Image

Archive for June 2020

Abraham’s Sacrifice

It was God’s will that Abraham learn to trust totally in the Giver of the covenant rather than the covenant itself.  Twenty-five years after the original promise, God finally gave Abraham and Sarah their miraculously-born son (Gen. 21:1–2). No child could have been more welcomed and loved than Isaac. Through the process of giving Isaac, God had taught Abraham that He was a God who could be trusted. God is always faithful to keep His word. He had told Abraham, “In Isaac your seed will be called” (Gen. 21:12). But did Abraham really believe God?

God gave Abraham an illustration that he could not miss. He asked him to make an offering, not of an animal, but of his most precious possession, his only son, Isaac (Gen. 22:1–2). Only son in Hebrew literally means “your uniquely born son.” Why was Isaac uniquely born? He was a miracle given to Abraham and Sarah long after they were capable of producing a child. Abraham’s uniquely born son reminds us of another uniquely born son, the Lord Jesus Christ. He was God’s virgin-born Son, a tremendous parallel!

God instructed him to take his human treasure, the object of God’s grace, and kill him. Moriah was chosen for the place of the sacrifice. Moriah means “chosen of the Lord.” God’s command to Abraham to sacrifice his son appears on the surface to be completely irrational. It had taken years for God to fulfill His promise to give Abraham a son. Would God now command Abraham to kill him? Abraham never once questioned God’s integrity. He was strong in faith. He loved his son more than anything else in life, and to obey without blinking an eye was absolutely astounding.

Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey. He took two of his young servants with him along with his son. He split the wood for the burnt offering and set out (Gen. 22:3). No delay, no reluctance, and no stress. No attempt to receive clarification of the command. There was no reference to Abraham seeking counsel from others. He simply obeyed God. Abraham was completely occupied with the presence of God. How do we know? When Abraham saw the place from a distance, he asked the young men who accompanied him to stay with the donkeys. He said, “The lad and I will go yonder and worship and we will come back to you” (Gen. 22:5). He did not say “I” will come back to you but “we.”  Isaac was still a bachelor. He had no wife and no children. Abraham reasoned that until Isaac had children, there was no way he was going to die permanently. Why? Because the Giver said, “In Isaac shall your seed be called.”

Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son and off they went. He also took the fire and the knife for sacrifice. Isaac asked the question that no doubt Abraham had expected. “Look, Dad, the fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” (Gen. 22:7). Isaac’s question would have torn the heart right out of an ordinary man. But Abraham’s faith never wavered. Abraham’s response was evidently given with perfect peace and grace. He said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son” (Gen. 22:8).

Sometimes it is the little words that have the greatest effect. Notice Abraham did not say that God would provide a sacrifice for “you and me, son,” but that He would provide a sacrifice for Himself. Abraham kept the issue where it belonged. The sacrifice was God’s business. It was God’s character that was at stake. Abraham was simply saying to Isaac, “Son, we are going to put our confidence in God.” Whatever happens, we must trust the Giver. Abraham also did not say “a lamb” but rather “the lamb.” Speaking of Jesus Christ, John said, “Behold the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

Abraham built the altar, placed the wood on the altar, bound Isaac, and laid him on the altar (Gen. 22:9). His security was solely in the Giver at this point. The Giver does not lie. As long as he had the Giver, he had the gift. Why? It was the Giver who had given him the gift in the first place. Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son (Gen. 22:10).  Stretched out his hand is a Hebrew completed action. In Abraham’s mind, he actually did it. He fully intended to take the life of his son. Isaac had been slain. It was with complete faith and tranquility that Abraham carried out the divine orders. He loved his son deeply, but his trust was in the Giver. It was his love and trust in the Giver that motivated this action. He was caught up in the fact that, though he may not understand, the Giver knew exactly what He was doing.

But just in time, the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and told him not to lay his hand on the boy or do anything to him. He knew that Abraham trusted totally in God, because he had not withheld his most treasured possession from Him (Gen. 22:12). But what about the sacrifice? Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught in the bushes by its horns. Just at that time and in just that place, God had prepared that ram to be caught and sacrificed. Abraham killed the ram and sacrificed it in the place of his son, and then he named the place Jehovah Jireh, which means “God will provide.” God will provide the once-and-for-all sacrifice of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Abraham and his son, Isaac, walked down that hill together that day. God spared Isaac’s life, but in Abraham’s mind, Isaac had been killed and raised again. The writer of Hebrews said, “By faith Abraham when he was tested offered up Isaac.” Abraham had received the promise from God that his descendants would come from Isaac. He reasoned that if God wanted him to kill Isaac, He would have to raise him from the dead. When they walked down the hill that day, in Abraham’s mind that is exactly what had occurred (Heb. 11:17–19).

