Admiring the Christmas trees displayed in his neighbor’s windows, five year-old Nathan asked his father, “Daddy, can we have a Hanukkah Tree?”
His father replied “No, of course not.”
“Why not?” ask Nathan.
“Because, Nathan,” his father replied, “the last time we had dealings with a lighted bush we spent 40 years in the wilderness.”
Hanukkah began in another wilderness experience. The Maccabees were dodging Seleucid troops, like David when he sought to avoid king Saul. Except those Maccabean guerrillas, living in the wilderness, were keeping out of the clutches of the Seleucids.
Alexander the Great conquered the world from Greece to India and from Egypt to Armenia. He conquered that vast region in just 13 years. As he began consolidating His empire, unexpectedly, he died leaving no heir. The resulting confusion was eventually resolved as his four generals divided the empire into four kingdoms:
Initially the Holy Land fell under the control of the Ptolemies, who treated the Jews well. Alexandria in Egypt became a center of Jewish scholarship. The Jews there translated the Torah, Prophets and the Writings onto Greek. Their work is called the Septuagint. The Jews paid tribute to the Ptolemaic government, but were governed locally under the High Priest.
Antiochus III was a Hellenistic king of the Seleucid Empire. He defeated Egypt and seized the Holy Land. His son and successor, Antiochus IV Epiphanes (meaning “God Manifest”) was king from 175 BC until his death in 164 BC. He was the eighth in succession to rule over the Seleucid Empire. Many if not most scholars identify him as the “Little Horn of Daniel”.
“And I saw him come close unto the ram, and he was moved with anger against him, and smote the ram, and brake his two horns; and there was no power in the ram to stand before him; but he cast him down to the ground, and trampled upon him; and there was none that could deliver the ram out of his hand. And the he-goat magnified himself exceedingly: and when he was strong, the great horn was broken; and instead of it there came up four notable horns toward the four winds of heaven.
“And out of one of them came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the glorious land. And it waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and some of the host and of the stars it cast down to the ground, and trampled upon them. Yea, it magnified itself, even to the prince of the host; and it took away from him the continual burnt-offering, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down. And the host was given over to it together with the continual burnt-offering through transgression; and it cast down truth to the ground, and it did its pleasure and prospered. Then I heard a holy one speaking; and another holy one said unto that certain one who spake, How long shall be the vision concerning the continual burnt-offering, and the transgression that maketh desolate, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot? And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred evenings and mornings; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.” (Daniel 8:7-14)
Antiochus IV Epiphanes’ kingdom included the Holy Land. He sought to consolidate the kingdom by insisting on the Hellenization of the whole region under his control. That meant a common language, coinage and culture, including religion. All the various local religions were to be suppressed and the Greek gods, including Antiochus IV were to be worshiped. Most people groups were amenable. It was no stretch for idolaters to add one or more idols to their pantheon. Antiochus was willing to accommodate the peoples that wanted to keep their local deities, so long as they worshiped the Greek idols and him first and foremost.
Most people, except the stiff-necked Jews. They insisted that Adonai Elohim was the One true God. They would not compromise!
Antiochus IV Epiphanes, would tolerate no resistance to his edict; therefore, he came down on the Jews with a hobnail boot. The King had allies in Judea among the Hellenized Jews. However, the High Priest was Onias III, a strictly orthodox Jew. He was replaced by Jason, who promised a larger tribute to Antiochus. Under Jason, Greek culture was encouraged. Hebrew orthodoxy was considered passé.
Menelaus, offered a larger bribe to the Seleucids, and bought the High Priest position. He was a Benjaminite with no claim to the Priesthood, let alone the High Priesthood. For orthodox Jews that was too much; they rebelled. Antiochus responded by a Sabbath attack, when the orthodox Jews would not fight. He seized the Temple, slaughtering a great many orthodox Jews.
To wipe out Judaism, Antiochus identified Adonai Elohim with Jupiter and the latter’s statue was placed in the temple and pigs were slaughtered on the altar. Under threat of capital punishment, Jews were forbidden to circumcise their boys, worship on the Sabbath and could not celebrate the Jewish feasts. Scriptures were ordered destroyed. Priests who refused to eat swine flesh were flogged to death. These outrages inspired zeal for the faith.
In a village ca. 15 miles west of Jerusalem Mattathias [muh-tath-I-as] was the priest. Antiochus’ troops entered the village and insisted that Mattathias offer a pagan sacrifice. When he refused, a more compliant priest started to offer the sacrifice. The aged Mattathias slew both the Jewish priest and the leader of the Seleucid contingent. Then, with his five sons, he destroyed the pagan altar. Knowing their fate, they fled to the hills. Living in primitive conditions and constantly changing locations, just as David did, they mostly evaded the Seleucids.
The Seleucids surrounded a rebel band on the Sabbath. The Jews refused to fight and were slaughtered. Mattathias, in response, ruled that fighting in self-defense was permissible on the Sabbath.
