want to say that to the Lord, just raise your hand. Raise your hand in a powerful way. Say, God, I want to just say it. I want to live a life that pleases you. Write this down, write it on my soul.
Father, thank you for everyone with a desire after you, with a heart that longs for that kind of relationship where there is revival. You’ve given us a great word of warning, but you’ve given us a great promise. God, we want to take hold of such that transforms our lives. We give you thanks, we give you honoring glory in Jesus name, and everyone say, Amen and Amen. Let’s give the Lord praise and glory and honor. Amen.
A Beautiful Servant Heart
The book of Deuteronomy is Moses’ last opportunity to speak to Israel because they’re about to enter into the land of Canaan. They’re going to cross the Jordan, but he’s not going with them. God’s already said, you’re not crossing the Jordan, and so he has one last speech and it’s so important to him, you can just sense the urgency as he gives this message of utmost importance because he wants it to go well.
When they cross that Jordan and enter that land, he wants them to do well and you can just hear the blessing of God in it because he would say the same thing to us. I want it to go well with you. I want to bless your life and I’ll give you the principles to show you the way of greatest blessing. That’s what he says to them. Israel, you ought to listen, take these words, write them on your heart, do these things, it’s the way of blessing. They need the judgments of God, the wisdom of God. They need the principles of righteousness to guide their steps.
He’s reminding them now of the significance of the words of God and the law that they received. He reminds them now the law that they received that Mount Sinai some 40 years before. Many of them were not even alive when Israel received the law of God those 40 years before at Mount Sinai. They needed to be reminded. It’s interesting to think about because they didn’t have– we have the book of Deuteronomy. We can open the book anytime we want to. We can read Deuteronomy and we can read the words that God spoke there at Mount Sinai anytime we want.
They did not have this and so it was of utmost importance that he speak this to them. Once every 40 years, like that’s not enough. You got to hear the words of God. I was just thinking, this is the fourth time we are on our fourth time through, we do the whole Bible start to finish. This is our fourth time through. It doesn’t take 40 years. It only takes 10 but the word of God is very important. Would you agree? It’s a foundation. It is the principles of the Lord. It’s the wisdom of understanding and he has that same sense of urgency in our lives. These are the things that’ll bless. These are the things.
See, what Moses is seeking after here he wants revival. He wants revival. He knows this is the key and I tell you; God wants revival today. I want to see revival. I want to see revival in my life in this church and in this community. God is still stirring up. God is still moving, and we need revival today and he knows the key to it. Moses calls Israel to have their heart right with God. That’s why he says more than 10 times in the book of Deuteronomy, you shall love. This is the key to revival. You will love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, all your mind, all your strength. This is the key to revival, but then he shows us something.
I. Never Forget What God has Done for You
If you love Him, then do these things, then serve Him. See if you love Him, then serve Him. He goes through and he shows what it means. When you get to chapter 15, he’s reminding them of a particular, an interesting aspect of the law. It has to do with what is called the Sabbath year. Now we know of the Sabbath day. That’s the seventh day. Every week, the seventh day they have devotion, they have dedication, they have rest, but what about the Sabbath year? Every seventh year they were to have this year at the end of which they would forgive all debts.
Now that is an interesting thing all itself, every seven years, all debts paid in full. That’s pretty amazing. There’s two sides of that. One side is it’s pretty awesome to have your debt forgiven every seven years, that’s for sure, but what about the other side? Those who then must forgive when something is owed to them. That’s another important part of it and he’s really speaking to those people. You forgive, you let go all debts. All debts are to be forgiven, he says, and as part of it, as part of forgiving of debt, they were to set free any slaves that had been Hebrew kinsmen.
In that day’s in culture, if a person became severely indebted, they had no such things as bankruptcy laws and whatnot. If a person became severely indebted, they could sell themselves into servitude as a way of paying their debt. Therefore, when you come to the Sabbath year, as an aspect of forgiving of debts, it includes setting free everyone who had sold themselves into indebted slavery.
The spiritual significance of all of this is profound because it’s a picture of Jesus Christ. He is our Sabbath. In Him we find forgiveness of sin, the payment of all debt and being set free. There’s an interesting twist, almost an unexpected turn in these verses. He points out another interesting provision of the law. If a person who is being released at their debts, forgiven their debts and being set free, if that person has said, I don’t want to go out from you, I love this family. I love what I do. I love to serve. I do not want to go out. I love this and I love you. He said that person could then become what we would call a bond servant, servant because they want to servant by choice, bond servant.
Then it says that to make a mark on them. They would actually take their ear lobe and press it against a doorway and then they would take an awl, like a whole punch and then they would punch it through the lobe of his ear and then they would put a gauge in it, see, and then– okay, just kidding about that part, but this was a mark by which they say, I choose to love, I choose to serve. I love this. I want to, I choose it.
What’s interesting is that Paul, the apostle in the new Testament says, that’s what I am right there. That’s what I am. I love to serve my Lord. I love what I do. I do it because I choose to do it. If you love God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength, there’s an interesting provision, then serve Him. Serve Him because you love to, because you want to.
That’s an interesting verse which started in chapter 15, verse 12, let’s read it. If your kinsmen, a Hebrew man or woman is sold to you, then he shall serve you six years. In the seventh year, you will set him free. Notice this, but when you set him free, you will not send him away empty handed. You will furnish him generously, liberally from your flocks. You’re going to provide so that he can get a new start and have what he needs to start out a new life.
You’re going to furnish him generously– generously from your flocks. Hey, here’s 10 sheep. Here’s two of the herd. Here’s a donkey. Provision. Give them generously from your threshing floor. Here’s 10 sacks of wheat or barley. From your wine vat. You shall give to him as the Lord your God, He has blessed you so you bless and you will remember verse 15, hey, you were once a slave in the land of Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you.
By the way, when Israel came out, when they were redeemed out of Egypt, the Egyptians gave generously to them when they left. They actually came out with quite a provision interestingly. God redeemed you, therefore I command you this day, these very things.
Then the twist, verse 16 and that shall come about that if he says to you, I will not go out from you, I love this, I love this family. He says, because he loves you and he loves your household since he fares well with you and he wants to stay, he loves, then you take an awl and pierce it through his ear into the door and he shall be your servant forever because he wants to and also you will do likewise to your maid servant who says the same thing I want to serve.
All right, these are the verses I want us to look at. Of course, we’ll look at the verses and chapters around them on Wednesday, but I want us to see how much they apply to our lives. One of the themes that runs through Deuteronomy that we’ve seen over and over, he captures here again, never forget what God has done for you. That’s the foundation of what he’s saying here. Notice verse 12 in the Sabbath year, they were to forgive all debts, set free any Hebrew slaves that had come into the servitude of indebtedness, but when you set him free, you generously provide so that he can start a new life.
A. Bless because you have been blessed
See when you set him free, verse 13-14, don’t send him away empty handed, liberally, generously, generously give. I love this part, this aspect because it shows a beautiful heart of the Lord. He is a God of new beginnings. I love the fact that God sets people free and sets their feet on a rock, on a foundation on which they can rebuild their lives. God is a God of new beginnings. He wanted Israel to be generous, bless abundantly because God has blessed them.
It’s a principle of the Lord and it’s like this, you bless because you have been blessed. God has blessed you; you bless. Verse 14, you will give to him as the Lord your God has blessed you. Verse 15, it says why. Because you will remember. Don’t you ever forget that you were once slaves yourselves. You were once in that condition. You never ever forget the Lord redeemed you out of that. Never forget where you came from. Never forget who you once were because it keeps you humble, and it keeps you very thankful.
God redeemed Israel out of oppression and slavery. What did He set you free from? If God set you free, never forget what He’s done. When I was growing up, I used to be ashamed of who I was. I was ashamed of our poverty. I was ashamed of my family. I was ashamed of my father and I lived with that shame all growing up years until God did something, showed me a marvelous revelation that He would redeem me, that He would do something with me and that He would take that shame and that He would use it for His glory. It was a tremendous revelation to me that God would take me out and then He would actually use it for His purpose and give meaning to my life.
He set me free, but He set me free for a purpose that He might use me to set other people free because there’s a lot of people held in the bondage of shame and God knows all about it and God is the one who redeems the person out of it and then He uses their lives for His glory. He is not finished with you yet. He’s going to take you out. He’s going to redeem you. He’s going to use it for your life. God showed me that gave me purpose, I can be used of the Lord to bring people into a place of freedom.
God even used me to lead my own father back to the Lord Jesus Christ. He received the Lord into his heart. I baptized him with my own hands. God has redeemed. God has used. I was thinking about all those things and I’ll tell you what, I will never forget where I came from and I will always be thankful because God has done so much for me. How many people would say the same thing? God has done so much for me. I’ll never forget it. It keeps you humble, keeps you very thankful.
I was thinking of the story of John Newton. Many of you know, he is the one who wrote the most famous of all hymns in the church, Amazing grace. The story of that song and of his life is very important because he was involved, he was in England and he was a captain on a slave trading ship. He was involved in slave trading and it said the story of his life is that at one point, God opened his eyes and showed him what a wicked, treacherous, wretched person that he had become. He said, when his eyes were open, it broke his heart. It broke his heart when he began to realize what a wretched thing and what a wretched person he had become.
He said the shame, I was overwhelmed with my own shame. It was too much to bear. He began to write out a confession and he wrote every single name and he said, those names, those beautiful African names, I want never to forget them. Oh, my shame, my everlasting shame, but then, God began to show him, do something with this, use this. He began– as you know, the end result of it, he started to work with those that he could help and because of this, it was ended completely in the British empire.
But he wrote the song, he put his heart out in the song and it’s blessed people to this day. God can take shame. God can do something. God can use it and God can use it in other people’s lives. He wrote one of the most beautiful songs, we still sing it today, amazing grace, the words go, and then he adds the phrase, oh, how sweet the sound of those words. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I’m found. I was blind, but now I see.
Never forget. Never forget all that God has done because if you forget, tragedy will come, but when you remember all that God has done, then you give blessing. You bless because of what God has done for you. I love 2 Peter 1:7-9 it says, in your Godliness supply brotherly kindness and in your brotherly kindness, supply love for if these qualities are yours, Godly qualities– if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind.
This is powerful. If you lack these qualities, you’re blind and shortsighted. Having forgotten his purification from his former sins, never ever forget. I don’t know about you; I’ll just add my own testimony. God has forgiven me much. Anybody want to add their own testimony? God has forgiven me much, how about you? If you forget all that God has done, it’ll become a tragedy in your life. You forgive because God has forgiven you much.
Jesus gave a parable in the new Testament that powerfully illustrates it. What had happened was this, the apostle Peter came to him and he said, now Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him up to seven times. And I’m convinced that Peter thought he was doing something magnanimous here because the rule of the day, the custom of the day was three strikes and you’re out.
That’s once. You know what? That’s twice that you have done that thing. You know what? That’s three times, you are done. You are out. Three times, you’re done. That was the rule. That was the way it was, and actually, that’s common today even. Peter says something magnanimous. How many times shall my brother offend me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times? Jesus answered, this is a Matthew 18:22 Jesus said to him, I did not say to you up to seven times, but up to 70 times seven. That’s 490.
By the way, side note, if you were to do a study of the number 490 in the Scriptures, you would be amazed. The prophetic and spiritual significance of that number alone is amazing. That we’ll save for another day, but Jesus says, I say that to you seven times, I say 70 times seven. That’s 490. The idea here is not that you would actually keep track. Oh, there’s an app for that, I’m keeping track. That’s 463 you know what? Not many more and you’re done.
No, the idea is that you forgive and then you forgive and forgive and forgive and forgive, and then you choose to forgive and then you forgive and then you forgive. I can do this a long time, and then you forgive and then you forgive and then you forgive. Then after a while you don’t have to choose to forgive because you have become a forgiver. It’s who you are now. It’s your nature now. It’s who you are. It’s your character. You have been changed.
Then immediately, now here’s the thing, immediately after saying those things, He gave a parable.
Jesus said, the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wishes to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle accounts, one who owed 10,000 talents. Now, this is a huge sum. One talent is worth 100 denarii. That’s 100 days’ wage, one talent.
This is a million day’s wage. This is massive. This is a massive sum. One who owed him 10,000 talents was brought to him. The Lord commanded that he repay. He could not repay. He demanded that he be put into debtor servitude. The servant fell on the ground, “Have patience with me.” He says, “I will repay.” The Lord of that servant felt compassion and forgave him the entire debt. One million days’ wage, all forgiven.
That servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him 100 denarii. That’s one 10 thousandths. He seized him, began to choke him and he said, “Now you pay back what you owe.” The fellow servant fell to the ground and pleaded and said, “Have patience, I will repay you.” The servant was unwilling and threw him into debtors’ prison until he should pay back what was owed. This came to the ears of the king, who called the first servant back. Matthew 18:32-33 summoning him, the Lord his Lord said to him, “You wicked slave. I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me, should you not have also had mercy on your fellow slave in the same way that I have mercy on you?”
This is such a key word to us, forgive. Has someone offended you? Has someone hurt you? You’re carrying something? He says let go. Forgive because you have been forgiven much. Have mercy because you have received much mercy. Be kind because of the greatness of God’s kindness. Be generous because of the generosity of the Lord. Then He gives this principle to further show us the depth of insight, He says, bless and you will be blessed in return. If you love the Lord your God, love Him with all your heart, then do these things, serve Him. Do these things. But when you do these things, it will come back to you as a blessing.
B. Bless and you will be blessed in return
If you fulfill what God is asking you, further blessing goes back to you. Notice verse 10, because for this thing, the Lord your God will bless you in all of your work and in all of your undertakings. Want to be blessing the Lord? He’s showing you the way. You do these things. You love God, love God with all your heart, then serve Him with all your heart. When you serve Him with all your heart, it comes back to you as a blessing. Luke 6:36 and 38, be merciful just as your Father is merciful. God is a merciful God; you’d be like your father.
Then he says, give and it will be given to you. They will pour it into your lap, a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, for by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you in return. Give grace because you have received much grace and you will be blessed even more when that grace comes back to you.
One of the most powerful principles I know, do these things because you want to serve God, and it will come back to you. It’s one of the most powerful principles I know. You give grace, grace will come back to you. You give mercy, mercy will come back to you. I was thinking of an illustration, many years ago, many, many years ago when the church was very young, very small, there was a woman who was very offended at something I did. She was very upset with me. I know this is very hard to imagine.
What had happened was that she wanted a position and I did not think she was qualified for that position. She didn’t get the position she wanted so she was mad at me, which confirmed that she shouldn’t have had the position anyway. She was mad and she was offended. Apparently, she told her sister who lived 2000 miles away, who then decided to take up her case and send me a scathing letter.
I should have known what was up when I opened the letter and smoke came out of the envelope. I’m exaggerating, but right, this letter was on fire. She’s obviously taken up her sister’s offense and you are not a pastor; you are a wolf in sheep’s clothing. You don’t hear that very often. My first response was to get flush with anger. Do you want to cross words with me? I’m pretty good with words. Let’s do this thing. Have you ever had the Holy Spirit just check you like right now?
As soon as that flushed in me, are you want to cross words, as soon as I thought that in my head, the Holy Spirit just checked me. No, you’re not. No, you’re not. You’re not writing any such thing. What you’re going to do is you’re going to send a letter of grace. Of course, immediately, there’s a witness in your spirit. That’s right. You’re right, Lord. It’s not what I wanted to do, but that check, no, you’re not. If you love the Lord, then serve Him. Do what He’s asking you to do. Okay, Lord, I’m going to do it. I’m going to write a letter of grace.
I sat down and I wrote what I thought was the most gracious letter I could write. I decided I better maybe have another set of eyes on this. I brought it to Pastor Matthew, and I came to his office and I said, “Could you read this? Would you take your yellow highlighter and highlight anything that’s not gracious?” He said, “Sure.” He came back to my office and handed me a yellow piece of paper. You’re kidding? Really? He said, “You asked, it is not gracious.”
I rewrote it and gave it to him again, he brought back a striped one, “Hey, it’s getting better.” I said, “Would you just sit right here, please? Sit right here and if I type even one word, it’s not gracious just check me.” It was so important to me. It’s got to be right. I finished it, printed it, made a copy. I sent it off to the offended sister from 2000 miles away. I sent a copy to the person who was originally offended, that woman. I wrote a note on it. I said I don’t know what your sister heard, but I wanted you to read my response. I love you, and I’m praying that God will bring peace.
Some months passed. My wife and I were in a store. My wife came around the corner and who should she see? The woman who was originally offended, who came up to my wife with tears. “Thank you so much.” I came up to this, she gave me a hug, tears. “Thank you so much. Thank you for your grace. My heart has been healed. Thank you so much.” I tell you what? That is a beautiful thing when God brings peace. It came back. Grace came back.
This is so important. if you go the extra mile even when you don’t want to, do it because the Lord asked you to do it. Do you love him? You love him? He says, Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. If you love Him, then he says then serve Him. Do what He’s asking you to do. That’s why He gives this very interesting twist.
II. Become a Servant by Choice
There’s a picture of this very point, become a servant, serve the Lord become a servant because you want to by choice. Notice verses 16, and 17, God made this provision.
If a person loves, they love to serve they love where they, fares well with them, they want to, he could declare that. They were to take an awl, they would pierce his ear, it would be a mark that he wants to. He’s made his choice. There’s a great application, you can be more than a servant, you can be a bondservant because you want to, you love the Lord. You love the Lord, then serve Him. Do what He’s asking you to do.
A. Jesus was a bondservant Himself
In fact, what’s interesting is that Jesus himself is called a bondservant. Jesus himself was a bondservant. He wanted, he willingly, he did it as an example to us. Let me give you the words of Philippians 2:3-11. I’m going to read several verses. It’s powerful. Do nothing from selfishness, or empty conceit. God’s giving the word. You want to serve God, then do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind, regard one another as more important than yourselves.
Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God and thing to be grasped or held on to, but He emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant and being made in the likeness of man, He humbled Himself. This is what it means to be a bondservant.
He humbled Himself by becoming obedient. He did what God His father asked Him to do. He became obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross. For this reason, God highly exalted Him. It’s a principle of the Lord, you humble yourself, you serve God, He will lift you up. For this reason, God highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. That’s powerful.
B. You get to choose
Jesus was pierced through for our transgressions; He became the greatest of all bond servants. He did it willingly. He did it willingly. John 10:18, Jesus said, “No one takes my life from me. I will lay it down on my own accord. I will lay down and I’ll take it back up again.” Psalm 40:68, “My ears you have opened. I delight to do your will.” Oh my God, I love to do your will. It’s my delight. Do you love the Lord? Then serve Him. The provision He gives and verses 16 to 17 are important to recognize, you get to choose. You get to choose.
The bondservant made a choice. He loves, I love what I do I love to serve, I love this whole family, I love this place, I love these people. I want to. See, it comes out of doesn’t it comes out of love. If you love the Lord your God, love Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. And when you love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, then serve Him. Serve Him because you want to, it’s a delight. You get to choose.
It shows us the power of being wholly devoted. It keeps you from being in what I call the miserable middle. Don’t be in the miserable middle, because if you’re in the middle, you’re miserable. The middle, that’s between the world and Jesus. If you’re halfway between the world and Jesus, you’re in the miserable middle. You’re miserable because you got enough of Jesus, that you’re miserable in the world, but you got enough of the world to be miserable in Jesus.
You’re not satisfied. You’re not happy. You’re lukewarm. You’re not hot, you’re not cold, you’re lukewarm. It’s not a very good place to be. God wants you to be hot, wholly devoted. If you love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, then serve Him. In the book of Ezekiel, there’s a beautiful picture of the moving of the Holy Spirit in the last days. It’s a picture of water that comes, there’s a stream of water that comes from the holy mountain. It says that the stream begins as a little trickle. It’s a picture of the latter days of the moving of the Spirit of God. He says it becomes from the holy mountain, and it begins is a little trickle. As it continues to flow, it comes up to the depths of a man’s knees.
Then as it continues to flow, it comes up to the depths of a man’s waist. As it continues to flow, it comes up to a man’s chest. Then as it continues to flow, you must swim. It says, wherever the river flows, it brings life. It’s a picture of the Spirit. It’s a powerful picture of this, how deep you want to go. How deep do you want to go? Some people, they just want to get their feet wet. Some people just get to the knees, I want to swim in this thing.
I want all you’ve got for me, Lord. I know that you are the one that satisfies my soul. You’re the one who’s given to me, your Holy Spirit, and I want all that you got. I want to swim in this thing. I want to do what you’ve asked me to do. I want to walk as you’ve asked me to walk, and I want to see revival. I want to swim. I want the depths. Anybody else? You love the Lord? You love the Lord? Then serve Him. I want to swim in this thing, Lord.
Father, thank you so much for your grace in our lives. Thank you for pouring out your heart on us. God, I pray for everyone in this room, that you would take hold of us, that you would move by your Spirit upon us, and church, as we’re before the Lord this morning, do you love the Lord? Do you love the Lord with all your heart and soul and mind and strength? If you love the Lord, then serve Him. Then serve Him with all your heart. Would you say to the Lord today, “I want to be wholly devoted?” I want to be all in. I want to swim in this thing. God, you have won me. I want to serve you with all of my heart.
Church, would you say that? Would you just raise your hand in a bold way and say it to the Lord this morning, I want to be wholly devoted to You? I want to love you with my heart. I want to serve you with my heart, and I want to be all in wholly devoted, I want to swim in this thing. Would you just raise your hand to the Lord and just say it by raising your hand, God, I want to be wholly devoted?
Thank you, God for moving in power in Jesus’ name and everyone said?
Can we give the Lord praise and glory and honor? Amen? Amen.
January 18-19, 2020
We are going to be in Deuteronomy 4:29. Remember that during the Wednesday service, we’ll be doing the other verses around this, so we do verse by verse on Wednesday, and then we drill into these places on the weekend services. Deuteronomy 4:29. The title of our message this morning is Pursuing God. However, the title could also be said, A God Pursuing You, because both things are true. Both things are very important to understand as part of our spiritual life.
In fact, in Deuteronomy 4, this first verse; verse 29, is perhaps one of the most famous verses in the Bible in regard to seeking and pursuing God. It says, in Deuteronomy 4:29, it says, “But from there, you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart, and all your soul.” “From there,” He says. From where? From where is He speaking? From the point in which you’ve come to the end of yourself when the pursuit of the world has left you empty, void of meaning and life.
“From there.” He says. From that point. From there, you seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him. If you search with all your heart and with all your soul. See, here’s my point that I want us to recognize. When you seek for Him from that place, you will find Him, and that is when you will discover that He was pursuing you all the way through. He was just waiting for you to seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.
The Book of Deuteronomy is Moses’s last speech. This is it. This is the last speech he’s going to give Israel before they enter into the promises of God. Before they go into the Promised Land. Now, if you got one last speech that you’re going to give, I suggest that last speech is going to be epic. That’s exactly what we see. Moses is pouring it all out. This is his last opportunity. What does he do? He gives warnings to them. He gives admonitions, but he also gives words of encouragement and of revival. He says, “If you would listen to the statutes and the judgments of the Lord, it will go well with you.” He wants them to be blessed. I want it to go well with you. I tell you what, that’s a great word for today. I want to be blessed. I want it to go well. Anybody else? He said, “I’ll give you the keys. I’ll show you the way. You listen to the judgments of the Lord.”
Then he says, “Now, let me admonish you, don’t add one word to this. Don’t even subtract a word from this. For these words are life. Keep them, do them. That is wisdom, that is understanding.” Then he says, “For what great nation is there that has a God so near as the Lord our God whenever we call on Him.” Then he gives this warning. Now, this is all leading up to where we are. He gives this warning, and he says, “Only give heed to yourselves and keep your soul diligently. Watch over the condition of your soul, lest you forget all the things which your eyes have seen, which the Lord your God has done for you. Never forget. Never forget all the amazing things lest they depart from your heart. Watch yourselves very carefully, lest you go after the things of the world. Beware, lest you be drawn away. Watch yourselves,” he says. “lest you forget that covenant with the Lord your God made with for the Lord is a consuming fire.”
Now, that’s just a great Word. Beware, never forget. Remember the day that you came to faith in Christ? If you haven’t, that day is coming for you. It’s a day of revival, a day when God takes hold of his soul and ignite something. Remember that day? That’s a day of revival. He said, “No, never forget. Never forget all that God has done for you.” I tell you what, God has done amazing things for me. Anybody else want to agree with that? God has done amazing things for me.
He says, “Never forget it.” Never forget. Watch over your soul very carefully. Then he foretells them. He said, “I will tell you what will happen if you do forget. If you do draw away, you let your heart draw away and serve the work of man’s hands. I will tell you in advance what will happen. Your lives will crash. Your nation will be destroyed and you will be scattered amongst the nations.”, he says.
It’s a good word. He’s giving them words of revival. Showing them what it means to be on fire for the Lord. Be careful, watch your soul, because if you forget, if you’re drawn away and your life crashes and you’re in distress, he says, “From there, from that point, you seek God, and you will find Him. You will then discover that He was pursuing you all the way.”
Let’s read it. We’re in Deuteronomy 4:29, last speech of Moses, “But from there, you will seek the Lord your God and you will find Him. If you search for Him with all of your heart, and with all of your soul when you are in distress, and all of these things have come upon you. In the latter days, you will return to the Lord your God, and you will listen to His voice.”
In other words, you call God from there and you will find revival. Here’s why. Verse 31, “For the Lord, your God is a compassionate God.” He wants them to know in advance who God is and what is he like. He’s a compassionate God. He will not fail you. He will not destroy you. He will not forget the covenant with your fathers which He swore to them.
Verse 32, “Indeed ask now, concerning the former days, which were before you since the day that God has created men on this earth, inquire from one end of the heavens to the other, has anything been done like this great thing? Has it ever happened? Has anything been heard like this?” You tell me, has anything ever happened like this? Has any people ever heard the voice of God speaking from the midst of the fire as you have heard it and survived, or has it God tried to go to take for himself a nation from within another nation by trials, and signs, and wonders, and by war, and by a mighty hand, and by an outstretched arm with great terrors as the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes? You tell me, has this ever happened in the history of man? Has it ever happened?