Through Abraham’s offering of Isaac, God gave us the perfect illustration that His Son would come to die and that He would be raised again. God gave this illustration hundreds of years before the actual event. What a glimpse of God’s grace!

 

Christian Carnality

The Corinthian church was a divided church – one group following Paul, another Peter, another Apollos, etc. (1 Cor. 1:12). In fact, they were split over many issues and were publicly fussing about them – acting like children. Paul wrote First Corinthians to administer a little corrective surgery. He began by unveiling some of the most amazing truth in the Bible – the mystery of God’s hidden wisdom (1 Cor. 1:7). He implied that the deeper truths of God – the truths that no human eye had seen, nor ear hear, nor every entered the mind of man – could be and should be known by every believer. This truth is clearly revealed by God the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 1:10-13). God’s wisdom produces real ministry, repairs divisions and heals wounds.
So why were the Corinthians still divided? Paul made the huge observation that the Corinthian division could be much deeper than they realized. He described three possible slots that his readers could fit in. The first slot he called natural people. He said that natural people – soulish people – do not receive the things (the truths) of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to them; nor can they know them, because these truths are spiritually understood (1 Cor. 2:14). The natural person is void of the Holy Spirit. Paul was aware that there were unbelievers within the Corinthian church.
The next slot was the spiritual people. These were people who had believed the gospel and received the Holy Spirit. They had the capacity to understand the mysterious wisdom of God – the Scripture. In fact, they had the mind of Christ, the God/man (1 Cor. 2:15-16). So why was the mind of Christ not being used at Corinth?
Paul mentioned a third slot – a third group of people. He referred to this group as “brethren” (1 Cor. 3:1). By his use of this term, he was saying that he considered them spiritual people having the Holy Spirit. But they certainly were not acting like it. Paul called them carnal minded Christians – fleshly acting Christians – as babes in Christ. They had the Spirit of God living within them but had not utilized His ministry (Gal. 5:16). One of my early mentors put this group of believers into two categories: carnal weak and carnal willful. The carnal weak would be new believers needing time and teaching to grow (1 Peter 2:2).
Paul had fed the Corinthians the milk of the word and felt he had given them sufficient time to progress to the solid food of Scripture. But they had failed to make the trip. He made this clear by using the term “even now, you are still not able” (1 Cor. 3:2). This was so true that they could not even be spoken to as spiritual people. They were still living like Spiritless people. These would be believers saved for many years, yet continuously “spitting out” the deeper wisdom of God truths (1 Cor. 2:10). They become carnal willful. They would be classified by the writer of Hebrews as children who by a certain time should have reached the point of becoming teachers but still needed the elementary portions of Scripture (Heb. 5:11-14). They were children tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, falling prey to the trickery of men and their cunning crafty deception (Eph. 4:14). They acted like children – selfish, always wanting their own way; easily tricked; easily falling for the slightest deception; lacking stability; happy one moment, mad the next; lacking proportion; fussing over trivial matters allowing the important matters to pass on by. They failed to study the Scripture as the Bereans did to see what wonders the Word holds (Acts 17:11; 2 Tim. 2:15). They may have fallen prey to the lusts of their flesh, constantly going after Satan’s worldly lures that keep them from the Scripture (1 Pet. 5:8). They may have spent an inordinate amount of time in God’s woodshed of discipline (Heb.12:6). These believers would have been saved for many years, yet they fail to grow in grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18). Paul measured the Corinthians’ lack of spiritual maturity by the fact that they should have long since become united together, doing the work of God. But there was still envy, strife, and divisions among them. Just like children! Paul mentioned later that when he was a child, he spoke, understood, and thought as a child. But when he became a man, he put away childish things (1 Cor. 13:11).
Paul asked the Corinthians this question; “Are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal?” They were carnal and willfully so! Blessings!

Faith Like Abraham’s

More pondering from the Ponderosa! We are given forever life – justified before God – by faith alone in Christ alone.  Where did we ever get this idea? We must go back to the very first time this amazing truth surfaced. It came through one that has been called the father of the faithful – that would be Abraham. Abram was 75 years old when God called him from a pagan lifestyle in a pagan land to go to another pagan land – Canaan. God promised to bless him, give him a great name, and make from him a great nation. He also promised to treat kindly those who treated Abram kindly and to treat with contempt those who treated him with contempt (Gen. 12:1-3). 