Mattathias was old and soon died. His Son Judas, the Maccabee (meaning “The Hammer”) became the heroic leader. His exploits drew an increasing army to his banner. Their guerrilla tactics were able to keep the also increasing Seleucid army at bay.
In a strategic move Judas’ army defeated a combined force of Seleucid troops and Hellenized Jews. Fresh from that victory, they marched on Jerusalem. The Maccabees beat the Seleucids back into their fortress, the Akra. Pinning them there, the Jews began cleansing the Temple. They cast out the statue of Jupiter, ground it to dust, eradicated all the signs of pagan worship, the altar dedicated to Jupiter was destroyed and they erected a new altar.
The Traditional story suggests that because the Temple had been corrupted all the supplies for a pure sacrifice were difficult to obtain. The Menorah needed sacred oil, but there was none available for the seven lamps. It would take days to assemble the ingredients and the blend them into the proper oil to be consecrated. But it was the 25th of Kislev (our December), the anniversary of the defiling of the Temple. It was appropriate to have a rededication that day.
Someone found a small cruse of consecrated oil, not even enough fill all seven lamps. They began filling the pottery lamps. They soon realized that the oil in the cruse was not being diminished as they filled each lamp. When the final lamp was filled, the small cruse was still full. That miracle continued for eight days, until a store of consecrated oil became available.
Celebrating the victory Adonai gave the Maccabees and the Jews, has become a tradition of joy for Jews and others whose choose to recognize our Lord’s faithful intervention to save God’s Chosen People.
We must be aware that this is not from Scripture. The Books of Maccabees are history, but not inspired. Nevertheless, they show that Adonai’s truths that are revealed in Scripture are not only valid for our lives, but they are active in the world if we but have the eyes to see.
While we have come to focus on the miracle of oil, that is a footnote to the real miracle: The continuous pouring of oil is Adonai’s blessing on His people and their zeal to worship Him.
But had the Almighty not given His people a far greater miracle, there would have been no one to restore the true worship of Adonai.
Let’s look in the pages of Scripture – in the Writings and the Prophets.
The Children of Israel sinned against Adonai, so he took his hand of protection from them. The Midianites persecuted the Children of Israel. Boldly stealing their crops and their cattle. Adonai’s people repented enough to gain Adonai’s attention. He called Gideon,
“And the angel of Jehovah appeared unto him, and said unto him, Jehovah is with thee, thou mighty man of valor.” (Judges 6:12)
Let’s see what kind of valor Gideon had.
The Combined army of the Midianites, Amalekites and other city states rose up and gathered to destroy the Children of Israel. The Spirit of the Lord came on Gideon and he sent word and called up an army of Israeli’s to oppose the enemy army. Did Gideon attack?
After Gideon sent word and mustered his army, Adonai said, “Gideon, you have too many men. Israel will say, ‘We won the battle!’” So, Adonai’s winnowing began. First, He dispensed with all who were fearful. Then He dismissed all but 300!
So, the 300 men, each armed with a pitcher, a torch, and a horn, moved out at night. In a co-ordinated attack, they broke the pitchers to reveal the torches, sounded their horns and cried, “The sword of the Lord and Gideon!” Awakened out of sleep, the Midianite soldiers were confused; it seemed Gideon’s soldiers were everywhere. The Midianites panicked. They thought the Israeli army was in their midst. They began killing every one that moved around them.
Miraculously, Adonai gave Israel the victory of 300 men over an overwhelming army of two nations and others!
Due to that great victory, Adonai gave Israel peace as long as Gideon lived.
Ammon, Moab and Edom combined forces to gather a huge army to attack and defeat Israel. King Jehoshaphat heard of the threat. He called the people together at the Temple. There the king prayed publicly and appealed to Adonai to save them. Adonai through the prophet Jahaziel, told Jehoshaphat that Israel did not have to fight the battle. They had to march out and see Adonai’s effect upon their enemies.
The next morning early, the king mustered the people. He set up the order of march for them to approach the enemy. In the vanguard, he placed the Levitical musicians, to sing loud praise to Adonai as they marched. Next came the Israeli army, followed by the people.
Jehoshaphat encouraged them all,
Hear me, O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem: believe in Jehovah your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper. (2 Chronicles 20:20)
They approached the encampment to discover that the three armies had attacked one another and all had been slain. It took the people of God three days to transport all the spoil from the slain soldiers into Jerusalem.
Sennacharib, king of Assyria was battling Egypt. He did not want an ally of Egypt attacking his back. So he sent Rabshakeh, one of his ministers, to talk Jerusalem into surrendering to Assyria. He had an army of 185,000 at his beck and call. One of his arguments encouraging Israel to surrender was to point out that Assyria had destroyed numerous nations, whose gods were unable to protect them; therefore, the Israeli’s could not depend upon Adonai to protect them from Assyria’s irresistible force.