In fact, do you know what’s interesting? You could ask the same question today. When you see what is happening today, what God has done for Israel today, we could actually ask the same question. Has it ever happened in the history of the world that a people who are living in their land, who were then scattered amongst the nations, has it ever been in the history of man that that people has returned to their land from which they came and reestablished their nation again? Has this ever happened in the history of the world? Answer is no, it’s never happened, but it’s happened to Israel three times. It’s a declaration that God is faithful to His word, God is faithful to His promises, you can count on it.
Verse 35, “To you, it was shown that you might know that the Lord He is God. There is no other beside Him. Out of the heavens, He let you hear His voice to discipline you. On earth, He let you see His great fire, and you heard His words from the midst of the fire. Because the Lord, He loved your fathers, therefore, He chose their descendants after them. He personally brought you from Egypt, by His great power, driving out from before you nations greater and mightier than you to bring you in and to give you their land as an inheritance as it is to this day. Know, therefore today and take it into your heart, that the Lord, He is God in heaven above and on earth below there is no other.” This is an epic speech. “Take this into your heart, there is no one like our God.”
Verse 40, “You will keep His statutes and His commandments which I am giving you today, that it may go well with you. I want to bless you, I want revival for you, and with your children after you, that you may live long in this land which the Lord your God is giving you for all time.”
I. Don’t Let the Fire Grow Dim
Now, these are the verses I want us to look at. As you know, we’re going to cover the other verses around it on Wednesday. I want us to see what He’s speaking to us here, because there’s so much to apply to our lives. He’s giving them the way of greatest blessing. I want to bless your life, but it’s based and founded on revival. Let there be a fire that burns. Never forget what God has done for you. Therefore, He’s giving him this word. What is he saying? He’s saying, “Listen, don’t let the fire grow dim. Don’t let the fire that one started in your life, never let it grow dim.”
One of the most famous preachers of church history has to be C. H. Spurgeon. One of his most famous quotes. Somebody came to him and said, “Obviously, your ministry is amazingly blessed of God. What is the key to this?” He answered famously, he said this, he said, “I am on fire for God. When I preach, they come to watch me burn.” That is a famous quote. Every pastor has heard that quote, because it’s a call. Let the fire of God burn for the Lord, be on fire for God. Here’s the thing I suggest, I think it’s not just the pastor who should be on fire. I’m saying, let the whole church be on fire. Let there be a revival in the church. That’s what God wants to do. Amen.
He said, “Well, how does that happen? How does that happen? How is it possible that a people catch fire? How does that happen exactly?” Here’s the answer. You draw near to the fire, and you’ll catch fire. That’s the answer. You draw near to the fire, and you will catch fire. The words of Moses are an admonition. He wants revival. Don’t let that fire grow dim.
One of the songs I used to love when I was young. I’m going to quote from the words of it. When I was young, I had an addiction to worship and piano, singing, playing and worshiping myself. I first learned piano when I went to Oregon State. I was studying business management. I had electives, and so I chose piano and music theory and such. I was playing, I’d play hours and hours. Many of you know, I went into the restaurant business and did that for a while. Then God really put a call on my life to go into ministry to be a pastor. I went into Bible college at Multnomah University, went to Western seminary.
While I’m there, I got this addiction to worship. I discovered that there were 10 minutes between classes. If I ran to the piano hall, I could play for eight minutes, and then run to my next class. Then when that class was over, I could run back to the piano, play for eight minutes and then run back. Then I discovered I started finding different pianos in the community that would let me play. There was that church over there, and that church there. The Hillsborough library let me play. I found all these places.
Well, one day, I’m in this church, and I’m there in the sanctuary, I’m playing and singing and I’m worshiping, and I’m singing this song. Then the pastor comes to the sanctuary. I stopped and I said, “Hey, come here. Listen to this song. Come here.” He did. He came and sat down. I started singing the song. Here are the words, it’s by Steve Camp. “Oh Lord, take your plow to my fallow ground.” What is fallow ground? It’s hard. It’s ground that is hard, it produces nothing. Nothing will grow on fallow ground, it’s hard. Only way it will produce, bring a plow, plow it up, dig deep.
I’m singing this song, “Oh Lord, take your plow to my fallow ground. Let the blade dig down in the soil of my soul. For I’ve become dry and dusty. Oh Lord, I know there must be richer earth lying below. For I’ve been living in Laodicea. The fire that once burned bright, I’ve let it grow dim.” It was at that point of the song that the pastor stopped me. He said, “Whoa, no, hey, don’t be singing that song.” I said, “Why not?” He said, “Don’t you understand? That’s a prayer. God will do it.”
A. Be careful not to drift away from the Lord
To which I said, “I think that’s the point.” Because listen, if I’m hard, if my heart gets hard, bring your plow, plow it up, Lord. I don’t want to be hard. I don’t want to be dry and dusty. I don’t want to get a hard heart. Anybody else who agree with this? I don’t want a hard heart. If I get dry and dusty, plow it up, Lord, plow it up. Because we are all living in Laodicea. I’ll tell you right now.
Book of Revelation speaks of that city of Laodicea. It’s worldly. It’s a worldly city. We are all living in Laodicea. It’s easy for the heart to be drawn away. If I get hard, if I get dry and dusty, plowed up, Lord, for the fire that once burned bright, don’t let it grow dim. That’s why he gives this admonition, “Watch over your soul very carefully.”, He says, “Be careful not to drift away from the Lord.” He gives this warning.
When God gave the 10 commandments, which we learned of earlier. He will speak of again in this epic speech. The first of the 10 commandments is, “Have no other gods before me.” God knew that they must have God first. You must love God most. Have God first in your life, or you’ll drift away, be drawn away into things that are worldly and very dangerous. Have God first. Why is this so important? Because God knows that you will become what you love most. Love is the transforming power. You will become like that what you love most, you will become like that what you idolize, you could even say.
I was thinking of an illustration. Back in the 60s, now I know a lot about the 60s because I’ve read about in books. Back in the 60s, The Beatles were a thing. People idolized The Beatles; they loved their songs. Here’s the thing. They became like them. If you remember, The Beatles brought in Eastern philosophy into their lives and into their songs. When they brought Eastern philosophy into their lives and into their songs, it changed the entire culture of our country. Eastern philosophy then became a thing in this nation. You become like that which you love, you become like that what you idolize. “Be careful.” He gives a warning.
Psalms 115:4-9. He says, “Their idols are silver and gold.” That’s what their idols are. “The work of man’s hands, oh, they have mouths, but they cannot speak. They have eyes, but they cannot see. Those who make them will become like them. Everyone who trusts in them, beware.” Then he says, “Oh Israel, trust in the Lord. He is your help. He is your shield.” He’s giving a warning there. Then the writer of Hebrews gives a similar admonition. Hebrews 2:1. For this reason, we must pay close attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. Watch over your soul, diligently watch your soul. Pay close attention. Do not allow your soul to drift away, just drifting with the world. This flowing ride along, it’s easy to drift. This move– In fact, there’s no resistance when you drift.
I was thinking of an illustration. A number of years ago, my wife and I went hot air ballooning. We had a gift certificate or anniversary thing or something. We get there super early in the morning, and the guy greets us, and there’s a big basket. He’s explaining how this is going to go. He says, “Oh, you’re going to love it. We’re going to go up in this basket. When we get up in the air, oh, you’re going to love it. It’s just so calm there. There’s no wind. You feel no resistance at all. Oh, you’re going to love it.” He says. Why don’t you feel any wind? Because you’re moving with the wind. We’re just beautifully calm.
The thing is, he says, “Now, you’re going to love it.” Let me give you this. When we come down, we may have some issues landing, because the faster we go, the more dangerous is the landing. I’m thinking, “This is a great speech. This is great. I can’t wait to do this thing.” Because you see, you not know how fast you’re going until you have a fixed point of reference. You could be up there just drifting along, no resistance at all. “Oh, this is so wonderful.” Then you get near to a fixed point of reference and realize, “Whoa, we are flying.” This is going to be a hard landing. It’s like that. It’s like, Oh, you can just drift right along with the world, you have no idea how far you’ve gone, how far it’s taken you. It’s like you could be floating down a river, and you have no idea how fast you’re going until you see a boulder on the shore. You’re going along and then you see this boulder and go, “We’re flying now.” It’s a fixed point of reference that shows you just how far you’ve gone.
Back in the days, when I was going to Bible College, I was also a server at a restaurant. Back in the back, it was common to banter and talk to other servers and whatnot. I always let it know who I was. I let people know I’m a Christian and going to Bible College. I want to be a pastor, and I let people know.
We’re in the back, and this young fellow comes up to me and he clearly knows who I am, he knows what I’m about and he clearly wants a reaction. He comes up to me and he says, “Hey, I am so excited. I moved in with my girlfriend.” He’s obviously he’s looking for a reaction, so I figured I’d give him one. I said, “You moved in with your girlfriend.” I said, “Does your mother know?”
I’m trying to bring a fixed point of reference, let’s start with your mother, “Does your mother know?” He said, “My mother? Of course, of course, my mother knows.” Then he says, “Welcome to the 90s.” This was a few years ago. “Welcome to the 90s? What does that mean?” “What do you think that means, welcome to the 90s? It means, hey, this world’s changed a little bit since you grew up.” “Welcome to the 90s?” I said, “It was wrong when God said it was wrong 2,000 years ago and it’s still wrong today. Amen.” He said, “Why do you have to be so serious?” I said, “Hey, you brought it up.”
B. Search with all your heart and soul
We need a fixed point of reference. God’s Word is that rock. You don’t know how far you’ve gone until you look at God’s word. He gives this warning, I will foretell you, I will tell you in advance what will happen. You’ll crash your life, you’ll find yourself in distress. Let me tell you this, on that day when that happens, I will also tell you that you will search for God, and you will find Him. I want you to know who God is, I want you to know God’s heart. On that day, you will search, and I will tell you right now, you will find Him. If you search with all your heart and with all your soul. When you seek Him, seek Him with all your heart, because the heart is the key to the repenting, the heart is the key to revival.
Let me give you this verse, it’s very famous, Hebrews 11:6. “He comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” God wants us to be a seeking people. God wants us to seek Him.
Let me give you another verse. Talk about epic speeches, David, in his last speech to his son Solomon. Now, if you’re going to do your last speech, you’re going to put out some big words. Last speech. He’s going to give Solomon some words for his life. 1 Chronicles 28:9, “As for you, my son, Solomon, know the God of your father.” Giving him words for life now. “As for you my son, know the God of your father. Serve Him with a whole heart, and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts. He understands every intent of the thoughts.” Then he says this statements, really amazing. “And if you seek Him, He will let you find Him.” I love that statement. “If you seek Him, He will let you find Him.” He wants you to seek. “Seek Him from there,” he says, “In that day of distress, in that day and trouble, you seek Him from there, from that place. Seek Him there. Don’t wait.”
Some people feel like they got to get their act together before they got to make themselves worthy for God to receive them, they’ve got to get their act together before they can come back to the Lord. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard people say, “Look, I just got to figure this thing out on my own. I just got to figure this thing out on my own.” To which I had the same answer, “No you won’t, you figuring things out is what got you into trouble in the first place. What you need is to seek God from there right where you are, you seek Him from there, search for Him, for He is the one who will rebuild your life when you search for Him with all your heart and your soul.” The point is to seek Him from there, from the point of distress, from the point of despair when you’ve reached to the end of yourself, you seek Him, and here’s what He’s trying to show you. He will not reject you, He will not reject you.
See, many suppose that He will, because they know that that’s what they deserve, and they think that’s what God is about. No, He wants you to know in advance, God is a compassionate God. Know this now, God is a compassionate God, and He will welcome you. When you search for Him from that point of distress, you will find Him, when you search for Him with your heart and your soul.
What are the, I think grandest stories that shows us this has got to be the story of the prodigal son at Luke 15. Jesus is giving a parable, and He said a man had two sons, and the youngest son came to his father and he says, “Father, give me my inheritance early.” He had a vast sum, and he went into the city and he spent it all. Worldly living, parties, women, all of it. He spent it all. Which reminds me of a proverb out of the book of Proverbs, “A fool and his money are soon parted.” It’s a great Word. “A fool and his money are soon parted.”
The son, he had a fortune. He went into the city, wasted it all. Women, parties, worldly living, and then after he had spent it all, he had nothing left, a famine hit the land. He couldn’t even get a job. Finally, he lands a job, but it’s the worst job a Jew could possibly have, feeding swine. Now you might say, “Oh, it can’t get any worse than this.” Oh no, it gets worse, because he then becomes jealous of the pigs. They have food and he does not. Then it says, “And that’s when he came to his senses.” It’s a glorious day when someone comes to their senses. He says, “My father’s servants are treated better than this, I’m going home.” He has a speech already in his mind. He will say, “Father, I have sinned. I sinned against heaven and in your sight. I am no longer worthy to be your son. I’m not coming home to be a son, I just need a job. Take me as one of your hired men.” He has a speech all ready to go.
He goes to his father, and we pick up the story in Luke 15:20-24. It says, the parable continues, “While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion.” He’s trying to show us, in advance, God is a compassionate God. God pursues. He felt compassion, and he ran and he embraced him and fell on him and kissed him. The father said to His servants, “Quickly, bring the best robe and put it on my son.” He heard the speech. Take me as a heard man, bring a robe, put it on my son. Put a ring on his hand, authority. Put sandals on his feet, for this son of mine was dead, but has come to life again. The son of mine was lost, and has been found. In other words, who was searching for whom? They began to celebrate and rejoice.
II. God Pursues Sinners with His Love
I kind of love this story because it shows us when from there, from that point of despair and distress, you search for Him, you seek Him, and you will find Him, because God is a compassionate God, and then what you will discover is that God was pursuing you all the way, because here’s the point, God pursues sinners with His love. When you’ve come to the end of yourself, He says, “Seek God from there and you will find that He was searching for you.” He was pursuing you, because God loves sinners, that’s why He pursues them. He wants sinners to come, He wants sinners to seek Him with all of their hearts, because they have been searching. They have been searching, that’s why they got into that, because they were searching, but they were searching for the wrong things.
What is that saying? They were searching for love, but all the wrong places. They were searching, and in fact I suggest that there is a great searching in the human soul. It’s an aspect of the human soul. There’s a great looking, there’s a great longing and searching in life. People are looking, searching for meaning, for purpose, something deeper. They’re looking for meaning, they’re looking for love, they’re looking for purpose. They’re searching. Why does God put a searching like that in the soul? God puts a searching like that in the soul so that you will search and you will find him because there’s a great joy in the finding. Search with all your heart. There’s a great joy in the finding.
1 John 4:19, “We love Him, because He first loved us.” He pursued us. Now, seek after Him with all your heart. There is a joy in the finding. Because what we see is that God does pursue, God pursues with His love, and God is pursuing, God is seeking the wounded. That’s God’s heart. That’s what we see.
A. God is seeking the wounded
One of the most powerful scriptures, I think, that shows the heart of God in the seeking and in the pursuing for the hurting, and the wounded, has to be Ezekiel 34. You’ve got to read the whole chapter sometime. He begins the chapter by speaking against the shepherds, the leaders of Israel who were feeding themselves and not the sheep, and the sheep became scattered. This is Ezekiel 34:4. He accuses these leaders, says, “Those who are sickly, you have not strengthened. The diseased, you have not healed. The broken, you have not bound up. The scattered, you have not brought back, nor have you sought for the lost.” You want my heart? You have to be doing this. This is my heart.
This is a key. He wants us to see His heart. He pursues those that are hurting, those that are wounded. I tell you what, there are so many wounded today. It seems to me that there are more woundedness people, broken people, today than ever before that I’ve ever seen. There’s a great lostness, a brokenness, a woundedness. Therefore, He’s trying to make a point. He says, “I will pursue them, I will seek for them.” What is He saying in Ezekiel 34, “I will seek for them myself.” Ezekiel 34:11, and then verse 15-16, “For thus says the Lord God, behold, I myself will search for my sheep. I will seek them out.” I just love the heart that He is showing us here, “I will find them. I will seek for them. I will feed my flock, and I will lead them to rest, declares the Lord God. I will seek the lost, I’ll bring back the scattered, I’ll bind up the broken, I will strengthen the sick.”
B. God is seeking the lost
Now, this is a great Word, because He wants us to see His heart. If you’re here today, and you’re carrying some wound, somebody has wounded you somehow, you’ve been hurt in life, you’ve got to know this, God loves you, and He is pursuing you because He wants to heal that wound. He wants to bind it up. He wants to bring healing to your life. He wants to bring revival to your soul, because if your soul is alive, you are alive. He wants to bring revival to you. God loves you. He is pursuing you, because what we see is God’s heart. God is pursuing, God is seeking, and God is seeking the lost.
Luke 15 is filled with parables that have this one theme, God is seeking the lost. The chapter begins very interestingly, Luke 15:1-2, “Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him.” Now, right there, we love that first sentence, because we can relate to this story. “Oh, yes, we would be in that group too.” Sinners came to Him, to hear Him, to listen to Him. “We want to hear.” But the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, “Would you look at this man, this man receives sinners. Can you believe this? He says he’s holy. He says he’s righteous. Would you look at this? He actually receives sinners. He ought to be casting them away. He’s holy. He says He’s holy. You’ve got to be casting them off. Oh, no, He receives sinners, and He even eats with them. Can’t believe it.”
He answers. He says, “A shepherd had 100 sheep, and one of them was lost. Would he not leave the 99 and go and search for the one that was lost? When he found him, would he not put him on his shoulders and bring him home? Then he would call his friends and his neighbors and say, ‘rejoice with me, that which was lost has been found.”‘ He says, “I tell you, there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than 99 who think they need no repentance.”
Then He gives another parable. He said, “There was a woman who had 10 silver coins. One was lost. Would she not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, would she not call her friends and her neighbors and say, ‘rejoice with me, that which was lost has been found.”‘ Then He says it again, “I tell you, there is rejoicing in heaven when one sinner repents.”
I have a question. Did Jesus mean that? When he said that right there, when he said, “There is rejoicing in heaven when one sinner repents.” Did He mean that? I suggest that He did mean that, and I love imagining it. Maybe my imagination is a little much, but I love imagining it. Rejoicing in heaven. What’s interesting is the parable says that when that shepherd finds the lost sheep, he calls his friends and family, “Rejoice with me.” The woman who found the last coin says to her friends and neighbors, “Rejoice with me. I found that which was lost.” He’s showing us something. The angels of heaven rejoice with Him. A sinner has been found, a lost sheep has been found. A sinner has come home. Let’s rejoice.
I love imagining the angels shouting and rejoicing. “Oh, praise God. A sinner. Everyone see this? A sinner has come home. This is a great day. This is a grand day.” Angels of heaven are rejoicing. It’s a powerful picture, because God pursued that lost sheep. It’s His heart to pursue. Jesus said, “I’ve come to seek and to save. That was the whole reason my father sent me, to seek after them, to find them, and when I find them, to save them.”
One of the great stories that shows us the heart of God has to come out of John 4. It tells us the story of a woman from the city of Sychar. It says at the beginning of the chapter, that Jesus had to go through Samaria. Now, you might know that the Jews despise Samaritans. They look down on them, they thought of them as half breeds, because they had intermarried with the Gentiles, and Jews would have nothing to do with them. Most Jews would go around Samaria, but it says Jesus had to go through it, not just because He wanted to get from one to another place, but because, I suggest, He was pursuing a lost sheep.
He comes to this place, and there’s a well. He sends the disciples into the city to buy food. While He’s there, a woman comes to the well by herself. Now, this is very unusual. Women would not come by themselves, it’s dangerous, but she’s by herself. As she approaches, Jesus says to her, “Woman, give me a drink.” She says, “How is it that you being a Jew would ask a drink from me, since I’m a Samaritan? How is that?” Jesus said, “If you knew who was asking, you would have asked of Him and He would give you living water.” She said, “Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and this well is deep. Where do you get this living water?” He said, “Anyone who drinks from this well, will thirst again, but the water that I give when he drinks, he will never thirst. For the living water that I give will spring up into him as eternal life.” She said, “Sir, give me this water. Give me this water.” He said, “Go call your husband.” “I have no husband.”
“You have answered correctly, that you have no husband. For, in fact, you’ve have five husbands, and the man you are now with is not your husband.” She said, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you people say that it is in Jerusalem that we must worship.” He said, “I tell you a time is coming in now when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem where people worship. My father is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth, and such, My Father is seeking.” And such, my Father is seeking. She says, “I know that when the Messiah comes, He will speak all things.” He said, “I, who speak to you, am He.”
I’ve thought about this story, and I’ve come to change my view of this woman. I used to think that when He says, “Call your husband”, she says, “I have no husband.” “Correct, because you’ve had five husbands, and the man you’re now with is not your husband.” Then she says, “Sir, I perceive you’re a prophet.” For a long time, I thought, oh, she’s ashamed of herself, and so she just wants to change the subject. Let’s not talk about me, shall we, let’s talk about you. I’ve changed my view. I think perhaps what was happening, was that Jesus was seeking a lost sheep. He touched a very deep wound. Something very hurt and broken.
How many times has she gone out into the night under the stars? “God, what’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with me? Everything I touch fails. I’ve had five failed marriages.” No one enters a marriage thinking that it’s going to fail. They always think it’s going to be wonderful. This could be the one. Everything I touch and despise, no one wants me. These women did not want her around. Don’t be near my man. No one wanted her. She’s given up on the idea of marriage. Now she’s violating her conscience. She’s living with the man. I give up. I’m lonely. What’s wrong with me God? I know yet I know. You say that hope will come, that you will send the Messiah, who will speak of things, who will have the answers. Where? Where, God? Where is hope?
Then Jesus comes seeking the lost sheep, touching the deepest wound that she has. She is so radically transformed. She’s so radically changed that she goes into the city and she says, “You’ve got to meet this man who just told me everything I’ve ever done”, and the whole city comes out to see Jesus and to hear His words. I tell you, Jesus loves sinners. Do you believe it? Can we give the Lord praise and glory?
There is a song that we love to sing.
Oh, come to the alter. I want to quote just some of the words. Are you hurting and broken within, overwhelmed by the weight of your sin? Jesus is calling. What does that mean? It means Jesus is pursuing. He is seeking. He wants to find those that are hurting and broken. He wants to find those that are overwhelmed by the weight of it. He’s calling. Have you come to the end of yourself? Do you get thirst for a drink from the well? He’s pursuing. Jesus is calling. Oh, come, come to the alter. What does that mean? It means Jesus wants you to be seeking. He wants you to be looking. He wants you to be searching. You come, and you’ll find that the Father’s arms are open wide. Forgiveness was bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ. Oh, my Savior. Isn’t He wonderful? Sing hallelujah. Christ has risen. Glorious.
Father, thank you so much for your heart, for pursuing, hurting the broken, those that are overwhelmed, those who have come to the end of themselves, those that are thirsty. You pursue them, but then you say, now you seek, now you come, and come with all your heart, for the Father’s arms, are open wide.
Church, today, as we are before the Lord, as the Spirit is speaking life, even this morning, the Spirit is speaking life, are you hurting? Carrying some wound? God is pursuing you. God will bind up. God will heal. God will strengthen. Jesus is calling. Would you open your heart to Him? Would you let Him heal? Would you let Him strengthen? Would you let Him bring revival? God wants revival. God wants revival here. God wants revival now. God wants this church to be on fire. Now is the time, now is the day to let the Spirit revive the church. Would you open your heart, would you say, God, bring revival to me, bring revival to my heart, to my life? I want you to be that fire in my soul. Would you say that to God? Would you say it by just lifting your hand in a bold way? Revival comes from boldness, does it not? Revival comes from boldness. Open your hand, open your heart, raise your hand to the Lord and say, God, I’m asking, I want that fire. I want revival. Would you say it to the Lord? Would you raise your hand to the Lord and say, God, I want revival. Let Him bring the fire and the spirit, let Him bring His life. He is pursuing you, because He knows that revival is life.
Father, thank you for everyone who has responded to the Lord, moved in power. We give you thanks and glory and honor for all that you’re doing at us today. In Jesus name.
God’s Favor Even in the Storm
January 11-12, 2020
The favor of God is a very beautiful aspect of our relationship to the Lord. When you think about the favor of God, what does that actually mean? I think for a lot of people, when you think of a favor of God, it means, oh yes, they get the best parking place next to the entry or the lane that they’re in is the lane is actually moving, or they get a raise or they get a promotion. A lot of times people think of the favor of God in this way, but this is why many people miss, God’s hand of favor and blessing often comes in the midst of suffering, in the midst of the storm, in the midst of the difficulties of life.
I can give you many examples. David was anointed King of Israel, now this is clearly the favor of God on his life, but then the troubles began to come into his life, but through those troubles, he saw the favor of God. It was when he faced that Philistine giant that yet again he saw God’s hand of favor. Daniel, Daniel was one of the greatest prophets in the Old Testament and was given the gift of interpreting dreams, clearly the favor of God is on his life. He’s given the position of power and the authority in the Babylonian kingdom. Clearly the hand of God, the favor of God is on his life. But then persecution arises and he is cast into a den of lions.
Talk about trouble, but there again, he saw the favor of God in his life. You want to think about a modern example of this. Do you know where- in the all the world today, do you know where the church is growing the fastest and strongest? In Iran. Here in Iran, the church is heavily persecuted, heavily going through trouble and there is revival like they have never seen before. As many of you know, we have an Iranian pastor on our staff and we have an Iranian church and many have come to faith out of Islam through that.
So they understand what’s happening and there’s revival in the midst of persecution. Then you look at Paul. Paul clearly had the favor of God on his life. He had the privilege of being one of the greatest apostles in the New Testament. Most of the New Testament scriptures were written by Paul more than any other apostle. Yes, he suffered greatly, perhaps more than any of the other apostles. He writes and describes some of the challenges and difficulties. He says five times he received from the Jews 39 lashes, three times he says he was beaten with rods, once he was stoned and left for dead, three times he was shipwrecked, he spent a day and a night in the deep, yet clearly, unequivocally, the favor of God was on his life.