 

Abraham answered God’s call and launched out. His trust was solely in the word of God. I think the part of the promise that resonated in his mind was that God would make of him a great nation. A nation of people had to begin with at least one son. Abram was married to a barren wife (Gen. 11:30) and God was allowing him to grow older. The little hope that he held for having a son was beginning to vanish quickly. He became overwhelmed with worry. He reminded God that He had given him no son and his only heir was a trusted servant named Eliezer (as if God needed the information). God reminded Abram emphatically that his servant would not be his heir, but his heir would come from his own loins (his seed).

 

God set Abraham’s mind at ease with an astronomy lesson. He took Abraham outside his tent and told him to look up and count the stars if he could. Obviously, he could not! God said, “So shall your seed be” (Gen. 15:1-5). Now comes the very firm faith foundation upon which our salvation rests. “And he (Abraham) believed in the Lord (YHWH) and He (YHWH) accounted it to him (Abraham) for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). Remember that YHWH (I Am) in the Old Testament is the Ego Eimi (I Am) in the New Testament. Abram was actually believing in Jesus Christ long before God became a man to die for sin. Amazing!

 

Note the little preposition “in.” It does not say that Abram believed YHWH, as though he just believed what YHWH said. He had already done that when he left his home in Ur. It says that he believed in the LORD. “Believed” is the Hebrew word amen! It means to lean upon or to rest one’s weight upon. Abram released his total spiritual weight upon the LORD. YHWH became the object of Abram’s faith. The LORD received his spiritual weight of trust and declared Abram to be right before Him. The word “righteousness” in the Hebrew is tsedekah (pronounced se-de-kah). God did not make Abram right – that is, He did not make Abram sinless; He pronounced Abram sinless before Him. It was a judicial declaration. Abram was still a great sinner.

 

Now, ponder this! It was not the quality of Abram’s faith that declared him right before God – it was the quality of theobject of Abram’s faith. It was not the strength of Abram’s faith that justified him before God – it was the strength of the object of Abram’s faith. Could the object (the one believed in) bear the weight of the one trusting in Him and did He have the spiritual clout to declare Abraham right?  Did God have the power to justify him by his faith alone? Certainly! It would be like crossing a river bridge. The amount of faith is not the issue in crossing the bridge. At issue is the strength of the bridge. If the person crossing the bridge has great faith in a very old, weak, rickety bridge, that person will likely get wet. But if the person has a small faith in a very strong bridge, that person will surely stay dry. The strong bridge will sustain the faith – whether the faith is weak or strong. When God took on flesh in the person of Jesus Christ and died on the cross of Calvary and rose from the dead, He provided a very strong bridge to sustain the weakest of faith.  God will justify (declare right) all who believe in Christ.  Abram’s faith righteousness became the pattern for being justified before God for all of human history.

 

In the New Testament the parallel word to the Old Testament, tsedekah (righteousness) is dikaiosune (pronounced dik-ai-o-soo-nay). It is from this New Testament word that we get the word “justify,” or to declare right.  “Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ” (Rom. 3:24). When Paul wanted to prove to the Galatians that justification was by faith alone and not by their works, he went back to this very truth. He said just as Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness, so it would be with them (Gal. 3:6).  Paul used the same illustration with the Romans (Rom. 4:3), and James used it with his congregation (James 2:23). It is always good to go back and remind ourselves once again of the very truth proving that we are justified before God by faith alone.

 