At this threat King Hezekiah fled to the Temple to pray. He sent messengers to the Prophet Isaiah to pray as well. Adonai spoke to His Prophet and Isaiah related to the king that he need not fear. The Lord would “send a blast” and Sennacharib would return to Nineveh and be murdered. Adonai sent a destroying angel into the Assyrian army camp and slew all of the 185,000 troops. Sennacherib did return home, and there, as he was praying to his nothingness, two of his own sons murdered their father.
Thus, the Maccabees were operating in the godly tradition of a small force under Adonai defeating the much larger anti-God force. What is the phrase that epitomizes this truth in our day? “One with God is a majority”.
Unhappily, the Maccabees did not hold Jerusalem long. The Seleucid army drove them out and recaptured Jerusalem. But because of trouble at home, the Seleucid General Lysias, negotiated a peace, which guaranteed the Jews the right to worship according to the Torah.
Lessons we can learn:
Our responsibility is to
We must first discover Adonai’s will and seize tightly to it. We must be flexible to change directions as our Lord commands
What that means for us is that Adonai’s will must be our will. We must diligently pray to discover His will. That means we must set aside our preconceptions – even our traditions – to be open to what Adonai is teaching us and calling us to do today. Jehoshaphat could have used Gideon’s technic of winnowing the Israeli forces. He probably would have been utterly defeated, because it was not God’s plan.
Hezekiah could have used Jehoshaphat’s plan of musicians leading troops into Battle. But most likely the musicians would have been massacred and the Israeli army defeated. Stay close to Jeshua. Listen for the Good Shepherd’s voice. And be obedient, while remaining open to God’s redirection.
Our blessed Lord, we praise You for Your might acts in the past. We magnify Your Name for Your mighty victory over the world, our flesh and the devil. We are deeply grateful that You have chosen us to be children of God, adopted into His glorious family.
Give us the will and the courage to share our knowledge of Jeshua with others in our circle of contacts. Give us Heavenly appointments where we can share with those whose hearts are open and interested to hear about our magnificent Lord and Savior. Send us into the world equipped be the Holy Spirit.
Jehovah did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all peoples: but because Jehovah loveth you, and because he would keep the oath which he swore unto your fathers, hath Jehovah brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
Know therefore that Jehovah thy God, He is God, the faithful God, who keepeth covenant and loving-kindness with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations (Deuteronomy 7:6-9)
We believers have been grafted into the tree of God’s love. We are deeply privileged to have been elected to be children of God and heirs of His love.
But the Pharisees, when they heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, gathered themselves together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, trying him: Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?
And he said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second like unto it is this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments the whole law hangeth, and the prophets. (Matthew 22:34-40)
Our Savior calls us to an extravagant outpouring of love. If we are to love God in this way, we must consider the totality of God’s love for us. Once we embrace the concept of the total love God has for us and our total love for God, we are called to embrace the concept of total love for others, emulating our loving Father, whether or not others deserve it; whether or not they respond in like love.
For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, that ye may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inward man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; to the end that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be strong to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye may be filled unto all the fulness of God. (Ephesians 3:14-19)
When Christ dwells in our hearts, His love is in us. He then schools us by the Holy Spirit.
Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he shall guide you into all the truth: for he shall not speak from himself; but what things soever he shall hear, these shall he speak: and he shall declare unto you the things that are to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall take of mine, and shall declare it unto you. (John 16:13-14)
The Holy Spirit will teach us about the expanse of Christ’s love – all we can assimilate now in our materialistic framework, all that we can bear in our frail physical being.
I rejoice greatly that I have found certain of thy children walking in truth, even as we received commandment from the Father. And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote to thee a new commandment, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another. And this is love, that we should walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, even as ye heard from the beginning, that ye should walk in it. (2 John 1: 4-6)
His Commandments are summed up – “Love God, love others”. Augustine said, “love God and do as you please.” Out of love for God, all you do will please Him, because your love for Him does not allow you to displease Him by overt sinful acts. Thus, when a believer pleases God, it pleases the believer.
“And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. And if ye love them that love you, what thank have ye? for even sinners love those that love them. And if ye do good to them that do good to you, what thank have ye? for even sinners do the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? even sinners lend to sinners, to receive again as much.
But love your enemies, and do them good, and lend, never despairing; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be sons of the Most High: for he is kind toward the unthankful and evil.
Be ye merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:32-36)
Love is fully exercised when we struggle to love the unlovely, the undeserving and the ungrateful; just like God loves us who are unlovely, undeserving and ungrateful.
A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; even as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. (John 13:34-35)
To the Jews God gave Ten Commandments, whereas to believers Jesus gives just one,
“This is my commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)
This, “as I have loved you”, is an extremely high threshold!
“And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote to thee a new commandment, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another.” (2 John 5)
When the Holy Spirit repeats the same teaching in Scripture several times, He really wants us to learn, obey and exercise that principle – love one another!
God refers to His covenant with His people as a “covenant of love”. How is this different from the New Covenant?
Answer: The covenant of love God speaks of in the Old Testament is God’s covenant or faithful promise to love the Children of Israel. In Jeremiah 31:31-34 God introduces the concept of a new covenant.