Now, after hearing all that, you might say, “Oh, I’m not sure I want God’s favor on my life if that’s what it means,” but here’s the thing, this world is filled with difficulties and troubles. You’re going to encounter troubles and difficulties no matter where you are. I would rather go through difficulties and trials with the favor of God revealed than any other place to be. Anybody else agree with me? See, Paul’s story is a story of the favor of God. I want us to look at this in Acts chapter 28, it’s the favor of God even in the midst of the storm. Last week we journeyed with Paul as he was on this ship in a raging storm in the middle of the Mediterranean for a full two weeks.
Can you imagine being on a sailing vessel in the middle of the Mediterranean in a raging storm for two full weeks. Then they’re shipwrecked on an Island. We know that Island is Malta, two or three journeys ago when we did the footsteps of Paul journey, we went there and it was so amazing, because of all of the days- I mentioned this before, of all the days that we were there, the one time we had a storm was when we went to Malta and everyone was so excited that we were actually experiencing a storm on Malta. It’s like, this is just like Paul, except we were on a cruise ship. Here you see in this story the favor of God even in the midst of the storm, there’s a lot of principles out of this.
Remember what had happened, they had battled this storm for two weeks and it says all hope was lost. Paul stood up in their midst and he urged them, he gave them courage, which is to say Paul had strength of faith to encourage them. “Keep up your courage men, for I believe God.” See, this is the key. “I believe God, it will turn out exactly as I’ve been told but first we must run aground on a certain Island.” So about midnight on the 14th day, it says, the sailors began to surmise that they were approaching land.
Fearing they might run aground somewhere on the rocks, they cast four anchors from the stern and wished for daybreak. When daybreak finally came, they observed a certain bay with a beach and they decided to drive the ship onto that beach if they could do it. So casting off their anchors, hoisting the foresail to the wind, they headed for the beach, but they struck a reef and the power of the vessel stuck fast, and soon the force of the waves began to break up the ship at the stern.
So they commanded those who could swim to jump overboard and make it to land and the rest would follow on planks or various things from the ship. They again then to the Island of Malta, which is where we pick up the story. Now, storms come in life. There’s a big difference between going through a storm and shipwrecking your faith. There’s a big difference between going through an actual ship wreck and ship wrecking your faith. It’s all about what God is showing us here. The favor of God can be seen and oftentimes is more seen in the midst of the storm.
Let’s pick up the story. We are in chapter 28 verse 1. When they had been brought safely through, we found out that the Island was called Malta and the natives showed us extraordinary kindness, for because of the rain that had set in and because of the cold, they kindled the fire and received us all. But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and latched onto his hand. Here’s Paul, now, a viper is hanging off of his hand.
Now, when the natives saw this creature hanging from Paul’s hand, they began saying to one another, “Undoubtedly this man is a murderer. For though he has been saved from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live.” However, Paul shook the creature off into the fire and suffered no harm. They were expecting that he was about to swell up suddenly or to suddenly fall down dead. But after they had waited a long time and had seen nothing unusual happen to Paul, they changed their minds and began to say that he was a God.
Now, in the neighborhood of that place were lands belonging to the leading man of the Island named Publius who welcomed us and entertained us courteously three days. It came about that the father of Publius was lying in bed afflicted with recurrent fever and dysentery and Paul went in to see him, and after he had prayed, he laid his hands on him and healed him. This is the favor of God. He’s gone through a raging storm for two full weeks, shipwrecked on an island, having to swim to make it to shore, and he’s helping with the fire, a viper latches onto his hand and now the favor of God in the healing aspect of the Holy Spirit.
After this happened, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases were coming to Paul and getting healed. This is the favor of God in the midst of it. And so they honored us with many marks of respect, and when we were setting sail, they supplied us with all we needed. At the end of three months, we set sail on an Alexandrian ship, which had wintered at the island and which had the twin brothers for its figurehead. After we put in at Syracuse, we stayed there for three days. From there, we sailed around and arrived at Rhegium. A day later a south wind sprang up and on the second day we came to Puteoli.
You know you’re getting close to Italy when you come to Puteoli. There we found some brethren, in other words, Christian brothers and we were invited to stay with them for seven days, and thus we came to Rome. The grand Rome that Paul has so long to come to, he finally arrives, though he’s a prisoner. The brethren, when they heard about us, came from there as far as the market of Appius and Three Inns to meet us. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage. When he entered Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself with the soldier who was guarding him, he is chain to a Roman guard.
It happened that after three days, he called together those who were the leading men of the Jews. When they had come together, he began to say to them, “Brethren, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans, and when they had examined me, they were willing to release me because there was no ground for putting me to death. When the Jews objected, I was forced to appeal to Caesar, not that I hide any accusation against my nation.
For this reason therefore, I requested to see you and to speak with you, for I am wearing this chain for the sake of the hope of Israel.” They said to him, “We have neither received the letters from Judea concerning you nor have any of the brethren come here and reported or spoken anything bad about you, but we desire to hear from you what your views are for concerning this sect.” Now, remember in those days that Christianity was considered to be a sect of Judaism. “We want to hear from you, for it is known to us that it is spoken against everywhere.”
When they had set a day for him, they came to him in his lodging in large numbers. He was explaining to them by solemnly testifying about the Kingdom of God, now, listen to this part, trying to persuade them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the prophets. In other words, he was speaking to them out of the Jewish Scriptures in the Old Testament proving to them that Jesus was the Son of God, the Messiah. He said he did this from morning until evening. I would love to have been in that Bible study. Now, it says, verse 24 that some were persuaded by this. Some came to Christ through this, but others would not believe.
I. You Need a Better Perspective
This is a really key part of the history of Paul’s journey and the Gospel itself. I want us to look at this because there is so much to apply to our lives. Starting with this, you need a better perspective. It’s all about how you see the thing. How do you interpret the events of life? What is the perspective? How do you see it? See, the natives are exceptionally kind, and because of the cold, they kindle the fire and Paul is gathering sticks. I love this part about Paul because he’s being so helpful.
I like that because I tend to be maybe sometimes even a little too helpful. Anyone who knows me knows I can be a little too helpful, but I love this, Paul is being helpful, he grabs the sticks and he throws them in them into the fire and that’s when a viper comes out and latches, fastens onto his hand. How do you respond when troubles come? I suggest it’s all about the perspective. It’s all about how you see the thing. Therefore, I suggest, respond with faith when troubles come. See, how you respond, how you see the thing, your perspective has everything to do with your faith. It has to do with how you see it.
A. Respond with faith when troubles come
A lot of people, I think that at this point in all of the troubles that have amassed in his life, I think there is a lot of people frankly that would’ve been upset, they would’ve been exasperated and they would have accused God. I think a lot of people would give a speech like this, “All right Lord, I’ve had just about enough. I’ve had all I can take. Here I am, I’m serving you and then I get attacked by a crowd and then there is a plot to kill me. I sit in prison for two years and then a raging storm I go through for two full weeks, then I get shipwrecked on an island, and now this, I get bitten by a viper. How much can a man take? I’ve had it. That’s it Lord.”
That’s not Paul’s response at all. He gets bitten by a viper and he calmly shakes it off into the fire. So when you’ve been through as many storms as Paul, it begins to change your view, it begins to change your perspective, but that’s the point. It’s about changing your perspective. It’s about changing how you see it. I think a lot of people at this point would’ve panicked. I think snakes and vipers have a tendency to bring that out in people. I, being one of them, I cannot stand snakes and vipers.
In fact, I mentioned this story, when we were visiting our family when I was 15, we were in Arkansas, we went down to the Buffalo River, and there was a baby water moccasin and something arose in me. Some kind of hidden anger and aggression just came out of me. I’m a nice guy, then all of a sudden, I see this waby- waby, I made that word up, a baby water moccasin and something arises and I take a stone and I throw it. Everybody else just walks past it, “Oh, look, it is a water moccasin.” Not me, I take a stone and I throw it at the thing and I hit it, then I take another stone and I just keep hitting it until I’ve got viper soup. It’s like something arises me.
This is not Paul. Paul knew that God had made a promise to him that he was going to stand before Caesar and he was going to speak the Gospel in Rome and he believed God. He knew that God will be true to His word. You see, this is where troubles and difficulties of life actually can strengthen faith. When you’ve been through many troubles and have seen God’s favor in the midst of those troubles, you come to learn that both things are true, that there will be many troubles.
The longer you live, the more you’ll understand that is an aspect of life. You will have many troubles. But when you’ve been through those storms and then seen the favor of God, you know that that is true also, troubles will come, but so will God’s favor. In fact, that’s when you will see God’s favor most. Trouble, favor. Trouble, God’s favor. Trouble, God’s favor. It begins to change your view. It begins to change your perspective. It begins to strengthen your faith. Because the more troubles you’ve been through and the more you’ve seen God’s favor in the midst of that trouble, the greater the problems and troubles that you can face.
There is an old saying, I don’t know where I first heard it, maybe it was in the men’s discipleship book, The Measure Of A Man. I’m not sure where I read it. There is an old saying that, “A measure of a man can be measured in the size of the problems that he can face and face with strength and face with faith.” I mentioned last week that when they were in the midst of the storm, the storm is raging against the ship, they sat down a sea anchor. Now, a sea anchor is not an anchor that drags along the bottom, far too deep for that.
It’s a underwater sail and it has the effect of keeping the ship upright and stable in the midst of the storm, but the second effect is that it keeps the bow directly in the face of the wind and directly facing the waves. I love that part because I think it makes such a great point. If you’re in a raging storm, you want to be facing the wind, you want to be facing the waves. A lot of people, they want to run. They want to run from trouble. I just love this point, no, you face it straightforwardly. You face it believing that God’s favor will be seen in the midst of it and that God will be with you in it.
Let me give you a great verse. 1:38, verse 3 and then verses 7 to 8, notice what he says, “You God, you made me bold with strength in my soul.” Now that’s a great word, because it’s describing a faith that is victorious. It’s describing a person who has a better perspective. He can understand that God’s favor will be seen in the midst of the trouble. “You made me bold. You made me bold with strength in the soul.” Notice what he says, “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you will revive me. I know this. I know my God. I know how He is. I know that you will revive me though I walk in the midst of trouble and your right hand will save me. I know this.”
See, it’s perspective. The Lord will accomplish what concerns me today. I know this. It’s perspective. “Your love and kindness, oh Lord, is everlasting.” It’s how he sees it. It’s the perspective of faith in the midst of the trouble. We can learn a lot from Paul. One of the things we can learn to apply to our lives is this, nothing can separate us from God’s love. This is the foundation of Paul’s faith. This is the foundation of the way he sees it, his perspective. He knows that God’s love is everlasting and that nothing can separate him from the love of God.
B. Nothing can separate us from God’s love
He writes that to us so boldly and clearly in Romans 8. I love Romans 8. It’s one of the most powerful chapters in the Bible. It’s one of my favorite chapters in the New Testament. Here in Romans 8, verse 35 and verses 37 to 39, he writes it this way, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ?” It’s like an open declaration. It’s like an open challenge. You tell me, who can separate us from the love of Christ, tribulation? Will tribulation separate us from the love of Christ? Will distress? See, will distress separate us from the love of Christ?
You tell me, he says. Will distress separate us? This is important perspective, isn’t it? Because I think a lot of people going through distresses, a lot of people going through tribulation will be convinced that, that’s proof that God does not love them. “Oh, you say you love me, you say you love me, now, look I’m going through distresses. I’m going through tribulations and trials and snares. Oh, you say you love me, this proves it God, you don’t.” Wrong view. Paul would never have that view.
His perspective is quite different. Nothing, I know this, nothing can separate us from the love of God. Tribulation? No. Distresses? No. Persecution, famine, nakedness, peril or sword? Nothing. In all of these things, now get this, this is a great verse, in all of these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. It’s that love. It’s that faith that He understands, we can overwhelmingly conquer, which is to say that your faith is the victory in the midst of it because you know and believe that God’s with you. He never said that He would keep you from trouble, He said, “I’ll be with you in it.”
We can overwhelmingly conquer for I am convinced, that’s perspective. I am persuaded that nothing, neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord. That is victory. That is perspective. No matter what tribulation or distress or peril Paul is going through, he has every assurance that he is in God’s love, and if he’s in God’s love, then he most assuredly is convinced that he is in God’s favor.
For it is oftentimes in the midst of the storm that you see the favor of God most abundantly. One of the perspectives I think is– from Paul is like, “Well, what’s the worst that can happen?” That’s a great question. What’s the worst that can happen? Well, I could die. That’s the worst. That’s the worst, that you could die. We need a different view of the thing, that’s the worst? See, many people think of death as a tragic end. It’s not a tragic end, it’s a glorious beginning. That’s what that is. It’s a graduation day. It’s a coronation day. It’s the day to enter into the joy of your master.
We needed a different view of the thing. The favor of God is seen even as Paul is going through the storms and the trouble, he brings beauty out of ashes. I face the storm, set your face in the midst of it, press into the storm. That’s when you’re going to see the favor of God. I was thinking of a personal illustration. Many of you know that when we were wanting to go into ministry that God miraculously provided, the favor of God was so amazingly evident in all of it. I’d been in the restaurant business and even though I had left my position as a manager, I was still part owner, and so I had this idea, because we felt that if we’re going to be serious about ministry, we need a good solid Bible education, yet we couldn’t afford it.
I had this idea that we were going to sell one of the restaurants and now it’s going to make this profit and then I can make my way through Bible College, but on this particular Friday, I found the whole thing just fell apart. Like, “No, that’s not going to happen.” This Friday night, I remember very clearly, Saturday, I’m praying, all day Saturday, pressing in, pressing in, “God, I need you, reveal your hand to me. I need a miracle. I’m asking, I’m pressing in now. I’m asking, I need a miracle here.”
Sunday morning, literally from Friday night to Sunday morning, I get to church and a man comes up to me and he said, “God has put it on my heart that I’m supposed to pay your way through Bible College.” Like, “Okay, God, your way is way better,” and he meant every word of it. Favor of God so clear. Now we’re in Bible College and it was a difficult time. A full load of classes and we had two babies in the house and I was getting like four or five hours sleep every night. I know, and it’s like, “This is really hard.”
Then my partner– I had gotten out of my partnership just for what I owed on it, so I made nothing, but my partner came to me and he said, “Listen, I need you to do me a favor. I need you to take a year off of school and I need you to help me open this restaurant, a new restaurant.” Like, “Okay, something finally came together for-” “I need you to open this restaurant for me. Take a year off of school. You know all our systems, you know all the whole thing. I need you to open this restaurant, get it all going, and then you can go back to school. I’ll pay you well for a year.”
I thought, “Hmm.” We were managing apartments at that point, so we had basic costs covered and I thought I could save almost all of that money and the life would be easier. I don’t really have to have two jobs and all this stuff that goes with all their pressures, life would easier. Then I thought, I better get some counsel from the man who was paying my way through Bible College. We got together and I was giving my grades because I wanted him to see like, “Hey, if God is doing this for me, I’m going to pour myself into this.” I did it just to be thankful. “Oh God, I am so thankful for what you did. I’m going to sit in the front, I’m going to take notes, I’m going to– I want to learn everything I can learn because you did so much for me.”
I met with him and I said, “I want to run something by you. My former partner has asked me to take a year off. He’s going to pay me well. I could save this money and life would be easier. What do you say?” He said, “Let me make sure I understand this. Did I hear you say that this was about money?” “Well, yes.” He said, “Then you don’t understand. You need money? I’ll make sure you have what you need. Your car breaks, I’ll fix it. You need groceries, I’ll pay it. No, you press in. God has allowed this door to be opened, press in. Secondly, did I hear you say that life would be easier?” “Yes, I did say that.” Although I was regretting saying it at that moment. “Yes, I did say that.”
He said, “Did it ever occur to you that may be God doesn’t want life easier for you?” “Actually, no, it had not occurred to me.” He said, “You want to be a pastor? You think that’s easy? You think that’s easy? God is using the difficulties of this, it’s part of the preparing you for what God has in store for you. No, God doesn’t want life easy for you. You press in. In fact, I suggest to you that you make it even harder. Don’t even take the summers off. Press in, take two Greek classes at once, press in.” “You know what? You’re right.” That’s exactly what I did. “You’re right. Thank you for the wisdom of God in it. You’re right.”
See, because so many people– He showed me a great truth. So many people, they want the easy, they want the easy, want life to be easy and they think that’s the favor of God make it easy. Maybe God doesn’t want it to be easy. It’s oftentimes the trouble, press into the troubles, press in to the difficulties, face them straight on, face them with faith, and know that God’s favor is oftentimes revealed in the midst of the storm, in the midst of the difficulty.
The people on this island had never heard of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and here, after Paul had a viper latch his hand and he shakes it off into the fire, nothing comes of it, clearly the favor of God. He then is given the power of the testing miracles as he then begins to lay hands and heal these people. That’s the favor of God.
In the midst of the storm the favor of God is amazingly revealed and then I think about this, about the Centurion Julius who was watching this whole thing, what must be going through his mind? What is this? I’m convinced that Julius has got to have been saved out of seeing all that God was doing. The favor of God was revealed. Here’s another example, back when Israel had entered into the Promised Land, at first, there was a great victory at Jericho, many know this, we’ll study it soon, but then immediately after there’s a shocking defeat when they come against a small little village named Ai.
What had happened was that there were some in Israel who had turned her back on God and they brought trouble in Israel, so they called it the Valley of Achor, the valley of trouble. Here’s something interesting, for many years later, in the prophet Hosea, he says something, he connects this to a great truth. He says, Hosea chapter 2 verse 15, “I will give a Valley of Achor as a door of hope.” That’s a great verse. I will give the valley of trouble as a door of hope. It’s the door that opens to hope. Trouble is the door that opens the hope of God. It is often in the midst of the trouble and the storm that God’s favor is most revealed. It’s a door, and she will sing there as in the days of her youth. They will sing there.
C. The curse of sin is broken
When they see the door of hope opened in the Valley of Trouble, they will sing. God will bring the favor of God. I’ve seen the grace of God and the favor of God over my life through the troubles and the trials and snares, even some of the troubles of my own making. For what we have come to understand and see is it’s because the curse of sin is broken that the favor of God is on your life. It’s interesting that this viper, it’s a viper that latches onto his hand because a viper or serpent has represented the enemy from the beginning.
It’s the enemy of the soul that wants to latch onto you and bring destruction and death to your life, but the curse of sin is broken. The grip and the power of the enemy has been defeated so that we can confidently say, this is First Corinthians 15 verse 55, Paul says, “Oh, death, where is your victory? There is no victory. Death cannot have victory over me. Oh, death, where is your sting? There is no sting of death. The sting of death is sin,” see, that’s been broken.
The power of sin is the law, but it’s been gloriously nailed to the cross, but thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ, when the viper takes hold of Paul’s hand, they conclude he’s a murderer. Many still think this way, but the truth for believers is that the curse of sin has been broken and that’s why the favor of God is on your life. Notice Romans chapter eight, speaking of my favorite chapter, Romans eight verses one to two, “There is therefore now no condemnation, literally no damnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
Are you in Christ Jesus? He says there is no damnation for those who are in Christ Jesus for the law of the spirit of life has set you free from the law of sin and death. You’ve been set free from this because He has taken it all upon himself. It’s the glorious Gospel. He took what we deserved. I was thinking of an illustration and I was thinking this one, many years ago, we were doing some work here in the sanctuary, way up in the lights there, so we needed this super long extension ladder that we have.
It’s really heavy duty so you can reach way up there, and it’s basically two ladders in one, the other one slides up way, way, way even latches on the other one. So we finished our work and I was putting the ladder away. So I’m standing at the base of this thing and you pull a rope, which unlatches it and then you let it down on a pulley. So I’m holding this thing way, way up there and I pull with the rope and then something happens and it slips out of my hand and the whole top ladder comes flying down and smashes my hand. That should have broken my hand, but it didn’t even hurt.
You say, “How’s that even possible?” That’s what I thought. How is that even possible? Then I looked and realized what had happened. I was gripping the rung of the lower ladder and it pushed my ring up like this, and the ladder came down and smashed right on that ring. The ring took the whole thing. Her love took the whole thing.
II. Faith Must be Your Own
I realized I had to take it to the jeweler to get it straightened, but oh was I thankful, oh was I thankful that that ring took it all because oh my, I should have broke my hand. It took it. What a picture. I just immediately realized, this is a powerful picture. He took what we deserve, the brokenness that we deserved and the sin that we brought about, He took it all. What a powerful statement. Then, what we recognize then when we look at Acts chapter 28, is that God wants to make this personal with you. In other words, faith must be your own.
Each person is on his own journey with their own set of troubles, their own set of trials and snares. Everyone has their own journey, but God wants to walk with you in this journey. God wants to strengthen you in your faith on this journey. God wants to make it personal with you, and what we recognize when we see it is that God’s Word is personal. He’s speaking to you and it’s personal. Three years earlier, Paul had written the letter that we call today the book of Romans, he wrote it to them and he’ll name names of people he wanted to bring greetings to that he’s praying for, very personal.
A. God’s word is personal
The point is, actually, the whole of the Word of God is personal. Let me give you a great verse that’s so powerfully shows it. Isaiah 43 verses 1 to 5, “Do not fear, don’t have anxiety, worry, don’t be afraid for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name. I know your name.” If you’re here this morning, be assured of this, He knows your name. This is very personal to him. He says, “Child, you are mine. Let this be personal with you.” When you pass through the waters, and He means here the waters of trouble, when you pass through the waters, I will be with you. He never ever said that He would keep us from all troubles.
This world is filled with troubles, but when you pass through the waters of trouble, I will be with you, for I am the Lord, your God, the Holy one of Israel, your Savior, and then he says, “You are precious in my sight and you are honored.” See, this is the key. Do you know who you are? Do you know who you are in Christ? You know God’s heart for you. You are honored. You are precious in my sight. I gave my Son for you.
You are honored. Can you imagine the honor of that? I gave my Son for you. I sent my Son to die on the cross for you. I know you by name. You are honored. What an honor, the Son of the living God gave his life for you. That’s an honor, and He says, “And I love you. I love you.” Do not fear. Don’t be afraid. Don’t have anxiety in life. Face this storm. Put your face to it. Press in. That’s when the favor of God will be revealed to you. I am with you. I think of these Roman soldiers chained to Paul, wonder how many of them came to faith in Christ. Can you imagine?
B. Have faith with full conviction
Now, Paul spoke to many people, but don’t you imagine they’re chained to a prisoner at some point it’s going to turn to that soldier and say, “Sir, what is your name? Tell me your story. Let me tell you about a God who loves you, who sent his Son to die on the cross for the payment of your sin.” How many soldiers do you think came to faith in Christ? Maybe the question is, who is chained to whom? Paul would say, “Yes, chain the whole city of Rome to me,” because you know what happens? A revival broke out in Rome. You might know this.
After Paul arrived, a revival broke out in Rome, and eventually the empire took hold of the faith of Jesus Christ. God’s favor is seen in the midst of the trouble and the trials and the snares of life. Don’t run, face them. Face them with faith, believing that that’s when the favor of God will be seen most.
Father, thank you so much for your word, your power on our lives. We give you thanks and honor for all that you’ve done in us. God, I pray today that we will understand how personal this is. Church today, as you are before the Lord, would you know He says, “I know you by name. Child, you are mine. I have redeemed you. Don’t be afraid. I’ll be with you.” Do you believe this?
Would you say to the Lord this morning, “I believe, God. I believe. You are my hope. You are the door of hope. I’ll trust you with the trials, the troubles, the snares, the difficulties. I’ll face them straight head-on because I believe that my God is with me. I trust you. I trust you.” Church today, would you say that to the Lord? “I trust you. I believe you. You are my God and I want to walk with you in this journey. Walk with me. Reveal your favor to me. God, make your way known to me. Make your Spirit known to me. I want to know your ways. Order my way. I trust you.”
Would you say that to the Lord? Would you say it by just raising your hand to the Lord this morning? Just raise your hand in a bold way, I want to just say it, I want to just declare it, I say to you, I’ll trust you. You are my God, I believe you, Lord. Thank you for all that you’re doing in my life. We give you honor and praise and glory in Jesus’ name, and everyone said– Can we give the Lord praise this morning, and honor and glory, amen?
[00:42:49] [END OF AUDIO]
How Faith is Strengthened
January 4-5, 2020
It’s a New Year and this is the time when everyone makes New Year’s resolutions. Show of hands, how many people have made at least one New Year’s resolution? Show of hands. Okay, that’s awesome. How many people show of hands, have already broken your new year’s resolution? You know the most common I looked this up, the most common New Year’s resolution is to diet. All right. Or eat healthier. The problem, however, is that most people think that they need to eat all the junk food in the house so it’s not there to tempt them anymore.
By the time they eat all the junk food in the house, they’re locked and loaded on their calorie intake and they’re already back to problems. It’s not just a New Year, right? It’s a new decade. This is 2020. This month, January of 2020 marks 30 years, this month that we launched this church 30 years ago this month. Isn’t that amazing?
Amen. Just 12 people in our living room, just getting together in our apartment and just praying and studying God’s word and then we rented a school, a middle school in Beaverton. We were there for a while and then we rented another school out here in the Hillsborough area. Then we bought this property in 1997. It was farm land back in those days and it took us a while to get through to all the government layers. We finally built our first building in 2002. I say the first because then we remodeled it and doubled it in 2008/9. That’s been 10 years since we’ve done that major remodel.
I can’t believe it’s been already 10 years. 10 years goes by so fast, doesn’t it? See, so much has changed just in the last 10 years, 10 years ago, we were still reeling from that 2008 financial crisis and the price of homes was still going up and down. A lot of Shane’s in 10 years. Of course, the United States was still involved in the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. 10 years ago, there was no iPad.
I know, 10 years ago there was no Instagram. 10 years ago, people were still using Myspace. Some people don’t even know what that is. People were still watching movies on VCRs. Some people don’t know what that is either, life changes and life has changed for us in 10 years. During the last decade, we’ve had three grandchildren born to us and we’ve, as you know, lost our oldest daughter. She was killed. It’s been a monumental decade. I’m sure you have your own stories of what a decade this has been. It’s dramatic in many ways and while it’s good to look back, I think it’s more important to look forward because there’s that old expression which I love, “We don’t know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future.”