The Second Coming

Following the exposure of the abomination of desolation, Satan is poised to finally finish his job by destroying the woman (Israel) who gave birth to the Son. Antichrist, still livid from the destruction of Babylon and from the Jews’ rebellion against the desecration of their temple, takes out unbridled vengeance on the Jews. Two-thirds in the city will die, one-third will escape (Zech. 13:8-9). Those escapees will flee to Bozrah to hide from the wrath of the Antichrist. After his destruction of Jerusalem, the Beast knows what has happened, reorganizes his army, and heads that way. As he approaches Bozrah, the signs mentioned in Matthew 24:29 begin to occur. The sun begins to grow dark and the moon begins to lose its light. The Antichrist’s army will surround and close in on the Jewish remnant. The Jews hiding in the rocks and caves will begin to call upon the name of the LORD in utter desperation. “Come, Lord Jesus, please come!” He will answer them, “‘This is my people.’ And each one will say, ‘The Lord is my God’” (Zech. 13:9).
God will turn off the lights; no light anywhere. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven. Heaven will at last open, and the rider on the white horse, who is called “Faithful and True” will return in righteousness to judge and to make war. His eyes will be like a flame of fire. Out of His mouth will come a sharp sword with which He will smite the nations. He is called the “Word of God” and will rule with a rod of iron. All of the tribes of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds with power and great glory. He will send His angels with the sound of a trumpet, and they will gather His elect from the four winds – from one end of heaven to the other. He will tread the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of almighty God. He has on His robe and on His thigh the name “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (Rev. 19:11–16; 2 Thess. 1:7-10).
John’s words add to this scene. “Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, ‘Thrust in Your sickle and reap, for the time has come for You to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.’ So He who sat on the cloud, thrust in His sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped” (Rev. 14:14-20). The Lord Jesus will bring devastation with the sword that proceeds out of His mouth, and the great rescue will commence (Rev. 19:21; Job 41:21; 2 Thess. 1:7–10, 2:8).
The hiding remnant from Bozrah will see Him, the one whom they pierced, and they will mourn for Him as one mourns for an only son (Zech. 12:10). They will know immediately that the Lord Jesus is the King they rejected, but this time they will not reject Him. After the greatest rescue in human history, Bozrah, like Babylon, will be destroyed (Jer. 49:13–14; Amos 1:12).
These words from Isaiah now ring loud and clear. “Who is this who comes from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah, this One who is glorious in His apparel, traveling in the greatness of His strength?—I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save. Why is Your apparel red, and Your garments like one who treads in the winepress? I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the peoples no one was with Me. For I have trodden them in My anger and trampled them in My fury; their blood is sprinkled upon My garments, and I have stained all My robes. For the day of vengeance is in My heart, and the year of My redeemed has come. I looked, but there was no one to help, and I wondered that there was no one to uphold; Therefore, My own arm brought salvation for Me; and My own fury, it sustained Me. I have trodden down the peoples in My anger, made them drunk in My fury, and brought down their strength to the earth.” (Isa. 63:1–6; 2 Thess. 1:7-10).
When the rescue ends at Bozrah, the King will move to the Kidron Valley for a meeting with the unholy trinity. It will be at that very location that the Antichrist and his false prophet will meet their doom and be cast alive into the lake of fire. Satan will be chained and thrown into the bottomless pit for one thousand years (Joel 3:2, 12; Rev. 19:19–21; Rev. 20:1-3). At the height of his success, the Antichrist will be broken and destroyed (Dan. 8:25). God said there would come a time when the Jews in their affliction would earnestly seek His face. This will be that time. The Jews will cry out for Him to come and heal them and treat their wounds. They will pledge to pursue knowledge of Him (Hosea 5:15, 6:1–6; Romans 11:11).
The King will ascend upon the Mount of Olives, where His feet will once again stand, just as God through the angels promised at His ascension (Acts 1:11, Zech. 14:4). This small mountain, along with other massive changes in creation, will return to their pre-Fall beauty (Zech. 14:5–8; Rom. 8:20-22). The King will be joined by His people from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation. There will be a magnificent celebration of His victory as He descends down the mountain.
This time will be much different than before. This time as He approaches the Kidron Valley, thousands upon thousands will be shouting and screaming praise to almighty God. This time they will throw olive branches before the King as He rides through the Kidron Valley toward Jerusalem. This time, He will not be riding on a donkey but on a beautiful white horse. This time, He will be destined to wear, not a crown of thorns, but the crown of a Mighty Victor. This time He will pass through the eastern gate, which was sealed shut, but this time it will be reopened. This time with one voice, His followers will shout, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” (Matt. 23:39).
And the Lord shall be King over all the earth (Zech. 14:9). Then will come the days of the King, and they will be blessed. Blessings!

Antichrist, the Beast, and the False Prophet

As a boy I loved dramatic rescues. I was emotionally stirred when the good guys came at just the right moment to save other good guys from an evil enemy. This is going to happen on a large scale in the future. The characters involved are the bad guys – the false trinity of the dragon (Satan), the Antichrist (the beast), and His false prophet – and on the good side, the Lord Jesus Christ – alone. Daniel said that one of the bad guys – the beast – will exalt and magnify himself above every god, will speak blasphemies against the God of gods, and will prosper till the wrath has been accomplished; for what has been determined shall be done (Dan. 11:36). The mission of the satanic coalition is to once and forever annihilate the Jewish race from the earth and destroy any residue of the teaching of their God. This adventure will conclude with the battle of the great day of God Almighty (Rev. 16:14). 