Behold, the days come, saith Jehovah, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was a husband unto them, saith Jehovah. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith Jehovah: I will put my law in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know Jehovah; for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith Jehovah: for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin will I remember no more. (Read Jeremiah 31)
This is different in that God’s commandments are not external, but internalized. We obey, because we love Him. His love is not taught as an article of faith, but is experienced through the action of the Holy Spirit.
What happened to Israel when they broke the Old Covenant?
Answer: God punished them, often destroying the worst offenders, but God put even the faithful remnant through the chastisement.
Did God stop loving them?
John 13:15 says that everyone will know His disciples, if we love one another. How does this work?
Answer: When Christ’s love permeates our lives, it cannot help but be noticed. Our loving words about and acts to our siblings in Christ demonstrate what is going on in our hearts.
In your experience, do you find it easier or harder to love non-Christians as you do other Christians?
Answer: Because there is spiritual connection it is easier to love our brothers and sisters in Christ. There is no spiritual barrier, which is formidable. Our compassion for Non-Christians is based on their great need for Christ or it is based on physical attraction. There is no spiritual component, since the unbeliever’s spirit has not been quickened by Jesus.
Is it easy for you “to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” for you?
Answer: It is beyond our capacity in this temporal and corruptible form to grasp Christ’s love. Even when we are in our imperishable bodies in the Presence of God, we will not be able to plumb the depth, nor measure the span, nor grasp the scope of God’s love.
Nevertheless, we currently have the capacity for much greater appreciation of God’s love than we experience, so our desire is to grow in that knowledge daily. Then when God calls us into His Presence, we will be joyfully surprised by the magnitude of God’s love for us!
And David spake to the chief of the Levites to appoint their brethren to be the singers with instruments of music, psalteries and harps and cymbals, sounding, by lifting up the voice with joy. (1 Chronicles 15:16)
The Tabernacle of Moses had been replaced many times over the centuries. The one was at Shiloh was old. David built a new Tabernacle and situated 1t in Jerusalem. David loved the LORD. He loved music, so he determined that the LORD deserved musical praise 24 hours a day every day. To facilitate that, he turned Levites into singers, musicians and dancers. Thus, there was joyful music of praise continually glorifying God.
And gave for the service of the house of God of gold five thousand talents and ten thousand drams, and of silver ten thousand talents, and of brass eighteen thousand talents, and one hundred thousand talents of iron.
And they with whom precious stones were found gave them to the treasure of the house of the Lord, by the hand of Jehiel the Gershonite.
Then the people rejoiced, for that they offered willingly, because with perfect heart they offered willingly to the Lord: and David the king also rejoiced with great joy.
Wherefore David blessed the Lord before all the congregation: and David said, Blessed be thou, Lord God of Israel our father, for ever and ever. Thine, O Lord is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all.
Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all.
Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name. (1 Chronicles 29:7-13)
David was preparing all that was necessary for Solomon to build a glorious Temple for יהוה. He invited the people to contribute. They joyously came forward with great generosity. The bringing their treasures filled the people joy as sacrificially they gave their treasures to adorn the Temple of the LORD.
David praised God for His
He further acknowledged God created all, so everything belongs to Him. With great joy David gave thanks to Almighty God.
Blessed be the Lord, that hath given rest unto his people Israel, according to all that he promised: there hath not failed one word of all his good promise, which he promised by the hand of Moses his servant.
The Lord our God be with us, as he was with our fathers: let him not leave us, nor forsake us: That he may incline our hearts unto him, to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and his statutes, and his judgments, which he commanded our fathers.
And let these my words, wherewith I have made supplication before the Lord, be nigh unto the Lord our God day and night, that he maintains the cause of his servant, and the cause of his people Israel at all times, as the matter shall require:
That all the people of the earth may know that the Lord is God, and that there is none else.
Let your heart therefore be perfect with the Lord our God, to walk in his statutes, and to keep his commandments, as at this day.
And the king, and all Israel with him, offered sacrifice before the Lord. (1 Kings 8:56-62)
And at that time Solomon held a feast, and all Israel with him, a great congregation, from the entering in of Hamath unto the river of Egypt, before the Lord our God, seven days and seven days, even fourteen days.
On the eighth day he sent the people away: and they blessed the king, and went unto their tents joyful and glad of heart for all the goodness that the Lord had done for David his servant, and for Israel his people. (1 Kings 8:65-66)
Solomon had completed the first Temple. He called a convocation of all the leaders and the people in Israel. Solomon adjured the people to always seek God, and to keep their hearts open to Him. He called the people to perpetually remember and repeat Solomon’s words to keep their relationship fresh with the LORD.
The LORD our God be with us, as he was with our fathers: let Him not leave us, nor forsake us: That he may incline our hearts unto him, to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and his statutes, and his judgments (1 Kings 8:57)
He appealed to the people to be obedient to God every day just as they were on that day of glorious celebration. To allow their bodies go along with their spirits, Solomon Presented to the People of God a continual, bountiful feast for two weeks. As the people went home, their hearts were filled with gratitude for what the LORD had done for Israel through the reign of King David.