I love that because it’s really a statement of faith. We don’t know what’s around the corner. We don’t know what this decade has in store for us, but we know who is already there and I like this perspective too, that while many things change, there’s so much that changes and will change. I also say that there are many things that remain the same. Relationships are still important. It’s still important to have integrity and godly character. It’s still true. It’s still true that there will be storms in life. It’s still true that we need faith and in fact, I suggest that as we look forward, as we look at a turbulent world and everything that’s changing around this, I suggest as we look forward to the next decade, that now is the time for more faith.
Now is the time. We still need a foundation on which to build our lives. God is still on the throne. Some things don’t change and that’s good. God is still on the throne and therefore, I say it’s time for revival. When we think about a New Year, we think about a new decade. We think about building a foundation. I suggest it’s time for revival, that God wants to do something in us, that God is stirring this up. I’m praying that this would be a year that many people come to faith in Christ, that many people rededicate their lives, that many marriages are saved, that many children come to faith, that many are restored, many are healed, many are transformed.
I believe that God wants to do a new work because he’s still on the throne. I want us to look at Acts chapter 27 because it’s really about God building faith in the midst of the storm, in the midst of the trouble. This world is filled with troubles and we need to really understand how God uses those things in our lives to strengthen faith. When you get to Acts chapter 27, he’s near the end of his missionary journeys now. What had happened was that we find him on a ship and the reason he’s on a ship is because he was a in Caesarea, that’s a city in the coast of Israel in those days.
He was held there as a prisoner supposedly under protective custody and he was never released and never without charges brought against him. When he realized that this was not going to change, he appealed to Caesar. The Roman governor said, “You have appealed to Caesar, to Caesar you will go,” but he’s going as the prisoner. He was put in the charge of a Roman Centurion. His name is Julian. We like Julian, now the story, and he’s going to take part, he’s responsible to get him to Rome. They book passage on a ship sailing out of Caesarea and they stop at various ports along the way.
When we catch up to him in Acts chapter 27, they had come to a place called Fair havens and it’s not suitable for winter. If you remember back in those days of sailing ships, they oftentimes would not sail in the winter. They would find a port and just stay the winter there waiting for the weather to get better because it’s dangerous out in the Mediterranean in a sailing ship in the winter. They however say, “It’s not safe,” and so they want to launch out to find a safer Harbor. Paul warns them, don’t do it. He has sensed in the spirit that this is a dangerous thing, don’t do it.
The Roman centurion, who’s actually in charge believes that the captain and the pilot and so he says, “No, we’re going.” That’s where we pick him up in the story. Chapter 27, which start in verse 12, because the Harbor was not suitable for wintering, the majority reached the decision to put out the sea from there. If somehow they could reach Phoenix, which is a Harbor of Crete facing southwest and Northwest, spend the winter there. When the moderate South wind came up and supposing they had gained their purpose, they weighed anchor and began sailing along Crete.
This is an Island there close in shore, but before very long, they’re rushed down from the land. The violet wind called the Euraquilo. We would call it a Nor’easter, a violent winter storm coming from the North East. When the ship was caught in it and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and we let ourselves be driven along, running under the shelter of a small Island called Clouder, we were scarcely able to get the ship’s boat under control. This is the boat that they would be towing at this point behind them like a lifeboat. After they had hoisted it up, they started using supporting cables in under-girding the ship.
Now, this is literally running a ropes under the ship to keep it together. This is telling you what’s happening. They use supporting cables to under-gird the ship fearing then that they might run the ground in the showers of sear dusts. Now, they’re running straight west and they’re concerned that they might end up in the Northern part of Libya today in Africa running a ground there. They let down a sea anchor and so, they let themselves be driven along. The next day as we were violently storm tossed, they began to jettison the cargo. This is getting desperate.
On the third day, they threw over the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. Now, this is getting very desperate and since neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and no small storm was assailing us, from then, our hope of our being saved was gradually abandoned. Let me restate that. All hope was lost. When they had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up in their midst and he said, “Men, you have to have followed my advice. You have to have followed my advice and not have set sail from Crete and incurred this damage and loss, and yet now I urge you to keep up your courage, for there shall be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship.
Because, on this very night, an angel of the God of heaven to whom I belong and to whom I serve stood before me and he said, “do not be afraid” Paul, you will stand before Caesar and behold, God has granted you all those who are sailing with you. God said this to me.” He’s speaking this to the sailors. “Therefore, men, keep your courage. Rise up men, keep your courage. I believe God that it will turn out exactly as I have been told, but first, we must run the ground on a certain Island.”
Now when the 14th night, 14 days of being battered by a violent winter storm in a sailing ship, in the middle of the Mediterranean. On the 14th night, as we were being driven along about in the Adriatic Sea, about midnight, the sailors began to surmise that they were approaching some land. They took soundings and they found it to be 20 fathoms and a little farther on, they took another sounding and found it to be 15 fathoms.
This would be about 90 feet. Fearing that we might run a ground somewhere on the rocks. They cast four anchors from the stern and wished for daybreak. By the way, when we were on our– we took footsteps of Paul cruise two or three journeys ago and we took this very exact route. It was amazing because it was a beautiful trip in many wonderful ways but we had one day when we were beaten by heavy wind and rain and a storm.
That was the day that we were approaching the same Island of Malta. It was a fantastic experience to be there. We were all happy for this storm. This is just like Paul. Tripper on a cruise ship and we’re not going to crash. As the sailors were trying to escape from the ship and had led down the ship’s boat into the sea on the pretense of intending to lay out anchors from the bow, Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, “Unless this men remain in the ship, you yourselves cannot be saved.” The soldiers cut away the ropes to the ship’s boat and let it fall.
Until the day was about to dawn, Paul was encouraging them, take some food. He said, today’s the 14th day that you have been constantly watching and going without eating, having taken nothing. Therefore I encourage you to take some food. This is your preservation for not a hair from the head of any of you shall perish. Having said this, he took bread, He gave thanks to God in the presence of all and he broke it, began to eat. All of them were encouraged and they themselves also took food. All of us in the ship were 276 persons. When they had eaten enough, they began to lighten the ship by throwing out the wheat.
They had kept some wheat as ballast, they threw the wheat now under the sea. When day came, they could not recognize the land, but they did observe a certain Bay with the beach, been there in this day on that beach, and they resolve to drive the ship then onto that beach if they could do it. They cast off the anchors, which is to say, they cut the anchors, they left them in the sea.
Well, at the same time, they were loosening the ropes of the rudders and hoisting the foresail to the wind, they were headed for the beach. By the way, an Amazing little side story, do you know that they found those four anchors. Would you like to guess what the depth? 90 feet. Yes, exactly. Isn’t that absolutely amazing. Striking a reef however, and when you’re there in the daylight, you can see. In fact, stand on the rocks out on the point and you can see there is in fact a reef right there. They found the anchors just beyond the reef. Striking a reef where the two sees meet, they ran the vessel aground or they ran into the reef and the prowl stuck fast and remained immovable but the stern began to be broken up by the force of the waves.
The soldiers plan was to kill the prisoners because if anyone escaped, the soldier would be responsible for his life, that none of them should swim away and escape. The centurion wanting to bring Paul safely through, kept them from their intention and commanded that those who could swim should jump overboard first and get to land. The rest should follow, some on planks, others on various things from the ship. Thus it happened that they all were brought safely to land and we’re going to actually pick up the rest of that story next week.
I. Life Brings Many Storms
I want us to look at these verses because they’re really important to apply. There’s so many lessons out of this story for us to apply, especially as we look at this next year, this next decade and understand the necessity of having faith and having revival. One of the aspects that I think we need to recognize is that life will bring many storms. Life is filled with storms and the older you get, the more you understand this is true, because you’ve been through storms. The older you get, the more storms you’ve been through.
A. Storms come even in God’s will
For some people, this is troublesome to them. Why does God not keep us from storms? God never promised to keep us from the storms. He never promised to keep us out of– He never said that there would be no trouble. What he did say, Jesus said this, he said, “In this world, you will have many troubles, much tribulation, but take courage.” That is to say, “Have faith man, have faith.” I have overcome the world and what we recognize as we look at this story is that storms can even come in God’s will. Here’s what I mean by this. The Lord had made it known to Paul that he is going to be a witness for the gospel in Rome. Made this very clear.
Therefore, we know that Paul was perfectly in the center of God’s will. We know this. Yet here he is going through a storm, even suffering a shipwreck. One of the perspectives that I think that people have, particularly in their immature years as they’re growing, I think one of the perspective is that they think that if you’re fulfilling God’s purpose in your life, that God should make everything smooth, that God should make everything easy. God should pave the way before you. If you’re fulfilling God’s purpose in your life. There are certainly times, I hate to tell you, there are certainly times when the wind blows gently and the sun is shining on your shoulders, which will make you happy.
[singing] Sunshine on my shoulders. Anybody know that song? You got to be old to know that song. I loved that song when I was a kid. Hey, listen, here’s my perspective. Hey, if you’re in a time and if you’re in a season of life where there’s sunshine on your shoulders, be happy, be blessed, enjoy it. Give God glory for it, but just know that storms come in life. Enjoy it when the sun is shining. Enjoy it. Give God glory for it. Some people can’t because they– Well, I know that storms are coming and it ruins the sunshine when they have it. It ruins the good when they experience it.
They can’t enjoy a sunset because they know that there will be storm clouds coming from that same sunset. No, enjoy it. Enjoy it. God has given it to you as a blessing. Storms will come. Now, be ready. Some people suggest that if you’re going through troubles, that there must be something wrong with your faith. It’s your faith. That’s the reason, and I don’t see any scriptures. I do not see any scriptures to support that. I think that Paul might have something to say about that. I tell you, you want to talk about going through some troubles in life. You want to talk about difficulties in life. Paul gives a description of some that he experienced.
This is 2nd Corinthians 11 Verses 23 to 27. “I have been in far more labors and far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews 39 lashes, three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned, left for dead, three times I was shipwrecked, three times I was shipwrecked. I spent a night and a day. I’ve spent in the deep, I’d been on frequent journeys, danger from rivers, danger from robbers, dangers from my fellow countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren.
B. Contrary winds can strengthen faith
I have been in labor, in hardship through many sleepless nights in hunger and thirst, often without food in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things and there’s the daily pressure on me of concern for the churches. Other than that, Paul had a pretty good time. Paul has something to say. He understands there are storms, there are troubles in life, yet you see such faith, you see such faith. In fact, the more that you experience God being with you in the storm, the more you know that God will be with you in the future. Here’s what we have to recognize and that is that contrary winds can strengthen faith.
God use these contrary winds. It makes faith stronger because it makes you cling to the Lord more dearly. That is to say, if you cling to the Lord more dearly because some people don’t. Some people don’t. They don’t cling to the Lord. They accuse the Lord. They accuse the Lord in it. “You say you’re God, but look at this now. I have this trouble in my life.” They accuse God. No, the key, contrary winds constraint in faith when you cling to the Lord more dearly. James 1:2-3, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.”
In fact, some of the greatest men of faith, some of the greatest biblical examples, men of faith of the Bible are those who suffered the most difficult storms in life. In fact, I made an interesting observation. Seems to me that those with the greatest calling endured the greatest storms. Joseph out of the book of Genesis endured one tragedy after another, but God was using all of those things. God actually was using those things that were against them, those storms that had come against them. God was using those very things. David, David was anointed to become the future King of Israel, and then the troubles began. Then there’s Jeremiah, then there’s Ezekiel, then there’s Daniel. I could go on and on. The disciples of Jesus.
Jesus used the storms to teach them. We know that they encountered storms and in fact, what’s interesting from Matthew 14:24-25, He actually compelled them to get into the boat and sent them into the storm and it says, “The boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves for the wind was contrary and in the fourth watch of the night, He came to them walking on the sea.” This is that famous time when Jesus came to them walking on the sea, but it interestingly says that He came to them after they were battered by the waves and facing the contrary wind into the fourth watch of the night, which is to say, they’d been fighting this storm all night long.
II. Grace will Lead us Home
He sent them into that. It seems that God uses those storms to strengthen faith. I’m going to play a little video. This is unusual I know, but I want to play a little video. It’s a short video that we made a few years ago, but it’s very fitting for the point that I want to make here.
Video Playback: Consider it all joy, my brethren when you encounter various trials knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance and let endurance have its perfect result that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. The favor of God is distinctly upon the believer who trusts in God with an active and living faith in spite of the fact that we encounter trials and difficulties. In fact, those whom God uses in great things are often those who suffer greatly. There are many biblical examples.
David had many troubles, but the favor of God clearly rested on him. Few suffered as deeply as Joseph, yet the favor of God was irrefutable. Daniel was taken captive and exiled to Babylon where he suffered greatly, yet who can doubt that the favor of God was upon him. The key is faith. The testing of your faith produces endurance. If your faith cannot be tested, then your faith cannot be trusted. Some people shipwreck their faith when they go through troubles and difficulties saying to themselves, “If God loved me, He would not allow me to go through these troubles,” and the faith is dashed upon the rocks.
I find no place in scripture where Jesus said, “Follow after me and everything will come up roses.” But he did say this, “I have spoken these things to you so that in me, you may have peace.” In the world you have tribulation, but take courage. I have overcome the world. The ship that never leaves the harbor will never be shipwrecked, but nor will it accomplish anything. When our daughter was murdered two years ago, it shook our faith to its core, and yet I know this, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil for you are with me.
Even now, you may be going through some great difficulty, but take courage knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance and endurance will have its perfect result that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing. The favor of God rests on those who suffer greatly and yet trust in God so that we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper. I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Rise up old men of God and believe that God is with you and that his favor rests upon your life. The ship that never leaves the harbor will not be shipwrecked but nor will it accomplish anything. Storms will come but God will see you through. Rise up, oh man of God for he is with you and he will see you through.
Speaker 1: Amen, yes. Thank you, let’s give it a little praise.
The point that I think God would show us out of Acts 27 is that grace will lead us home. God will see us through. You know that song, Amazing grace, that we love so much, that famous line in it, “Through many dangers, toils and snares, we have already come towards grace that brought us safe thus far and grace will lead us home.” God did not promise smooth sailing, but he did promise to get us home. Nothing, Jesus said, “Nothing can snatch you out of my father’s hand,” he said. Paul was told that he was going to stand before Caesar and he had all the confidence in God that He God was true to his word.
A. Set your anchors
This is what, he wrote, Paul wrote. 2 Timothy, he’s writing to his young disciples, his young son in the faith, Timothy 4, “The Lord stood with me. The Lord strengthened me.” He’s in the midst of this. He said, “The Lord strengthened me and I was rescued out of the lion’s mouth.” That expression, the Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom.” See, these are the lessons that God would show us out of Acts 27. He’s showing us these lessons from this story. I think one of the lessons we can see, to set your anchors. There are several different types of angers mentioned in the story. There is the sea anchor and it’s not what many people think.
It’s not an anchor that you drag along the bottom. A sea anchor is actually a sail underwater, and it brings balance. It brings a secure bearing in the sea as it’s going through. It holds the ship secure in the midst of the storms because some storms, you simply must ride out. You can’t avoid them. You can’t get away from them. You need to stay steady. He’s the anchor in the storm. See, this is where we need that truth. We need the truth of God’s word. We need that word written on our hearts. There, that word in your heart will guard your heart. It will guard your mind. It will set you securely in the midst of the storm. That’s why Paul wrote this in Philippians 4:6-7, he said, “Be anxious.” What does that word anxious mean? It means to be a afraid to have anxiety and fear. “Be anxious for nothing.” I believe that’s what it says. Nothing, be anxious. That’s a big statement. Don’t you think?
That’s a big statement right there. Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your request be made known to God, which is just like cling to the Lord. Let him be the anchor in the storm. Cling to him more dearly, and then it says, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension,” because people will look at you in the midst of that storm and the peace that you have and they would say, “What is it with you?” This peace that you have in the midst of the storm. This is amazing to me and it will guard your hearts and it will guard your minds in Christ Jesus.
Then it says that they cast the four anchors from the stern. These are those anchored under the rocks. That’s a picture, isn’t it? It’s a picture of that steadfastness of God being an anchor in the midst of it. He’s our rock. Hebrews 6:18-19, I love this word. It says, “We who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of this hope that is set before us.” This hope you have like an anchor for the soul. Set your anchors, set your anchor into this hope. It is a hope, both sure and steadfast.
B. Storms change your perspective
Here’s another lesson I think we can learn from the story. That is that storms will change your perspective. They change your priorities.
They change how you see, how you see life, changes. The things that used to be important change. They’re no longer important and you see things differently. See, I love in Acts 27:18-19, they’re being violently stormed tossed and they begin to jettison the cargo. That’s not important anymore. That wasn’t enough. On the third day, they throw the ship’s tackle overboard. Situation has to be desperate to throw the ship’s tackle overboard because without the tackle, the crew have no way to easily raise and lower the sails. The waterlogged ropes and lines, the blocks, the pulleys all went overboard in the last ditch effort to lighten the ship, changed their perspective.
There was a story I remember reading about on the Titanic as it was beginning to list and as passengers were being loaded onto lifeboats. One of the wealthier passengers went back to her room. She wanted to get something in the room. There was much wealth in the safe, but that’s not what she wanted. There were two oranges on the dresser. That’s what she wanted. It changes your perspective when you’ve been through enough storms in life, your perspective, the way you see it from God’s view begins to change. It begins to be permanent.
You begin to realize that the most important part of life is the relationships that you have. The relationship that you have with the Lord is the anchor, is the foundation. It’s the most important part of you and then the relationships that God gives to you. They say you can’t take it with you, well, there is one thing you can take with you and that’s relationships. Relationships still matter today because they are something that is eternal. Matthew 6:20, “Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven,” He said, “Where neither Roth, moth nor rust destroy, thieves do not break in and steal for where your treasure is there your heart is.”
C. Let God be the captain of your soul
Then lastly, we’ll close with this great lesson. Let God be the captain of your soul. Paul is under the charge of Centurion Julius, but God was the captain of his soul and Paul trusted that God would bring him safely home. It’s not the Centurion that’s going to bring him safely home. It’s God himself who was the captain. See, verse 20, I love this verse 20, it says, “All hope of being saved was abandoned.” All hope was lost. Certainly, it’s understandable to become discouraged when you’re in a storm that doesn’t seem like it’s going to end. That’s an eternal storm of two weeks.
Imagine how wore down they would be from fighting seasickness and not eating and not sleeping and fighting the storm every hour. Just thinking about being seasick for two weeks makes me queasy because I get seasick easily, but I remember my own little storm. Not anything in comparison but before my dad passed away and he had come to Faith in Christ. Many of you know this story. He was 75 and he came to Faith in Christ and it restored our relationships. It rebuilt our relationships. Before he passed, we decided, let’s take him deep sea fishing. He loved that. It’s one of the highlights.
Let’s take him deep sea fishing one last time. The thing is, I had never been on the sea, on the ocean before and I took some seasick pills at this restaurant, we stopped at this restaurant and early, early, early in the morning and I took some seasick pills and ate breakfast. I’ve never seen that much oil on hash browns in my life. Let’s just say, you know seasick pills, I discovered, they only work if you can keep them down. It wasn’t long before I didn’t have seasick pills anymore and I was in trouble. I was sick the whole time, I know. Here’s the thing, when we got back to the dock, I said, because I was with the family.
I said, “You know what? I have a speaking engagement tonight and we got to get back.” I’m like sick, I’ve been sick all day. We go back, the thing is in the Valley, back here in home, it was in the hundreds, I know. I go, I drop everybody off and I got to get there. I drop– I didn’t have time. I just go there and I remember I’m sitting in the front row waiting for them to introduce me and they’re worshiping and all that, and I’m in the front row and I’m dying. “God, this is terrible. How is this possible it could happen this way?” I’m sitting there and then the person comes up and they introduce me and I come up behind the podium and something.
I don’t know if you’ve ever had this happen, but something happened. It’s like the Holy Spirit met me right there. God did something because many recommitted their lives that night and God used it to touch people’s lives. It’s interesting how God can use those things. God is the strength of your heart. God is your portion forever, cling to him in the midst of the storm. Psalm 73, “Whom have I in heaven but you. Besides you, I desire nothing on this earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the portion of my heart. God is my portion forever. As for me, the goodness, the nearness of God is my good.
I have made the Lord God my refuge that I may tell of all of your works.” I love that verse. In the midst of the storm, you need to know that God is with you, cling. You need to be strengthened in it. They lost all hope, but God set Paul in their midst and God had given a word to Paul, and so he stood up in front of the men and he encouraged them because God had spoken to him. “I believe God,” he said, and there they trusted Paul’s faith. This is a great lesson. Your faith can encourage people around you. When there is strength in you, when there strength in your faith, when there’s strength and there’s a rock that you have stood on, it can strengthen people around you.
That’s why we need each other. That’s why we need to encourage each other. We need to strengthen each other, carry each other’s burdens. Paul took bread. He gave thanks to God. He took bread and he encouraged the others. “Be strengthened. Take food. I believe God.” It’s a great lesson. It’s a great lesson for all of us. Paul’s final words to his young son, Timothy was this, 2 Timothy 4:6-7, “The time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight. I have finished the course. I have kept the faith and in the future, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord will award me on that day.”
What a great way to finish. May that be the desire of every one of us in this room. I want to finish like that, with my faith strong. Our outer men may be decaying and growing weaker, the older you get the more you know that, but your inner man can roar like a lion, no matter what age you are. Strengthen your soul and even in your old age, God will still make you a lion. What kind of faith do you have today? Today’s the day to strengthen your faith.
Father, thank you so much for giving us the picture of the strength that can come when we cling, when we hold on to you and I pray for everyone in this room tonight as we think about the new year, but even the new decade, what you might do, but God more than anything, we believe that you’re the one who holds the future. You’re the one that is that rock. You are the one that is that foundation in which we can build our lives. I pray for everyone in this room tonight that there would be a heart, a desire, a vision, no matter what age, to be strengthened, that the soul might roar like a lion.
Be strong in your faith. Take courage. Let the Lord build revival, but you got to want it. You got to desire it. Got to ask for it. “Ask,” he says, “Seek.” He said, “Knock,” and he’ll gladly give it to you. Church tonight, do you want more of God? You want God to strengthen you more, have strength in their soul, the roar like a lion because there is strength that God puts there. But you got to want it, you got to desire it. Do you desire? Do you ask? Do you seek, would you knock? Would you open your heart? Would you? If you would, I’m going to ask that you just raise your hand.
Just raise your hand to the Lord and say, “God, I’m raising my hand because I’m asking. I’m asking, be that strength, be that rock. Pour your spirit, pour your life. I want to finish strong. I want to roar like a lion. God, give me the strength of the spirit in my life. Father, thank you for touching our lives, for showing us your heart after us, for moving among us by your spirit, for bringing revival and I pray for everyone in this room tonight that we would find revival because we have clung to you, build our lives on this rock. We set our anchors on this rock. Father, thank you for everyone. We give you thanks and glory and honor tonight in Jesus name, and everyone said. Amen.
[00:45:21] [END OF AUDIO]
God is Our Refuge
Numbers 35:6-15 NASB
Here we are with Israel. They are on the other side of the Jordan. They’re getting ready to enter into the Promised Land. God is giving them instructions for what to do once they get there, and He’s telling them about portioning the land according to the tribes. Every tribe is going to get a portion of the land according to their size, except for the tribe of Levi. They are given the privilege of being the priests that minister to the Lord, minister to the people. They do not get an apportionment of land.
The reason for that is because God himself will be their inheritance. The idea is that the Levites are actually getting the better inheritance because the presence of God is more valuable, more precious than anything that this world has to offer. Moses understood that. He said to the Lord, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not take us to that place.” He understood the value, the treasure of God’s presence.
Now here’s the thing. We live today in a very materialistic culture. Is this not true? We live in a very materialistic time. Therefore, the treasure of God’s presence is not valued in a materialistic mindset. We have to understand the power of God’s presence in order to appreciate the treasure and the preciousness of what it is. He did, however, for the Levites, give them 48 cities, Levitical cities that would be separated, divided out amongst all the tribes.
Here’s what I want us to look at today, and that is that six of these cities were special. Six of these cities were designated as cities of refuge. They were Levitical cities in every sense, but they were given the designation as cities of refuge so that if anyone accidentally, in other words, unintentionally killed another person, they could run to a City of Refuge and be safe. They would get a fair hearing, a fair trial. It’s really a key understanding.
These six cities of refuge were to be evenly distributed throughout the land of Israel so that they were never more than one day’s journey if a person ran. There were three cities on one side of the Jordan, three cities on the other side. I tell you what’s interesting, we’ve been seeing over and over in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament, these pictures of Jesus Christ, Leviticus, we’ve been seeing, Numbers, and here we’re seeing this as well.
These cities of refuge represent many spiritual promises. If anyone is in trouble, let him run, run to get the help of the Lord, the refuge that is the Lord, a very present help in times of trouble. In fact, it tells us in the Book of Deuteronomy, that the roads to the City of Refuge must always be well maintained, always be built so that nothing would hinder anyone who needed the help of the Lord. There’s a lot for us in these verses to apply to our lives.
Let’s go to Chapter 35. Let’s start actually begin in verse one, just to get a backdrop to it. “The Lord spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan, opposite Jericho. He said this, “Now command the sons of Israel that they give to the Levites from the inheritance of their possessions, cities, and you shall give to the Levites pasturelands around the cities.” Now jump to verse six, “The cities which you shall give to the Levites shall be the six cities of refuge, which you shall give for the manslayer.”
That is the person who accidentally killed another person. Let’s say you’re out in the woods, you’re chopping wood, and the head of the ax flew off and they hit another person, and you accidentally hurt them, kill them. Then that person has to flee or run to a City of Refuge. Now, in addition, give them 42 other cities. All the cities which you shall give the Levites shall be 48, together with their pasturelands around the city.
As for the cities which you shall give from the possession of the sons of Israel, you shall take more from the larger, take less from the smaller. Each shall give some of his cities to the Levites in proportion to his possession, which he narrates. Then the Lord said this to Moses, “Now speak to the sons of Israel and say, when you cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan, you shall select for yourselves cities to be your cities of refuge.”