 

The antichrist and the false prophet will be armed with tree demon spirits belched out of the mouth of the dragon (Satan). These evil spirits give the dynamic duo power to perform incredible signs capable of catching the favorable attention of the world. These signs also motivate a huge number to join their armies and meet them at the Jezreel Valley near the Mountain of Megiddo. There they plan and launch their assault (Rev. 16:14-16). But God strikes the first blow of the battle. He will destroy the rebuilt capital city of the beast – Babylon (Rev. 18:1–10). Just when things seem to be lining up according to the plan of Satan and the Antichrist, God will determine that Babylon has finally run her course. The great harlot (Babylon), the spider that produced a global web of religious counterfeits, will be dealt God’s death blow (Rev. 18:4-7; Zech. 5:5-11; Jer. 51:24-26). Babylon will become as desolate as Sodom and Gomorrah, completely destroyed by fire. This will be a time of judgment not only for Babylon, but will also spell the doom of anti-God nations that aligned themselves with her (Isa. 13:11–20). She will be burned, and her residue will lie upon the ash pit of history. Many good Bible teachers believe that the scorched earth will a constant visible reminder of God’s judgment throughout the thousand-year reign of the King.

 

When the Antichrist gets word that his capital has been wiped out, he becomes furious. He immediately puts his crosshairs on Jerusalem, the city of God. Repetition! His plans will be to annihilate the city, its occupants, and any remembrance of their God and His teaching. It is my belief that it is at this point that the Antichrist will be indwelt by Satan (Rev. 13:2–5). This, no doubt, signals that he has broken his peace treaty with the Jews (Dan. 9:27). The last three years of the tribulation (called by Christ the great tribulation) will commence (Matt. 24:21). The wicked partnership quickly points their armies toward the holy city. The false prophet takes center stage. He will hastily works to take over the rebuilt Jewish temple and to create an image of Antichrist. He will place the image in the Holy Place demanding the Jews and the world to worship him as god.

 

The warning of Christ now comes alive. “When you see abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains” (Matt. 24:15). There will no longer be doubt as to the identity of the Antichrist. He will be clearly revealed and exposed (2 Thess. 2:8-12).  It is then that the Jews are to run for their lives. God told His people through His prophet Zechariah that their houses would be taken and their women ravaged. Half of the city would be destroyed, but a remnant would be spared (Zech. 12:1-3, 14:1-2). Two-thirds of the Jews would be killed in their attempt to flee the Antichrist. One-third (a remnant) will make it out of the city. This may take days, or weeks – no way to know the timing or the means used to escape. God will supernaturally bring a remnant through the fire and will refine them, as silver is refined. He will test them, as gold is tested (Zech. 13:7–9; Mal. 3:2–3). Thousands of Jews will be hiding and planning their escape. They will most likely be searching for family, transportation, fuel, and food. But where will they go?

 

Thousands of years ago, the prophet Micah laid out God’s rescue plan for His people. God said through Micah that He would put together His remnant and lead them into a sheepfold that He had prepared for them. This is an amazing truth. God provided for His people a candle in great darkness. After hearing the warning of Christ to flee, the surviving Jewish people in Jerusalem will escape. They will leave en masse, heading for the mountains near the Edomite city of Bozrah – in modern Jordan.  God the Holy Spirit has placed His GPS in their hearts to get to the mountains. The name Bozrah means “sheepfold.” What is so amazing is that God prepared his sheepfold right in the midst of the Jews’ sworn enemies, the Edomites. “I will surely assemble all of you, O Jacob, I will surely gather the remnant of Israel. I will put them together like a sheep of the fold [Bozrah], like a flock in the midst of their pasture” (Micah 2:12–13). Wow!  It will be there, right at ground zero, in the very heart of their enemies, that God will protect His remnant from Satan and the Beast. This is just like the God that we worship. He makes the impossible possible. There in the caves, the hills, and rock slopes (Petra, rocks), God will gather and shelter His people. He will hide them right in the eye of the storm. They will be hidden in plain sight. The battle will be raging around them, but His sheep will be safe in the Shepherd’s hands. Amazing! Stay safe and stay tuned.