And the children of Israel, which were come again out of captivity, and all such as had separated themselves unto them from the filthiness of the heathen of the land, to seek the Lord God of Israel, did eat, And kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days with joy: for the Lord had made them joyful, and turned the heart of the king of Assyria unto them, to strengthen their hands in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel. (Ezra 6:21-22)
These folks had in their short-term memories their banishment from the Land of Promise, and being castaways in Babylon, a pagan culture. To have the foundation celebration of the Passover in the Land of Promise was ecstasy. Their joy knew no bounds.
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; And let them say among the nations, Jehovah reigneth.
Let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof; Let the field exult, and all that is therein; Then shall the trees of the wood sing for joy before Jehovah;
For he cometh to judge the earth. O give thanks unto Jehovah; for he is good; For his loving kindness endureth for ever. (1 Chronicles 16:31-34)
God’s reign is the cause for great rejoicing in Almighty God. It resounds throughout the whole of creation. His judgment is true and will eliminate evil. That will free the sentient and the non-sentient of Creation to experience, unhindered, God’s loving kindness.
But let all those that take refuge in thee rejoice, Let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: Let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee. For thou wilt bless the righteous; O Jehovah, thou wilt compass him with favor as with a shield. (Psalms 5:11-12)
Our God is a fortress and a high tower. In Him we never need to fear. We love His name, because in His name we are more than conquerors. Because we love the Lord God, He has clothed us in His righteousness. His favor becomes our shield from all evil, so out of trust in Him and gratitude for His favor, our hearts overflow with joy.
looking unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising shame, and hath sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)
Jesus is not only our Creator, but He granted us the faith to believe in Him. Further, He sent the Holy Spirit to work in us to sanctify us in preparation for our entry with panoply into the Kingdom of God. It was his joy to suffer all to have the privilege to usher us, redeemed, cleansed and sanctified into the Present of Almighty and all righteous God. Finally, to have the complete joy of in triumph take His rightful place on the throne to the right of His Father.
that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold that perisheth though it is proved by fire, may be found unto praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ: whom not having seen ye love; on whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice greatly with joy unspeakable and full of glory: receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:7-9)
Our faith is proved by our faithfulness in following Christ. Tried in the fires of tribulation, all the dross is removed and we come through as much fine gold! When Christ shall return, we will stand forth as prime examples of His grace delivered to us.
Despite the real Jesus being immaterial, and therefore, invisible to our eyes, our embrace of His reality gives us reason to Rejoice. But not in worldly joy, but far more, a joy that is heavenly and surpasses what we can declaim; therefore, it is joy unspeakable and full of glory.
There is no joy greater than to experience the results of our salvation in and through Jesus Christ: the eternal life in the Presence of the infinitely loving God Almighty.
What was the difference between worship in the Tabernacle of Moses and the Tabernacle of David?
Answer: The worship in the Tabernacle of Moses was primarily sacrifice of animals to atone for sin. It was the priest’s job to slaughter and burn the carcasses of the sacrificial animals. They pursued their job in workman-like efficiency. The atmosphere was solemn.
The Tabernacle of David, in contrast, in addition to the sacrifice of animals, the Levite musicians were playing, singing and dancing to worship יהוה. They were expressing love for the Holy, Righteous God. They were performing to His honor with joy. It was noisy, it was lively, it was jubilant.
What caused the People to rejoice greatly when they brought their offerings to the Temple and to יהוה?
Answer: They had a monument to their God. The Temple made God seem more permanent, more real. They were glad to bring their offerings. Further, as they relied more on יהוה, He prospered them. The free-will offerings were presented out of deep gratitude for His blessings, and because they were prospering. After God’s bounty, their tithes seemed a smaller amount, because the prosperity made what was left so much greater than the whole in previous years.
How can inanimate and non-sentient things, like the sea, mountains and trees, “sing for joy before Jehovah”?
Answer: To some extent this is hyperbole; however, God is Creator and he can give to non-sentient things the cognition to appreciate being created.
What does it mean that Jesus had to go through ridicule, scourging and crucifixion to receive the joy that was awaiting Him?
Answer: Before he could cry, “It is finished!”, our Savior had to drink the cup the Father presented Him to the dregs.
“Having then a great high priest, who hath passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we have not a high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but one that hath been in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:14-15)
He had to be tempted and to experience the depths of our pain and suffering, (even to include the experience of His Father’s turning His back on His Only Begotten Son, because Jesus took on the guilt of all our sin on the cross).
“Thou that art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and that canst not look on perverseness, …” (Habakkuk 1:13)
Thus, Jesus, because of His love for us, bore our penalty for sin, freeing us to rejoice with “joy unspeakable and full of glory” in the presence of our Father, basking in His love for eternity!
Have you ever had occasion to “rejoice greatly with joy unspeakable and full of glory”?