These six cities, we know their names, we know their locations, that the manslayer, a person who has killed someone unintentionally may flee, literally run there. “The cities shall be to you as the refuge from the avenger.” We’re going to look at the meaning of what that does and applies to our lives, so that the manslayer may not die until he stands before the congregation for trial, fair hearing.
“The cities which you are to give shall be six cities of refuge. You shall give three cities across the Jordan and three cities in the land of Canaan.” Hebrews would say, Canaan. “They are to be cities of refuge. These six cities shall be for refuge for the sons of Israel and for the alien and for the sojourner.” Everyone has the protection of the Lord. It doesn’t matter who you are. Anyone who kills a person unintentionally may flee there.
Now move if you would over to verse 26. If the manslayer shall, however, at any time, go beyond the border of the city, if he leaves this protection, if he leaves the place of refuge to which he has fled, and a blood avenger finds them outside of the border of the City of Refuge and the blood avenger kills the manslayer, he’s not guilty of blood, because he should have remained in the City of Refuge.
Notice this because it’s really fascinating. He should remain there until the death of the high priest, one high priest over all the land. When that high priest died, it says, the manslayer, it’s said he’s forgiven, charges are dropped, and the manslayer may return to the land of his possession. Fascinating verses and they apply to our lives today because we see the provision of Christ through these cities of refuge, and so I want us to apply them.
I. Death Pursues You
Starting with this understanding, death pursues you. The cities of refuge provided for those who needed protection because death was pursuing them. Now, you might not have accidentally killed anyone and you wonder how these apply, but they do. I want to show you why, spiritually speaking. Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”
Then it says Romans 6:21 and 23, “What benefit did you gain from the things of which you are now ashamed, for the outcome of those things is death and the wages of sin is death?” Everyone is worthy. Everyone deserves because of the consequences of sin, death is pursuing, the Scripture would say. Therefore, we see this in the Scripture and apply. Beware the avenger.
A. Beware the avenger
What does this mean? Well, the concept of an avenger didn’t begin with Israel. It was a common practice in the culture of that time. If anyone died through the actions of another person, then the nearest relative of that person who was killed would be designated as the avenger. The responsibility of the avenger was to pursue and to track down and to meet out vengeance, justice, you might say. Now, the reason for this is because the cultures of that day did not have, let’s say, what we would today. They did not have a sheriff, for example, and this is not because someone shot the sheriff.
Anybody recognize that song? You’re old.
No, in those days, they didn’t have police force. They didn’t have a sheriff. They didn’t have a court system like we’d have today. This system of an avenger had a tremendous weakness because the avenger didn’t care if it was intentional or not intentional. He just wanted vengeance. He’d track him down, “Well, what if it was unintentional? What if it was an accident? What if an ax flew off the handle?”
Then he took this vengeance and the person died. Well, then that family would feel, “Hey, that was wrong.” Then they go and get an avenger, and then they go after the avenger, and then the avenger’s family says, “Now that’s right.” They get an avenger, and what is happening? Blood feud. This is actually a beautiful provision here in the sense that it not only protected the person from the avenger, it protected the avenger from wrongfully taking vengeance, because it’s not right to take vengeance like this.
It’s very interesting because in many parts of the world, even today, vengeance is the rule of the day. It is the way that many places in the world work today. In fact, they tell you, if you feel like traveling to a place, a country in the world that they do not have what we would consider in the modern legal system, the protections that come with that. You’re traveling around and you are driving, let’s say and accidentally hit someone and kill them, you drive to the airport and leave because the rule of the day is vengeance.
They will form a mob and kill you immediately. I remember hearing about this in Africa. When I traveled there, for example, I remember one time I was in the DRC, the Congo. I was doing a Pastors’ Conference, so I was in this place where we had a bunch of pastors and we were waiting. We were all going to go to this big evangelistic meeting, I was going to speak and all this. We’re waiting for a phone call like, “Okay, now, everybody come down to the conference thing.”
We’re waiting, finally, we get this call, “Everybody, come on down.” Then someone comes up to me and he says, “You’re driving all of us to the meeting.” I said, “Why am I driving? “Well, because we have so many pastors. We don’t have room for the driver. We know that you’re an American, so you know how to drive, so you’re driving.” I go, “Oh boy.”
I go out there and I look at this vehicle, it’s like a world war two surplus extended Jeep or something. The lights barely work. The steering is terrible. You got to pump the brakes to get any action. I’m thinking, “Oh Lord, have mercy.” We’re driving down, we’re not just even a few blocks away from where we left. This is in the evening. It’s dark, lights barely work, and an old woman starts crossing the road.
I’m pumping the brakes and turn into right, but then I go this way and she senses the danger and she goes the other way. I turn the other way, then she goes the other way and all the pastors in the car are screaming like, “Aaah,” I guess. I barely, barely missed her. There could have been threads of her dress on the bumper. Then I pull over. Anybody else want to drive?
They go, “Nope, nope, nope.” I vowed I would never drive in Africa again because all it takes is one time. They will surround your car and they will immediately take vengeance. Whether right or wrong, it doesn’t matter, you hurt. That’s the rule of the day. Vengeance is the common way that the world works. In fact, in the history of America, that was common in America. For some time, in fact, you probably know the most famous family feud in history of America is Hatfields and McCoys.
One thing led to another thing. One family’s in Kentucky, the other family is in West Virginia, some dispute arises and then someone accuses another of stealing a hog, and then lives are lost, vendettas are passed to the children. At one point the Governors of Kentucky and West Virginia getting involved, threatening to call the National Guard out. It actually goes all the way to the Supreme Court. Such was this, it was infamous.
Although, in the year 2000, the McCoys decided to have a family reunion, and they decided to invite the Hatfields. It actually became national news and is on the cover of many magazines because finally the feud has been resolved. Although, I think wasn’t there a Family Feud Television– There was a game show called The Family Feud. The McCoys and the Hatfields actually played on that, the real families played on that for a week. The McCoys won but the Hatfields made more money. They had a big dispute about who should get the hog. Just kidding.
The untold story is that the real end of the family feud came when one of the patriarchs, Devil Anse Hatfield went forward at a revival meeting when he was 72 years old and received Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and was baptized in Island Creek. Amen. See, it’s the transformation of the soul that makes the person different. This is important for us to recognize, we’re not in the world anymore.
The world has principles and we’re not in the world anymore. In fact, this is what the Scripture says Romans 12:18-21, “If possible,” because it certainly recognizes there are people who are impossible, “But if possible, so far as it depends on you be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge. Beloved, leave room for the wrath of God. It is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.”
B. Run to the place of refuge
In other words, God settles all accounts. “If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he’s thirsty, give him a drink. In so doing, you heap burning coals on his head, do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.” We’re different, He’s calling us to different principles. He gives this City of Refuge, protection that vengeance not be the rule of the day. The principles that come out of this are to be applied in our lives.
If you need help, if you’re the one who needs the help of the Lord, what does He tell you? He says, “Run.” Run to the place of refuge because if the avenger got to you first, you would have no protection. It’s a picture of the help of the Lord. Psalm 46:1, 10, 11, “God is our refuge, God is our strength. He is a very present help in times of trouble.” If you need to help with the Lord, trouble comes, something you did, some bad decision, whatever it was, you need the help of the Lord, what does He say? Run. You run.
He’s the very present help in times of trouble. Then I love where He says, “And then you be still and know I am the Lord.” I’m your helper. The Lord of Hosts is with us. The God of Jacob is our stronghold, is our help in times of trouble, is our help in time of need.” There’s a lot of troubles that people experience in their lives. Many people in this room would have many testimonies of troubles, whether it’s decisions you made or something that happened or something unintentional.
Help comes from the Lord. He’s a very present help that you run. You get to the presence of the Lord. Psalm 91:2-4, “I will say to the Lord, you are my refuge, you are my fortress, you are my God in whom I trust, for it is He who will deliver you from the snare of the chopper, from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His pinions, His wings, a beautiful picture. Protection, covering your help, and under His wings, you may seek refuge.”
II. Christ is Your Refuge; Your Help
I remember the church was very, very young. I don’t remember now what it was, some turbulence, some kind of things, some trouble of some kind, I don’t remember. I remember this sense of urgency in my heart. I just sense we as a church, we need to run. As a body, as a people together, we need to run to the presence of the Lord. I just felt compelled.
I want every child in this building, I want every youth, I want every person in this building, we’re going to come, we’re going to worship, we’re going to commune, we’re going to be in the presence of the Lord because we’re going to seek God. Run. If you have turbulence, you have trouble in your life, you run because here’s why, it’s a picture of Christ. Christ is your refuge. He’s your help.
There are many aspects of the cities of refuge that points to Jesus Christ, our help in times of trouble, our refuge, our fortress. One of the examples, one of the best examples of faith and trusting God, it’s got to be David. I love Psalm 27 because it’s one of those powerful declarations, Psalms, and I want to use read to you that just the first few verses from Psalm 27, one of my favorite verses are Psalms, “The Lord is my light and my salvation so whom shall I fear?”
David understood the strength of God. The Lord is the defense of my life so whom shall I dread? When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh, my adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell. David understood the confidence of the Lord, but he also understood this, when trouble comes, David knew trouble. David knew trouble of his own making, but he knew this, you run.
Psalm 27:5, “In the day of trouble, you will conceal me in your tabernacle, in the secret place of His tent, you will hide me, He will lift me up.” He is the one who will lift me up. He is the one who will take my case. He is the one who will intervene on my behalf, run.
A. Refuge is always near
You look at the rules concerning the cities of refuge and you see the aspects of Christ revealed in it. For example, the cities of refuge were all placed to be near. Refuge is always near. It’s always close. They were strategically placed in such locations, so that a person would not have to cross the river, nor have to climb a mountain. You could get there in one day if you ran. I love that picture because many people have this sense that they have to do some great thing to get God’s approval, God’s help.
You got to climb some mountain, you got to do some penance, you got to pay some great price.” It’s been the understanding of many people. “I got to do some penance. I got to get God to be on my side. I got to do something to harm myself to get penance.” No. Romans 10:8-13 gives this beautiful, beautiful picture. No, the word is nearer. Help is near. It’s in your mouth. It’s in your heart, this word of faith.
This word of faith means I believe. I believe my God is my help in time of trouble. Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. You know the names of the cities of refuge, are given to us in Joshua 20. We know all the cities. We know their locations, and every one of them was given a name. I love this because every one of these names is a picture of Christ and some aspects of His blessing and ministry to our lives.
Kadesh, this is starting on the west side of the Jordan, all the way to the north, up by Dan. In fact, we were just there a couple of months ago, and we were driving on the plains in that area. The guy said, “This is the ancient Kadesh.” It’s quite a modern city today. Kadesh means to cleanse, to bring holiness. Then, coming down into the center, Shechem, to shoulder a burden. What a picture of Christ? Then into the South, Hebron, to have fellowship.
That’s what He does. He brings fellowship back to the Lord. Then moving to the other side of Bezer, we drove in that area, a strong fortress. He’s your help. Ramah, moving up the other side, He will lift you up. Then finally, Golan, He will encircle you. I love the names because they picture Christ in every one of them.
B. The life and death of the High Priest saves
The key is to run as fast as you can. It tells us that the roads were always to be maintained, and there were to be signposted every crossroads, pointing to the City of Refuge, so that if anyone was running, the signs were always right there. You knew how to get the help of the Lord. There’s then another interesting aspect, quite fascinating to me. That protection that would be given, you stay, you remain there, but here’s the thing, upon the death of the high priest, something happened.
I want to see this because this a picture of Christ, the life and the death of the high priest saves. That’s what He shows us. From the life where the high priest lives, you have protection, you have safety, you have covering, you have a help in times of trouble, but when the high priest dies, all charges are dropped. I just love that. All charges are dropped.
The high priest dies, all charges are dropped.
You know what it’s a picture of? It’s a picture of the death of Jesus Christ. Because He’s our high priest, the Scripture tells us. Hebrews 6:18-20, listen to these verses. These are such good verses. “We, who have taken refuge,” so He’s speaking to you and me here. Have you taken refuge in Christ? Is He your help in time of need? “We who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of this hope that is set before us.”
Take hold of this. He says this hope we have is an anchor for the soul. You need an anchor. You need a foundation. You need a rock to stand on. You need to help. Take hold of this anchor. It’s a hope, both sure and steadfast. You can count on His help. You can count on this anchor, this refuge. “The one which enters within the veil,” He’s speaking of Jesus, “has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever. He’s our high priest according to the Order of Melchizedek.
What happens then when the high priest dies? Because we know that from the death of Christ, we have been forgiven. Of the relationship that we have with God because of His death is made possible because He gives that to you as a gift. In fact, it says 1st Peter 2:24, “He Himself bore our sins.” He Himself, in other words, carried our burdens, in His body, on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. For by his wounds, you were healed.” Very powerful thing.
C. Stay in the place of refuge
Then we see this in this City of Refuge, you run, and you run as fast as you can get there, but then he tells us this, then you stay there. You stay in the place of refuge. It’s a powerful, powerful picture, great spiritual insight. It’s given to anyone, whether you’re a visitor or even just a traveler. Everyone is afforded the protection and the help of the Lord. Here’s what’s interesting.
Because we know, the Scripture tells us what’s applied to our lives, whether the sin is intentional or unintentional. Say what? God would give help even for intentional sin? Yes, he will, but here’s the key, repentance. Repentance is not a popular word today, but I’ll tell you what, it’s a very important word. Because of the result that comes.
Notice Acts 3:19, “Therefore he says, repent and return,” repent and return, “so that your sins may be wiped away in order,” I love this part, “in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” What a great word? Repent is a good word. Any day that a sinner turns toward the Lord, it’s a good day. “Repent and return so that your sins may be wiped away, in order the times of refreshing may come in the presence of the Lord. Because that’s what he wants to do. It’s all about that.
I remember in my own life, when I was in high school, I actually led, I led worship in our little tiny country church when I was in high school, and then I left for college. I don’t think my story’s unique. I think other people understand. Left for college, and I was away from my parents, away from the past, away from the church, and I didn’t go to church. I left my refuge, you might say, I went into the world. I joined a fraternity, which I would never recommend.
It was alcohol and parties and all that goes with that, and my soul started to get very sick. I think anybody who’s ever done the world thing, would add their own “Amen, I know you’re right.” I started to get so sick in my soul, so empty. Just it really troubled my soul. When you’ve tasted the good of the Lord, when you’ve been under His shadow, when you’ve been in the nearness of God and then you leave, your soul just gets sick. I just felt just so troubled.
I remember one day, Sunday morning, we had a party the night before, but I just I was troubled. I got up Sunday morning, and I remember very clearly walking to go to the front door, having to step through the beer bottles and the sticky floor, my feet sticking. I opened the door. It was a Sunday morning. It was sunny outside. If you’ve ever felt the Holy Spirit, just speak to your heart, I just felt the Lord saying to me, “I missed you.”
Something happened to me like, “I got to go to church. This has got to stop.” I went to my room and found my Bible. I’m sorry to say it took me a little while to find it. I got in my car, drove, found a church. I went in there, they were worshiping, and I just started crying. It felt so good to be go home. Times of refreshing will come in the presence of the Lord, but here’s the thing. It’s important you run there but you stay there and here’s why.
John 15:4-5 Jesus says, “You abide in me and I will abide in you.” The presence of God is everything. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit for apart from Me, you can do nothing.
You want spiritual strength, you want spiritual power, want the fruit of a Godly life, here’s the key, abide, you stay there. You run in times of trouble and then you stay in the presence of the Lord, you abide there. The help of the Lord is yours, but the fruit of the Spirit moving the Power of God, the fruit of a godly life is when you stay there. It’s when you dwell there. When the presence of the God moves upon your soul and there is an overflowing presence of God, stay in the presence of God.
Father, thank you so much for how you call us to Yourself. Show us the promises that you pour out to us. Lord, I want to pray over the church this morning. If anyone is here in this place today and needs the help of the Lord. Church, would you hear the word that God is speaking this morning? Run. Don’t delay. You run to the present of the Lord. You run to the tower of the Lord. He is a very present help in time of trouble.
Do you need the help of the Lord today? He is a very present help. Do you need to run to the tower? You need to be in the presence of the Lord. Would you ask God today for– would you say to the Lord, “You be my help? You be my fortress. You be my refuge. I need you and I’m coming home. Lord, I need you to be my help. To be my very present help in time of trouble.” Do you need the Lord?
Would you just raise your hand and say to the Lord today, “God I’m opening my heart. I’m asking, be my help today. Fill me with Your Spirit. Your life.” Times of refreshing will come in the presence of the Lord. Maybe you’re here today and you need to say to the Lord, I want to dwell, I want to stay in the shadow of the Almighty. That’s where I want to abide. I want to be in that place where Your Spirit dwells in power.
Church, is that your heart? Would you raise your hand to the Lord and say, “God, I want to be in that place. I want to be in the shadow of the Almighty.” Father, thank you for stirring us. Thank you for drawing us. We give you thanks, we give you honor for all that You’re doing. Move in power upon us today. In Jesus’ name and everyone said. Can we give the Lord praise?
The Lord is My Shepherd
All right, here we are with Israel, they are getting near to entering into the Promised Land and I want us to put it in our mind where they’re located because it’s very important to the story of where we’re today. Imagine in your mind you know where Sea of Galilee is, and the Jordan river connects the Sea of Galilee down to the Dead Sea. Well, Israel is camped on the Eastern side of the Jordan but even a little bit further inland because there’s a mountain range called the Abarim mountains, and on other side, they cannot see the land that God promised, that’s very important.
When we look at these verses today, the focus is actually on the relationship between God and Moses. God tells Moses to go up to the mountains of the Abarim and to look out onto this land that He is giving sons of Israel because he’s not going in. He’s not going in himself, but he can see with his eyes. Now the reason he’s not going on is because it says that Moses rebelled against God’s command at Meribah near Kadesh. This is a very, very important part of the history of Israel and there are so many lessons that are for us to take hold of out of this story.
Moses at Meribah, he misrepresented God to congregation. It says that he did not treat God as holy before the eyes of the people because Moses was angry and his anger caused him to not put weight to the Words of God, he did not treat God as holy. What had happened because it’s a very key part of the history of Israel, the sons of Israel are striving with Moses, they’re complaining, they’re bitter because they have no water, but God wanted to do something with this.
He wanted to demonstrate something amazing that’s going to be a picture of the coming Messiah, His son whom He sends to be the Living Water. He tells Moses at Meribah to stand up in front of the people and, “I want you to just speak to the rock, just speak the Word and the rock is going to bring forth Living water.” Well, this is all connected to what had happened sometime before this when Israel just had come out of Egypt and there they were again grumbling and complaining there’s no water.
On this first occasion, God wants to again give a picture of Christ here so He says, “Now, stand in front of the people, take the staff on your hand and I want you to strike the rock. When you strike the rock, the water will burst forth from that rock and provide living freshwater, the people will be satisfied.” Of course, it’s a picture of Christ, it’s a beautiful picture of Christ because Jesus became that provision of Living Water when He died on the cross.
The rock was struck you might say and because the rock was struck, because Christ was crucified, we received life, but having been struck once, He need never be struck again. He died once and He died once for all. Therefore, now on this second time at Meribah He’s trying to do something very important, “Now you do not strike that rock, I want you to simply speak to the rock.” It’s a powerful picture for us because once Christ has been crucified on the cross becoming our Savior, becoming that which defeated death for us providing that Living Water of life, it need never be struck again.
You need life, Jesus says, “Let him who is thirsty come to me and drink.” All you got to do is ask. You just speak to the rock and it will bring forth life for you. It’s powerful. It’s beautiful. When He told Moses to stand up and speak to the rock, He was doing something important but, hey, Moses was angry. He stood up in front of the people and this is what he said, “Listen up you rebels.” Now I suggest when you start your speech with the words listen up you rebel is generally not going in the way that God wants it to go, but he’s hot. He’s angry, “Listen up you rebels, shall we bring water for you out of this rock?”
Then, no, he didn’t speak to it, what did he do? He took his stuff and he struck it twice. That wasn’t the message. He rebelled against God’s command, which is to say he did not put weight to the Words of God. Therefore, He says he’s not going to be allowed to enter the promised land but God is gracious and allows Moses to see with his own eyes the land of Israel.
I. Maturity in Also Seen What You Don’t do
There’s a lot of lessons in the story because here when He tells him to go up to look out upon this land, you see spiritual maturity in Moses when he humbly accepts what God says.
There’s just a spiritual maturity to accept what comes from the Hand of God. He does not argue, he accepts. There’s a lot of lessons out of that. There’s also a lesson then what he says when he’s told that he’s not going to lead his people, when he’s told his not going to go into this land, he then asks, “In that case Lord, please give them a shepherd. Do not let them be like sheep without a shepherd.” You got to love his heart. There’s a lot of lessons.
Let’s read it, Numbers 27, we’ll begin in verse 12, So then the Lord Jehovah said to Moses, “Go up to the mountains of Abarim and see the land which I’ve given to the sons of Israel.” By the way, we were just there in that area of Jordan and Mount Nebo was part of the Abarim mountains, and we could see it’s beautiful. Although that day we were there it was hazy which is unfortunate because when it is a brilliantly clear day, oh my goodness, what you can see, it’s absolutely marvelous.
He goes up to this mountain, “See that land which I’ve given to the Sons of Israel and when you’ve seen it, you too are going to be gathered to your people” which is to say you’re going to die, “as Aaron your brother was gathered to his people”. For in the wilderness of Zin during the strife of the congregation, you rebelled against my command to treat me as holy before the eyes of the people at the water. This are the waters of Meribah of Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin.”
Moses spoke to the Lord and he said, “May the Lord the God of the spirits of all flesh,” that is a really key phrase, “May He appoint a man over the congregation who will go out and come in before them, who will lead them out and bring them in that the congregation of the Lord may not be like sheep which have no shepherd.” The Lord said to Moses, “Take Joshua.” His name in Hebrew Yehoshu’a. By the way, Jesus in His name in Hebrew is the same, Yeshua, we say, Yeshua ha-Mašīaḥ, The Messiah.
“Take Yehoshu’a, Joshua, the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit of God, lay your hand on him. Have him stand before Eleazar the priest and before all the congregation and commission him in their sight, and you shall put some of your authority on him in order that all the congregation of the sons of Israel may obey him. Moreover, he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall inquire for him by the judgment of the Urim before the Lord. At his command, they shall go out, at his command, they shall come in both he and the sons of Israel with him even all the congregation.”
Moses did as the Lord commanded him. And he took Joshua and stand him before Eleazar the priest and before all the congregation. And he laid his hands on him and commissioned him, as the Lord had spoken through Moses. These are the verses I want us to see and apply. There’s a lot for us to take hold of understanding that this is about spiritual maturity. One of the things that we’ve got to recognize here is that maturity is also seen in what you don’t do. Yes, it’s seen in what you do but it’s also seen in what you don’t do. He’s bitterly disappointed, no doubt.
He had a very deep desire, he wanted very much to go over to that land. In fact we see that right in Deuteronomy 3:23, he said, “I pleaded with the Lord, I pleaded with Him saying, “Oh Lord God, you have shown your servant your greatness and your strong Hand. Let me I pray cross over and see this fair land that is beyond the Jordan that good hill country in Lebanon.” The Lord was angry with me on your account and would not listen to me. The Lord said, “Enough, speak no more of this matter.” When he hears this word, in spiritual maturity, he accepts what God says. He has learned to put weight on the Words of God.
A. Accept what comes from God’s hand
I tell you this a great lesson because we need to learn to put weight to the Words of God. To treat God as holy means that you put weight to His Words. Frankly, it’s a very important thing because there’s like a crisis in the church today. There’s like a crisis because God needs to be more revered. There needs to be more weight put on the Words of God because the consequences are real. See he’s giving as a picture of spiritual maturity. You cannot have spiritual maturity until you learn to put weight to the Words of God. His word is authority in your life. When He speaks there is that word that says, Lord, yes, your authority is that which directs my steps and I recognize that your Hand is the direction that I want to move in my life.
See, otherwise, what do you have? Otherwise, it’s you. You’re the authority and you’re the master, you’re the commander, you’re the one who moves by your will. God says, “Yes, I’ll tell you how that’s going to end. It’s not going to end well.” He says, “You treat God as Holy, it’s a part of spiritual maturity when you put weight to His Word when His Word has the authority in your life.” Moses, he accepts what God says and there’s a great lesson to accept what comes from God’s hand.
He could’ve blamed the people. He could have blamed the people for provoking him into this angry response. You people, you did this, you made me angry, you made me frustrated, and now look what you’ve done, but you don’t see that. By the way, I suggest that people have more control over their anger than they think. I’m convinced people have more control over their anger than they think. Here’s an example, okay, there you are, you’re hot, you’re saying hot things, you’re saying some words that are coming out of your mouth because you are hot and then all of a sudden the phone rings.
You’re with me on this? And the phone rings and you pick up the phone. “Hello.” My wife and I, we were just sitting here having a little chit chat, we’re just all good, see, you have more control than you think. You can imagine how Moses could’ve been worn down leading these difficult people all these years. Maybe he could have appealed for mercy. God, you know yourself, how difficult these people are, but Moses does not argue with the Lord at all on this. He accepts God’s decision and it’s a picture of spiritual maturity. He didn’t blame the people, he didn’t become angry, he accepts what God gifts by His Word.
That is spiritual maturity for there are many people in their spiritual immaturity who blame God when things don’t go as they think it ought to go, but there is a maturity that says God I accept what comes from your Hand. There are biblical examples about maturity. Job, it’s got to be one of the examples. What difficulties, yet we know he was a righteous man. Joel 2:9-10 gives us this one particular moment where his wife said to Job, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die, man.” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks.” But listen to what he says, “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?”
Now, this is a point of spiritual maturity. In all of this, it says, Job did not sin with his lips. Here’s another example, David King of Israel, he wanted very much, he wanted to build the temple in Jerusalem. Wanted it to be the capstone of his life work as a picture of the relationship and his heart after God. I want to build the temple for you Oh God and the Lord says, “No, David, you are a man with blood on your hands. No, you will not build this temple. It will be left to the one who comes after you.” His son will build it. Imagine the disappointment, but in spiritual maturity, he accepts what comes from God’s Hand.
There are many things that happen in life that you may not understand, even may cause you to wonder what God is doing, but faith trusts. Part of maturity to trust that which comes from God’s Hand.