Answer: We experience great joy at falling in love, on one’s wedding day, at the birth of a child, at receiving a much cherished and longed-for gift, at being praised by someone we respect.
But the abounding joy described as “unspeakable and full of glory”, we will experience at our gathering around the throne of God and worshiping Him with all the fervor within us, falling on our faces in adoration and casting all the honors we have ever received at the feet of our magnificent and majestic God, and I suspect, interspersed with dancing and singing His praises in jubilation!
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:1-11)
One Sunday morning, Pastor McGee noticed 6 year-old Alex was staring up at the large plaque that hung in the foyer of the church. The plaque had crossed American flags over the words “Honored Dead – Rest in Peace”. It was covered with names. Alex had been staring at the plaque for some time, so the pastor walked up, stood beside him and said quietly, “Good morning, Alex.”
“Good morning, Pastor,” replied the boy, still focused on the plaque. “Pastor McGhee, what is this?” Alex asked.
“Well, son, it’s a memorial to all the men and women who have died in the service.”
Soberly, they stood together, staring at the large plaque. Little Alex’s voice was barely audible when he finally managed to ask, “Which one, the 9:00 or 10:30 service?
The Apostle Paul was a purveyor of peace. In 12 of his 13 Epistles, he greeted his recipients in variations of “grace and peace be unto you.”
The foundation of His theology is that all men are enemies of God, but through Christ and the believer’s acceptance of the Savior’s offer, we who were enemies are received as sons and daughters. That means that the war is over. It means that we have peace with God.
The fact that we have peace with Almighty, Omnipotent God is the dominating truth of our lives. Nothing compares with the magnitude of this reality. It is true that from the moment we place our lives in Christ’s hands, we have what Jesus promised:
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27)
In possession of the peace of God, nothing in this world can trouble you. You notice I said “can trouble you”. The word “can” carries the intent of authority, the scope of possibility. None of the cares of the world have the authority to trouble us. In Christ, it is impossible for lack of money, the enmity of other people, disease, the vicissitudes of old age, or even threat of death to steal our peace in Christ.
But you also notice that Jesus gave us the responsibility to preserve the peace He gives,
Let not your heart be troubled. (John 14: 1a)
It is by permission that the troubles of this fallen world plague us, and cause us distress, anxiety and grief. Peace is a gift we must own.
Imagine that you have a very rich and generous relative. With Christmas coming, she gives you an extraordinary gift. The wrapping is exquisite. The paper is so beautiful that you don’t want to tear it. The bow is so lovely that you don’t want it destroyed by untying it. You place it under the tree to admire. Christmas Day comes, but the present is so beautiful that you leave it under the tree. When you put away the Christmas decorations, the present so admirable you place it on display.
Since you have not opened the wrapping, you have not possessed the gift. Until you make the effort, the gift will never really be yours. That is the way with God’s gift of peace. God has given it to us, but we must own It. We must accept it and make it our own.
In Romans 8:1&2 Paul states the truth for the believer,
There is therefore, now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death.” (Romans 8: 1-2)
This follows from Paul’s great ladder of peace in Romans 5:1-5:
Paul was not speaking in a vacuum. He was a Pharisee, a scholar of the Torah, the Prophets and the Writings, what we have called the Old Testament. Isaiah taught Paul,
Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee; because he trusteth in thee. (Isaiah 26:3)
This is a conditional promise: perfect peace is the nature of the believer; however, it is necessary to keep that perfect peace by keeping our minds “staid on” Christ. To have our minds focused on the Father, on Jesus, on the Holy Spirit makes all the world recede in importance.
Years ago, in Guidepost magazine, I read the testimony of a woman who was washing dishes, praying and looking at the clouds through the window over the sink. There appeared the smiling face of Jesus superimposed on the clouds. His face was vivid, His smile filled her heart with joy. After several minutes of gazing she turned away. Jesus’ smile was like the bright spot that remains after looking at a bright light. He with His smile was superimposed over everything she saw. It didn’t interfere with her sight, it just kept her in perpetual joy. It was after a few days that the world distracted her so she gradually lost His smile.
Keeping our mind and heart “staid” on Jesus is the proper stance of life for the believer. Our main problem with doing that is that we are material beings in a material world. The tactile, the feel of our bodies and the world around us dominates our senses. We are constantly being bombarded by sense stimuli and ideas that demand our attention, drawing us away from a “staid on Jesus” stance of life.
I find that I am easily distracted. I will be in the midst of prayer, notice something that I haven’t done, yet. I immediately begin to think about doing it. I have a stack of unfinished work on the corner of my desk. As I am worshiping, I find my attention drifting so my prayer and worship become rote and my focus is on the work. As soon as my inattention to God comes to my attention, I apologize to my Savior and concentrate on Him. It takes constant effort to focus on the Holy Spirit’s purposes. “Staid on Jesus” comes about only by discipline, by repetition, by self-correction, and by the Holy Spirit’s reminding.