Yesterday, we received the call that one of our brothers, Ron, who had a just a massive heart attack and I went to the hospital and his wife Linda was there. I don’t know what’s going to come of it. We were praying, she asked if we could pray for him. Of course, I prayed. Pastor Sean was there, he prayed and then his wife Linda prayed and I want to tell you one of the most amazing, beautiful prayers where she said, “Lord, I trust my husband to you. I entrust my husband into your Hands. Lord, I ask you if you can heal him, then heal him. But Lord, I trust you. I trust my husband to you.”
I wish I could say it half as well as she said it because when she’s praying, I started crying. It was so amazingly beautiful and when she finished, all I could say was, “Linda, that’s beautiful”. That’s so beautiful. Things happen in life that are difficult. Faith trusts that God’s Hand is over all things and that you can trust Him to order your steps. I love Psalms 37:23, I’ve quoted it often “The steps of a man are established by the Lord and He delights in his way.” That’s a great truth. The steps of a man are established of the Lord. See, by the way, question, did Moses ever get to enter into the promised land? Did it ever happen that Moses got to go in?
Yes, it did so happen. If you remember this story when Jesus was on the mount of transfiguration and who was it that came and appeared and talked with Him? Moses himself on the mountain there in Israel. This is actually Matthew 17:2-3. Jesus was transfigured before them. It’s like the glory of God manifested, right? His face shone like the sun. His garments became white as light and behold, Moses and Elijah appeared talking with them. I would have loved to have heard that conversation, but there’s Moses finally standing in that place.
B. God gives hope of what is to come
An here’s an interesting thing also that we see out of numbers 27, God gives hope of what is to come.
He gives a glimpse of what is to come, and thereby He gives hope. God brought Moses to the mountains of Abarim to Mount Nebo of Pisgah and there he could see the land that God was giving to the nation of Israel. This is shown to us in Deuteronomy 34:1-4, Moses went up from the plains of Moab to mount Nebo to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho. And by the way, when you go there and stand on Mount Nebo, you see the Jordan river there, and you can see Jerusalem is right there. It’s beautiful.
The dead seas right over here, it’s a beautiful scene. There he stands, He goes to the top of Mount Nebo to Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho and it says, the Lord showed him all the land. I love to just imagine how scenes play out in the Scriptures, maybe I have too big of imagination, I don’t know, but I love to just imagine how this might play and I imagine- because you know the Lord spoke to Moses as a man speaks to his friend. I just have this image in my mind that there’s Moses looking out over the scene and it says, the Lord showed him and I just love this because I imagine the Lord saying, okay, now over here you see, this is where Dan is going to be and then there’s going to be Naphtali and Ephraim.
It describes it, it says, “The Lord showed him the land, Gilead.” He’s like moving from the right over to the left, from the North to the South. Gilead as far as Dan, all of Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah now straight into before him all the way to this Western sea to Negev the plain in the valley of Jericho, the city of palms and Zocor. I just love this picture. He’s giving him a glimpse. It’s giving him this picture. There’s hope when God gives a glimpse of what’s to come, and there are many examples where God does that. It says that Paul was given a glimpse into heaven itself.
What a view, what a picture. It says 2 Corinthians 12:3-4 “and I know how such a man, whether in the body or apart from the body, I do not kow. God knows, he was caught up in the paradise and he heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak. What a beautiful thing? He gives him a glimpse of heaven and he hears words that are inexpressible, what hope is built when He shows him this picture. When God told Moses then, that he would be gathered to his people. He’s now showing him and giving them a glimpse of what’s going to come after his death. That’s a great encouragement because God gives a glimpse of that.
See, there were leaders back in Jesus’s day, there were some Jewish leaders named Sadducees who did not believe in the resurrection. Can you imagine this? They believed in God, but they didn’t believe in the resurrection, and so they confront Jesus with this supposed conundrum, which he then refutes directly, but then this is what He says,– First of all, what a sad thing to not believe in the resurrection?” To believe in God but to not believe in the resurrection is a very sad thing and maybe that’s why they were called Sad-u-cee! But Matthew 22: 29, 30, 31, Jesus answers them and He says, “You are mistaken.”
I love this Scripture. “You are greatly mistaken”. Not understanding the Scriptures nor the Power of God. Now, regarding the resurrection, regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God? I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. He is not the God of the dead, He is the God of the living, for He yet is their God because they yet live in the presence of the Almighty. It’s a beautiful picture. He gives these promises as a foundation of hope. There is so much more yet to come and He gives you a glimpse to build hope.
It’s like 1st Corinthians 2:9, as it is written, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.” Which is to say, you have no idea. God has so much in mind for you. God has so much ahead for you, you have no idea. God gives a glimpse, God gives a picture of that. It’s like God gives you the Holy Spirit of the Living God as like a down payment, the Scripture says. Earn this money, because it’s describing for us that when you get into the presence of the Almighty in heaven itself, you will be overflowing with the Holy Spirit. You will have the fullness of the living God in the overflowing of the Spirit but it gives you the same Holy Spirit right now like a Taste of heaven.
Have you ever experienced worship, where you are just moved by the Spirit so that you almost feel like you want to cry, because the Spirit is moving in this worship experience and you almost want to cry, ever experience this? Yes, that’s the Holy Spirit. You’ve just got a little taste of heaven right there. Or maybe you’ve been in the Word and all of a sudden, you are impressed by the wisdom and the depth and the principles that apply and your mind is all of a sudden seeing what God is giving to you and you are amazed. Yes, the Holy Spirit is giving you a taste of the life that is to come because God will reveal Himself and all of His glory, He’s giving you a taste. He gives you a glimpse and it’s a beautiful thing because He gives you hope in it.
You see, the spiritual maturity by what he does not say when he doesn’t argue, he accepts, but then you see it next by what He does say. “All right then Lord, if he cannot go, if he cannot enter, if he cannot leave these people,” then he says, “oh Lord God, do not let them be as sheep without a shepherd. Give them a shepherd.” He cares and it’s a beautiful picture because here’s what he knows, sheep need a shepherd.
You’ve got to love the heart of Moses here because the sons of Israel, they might have been complaining, difficult, cantankerous, challenging a lot of people, but Moses loves them to the end. He asks, oh, he wants to be sure that they have a shepherd, because here’s what he knows and this is a great truth very much for all of us, you were meant to have a shepherd.
“Do not let them be like sheep without a shepherd.” That phrase, by the way, is used several times in Scripture to describe a people that are lost without hope, without direction, without a shepherd. Jesus in Matthew 9:36 says, “Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.” Without a shepherd, they’re distressed and dispirited. This is important because He’s giving a picture that’s very much true. God knows that we need that kind of relationship to the Lord where we have the closest and nearness. He loves like a shepherd loves his sheep and he says, “I know that this is the very thing that you need.”
We need a shepherd and we need fellowship with one another. It’s a beautiful picture of sheep together. We need a fellowship with one another because it’s not good to be alone. It’s not good to be alone or lonely. That’s not in God’s heart. To quote the famous American philosopher, Paul Simon, “I’ve built walls that none may penetrate. I have no need of friendship. Friendship causes pain. It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain. I am a rock. I am an island, and a rock feels no pain and an island never cries. I’m a rock. I’m an island” That’s just sad. That’s just sad. That song was very popular in the, when was that popular?
-’60s, I think. I read about this in history books. I know.
That’s just sad. A rock feels no pain? That’s not true. That’s not true. What happens is that people hide it. They mask it. Oh, an island never cries? That’s not true. No, they mask it, they hide it. That’s why He is speaking a great truth. I know the hurt. I know the brokenness. I know the lostness. I know the pain and I will be a shepherd to you. It’s like what Jesus said in John 10:10-11. We love these verses, but see how they connect together? “I came that you may have life and have it abundantly,” and then He says this, “I am the good shepherd and the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. I love you so much. I lay down my life for you. I know the pain. I know the hurt. I know the lostness and the emptiness.”
Moses was a shepherd for 40 years, you remember, before he led the people of Israel, he was a shepherd in the desert for 40 years. He knows something of which he speaks. He knows that if they have no shepherd, it will not be good. You were made for that. You were made for that kind of relationship. God knows the hurt, the pain, the wounds, the things that people hide. God says, “I am the shepherd who knows and who understands.”
You are made for fellowship. There’s something right and good about being also with other believers, being connected as a family together. There’s something right and good about this picture and he knows that which he speaks. He’s been a shepherd. He knows that sheep have no survival instincts. They seem unaware of danger and when they finally become aware of danger, all they know to do is run. Without a shepherd, it says, “The sheep scatter.” If they scatter, they become easy prey.
By the way, the enemy would very much like to do that today. If he can get you isolated, if he can get you pulled away, if he can get you alone and isolated, then he can accomplish something to defeat. We need that relationship where God is near and speaking to life and in touching the hurt. Jesus said in Matthew 26:31, Jesus told them, “This very night, you will fall away on account of me for it is written, I’ll strike the shepherd and the sheep of the flock will be scattered because that’s what they do.”
II. Sheep Need a Shepherd
We need a shepherd. See, Moses knows that, what he is speaking, because he knows that sheep have no defenses. When attacked, the only thing sheep can do is run and frankly, they can’t run very fast. They cannot outrun any of their predators, not one. They cannot outrun one of their predators, and anything can attack sheep. Even squirrels can attack and defeat sheep. I read it in the newspaper.
It was in the Russian newspaper Pravda, so therefore you know it has to be true.
Sheep don’t have teeth that can defend. They’re defenseless without a shepherd, and also he knows, he knows of which he is speaking. He knows that sheep have no homing instinct. In other words, they easily lose their way. They easily lose their way. Isaiah 1:3, “The ox knows its owner, and the donkey knows his master’s crib but Israel does not know. My people do not consider. They easily lose their way.” We know it’s true. Many animals have tremendous homing instinct. There was an interesting story. Have you ever read stories of criminals that do dumb things? Well, criminals do dumb things has been going on a long time. There’s a story of a man in Israel who robbed someone but left his donkey behind. the official simply untied the donkey followed Him to the Master’s home where the thief was promptly arrested.
Certain animals have tremendous homing instincts. Dogs, you’ve heard of stories where they’ll travel over mountains and streams and deserts that get hundreds of miles. Plenty of animals have homing instincts, but she, no. That’s why He says, do not let them be like a sheep without a shepherd.
B. God wants shepherds after His own heart
Then He says, “Then take Joshua, a man in whom is the Spirit.” Because this is a key thing, God uses leaders. God appoints leaders. He uses them as shepherds under Him, and this is the point that we really need to grasp. God wants shepherds after His own heart. If you are in leadership in any capacity, whether it’s home or your family or whatever it may be, if you’re given leadership in any capacity, would you please take hold of this great truth to care, to lead with that kind of care is God’s heart. It’s always been God heart. Would you notice Ezekiel 34:15-16. This is the Lord speaking His heart. “I will feed my flock. I will leave them to rest,” declares the Lord God.
“I will seek the lost. I’ll bring back to scattered. I’ll bind up the broken hearted and I’ll strengthen the sick.” That’s the Lord’s heart. If you have any leadership at all, take this heart because it’s love that defines it. It’s love that’s seen in it. Whatever your responsibility is, whatever your leadership is, let it be that which God shows you in His heart. First Corinthians 13:1 says, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels, but do not have love.
I have become a sounding brass or a clanging cymbal,” which is to say it’s love that makes you something. It’s a key to what he’s showing us. Then lastly is giving us a picture of His heart. Moses knows of which He is speaking and He knows this is a great truth that can be summarized in Psalms 23, He restores your soul is the theme. That’s what a shepherd is about. Psalms 23 was written by the best known of shepherds, David King of Israel.
The famous pastor Harry Ironside, once wrote, “Psalms 23 is probably the most beloved yet least believed of all the Psalm,”. Most beloved, least believed because there are so many promises because it shows you the heart that God has. He the pain. A rock feels no pain. This is not true. They hide the pain. This word of a shepherd, the Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want my provision, my hope, my resource. He makes me to lie down in green pastures, sheep will not lie down unless they’re free from fear, free from strife, free from hunger. In green pastures, He laid me down. It means in nourishes He feeds. He strengthens. He speaks life to the soul.
He leads me beside still waters, peace. “My peace”, Jesus said, “My peace I give you.” It does not lead them to turbulence or conflicts, peace. He restores my soul. That’s the heart of the Lord. To restore, to rebuild, to speak life. He guides me in the paths of righteousness and then it finishes by saying, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord all that days of my life. I love those words because what is He saying? I want the relationship to you where you would draw near. Let me speak life, let me touch the pain, let me heal the hurt.
Many people, they carry deep, deep hurt and pain. They just hide it. No, let me speak to it. Let me touch your heart and I’ll heal the hurt and the brokenness and the pain. I will restore your soul. I’ll bring life to you. I’ll cause your soul to be filled and overflowing with the joy of the Lord, but you’ve got to come near. You’ve got to draw near as a sheep will draw to the shepherd and then you will say with David, “I Will dwell in the house of the Lord all that days of my life.”
Father, thank you so much for your heart after us, for showing us your desire to speak life, to heal the broken, the loss, the hurt. Church, would you draw near? Would you see that He is saying to us, it’s in the nearness of God that He speaks to you life. He knows the hurt, the pain, the wound, and He wants to speak life. He wants to touch, wants to heal, but it’s in the drawing near that you would then say, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord all that days of my life to behold the beauty of the Lord. It’s a picture of invitation. Church, as we’re praying to the Lord, would you say to the Lord, even now, it is my heart and my desire to dwell in the nearness of God.
In the nearness of God, I want it dwell. Would you say that to the Lord this morning? Would you open your heart to let Him speak life, whether it’s pain or hurt or lostness, let Him speak to you, but you know that He’s inviting you to talk near. In the shadow of The Almighty, you are safe. Would you say to the Lord today, I want the nearness of God. I want to draw near. Would you just raise your hand to the Lord and just say to the Lord today, “I want the nearness of God. I want to draw to you, Lord. I want you to have your Spirit fill me with life.”
Father, thank you for everyone who is touched of the Lord, moved of God. We give you thanks, we give you glory. We give you honor for all that you’re doing in us today in Jesus name and everyone say-
Can we give the Lord Praise and glory and honor today? Amen? Amen.
Let Nothing Stand in the Way
Numbers 23:1 to 24:17
Today, in our verses, we’re introduced to a man named Balaam. He’s really infamous, you might say, in the history of Israel. He’s not Hebrew at all. He’s from Mesopotamia. We’re going to meet him, because he plays a very important role in the history of Israel. What has been happening now is this, Israel is in the wilderness, but they are very near entering into the promised land.
They couldn’t go directly through because the Edomites, who control the trade routes, would not let them pass. They had to go around, all the way to the south, all the way around to the other side of the Dead Sea. As they’re moving up then to the north, they encountered the Amorites who attacked them without provocation. They defeat them. King of Bashan is defeated.
Then they encamped in the plains of Moab, immediately across the Jordan from Jericho. Now, when we were in Israel on our last trip, just a couple of months ago, we actually went to Mount Nebo, where you can look over the plains of Moab and see the City of Jericho, just across the way. It is an amazing thing to sit there and realize, this is the place where all of this unfolded.
What had happened was, he’s in the plains of Moab and so the Moabite people are very concerned now, because of the great army that is amassed in their land. They realized that they cannot defeat them militarily. The king of Moab, his name was Balak, he decides on spiritual attack, spiritual warfare.
He decides to hire a man named Balaam, thus we’re introduced to Balaam, to bring a curse, to curse these people, Israel, because they’re too mighty in battle. There is some debate whether Balaam was a prophet of God. Clearly, God did speak to him, but he certainly had a wrong heart. In fact, when the Scriptures refer to this unfolding story, they call it the error of Balaam.
Balak, the king of the Moabites, he offers to pay Balaam, “Come and bring a curse.” He sends emissaries, he sent some elders from Moab and Midian, both, to Balaam. God actually says to him, “No, you’re not going, because you shall not curse the people, for they are blessed.”
That’s a very important principle that comes out of this, he whom God has blessed is blessed indeed and they cannot be denounced. They cannot be cursed. Now, Balak, king of Moabite people, he doesn’t like this answer. He doesn’t take, no, very well. He sends more emissaries with more money and he says, “I will honor you richly, but you’ve got to come, and you got to curse these people.”
Now, this time God did allow Balaam to go, but with a firm warning, “You will speak only the words that I give you to speak.” That gives us a hint of the trouble that is to come. Balaam is an important figure in the Bible. He’s mentioned more than 60 times in the Bible. He’s mentioned three times in the New Testament and never in a good light.
There’s three parts to this story that I want us to take note of. Firstly, Balaam knows that he must say only what God tells him to say. He also knows that Israel is blessed of God and therefore cannot be cursed, but he wants the riches. He wants these riches offered by Balak and so he makes this journey with the elders of Moab and Midian, to see what opportunities might arise.
Thus, we get a hint of a problem of character. The second part of this story has to do with the fact that Israel is blessed of God and cannot be cursed. This is a key for us. Yes, they grumbled, yes, they complain, yes, they had bitterness in their heart at times, but nevertheless, they were God’s people and he whom God blesses is blessed indeed.
In fact, one of the blessings poured out on Israel is this declaration that we see several times in Scripture, “He who blesses Israel will be blessed. He who curses Israel will be cursed.” I suggest that, that promise for Israel is still very much true today and should inform our public, our foreign policy as a nation, when it comes to our relationship to the people of Israel.
Still today is that promise relevant, “He whom God blesses is blessed indeed.” Third lesson comes at the end of the story where Balaam, he does go with the elders of Moab and Midian and God only gives him blessings, so he speaks blessings over Israel. He’s hired to curse. He’s hired to curse, but he can’t do it, but Balaam wants the riches.
He counsels Balak, “Here’s what you do, put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel.” He knows that Israel cannot be cursed, but he knows that if the people of Israel can be tempted into sinning against God, that a wedge would be driven between the people and their Lord and thus, great troubles would come against them.
There’s a lot of lesson here. Let’s read it. We’re in Numbers 23. We’ll begin in verse one. Balaam, at this point in the story, he has come with the elders of Moab and Midian and he’s standing there overlooking the camp of Israel. Balaam said to Balak, “Now build seven altars for me here. Prepare seven bulls, seven rams for me here.”
Balak did as Balaam spoke and he offered up a bull and a ram on each altar. Then Balaam said to Balak, “Now stand beside your burnt offering and I will go, perhaps the Lord will come to me and whatever he shows me, I will tell it to you.” He went on to a bare hill. God met Balaam and he said to him, Balaam said, “I have set up seven altars. I’ve offered a bull and a ram on each altar.”
The Lord put a word in Balaam’s mouth, and He said, “Now, return to Balak and speak thus.” He returned to him and behold; he was standing beside the burnt offering and all the leaders of Moab were there. He took up his discourse and this is what he said, “From Aram, Balak has brought me, Moab’s king from the mountains of the East, “Come curse Jacob for me,” he said, “and come denounce Israel.”
But how shall I curse whom God has not cursed and, how can I denounce whom the Lord has not denounced? I see, as I see from the top of the rocks and look at him from the hills, behold, a people who dwells apart and shall not be reckoned among the nations. Who can count the dust of Jacob? Who can count the number of the fourth part of Israel.” Then he says something amazing. He sees Israel.
He’s overtaken by the Spirit and he recognizes this blessing of God. He actually says something amazing and astounding here. He says, “I want to die the death of the righteous. I want to die like that. Let my end be like his.” Well, Balak said to Balaam, “What is this that you have done? I hired you to curse my enemies and behold, you bless them.”
He answered and he said, “Must not I be careful to speak what the Lord puts in my mouth?” Balak then said, “Please come with me to another place, from where you may see them, although you will only see the extreme end of them and will not see all of them. Curse them for me there.”
He took him to the field of Zophim, to the top of Pisgah, built seven altars, offered a bull and a ram on each altar. He said to Balak, “Stand here beside your burnt offering, while, I, myself, meet the Lord yonder.” The Lord met Balaam and He put a word in his mouth, and He said, “Now, return to Balak and thus you shall speak.”
He came to him and behold, he was standing beside the burnt offering and the leaders of Moab were there with him and Balak said to him, “What has the Lord spoken?” He took up his discourse and this is what he said, “Arise, Oh, Balak and hear. Give ear to me Oh son of Zippor. God is not a man that He should lie, He’s not a Son of Man that He should repent. Has He said and will He not do it?”
I love this statement here, “Has He not said, and will He not do it? Has He spoken and will He not make it good? Behold, I have received a command to bless and when He has blessed, I cannot revoke it. He has not observed misfortune in Jacob, nor has He seen trouble in Israel. The Lord, his God is with him and the shout of a king is among them.”
“God brings them out of Egypt. He’s for them like the horns of a wild ox. There is no omen against Jacob, there is no divination against Israel and at the proper time, it shall be said to Jacob and to Israel what God has done. Behold, a people rises like a lioness and like a lion lifts itself up, it shall not lie down until it devours the prey and drinks the blood of the slain.”
Balak said to Balaam, “Do not curse them at all, and do not bless them at all.” But Balaam answered and said to Balak, “Did I not tell you? Whatever the Lord speaks, that I must do?” Balak then said to Balaam, “Please come. I will take you to another place. Perhaps it will be agreeable with God that you curse them for me from there.” Then he does it again the third time, the discourse and the third time, it’s prophetic.
It’s amazing. We won’t read that one today. I want to read this and look at them to apply them to our lives. There’s a lot you can learn from Balaam, having to do particularly with the character. The lesson for us to apply is to strengthen the character within. You can learn from the error of Balaam. This is Spiritual Warfare.
Balak realizes he cannot defeat the enemies of Israel, so he offers Balaam money to bring a curse, a spiritual curse. This is a very definition of spiritual warfare. I suggest that there’s a lot to apply, because we are in spiritual battle today. We are in spiritual warfare. In fact, I think anyone with spiritual discernment can sense there is trouble in this world.
There is something very dark that is rising amongst the nations of this world. There is a storm cloud on the horizon. Does anybody sense and agree with what I’m saying?
There is something that is happening not seen for many, many years that’s arising. We are in a time of spiritual battle. However, it also must be seen individually, personally, the enemy would like very much to defeat you.
I. Strengthen the Character Within
If he can get you to compromise your character, he will have won a key battle. The idea is to make this personal, because every person must decide the course of his life. Each person must decide the course of his life, so he gives his principles. For example, one of the principles that comes out of the story is this, listen when God warns. One of the great lessons is out of this story. God gives a clear warning.
A.Listen when God warns
God warns Balaam before he leaves with the leaders of Moab, you will speak only the word that I give you to speak. In other words, you don’t add or take away from what I tell you. God warns him again when the angel of the Lord met him along the way, because the Lord knew the motives of his heart, why he was going. Numbers 22:22- 35 tells us, God was angry because he was going.
The Angel of the Lord took a stand in the way as an adversary against him. Then the Angel of the Lord said to Balaam, “Go with these men but you will speak only the word that I tell you to speak.” Now, Balaam does not heed the warning. He cannot curse what God has blessed, but he adds. He gives Balak counsel of how to put a stumbling block in front of Israel.
If God gives a warning, you would be very wise to heed it. In fact, I would like to do this, I would like to do a show of hands this morning. If you, this morning, have ever sensed in your life a time when you know that God was warning you in advance, will you raise your hand? I know God has warned, just raise your hand.
I’ve sensed it, I know God warns in advance. See, that’s the Holy Spirit. That’s the Holy Spirit moving, prompting, giving you that warning. It’s part of God’s grace that he gives a warning in advance, because he’s giving opportunity for life. He’s giving opportunity to choose character, to choose integrity.
Like this out of Deuteronomy 32:46-47 famous speech by Moses, “Take to your heart all the words with which I am warning you today. Which you shall command to your sons to observe carefully. Even all the words of this law for it is not an idle word for you.” When God gives a warning, that is not an idle word for you. Indeed, it is your life.
By this word, you will prolong your days in the land which you are about to cross the Jordan to possess. It’s a word of great blessing when He gives that. See, the Holy Spirit will often give a lack of peace when you need to be alerted to spiritual danger. He’s warning you to be watchful. You know, every harbor in our country has a harbormaster.
The responsibility of the harbormaster is to warn when a storm is impending. You may not even see anything on the horizon, but when the harbormaster puts out a warning, you’d be wise to heed it. That’s the same idea. Jesus gave us this word to believers today, we are instructed to watch for the signs of the times.
B.Good character is of great value
To watch and be ready to observe and be careful. The signs that are happening in the world of what God is doing, but also watch for what the enemy is doing. Be spiritually alert. He’s speaking not just in regard to the nation, to your own life and thus there’s a great application. Good character is of great value. It is a tremendous value in your life.
A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, the Scripture says. Balaam is tempted by the riches that Balak has offered him. He hires him to curse Israel and he goes with these men, knowing full well that if God’s blessing is on Israel, they cannot be cursed so why is he going? He’s been hired to curse, but he knows fully well they cannot be cursed.
Why is he going? 2 Peter 2:15 tells us, “Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor who loved the wages of unrighteousness.” There’s a problem in the character. There’s a problem in the deepness of this flaw of his character.
Jude 1:11, “Woe to them,” he said “Woe to them, they’ve gone the way of Cain and for pay they rushed headlong into the error of Balaam and perished in the rebellion of Korah.” Man, he’s picked some of the tragedies of character of the Old Testament there. He knew that God would not curse Israel but, in his heart, he wanted something different.
Here’s the lesson out of it, the heart will eventually make a convert of the mind. The heart will eventually make a convert of the mind. That’s why it’s so important to guard well that the heart have the pure water of a well from which you can draw. It’s a beautiful picture. Jesus said in Luke 6:45, I love quoting this verse because it applies directly to our own character, our own life, our own soul.
Jesus said, “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good. The evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil, for his mouth speaks.” In other words, the life is lived from that which fills the heart. When the heart is good the treasure of the heart, you live well. The course of your life is lived from what dwells in the heart.
Maybe you’ve heard an old saying. It goes something like this, “So-and-so is so heavenly minded that he’s no earthly good,” the saying goes. I can assure you that God is not the author of that quote. I know a lot of people who are so earthly minded that they’re no heavenly good.
C.Die the death of the righteous
If you are heavenly minded, you are most certainly earthly good, for out of that well of the heart that’s good comes forth a blessing to you, to those around you, it is good. The course of your life is set in order by that which God brings into the character. Then we see this insight. It’s very, very interesting and powerful. Die the death of the righteous.
Godly character, God’s favor, will not only transform how you live, I suggest it will transform how you die. Balaam makes a profound statement in verse 10, he sees that Israel is blessed of God. He sees the favor of God. He knows that he cannot denounce who God has not denounced and if God blesses it was surely stand. He knows this is true.
He sees this and he says, I want to die like that. Let me die the death of the righteous. Let my death be like his. This is a profound thing. I suggest that we do not see death the way God sees death. I think our perspective on death is very different than God’s. We often see death as a tragic end. A tragedy. God sees it as a great homecoming, a grand day in which He welcomes His servants home.
It’s a very different thing. Well done my good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Master. In fact, it says in Psalm 116:15, “A precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his godly ones.” It’s a very different perspective. See, dying the death of the righteous is the way that most people would like to die. The problem is that they don’t want to live the life of the righteous.
I was remembering a story told by Gil Earl when he spoke in here several times. He was teaching at the Bible College some young pastors. He was teaching them about funerals and memorial services and such. As to make it more compelling, he had someone making a pine-coffin and he would have, each class, he would have a different student get in the pine-coffin while one of the younger students gave his Eulogy.
This is a great way to learn how to give a Eulogy. He said it was eye-opening for the person in the box. To lay in the pine box and to hear your Eulogy makes you think, makes you stop, think about your life. For one day you will look back on your life. Wouldn’t it be glorious to say, “I lived the life that God asked me to live?” I’m not saying that anyone is perfect.
No one will live the perfect life, but I do believe it’s very possible to say, “I lived the life that God asked me to live. I walked in the course that he had for me.” Moses wrote in Psalm 90 versus 10 and 12, “As were the days of our life that contain 70 years, or if due to strength 80, yet their span is but labor and sorrow and soon it is gone and we fly away, so, teach us to number our days that we may present to you a heart of wisdom.”
Teach us to number our days. Teach us to value our days. This world is filled with troubles and people in their discouragement often think that if they could just obtain something out there, if they could just have this thing in the future, then life would be worth living. This starts out when you’re young. When you’re young, you look forward to graduating in high school.
When I graduate from high school, then life can be lived. Then I’ll start to really live my life, or maybe, when I get finished with college, or whatever it is, then I’ll start to live my life. Then after that is, if I could just be married, then I’ll start to live my life. Then after that, as well, if we could just have kids. If we could have kids, then we’ll live. It’s always out there. It’s never here.
It’s always out there somewhere. It’s never here. Yes, this world is filled with troubles, but Jesus said, “In me, you can have peace”. John 16:33, “These things I’ve spoken to you so that in Me you may have peace. In the world, you’ll have tribulation but take courage I’ve overcome the world.” You can have peace right now. Jesus said, “I have come that you would have life and have it to the full”.
Live life to the full right now. It’s not out there. It’s not out there. It’s here. It’s today. It’s the overflowing of the presence of the Holy Spirit now. Live life to the full now, as someone once said, “I wish someone would have told me that someday these will be the good old days”. Now, live life. See, it’s the fullness of life, now. The course of your life is chosen.
When you choose to offer God your heart and say, “God, fill me with the presence of the Spirit”. Godly character and God’s favor will not only transform how you live, it will transform how you die. Voltaire once said, “I will destroy in one day the edifice that the 12 apostles took years to build up”, but on his deathbed, he had something very different to say, “Doctor,” he said, “I’m abandoned by God”.
The skeptic Hobbes on his deathbed said, “I’m about to take a fearful leap into the dark”. In contrast, St. Francis of Assisi, one day was working in his garden on his hands and knees and a young student came up and asked him and he said, “If you knew that you were going to die in 10 minutes, what would you do?”
St. Francis of Assisi said, “If I knew I was going to die in 10 minutes, what would I do? I’d finish this row. That’s what I would do”. In other words, there’s nothing more I need to do. It’s all settled with me. I’m at peace. God is in my heart. I’m at peace. This is such an important thing. It’s not out there, it’s here in the fullness of the Spirit, now. Many of you know my story. I’ve mentioned my father.
My father may have wasted most of his life as an alcoholic, but when he received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, it not only transformed how he lived, it transformed how he died. When he recognized that he had wasted his life, he has moved away, separated himself from everyone, but then he realized that he wasted his life, come to faith in Christ and it transformed how he lived but I suggest it transformed how he died.
For there around his bed was all of his children and his wife, my mother, whom he had divorced, who he had separated, whom he had abused, but now who has forgiven and become friends. It changed his life and it changed his death. For the moment that he breathed his last, I closed his eyes and then I said, “Father, into your hands, I commend his spirit”.
Then when we had his service, I’ll never forget a beautiful scene that unfolded, because there was my mother standing at the end of the coffin, just greeting people as they came to give their final respects. When they had all left, she came around, leaned into the coffin, gave him a kiss, “I love you, Cecil”. It changed his life; sit changed his death.
II.God is Faithful in His Favor
Balaam says something amazing here, I want to live the life of the blessed. Let my death be like his, there is something honorable, there’s something glorious. Choose the course of your life well. He gives us a great insight into what that means, how to do this. He’s showing us a great point. God is faithful in his favor. You can build your life on this.
Balak is furious when Balaam gives a blessing rather than a curse, “Try from another mountain”, he says, but God answers with the irrevocable promises of God. Verse 20, “When he has blessed, I cannot revoke it.” There is a great spiritual truth in this because it applies to you and to me. When God is blessed, it cannot be revoked.
A.God is faithful in His promises
His favor is upon you. when he says that I love you as a Father will love His son, you are now adopted as a son and His love for you knows no end. You can stand on this. It will change the course of your life when you take hold of this, because this is the truth. God is faithful in his promises. It will change the course of your life when you take hold of it. I love the words of verses 19 and 20, “Has he said, and will he not do it?”
When God has said it, he will do it. It speaks powerfully to the heart of God in His faithfulness a blessing your life and the favor that He puts upon you. Notice Hebrews 10:23, “Let us hold fast,” which is to say, hold on to the confession of your hope and do it without wavering, because He that promise is faithful. Now, that’s something you can build your life on.
That’s something that will change the course of your life. Choose well. Habakkuk 3:19, I love this verse, “The Lord God is my strength. He has made my feet like hind’s feet and he makes me walk on high places.” It’s a great declaration. It’s a great statement.
B.His gifts and calling are irrevocable
The Lord God is my strength. He’s made my feet like hind’s feet, made me walk in high places. Do you know what a hind is? A hind is a doe, a deer, a female deer.
I thought it too but in Israel, they have these like these ibexes, and you look up unto the hills of these rocks and is like, what is that? You realize these are surefooted, the ibex. They are your surefooted. They’re moving in the highest places on the rocks of the cliff. He writes this powerful statement; the Lord God is my strength. He made my feet like that.
You’re very sure-footed when the Lord God is your strength. You’re very sure-footed and you could walk on high places, the course of your life. Choose well the course of your life, because he gives us a great truth, the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Stand in this Scripture, the blessings of God. Verse 20, “When He has blessed, I cannot revoke it.” He cannot denounce whom the Lord has not denounced.
It’s true for Israel and it’s true for you. By the way, it’s still true today for Israel. Let me give you a new testament verse that speaks to the same truth. Romans 11:28-29, from the standpoint of God’s choice, “They are beloved for the sake of the Fathers, because the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” Now, that’s a great truth for you and me. When God blesses, you are blessed indeed.
C.Walk as children of light
When He says that you’re loved as your father, you can stand on that truth. When He says that His favor is upon you, you can absolutely stand on that truth. With great confidence, you can know that His love never fails, that His grace has no boundaries known under men, because He’s showing us a great truth. Choose well the course of your life. Choose well the course of your life.
Walk therefore as children of light. Balak was so angry at the blessings that Balaam gave that he essentially said, “If you can’t say anything bad, then don’t say anything at all”. Obviously, his mother did not teach him very well, but most unfortunately Balaam did give a word, gave him counsel that harmed Israel greatly.
He told him, [sighs] “Bring the women. Bring the women of Moab and Midian so that they can play the harlot with Israel”. Balaam knew. Balaam knew that no weapon formed against them would stand, but if they could be drawn away from God, God would discipline, God would correct, God would rebuke. This is exactly what the enemy would want to do today.
He knows very well if he can drive a wedge in your life, if he can drive a wedge between you and the Lord, if he can draw you away from God, he will have accomplished a great destructive thing. The key; choose well the course of your life. Choose to dwell in the nearness of God and the shadow of the Almighty. The course of your life is set when you draw near to the Lord, the blessings of God, the favor of God.
It will change how you live, and I suggest it will change how you die, “Precious in the sight of the Lord, the death of His godly ones.” Choose well, because it’s not out there. There’s nothing out there. It’s here. It’s here in the presence of the Lord. The overwhelming, overflowing Spirit that fills the life. That’s where life comes from. There’s nothing out there. It’s in the life of the Lord. It’s here.
Would you say today, “I will choose my course and I want You to bless it Lord. I want You to bless because I want your life. I want Your Spirit. I want the overwhelming presence of God”. Father, thank you so much for everyone here today. You move upon us by Your Word. You move upon us by Your Spirit. You stir us up, you draw us to yourself and you show us great truths.
Church today, would you say to the Lord as we are all present before the Lord as we’re praying, our hearts are open to the Lord? Would you say to the Lord. I see. I see. There is nothing out there that will satisfy my heart. It’s here. It’s in the presence of the Living God. It’s in the overwhelming and overflowing of the presence of the Spirit, moving.
I want the fullness of life and I want that which You bring by Your Holy Spirit. I choose the course of my life. I want to dwell in the shadow of the Almighty. Would you say that to the Lord today? I want to be filled to the fullness of the Holy Spirit. I want the life that moves. There’s nothing out there. It’s in the presence of God that I’m filled. That’s where life is found. I choose You, Lord. I choose life. I choose Your way.
I choose the course by which the blessings of God will be flowing in power. Church, would you say that to the Lord? Is that your heart? Would you ask God for that? Would you just raise your hand to the Lord and say it with boldness, God, it’s not out there. It’s here. It’s in the overflowing of the Spirit. I’m asking today, would You fill me by Your Holy Spirit?
I want the life that comes from Your Spirit in me. Would you just raise your hand in boldness even now?
Father, thank You for everyone who’s touched of the Lord, moved of the Spirit. You are amazing. We give You honor. We give You thanks for all You’re doing in us today in Jesus name. And everyone say–.
Can we give the Lord praise and glory and honor. Amen. Amen.
The Serpent Who Saves
The serpent who saves is an intriguing thought. Is it possible? How is it possible that there could be a serpent that saves? What’s very interesting is that it is actually a picture of Jesus Himself on the cross and what’s even more interesting is that Jesus is the one who taught it, connecting Himself directly to these verses that we’re studying today.
When you come to Numbers 21, Israel has been in the wilderness now almost 40 years. Since the time that we met together last week, almost 40 years has passed and even if you have set your clock back an hour.
The issue in this chapter is complaining and grumbling by the sons of Israel against God and against Moses. I say again, it’s been 40 years and it’s still about grumbling and complaining.
What had happened was this, Israel was getting near to the time that they were going to enter into the Promised Land. They wanted to pass through the land of Edom in order to get to that land, but Edom control the trade routes and passing through their territory was the most direct passage. Moses sent emissaries to request permission from either Edomites to pass through their land saying to them, “We will only stand or stay on the King’s Highway. We will take nothing”, but the Edomites refused to let Israel pass through. In fact, they said, “If you come into our territory, we will come out with a large force”.
This was discouraging. This was very disheartening to hear because the Edomites, if you remember, were direct descendants of Esau. Jacob and Esau were brothers, so Israel saw the Edomites as their brothers. This is very disheartening and because they were brothers Israel did not wish to fight them. Israel headed south in order to go around the Land of Edom, traveling south so far as the past near to the Red Sea in the Gulf of Aqaba.
Israel became impatient on the journey. Many commentators believe this would have been in perhaps the hottest time of the year, but frankly, anytime year in that part of the world would be difficult. It’s hot. It’s a wilderness. It’s a desert and they went very far out of the way.
In their complaining, the people spoke against God. They accused God in it. They spoke against Moses with the same complaint that we’ve heard many times. “Why have you brought it up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?” Then they insulted God even further, “There is no bread or water”, but there was.
Then they took their complaining to new heights when they said, “We loathe this miserable food.” They’re speaking here about that miraculous provision that God gave to them. How do you feed two million people in the desert for 40 years? He did a miracle every day in the providing of this manna. It was wonderful in taste and very good for them, very nutritious. “We loathe this miserable food.”
God uses difficulties, adversities to prepare for what he knows is coming into your life. God is building character. God is strengthening faith. I like to ask this question when I look at what is happening here in the book of Numbers, what did God expect? What did God want? What did He expect? He expected them to persevere. He expected them to master the wilderness before the wilderness mastered them, to endure. God uses difficulties and adversities to bring about spiritual maturity.
Wouldn’t it have been so much better if they could have responded by saying, “Yes, this is hard, this is adversity, but God is preparing us for that which He has promised to give us yet to come”? To stand firm would have been such a glorious declaration.
Let’s read it, Chapter 21. We’ll begin in verse four. We’re only going to read five verses. “Then they set out from Mount Hor by the way of the Red Sea- “, the Gulf of Aqaba then as an extension of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the people became impatient because of this journey. The people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of the land of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no food, there is no water, and we loathe this miserable food.” The Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people so that many of Israel died.
The people came to Moses and they said– Would you read this verse? It really is a key. It’s actually a monumental shift into something that’s good. It says they said to Moses, “We have sinned.” It’s a glorious day when they acknowledge. “We have sinned because we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Intercede with the Lord that He may remove the serpents from us.”
Moses did. He interceded for the people but notice verse eight because it really is a key. The Lord, Jehovah, said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent.” He’s going to make an image out of bronze. Make an image of this bronze serpent and set it on a standard, a wooden pole. Lift it up that everyone who was bitten by the serpent shall look upon this fiery bronze serpent lifted up and he shall live.
Moses made a bronze serpent set it on the standard. It came about that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked upon the bronze serpent, he lived.
I. Complainers Complain
This is very, very monumental in the history of Israel and there’s a lot for us to apply to our lives. I like to begin with an understanding of human nature and maybe say it this way, complainers complain. It’s the nature of the complainer to complain. A tree is known by its fruit. The root of discontentment, complaining is the heart. Complainers complain. There’s always something to complain about. Here’s what I want us to see out of this story, these are the children. These are the children of the complainers.
In other words, here’s the question. Do the sons really have to be like the fathers? Does this need to be passed? Is it so? Do children, must they be like their fathers?
If you’ve had a great father, then praise God for that. Stand on his shoulders and be even greater, but if you’ve had difficulty with your father and many people have, the question still remains, must it be? Do we have to carry those sins? Can it end?
I want to give you a very key verse, Numbers 14:18. Moses is quoting the Lord here and he says, “The Lord is slow to anger and abundant in loving kindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but He will by no means clear the guilty visiting the iniquity of the father’s on the children to the third and fourth generation.”
What does that mean? I tell you it’s been misinterpreted for a long time. Many presume it means that he will take the iniquities of the Father and put them on the children up to the third and fourth generation. That is not what it means. What it means is that he will visit the children to see does this thing continue, is the sin still remaining? He will go even to the third and fourth generation to see has this thing ended? Are you still carrying this? Are you still doing this thing?
Children of alcoholics oftentimes become alcoholics. My father was an alcoholic. Children of those who are abusers oftentimes become abusers themselves. Does this thing need to keep going generation to generation or can it end?
A. Rise above your circumstances
I tell you one of the most glorious revelations that ever came into my life was when as a young man, I understood the Lord pressing in this point to me. No, you do not have to carry the sins of the father with you anymore. This thing can end, and this thing can end with you. This is the generation that it will stop.
It is true for you as well. I don’t know what you’re carrying that you brought with you from your father, but I can tell you that it can end, and it can end right here. It can end this morning. It can end right now because God is the one is doing in the work in you. Amen. Can we give the Lord praise?
This is what He’s showing us to apply to our lives. It is this, rise above your circumstances because there is a bigger picture. There is something deeper at work. There’s a greater spiritual meaning in life, but some people, they only live in the moment and they only live according to their circumstances. If their circumstances are good, then they feel good. If their circumstances are bad, then they complain.
There is a deeper work. There is a greater picture. Okay, Israel was weary, they were impatient, they were tired, they had to turn south. That’s not the right direction and that made them discouraged. Here’s the thing, it’s one thing to complain, but it’s a whole different thing to complain against God so as to accuse Him. Jesus gave a parable that really did explain the condition of man and the problem of the heart. He said the Word of God being sown is like a farmer sowing a seed on different types of soil, so there are different types of hearts. The heart that is hard cannot receive the Word of God at all.
The next type is the type of soil or the type of heart that I want us to see. He said on that type, the soil is quite thin, because of the rocks in it, it is thin. It does receive the word and it even receives the word with joy, but when the heat comes– See it has no depth of root, so when the heat comes it withers.
Which is to say, when adversity comes, when persecution arises, when difficulty comes, they shipwreck their faith, because the accuse God, they’re offended. “You say you’re Lord, you say you’re God, but look at the troubles of my life.” They accuse God in this. For those who have a heart to complain, there’s always something to complain about because there’s always something wrong.
We live in a broken world, and I’ll tell you right now, there’s always something wrong. There’s always something to complain about. The question is this, can you rise above your circumstances? For there are other people who always seem to find that which to be thankful for. They know that there’s a deeper meaning in life. They know that there are greater things, and they are thankful. They look and see what is happening, and they can find that which is to be thankful for.
1 Thessalonians 5:18, “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God and Christ Jesus for you.” In other words, learn to be content. It’s a spiritual point of maturity. If Israel cannot learn to be content, they will not be content with anything. If they cannot master the wilderness, the wilderness will master them, but if they could learn to be content in God, then they can be content anywhere.
Paul said that he has learned the secret of being content. He said, “I’ve learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am”, whether he has much or little. “Whether I have abundance or suffering need.” He says, “This is it. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. He is the strength of my heart. He is the strength of my life. I can be content in him, even if I’m suffering need.”
It’s a tremendous lesson whenever I have an opportunity to speak to young people, particularly single people. I want to help them to see this spiritual lesson of contentedness, because single people oftentimes have the idea in their mind, that if they could just be married, it would solve all the problems of their life.
Yes, now those who chuckle right now are no doubt married.
B. Agree with God and acknowledge
You know it doesn’t solve all the problems of life. Here’s the thing that is so important to grasp, because it’s a spiritual principle, if you are not contented in your singleness, you will not be contented, married. If you are contented in your singleness and contented in God, then you are going to bring that contentedness into your marriage. You’re going to bring a maturity in Christ, and you will find that you can rise above your circumstances. The key is to learn to be content in God, for when the soul is content in God, you can rise above your circumstances and know that God is doing a greater thing.
That’s why when we look at Numbers 21 as a tremendous application, when we recognize this principle, agree with God and acknowledge, something monumental happens in these verses, God sends fiery serpents among them. More than likely they were called fiery because they were poisonous, their bite would burn painfully, many died. There are many serpents, snakes, vipers in that region and God may well have been keeping them away from Israel in their journeys, but now their complaining has brought them face to face with the reality of their sin.
There’s the serpent, the viper has long been a symbol in the Scriptures, been a symbol of sin, a symbol of judgment. When Satan appeared in the Garden of Eden, he came as a serpent.
The point is that sin is poisonous, and it is a mortal wound and there is no cure. It’s a mortal wound, there is no cure, except for one. Except and only one, that which God himself has provided. That’s why the serpent is a powerful representation here. Is a powerful picture of that mortal wound of sin.
In the Book of Acts, there is a picture of the very contrasting thing to this. It’s so interesting in it’s contrast, we have to bring it up. Says in the Book of Acts, that Paul, taken as a prisoner to Rome, he is on a ship. On this ship being taken to Rome to stand before Caesar as a prisoner of Rome, they encounter a storm. Two weeks they’re in this storm, at the end of which they sense that they’re near land, so they begin to take soundings. Then they decide because it’s the black of night, they decide to cast four anchors, that tells us that the anchors were cast at 90 feet. Interesting detail. Then they waited for light.
When morning light came, they could see that there was a beach, so they decided to cut the anchors and make a run for the beach, but they struck fast against a reef, and the waves began to beat against the ship and destroyed it. Everyone then had to cast into the sea fine planks or whatever to make it to shore.
Interestingly, on our last two or three trips back, we went there to Malta. I’ve actually been to the very sight of this shipwreck, and it’s amazing to see it all before your eyes, because sure enough, there’s a beach, there was a reef, and they found four anchors of Roman ships at 90 feet. I don’t know about you but I think that’s fascinating.
They come on to the shore of Malta, and they begin to build a bonfire. Paul is throwing branches onto the fire and as he’s throwing branches, a viper comes out of the fire and latches onto his hands.
I think a lot of people at that moment would have panicked. Vipers have a tendency to do that in people. I know I would have panicked. I cannot stand poisonous snakes. In fact, I remember I was visiting some relatives in Arkansas when I was a young man. We went down to the river and I saw baby moccasin and it filled me with this fear. I took a rock and I threw it at the thing, I hit it and I killed it, but I wasn’t done. A certain rage came up in me, I took a stone and I made water moccasin smudge soup out of it. I just kept beating the thing, it’s all fear.
One time, Jordi, my wife tried to put a snake down my shirt.
Yes. I know. What happened was this, I was in my office, studying the Word of God.
When one of the kids was walking down to the church, so as they’re walking, they found a garter snake. She said, “I know what– Let’s do. Let’s play a prank on dad. Let’s put this down his shirt.” I’m in my office and my back was to the door, and so she comes sneaking in there like this. She starts to put it down my shirt, so as soon as I feel a snake going down your shirt, I jolted, right? That made her jolt, and that made the snake whip around and bite her on the hand.
No, it was good.
Yes, there’s a God in heaven.
Here, a lot of people in Paul’s situation, they would have been offended. They would have been offended at the Lord, and they would have shipwrecked their faith because they were offended. “Lord, I’ve had it. I’ve had all I can take. Here I am, I’m serving you. I get attacked by a crowd. There’s a plot to kill me. I sit in prison in Caesarea for two years. Then I get taken as a prisoner on this ship, and I’m in a raging storm for two weeks only to become shipwrecked. Then we get saved on to this island and what should happen now, but a viper latches on my hand. How much can a man take? You say you’re God, you say you’re God, but look at the troubles of my life.”
They accuse God in it and they shipwreck their faith. Many people would have reacted that way, but not Paul. He’s been through so many trials and has seen the hand of God, that he perseveres. It’s not the first time he’s been shipwrecked. He’s been beaten. with rods, left for dead. Oh, he has endured, he has endured, and he has endured. He knows the faithfulness of God. After going through a raging storm for two weeks and shipwrecked and now a viper latches onto his hand, what does he do? He shakes it off into the fire.
The people of Malta were shocked at this whole scene. They said, “Sin has found this man. Sin has found him out.” While being saved from the judgment of the sea, yet he has been judged because the Viper has latched onto his hand. His sin has found him out. He shakes it off in the fire, and they watch to see if will he swell up and die? Nothing at all happens. It’s an amazing declaration.
Notice the contrast when you go back to Numbers 21 here, Israel. He sends the fiery serpents. It’s a mortal wound. Israel immediately recognizes their sin and they asked Moses to intercede. I tell you, it’s a wonderful day when someone acknowledges their sin. It’s a good day. That’s a day that God is going to do something in that person’s life. The day that they open their eyes, the day that they acknowledge, the day that they agree with God, that’s a good day, because they have turned their heart to heaven for hope. They acknowledge their sin. There’s a tremendous spiritual significance in the acknowledgement of sin.
Notice, Psalm 32:5, “I acknowledged my sin to you, and my iniquity I did not hide Lord. I said, I will confess my transgressions to the Lord, and you forgave the guilt of my sin.” That, friends, is a good day. It’s very key. Moses intercedes but God didn’t simply remove the serpents. He gave to them this amazing powerful picture of the son who was to come, who would arise on the cross to take the mortal wound. That’s why this picture is so important for us because it really is to be applied for us today. Look unto him. Look unto Jesus and be healed. That’s what he’s telling us.
II. Look unto Jesus and be Healed
God told Moses make a fiery serpent. Set it on a standard. A pole of woodcraft even across been lifted up for the people to look upon and anyone who look upon this serpent that is lifted up in the wilderness would live. God was giving them a prophetic picture of the cross of Jesus Christ and the healing of the mortal wound or there is no cure outside of the provision that God made through his son. That’s why the key to understanding this is this word. Jesus is the serpent of our sin.
I tell you, that is a deep understanding, and some people will not understand it, and some people will be offended. “You say My Lord is a serpent?” I suggest to you that Jesus Himself is the one who said it.
A. Jesus is the serpent of our sin
Clearly, the serpent is a picture of their sinfulness. It’s a picture of their own mortal wound. It’s a picture of their complaining of their discontent and their bitterness that was in their heart. It represents the sting of death, the mortal wound, and it’s a picture of the same thing for you and me, for sin is a mortal wound today, just as it was then. It’s a picture of our discontent in this, our bitterness, sting of death on us but Jesus is the one who said that that serpent lifted up is a picture of Himself.
This comes out of John 3. John 3 is one of the most powerful chapters in the Bible and the situation is this, a leader of the Jews, a Pharisee by the name of Nicodemus, comes to Jesus at night. He says, “Rabbi, we know that you are from God.” Right there is amazing statement. “We know that you are from God, for no one could do the things that you do unless God was with Him.” Then Jesus began to speak to him about being born again and the life that comes from the Spirit.
It brings us then to John 3:14-17. Jesus Himself is teaching now and he said this amazing word, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness. Even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,” Jesus Himself made the connection. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so the Son of Man must be lifted up that whoever believes may in Him have eternal life.