Brother Lawrence was a 17th century French monk. He desired to live constantly in the presence of God. His book “The Practice of the Presence of God”, gives important insight into a life of consecration, being “staid on Jesus”. He was not a contemplative, or a hermit sitting alone and navel-gazing all day. He was a menial in the monastery. He scrubbed floors, washed dishes, tended the garden, did hard manual work twelve hours a day.
Nevertheless, he developed a life in the Presence of God. It took effort, but he loved God and wanted to be with Him. He began by bringing himself into the awareness of God at least once and hour. When that became a habit, he found his heart eager for more.
As the hart panteth after the water brooks, So panteth my soul after thee, O God. (Psalms 42:1)
He began to keep God in his thoughts for 5 minutes each hour. When that goal was achieved, Brother Lawrence, tried 10 minutes an hour. With the background of that discipline, he was able to expand, again and with discipline, to hold God in the forefront of his attention all his waking hours. This, despite all the worldly and social obligations that come with living in the world.
God will keep any believer in peace, who longs for His Presence in his or her life. Jesus is the Prince of Peace. He is the source of peace. But the concerns, difficulties, frustrations and troubles of the world evoke anxiety, which disrupts the peace that God gives.
Paul taught us that we were to have no anxiety.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
Thus, as we live in peace, staid on Christ, we have peace to give to others that are harried and fretting. When we pass our peace on to others, it pleases God. The joy He gives fills us with thanksgiving. Trusting in future grace settles peace in our hearts.
Once we release all our cares to God, He will bestow his peace. It is not the peace of the world, i.e. the lack of conflict. There may very well be conflict raging around us, but it doesn’t engage us. Why not? Because we have God’s peace at heart.
How was it that Paul and Silas could sing and praise God in prison with their backs beaten bloody, their feet in stocks (Acts 16:25) ? They could sing and praise, because their hearts were staid on Jesus. They were not free from pain and suffering, but their hearts were at peace.
Multiple persecutions swept periodically through the Roman Empire. How is it that early Christians could walk into the Coliseum to face ferocious, hungry animals, face being burned at the stake, face being crucified, but had the perfect peace to sing and praise God? They could, because they had already died in Christ. The deaths that faced them, although horrific and agonizing, were doorways to Christ. They were walking into terrible danger, but they were safe in Christ, and had peace at heart.
What’s so special about a believer? Paul makes that clear. We, who have given our hearts to Christ, have become new creatures. We are no longer of this world; we are only in it. What is the new creature we have become?
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8:5)
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. (Romans 8:9)
Let me repeat, “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”
Paul was hearkening back to the Isaiah:
“You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is staid on You.” (Isaiah 26:3)
One thing special about believers is that they have peace with God and therefore have access to the fruit of the Spirit, one of which is peace.
Another thing that is special about believers is our relationship with God – He is our Father!
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:5-9 & 14-18)
Believers are adopted by a loving Father. Our God has called us to everlasting life as his sons and daughters. His promise is that we will have a place with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, one God. That is our secure future.
His peace engendered by that secure future is ours to possess, when we live in Christ. Keeping our minds staid on Jesus, living constantly in His Presence is a matter of choice, and discipline.
We have eternity of peace before us; therefore, the troubles of this life are not worth getting anxious over or upset about. We will be with our gracious Lord and Savior Who will wipe away our tears and who will cause us to forget our grief and sorrow. There we will live in joy, love and peace.
Lord God, Jesus Christ, give us a hunger for Your Presence. Give us a healthy disregard for all that is ungodly in our lives. Teach us so to be in Your presence that we will be the calm in the center of the storm. Grant us the Fruit of peace to grace our lives, so that not only will it give us security in life, but will enable us to share peace with those around us who are troubled by the world and difficulties of life.
Thank You our Father. Hallelujah! We Praise You!
Think ye that I am come to give peace in the earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: for there shall be from henceforth five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. They shall be divided, father against son, and son against father; mother against daughter, and daughter against her mother; mother in law against her daughter in law, and daughter in law against her mother in law. (Luke 12:51-53)
Since God becomes first priority in a believer’s life, that often evokes jealousy in spouses, parents and siblings, who feel slighted.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be fearful. (John 14:27)
This is not a worldly peace, that is the absence of turmoil, but a heavenly peace that surmounts all worldly turmoil. Jesus gives a peace that is eternal not temporal.
Wherefore remember, that once ye, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called Circumcision, in the flesh, made by hands; that ye were at that time separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus ye that once were far off are made nigh in the blood of Christ.
For he is our peace, who made both one, and brake down the middle wall of partition, having abolished in the flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; that he might create in himself of the two one new man, so making peace; and might reconcile them both in one body unto God through the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: and he came and preached peace to you that were far off, and peace to them that were nigh: for through him we both have our access in one Spirit unto the Father. (Ephesians 2:11-18)
Jesus Christ has reconciled sinful unbelievers who were at war with God, rebelling against His holiness and His Commandments. His reconciliation through the blood of the cross has settled the war between a person and God. Jesus has drawn the elect into the spiritual realm of the Father. He has thereby bestowed His peace on all believers, making them of one fellowship, i.e. brothers and sisters in Christ. All then have the same goals to love and the glorify God and one another.