That brings us to the most famous verse in the whole Bible. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through him.” Many people, of course, know John 3:16, but they don’t know that it follows verse 15, where Jesus called Himself the serpent of sin. It is a powerful understanding and it has everything to do with life that comes from God.
Let me give you a verse, perhaps one of the most important verses in all the Bible. Memorize this verse, write it on the tablet of your heart. It is so important. 2 Corinthians 5:21. It says, “He made Him who knew no sin- ” That is Jesus, clearly. “He made Him who knew no sin, to be sin on our behalf.”
B. God did what we could not do
He was that serpent lifted up in the wilderness. He took the mortal wound. He became sin in our behalf, but it then adds that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. That is amazing. What a glorious exchange. He took the mortal wound that we deserved, He became the serpent of which paid the price, the penalty of our sin and what did He give to you in exchange? He gave to you the very righteousness of God that was found in Christ Jesus our Lord. That is good news. That is a glorious day to recognize what God has done. Amen.
Can we give the Lord Praise for what He’s doing in us-
– Through these verses? Therefore, we recognize this great truth, “Hey, God did what we could never do. God did what we could not do.” The people are dying. They cannot heal themselves. It is a mortal wound. God gave to them that provision that anyone who will look could have life.
He does the same for us. Romans 8:3 says, “For what the law could not do weak as it was to the flesh, God did.” That’s a powerful statement, what the law could not do because it was weak because of the flesh. God did it himself by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh. What was it that the law could not do? Couldn’t make you righteous. It could not make you righteous.
C. Simply look with eyes of faith
That’s why this understanding is so powerful. He becomes the serpent that takes the mortal wound that we deserve. The sting of death is gone, and what does He give to you in exchange? The very righteousness of God. That’s why it’s good news. That’s why it’s the greatest news this world has ever heard.
There brings us to this point that we want to close with. Simply look, with eyes of faith in order to be healed. In order to live, the people simply and only needed to look upon the serpent lifted up in the wilderness.
The serpent on a tree has become a symbol of healing even today. You go to doctors’ offices all across the land and you will see a serpent on the tree and ambulances all over, a serpent on a tree, but it’s just a symbol. The symbol doesn’t heal. The symbol is not life. It’s what God has done for you where you get life. It’s what God Has done when He sent his son. Simply look unto Him and believe.
Hebrews 12:2 says, “Fixing our eyes, setting your eyes, looking upon Him. He is the author. He is the perfecter. He is the beginning of faith. He is the finisher of faith.” Isaiah 45:22. “Look to me,” He says, “and be saved, all you ends of the earth.”
“I am God and there is no other.”
I ask you a question. What must a person do to be lost? Nothing. They’re already lost. What must the person do to be saved? Simply and only look upon Him who took the mortal wound Himself that you might have life and have it abundantly. He’s the answer. He is the answer. He is the answer to emptiness lostness, death, lack of hope, loneliness, lack of meaning. He’s the answer. Look, simply believe God has made a way.
Father, thank you so much. What can we say? You are amazing, what you have done for us. God, I asked today that you would move in power. Show us your heart after us. Show us your way. Show us your provision. Your son, you’ve given us an answer.
In church today as we before the Lord even this day, how many of you would say today to the Lord, “I’m asking that you fill me with a live that comes from God. I open my heart to you”? Church today, would you say that to the Lord? Would you open your heart?
He is the answer. He’s the answer to brokenness, to emptiness, to death, to lostness. Would you open your heart? Would you say that to Him today, “God, I open my heart to you. I’m asking, fill me, fill my life, fill my heart with the life that comes from God. I need you. I need you this very hour. I need you.” I’m asking, fill me with the very life that comes from God.
Would you say that to the Lord today? If you would, I want to ask that you would raise your hand in a bold way. Just raise your hand to the Lord and say, “God, I’m opening my heart. I’m asking. I need you. I need you this very hour. I need you. Fill me Lord, with your heart, your life, your way. I need you and I’m asking that you fill me with your life.” Anyone else just raise your hand to the Lord.
Father, thank you for everyone the Spirit of God moved of the Spirit. God, you give us life. You give us hope. You take our mortal wound. What can we do? What can we say? We love you. We thank you. We honor you for all that you’ve done in us. In Jesus name, in everyone’s head.
From That Which Fills the Heart
Numbers 16 brings us to really one of the most difficult times in Moses’s life and it’s been building up to this. In chapter 13 we were reading that Israel had been in the desert, really a quite a short time, maybe only a year and a half. They came to the very doorstep of entering into their promised land. What had happened? God instructed Moses to send 12 men to spy out the land to see what it was like. Is it rich and fertile, bring back some samples of the fruit?
What about the people? Are they few? Are they many? Are the cities fortified? Are they strong? They came back after 40 days and 10 of the 12, really had a discouraging report. Yes, sure, it’s the land flowing with milk and honey. Here’s the fruit, it’s abundant in that but the people in it are of great size and we there are too many for us. We cannot overcome this. In other words, there are giants in the land. There are mountains ahead. We can’t do this thing and fear just began to wave, just move through the people.
Now, you get a sense of the trouble to come. In that story, when the people, when they hear this discouraging report, they cried that night and they said, “Oh, would that we had died in the land of Egypt. Oh, would that we had died in this wilderness. Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt? Let us appoint the leader over us and let us return to Egypt.” Little did Moses know that they’d actually do it or at least tried to.
Now I mentioned last week the key issue behind all of these is the hard and it started really, surely after they came out of Egypt, it starts building in intensity until we get to Numbers 11:1 where it says, “The people became like those who complain of adversity and the hearing of the Lord.” It’s difficult to make good decisions with the bad attitude. This complaining or contentious spirit it did something to them. It changed them. They became spiritually weak.
The whole point of leaving Egypt was to come to the land flowing with milk and honey, but there are giants in the land. There are mountains ahead and the people become discouraged and their fear defeats them. Great lesson. When you look at that last week it’s a great lesson. Then God instructed Moses to tell the people of Israel that because of their lack of faith he says, “Just as you have spoken to my hearing, so I would surely do. You asked to die in the wilderness and so you will. Everyone who is 20 years old and older.”
Now when you get to Number 16, it comes to open rebellion. You’re going to meet three men in this story. Korah and Dathan and Abiram. They gathered together 250 leaders. Men of renown. They come against Moses. You have gone far enough. When Moses hears this, he falls on his face and it’s a great lesson. A lot of great lessons follow us out of the story. Paul wrote, “It’s important to have this as an overarching theme that these things were written for our instructions.” You can learn a lot from the mistakes of others or at least we should try to learn and apply those to our lives. Let’s read it.
Now there are 50 verses in this chapter. I’m not going to read all of them. I’m going to read portions of the chapter to give us the unfolding story and then as you know Wednesday, verse by verse, we cover all of the other verses and chapters around it. Let’s begin in Chapter 16:1. Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi. Now right there that’s important to recognize this background because the Levites were given the privilege of being the priest. The sons of Aaron of the Levites, God gave them the priesthood ministry itself.
The other clans of the Levites had responsibilities and whenever the tabernacle, that’s the place of God’s dwelling in the midst of the camp of Israel. Whenever it was to be taken down and carried, then various different clans would carry different parts. The sons of Kohath, in particular, had a privilege. They had the privilege of carrying the Holy things. The most Holy things they’d carry them on their shoulders. Now they could not see them with their eyes, these were covered. They could not minister inside the temple or the tabernacle itself. That was left for the sons of Aaron, the High Priest but they had a privilege. It wasn’t a high enough privilege. Korah, he’s the grandson of Kohath.
Now there were others. There is Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On, the son of Peleth. These are sons of Reuben. Now they’re carrying a grudge. Reuben was the firstborn. The tribes of Israel but he was displaced from the position of firstborn because of his trying to take a leadership and the sins that he did in his own life, so he was displaced. They’ve got aggrievance also. They’ve been carrying a grudge a long time.
These they rose up before Moses together with some of the sons of Israel, 250 leaders of the congregation, chosen in the assembly. Men of renown. They assembled together against Moses and Aron and they said to them, “You have gone far enough for all the congregation are holy, every one of them. The Lord is in their midst, so why do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord? When Moses heard this, he fell on his face.
Verse 8. Moses said unto Korah, Hear now, you sons of Levi. I just love the authority. He’s going to deal with this straight up. Hear now, you sons of Levi is it not enough for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the rest of the congregation of Israel to bring you near to himself, to do the service of the tabernacle of the Lord, and to stand before the congregation and minister unto them? And that he hath brought near, Korah, and all your brothers, sons of Levi with you. Are you now seeking the priesthood also?
Verse 12. Then Moses send a summons to Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, but they said, “No, we’re not going to come up.” Then they sent this message, “Isn’t not enough that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey.” Oh, I see, Egypt is the land flowing with milk and honey now. Is it not enough that you brought us from there to die here in the wilderness, and now you’re going to Lord it over us. Indeed, you have not brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey and nor have you given us an inheritance of fields and vineyards. Would you put out the eyes of these men? No, we would not come up.
Verse 25. Then Moses arose and he went to Dathan and Abiram with the elders of Israel followed him. I love to see that scene unfolding. Then he spoke. Notice he doesn’t speak to Dathan and Abiram. He speaks to the congregation and he says, “Move away from the tents of these men. Everyone, move away from these tents of these wicked men, touch nothing that belongs to them, lest you’ll be swept away in all of their sin.” They got back from around the dwellings of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.
Verse 31. Then it came about as he finished speaking all these words, that the ground that was under them was split open and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men who belonged to Korah, and their possessions so they and all that belonged to them went down alive to Sheol; and the earth closed over them and they perished from amongst the assembly. Then verse 35, then fire also came forth from the Lord, and consumed the 250 men who were offered incense with strange fire by the way.
Verse 41. On the next day, all the congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron and they said, “You are the ones that have caused deaths of the Lord’s people.” It came about when the congregation had assembled against Moses and Aaron that they turned towards the tent of meeting and behold, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the Lord appeared. Then Moses and Aaron came to the front of the tent of meeting and the Lord said to Moses, “Move away from these people. Move away from these congregation that I might consume them instantly.”
Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces. Moses said to Aaron quickly, “Take your censer, put in it, fire from the altar, lay incense on it. Quickly bring it to the congregation and make atonement for them for wrath had gone forth from the Lord. The plague has begun.” Then Aaron took it as Moses had spoken and ran into the midst of the assembly for behold the plague had begun amongst the people. He put on the incense and made atonement for the people, but you noticed verse 48. He took his stand between the dead and the living so that the plague was checked. Those who died by the plague were 14,700 besides those who died on the count of Korah.
I. Natural Man Rebels Against Authority
Then Aaron returned to Moses at the doorway of the tent of meeting for the plague had been checked. What a tremendously important story in the history of Israel filled with lessons for us to apply and take hold of, starting with this understanding it’s a natural state of man, natural man rebels against the authority. There’s a vast difference between a natural man and a spiritually mature person. Every person in this room was born in the natural human condition. The natural human condition of man and something’s got to change between the time that you’re born in that condition and the point by which God would bring about a spiritual maturity, starting with the heart, that’s where transformation has to come from because Jeremiah 17:9-10 tells us, the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it? I the Lord, search the heart and test the mind.
The natural man, it’s a natural condition of man to not want authority over him, he wants to be his own authority, natural man rebels against any constraints of authority on him. He wants to be the master of his own soul, captain of his own destiny, again raise himself by his own bootstraps, that’s the mantra of the day. That’s the natural condition of man but the ability to submit to authority is a mark of spiritual maturity because they know those who are spiritually mature know the importance of being submitted to God.
A. The root of immaturity is the nature of man
You are the master. Your word is authority in my life and when You direct my steps, I say, “Lord, You are the captain. You give me the direction, I will move.” That’s spiritual maturity. What we got to understand, He’s trying to show us tremendous spiritual lessons and that is that the root of immaturity is in the nature of man, it’s a natural condition and that’s the root of immaturity. The nature of man is the root of a lot of problems, that’s where immaturity comes from, but God takes a person who comes to Jesus Christ, He takes them in their immaturity and then He begins to press into them.
He just continually presses into them to bring about a transformation of spiritual maturity, He’d never relent, He keeps pressing in. I was thinking of an illustration. I remember a time where there was a group from another church, they had asked if I would give them a tour of our building. I said, “Sure, no problem.” I’m showing them the sanctuary, the kitchen and the fellowship hall in the youth center and at one point a fellow in the group says to me, “I have a question.” He said, “I see that you have signs on the doors of the sanctuary that ask people not to bring coffee into the sanctuary.” He said, “How do you enforce that?”
I said, “We don’t, the vast majority people will honor that, but I don’t want someone missing out on hearing the Gospel over a cup of coffee.” Amen.
That’s when he got serious. He said, “Why in the world–” That’s always a good start. “Why in the world would you make a rule and then not enforce it? “I had to look at him to make sure this thing was for real.
I looked at him and I could see this thing’s for real. “The reason that we have a rule and we don’t enforce it, is because some people are confrontational by nature.”
“They are the ones who need the Word of God most.” Amen.
A few weeks later, I saw the pastor and I said, “Hey, tell me about that fellow.” He said, “You have no idea what you started.”
“I’m sorry, what happened?” He said, “The very next Sunday, I’m in the back of the sanctuary greeting people as they’re coming into the service and who should come by me holding a cup of coffee like this.”
He said, “He sat there in the front row with his cup of coffee like this the whole time I was teaching the Word of God.” I said, “Really, his name isn’t Cora for chance.”
I said, “I am so sorry.” He said, “No, it’s worse than that, he’s one of my elders.”
Exactly. “Houston, we have a problem here. The problem is the heart.” Cora’s heart becomes evident here. He’s not content, is he? He’s not content with what God had given to him. He’s the son of Cora, of the tribe of Levi given tremendous privilege but it wasn’t enough. That’s why this confrontation where Numbers 16:9-10, hear now you sons of Levi, is it not enough that the God of Israel has separated you from the rest of the congregation of Israel and now you’re seeking the priesthood also?
Is part of the human condition, isn’t it? It’s not enough, I want more, I should be that, I should be this, I should deserve. The nature of man, the problem is discontentment and the root of the complaining heart is the discontentment. That’s why When Paul writes in Philippians 2:3 and he’s speaking to what spiritual maturity looks like, he says,” Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit but with humility of mind, regard one another as more important than yourselves.”
God is trying to bring about maturity, God is trying to bring transformation from the condition at which we were born into that which is of God. James 3:13-14, who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior, his deeds done in the gentleness of wisdom, but if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and lie against the truth. James is pretty bold, he’s speaking to the condition but he’s speaking to what spiritual maturity looks like because what Peter wrote is that God will bless the heart that’s spiritually mature, that’s why you should desire it. God’s power is behind it, God’s blessing is behind it.
Notice 1 Peter 5:5-6, God is opposed to the proud which is to say in another place, God resists the proud. I don’t want God resisting, I don’t want the opposition of the Holy Spirit. God will resist, he says the proud, but God will give grace to the humble. Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you at the proper time which is to say the blessing of God is behind, is the principle in spiritual maturity, God’s power, God’s blessing is behind it.
B.Discontent is contagious
That’s why this lesson is so important because this speaks to the nature of man and it gives us tremendous revelation and it shows us in the story that this content is contagious. It wasn’t enough that Cora had rebellion and discontent in his own heart, he then sowed the seeds of discontent in others. Starting with Nathan and Byron, then they influenced the 250 and eventually the whole congregation.
This was a dangerous time for Moses and Aaron. In fact, I suggest that if they had taken a vote at that moment, Moses and Aaron would have lost but God chooses, God chose Moses. That’s why we don’t vote here, I’m convinced that voting actually sows the seeds of discontent and separates people. I was telling this to some pastor friends of mine and one of the pastors was intrigued, he wanted to know more. He said, “Can we get together and have lunch?” I said, “Great, sure.” We get together and he says, “I don’t understand that, how does that work?” I said, “It works beautifully.
Let me ask you a question, do you vote in your church?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “I think the nature of voting is divisive.” I said, “Let me give you an illustration. Imagine you go to church with 1,000 people and you take a vote. 450 people say, “No, don’t do this thing.” I said, “By the very fact that you took a vote, you’re going to have to do this thing even though 450 people tell you don’t do this thing. It’s kind of divisive.”
She said, “Sometimes for bigger decisions, we need a bigger majority.” I said, “Like what?” He said, “60, 40.” I said, “You see, now you got a bigger decision and you got 400 people saying don’t do this thing and you’re still going to do it.” He said, “Sometimes when you got really big decisions, you need a supermajority.” I said, “What’s a supermajority?” “75, 25,” I said, ” See, now you’re talking about really big decisions.” You’ve got a really big decision and 250 people say, “Don’t do this thing,” and you’re still going to do it. Now when you just put it that way the divisiveness then becomes clear. I don’t want to do this thing if five people are against it. I want to hear what’s on their heart. Maybe they know something I don’t know. I want the unity of the Holy Spirit. You know what we’ve been doing this as a church for almost 30 years. I know I don’t look old enough.
We started this church when I was 10 actually. Anyway, we’ve been doing this as a church for almost 30 years and you know what in 30 years, we’ve never had a church split we’ve never even had one disagreement or fight amongst the elders. Amen. Can we just say, “Praise God”?
I am convinced that the maturity of the Spirit brings the unity in the body of Christ. See we need agreement in maturity. Amos 3:3 says, “Can two walk together except there be agreed?” See the 10 spies they sow the seeds of a lack of faith a fear. Korah sows the seeds of discontent to the congregation. In other words, be careful who you choose as friends because discontent is dangerous and discontent is contagious.
C.Walk in agreement with God
God took action to separate those who were rebellious, “Tell the people to move away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram lest you be swept away in their sin”. See the ground open up and swallowed them up. Discontent is contagious and sometimes the best course is to separate, move away from the one who is discontent and complaining because God is trying to show us a tremendous point and that is the– what is it that God wants? What God wants is that we walk in agreement with God. That’s what He wants.
See verse 11, shows us He says, “Therefore, you and all your company have gathered together against the Lord. It’s really the Lord with whom you have that dispute”. See the rebellious part of nature the rebellious part of the nature of man is going to have to be ironed out or it’s going to impact your relationship to God. That’s why it’s so important to iron this out in your children while they are young.
Because if you don’t iron this out while they are young it will continue to be a problem for them because it is a fundamental principle in the kingdom of God. It’s a fundamental principle the nature of man must be ironed out. You teach this to your children. Jesus himself being the tremendous example. The night that Jesus was arrested He prayed. Part of that prayer was not my will, but your will be done. Oh, Father in heaven.
The example is so critical. Iron this out when they are young. See a parent can get obedience. See there’s a big difference between obedience and agreement. See when you have agreement with God you say to the Lord, “You’re right Lord. You’re right. Your way is right. Your word is right. I want that in my life. You’re right Lord”. That’s agreement. See and when you teach that to your children it’s important that you teach them agreement.
You can always get obedience if you yell enough and become intimidating enough you can get obedience but it’s a big difference between that and agreement. Romans 2:4, do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance. I love the lyrics of that song. In fact, we just sung it last week. It will be my joy to say your will your way. I love that. That’s the heart of spiritual maturity right there. It would be a joy for me Lord. It would be a joy for me to say, “Your will your way”.
II.Life is Lived from that which Fills the Heart
That’s what God wants. That’s why God is bringing to our attention and that’s why one of the great lessons that we can apply out of this story is this life is lived from that which fills the heart. Life is lived from that which fills the heart. Look at the contrast between the heart and character of Korah, Dathan and Abiram and that of Moses. In Korah, Dathan and Abiram is the heart of discontent and complaining. They became like a people who complain of adversity in the hearing of the Lord. Then in Moses you see a heart a desire to meet with God, to draw near to God, to speak as one speaks to a friend. You see the contrast and then you see the contrast in how they lived.
Notice what Jesus said because Jesus taught a very similar thing in Luke 6:45. He said, “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good but the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil for his mouth speaks”. In other words, the life is lived from that which fills the heart. This is the key.
A. Watch over your heart with all diligence
You see that in Korah, Dathan and Abiram. Then you see it in Moses. That’s why this lesson is such a critical lesson for us. Watch over your heart with all diligence.
Whenever Moses faced a challenge and there were many he fell on his face before God. Which is to say God, “I need you. I need you. I need your help”. See when you walk with God, when you walk in agreement with God you know that He is with you, you know that He is for you, and so you watch and you wait for His help. Because you know that He is with you. You walk in agreement with Him. That’s why Psalm 121:1-2 is such a great verse. I lift up my eyes to the hills where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord maker of heaven and earth.
One of the scenes that I love out of the story of Moses leading the people of Israel is that when Moses brought the people to Mt. Sinai it says that he set up a tent some distance outside the camp, and he called it the Tent of meeting. Anyone who desired to seek the Lord could go there. Now that’s beautiful. Anyone who seeks the Lord can go there. It says that whenever Moses went out of the camp to the Tent of Meeting that the people would stand on their feet and gaze at Moses. What a contrast between that scene and what we’re seeing here in number 16. Whenever Moses would walk out to the Tent of meeting all the people would stand up and gaze at Moses.
It says that the glory the Lord would be seen at the tent while Moses is there. It says that God would speak to Moses’ face to face as a man would speak to his friend. I love that scene. I love that scene, but I want to bring something out of it that’s very important. When Moses went there and spoke to God as a man speak to his friend something happened. Moses was changed. It changed him. Then you see Korah, Dathan, and Abiram; they’re discontented and complaining hard did something to them too. It changed them. That’s why this is so important.
Proverbs 4:23 says, “Watch over your heart with all diligence for from it flow the springs of life.” Moses was changed because he drew nearer to God to the point that you can see his character in how he lived his life. See when a person is changed it changes how they live. When Korah, Dathan, and Abiram were changed it changed how they live to the point that they confronted Moses. “You’ve gone far enough Moses,” but when Moses was changed in the presence of the Lord, his life was demonstrated in his character when he interceded in behalf of this rebellious people, and he took his stand between the living and the dead. I loved that scene right there. There’s something so bold about that scene right there. Here He is facing a rebellious people and His character because He had been near to the Lord because God had changed Him. He took His stand between the living and the dead. He placed himself at risk of death in order to save those who were accusing Him. Does that remind you of anything? Moses is the picture of Jesus who didn’t just risk it all, He gave it all, He took it all. The death that He died was a death that we deserved.
Romans 5:8 says God demonstrates His own love toward us and that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.
B.It’s not too late to change
I want to show you a great lesson that comes out of this, and we’ll close with this, it’s not too late to change. What’s beautiful about the follow up to this story is that the descendants of Korah they learned from what happened here. The descendants of Rueben, they held the grudge, they held on to this bitterness about their father but the sons of Korah didn’t, they learned from this.
In fact, it tells us that some of the most beautiful songs that we read later in the book of Songs were written by the sons of Korah. In fact, it was one of the sons of Korah who wrote the beautiful words of Psalm 42:1. As the dear hearts for the water brooks so my soul pants for you oh God but maybe the most beautiful words written by the sons of Korah have to be in Psalm 84 because here the sons of Korah are content even being doorkeepers in the House of the Lord. Psalm 84:10, one day in your courts is better than a thousand outside.
I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. They’ve learned something, they’ve learned something. One day in your courts Lord is better than a thousand days anywhere else I’d rather dwell even on the threshold of the door than in the tents of wickedness. The dearness of my God is my good, it’s my desire. Here’s my point. It’s not too late to change. God takes people who were born in the condition of man and transforms them.
That’s what God does. Moses met with God, talked with Him as a man is fixed with a friend and it changed him. You are changed by what you draw near. Those who drew near to Korah, Dathan and Abiram were changed and became discontented and bitter, others like Moses, Joshua, Caleb, they drew near to God and they were changed and that’s where you can be changed too because it’s not too late. Many of you know my story, I’ve related the story of my father. It’s a tragic story.
Alcoholic, abusive, curse constantly, angry all the time, he used to hit our mother in front of us. It’s a tragic story until you hear the end because when he was 75 years old, he sat with me one day and he said, “I’ve come to realize that I’ve wasted almost all my life, help me. I don’t know how much time I have left but I want to make something of what I’ve got.” We talked, heart to heart, man to man.
“Come to church.” And there he was in church and I gave an invitation to respond to the Lord and I gazed with my eyes and I came to the center and there he was in the back. He stood up and He put his hand up like this. Strong constitution no matter what he does. Put his hand up like this. It was a glorious day, it was the beginning of transformation, we had four years more with him as a very different man. It’s not too late to change.
God takes people in the condition of man in which they were born, and He moves them, He transforms them but how does that happen? You are changed, you are transformed in the nearness of God. Even today, even right now, even this morning God is in this place. The Holy Spirit is in this place, and even today, even now God is moving on hearts. You are being changed even now so am I because the presence of God is here. You are drawing near to God and God will change you and it’s not too late to be transformed into spiritual maturity.
Let’s Pray. Father, thank You so much for showing us Your heart after us and I pray for every person in this room. God pour out Your Spirit in this place. Transform us, change us. Church as we’re before the Lord this morning. I want us to have just a moment of just nearness and intimacy with God. I’m going to ask that they’re just going to bring the lights down for a moment and I’m going to ask that we will just look at our own hearts and would you bring your heart to the Lord and say God I want to be changed I’m asking I need to be changed.
This is the work that you do, I want to draw near to you, I want to be changed, I need to be changed. I’m asking do it, Lord, you do it, you do it. Church would you say that to the Lord today, would the Lord speak to your heart, would He stir you up. Would you say to the Lord I want to be changed, would you? I’m going to ask that you would say that the Lord by raising your hand like my father did. Raise your hand in a bold way and say I do want to be changed. I’m asking, I want to be changed.
I bring You my heart, I bring You my life and I say Lord, now here it is, change me, touch me with a boldness we asked with a boldness we ask because we know that You delight to answer. Lord, you see every hand, You know every heart behind that and You move by your Spirit, You’re moving on this church. Bring revival because Your Spirit is stirring people and drawing people to yourself. God, move in power, move and power, change us, transform us we need it, we’re asking that You would do this in us.
We give You thanks, we give You honor we give You praise for all that You are doing and desire to do it us in Jesus’ powerful name and everyone said? Amen. Can we give the Lord praise and glory and honor?