If it be possible, as much as in you lieth, be at peace with all men. (Romans 12:18)
Be peaceable and trust the Holy Spirit to make up any differences between the believer and others.
Rejoice in the Lord always: again I will say, Rejoice.
Let your forbearance be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.
In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
The things which ye both learned and received and heard and saw in me, these things do: and the God of peace shall be with you. (Philippians 4:4-9)
If believers start by thinking of all the good in Christ, they will then be led to passing on to him all their anxieties. In so doing, the believer is relieved and has room for the peace of God to rule in his heart.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control; against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
As the Holy Spirit matures us, He will engender the blessed fruit of peace in our lives.
Is it possible that these passages in Luke and John are both true? If so, how?
Answer: God’s peace is for His elect. Those who are enmity with God will have no godly peace in this life or in eternity. The turmoil in families comes from the fact that one or more members of a family have surrendered to Jesus and others have not. This conflict of loyalties unhappily leads to resentment, dissension and contention.
How could Jesus, who was born to die and who was chased all over Israel by the needy, enemies, and the paparazzi of the day have peace to give away?
Answer: The peace that God gives is spiritual and is not disrupted by worldly cares.
Why is the command of Romans 12 conditional?
Answer: Paul recognizes the limitations of the believer as well as the receptivity of those around the believer.
What would it actually mean to have the “peace of God, which passeth all understanding”?
Answer: When all the world around a believer is in confusion, turmoil and even angry contention, the believer is unaffected and can with equanimity offer wisdom to bring God’s peace into an ungodly situation.
How can one sing about peace in the midst of conflict?
Answer: The peace of God is beyond human control. In the midst of the worst, when we have placed our trust in Christ, He manifests His peace in our hearts. When we are confident that our lives are in Christ, hid in God, the problems that the world throws at us have negligible effect on us. When “nevertheless no longer I live, But Christ lives in me, even threats to our lives are of no consequence. As long as I live, I am in Christ. When I die, whether in bed, or under persecution, I am secure in Christ.
With that stance of faith, we can be at peace and sing of the glory of God, and sing in peace of the joy of the Lord, of the hope of the Lord and of the love of the Lord.
Paul and Silas were beaten bloody and the placed in prison , with their feet in stocks.
And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailer to keep them safely: who, having received such a charge, cast them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks. But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns unto God, and the prisoners were listening to them; (Acts 6:23-25)
Pain, dire circumstances are of no consequence when we are in Christ and walking in obedience.
Christ’s peace reigns.
And, behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;
And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of. (Genesis 28:13-15)
God gives us the promises of land, progeny (children and family), God’s presence, and the Messiah (our Savior, Jesus).
And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:
And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord;
And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears:
But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth: with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.
And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.
The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.
And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den.
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.
And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.
And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea.
And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. (Isaiah 11: 1-12)
Characteristics of the Messiah:
He will establish Peace on Earth, so “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain”. He will spread the knowledge of God throughout the Earth and all people will be filled with God. He will recover the remnant of the faithful from all parts of the earth.
Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience.
The God of this people of Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an high arm brought he them out of it.
And about the time of forty years suffered he their manners in the wilderness.
And when he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Chanaan, he divided their land to them by lot.
And after that he gave unto them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet.
And afterward they desired a king: and God gave unto them Saul the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, by the space of forty years.
And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave their testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfill all my will.
Of this man’s seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus:
When John had first preached before his coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. (Acts 13:16-24)
Paul rehearsing the recapture of the Promised Land by the Children of Israel, four centuries after they abandoned it. The promise of the Messiah fulfilled in Jesus, the God/man.
Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book. (The Revelation 22:7)
Jesus promised to return.
He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen. (The Revelation 22:20-21)
The earnest cry for the return of our LORD.
What do these passages have in common?
Answer: they all are looking forward to Christ’s Coming, either the first time or the second, or both. That is the sure and certain hope of every believer!
What gives you hope?
Answer: Jesus confirmed he is faithful with numerous infallible proofs. His confirmations are daily, if we just look with our spiritual perception, instead of our material perception.
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. (Romans 5:1-13)
Are the promises in scripture ever a discouragement to you?
If so how do you resolve the problem?
Answer: Because Despite the reality that I will never measure up to God’s promises, He, in love, has freely given the promises to me – not from my deserving, but through His election.
“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” (Romans 8:14-17)
These last couple of verses in the Bible express a longing for Jesus to come again. What does this say to you?
Answer: Maranatha! Even so LORD Jesus come quickly? I am eager to be fully in my Messiah’s presence, and in the presence of my heavenly Father, and in the Presence of the Holy Spirit (in the way we can never be in our material state).
Because the future is unknown and we cannot control it, what gives you hope?
Answer: My hope is in nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
… for by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, that no man should glory. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them.”
“But now in Christ Jesus ye that once were far off are made nigh in the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:8-10 & 13)